The Book of ROMANS

Charles Simeon's Devotional Commentaries

 

#1819

A MINISTER'S JOY OVER HIS PEOPLE

Romans 1:8.

"I thank my God, through Jesus Christ, for you all."

AS a title of honor, a minister may assume the character of an ambassador from God. But the paternal relation is that which exhibits him before us in the most endearing view. Under the character of a father, Paul frequently addressed his converts, 1 Thessalonians 2:11. Sometimes he even compared himself with a mother "travailing in birth with them Galatians 4:19;" yes, and as a nursing mother, drawing forth, as it were, the bosom to them, and "desiring to impart to them his very soul, because they were so dear to him, 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8." There is scarcely one of his Epistles which does not begin with thanking God for them, and pouring forth his petitions in their behalf.

The Church of Rome, though he had "never yet seen their face in the flesh," were exceeding dear to him; and the more so, because the fame of their attainments had spread throughout the whole world. They were not all equally eminent; yet for all of them, without exception, did he return thanks to God: nor did he think it at all necessary to abstain from bestowing just commendations upon them Romans 15:14. Nor shall we do wrong, if, with paternal regard, we express our thankfulness to God for the blessings he has bestowed on those over whom he has placed us, and whom he has graciously committed to our pastoral care.

We give thanks to God, therefore, brethren, for you all:

I. For those of you who have begun to manifest a concern for your souls—

Truly this is a just ground of thanksgiving to God—

Look at the world around you, and see how regardless men are of their eternal interest. They even put God far from them; saying, "We desire not the knowledge of your ways!" Everything occupies in their minds a higher place than God. The great mass of professors were once as manifestly alienated from God as the world around them still are.

 

But we need not think of others. Look only at your own conduct, from your youth up, until the moment that God was pleased to open your eyes to a sense of your guilt and danger. See how little you cared for God, or for your own souls. Instead of living unto Him who died for you, even to the Lord Jesus Christ who bought you with his blood, you lived altogether to yourselves, and were, so to speak, "without God in the world." Compare, then, your present with your former state; and say if there be not reason to bless and adore God for the change that has been wrought in you.

We do then, and will, thank God through Jesus Christ in your behalf—

The change has proceeded from God alone. It was he who first "opened your heart to attend to the things which were spoken" in his blessed word. He quickened you from the dead; endued you with, I will not say new faculties, but certainly with new dispositions; by means of which, you have been brought to hate the ways which you once followed, and to seek the things which you once despised And it is for Christ's sake that God has given this great mercy, even for the sake of him who bought you with his blood, and intercedes for you at the right hand of God. Through that Savior, then, will I render thanks to God, and bless him for all that he has done for your souls.

It may be that, at present, your attainments are but small. But God forbid that I would "despise the day of small things." It is true, also, that where the change is but small, and but recently experienced, we have not that confidence in your state which we feel in reference to more advanced Christians. But nevertheless we rejoice, even as the angels in Heaven do, at the first return of a repenting sinner to his God: and we desire to pray to God that he would establish all which he has wrought in you, and confirm unto the end the blessed work he has begun.

But with yet greater delight will we return thanks,

II. For those who have made some progress in the Divine life—

Over such persons we rejoice with very exalted joy—

Of those who begin a heavenly course, how many "run well only for a season!"

The stony-ground hearers are very numerous; and their end most deeply to be bewailed. How many thousands are turned aside by the fear of man; and "leave off to walk wisely," because they cannot bear the cross which an adherence to Christ would bring upon them!

The cares of this life, also, arrest many in their course, and drag them down to the concerns of this perishing world.

Many are ensnared by the lusts of the flesh, which they will not mortify; or by the vanities of the world, which they cannot prevail upon themselves to renounce.

Even in the apostolic age there were many, who, "after having known the way of righteousness, have forsaken it," and "turned back as a dog to his vomit, and as the sow that has been washed to her wallowing in the mire."

Shall we not bless God, then, for those who have maintained a steadfastness in the ways of God, and have made their profiting to appear? Surely, if augmented growth in corporeal and intellectual strength in a child is a ground of joy and gratitude to his parents, then much more must a progress in the divine life, among a pastor's hearers, be an occasion of praise and thanksgiving to him who "watches over them in the Lord".

We do then bless God, through Jesus Christ, for you—

We well know to what temptations you are exposed, and what conflicts with sin and Satan you have had to maintain; and we therefore adore him who has graciously given you strength according to your day, and held you up in his everlasting arms!

O! when we think of the account which poor apostates have to give, and how fearful will be their condition in the eternal world; and when, on the other hand, we contemplate your future prospects; we cannot but bless God for you. Yes, while for them we weep, and would have "our eyes as a fountain of tears to run down night and day;" for you we would adore and magnify our God, and implore him to "perfect that which concerns you," that what he has begun in grace may be consummated in glory! Most of all, however, must we thank God,

III. For those who are walking worthy of their high and heavenly calling—

To such our text more especially refers; because the Apostle specifies, as the peculiar ground of his thanksgiving, that "their faith was spoken of throughout the whole world." Now for such we thank God,

1. Because of the glory which they bring to God—

They live for God: they honor God: they commend his religion throughout the world. A man of low spiritual attainments causes but a dim light to shine around him: but a man who "runs well the race that is set before him," is seen of all, and approved of all, whose judgment in any respect accords with the mind of God. He is, in fact, "a light in the world:" and those who behold him are constrained to "glorify our Father who is in Heaven".

2. Because of the good they do to mankind—

Who are they that promote the knowledge of God in the world? Who labor for the salvation of their fellow men? I will not say that persons may not give the aid of their wealth and influence to a religious society from corrupt motives: but those who set on foot these societies, and exert themselves with most self-denying labor in them, are the persons of whom I am now speaking. In truth, but for them there would be little spiritual good done in the whole world. Works of humanity might go on without them: but works of religion would stagnate altogether. Nothing but apostolic zeal can do the work of an Apostle: but that work as far transcends every other, in real excellence and use, as the effulgence of the sun exceeds the twinkling of a star.

3. Because of the blessings that await them in the eternal world—

Who can contemplate the blessedness of a pious soul when admitted into the immediate presence of God, and not rejoice in its welfare? And can we see you, my brethren, pressing forward in your heavenly course, and laboring incessantly to finish the work assigned to you, and not thank our God in your behalf? Would not the very stones cry out against us, if we were so insensible, so altogether destitute of love either to God or man? For those who are departed in the faith of Christ we cannot but rejoice: and for you who are daily ripening for glory, we cannot but feel a measure of thankfulness proportioned to the attainments they make, and the prospects they enjoy.

Permit me now to address you "all,"

1. Individually—

That which rendered the Christians at Rome so eminent, was "their faith." Let that grace, then, be cultivated by every one of you. Faith is the root from which every other grace proceeds. Abound in that; and every other grace will be carried on and perfected within you.

2. Collectively—

Be careful, all of you, that we be not disappointed of our hope respecting you. Then shall we thank God also for you in the eternal world, and have you as "our joy and crown of rejoicing" for ever and ever!

 

#1820

PAUL'S LOVE TO THE CHURCH AT ROME

Romans 1:9-12.

"God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God's will the way may be opened for me to come to you. I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong-- that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith."

IT has been thought by some, that it would have been better for the Church if the Gospels only had been transmitted to posterity, and the Epistles had perished in oblivion. This impious sentiment originates altogether in men's hatred of the truth; and it argues as much ignorance of the Gospels, as it does ingratitude to God. The Gospels contain all the same truths as the Epistles; but the Epistles render them more clear. Never would we have had so complete a view of the correspondence between the Jewish and Christian dispensations, as we are favored with in the Epistle to the Hebrews: nor would the doctrine of justification by faith alone have been so clearly defined, or so incontrovertibly established, if the Epistles to the Romans and the Galatians had never existed.

We are moreover indebted to the Epistles for a much clearer insight into practical religion, than we ever would have had without them. It is true, that the example of Christ is perfect, and that the precepts he has given us are perfect also; but we would never have known what heights of piety are attainable by "men of like passions with ourselves," if we had not known more of the Apostles than what is recorded of them in the Gospels.

In the Acts of the Apostles we behold much of their zeal and diligence; but in the Epistles, the full portrait of a minister is drawn with a minuteness and accuracy which we would in vain look for in any other place. To go no further than to the words before us—what an exalted idea have we of the love which a minister would bear towards his people, in this solemn declaration of Paul! Let us contemplate it awhile—let us consider the leading points which his words develop:

I. His love to the Church at Rome—

Paul was a man of a most enlarged heart: he loved all that loved the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity; as well "those who had not seen his face in the flesh," as those who had been converted under his own ministry. He knew the Christians at Rome only by report; yet he felt the most ardent affection for them, and showed that affection,

1. By his incessant prayers for them—

The love which exists among the men of this world leads them to regard each other's temporal welfare: but spiritual and Christian love has respect chiefly to the souls of men; and consequently exercises itself most in promoting their eternal welfare. It was thus that Paul manifested his love to the Christians at Rome: he prayed for them, as he knew that God alone could make them truly happy; and that he would regard the intercessions of his people in their behalf: and therefore "he made mention of them always in his prayers," and labored "without ceasing" to bring down upon them the blessings of Heaven.

Now prayer was a decisive proof of love. Indeed by this we all may try our love, and may ascertain whether it be merely natural, or truly Christian; yes, all husbands and wives, parents and children, ministers and people, may here discern not only the nature of their affection, as by a touchstone, but the measure of it, as by a scale; and, by examining into the constancy and fervor of their intercessions for others, may learn the state of their own souls before God. O that, like the Apostle, we could appeal to the heart-searching God, and "call him to witness," that we have this evidence at least of "serving him with our spirit in the Gospel of his Son!"

2. By his earnest desire to visit them—

Love naturally desires communion with the objects beloved. Paul no sooner heard of the piety of those at Rome, than he conceived an ardent affection for them, and a determination of mind, if a favorable opportunity would present itself, to pay them a visit. For many years, occurrences had arisen to prevent the execution of his purpose, Romans 15:22-23; but nothing could abate his desire of seeing them, when his way thither would be made clear. Hence, among his other petitions for them, he prayed particularly and constantly that God would be pleased to direct his way to them, and to prosper him in his journey towards them.

This desire to visit them, in connection with prayer, was also a strong evidence of his love: for, had he loved them less, he might well have left them to the care of their spiritual fathers, and confined his own ministry to those who were nearer to him and easier of access. Had they been the peculiar objects of his charge, and had he labored for many years exclusively among them, we doubt not but that his desire to see them would have been still more ardent. At all events we are sure, that no minister who truly loves his people and his work will be long absent from his flock without having this the constant language of his heart, "I long to see you!" He may be separated from them "in presence, but not in heart."

But what were,

II. The particular objects of his intended visit to them—

Rome was then the most magnificent city in the universe: it was the seat of empire, the capital of the world. But was it to gratify a vain curiosity, or to court popularity among the great, that the Apostle sought to go thither? No! he had far nobler ends in view: the true objects of his intended visit were,

1. The advancement of their spiritual welfare—

The Apostle was honored by God with a power of conferring miraculous gifts: and these, when conferred, tended greatly to strengthen the hands of those who preached the Gospel, and to confirm the faith of those who heard it This is strongly marked in his appeal to the Galatians, Galatians 3:2; Galatians 3:5. To this therefore he might in part refer, when he spoke of "imparting to the Church some spiritual gifts."

But he certainly desired to increase also the graces of the Lord's people; to confirm their faith, enliven their hope, and augment their joy. However exalted their characters were, there was yet abundant room for improvement; and he hoped to be a blessed instrument in the hands of God for the advancing and perfecting of his work in their souls.

For this end, God is pleased to make use of his ministering servants. On them he confers the honor, not merely of awakening men from the sleep of death, but of "building them up also on their most holy faith," and completing them, as a spiritual edifice, for his own immediate residence. O blessed work indeed! Well might the Apostle desire to be engaged in it, wherever his labors might be successfully employed: for surely no labor can be so great, no suffering so heavy, but it is richly compensated, if this end be in any measure produced.

2. The comfort of his own soul—

Next to the happiness of communion with God, is that of fellowship with his believing people. To be appreciated, it must be felt: no one can have any conception of that oneness of heart and mind which exists in the Lord's people, unless he himself has experienced it. When their faith is in lively exercise, and their souls are humbled in the dust, and their hearts overflow with love—who shall give us any adequate idea of their felicity? Certainly it is nearly allied to the happiness of Heaven; or rather, it is an anticipation and foretaste of Heaven itself. This happiness the Apostle assuredly expected to enjoy among the people at Rome: yes, this happiness does every faithful minister enjoy, according to the degree in which his own soul is devoted to God, and the people to whom he ministers have imbibed his spirit.

O that it may be known and felt among us; and that we may increasingly reap this fruit of our fellowship with each other!

Improvement—

1. Let us be thankful to God, who has heard and answered our supplications—

That you have remembered your minister, we have no doubt: and "God is witness" that he has not been unmindful of you; and now our heavenly Benefactor has graciously renewed to us our opportunities of uniting together in our usual exercises of prayer and praise. Let us then be thankful; yet "not in word only, but in deed and in truth." Let us consecrate ourselves to him afresh, and strive, with holy ardor, who shall serve him best. This is the true way in which to manifest our thankfulness to God. Our offices may differ, as the offices of the eye and hand; but, if all of us perform the proper duties of our station with care and diligence, he will accept our services, not according to the importance which we annex to them, but according to the heart attitude with which they are performed.

2. Let us continue to pray for his blessing on our poor endeavors—

It is to no purpose that God has brought us together again, if he himself is not in the midst of us. "Paul may plant, and Apollos may water: but it is God alone that can give the increase." Let us therefore wait upon him continually. Let us go to him before we meet in the public assembly; and retire from thence to our closets again. Let all that we do be begun, continued, and ended in a humble dependence upon God. Then shall spiritual gifts be richly imparted to you; and the whole body of us be comforted and edified.

 

#1821

NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL

Romans 1:16.

"I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one who believes."

THE epistle to the Romans, though first in order, is by no means first in point of time; several letters having, in fact, been written before it. But in respect of importance, it justly deserves to take the lead of all the others. There is no other epistle that is so full and comprehensive on the great subject of a sinner's justification before God; no other epistle so orderly in its arrangement, or so argumentative in its statement; and perhaps no other epistle that is, on the whole, so instructive.

It was written to the Church at Rome, which, though not planted by Paul, had a distinguished place in his regard. He had long wished to visit that Church, but had been prevented, by a variety of circumstances, from carrying his purpose into execution. Now however he announced his intention of going to them at the first opportunity, being desirous of "having some fruit among them even as he had had among other Gentiles." He had reason indeed to expect, that, in that opulent city, the abode of so many great and learned men, his ministrations would excite no small measure of contempt: but "he was not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ;" nor did he think he had any occasion to be ashamed of it; since "it was, and would be, the power of God to the salvation of all who received it in faith."

