Romans 2:4, 5
Or despise you the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long-suffering…
How prone we are to censure others for what we ourselves are guilty of without remorse! Men delude themselves, either hoping somehow to escape condemnation, though others shall be judged, or else making light of judgment because it has not fallen on them as yet. The apostle wonders at the prevalence of this strange alternative. "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil."
I. THE KINDNESS OF GOD TO SINNERS. Its abundance. The apostle uses his favourite word to exhibit the munificence of God; his "riches" of every sort, and enough for the whole creation, are ceaselessly, profusely bestowed. His temporal bounties enrich their lives. The children are so engrossed with the enjoyment of the gifts as to forget to uplift thankful smiles to the parental Giver. His spiritual mercies should be remembered. The Gentiles have the warning voice, the guiding light of conscience, to preserve from error and ruin; yet is this token of Divine care frequently slighted and even hated, as Zechariah was slain by Joash. It was no slight favour that blessed the Jews with the "lively oracles;" and Christians may well prize the unsearchable riches of gospel truth. 'Tis when we are anxiously seeking the fight way we are most sensible of our helplessness, and welcome the aid of the Word and Spirit. God's kindness is especially visible in the length of the day of grace vouchsafed. The apostle puts it negatively and positively - God's" forbearance" in restraining his thunderbolts of wrath, and his "long-suffering" in the painful endurance of sin in his dominions. We have tried his patience. He bears long with an evil generation, suffers their manners to go unpunished all these years. Even the souls under the altar echo the complaint of earth, "How long, O Lord, holy and true?"
II. THE INTENT OF THIS KINDNESS. None of God's gifts is without meaning. To use them rightly, to improve them, is the recompense he seeks. His forbearance is designed to change men's lives. Reflection begets repentance, the grieving over past follies, the resolution to forsake them, and the actual turning to a godly life. He gives men time to alter. He is "long-suffering, not willing that any should perish." See this in years while the ark was a-preparing, in the period of prophecy before the Captivity, and in the interval between the Day of Pentecost and the day of judgment. Men have prayed God to spare their lives in the hour of peril, and the moments after rescue have blotted out the memory of his mercy and their vow. He employs agencies adapted to this end. His revelation and the admonitions of the Spirit, preachers, and providences, have been directed towards arousing the lethargic, rebuking the careless, forcing them to trace a connection between sin and destruction. He woos them to a better life by his goodness. He is drawing them as with a magnet, so that if they repent not it is because they resist his "leading."
III. THE TREATMENT THIS KINDNESS TOO OFTEN RECEIVES. Contempt. Men scoff at the idea of retribution awaiting them, arguing final impunity from the arrival of present donations that speak of the Creator and Preserver's benevolence. They mistake his slowness to strike for incapacity. His unwillingness to destroy is imputed to inability. Contempt is a sign of ignorance. "Not knowing that," etc. It is the foolish who display brazen hardihood; the wise man makes light of no threatening storm. Such ignorance is blamable. The source of it is the "hardness and impenitence of the heart." "Their eyes have they closed, and their ears are dull of hearing, because the heart of this people is waxed gross." The Scriptures would drive us from every refuge of lies, would make us ashamed of our behaviour that we may mourn and amend. There is no hope of reformation as long as the pachyderm of self-complacency is not pierced with the compunction of responsibility.
IV. THE AWFUL CONSEQUENCE TO THE IMPENITENT. They aggravate their punishment. The pent-up storm bursts with the greater fury. The more the advantages, the weightier the account demanded; the longer the time granted for amendment, the severer the castigation for wasted opportunities. Men "treasure up" wrath for themselves. Character indurates, like the writing on clay tablets hardened in the sun. No possible excuse can be found where the day of grace has passed unused. A dreadful contrast, to accumulate a store of wrath instead of profiting by the riches of God's goodness. The money of heaven was placed at men's disposal; but, throwing this away as rubbish, they made their own counterfeit coins, and are punished for their treason against the King's government. Trifle not with sin when thou seest its present disastrous results, but calculate thence the "wrath of the Lamb," when gentleness has been spurned and maltreated, and goodness must give place to severity. The smoothly gliding river of God's long-suffering, if barred out of thy heart by closed gates, will swell to a mighty torrent, sweeping thy frail obstructions away to ruin. - S.R.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?