Dr. Lyman Abbott On Paul’s Letter To The Romans -- By: George H. Gilbert
BSac 46:182 (April 1889) p. 229
Dr. Lyman Abbott On Paul’s Letter To The Romans
The most notable discussion of Paul’s great Epistle to the Roman Christians which has appeared within the past six or eight years is the volume just given to the public by the pastor of Plymouth Church in Brooklyn. Not as a philological commentary does it challenge attention, for it does not seem to betray the accurate scientific scholarship which is indispensable to such a work; but it deserves consideration as a suggestive treatment of the most comprehensive and profound letter known to history.
Starting twenty years ago with a conception of Paul’s character quite different from the traditional view,—a conception according to which the apostle was an evangelist rather than a philosopher, and a poet rather than a scholastic,—the author now places before us conceptions of the character of God, of man, and of redemption, which also differ noticeably in some respects from the common understanding of Paul’s views. It is manifest that he has not done this rashly, but has regarded the letter to the Romans as belonging to that class of literature which Bacon said should be “chewed and digested.” Not only so, but the volume comes to us as one, of which the essential views have been presented “practically in sermons
BSac 46:182 (April 1889) p. 230
and public addresses, and critically before ministerial gatherings,” with this result, that the early impressions of the author have been confirmed and deepened. Thus its claim on our attention is emphasized, and at the same time a certain predisposition is established in favor of the author’s results.
Dr. Abbott approaches the study of the Epistle through an appreciative estimate of the man and the life behind it. The hard lines of Paul’s mental physiognomy, as they appear through the medium of many of his commentators, are softened. The philosopher’s mantle is taken from his shoulders, and in its place we see the plain garb of the civilian. The atmosphere of the scholastic’s study is exchanged for that which is warm with the presence of human hearts. The voice which we hear is rich in feeling, the eyes that look upon us are full of sympathy. The intensely evangelistic and practical apostle is recognized again as such. The author has rendered a grateful service in thus bringing forth into prominence a feature of the apostle’s character which has often been obscured. It is to be regretted that, in emphasizing this feature, he has suffered another, equally important, to remain unemphasized. Paul was a philosopher as well as an evangelist, a profound and logical thinker as well as a man of imagination. The one fact should no more be ignored than the other.
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