It were well if all who profess to believe the Gospel, were like-minded with him in this particular: but there are multitudes who, notwithstanding they call themselves Christians, are in reality ashamed of the Gospel. That we may assist such persons in discovering their own character, and induce them to walk worthy of their holy profession, we shall show,

I. When we may be said to be ashamed of the Gospel—

Few perhaps imagine that any such evil is imputable to them: but they, in fact, are guilty of it, who, through fear of that disgrace which attaches to the Gospel, are deterred,

1. From seeking instruction in it—

Many, from what they have seen and heard of the effects of the Gospel, have a secret conviction that it has an excellence far beyond any they have hitherto discovered: and they would be glad to be better instructed in it: but they dare not go where it is more fully and plainly set forth, because of the odium to which they will expose themselves. They are aware that the very circumstance of attending upon the ministry of one who is stigmatized as evangelical, will tend to fix a stigma on their names also, and to produce an apprehension in the minds of their friends, that they are beginning to favor these obnoxious tenets.

If the same doctrines were delivered in a church where they might attend without suspicion, they would gladly avail themselves of the opportunity to hear them: but, if any sacrifice of character is to be made in order to get instruction, they will rather lose the benefit, than purchase it at such a price. Even a religious book, would it happen to be in their hands when a friend unexpectedly calls in upon them, is put away in haste, lest it would draw down a measure of disgrace upon them. Even the Bible itself they would be afraid to have seen upon their table, if they were supposed to be reading it with a view to the welfare of their souls.

I ask then: Whence does all this proceed? and what does it argue, but that they are ashamed of the Gospel of Christ? They have none of these feelings in reference to other places of worship, or to other books, no, not even to plays and novels. It is plain therefore that the Gospel is that which creates the offense; and that the dread of the odium attached to it diverts them from prosecuting the knowledge of it. Such persons may obtain mercy of the Lord, even as did Nicodemus did, whose children they are; yes, they may, like him, become distinguished ornaments of the Gospel: but they are in great danger lest God give them over to their unworthy fears, and leave them to "perish for lack of knowledge."

2. From making an open profession of it—

After that men have attained the knowledge of the truth, the same evil principle frequently operates in their hearts, to make them ashamed of confessing it. They see that the followers of Christ are still at this day, no less than in the Apostolic age, "a sect that is everywhere spoken against, Acts 28:22;" and they cannot bring their minds to participate in their reproach. They would partake of the blessings of the Gospel, without "partaking of its affliction:" they would enjoy their Lord's crown, but not bear his cross. But such cowardice is expressly designated as a being "ashamed of the Gospel, 2 Timothy 1:8;" and it will assuredly rob them of all the advantages which they desire to possess.

If they would be Christ's disciples indeed, they must "deny themselves, and take up their cross daily, and follow Christ! Matthew 16:24-25." Like Moses, they must "choose to suffer affliction with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures in Egypt! Hebrews 11:25-26;" they must not be contented with honoring Christ in secret, but must "follow him outside the camp bearing his reproach! Hebrews 13:13."

Indeed it is not merely reputation that they must be willing to sacrifice, but life also, for Christ's sake: and, if they stop short of this, they "lose their souls" for ever Matthew 10:38-39. In some respects these are in a worse state than they of whom we have before spoken; because they sin against greater light and knowledge, and are guilty of infinitely greater ingratitude towards their Lord, whose love and mercy they inwardly acknowledge, and from whom they expect all the blessings of grace and glory.

To these therefore our Lord speaks in very solemn terms, and warns them, that as they are ashamed of him, and deny him, "he will be ashamed of them, and deny them, in the presence of his Father and his holy angels! Matthew 10:32-33; Mark 8:35; Mark 8:38." "The fearful, no less than the unbelieving," will have their portion in the lake of fire at the last day! Revelation 21:8. "If we will not suffer with Christ, we cannot reign with him, 2 Timothy 2:11-12." "With the heart man believes unto righteousness; but with the mouth confession is made, and must be made, unto salvation, Romans 10:10."

3. From walking worthy of it—

While the principles of the Gospel are by the world at large accounted "foolishness, 1 Corinthians 1:18," the practice enjoined by it is no less offensive to them, on account of its contrariety to all the desires and habits of the carnal mind. Hence those who profess the Gospel are often led into compliances which are unsuitable to their high calling, and dishonorable to their profession. Under the idea of "becoming all things to all men" they belie their consciences, and betray the cause which they are pledged to serve. They forget that Paul's compliances were to save others, 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. "To gain the more."

Observe how often that is repeated; while theirs are only to screen themselves. But this is "to put their light under a bushel," when their duty is "to make it shine before men, Matthew 5:14-16." They are "not to have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather to reprove them, Ephesians 5:11," and, like Noah, to "condemn that world, Hebrews 11:7." which sets itself against the Majesty of Heaven. Instead of "following a multitude to do evil," the Christian is to consider himself as set by God to be "a light in the world," that he may "hold forth to others, in the whole of his spirit and conduct, the word of life, Philippians 2:15-16." And all who are kept by fear from thus adorning the Gospel, will be numbered among hypocrites and dissemblers with God, Galatians 2:11-13. If a den of lions were to be the recompense of our fidelity to God, we are not to be intimidated; we are not to be ashamed, Daniel 6:10. The Lord Jesus Christ "endured the cross, and despised the shame" for us! Hebrews 12:2; and we must brave contempt and death in their most terrific forms for him.

Thus all who are deterred from "following the Lord fully," are, in fact, "ashamed of Christ." But how unreasonable this conduct is, will appear, while we show,

II. Why we should not be ashamed of the gospel—

Certainly, if any one might reasonably give way to shame, Paul might, when he contemplated the preaching of the Gospel at Rome. For as Rome was the seat of wealth and science, the preaching of the cross was likely to be peculiarly offensive to them, inasmuch as it poured contempt on all that was valued there, and required that they should place all their hopes for time and eternity on a poor despised Jew, who had suffered the most ignominious of all deaths from the hands of his own countrymen. But Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel; nor had he any real reason to be so; for,

1. The Gospel is a revelation of God's grace to man—

A wonderful mystery it is; a mystery which all "the angels of Heaven desire to look into," and which, as an expression of God's good-will to man, brings the highest possible glory to God himself. In the Gospel a way of salvation is provided for fallen man; a way exactly suited to man's necessities, and at the same time displaying in perfect harmony all the perfections of the Godhead.

It exhibits the Father sending his only dear Son to take upon him our nature, and to "bear our sins in his own body on the tree."

It represents the co-equal, co-eternal Son of God actually fulfilling that very office, and "reconciling us to God by his own blood."

It sets forth also the Holy Spirit, the third Person in the ever blessed Trinity, undertaking to apply that salvation to the souls of men, and by his almighty power to render them "fit for the inheritance" prepared for them.

Now I would ask, What is here to be ashamed of?

Is that, in which all "the wisdom of God, and the power of God," are concentrated and displayed, 1 Corinthians 1:24, an object which we would blush to acknowledge and confess?

Is that, which is the one theme of adoration and thanksgiving to all the hosts of Heaven, fit to be disowned by man on earth, so that the very mention of it shall suffuse his face with shame?

Shall sin, in all its varied forms, stalk abroad with unblushing effrontery, and this glorious mystery be veiled for fear of man's reproach? Abhorred be the thought!

Let the man that has ever been ashamed of the Gospel, be ashamed of his own extreme folly and impiety: and let that which is so glorious in the eyes of all the heavenly hosts, be henceforth glorious in our eyes; and let us "count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of it! Philippians 3:8."

2. The Gospel is God's instrument for the salvation of a ruined world—

Look back, and see what it is that has been the means of saving so many myriads of our fellow-creatures, when of the fallen angels not so much as one has ever been saved! What saved Adam, but the Gospel, which promised that "the seed of the woman would bruise the serpent's head!" What saved Abraham, but the Gospel, which was preached to him in these words; "In your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed!" Could you go up to the third heavens, and hear, as Paul did, the songs of the whole heavenly choir, you would hear but one note among them all, ascribing "salvation to God and to the Lamb for ever!"

Is this then a subject for us to be ashamed of? Shall we be ashamed of that, which alone has put a difference between us and devils? Shall we be ashamed of that, which is "the rod of God's strength," whereby he has brought millions, through seas of difficulty, to the full enjoyment of the heavenly Canaan?

The brazen serpent that healed the Israelites in the wilderness, though it was only a piece of brass, became an object of idolatrous regard: and shall we make "the glorious Gospel of the blessed God an object of shame and contempt? If we marvel at them for giving God's honor to a piece of brass, what wonder must it create among all the heavenly hosts, that any creature to whom the Gospel of salvation comes, would treat it but with the profoundest veneration, and the most ardent gratitude!

3.The Gospel is effectual for the salvation of every one who believes—

Never did it fail in any instance: it is equally effectual for "Jew or Gentile," and for the vilest, as well as the best, of the human race. It will leave none under the guilt and condemnation of their sins, none under the power and pollution of them. The righteousness which it provides for sinners is so pure and perfect, that, when clothed in it, they stand before God without spot or blemish. The grace treasured up for them in their living Head is so abundant, that the weakest of mankind, even though he be opposed by all the hosts of Hell, shall find it sufficient for him. It will not bring him out of six difficulties, and leave him to perish in the seventh, Job 5:19; but "will keep him to the end, 1 Corinthians 1:8," and allow "nothing to pluck him out of his Redeemer's hands! John 10:28."

Is this then a thing to be ashamed of? and shall they be ashamed of it who profess to expect salvation by it? Methinks, a man must be almost as destitute of reason as of piety, who can account it any ground for blushing, that he loves, and admires, and glories in the cross of Christ; yes, and determines never to his last hour to glory in anything else Galatians 6:14.

ADDRESS—

1. Let not any of you then be ashamed of the Gospel—

Let not the rich be ashamed of it; for it will make you richer than ten thousand worlds: "the riches of Christ are absolutely unsearchable, Ephesians 3:8."

Let not the poor be ashamed of it; for it raises them to an equality with the greatest on earth, and gives them crowns and kingdoms for their inheritance, James 1:9; James 4:5.

Let not the learned be ashamed of it; for in it is contained "the manifold wisdom of God;" and even angels are made wiser by the revelation of it to the Church, Ephesians 3:10.

Let not the unlearned be ashamed of it; for it will "make them wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus."

Let not any thus dishonor it, until they cease to need its blessings, or have found a substitute worthy to supersede it. God is "not ashamed to be called our God, Hebrews 11:16." O! be not you ashamed to become, and to be called, his people.

2. Let not the Gospel be ashamed of you—

Many, alas! who profess to love the Gospel, are in their conduct a disgrace to it. Their pride, their passion, their worldly-mindedness, perhaps too their lack of truth and honesty, together with a variety of other evils predominant in them—cause "the way of truth to be evil spoken of, 2 Peter 2:2," and "the very name of God to be blasphemed."

In every age, and in every Church, such instances occur; and lamentable it is to say, that no people are more unconscious of their guilt than they. It is on account of such persons that our Lord says, "Woe unto the world because of offenses! For it must needs be that offenses come: but woe unto him by whom the offense comes—it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were cast into the depths of the sea! Matthew 18:6-7." See to it then, you professors of godliness, that this tremendous evil be not imputable to you: and endeavor so to walk, "that the adversary may have no evil thing to say of you," and "that they may be ashamed, who falsely accuse your good conduct in Christ, Titus 2:8 and 1 Peter 3:16."

 

#1822

THE LOST STATE OF THE GENTILE WORLD

Romans 1:20-21.

"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened."

HERE the plan of the epistle begins to be developed. Paul, intending to prove that there was only one way of salvation for the whole race of mankind, begins with showing that the Gentile world were altogether guilty before God, and lying under a just sentence of condemnation. In the next chapter he shows the same respecting the Jews: and, in the third, he confirms, from the Scriptures of truth, all that he has spoken respecting both the one and the other; and from thence deduces the general conclusion, that they are all shut up unto the faith of Christ, and must seek salvation by him alone.

In this present discourse we shall have to consider the state of the Gentiles, against whom universally the judgments of God are denounced; "the wrath of God being revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men," and especially against "those who hold (or imprison) the truth in unrighteousness," which they have done in all ages of the world, verse 18.

But that we may bring the matter home to ourselves also, we shall show:

I. How inexcusable they are for their conduct towards God—

The Gentiles have in every age had sufficient opportunities of attaining the knowledge of God—

The things of God which are exclusively made known to us in the book of revelation, they could not be acquainted with, because the light of revelation was not given to them: but the book of creation was open to them, and equally legible to all; and from thence they might acquire a considerable knowledge of God's nature and perfections. In beholding the heavenly bodies all moving in their orbits; and the earth so abundantly furnished with everything for the accommodation of man; and man himself the most noble of all God's works, his body so intricately wrought, and his soul so richly endowed; in beholding these things, I say, they could not but know that there was some superior Being who had formed them all.

They could not look upon any work of art—a house, for instance, or a watch, or anything that required skill—but their minds must of necessity be led to contemplate the maker of it: and a similar necessity was imposed upon them by all the works of creation. Having traced up everything to a First Cause, they must see that, as He was the cause of all that existed besides himself, there could be nothing to give existence to him; and that consequently, he must be self-existent and eternal. Moreover, they must see, from the immensity and the excellency of all his works, that there can be no limit to his wisdom, his power, or his goodness; but that these perfections of his must of necessity be infinite. That these deductions were open to them we are sure, because some of their more enlightened philosophers have actually made these discoveries, though certainly with less clearness and precision than we by the means of Scripture revelation are enabled to do. God himself affirms it in the verses preceding our text; saying, that the things concerning him which were invisible to human eyes, were nevertheless "clearly to be seen and understood in his visible works, even his eternal power and Godhead, verse 19, 20."

Paul also, when addressing the heathen, quotes to them their own poets, to show that in the representations which they foolishly made of the Supreme Being, they did in fact violate the law that was in their own minds, and act contrary to the light that was within them, Acts 17:28-29.

But they did not improve these opportunities aright—

They entertained most unworthy conceptions of the Deity. Instead of regarding him as a spirit who pervaded all space, they "made images of him like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things;" and then bowed down to the work of their own hands, and said, "Deliver me; for you are my god. Compare verse 23 with Isaiah 44:9-20." What could be more insulting to the Divine Majesty than such conduct as this?

