13. Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.
13. Nolo verò vos ignorare, fratres, quod sæpe proposui venire ad vos, et impeditus sum hactenus,ut fructum aliquem haberem in vobis, sicut et in reliquis gentibus.
14. I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.
14. Et Græcis et Barbaris et sapientbus et stultis debitor sum.
15. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.
15. Itaque quantum in me est, paratus sum vobis quoque qui Romae estis Evangelizare.
13. I would not that you should be ignorant. What he has hitherto testified -- that he continually requested of the Lord that he might visit them, might have appeared a vain thing, and could not have obtained credit, had he neglected to seize the occasion when offered: he therefore says, that the effort had not been wanting, but the opportunity; for he had been prevented from executing a purpose often formed.
We hence learn that the Lord frequently upsets the purposes of his saints, in order to humble them, and by such humiliation to teach them to regard his Providence, that they may rely on it; though the saints, who design nothing without the Lord's will, cannot be said, strictly speaking, to be driven away from their purposes. It is indeed the presumption of impiety to pass by God, and without him to determine on things to come, as though they were in our own power; and this is what James sharply reprehends in James 4:13.
But he says that he was hindered: you must take this in no other sense, but that the Lord employed him in more urgent concerns, which he could not have neglected without loss to the Church. Thus the hinderances of the godly and of the unbelieving differ: the latter perceive only that they are hindered, when they are restrained by the strong hand of the Lord, so as not to be able to move; but the former are satisfied with an hinderance that arises from some approved reason; nor do they allow themselves to attempt any thing beyond their duty, or contrary to edification.
That I might obtain some fruit, etc. He no doubt speaks of that fruit, for the gathering of which the Lord sent his Apostles,
|I have chosen you, that ye may go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit may remain.| (John 15:16.)
Though he gathered it not for himself, but for the Lord, he yet calls it his own; for the godly have nothing more as their own than the work of promoting the glory of the Lord, with which is connected all their happiness. And he records what had happened to him with respect to other nations, that the Romans might entertain hope, that his coming to them would not be unprofitable, which so many nations had found to have been attended with so much benefit.
14. I am a debtor both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians, etc. Those whom he means by the Greeks and the Barbarians, he afterwards explains by adding, both to the wise and to the foolish; which words Erasmus has not rendered amiss by |learned and unlearned,| (eruditos et rudes,) but I prefer to retain the very words of Paul. He then takes an argument from his own office, and intimates that it ought not to be ascribed to his arrogance, that he thought himself in a manner capable of teaching the Romans, however much they excelled in learning and wisdom and in the knowledge of things, inasmuch as it had pleased the Lord to make him a debtor even to the wise.
Two things are to be here considered -- that the gospel is by a heavenly mandate destined and offered to the wise, in order that the Lord may subject to himself all the wisdom of this world, and make all variety of talents, and every kind of science, and the loftiness of all arts, to give way to the simplicity of his doctrine; and what is more, they are to be reduced to the same rank with the unlearned, and to be made so meek, as to be able to bear those to be their fellow-disciples under their master, Christ, whom they would not have deigned before to take as their scholars; and then that the unlearned are by no means to be driven away from this school, nor are they to flee away from it through groundless fear; for if Paul was indebted to them, being a faithful debtor, he had doubtless discharged what he owed; and thus they will find here what they will be capable of enjoying. All teachers have also a rule here which they are to follow, and that is, modestly and kindly to accommodate themselves to the capacities of the ignorant and unlearned. Hence it will be, that they will be able, with more evenness of mind, to bear with many absurdities and almost innumerable things that may disgust them, by which they might otherwise be overcome. They are, however, to remember, that they are not so indebted to the foolish, as that they are to cherish their folly by immoderate indulgence.
15. I am therefore ready, etc. He concludes what he had before said of his desire -- that as he knew it to be his duty to spread the gospel among them, in order to gather fruit for the Lord, he was anxious to fulfill God's calling, as far as he was allowed to do so by the Lord.