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Commentary on Romans
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Romans 4:9-10

9. Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, 136136     This “only” is not in the original, but is supplied by most commentators: yet it is not necessary, nor makes the meaning consistent with what follows in Romans 4:10. The Καὶ; in the next clause is omitted in many copies; but if retained, it will not alter the sense. We may render this part of the verse thus,
   “Came then this blessedness on the circumcision, or even on the uncircumcision?”

   Then in the tenth verse he answers in the negative, — that it was not to Abraham while “in circumcision,” but while he was a “in uncircumcision.” The reference is evidently to the first state of things, to the case of Abraham himself. Abraham is supposed to have been justified by faith about fourteen years before he was circumcised. — Ed.
or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.

9. Beatudo ergo ista in circumcisionem modo, an et in præputium competit? Dicimus enim quod imputata fuit Abrahæ fides in justitiam.

10. How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.

10. Quomodo igitur imputata fuit? In Circumcisione quum esset, an in præputio? Non in circumcisione, sed in præputio.

9-10. As circumcision and uncircumcision are alone mentioned, some unwisely conclude, that the only question is, that righteousness is not attained by the ceremonies of the law. But we ought to consider what sort of men were those with whom Paul was reasoning; for we know that hypocrites, whilst they generally boast of meritorious works, do yet disguise themselves in outward masks. The Jews also had a peculiar way of their own, by which they departed, through a gross abuse of the law, from true and genuine righteousness. Paul had said, that no one is blessed but he whom God reconciles to himself by a gratuitous pardon; it hence follows, that all are accursed, whose works come to judgment. Now then this principle is to be held, that men are justified, not by their own worthiness, but by the mercy of God. But still, this is not enough, except remission of sins precedes all works, and of these the first was circumcision, which initiated the Jewish people into the service of God. He therefore proceeds to demonstrate this also.

We must ever bear in mind, that circumcision is here mentioned as the initial work, so to speak, of the righteousness of the law: for the Jews gloried not in it as the symbol of God’s favor, but as a meritorious observance of the law: and on this account it was that they regarded themselves better than others, as though they possessed a higher excellency before God. We now see that the dispute is not about one rite, but that under one thing is included every work of the law; that is, every work to which reward can be due. Circumcision then was especially mentioned, because it was the basis of the righteousness of the law.

But Paul maintains the contrary, and thus reasons: “If Abraham’s righteousness was the remission of sins, (which he safely takes as granted,) and if Abraham attained this before circumcision, it then follows that remission of sins is not given for preceding merits.” You see that the argument rests on the order of causes and effects; for the cause is always before its effect; and righteousness was possessed by Abraham before he had circumcision.


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