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The sum of all I have said is, then, this. The Apostle, when he became an Advocate for the Gospel, condescended to speak, and it must therefore be more especially the duty of its uninspired advocates to speak as to wise men ; that is, to employ in its defence all the powers of reason and wisdom, of which they are capable. But it will be remembered, too, that much, nay more, is required of the JUDGES of it; and that they must approve themselves, not only wise, but, in every moral sense, excel
, lent men, before they are qualified to pass a
, final judgement on what such Advocates have to say on so momentous a cause, as that of the CHRISTIAN RELIGION.
PREACHED MAY 17, 1767.
Rom. ii. 14, 15.
When the Gentiles, which have not the Law,
DO by Nature the things contained in the Law, these, having not the Law, are a Law unto themselves : which shew the work of the Law written in their hearts, their CONSCIENCE also bearing witness, and their thoughts in the mean while ACCUSING or else EXCUSING one another.
scope of this chapter being to assert, that the Gentile, as well as Jew, had a right to be admitted into the Christian church, and that he was equally entitled to share in the blessings of it, the Apostle grounds his argument upon this Principle, “ That, in the final “ judgement, there would be no respect of
persons with God; but that Gentiles, as well « as Jews, would be recompensed in that day, “ if not in the same degree, yet by the same “rule of proportion, that is, according to their « works."
Whence it would follow, that, if this equal measure was to be dealt to both, in the future judgement, it could not seem strange if both were to be admitted to the present benefits and privileges of the Gospel.
But to keep off a conclusion so uneasy to his inveterate prejudices, the Jew would object to this reasoning, “ That the Apostle's assump« tion must be false ; for that as God had given "the Heathens no Law, they were not ac
countable to him: that, as there could be “no room for Punishment, where no Law for“ bade, so there could be no claim to Reward, « where no Law enjoined : and consequently, " that the Heathen world, being left with
out Law, had no concern in a future recompence, at all."
This suggestion the Apostle obviates, by shewing the inconsequence of it. His answer is to this effect. You, says he, conclude, that the Heathens are not accountable, because they have no Law. But it no way follows, because they had no Law extraordinarily revealed to them from Heaven, that therefore the Heathens had no Law, or Rule of life, at all. For these; having no such Law, were a Law unto themselves ; that is, their natural reason and understanding was their Law.
And, for the real existence of such natural Law, he appeals to the virtuous actions of some Heathens, who do by nature the things contained in the Law ; who, besides, as it follows in the next verse, shew the work of the Law written in their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts in the mean while accusing or else excusing one another. In which last words are contained two additional arguments in proof of the same point ; the first, taken from their own con. SCIOUSNESS of such a Law; and the second, from their reasonings between one another, ACCUSING or else EXCUSING : for this is the strict sense and literal construction of those words in the original, which we improperly
translate -- their thoughts in the mean while accusing or else excusing one another.
So that in the verses of the Text we have a PROPOSITION asserted; and THREE distinct arguments brought in proof of it. The proposition is, that the Heathen are a Law unto themselves, or, as it is otherwise expressed, have a Law written in their hearts. The arguments in proof of it are, 1. The virtuous lives of some heathen, doing by nature the work of the Law : 2. The force of conscience, testifying their knowledge of such Law: and, 3. lastly, their private and judicial reasonings among themselves, referring to the confessed authority of it.
In conformity to this method of the Apostle, my business will be to open and explain the several arguments in the order, in which they lie; and to confirm, by that means, the truth of his general Proposition, That there is a natural Law, or. Rule of moral action, written in the hearts of men.
12 - μεταξύ άλλήλων των λο", σαν κατηγορείων ή και απολοyavwy. See the Paraphrase and Comment on this text by Mr. Taylor of Norwich, to whom I acknowledge myself indebted for the idea which governs the general method of this discourse.