Moreover they testified no gratitude towards him for all the benefits that he conferred upon them. Innumerable were the blessings which in constant succession he bestowed upon them, Acts 14:16-17; yet "they were not thankful, verse 21," but abused his gifts, instead of taking occasion from them to love and glorify the Giver.

They sought not in anything to please him, nor cared however much they might displease him. The abominations they committed cannot even be thought of but with horror and amazement, verse 26, 27. And, while they were thus bent on the gratification of their lusts and appetites, and purposely cast out of their minds all those notices of a Supreme Being, which from time to time arose to check them in their excesses, verse 28, they were given over to the dominion of every hateful disposition that could assimilate them to the god of this world, whose willing servants they were. What an assemblage of evils was there accumulated in their character! verse 29-31. Yet was this representation of them by no means overcharged. Their own historians, and poets, and philosophers have justified every word that is here spoken. What the poet said of the Cretans might, with few exceptions, be applied to all; "The Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons, Titus 1:12"—a wretched compound of falsehood, and cruelty, and abominable sensuality!

Nor were they merely impelled to these things by the impetuosity of their own passions; for, while they had internal convictions of the impiety of this conduct, they deliberately approved and honored those who were most addicted to it.

From hence it appears how inexcusable they were, and how justly sentenced to eternal condemnation—

Had they been able to plead ignorance, they would have had some kind of excuse: but they could not do this: for "they did really know God;" but "did not choose to retain him in their knowledge:" and so far were they from having this plea to extenuate their crimes, that the light which they resisted constitutes the heaviest aggravation of their guilt. "This is their condemnation, that they loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil! John 3:19."

Again, if they could not plead ignorance, neither could they plead necessity; for they were under no necessity to dishonor God in this way, either from without or from within. They were perfectly free agents in all that they did: and though they could not, nor can any child of man, fulfill all the Divine will, or themselves do anything spiritually good—yet they might have abstained from much which they did amiss, and done much which they neglected to do: and therefore they are justly chargeable with all the guilt that they contracted; and are as reprehensible before God for not using the powers which they possessed, as they would have been if those powers had been ever so enlarged.

All that has been spoken in reference to the heathen in former days, is still applicable to them at this time. The notices of a Deity may be much more obscured in the minds of some than of others; and the criminality of all must be estimated in some measure according to the peculiar circumstances under which they live: but, inasmuch as all violate the law that is in their own minds, and neglect to improve the advantages they enjoy, they all are obnoxious to the charge contained in our text, and are therefore "without excuse."

But, that we may bring this matter home to ourselves, let us consider,

II. How much more inexcusable we are, if we resemble them—

We have opportunities of knowing God, far beyond any that the heathen ever enjoyed—

Even in reading the book of creation, we, by means of our superior advantages, are enabled to see much that was hidden from them, or, at least, to discover with incomparably greater clearness the unity and perfections of God, which they could but faintly and doubtingly discern. But we have a Scripture revelation, wherein God has proclaimed his own name, "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; and that will by no means clear the guilty! Exodus 34:6-7." We have also a yet clearer revelation of God in the person of his own Son, who is "the image of the invisible God Colossians 1:15," "the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person, Hebrews 1:3."

Nor is it from words only that we discover his excellency, but from actions also. We behold our God incarnate: we behold his glory veiled, so that, without being blinded with the overwhelming splendor of his majesty, we may contemplate him, and familiarize ourselves, as it were, with his adorable perfections. In this especially the most ignorant among us excels all the greatest philosophers of Greece and Rome; we behold God's attribute of mercy; we can tell how that may be exercised in perfect consistency with his justice: we can tell how God can be "just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly Romans 3:26; Romans 4:5." In a word, all the wonders of redeeming love are set before us in terms so plain, that "he who runs may read them."

But how have we improved these advantages?

Have we glorified God as God, or his blessed Son as the one hope of a sinful and ruined world? Alas! alas! if we take a survey of our own spirit and conduct through life, we shall find, that there has been but little difference between us and the heathen.

Consider our defects. "We have not glorified God as God, neither been thankful." What might justly have been expected of persons privileged as we have been? Might it not have been reasonably hoped that persons redeemed from Hell by the blood of God's only dear Son, would have been incessantly pouring out their souls in grateful adorations, and dedicating to his service their every faculty, and every instant of their time? Methinks, it would have been a work of pain and self-denial to devote so much as a thought to any other subject, especially to any subject unconnected with this.

But have our hearts been thus exercised? Has it been thus our delight to anticipate the employment of Heaven? Or rather, have not the wonders of redemption had far less influence on our minds than the things of time and sense? Yes, have they not for the most part been passed by, as though they were only "a cunningly-devised fable," wherein we had no interest?

Consider also our errors. We have not, it is true, transformed our God into an idol: but we have had scarcely more worthy conceptions of him than if he had been an idol. In theory we have ascribed to him the different perfections of his nature; but in practice we have denied them all—his omniscience, his holiness, his justice, and his truth, by vainly imagining, either that he did not behold, or that he would not punish, our iniquities. We, as he himself tells us, have "thought him to be even such a one as ourselves:" while exalting in our minds his attribute of mercy, we have, in fact, divested him of all that belongs to him as the Governor of the universe: A God all mercy, is a God unjust.

Consider yet further our excesses. These, as to the overt act, do not proceed to such extremes as were common among the Gentiles: but the abominations that we do commit, sufficiently show, that we are not restrained by any regard to God, so much as by public laws and popular opinion. Christianity having elevated the general tone of morals, those hideous crimes which were but too frequent among the Gentiles are scarcely so much as thought of among us: but, in all that we can do consistently with the laws of society, we are not a whit superior to the heathen themselves.

What juster picture could the Apostle have drawn, if he had intended to describe, what is improperly called, the Christian world? Take us as a people, and say, whether we are not "filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; yes, whether we be not full of envy, murder, deceit, malignity; whether we be not whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, implacable, unmerciful: and say particularly, whether, notwithstanding, verse 29-31. We know the evil of such things, we do not both practice them ourselves, and choose for our friends and companions those who are guilty of those very practices? Who, I would ask, are the favorites with the world? the godly, and those who are conformed to the Savior's image? No! but the ungodly, who by their conduct and example sanction all the corruptions of the human heart, verse 32.

How inexcusable then must we be!

Truly, "the men of Nineveh will rise up in judgment against us;" yes, the Gentiles also, throughout the universe, will condemn us, because of the extent to which we have imitated their evils, and abused our infinitely superior advantages. "The Gospel which we enjoy, if it prevails not with us to put away our sins, and to walk as Christ walked," will only prove to us "a savor of death" to our more aggravated and heavier condemnation, 2 Corinthians 2:16. "If Christ had not come and spoken unto us, we had not had sin: but now we have no cloak for our sin, John 15:22."

See then,

1. How thankful we should be for the Gospel of Christ!

Doubtless one reason why the world was left without a Savior for four thousand years, was, that the world might see how little they could do to restore themselves to the favor and image of God. At no period were the powers of the human intellect carried to a greater extent, than at the time of our Savior's advent: but what did philosophy effect? What did it effect even among those who most exalted it? Nothing to any good purpose. The poets and philosophers themselves were as much addicted to sin as the vulgar, whom they looked down upon with contempt: and, if it were not for the light of the Gospel, we would be as much immersed in sensuality as they!

Let this be borne in mind, that, whether born in a Christian or a heathen land, we are all by nature equally corrupt and helpless; and all need a Savior, the one as much as the other. To us a Savior is revealed, and precisely such a one as we stand in need of. O let us then bless our God for the revelation of his grace: let us be thankful that we see what many prophets and kings desired to see, but desired it in vain: and let Christ, who is the sum and substance of the Gospel, be truly "precious" to all our souls.

2. What effect our superior advantages should produce upon us—

We should aspire after the highest possible attainments, in love and gratitude, in purity and holiness. We should aim at "glorifying God as God," and Christ as Christ. Let us then contemplate Christ in all his offices, as our Prophet, as our Priest, as our King. Let us not be contented with a theoretical or superficial survey of his character, but let us search into it, and ruminate upon it, and get our souls suitably impressed with it. Let us get such views of him, as shall render us insensible to all created excellency; as a man who looks at the meridian sun is blinded to all inferior objects. Let us in these holy exercises seek to obtain a conformity to his image; agreeably to what the Apostle has said, "We beholding his glory are changed into the same image from glory to glory! 2 Corinthians 3:18." Let no measure of resemblance to him ever satisfy us; no efforts in his service ever content us. Let us, even if we have attained an apostolic measure of zeal and holiness, "forget it all, and reach forward" to higher attainments, Philippians 3:13-14.

Let our trust in him be sincere;

let our fellowship with him be intimate;

let our confidence in him be assured;

let our expectation from him be large;

let our devotion to him be ardent;

let our obedience to him be uniform;

let our surrender of ourselves to him be entire and unreserved;

let us live for him, and "walk worthy of him;" so that he may be glorified, yes, and "be magnified in us" also, both in life and death. Philippians 1:20."

 

#1823

MEN HATERS OF GOD

Romans 1:30.

"Haters of God!"

WHAT! Are there any persons of this character upon earth? It cannot be! it were a libel upon human nature to suppose it. Go round to all the people you can find, and put the question to them, 'Are you a hater of God?' They will spurn at the idea, and deem the question a gross insult. The moral part of mankind would he filled with indignation at such a strange calumnious suggestion. And the most immoral would say, 'I certainly do not serve him as I ought: but, as to "hating him," "is your servant a dog, that he would do this! 2 Kings 8:12-13."

But let us "come to the word and to the testimony." Of whom speaks the Apostle the words which we have read? Does he give this character to some of a pre-eminently impious disposition? Or does he ascribe it to the whole Gentile world, even to every man, so long as he continues in his natural and unconverted state? It is most assuredly in this latter sense that the words must be understood: for the scope of this part of the epistle is to show, not that some particular persons need a Savior, but "that every mouth must be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God! Romans 3:19."

I am far from saying that all persons manifest their enmity against God in the same way, and to the same extent: but if we will candidly examine the state of mankind, we shall find it precisely such as the Apostle here describes it; and that the human heart, until changed by Divine grace, is "full of envy, murder, deceit, malignity;" and that men still are, no less than in the Apostle's days, "whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful, verse 29-31." With the description at large I shall not trouble you. It is my intention to confine myself to that particular part of it which I have selected for my text: in confirmation of which I shall,

I. Establish the fact, that unregenerate men are haters of God—

This fact is absolutely universal—

Look at every man, and see what are his dispositions and conduct towards the God of Heaven and earth: and all, without exception, will be found to deserve the character here assigned them. All betray an enmity against God; they feel it in their hearts, and manifest it in their lives. It their minds were rightly disposed towards God, they would esteem him above all; and desire him above all; and delight in him above all; and, in comparison with his favor, there would be nothing regarded by them as worthy of a thought.

But what is the fact? There is not anything, however vain or worthless, or vile, that does not occupy a higher place in their esteem than God! Any gratification which they affect, is sufficient to draw them from their allegiance to Him, and to induce them to violate his most express commands. The favor of a fellow-creature is more sought than his; and the displeasure of a poor sinful worm more dreaded than his. Even Satan himself is deemed more worthy to be obeyed than he: as our Lord has said, "You are of your father the devil; and the lusts of your father you will do! John 8:44."

But the will of our heavenly Father we will not do. There is no such satisfaction felt in anything which he enjoins; no such readiness to comply with his sacred motions in the soul. In truth, what is the whole life of an unregenerate man? Is it not a state of rebellion against God? There is not a command of his which we desire to keep: there is not one which we do not violate.

Now let us try this conduct by an easy test. Suppose that a child, or a servant, treated us as we have treated God: suppose that, while he acknowledged his relation to us, he never sought to please us; never cared however much he displeased us; never felt any comfort in our society, but rather desired the society of our bitterest enemies; never was concerned about our honor or interests; but would sacrifice both the one and the other at any time, without any shame or remorse—what construction would we put upon that conduct? Would we not say that his mind was altogether alienated from us? No doubt we would: and that is the construction which God himself puts on our deportment towards him: "The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be! Romans 8:7."

This fact is also realized to an inconceivable degree—

It would appear impossible for a man so to hate God, as that God's annihilation and extinction would prove to them a source of real satisfaction: but I put it to the consciences of all, and ask: Supposing we were told, from undoubted authority, that there was no God to control us, no God to inspect our ways, no God to call us to an account, and that we were at liberty to follow our own ways without any fear of a hereafter; would it not, on the whole, be an acceptable report?

The Psalmist says, "The fool has said in his heart, No God! Psalm 14:1." Now, whether we understand that as an affirmation or a wish, it equally shows what I am now contending for; that the very existence of God is a burden to the carnal mind; and that the extinction of God, if it were possible, would be welcomed as a relief. In truth, we flee from him, as Adam did after the fall, Genesis 3:8, and banish him from our minds as much as possible, Psalm 10:4, and live altogether as "without him in the world, Ephesians 2:12." And thus we give a clear proof that we would esteem it no loss if we could get rid of him altogether.

Melancholy, indeed, is this fact. I will now endeavor to,

II. Account for it—

One would suppose, that He who is all excellence in himself, and the one source of all benefits to man, would be an object of love, and not of hatred, to us: and so he would be, if we had retained our primitive state of innocence: but we have fallen, and are become inconceivably depraved: and therefore we hate him on account of,

1. The contrariety that exists between him and us—

There is not a greater difference between light and darkness, than between him and us; not only in his natural attributes, which, of course, we cannot resemble, but in his moral perfections also, which in our original creation were enstamped upon us.

There is not any one thing which God loves, which we do not hate with a perfect hatred. Holiness, in all its branches, is that which he approves: but in no one respect do we love it. A conformity to his image we never seek; nay, if we behold it in another, we hate and abhor it. This matter has been put to a trial. God himself has become incarnate, and exhibited to the world a perfect transcript of his perfections: and how did the world treat him? There was not an indignity which they did not offer him; nor did they rest, until they had put him to the most ignominious death. Nor was this the conduct of the ignorant populace alone, but of every rank and order in society: kings, priests, people, all joined in the same murderous assaults upon him.

His image, too, was represented in his holy Prophets and Apostles: and how were all of them treated? In every age they were the objects of most inveterate hatred; insomuch, that, of all the Apostles, one alone escaped the sword of martyrdom.

And is human nature different now, from what it was in former ages? The laws of men have imposed restraints on the enmity of the heart: but were those restraints removed, and occasion for the exercise of men's evil dispositions afforded, the same scenes would be transacted now as formerly: for men at this hour, no less than in former ages, "love darkness rather than light;" and would gladly extinguish the light, that they might be left to follow their own ways unmolested and unreproved!

