Thomas Wilson (1563-1622) on Romans 2:4-5

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in Romans 2:4


Or despises thou the riches of his bountifulness, and patience, and long sufferance; not knowing that the bountifulness of God leads thee to repentance? But thou after thy hardness, and heart that cannot repent, heaps up and treasures unto thyself wrath, against the day of wrath, and of the declarations of the just judgment of God.


First speak something to the method and dospositions of the text, how does it agree with the former, and of what parts does it consist?

Sil[as]. The blessed Apostle does now bend himself against the vain excuses and pretexts by which those self-condemners do deceive themselves. The first hope of impunity, by the leniency of God, giving good things out of his bounty or kindness, bearing with the abuse of his benefits out of his patience, and forbearing a great while to punish, out of his long sufferance; therefore say sinners, he will never punish. Hereupon as want children or dissolute scholars, which espy the gentleness of their governors; as birds which mark the scarecrow, not to move or hurt, wax bold and fearless: so these sinners imagine of God, that he will ever spare, because he presently strikes not, they wantonly condemn him and his kindness. The parts of the text be two: the one concerns the general goodness of God toward evil men, set down in three words. The second is, a reprehension of the abuse of his goodness, which that it might pierce deeper and move more, is set down by an interrogation, and an apostrophe: Doest thou?

Tim. What is the drift of the text?

Sil. To check such as being evil, yet thought themselves righteous and in God’s favor, because they were not punished of God, but prospered: unto these men the Apostle says, that their prosperity and freedom from punishment was a token of God’s bounty, patience, and long sufferance, but not of their own virtue and goodness.

Tim. What is meant here by bountifulness?

Sil. The kindness whereby God is inclined to do good even to all manner of men; or a profitable and beneficial kindness. As in Luke 6:35.

Tim. What is signified by patience and long sufferance?

Sil. Patience is that virtue whereby God forebears punishment; and by long sufferance is meant, that whereby God bears a long time with the wicked; long keeping back and restraining his wrath before his punish them; notwithstanding they still go on to heap sin unto sin.

Tim. What is meant by the riches of his bounty and patience?

Sil.. The plentiful and large abundance of these things according to the phrases of Scripture; as rich grace for abundant grace, and, dwell richly, that is, abundantly. Col. 3:10; Rom. 9:13; Eph. 1:7 & 25.

Tim. What is it to despise these things?

Sil. To make no use of them for amendment of life; for to suffer a thing to lay by us without any use, argues a neglect of it, that it is not esteemed.

Tim. What are the lessons gathered from hence?

Sil. Sundry, and in order these which follow: First, that we must be like to God, in these properties: bountiful, patient, and long suffering, as he is, Col. 3:12. Secondly, outward blessings belong to the wicked, as well as to the good: For this rain falls and his sun shines upon the good and the bad, Matt. 5:45; Psal. 77:133. Thirdly, that the godly are not to fret, when they see the ungodly prosper: for it is a checking of God’s bounty and patience. Fourthly, that many are never the better for the benefits that God gives them, but rather the worse, being hardened by the kindness. Lastly, that it is a dangerous estate to be free from crosses and full of wealth; for such shall fall into impenitence, and hardness of heart.

Tim. What would Paul have us to understand by that speech [not knowing?]

Sil. There in he does both upbraid and refute the brutishness and stupidity of these sinners, that where the blessings of God, so many, so long continued, so great, ought to have even drawn and hauled them unto such a kind and bounteous giver, so blockish and foolish they were, as they were not only no wit stirred therewith towards God, as they did the more neglect, nay condemn him, and yet did promise to themselves, impunity and safety. This was senseless and beastly ignorance and wickedness. Whence we learn, both how out of measure wicked man’s heart is, being without God’s grace; how unable to move itself to God though God reach out unto them the hand of his benignity: and also in what perilous condition they do live, which have store of good things, and are without the spirit of repentance: they are worse than beasts.

Tim. In what sense is it said, that the bounty and kindness of God leads men to repentance?

Sil. That God’s benefits all reason, should move men to amendment, and men are to make such an account that God’s kindness invites them to repentance. When he gives benefits, he gives means of repentance, but the grace of repentance he bestows on his elect.

Tim. What lessons are given here?

Sil. That ever good blessing of God is as it were a sermon of repentance: also, the more benefits we have, the more cause we have to love and please God by doing his will.

Tim. What do you call a hard heart?

Sil. Such a one, as will not be softened and moved by benefits and instructions; nor broken with threatenings and corrections, the which in Scripture is set forth by the similitude of a stone, Ezek. 11:19. Also an iron sinew, and a far brawny heart, Psal. 119, which dulls all the senses, and makes them unfit to do their offices. Man’s heart is naturally hard, but this hardness is increased much by our own perverseness and obstinacy.

Tim. By what degrees do men fall into hardness of heart?

