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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles

Chapter 41 - Romans 2:2 - The Fairness of the Divine Administration Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles by Bonar, Horatius


This cannot mean that God makes no difference between man and man. He does make a difference; and not one, but many. Our world is a world of differences; nor would it be the fair, orderly, and goodly world it is, were it not for these. Heights, depths, colors,—mountain, valley, rock,—sea, forest, stream,—sun, moon, and stars,—"one star differing from another star in glory": these are some of the material or physical differences that make our world what it is. Then in man there is race, nation, color; gifts of body and mind; riches and poverty; fame and obscurity; ranks, degrees, circumstances, sorrows, joys, health, sickness: these in themselves constitute a vast variety, and then they subdivide themselves into minor varieties, which increase, ad infinitum, the differences between man. God has given to every man something of his own, in respect of mind, body, parentage, possessions, gifts, feelings, country, age, health, constitution, which belongs to no other. Thus in many respects He does make a difference between man and man.

Nor can this mean that He treats men at random, without reason or plan; irrespective of character, or doings, or believings, as if His dealings were all chance dealings, blind and arbitrary. No. His treatment of His creatures is sovereign, for He is God; but they are not unreasonable; nay, they are most just, wise, and reasonable,—infinitely so.

Nor does it mean that He has no fixed plan, but takes every man as he comes, allowing each to do as he pleases, and accepting every one because of sincerity, or earnestness, or amiableness, irrespective of error or unbelief.

These are the things which men have often assumed; on which they have acted; on which they presume that God acts. These are the things on which the unbelief of the present day lays great stress; resolving every difficulty as to truth, and righteousness, and judgment to come by the reiteration of the text, "God is love." Whether such men really believe in a God at all may be questioned; at all events, the God in whom they believe is not the God of the Bible; the "Jehovah" of the Old Testament, and the "Lord" of the New; the God of the deluge, the God of Sinai, the God of the great white throne, the God of the second death; but a God who plays fast and loose with law, and morality, and truth, and holiness; whose pardons are the result of mere indifference to sin,—if there be such things as pardon at all; whose coming assize of judgment will be a mere form or mockery, perhaps the proclamation of universal amnesty to men and devils, with the abolition of hell itself as the summing up of the whole.

But let us consider what the apostle means by saying that God is no respecter of persons. It means two things.

1. That God has no respect to the outward appearance or circumstances of a man in dealing with him. God takes him for what he is, not for what he seems. The word translated, "person," means mask or face covering; that which disguises a man, and makes him look different from what he is. God regardeth not the person or appearance of a man. To God the man is just what he is exactly, and neither more or less. False pretences or disguises are vain. The crown of the king is no thing to him; the gems of the wealthy add nothing to the man's acceptance; the power of the statesman does not overawe the Judge of all; the Briton is not favored because he is such, nor the Chinese disfavored because he is such. In regard to all these externalisms, or shows, or masks, there is no respect of persons with God.

2. That in regard to justice and grace, God does not follow man's estimates at all, either outward or inward. God has His own standard, His own estimate, His own way of procedure in treating the sinner, whether for condemnation or acceptance. The usual elements which decide man's judgment have no place in God's.

(1.) God's estimate or rule in regard to justice, is that the doers of the law, the whole law, the unmodified law, shall live by it. So that if any man, whoever he be, Jew or Gentile, Briton or African, can come to God, and shew that he has kept the whole law, he shall be accepted without any abatement made in consideration of outward circumstances whether national or personal.

(2.) God's estimate or rule in regard to grace, is that any man, whoever he be, who will consent to be indebted to the Son of God and His work for acceptance, shall be accepted. This is the way in which grace shews itself to be no respecter of persons. He that has a personal claim, shall have that claim fairly considered and weighed; he that has none, but is willing to take instead the claim of another, even of Christ, shall be received according to that divine claim; whatever he may be, or may have been, in respect of sin, or demerit, or nation, or intellect, or circumstances.

The apostle's object is to declare these three things:—

1. God's purpose of dealing with the sons of men. He is not going to let them alone, nor to allow them to have their own way.

2. God's plan of dealing with them. He does so as God, sovereign and righteous, yet gracious. He will be fair and reasonable in all His dealings. He will not respect men's persons, whether high or low.

3. His willingness to receive any. He has provided a method of reception; and He invites them. He is willing, infinitely willing, to receive any one of Adam's sons and daughters, whoever or whatever he may be.