2. The consciousness we feel, that he will summon us to his tribunal—

We may treat revelation as we will; but we all feel in our conscience a persuasion that God inspects our ways, and hates our proceedings, and will avenge the breaches of his holy laws. We may try to divest ourselves of these feelings, and may prevail to dissipate them for a moment; but they will return; and at certain times and seasons will occasion much uneasiness to the mind, and produce there a wish that we could by any means avoid the judgment that awaits us. We feel that God is, and must be, an enemy to us: and therefore we cannot contemplate him with any other feeling than that of fear and dread.

It may be said indeed by some, that this is by no means their experience: that, on the contrary, they feel a delightful regard for God, and a grateful sense of his mercies.

But to this I would answer, It is not to God as revealed in the Scripture, but as they paint him to themselves in their own vain imaginations, that they feel this regard. They conceive of him as bearing no anger against them for their sins, and as lowering his demands of obedience to the standard which they have fixed for themselves, and as looking with delight on their formal self-righteous endeavors: it is in this view of him alone that they are pleased with him: they despoil him of his own proper attributes, and clothe him with attributes of their own creation; and then they worship the work of their own hands!

But, let him be presented to them in his own proper character—as a holy Being, that cannot look upon iniquity without the utmost abhorrence; as a just Being, who cannot but punish with everlasting destruction every impenitent sinner; and as a God of truth, that will accept no human being but as clothed in the righteousness of his dear Son—and they will lose all their imagined regard for him, and show towards him all the aversion which we have before described. They will find in themselves that Scripture realized, "My soul loathed them; and their soul abhorred me! Zechariah 11:8."

Regarding the fact as proved, I now come to,

III. Make some reflections upon it—

In the view of this fact, we may observe,

1. How deep should be our humiliation before God!

Men are not humbled, because they will not look at themselves in the looking-glass of God's Word. They think only of some particular sins which they may have committed; and put out of view altogether the disposition of their souls towards God. But, if we would have a just sense of our condition, we must probe our hearts to the bottom; and see, not merely what we are, but what we would have been if we had been left to follow our dispositions without restraint.

Look at the souls that are now shut up in the abodes of misery in Hell: has any new disposition been infused into them, since they have entered into the eternal world? No! they have only the dispositions which they carried with them: and the only difference is, that they are now left to manifest to the uttermost what in this world was kept from issuing forth in all its full malignity. Under the displeasure of their God, so far are they from humbling themselves before him, that they "gnaw their tongues with anguish, and blaspheme the God of Heaven because of their pains! Revelation 16:10-11."

What would they have said in this world, if they had been told what was really in their hearts? They would have deemed it a gross calumny! But such would be our deportment here, if our corruptions were not restrained, either by education, or by the preventing grace of God. And, If we are sensible how great our depravity is, we shall see that no humiliation can be too deep for any of us; but that it becomes all of us, without exception, to "abhor ourselves, even as holy Job did, in dust and ashes."

2. What obligations we owe to God for his Gospel!

In the Gospel is revealed a way of reconciliation for us, through Christ. O! what love was it that bestowed upon us such an inestimable gift as that of God's only dear Son, to make reconciliation for us through the blood of his cross! And here it is particularly to be noticed, that God does not so much offer to be reconciled to us, as he invites us to be reconciled to him. The address which his ministers are commissioned to make to men, is, "We beseech you in Christ's stead, be reconciled to God! 2 Corinthians 5:20."

The great obstruction to friendship between God and us lies altogether on our part. Not a single moment would God retain his anger against us, if we humbled ourselves before him, and besought his favor for Christ's sake. But, though importuned by him, we continue obstinate in our alienation from him. Still, however, the Gospel follows us with invitations and entreaties to lay aside our enmity, and to accept his offered mercies. Be thankful for this marvelous kindness given unto you: for, once you are taken into the eternal world, there will be no longer any forbearance on the part of God; but his wrath will burst forth against you, and burn even to the lowest Hell to all eternity! Psalm 11:6. Romans 2:8-9.

It would be terrible to have all the creation for your enemies: but to have the Creator himself your enemy, and that for ever and ever, O! how inconceivably terrible will this be! Well! bless your God that this need not be your fate, nor shall be, if only you will throw down the weapons of your rebellion, and implore mercy at God's hands for Christ's sake.

3. What a blessing the Gospel proves to all who receive it!

The effect of the Gospel is, to "slay this enmity," and to bring the soul into a state of peace with God. Nor does it merely put away our guilt; but removes also our indisposition to what is good and holy, and even writes the law of God upon our hearts; so that there is in those who receive it as great a resemblance to God, as there was before a contrariety. The mind of a true convert is brought into a conformity to God's mind, and his ways into a conformity to God's ways. Thus, "being agreed, they walk together" in mutual love; and earth is made, to man, a foretaste of Heaven itself.

See, then, my brethren, that you experience this effect. See that you love all that God loves, and do all that God approves. Then will you show that there is an efficacy in the Gospel to transform the soul into the Divine image, and to render it fit for the inheritance of the saints in light.

 

#1824

THOSE WHO JUDGE OTHERS, JUDGED

Romans 2:3-5.

"So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance? But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed."

HUMAN nature is the same in every age, and every place: external circumstances may make an external difference; but internally, every child of man is alike alienated from God, and alike needs the salvation revealed in the Gospel. This is the scope of the three first chapters of this epistle. In the foregoing chapter, it is proved in reference to the Gentiles; and in this chapter, in reference to the Jews. But to which of these the words which we have just read are addressed, admits of doubt. We think however, that the transition to the Jews is at the commencement of this chapter, notwithstanding they are not expressly mentioned until the 17th verse: and the not mentioning of their name proceeded, we apprehend from a delicacy of feeling, and a fear lest he might, by a too direct attack, arm, as it were, their minds against him. This certainly accords with the very tender regard which he manifests towards them throughout this whole epistle: and it was the less necessary to mention them, because their contempt of the Gentiles was so fully known, and so universally acknowledged. But the characters that are addressed are the same, whether among Jews or Gentiles: and, as the whole force of the address will be invalidated if we do not clearly discern to whom it is delivered, we will,

I. Show to whom the expostulation is addressed—

There were among the Gentiles some who in their public discourses inculcated a purer morality than that which was generally practiced, but in their own life and conduct were guilty of the very crimes which they condemned: and so it is at this day among those who call themselves Christians. The disposition which is here reproved shows itself,

1. In the world, towards each other—

From whatever it may proceed, whether from envy or pride or uncharitableness, there is a disposition in all to view others in an unfavorable light, at the same time that they themselves are faulty, either in the same precise way, or in other ways to the same extent. Indeed such is the extreme blindness of human nature, that the more any are under the dominion of pride, or vanity, or covetousness, or ambition—the more they hate those in whom the same evils are predominant: the proud man cannot endure the proud; and so of the rest.

But if this disposition manifests itself among equals, much more does it among those who are placed at some distance from each other, whether the difference be in age, or rank, or relation, or general habits and dispositions.

The old condemn the follies of the young; and the young condemn the severity of the old.

The rich inveigh against the idleness or dishonesty of the poor; and the poor inveigh against the selfishness and oppressiveness of the rich.

Parents complain of their children; and children complain of their parents.

Masters complain of their servants; and servants complain of their masters.

In like manner, the bigot and the free-thinker, the prodigal and the penurious, the hermit and the mirthful, all love to indulge in mutual incriminations; all overlooking their own peculiar failings, and condemning without reserve the characteristic failings of others!

2. In the world, towards those who profess religion—

To be a consistent Christian is, with the generality, the greatest of all crimes: there is no other crime so little tolerated, so universally condemned. Opprobrious names are universally affixed to the godly: and the current title, whatever it may be, is sufficient to make a man despised, and shunned, and dreaded, as a public nuisance all the world over.

Supposing for a moment that religious persons were unwise in laying so great a stress on religion, is there no evil in neglecting God and our immortal souls? Yet the world overlook all their own impiety, as if there were no harm in it, and set no bounds to their invectives against those who serve and honor God. It may be thought that the wild enthusiast alone is the object of their aversion: but were the Apostles wild enthusiasts? Was our blessed Lord lacking in wisdom and prudence? Yet were they all regarded "as the filth of the earth, and the offscouring of all things:" and the very men who scrupled not to suborn false witnesses, and to imbrue their hands in the blood of an innocent man—could find no evil in themselves, but only in those who were the objects of their implacable aversion.

If an occasion arises where a professor of religion acts unworthy of his profession, what a cause of triumph is it to an ungodly world! With what exultation are his faults imputed to the whole body of religious people, and all of them condemned as hypocrites alike! The sins of the ungodly and profane are all reputed as nothing in comparison with his crime; and the whole Church of God is vilified, and God himself also is blasphemed, as approving and justifying the iniquity that has been committed.

3. In religious persons, towards the world—

It would be well if this partiality in judging were confined to the ungodly: but there is a great tendency to it in those who profess religion. Doubtless in proportion as real humility is formed in the heart, this evil disposition will be mortified: but in proportion as pride and conceit are unsubdued, the attendant evil of uncharitableness will betray itself.

We have a most remarkable example of this in David, when he had relapsed into a state of grievous departure from God. When Nathan told him of a man who had taken a poor man's lamb, behold, nothing would suffice to expiate the crime but the forfeiture of life itself: so atrocious did this light offense appear, when, all his own unparalleled enormities were forgotten!

We grant that this was a very extreme case; and that nothing like it is commonly to be imputed to those who profess religion: but is there not among many professors an utter contempt of the ungodly? Do they not frequently speak of their irreligious neighbors with contemptuous asperity, as wretched, blind, carnal creatures? The religious Jews designated the Gentiles as dogs, and as cursed; while they imagined themselves the chosen people of God: and is not a great deal of the same spirit to be seen among what is called the religious world? The ignorance and ungodliness of the men of this world are at once conceded as just grounds of their eternal condemnation; while the pride and uncharitableness, and ten thousand other evils that are found but too frequently among these contemptuous professors, are passed over as trivial, or perhaps as having no existence in their hearts.

How different was the lesson taught us by our Lord, who, when the rich youth came to inquire of him the way to Heaven, "loved him," notwithstanding he knew that the love of earthly things would ultimately overcome all those better desires which occupied his mind! Our divine Master loved him for the good that was in him, though he foresaw it would prove ineffectual for the final welfare of his soul: whereas the great mass of religious professors would have lost sight of all the good that was in him, and have treated him with unqualified contempt.

But among those who with great confidence "cry, Lord, Lord," there are many who will be found in as bad a condition as he: and the disciple who betrayed our Lord with a kiss, will be found in no happier plight, than those who apprehended him with swords and staves.

4. In religious people, towards each other—

Strange as it may seem, the different sects of religious people are as ready to anathematize each other, as to condemn those who cast off all religion. It is even an avowed tenet in the Church of Rome, that those who are not of her communion cannot be saved. And there is not a little of that same bigotry existing among the different professors of the Protestant faith. To be of their party is almost of itself a qualification for Heaven; and a dissent from it is a preparative for Hell.

Blessed be God! this intolerant spirit has of late years greatly abated Since the establishment of the British and Foreign Bible Society; but still it prevails to a solemn extent, and gives but too just occasion for sceptics and infidels to triumph.

But even among persons of the same religious community this propensity to judge and condemn one another greatly prevails. The weak will judge the strong, and the strong will despise the weak. Persons, whose situations totally disqualify them for estimating aright the conduct of others who are differently circumstanced, will yet take upon them to determine with confidence the line of conduct that would be pursued, and to pass a sentence of condemnation on those who walk not in the way that seems good to them.

In truth, there are but few who do not need that reproof: "Who are you that judge another? To his own Master he stands or falls!"

Thus we see to whom the expostulation in our text is addressed; namely, to all who "judge others, while they themselves do the same things," or things equally reprehensible. We proceed now to,

II. Consider the address itself—

This is extremely pointed. The interrogations show how fearfully these persons delude themselves. The address is, in fact, an appeal to the consciences of the persons addressed; and it constitutes them judges in their own cause. It shows to all such uncharitable persons, what an awful state they themselves are in:

1. How vain their hopes!

All the fore-mentioned characters imagine that they themselves have nothing to fear: but they are all in a state displeasing to God, "whose judgment is according to truth against those who do such things, verse 2." Can any man suppose that a mere profession of religion will pass with God for the actual experience of it in the heart? Can any man suppose that a forwardness to condemn others, will be a substitute for the performance of our own duties?

Will God form his judgment upon the partial grounds which we take for the forming of ours? Will he admit as just, the estimate which we have made of our own character, or be content to try us by the standard which we have used in trying ourselves? No! his law is perfect; and by that he will try all to whom that law has been revealed. He will weigh us all in the balance of the sanctuary; he will "try the hearts," and "weigh the spirits," of men: he will "not judge according to the appearance, but will judge righteous judgment."

We appeal then to all, shall these uncharitable hypocrites escape? O you who have thus deceived yourself hitherto, what do you now think? Do you think, that, because you know more than others, or make a greater profession of religion than others—you shall escape? Know that such a hope is vain! "We are sure, verse 2," that, if you humble not yourself as an undone sinner, and flee not for refuge to the Lord Jesus Christ, the vengeance of God shall overtake you; and you shall experience the fate which you are so ready to award to others!

2. How aggravated is their guilt!

God has graciously exercised much "forbearance and long-suffering" towards you; and you take occasion from thence to conclude well of your state, and to sit in judgment upon others who appear less favored than yourself. But is this the end for which God has borne with you, and displayed towards you all the riches of his goodness? Was not that the proper tendency of all "his goodness?" Should it not have humbled you as unworthy of such mercy? Should it not have filled your heart with gratitude for such distinguishing favor? Should it not have quickened you to return to God, and to live unto Him to the best of your power? Consider, "O man," whether such is not the improvement which you should have made of all these mercies? And ask yourself, whether the neglecting to improve them thus be not in fact to "despise them?"

Yes, in overlooking your own sins, and in passing judgment upon others, you are "hardening yourself in impenitence," and pouring contempt on God himself. Alas! you have little thought what guilt you have been contracting! You worldly man that judge the religious, and you religious man that judge the world—when will you turn your thoughts inward, and pass judgment on yourself? Know that, until you are brought to a more equitable spirit, as it respects yourself, and a more charitable spirit as it respects your neighbor, you are a despiser of God, an usurper of his prerogative, and "a judge of the law itself," even of that law whereby you yourself are to be judged, James 4:11. But this most awfully augments your guilt, and prepares you daily for a more aggravated condemnation.