Sil. First, by wicked thoughts and lusts. Secondly, by yielding unto them with consent of the heart. Thirdly, the putting them or bringing of them into action. Fourthly, the often practice of sinful actions. Fifthly, an obstinacy to continue in evil customs, from whence comes hardness of heart, James 1:14-15.

Tim. What be the causes of a hard heart?

Sil. The first cause is God himself, as Judge, not as Author. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, Exod. 9:12. Secondly, Satan: Satan entered into Judas, Luke 22:3. Thirdly, man himself: Pharaoh hardened his own heart, Exod. 8:15. Fourthly, impunity, or freedom from punishment. Fifthly, the prosperity of the wicked, as means and authors: this had almost prevailed to harden David’s heart, Psal. 73:13, 14, and 15.

Tim. What be the kinds of a hard heart?

Sil. Two: First, that which is felt and perceived. Secondly, the other not felt, nor perceived.

Tim. What is the hardness of heart which is felt and perceived?

Sil. When the heart though it feel no present ease, yet it is grieved for sin, and desires to be partaker of joy, and uses the means, as in David. Psal. 51.

Tim. What is the hardness which is not perceived?

Sil. When men do either carelessly live in sin without desire of using the means to come out, as they in the first of the Proverbs, verse 21, hated knowledge, and did not chose the fear of the Lord. Or else, when mend do purposely resist the Spirit of God in the use of means, as the Jews, Acts 7:51: “You resist the Holy Ghost.”

Tim. What be the remedies of a hard heart?

Sil. Those which follow: First, admonition, private and public. Secondly, corrections being blessed, which must be asked of God. Thirdly, mediation of God’s unspeakable kindness. Fourthly, prayer, and healthy confession of sin to God, and all this done in truth, and constantly.

Tim. What do these words, contain, “Thou heaps and treasures unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath (and of the declarations of a just judgement of God?)

Silas: A severe commination or threatening of a most heavy vengeance at the last, unto such as abuse the great kindness and leniency of God, and are not bettered, but made worse rather, by his bounty and patience.

Tim. How is this vengeance declared and set forth?

Sil. Three ways: first, by similitude taken from human and earthly affairs of men in this world, who having plentiful riches, do treasure and lay up in store, that which afterwards they will use in convenient time: even so wicked men which in God’s patience bearing with them, do increase their unthankfulness and other sins though they feel nothing for the present, yet afterwards they shall feel it far more grievously, their vengeance coming upon them as a treasure heaped up in more full measure, it being the manner of God to recompense the delay of punishing with the weight of punishment; see the like phrase of treasuring vengeance in Deut. 32:34.

Tim. What should teach?

Sil. That they are in the worst case of all others, whom God does most bless and bear with, except they repent. Secondly, that all men should fear to abuse and provoke God’s patience, not presuming of safety because of it, but by it taking occasion of speedy turning to God, lest there come an after clap, yea a most woeful reckoning in the end.

Tim. How else was this vengeance set forth?

Sil. By the cause, in this word [to thyself] which signifies, that themselves brought all the mischief upon their own heads.

Tim. What use of this?

Sil. It clears God from all cruelty, seeing the cause of man’s ruin is in himself: as it is written: “O Israel thy destruction is of thyself,” Hosea 13:9. Secondly, it teaches all men to have great care and heed to their own hearts, because all their woe springs of themselves. Above all things keep thy heart, Prov. 4:23.

Tim. How else was the vengeance declared and set forth in our text?

Sil. By circumstance of time, when it shall be rendered, namely at the great and last day.

Tim. What should this teach?

Sil. That howsoever even in this life God does often inflict vengeance upon impenitent hardened sinners, yet there is much reserved to the day of judgment.

Tim. How is this day expressed?

Sil. By these terms: first (wrath) which imports the heaviness of the vengeance coming from God’s hot indignation and fury. The second term is (revelation) whereby we are admonished, that the things now hid and kept close here, shall be opened and made most manifest to ourselves and all others: see the 16th verse of this chapter. The third term is (justice) to teach, that in that fearful judgment, God will proceed by right, without doing the least wrong to any, for how should the judge of the world do unjustly? God’s bounty and kindness, takes place in blessing and forbearing, but if these be abused then his justice shows itself in punishing.

Tim. What is to be learned from hence?

Sil. That in all the course of our life, and in every particular action thereof, the mind ought to look to this judgment, that so we may be made watchful, and learn to walk with God, as through his mercy in Christ, we may be counted worthy to escape the vengeance to come.

Thomas Wilson, A Commentary on the Most Divine Epistle of St. Paul To the Romans, 3rd ed., (London: Printed by E. Cotes in Aldersgate-Steet, 1653), 60-61. [Some reformatting; some spelling modernized; italics original; and underlining mine.]

This entry was posted on Thursday, February 10th, 2011 at 9:46 am and is filed under Romans 2:4. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

Comments are closed at this time.