3. How fearful their prospects!

There is "a day wherein God will judge the world in righteousness." Man has his day, 1 Corinthians 4:3, and God has his 1 Corinthians 4:5. The present is a day of grace: but that which is coming is "a day of wrath." What a fearful appellation is this! a day wrath! or, as it is elsewhere called, "the day of the perdition of ungodly men! 2 Peter 3:7." O hear it, and tremble, all you who are judging others, and neglecting to judge yourselves. Against this day you are heaping up wrath: you are adding to the mass day by day—load upon load, mountain upon mountain, you are piling up; and under this accumulated weight must your souls lie to all eternity! Ah! little do you think what your eternal end is: little do you think what shall be the outcome of all your impenitence and obduracy. But thus it will be. That day is appointed expressly with a view to "the revealing," and displaying before the assembled universe, "the righteous judgment of God."

Every sin that is committed will then be brought to light; "and every one will be judged according to what he has done in the body, whether it be good or evil." Then, whether you will or not, your attention shall be fixed upon your own sins—you will have nothing to do then with the sins of others. O! begin now, while time is afforded you, to search out your own iniquities, and to seek the remission of them through the blood of Christ.

We will conclude this solemn subject with a few words of advice—

1. Do not occupy yourselves too much about others, but rather take heed unto yourselves—

There are situations, no doubt, wherein we are called to judge: nor are we ever so to lay aside the office of judging, as to think well of those who are guilty of all manner of sin; or to commit ourselves to those, whom we have good reason to think are treacherous and deceitful. Nor need we so forbear judging, as to be satisfied with the state of those who live in a total neglect of God and of their own souls. On the contrary, we ought to weep over them, and pray for them, and to labor by all possible means for their salvation.

But our chief concern must be with ourselves. Here our scrutiny cannot be too exact, or our concern too great. Here we would be afraid of entertaining a good opinion on insufficient grounds. We should judge ourselves, that we may not be judged of the Lord. Search then, and try your every way: and, not venturing to trust your own efforts, pray earnestly to God, and say, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me; and lead me in, the way everlasting! Psalm 139:23-24."

2. Above all things, seek to know your dire need of the Savior—

This is the grand scope of the Apostle's argument: he is endeavoring to convince all, both Jews and Gentiles, that they stand in need of the salvation which Christ has purchased for us by his own blood.

There is in the generality, a fear of seeing themselves in too humiliating a point of view: but this can never be: the more we are abased in our own eyes, the more we shall be exalted in the sight of God. It is "the sick that need the physician:" and the more sensible we are of our malady, the more we shall value the Lord Jesus Christ. Were there indeed any doubt of his sufficiency to save us, we might well be afraid of viewing our sins in all their extent: but "his blood will cleanse from all sin;" and "he is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him." In him all fullness dwells: and you need not be afraid of seeing yourselves "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked," when you hear him counseling you to come to him for "gold that shall enrich you, and clothing that shall cover you, and eye-salve that shall restore your sight, Revelation 3:17-18." Be nothing, yes, "less than nothing," in yourselves; and He will be to you all that your heart can desire, "your wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption!"

 

#1825

THE RULE OF GOD'S FUTURE JUDGMENT

Romans 2:6-11.

"God will give to each person according to what he has done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism."

IN reading the apostolic writings we should attend, not only to the doctrines that are inculcated, but to the manner in which they are inculcated; for writing, as the Apostles did, entirely under the influence of divine love, they have given us many valuable lessons, which escape the notice of the superficial observer, but amply repay the search of those who investigate them with deeper attention, and desire to imbibe their spirit.

It is of no small importance to learn how to combat prejudice with success. This is rarely done by an open and direct attack: it is far better to attempt it by a more circuitous mode, namely, by establishing such truths as shall serve to give juster views to the mind. In this way the fabric of error, which would have withstood any rude assault, is undermined, and falls, before the person who defended it is aware of any opposition.

The Jews were strongly possessed with the notion that no Jew could perish, except through apostasy or idolatry; and that no Gentile could be saved, but by subjecting himself to the institutions and observances of the Mosaic ritual. To counteract this error, the Apostle shows that the Jews, no less than the Gentiles, stood in need of a Savior, and must embrace the Gospel in order to their final salvation. But to this conclusion he comes by gradual, and almost imperceptible, advances; showing, that God, as a righteous Judge, will deal with all according to their works, without showing partiality to any on account of their external privileges, or leaving any to suffer on account of their external disadvantages; but awarding equally to all such a sentence as their respective characters shall require.

This is a truth so obvious and incontrovertible, that they could not but acquiesce in it; and, by a due consideration of it, they would be prepared to embrace all that the Apostle was about to advance on the subject which he was especially commissioned to proclaim—the admission of all, both Jews and Gentiles, on an equal footing, into the Church of Christ.

But, in stating the rule which God would observe in the future judgment, the Apostle designed further to convey the most important information to the whole world: for, as all must one day stand at the judgment-seat of Christ, it is of infinite importance for all to know on what grounds their eternal state will be determined.

To leave no doubt on this subject, he fully states,

I. The character and end of the GODLY—

Mark,

1. The CHARACTER of the godly—

The godly man is known by the object he pursues. Nothing less than "glory, and honor, and immortality" will satisfy him: not the glory and honor which pertain to this life; not the immortality which consists in posthumous fame; those he leaves for others. His ambition soars to higher things; the things worthy of an immortal soul; even to the everlasting possession of all the glory and felicity of Heaven. This is the prize which he sees held out to him in the Scriptures: and for the attainment of it he strains every nerve. He well knows how richly it will recompense all his labors and toils; and everything in comparison with it is regarded by him as the small dust upon the balance.

He is further known by the means he uses to attain it: he seeks it "by a patient continuance in well-doing." Whatever he believes to be the will of God, he does.

Has God commanded him to humble himself as a sinner, and to flee to Christ as to the refuge that is set before him? He does it; he does it heartily; he does it humbly; he does it continually.

Has God further ordered him "no longer to live unto himself, but unto him who died for him and rose again?" he endeavors to consecrate all his faculties and all his powers to the service of his adorable Redeemer. He is not satisfied with doing such good works as the men of this world are accustomed to perform; his efforts extend to all the most difficult and self-denying duties, as well those which are loaded with opprobrium, as those which elevate us in the good opinion of mankind. And this he does with "a patient continuance," prosecuting, like the sun in the firmament, his destined course, and causing all who behold his light, to glorify God in his behalf.

There are times indeed when the difficulties and discouragements which he meets with oppress his mind: his hands sometimes hang down, and his feeble knees seem as if they would no longer sustain the weight they have to bear. But he looks up to God for help: he obtains fresh supplies of grace and strength from above; and, with vigor renewed like the eagle's, he resumes his course, determined never to stop, until he has obtained the prize.

In accomplishing the work assigned him, he finds also opposition from without. As much as the ungodly world profess to honor good works, they do not like such works as Christ performed, or such as all his faithful followers perform: they do all they can to obstruct the Christian's path; and if he will proceed in it, they will revile and persecute him, even as they did the Lord of Glory himself. But he "endures hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ," and "counts not his life dear to him, if only he may be enabled to finish his course with joy," and to complete the work which God has given him to do.

2. The END of the godly—

God never suffers his faithful servants to be disappointed of their hope. Do they seek "eternal life" as their one object? "Eternal life" shall be theirs: "the glory and honor" which they sought shall be awarded to them, and shall be enjoyed by them in a degree, of which, while here, they had no conception. "Peace" also, even a perfect freedom from all those conflicts which so often troubled them in this world, will be theirs in full and everlasting possession. While they were here, their "peace passed all understanding, and kept their hearts and minds as in a citadel," out of the reach of all their enemies: but in the future world, their reconciliation with God will be so perfect, and their rest in God so complete, that their peace will flow down like a river, with ever-increasing amplitude and abundance to all eternity.

In perfect contrast with the foregoing are,

II. The character and end of the ungodly—

Their CHARACTER is the very reverse of the godly—

It might be thought that an obedience to the Gospel was not intended to be included in the "well-doing" of the godly: but here the lack of it is particularly marked as a leading feature of the ungodly. In fact, "the souls of men can only be purified by obeying the truth through the Spirit, 1 Peter 1:22;" and all who are born again of the Spirit, that is, all the children of God, are so purified.

But the ungodly are averse to the truth; they are "contentious, and will not obey it:" and this arises, not from any lack of evidence in the truth itself, but from the predominance of some unrighteous principle, towards which they feel a decided preference, and to which they yield a willing subjection.

Some, through the pride of their hearts, reject the principles of the Gospel: while others, through the love of this present evil world, or through the prevalence of unmortified lusts, refuse submission to its precepts: the principles are too humiliating; the precepts too difficult and self-denying.

It is not necessary that a person, in order to be numbered with the ungodly, would commit such crimes as are reprobated by the world around him: he may be blameless as to his external conduct in the sight of men, and yet be very ungodly in the sight of God. His aversion to "the truth as it is in Jesus" constitutes him a most flagrant sinner before God, and subjects him to God's heaviest displeasure, 2 Thessalonians 1:8 and 1 Peter 4:17.

Their END will be more awful than either language can express, or heart conceive—

They dream of being in the favor of God, but they are objects of his "indignation and wrath." They persuade themselves that they shall be happy in the eternal world: but "tribulation and anguish" will be their certain and unalterable portion! Compare Psalm 78:49 with Psalm 11:6. O! who can conceive what it is to be "cast into a lake of fire and brimstone," and to "dwell with everlasting burnings!" Alas! what "weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth" will there be in those regions to which the ungodly will be for ever consigned! Yes, "to every soul that does evil," shall this sentence be awarded. No respect will be shown to persons" on account of their name, or profession, or rank, or distinctions of any kind.

The Jew will have a priority to the Gentiles, both in respect of happiness and misery; of happiness, inasmuch as his peculiar privileges afford him greater advantages for the attainment of holiness; though the Gentile shall not be overlooked on account of his lack of those advantages.

In like manner the Jew will have a fearful precedence also in respect to punishment, on account of the advantages he has abused: but the Gentiles will according to their measure be punished also, if they have not walked agreeably to the light which they have enjoyed, Luke 12:47-48. The possession of privileges will prove a blessing, or a curse, according to the use that has been made of them; but the lack of privileges shall neither excuse deliberate wickedness, on the one hand, nor prevent the acceptance of willing, though imperfect, services, on the other hand. If God, on the one hand, will "take vengeance on those who know him not," he has, on the other hand, declared, that "in every nation, he who fears God, and works righteousness, shall be accepted of him."

From this subject then we may learn,

1. What the Gospel is—

Many imagine that such declarations as those in our text are legal. But the apostle Paul, who surely understood the Gospel, considered these declarations as an essential part of it: and it is worthy of notice, that, in the very epistle where he has most strongly advanced the doctrines of predestination and election, he has brought forward these truths, which are so often set in opposition to them.

But the Gospel is not such a partial system as is generally imagined: it neither consists exclusively in those doctrines which are commonly spoken of under the term Calvinism, nor in those which are supposed to have an Arminian aspect. The Gospel exhibits the Deity to us under different views:

first, as a merciful Father, who offers salvation to us through the blood and righteousness of his only-begotten Son; next, as an almighty Sovereign, who dispenses his blessings according to his own will and pleasure; and lastly, as a righteous Judge, who will proceed with perfect equity in assigning to every man his proper portion of happiness or misery, according to what he has done in the body, whether it be good or evil. Under all these characters God must be viewed: if any one be excluded, his Gospel is mutilated, and his glory obscured. Let us then be equally ready to view him under any of these characters. Let us look to him for a full salvation through the death of his Son: if made partakers of that salvation, let us give all the glory to his free grace, and his electing love: and then let us walk before him in a conscientious performance of every duty, under a firm expectation, that our final sentence shall be according to the dictates of perfect equity. This is to be in the spirit of the Gospel; and if any restrict it to more partial views, they only betray their ignorance or pride, and will find themselves awfully mistaken in the last day.

2. How to estimate our own character—

The persons who have such an exclusive fondness of the deeper doctrines of predestination and election, are ready to pour contempt on evidences, as though an inquiry into the evidences of our conversion were mere legality. A favorite notion with them is, that faith is the only evidence of faith. But this is a grievous error. That faith does carry its own evidence along with it, just as love, or any other grace does, we readily allow. A person who relies simply and entirely on God, has a consciousness that he does so, and may, if this consciousness be confirmed by other evidence, be assured that his faith is genuine. But men may have a full persuasion in their own minds that they are right, and yet may be under a fatal delusion. This was the case with Paul, while he persecuted the Church of Christ: he "truly thought that he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus." The Scriptures furnish us with unnumbered marks whereby to judge of our state. The Epistles of John are full of them See 1 John 3:10; 1 John 3:14; 1 John 3:19-21; 1 John 3:24; and our blessed Lord cautions us strongly against that presumptuous confidence that would exclude an appeal to them Matthew 7:21-23; he bids us judge of ourselves by the fruits that we produce Matthew 7:16-20; and assures us, that in this way only can we guard against final disappointment and everlasting ruin Matthew 7:24-27. To all then would we say, examine whether you are proceeding in "a patient continuance in well-doing:" for the Judge himself will assuredly at the last day institute a strict inquiry into your works, and determine your state according to them Matthew 25:31-46; and "whatever you have sown, that, and that only, shall you reap to all eternity Galatians 6:7-8."

3. How to secure the prize that is set before you—

Not only is this plainly told us in our text; but Paul elsewhere says expressly, "Be not weary in well-doing; for in due season you shall reap, if you faint not Galatians 6:9." John also inculcates the same beneficial lesson, as our Lord also does in the parable of the Sower Luke 8:15. "Bring forth fruit with patience.", both, in effect, saying, look to yourselves, that you "lose not those things which you have wrought, but that you receive a full reward 2 John, verse 8." That we must live altogether by faith in the Son of God, is certain; for it is from his fullness alone that we can receive any spiritual blessing: but still we must exert ourselves as much, as if salvation were the fruit and recompense of our own efforts alone. This matter is put in a just light by Paul, when he says, "Let us cast away every weight, and the sin that does so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith Hebrews 12:1-2." In humble dependence on him to assist our efforts, and in an entire reliance on his meritorious sacrifice as the only ground of our acceptance, we must press forward in our heavenly course: then may we with confidence expect "a recompense of reward," not indeed for any merit in our services, but in exact proportion to them. The men of this world may seek for glory and honor, and be disappointed: but no disappointment shall occur to us: "The wicked works a deceitful work; but to him who sows righteousness shall be a sure reward Proverbs 11:18."

 

#1826

INCONSISTENT PROFESSORS REMONSTRATED WITH

Romans 2:17-24.

"Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth--you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: "God's name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you."

IT is generally acknowledged that the heart of man is deceitful: but the extent of its deceitfulness is very little known. It is not in things of minor importance only that its delusive operations are felt, but in things of everlasting concern, where, it might be supposed, we would be most on our guard against them. It deceives us in things relating to God: it leads us to substitute a profession of religion for the actual experience of it in our souls; and to rest in a form of godliness, while we are wholly inattentive to its power.

This species of self-deceit prevailed to an awful degree among the Jews, with whom Paul expostulates on account of it in a way of keen remonstrance. They could not be persuaded that they were in any danger, because they were descended from Abraham; but Paul shows them that their descent from him would avail them nothing, while their conduct was so contrary to their professions; but that rather their hypocrisy proved them to be as much in need of a Savior, as the most ignorant of the Gentile world could be.

Such being the general scope of the passage, we will consider more particularly,

I. The remonstrance itself—

Certainly the state of the Jews called for severe reproof—

They were highly privileged beyond the rest of mankind. They had a revelation from Heaven, whereby they were instructed in the mind and will of God, Deuteronomy 4:8, and enabled both to "discern things that differed," and to "approve the things that were more excellent." Moreover, as God's peculiar people, they could call Jehovah their God.

But these privileges they grievously abused. We condemn not their "resting in the law," or their "making their boast of God," provided they had really endeavored to serve God acceptably, and to yield a willing obedience to his law: but it was the external privilege that they gloried in, and not the spiritual advantages derived from it: they were proud of the distinction, but not desirous of the spiritual benefits connected with it. Because of the superior light they enjoyed, they despised all the rest of the world, as blind, ignorant, and benighted: and they assumed to themselves vain-glorious titles, as "guides of the blind, lights of those who were in darkness, instructors of the foolish, and teachers of babes:" they had a summary of their duties in a short compendious form, "a form of knowledge and of the truth in the law," by means of which they were enabled to appear very wise to the unenlightened heathen. But, while they thought themselves so highly qualified to "teach others, they taught not themselves:" on the contrary, they were notoriously guilty of those very crimes which they reprobated among the Gentile world. They proclaimed with great authority the commandments, "You shall not steal, you shall not commit adultery," but they were as much addicted to these crimes as the heathen themselves; and though since their return from Babylon they professed an abhorrence of idolatry, and in that respect excelled the heathen, they sacrilegiously robbed God not only of his tithes and offerings, but of all that honor and obedience which they acknowledged to be his due.

In a word, by their gross hypocrisy, and their diversified abominations, they caused Jehovah himself to be blasphemed and abhorred among the heathen who were round about them, Isaiah 52:5. Ezekiel 36:21-23.

Of what avail could external privileges be to such hypocrites as these?

Would to God there were not equal cause for reproof to those also who name the name of Christ—

Great as were the advantages of the Jews, they were not to be compared with those which are enjoyed by the Christian world. We have not the law only, but the Gospel also, in which are manifested to us all the wonders of redeeming love. And we, in consequence of this distinction, look down with pity on the benighted heathen, who are bowing down to stocks and stones, and seeking to propitiate their deities by services most painful, most wicked, most debasing.

On the Christian name also we value ourselves, as if that name could save us: and because we have been admitted by infant baptism into the external bond of the Christian covenant, we conclude ourselves of course partakers also of its inward blessings. Ah! fatal delusion! We stand amazed at this error, when exhibited to us by the Jews; but behold it not, when exemplified in ourselves.

But our lives testify against us, as no less hypocritical than the Jews themselves. Were we really a holy people to the Lord, we might well "make our boast of the Savior," and "rest in his Gospel" as an undoubted source of everlasting blessedness. But while we boast of our superiority to the heathen in point of light and knowledge, we are on a perfect level with them in our allowed violations of every moral duty.

We say to the heathen, "You shall not steal, you shall not commit adultery:" but where were ever fornication and adultery practiced with more unblushing effrontery, than among those who name the name of Christ? Where was dishonesty more universal in every branch of trade, than among those who call themselves Christians? Who have ever carried dishonesty to such a pitch as the professed followers of Christ? Who have stirred up wars from year to year, on purpose to facilitate their projects of enslaving their fellow-creatures? Ah! tell it not in Gath. The very name of Christ is a stench in the nostrils of millions, who have been the victims of our rapacity.

"Me no Christian," is, in the mind of an African, a severer reproach to us than any other that language can express. And, at this day, there is an anniversary held in the island of Japan for the purpose of trampling on the cross, which the Jesuits of former days have made an object of universal abhorrence.

Happy would we be, if this reproof were to be confined to merely nominal Christians!

Among religious professors, who have the Gospel fully and faithfully administered to them, there are many whose superior light and information serves only to puff them up with false confidence and vain conceit. They look down with affected pity on those whose views of divine truth are not so clear as their own; while yet, in respect of truth, and honor, and integrity, they are far inferior to the persons whom they despise. It is common for such persons to set up for teachers, while they themselves need to be taught some of the first and fundamental rules of Christian duty.

That professors of religion are too indiscriminately, and too severely, judged, is certain: but it is no less certain, that there is too much reason for complaint given by many, who, under a cloak of religion, veil, or attempt to veil, the grossest hypocrisy. Deceit, and lying, and covetousness, and fraud, and petulance, and idleness, and many other evils, are not unfrequently found predominant features in persons professing godliness; insomuch that the very profession of piety is brought by them into general disrepute. The dishonor they reflect on God, and the injury they do to "the Gospel of Christ, which is evil spoken of through them," is more than words can express: but against such persons no remonstrance can be too pointed, no censure can be too severe.

To view the remonstrance in its true light, we must further consider,

II. The argument confirmed by it—

The general argument is, to convince the Jews of sin: but more particularly it was the Apostle's design to show,

1. The emptiness of a merely nominal religion—

The Jews valued themselves on their descent from Abraham, and on their external relation to God as his peculiar people. We in like manner value ourselves on being Christians and Protestants: and we, purely on this ground, entertain as little doubt of our salvation, as the Jews did of theirs. But Paul tells the Jews, that the uncircumcised Gentiles, who walked according to the light they enjoyed, would fare better in the eternal world than the disobedient Jews, notwithstanding all their boasted privileges, verse 27.

And, no doubt, many heathen are in an incomparably better state than the great mass of the Christians, who in their life and conduct disgrace the truth which they profess. We must go further still, and say, that many who have walked humbly and conscientiously before God, will, notwithstanding the comparative darkness of their views, rise up in judgment against those who, with their clearer views, and more confident professions of faith in Christ, have walked unworthy of their heavenly calling. Yes; many that, according to human estimation, are "last, shall be first; and many that in their own conceit are first, shall be last."

2. The criminality of an inconsistent profession—

A profession of love to God only involves us in deeper guilt, if it is not accompanied with a suitable conduct. As much as God hates wickedness in general, there is nothing so odious in his sight as hypocrisy. Against none did our blessed Lord denounce such woes as against hypocrites: "Woe unto you hypocrites!" and to "take our portion with the hypocrites" is to have the severest lot of all in the eternal world!

Think then, you who call yourselves Christians, what a portion awaits you, if, while you name the name of Christ, you depart not from iniquity. Say not, that you do not make any profession of religion; for your very calling of yourselves Christians, is a public avowal, that Christ is your Redeemer, and your Lord. What if you were warned that you would be refused the rites of Christian burial? Would you deem that no insult? Yet it is only on the presumption that you are Christians indeed, that your bodies are committed to the grave in faith and hope. You do then, and you cannot but, make a profession of faith in Christ, and of obedience to his revealed will: and, if you will not walk as befits the Gospel of Christ, "your circumcision shall become uncircumcision," your baptism no baptism, and your end terrible, in proportion to the advantages you have abused!

But to a still greater extent is this true respecting those, who, while they make their boast of the Gospel, dishonor God by their unholy lives, or unsanctified dispositions. To what purpose are their public professions, or religious exercises? To what purpose are all their boasted experiences of alternate elevation and depression, of fear or confidence, of sorrow or of joy? They may profess as they will that they know God; but, if in their conduct they deny him, "they deceive their own souls, and their religion is vain."

Extremely awful is that declaration of God to the Church of Smyrna, "I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan, Revelation 2:9." And it is to be feared, that such synagogues are yet to be found in our land, under the semblance of Christian Churches and religious societies. But whatever they may think of their professions, God accounts them "blasphemy," and those who make them will be dealt with by him as hypocrites and blasphemers. We would not speak of this, but with weeping, Philippians 3:18-19; nevertheless we must declare it, because it is the very truth of God! Hosea 8:2-3.

3. The universal need of a Savior—

All, both Jews and Gentiles, are under sin, and therefore need a saving interest in the Savior. Yes, the best of men must perish, if they are not washed in the Redeemer's blood. For who is there, that has not occasion to humble himself for his manifold infirmities? Who is there that has acted in all things up to his profession? Who could stand, if God would enter into judgment with him? Yes, "if God would lay judgment to the line and righteousness to the plummet," who could answer him for any one act or thought of his whole life? Know then, that we are all in this respect on a level: we must all "put our hand on our mouth, and our mouth in the dust, crying, Unclean, unclean!" We must all desire with Paul to be found in Christ, not having our own righteousness, but the righteousness which is of God by faith in Christ."

Exhortation—

We call on all then, as they value their immortal souls,

1. To embrace the Gospel—

Do not attempt to substitute anything of your own in the place of it. Your privileges, your professions, your experiences, your attainments; you must consider them all but as "loss and rubbish in comparison with Christ." Let it not appear a hard thing to renounce them all in point of dependence; but "submit" willingly and thankfully "to the righteousness of God." It is strange that the acceptance of a free salvation would require any submission at all: but our proud hearts are averse to stoop to such a humiliating way of coming unto God. But be content to have nothing in yourselves, and all in Christ: then shall you be glorified in him, and he in you, to all eternity!

2. To adorn the Gospel—

This is no small measure of holiness that befits those who believe in Christ. They should endeavor "to shine as lights in a dark world, Philippians 2:15. Matthew 7:13-16;" to "walk worthy of their high calling;" yes, "worthy also of him who has called them to his kingdom and glory." They should seek to be "holy as He is holy," and "perfect as He is perfect."

Doubtless those who preach to others would, like the shepherds of old, go before their flocks in everything that is excellent and praiseworthy: they would be "examples, not to the world only, but to believers also, in word, in conduct, in charity, in faith, in love, in purity, 1 Timothy 4:12." They should be able to say to others, "Whatever you have seen and heard in me, do; and the God of peace shall be with you."

Would to God that he who now is endeavoring to teach you, may himself learn, and exemplify, these lessons more than he has ever yet done! But the duty of holiness pertains equally to all. O be persuaded to press after the highest attainments in it, and so to make your light shine before men, that all who behold you may be constrained to glorify God in your behalf!

 

#1827

THE NATURE AND EXCELLENCE OF TRUE RELIGION

Romans 2:28-29.

"A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God."

IF we were to estimate men's religion by the degree of confidence which they expressed, we would be ready to think that the glory of the latter day were already arrived, so universal are men's claims to Christian knowledge and experience. But it is often found, that where there is the strongest confidence, there is the least ground for it. None could ever be more firmly persuaded of their acceptance with God than the carnal Jews; yet were they fatally mistaken: for though they enjoyed many privileges, and abounded in outward observances, they were destitute of that vital principle, without which their religion was a vain ceremony, an empty form.

In the preceding context the Apostle is proving to the Jews that they stood in need of a Savior, no less than the idolatrous Gentiles: and, knowing what a stress they laid upon their outward privileges, he tells them, that it was not an outward and carnal, but an inward and spiritual service that God required, and that was necessary to justify their pretensions to the Divine favor.

His words naturally lead us to show,

I. The vanity of a mere outward and nominal religion—

All are apt to rest in external forms—

Practicing mere religious forms and rituals, always gratifies our natural tendency to self-righteousness and self-applause. Hence arises that universal readiness to substitute something that is of an external nature, in the place of vital godliness.

The Jews valued themselves on their descent from Abraham, and on their admission into covenant with God by the right of circumcision: they also boasted of the law in which they were instructed, and of the ordinances wherein they drew near to God. Such was their dependence on these things, that they would not allow themselves to doubt their title to Heaven for one moment.

Precisely such also are the grounds on which the generality of Christians hope to obtain eternal happiness: they have been born of Christian parents, devoted to God in baptism, instructed in the truths of the Gospel, and brought up in a constant attendance, if not on the Lord's supper, at least on the other ordinances of religion. If they can boast thus far, they will conclude that all is well with them, and that their salvation is quite secure.

But the form of godliness without its power, is of no avail—

Testimonies to this effect are exceeding numerous and strong. John the Baptist particularly cautioned the Jews against trusting in their descent from Abraham, Matthew 3:9; our Lord also warned his hearers, that though they were Abraham's children after the flesh, they could not be considered as the seed to whom the promises were made, because they did not the works of Abraham, John 8:39. Paul also, having enumerated the great and glorious privileges to which the Jews were entitled—yet declares that "all were not Israel who were of Israel," and that the spiritual seed alone would be partakers of the promises, Romans 9:4-8.

However therefore our knowledge of divine truth be enlarged, or our outward religious services be multiplied, we can never be admitted into God's sanctuary, unless we have a better righteousness than the Scribes and Pharisees attained, Matthew 5:20; we may indeed, "have a name to live; but we are really dead! Revelation 3:1."

In confirmation of this point we proceed to state,

II. The nature and excellence of true religion—

True religion extends its influence to the inmost dispositions of the soul—

Circumcision and baptism are mere signs and shadowy representations of something inward and spiritual; they are intended to lead our minds to "the circumcision of the heart," and "the washing of regeneration. Compare Deuteronomy 10:16; Deuteronomy 30:6 with Colossians 2:11-12 and Titus 3:5." True religion rests not "in the letter of the law," but goes to "the spirit" of it; and inclines the heart to a uniform, unreserved compliance with the will of God. God himself has informed us fully upon this point, "Neither circumcision avails anything nor uncircumcision, but a new creation! Galatians 6:15. The renovation of our inward man after the Divine image, is that which alone constituted a person a Jew in God's estimation; nor is anything less than this necessary to constitute us Christians in the sight of God. Without this, the circumcision of the Jew was worthless ritual; and the baptism of the Christian is a worthless ritual as well, Philippians 3:2-3. 1 Peter 3:21.

Wherever this operates, God looks upon it with pleasure and delight—

Man's approbation is confined to the outward forms of religion; the life and power of which are reprobated by him as hypocrisy and enthusiasm. But God, who sees the emptiness of mere outward services through the specious veil that is put upon them, beholds also the intrinsic worth of those dispositions which are cultivated by the true Christian. The sighs and groans of a penitent are as a sweet-smelling savor unto God; while the self-exalting thoughts and expressions of a proud Pharisee are as an offensive "smoke in his nose," which excites nothing but disgust and abhorrence! Jeremiah 31:18; Jeremiah 31:20. Isaiah 65:5. See also Luke 18:11-14. Nor is there a good desire rising in the bosom from a principle of pure religion, but it is instantly noted in the book of God's remembrance! Malachi 3:16-17, and shall be recorded to the Christian's honor in the great day of our Lord's appearing 1 Peter 1:7. 1 Corinthians 4:5

ADDRESS—

1. Those who are resting in outward forms—

Persons who are diligent in external duties, never doubt but that they are true Christians: but if they be not equally attentive to their inward motives and principles, God himself tells us that they are no Christians. Let us then inquire, not whether we be descended from Christian ancestors, but whether we are born of God? Let us ask, not whether we have "cleansed the outside of the cup and platter;" but whether we are "purified from all spiritual as well as fleshly filthiness, 2 Corinthians 7:1." And let us remember, that "the King's daughters are all glorious within;" and that their brightest ornament is "the hidden man of the heart, Psalm 45:13. 1 Peter 3:4." Nor is it he who commends himself that is approved of God, "but he whom the Lord commends, 2 Corinthians 10:18."

2. Those who disregard religion entirely—

It has already been seen that persons may be Christians in appearance, and very observant of all the ordinances of religion, while yet they are not Christians in the sight of God. How far then must they be from deserving this appellation, who habitually violate the commandments of their Divine Master, and live in a constant neglect of the most acknowledged duties! Surely "their circumcision is become uncircumcision;" instead of being Jews "they are of the synagogue of Satan:" and the unbaptized heathen, who walk agreeably to the light of nature, shall condemn them, who, having been baptized into the faith of Christ, are yet despising his authority, and trampling on his laws, verse 25-27 with Revelation 2:9. Let then the very name of Christian be renounced at once, or let the spirit of Christianity be made apparent in our lives.

3. Those who are cultivating a spiritual and heavenly mind—

Amidst the abounding of iniquity there yet are many who are devoted to God both in heart and life: and unspeakably blessed is their state. "Their praise indeed is not from men:" by men they are derided as enthusiasts and fanatics: but they have "praise of God." God beholds them with pleasure, and forbears to destroy the world for their sake, Isaiah 1:9. Matthew 24:22. He accounts them his servants, his children, his glory! Isaiah 46:13; and in a little time he will welcome them to his bright abodes, saying, "Well done, good and faithful servants, enter into the joy of your Lord!"

At the day of judgment too will the Lord Jesus Christ confess them before his Father and his holy angels; "These were Christians indeed; they followed me in the world, and shall therefore now be seated on thrones of glory: as I have already shown my mercy to them, so will I now evince my righteousness in them; they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy! Revelation 3:4-5." Go on then, beloved, from grace to grace: never think that you have yet attained, or that you are already perfect; but forget all that is behind, and press forward for that which is before, knowing assuredly, that "to him who works righteousness shall be a sure reward."

 

#1828

PROFESSING CHRISTIANS' ADVANTAGES ABOVE THE HEATHEN

Romans 3:1-2.

"What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God."

IT is not easy to form a just estimate of the privileges attached to the profession of Christianity: we are ready either, on the one hand, to rate them too high, or, on the other, to undervalue and despise them. The Jews laid so great a stress on their relation to Abraham, that they could scarcely conceive it possible for them to perish: they concluded, that because they bore in their flesh the external seal of God's covenant, they must of necessity be partakers of its spiritual blessings. When Paul showed them their error, they indignantly replied, "What advantage then has the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?"

Just so, many among ourselves are apt to imagine, that their having been admitted by infant baptism into the Christian covenant will secure them an admission into Heaven: and, when they are warned against this sad delusion, they are ready to say, that the heathen are in a happier state than they. In opposition to this, we propose to show,

I. What advantages we, as professing Christians, have above the heathen—

The Apostle intimates, that the Jews, merely as Jews, possessed "every way much" advantage above the heathen: but, instead of descending to particulars, he contents himself with specifying one, which, as it was the greatest, so in fact it included all the rest, namely, that "to them were committed the words of God." What he has stated thus comprehensively, we shall enter into more minutely.

We say then, that as professing Christians, we have many things to which the heathen are utter strangers: we have,

1. A guide for our faith—

The oracles which the heathen consulted, were altogether unworthy of credit. Their answers were purposely given with such ambiguity, that they might appear to correspond with the event, whatever the event might be. A famous instance of this is mentioned by Herodotus: Croesus, king of Lydia, inquired of his gods, Whether he would make war against Cyrus? The Oracles answered, That he was then only to think himself in danger, when a mule would reign over the Medes; and that, on his passing over the river Halys, he would destroy a powerful kingdom. Relying on these answers as predicting success, he commenced the war, which speedily terminated in the ruin of himself and his whole kingdom: and when he complained that he had been deceived by the Oracles, he was told, That Cyrus was that mule (being a Persian by his father's side, and a Mede by his mother's); and that the kingdom which he was to destroy, was his own.

But our holy Scriptures have no such subterfuges: nor can we possibly err in giving to them the most implicit confidence. They declare to us the nature and perfections of God—the way which he has appointed for our reconciliation with him—the eternal state of those who shall embrace his offered mercy, and of those who shall reject it. Of these things the heathen were wholly ignorant; nor could their oracles afford them any instruction on which they could rely.

What an amazing advantage then has the basest professing Christian above the greatest of the heathen philosophers! The little volume which he has in his hand, sets before him innumerable truths, which reason never could explore; it reveals them to him so plainly, that he who runs may read and understand them: and, instead of deceiving him to his ruin, it will "make him wise unto everlasting salvation."

2. A warrant for his hope—

The heathen oracles which could declare nothing with certainty, could afford to their votaries no solid ground of hope. But the Christian who believes the Scriptures, has an "anchor for his soul so sure and steadfast," that not all the storms or tempests which either men or devils can raise, shall ever drive him from the station where he is moored. Suppose his discouragements to be as great as the most gloomy imagination can paint them; he has reasons in plenty to assign for his hope. The sovereignty of God—the sufficiency of Christ—the freeness and extent of the promises—the immutability of Jehovah, who has confirmed his promises with an oath—these, and many other things which are revealed in the sacred volume, may enable the person who relies upon them to go to the very throne of God himself, and to plead for acceptance with him: and, in proportion as he relies upon them, he has within his own bosom a pledge, that he shall never be ashamed.

What an advantage is this to the man that is hoping for eternal happiness! Surely "blessed are the eyes which see the things that we see, and hear the things which we hear."

3. A rule for his conduct—

The wise men of antiquity could not so much as devise what constituted the chief good of man; much less could they invent rules which would be universally applicable for the direction of their followers: and the rules which they did prescribe, were in many respects subversive both of individual and public happiness.

But the Scriptures are proper to direct us in every particular. We may indeed in some more intricate cases err in the application of them, (else we would be infallible; which is not the lot of man upon earth;) but in all important points the path we are to follow is made as clear to us as the racer's course: yes, the word is not only a general "light to our feet, but a lamp to our steps:" so that what was obscure at a distance, is manifested to us on our nearer approach, and a direction is given us, "This is the way; walk in it." The whole circle of moral and religious duty is thus accurately drawn.

The poor man who is conversant with his Bible, needs not to go to the philosopher, and consult with him; nor need he regard the maxims current in the world. With the Scriptures as his guide, and the Holy Spirit as his instructor, he needs no philosophy, but an upright heart; no director, but a mind bent upon doing the will of God. If he derives assistance from any, it is from those only who are more fraught with divine knowledge, and whose superior illumination has qualified them to instruct others. But they are no farther to be regarded, than as they speak according to the written word.

Compare now the professing Christian with the most learned pagan, and see how greatly he is benefitted in this respect also by the light of revelation. If indeed he rests in his admission into the Christian covenant by infant baptism, and looks no further than to a mere profession of Christianity, he may easily overrate his privileges: but if he consider them means to an end, and improve them in that view, he can never be sufficiently thankful, that he was early received into the bosom of the Church, and initiated by infant baptism into a profession of Christ's religion.

Having stated our advantages, we proceed to notice,

II. The improvement we should make of them—

If the possession of the sacred Scriptures constitutes our chief advantage, doubtless we should,

1. Study them—

"Search the Scriptures," says our Lord, "for in them you think you have eternal life." If we neglect the word of God, we lose the very advantage which God in his mercy has given to us, and reduce ourselves, as much as lies in us, to the state of the heathen. If then we shudder at the thought of reverting to heathenism, let us, not on some occasions only, like the heathen, but on all occasions, consult the Scriptures whereby we profess to be directed. "Let our meditation be in them day and night;" and let them be "our delight and our counselors. See Deuteronomy 6:6-9 and Psalm 1:2 and Proverbs 2:1-6."

2. Conform ourselves to them—

The end of studying the holy Scriptures is not to obtain a speculative knowledge, but to have our whole souls cast, as it were, into the mold which is formed therein. By them we must regulate both our principles and our practice. We must not presume to dispute against them, because they are not agreeable to our pre-conceived opinions; we must not complain that this is too humiliating, and that is too strict; but must receive with submission all which the Scriptures reveal, believing implicitly whatever they declare, and executing unreservedly whatever they enjoin.

If we do not thus obey the truth, we shall indeed be in a worse state than the heathen; our infant baptism will be no baptism; and the unbaptized pagans, who walk according to the light they have, will rise up in judgment against us for abusing the privileges which they perhaps would have improved with joy and gratitude, Romans 2:25-27.

3. Promote the knowledge of them in the world—

If God had imparted to us a secret whereby we could heal all manner of diseases; and our own interest, as well as that of others, would be greatly promoted by disclosing it to the whole world; would we not gladly made it known? Shall we then withhold from the heathen world the advantages we enjoy; more especially when God has commanded us to communicate as freely as we have received? Would we not contribute, by financial aid, or by our prayers at least, to send the Gospel to the heathen, that they may be partakers with us in all the blessings of salvation?

But there are, alas! heathen, baptized heathen, at home also; and to those we should labor to make known the Gospel of Christ. We should bring them under the sound of the Gospel—we should disperse among them books suited to their states and capacities—we should provide instruction for the rising generation—we should especially teach our own children and servants—and labor, "by turning men from darkness unto light, to turn them also from the power of Satan unto God."

 

#1829

THE FOLLY OF UNBELIEF

Romans 3:3-4.

"What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God's faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written: "So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge."

IN every age of the world man has been prone to disbelieve the testimony of God. Our first parents fell by questioning the prohibition which God had given them, and doubting the penalty with which it was enforced. Their posterity, born in their fallen image, have but too faithfully copied their example. By unbelief, the antediluvian world were overwhelmed. By unbelief, God's chosen people the Jews have been despoiled of all their privileges.

The same malignant principle pervades also the professing Christian church. We profess indeed, like the Jews of old, to venerate the Scriptures; but there is scarcely a truth contained in them, which is not practically, and almost, universally, denied. Yet is this no reason for questioning their divine authority: for God is as immutable in his word, as he is in his nature; and, as his existence would not be affected, though the whole world would be atheists, so neither will one jot or tittle of his word fail, though the world would be infidels. This is the very point on which Paul is insisting in the passage before us.

Having observed that the Jews were highly privileged in having the holy Scriptures committed to them, he anticipates the objection which might be urged against him from their unbelief; and allowing the truth of the fact: That they were very generally disbelieved, he denies and refutes the inference that might be drawn from it, by declaring, That their unbelief, however general it might be, could never invalidate the truth of God.

From his words we shall be led to consider,

I. The prevalence of unbelief—

It is not our intention to expose the errors of infidelity, or the sophistry with which the truth of God has been assailed; but rather to point out that secret unbelief which works in the minds of all, even with respect to the most acknowledged truths. That such unbelief prevails, cannot possibly be doubted, if we observe,

1. How general is men's neglect of the word of God—

The sacred volume lies by us: we have it in our own language, that all may read it; and it is statedly read and explained to us in public. But how few study it! How few regard it! How few are there who do not give a decided, yes, an exclusive preference to books of human science, and even to any worthless novel, or ephemeral compilation!

And what is the cause of this? Could they be thus indifferent, if they really believed it to be the word of God; the word of God to them? Would anyone manifest such indifference towards a will in which he was informed that great estates were bequeathed to him? or even towards a map, which would show him his way through a trackless desert? How much less then would any disregard the Holy Scriptures, if they really believed them to be the charter of their privileges, and the only sure directory to Heaven! They would rather account them more precious than gold, and esteem them more than their necessary food! Psalm 119:72. Job 23:12.

2. What contempt men reveal for the truths they do hear—

Men hear that there is such a place as Heaven, where the saints shall live in everlasting felicity; and such a place as Hell, where the wicked shall lie down in everlasting burnings: yet are they neither allured by the one, nor alarmed by the other. When the ministers of God insist on these subjects, they are considered only as preaching "cunningly devised fables."

But could this be the case, if men believed the testimony of God? Do men feel no emotion at the news of some unexpected benefit arising to them, or some unforeseen calamity impending over them? Do men treat with contempt a sentence of condemnation, or a notice of reprieve? How then could men so disregard the things revealed in the Gospel, if they believed them to be the very truths of God?

3. How men expect things in direct opposition to the word of God—

Unconverted men will as confidently expect to go to Heaven, as if the word of God were altogether on their side! The drunkard, the swearer, the whore-monger, are as persuaded that they shall never come into condemnation, as if there were not one word in all the book of God that declared the contrary. They will never believe that the wrath of God is revealed against such sins as theirs, notwithstanding God so positively declares, that "the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God! 1 Corinthians 6:9."

They do not indeed imagine that any will be finally lost. They can hear of thousands slain in battle, and yet extend their thoughts no further than the grave. The idea that multitudes of them may possibly have died in their sins, and been consigned over to endless misery, seems so harsh that they cannot believe it one moment, notwithstanding God expressly says, that "the wicked shall be turned into Hell, and all the nations that forget God! Psalm 9:17." Could all this be so, if they sincerely believed the word of God? Would not their sentiments then be more conformed to it? Would they not be assured, that, however "it would be well with the righteous," it must and would "go ill with the wicked, Isaiah 3:10-11."

4. How little men are influenced by the things they profess most to believe—

They profess to believe that there is a God—yet they do not love him, or fear him, or trust in him, or regard him, any more than if there were no such Being.

They profess to believe that they have an immortal soul—yet they pay no more attention to its interests, than if it were not to survive the body.

They profess to believe that there will be a day of judgment, wherein they shall give account of themselves to God—yet they are not at all solicitous to know how their account stands; they bestow no pains in preparing for that day; they presume that others are happy, and that they shall fare as well as those who have gone before them; and thus they hazard their eternal welfare on a mere groundless surmise.

They profess to believe that death will put an end to their day of grace, and that it may snatch them away suddenly, and unawares: yet they live as securely, as if they could call days and years their own. They say to themselves, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry!" Luke 12:19. This is the constant language of their hearts.

Now, whence is all this? Will any one say, that these men are thoroughly persuaded even of the things which they profess most to believe? they certainly are not: they give a general assent to them, because they have been educated in these particular sentiments, and because their reason cannot but acquiesce in them as true: but as for the faith which realizes invisible things, which is "the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen"—they have no portion of it; they are shut up altogether in unbelief.

The prevalence of unbelief being thus unquestionably proved, we proceed to point out,

II. The folly of unbelief—

A just view of this subject will soon convince us, that the very men who glory in their unbelief, and say, "Wisdom shall die with us! Job 12:2," are indeed influenced by the most foolish and fatal of all principles; for, with respect to unbelief,

1. Unbelief cannot avert the evils which it affects to despise—

Unbelief can never make void the truth of God. It did not in the days of old. When Satan said to our first parents, "You shall not surely die," and they credited his testimony in preference to God's, did their unbelief avail them? Was the threatening less certain? Did God forbear to inflict it? Did not their souls die that very day, being instantly separated from God, which constitutes spiritual death, and becoming obnoxious to his wrath, the chief ingredient of eternal death? Did not their bodies also, though, for the peopling of the earth, and for other gracious purposes, they were allowed to continue awhile, become impregnated with the seeds of death, whereby they were in due time reduced again to their native dust?

When the unbelieving Jews rejected their Messiah, were the purposes of God at all frustrated? Were they not rather furthered and accomplished by their unbelief? And was not the whole nation, except a little remnant, broken off from their stock, and the Gentiles, whom they regarded as accursed, engrafted on it?

So we may now ask of unbelieving sinners, "What if you do not believe? Shall your unbelief make the faith of God without effect?"

Will God cease to be a holy, sin-hating, sin-avenging God, because you presume to think him even such a one as yourselves?

Shall sin no longer be debasing, defiling, damning, because you choose to esteem it light and trivial?

Shall death wait your pleasure, because you think you have made a covenant with it, and put it far from you?

Shall the judgment-day lose its solemnity, and the account you are to give be made less strict, because you take it for granted, that all shall then be well with you?

Shall Hell be divested of its horrors, because you will not believe that there is any such place, or because you are averse to hear of it?

Shall the nature and blessedness of Heaven be altogether changed, in order that it may, according to your conceits, be the residence of the wicked as well as of the righteous?

In short, is it reasonable, is it probable, is it possible, that the truth of God would be made void—merely because you do not choose to believe it?

2. Unbelief enhances and insures the evils, whose very existence it presumes to deny—

The Apostle tells us what should be the fixed principle of our minds, "Let God be true; but every man a liar." But unbelief reverses this; and gives, not only to the testimony of man, but even to his most groundless conjectures, a greater weight than to the most solemn declarations of Jehovah.

What an affront is this to the Majesty of Heaven! Is there a man on earth that would not take offense at such an indignity, especially if it were offered to him by those whom he had never deceived, and for whose sake alone he had spoken? Let it not then be thought, that, to treat God as though he were the worst liar, is a light matter; for surely it must greatly provoke the eyes of his glory.

Besides, unbelief, while it thus incenses God against us, rejects the only possible means of reconciliation with him; and consequently rivets all our guilt upon us! Judge then whether those who yield themselves up to the influence of unbleief, be not "blinded by Satan," and victims to their own delusions, 2 Corinthians 4:4. Isaiah 66:4.

By way of improvement, let me commend to your attention the grand object of a Christian's faith—

It is to little purpose to have general notions of the prevalence and folly of unbelief, if we do not apply them particularly to that fundamental doctrine of Scripture, That we are to be justified solely by faith in the Lord Jesus. This is that, which is emphatically called, The Gospel; concerning the necessity of believing which, nothing more need be urged, than that assertion of our Lord, "He who believes shall be saved, and he who believes not shall be damned! Mark 16:16."

The point for us now to determine, is, Do we indeed believe in Christ for the justification of our souls? We are continually apt to mistake the nature of saving faith; and, for lack of right views of that, we put away from ourselves all that is spoken respecting unbelief, as though we had no experience of it, no concern about it. But it has been already abundantly shown, that if we believe only in the manner that the generality of professing Christians do, we have no true faith at all.

Examine then, Have you clear and lively views of Christ as the Savior of sinners?

Are you deeply convinced of your own sinfulness, and your consequent need of mercy?

Have you renounced every other hope? and do you rely simply and solely on Christ's atonement?

Finally, are you deriving virtue from him for the healing of your corruptions, and for the bringing forth of all the fruits of righteousness to his praise and glory?

This, and this alone, is saving faith; and he who thus believes, shall be saved; and he who does not thus believe, shall be damned.

Let not any object, and say, "What is there in this faith that would save us, or in the lack of it that would damn us?" Our only inquiry must be, Has God suspended our salvation on the exercise of a living faith, or not? If he has, we have no more to say, than, "Let God be true: but every man a liar."

To dispute against him is to dispute against the wind. The wind will not stop its course for us: yet sooner would that be done, yes, "sooner would Heaven and earth pass away, than one jot or tittle of his word would fail." If then no objections of our's can ever disprove the truth of God's word, or prevent the execution of it on our own souls, let us guard against that principle of unbelief, which operates so powerfully, so fatally, within us.

Let us remember where our danger lies: it is not in giving too much weight to the declarations of God: but in softening them down, and accommodating them to our vain wishes or carnal apprehensions. Let then the fore-mentioned record abide upon our minds. Let us be persuaded that he whom God blesses, shall be blessed; and he whom God curses, shall be cursed. In other words, let us rest assured, that life is to be found in Christ alone; and that "he who has the Son, has life; and he who has not the Son of God, has not life! 1 John 5:11-12."

 

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THE EXTENT OF MAN'S DEPRAVITY

Romans 3:9-20.

"What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. As it is written:

"There is none righteous, no, not one.

There is none who understands.

There is none who seeks after God.

They have all turned aside.

They have together become unprofitable.

There is none who does good, no, not one.

Their throat is an open tomb.

With their tongues they have practiced deceit.

The poison of asps is under their lips

Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.

Their feet are swift to shed blood.

Destruction and misery are in their ways.

And the way of peace they have not known.

There is no fear of God before their eyes.

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin."

THE Scriptures are the only and infallible source of divine knowledge. To them the Apostles continually refer in support of their doctrines. No subject is capable of more ample proof from them, than that before us. Paul is showing that all mankind are guilty and depraved. In confirmation of this he cites many passages from the Old Testament. See Psalm 14:1-3. Proverbs 1:16; Proverbs 1:18. Isaiah 59:7-8. From these, as stated and improved in the text, we are led to consider,

I. The representation which the Scripture gives of every person's state before God—

The testimonies here adduced, declare, that the most lamentable depravity pervades,

1. All ranks and orders of men—

"There is none righteous, no, not one!"

The Apostle has so arranged his quotations as to form a beautiful climax, every subsequent passage affirming more than that which precedes it."

Righteousness is a conformity of heart and life to the law of God. Where is the man on earth that possesses it by nature? Where is the man whose deviations from this standard have not been innumerable?

"There is none who understands"—

The natural man has no discernment of spiritual things, 1 Corinthians 2:14; his practical judgment is in favor of sin and the world.

"There is none who seeks after God"—

The things of time and sense are diligently pursued; but who ever cultivates divine knowledge, or seriously inquires after God? Job 35:10.

"All are gone out of the way"—

Men universally prefer the way of self-righteousness, to that of faith in Christ, and that of sin and self-indulgence to holiness and self-denial. No one that sees them would imagine that they really intending to tread in the steps of Christ and his Apostles.

"They are together become unprofitable"—

God has formed us for his own glory, and each other's good: but unregenerate men never attempt to answer these ends of their creation They may do good to the bodies of men; but never show any real solicitude about their souls. Indeed, how could they, when they care not for their own souls? Hence they are justly compared to things worthless and vile! Luke 14:34-35 and John 15:6.

"There is none who does good, no, not one"—

Nothing is really good, which is not so in its principle, rule, and end:

the fear and love of God are the principle,

the Scriptures are the rule,

and God's glory is the end

of Christian obedience, 1 Corinthians 10:31. But where is the action of any natural man that will stand this test?

2. All the faculties and powers of men—

Nothing is more offensive than an open sepulcher, Matthew 23:27; or more venomous than an asp; yet both the one and the other fitly represent the effusions of a carnal heart: "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth will speak:" deceit, calumny, invective; yes, in many instances, the most horrible oaths and execrations will proceed from it! No less than four expressions, and those exceeding strong, are suited to declare the evils of the tongue. Hence that solemn description of the human tongue in James 3:6.

From words we are ready also to proceed to actions, yes, even the most cruel and atrocious!

Who that sees with what readiness nations engage in war, will question the declaration in the text? Hazael revolted at the idea of murder, when warned of his readiness to commit it; yet notwithstanding his present feelings, how "swift were his feet to shed blood! 2 Kings 8:12-15 and 13:7."

How many at this day are impelled by shame even to destroy their own offspring!

How frequently do men engage in duels on account of the slightest injury or insult!

And in how many instances might we ourselves, when irritated and inflamed, have committed murder in an unguarded moment, exactly as others have done, who in a cooler hour would have shuddered at the thought! The instance of David, who, though "a man after God's own heart," murdered Uriah, and many others with him, to conceal his shame, is sufficient of itself to show us what the best of men might commit, if left to themselves, 2 Samuel 11:14-17. Well we may apply to this subject that humiliating language of the prophet Isaiah 1:5-6.

Thus, God himself being witness, instead of walking in "paths of peace" and safety, we all by nature prefer the "ways which bring destruction and misery" both on ourselves and all around us, Psalm 36:1. The whole of our state is properly summed up in this, that "there is no fear of God before our eyes!" So entirely are our understandings blinded, and our hearts alienated from him, by means of our innate depravity, verses 16 and 17, relate primarily to the evil which men do to others, though they may include what they do to themselves. See Isaiah 59:7-8.

This humiliating view of our state would lead us to consider,

II. The inferences to be deduced from it—

Those which the Apostle suggests in the text will suffice for our attention at this time:

1. We are all "guilty before God"—

It seems inconceivable to many that they would really be headed to everlasting misery in Hell—and they will plead their own cause with zeal and eloquence: if they concede it with respect to some more heinous transgressors, they will deny it in reference to themselves. But God has taken care that "every mouth would be stopped." It is not possible to express the universality of men's wickedness more strongly than it is expressed in the words before us "None, no, not one!" "None; none; none, no, not one!" "All; all together;" "every mouth;" even "all the world." Can any, after this, fancy himself an exception? All then must "become guilty before God," and acknowledge their desert of his wrath and indignation; they must feel their desert of condemnation, as much as a man that has been condemned for parricide feels the justice of the sentence which is pronounced against him. O that we might all be brought to such sincere contrition! We would then be "not far from the kingdom of God, Psalm 51:17."

2. We can never be justified by any works of our own—

"We know that what the law says, it says unto them that are under the law." Now the law says, "Do this and live; transgress it and you shall die, Romans 10:5. Galatians 3:10;" but it speaks not one word about mitigating its demands to the weak, however weak, or its penalties to the guilty, however small the measure of their guilt. How then can any man "be justified by the works of the law?" Can a man be guilty, and not guilty? Or can he be condemned by the law, and yet justified by it at the same time, and in the same respects?

Let all hope then, and all thought, of justification by the law be put away from for us ever. God has provided a better way for our justification, namely, through the blood and righteousness of his dear Son, Romans 3:21-22; and to lead us into that way was the intention of the Apostle in citing the passages that have already been considered. Let us improve his humiliating representation for this beneficial end; so shall we be "justified freely by grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus! Romans 3:24."

 

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OUR VIOLATIONS OF EVERY COMMANDMENT

Romans 3:20.

"Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin."

OUR lost estate, and our consequent need of a Savior, can never be truly known, unless we compare our lives with that universal rule of duty, the law of God. Paul took this method of proving that both Jews and Gentiles were under sin: in all the preceding part of this epistle he sets forth their transgressions against the law; and having confirmed his assertions by many passages out of the old Testament, he says in the verse before my text, "We know that whatever things the law says, it says to them that are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God."

From hence it is evident that the law of which he is speaking, is the moral law, that same law which was originally engraved in the heart of Adam, and was afterwards published to the world on Mount Sinai: for the Gentiles having never been subject to the ceremonial or judicial law, it can be no other than the moral law, which shuts their mouth and brings them in guilty before God. The principal ends for which he referred them to this law were these:

first, to convince them that they could not be justified by their obedience to it (and therefore in the words immediately preceding our text, he says, that by the law shall no flesh be justified;)

secondly, to show them their undone condition by the law; and therefore he adds, in the words of our text, "by the law is the knowledge of sin."

From these words we shall take occasion to compare our lives with the law of God, so that we may obtain the knowledge of our sins: and while we are thus bringing our iniquities to remembrance, may the Spirit of God come down upon us, to convince us all of sin, and to reveal unto us the only Deliverer from sin, the Lord Jesus Christ!

The law was delivered to Moses upon two tables of stone, and comprised in ten commandments.

1. The first commandment respects the object of our worship, "You shall have none other gods but me." In this we are required to believe in God, to love him, and to serve him with all our hearts, and minds, and souls, and strength: and if we examine ourselves by it, we shall see that our transgressions are neither few nor small:

Instead of believing in him at all times, how rarely have we either trembled at his threatenings or confided in his promises!

Instead of loving him supremely, have we not set our affections on the things of time and sense?

Instead of fearing him above all, have we not been swayed rather by the fear of man, or a regard to our worldly interests? Instead of relying on him in all difficulties, have we not rather "leaned to our own understanding, and trusted in an arm of flesh?" and instead of making it our food and drink to do his will, have we not lived to ourselves, seeking our own pleasure, and following our own ways?

Surely if we seriously inquire into our past conduct, we shall find that throughout our whole lives "other lords have had dominion over us," the world has been our idol, and self has usurped the throne of God. If therefore we were to be tried by this commandment only, our offenses would appear exceedingly numerous, more than the hairs of our head, more than the sands upon the sea shore.

2. The second commandment respects the nature of worship: "You shall not make to yourself any graven image." God is a Spirit, and therefore is not to be addressed by the medium of any sensible object, but is to be "worshiped in spirit and in truth." Yet, whenever we have presented ourselves before him, we have scarcely paid him more respect, yes frequently much less, than the heathen manifest towards their gods of wood and stone. Let us only consider what has been the frame of our minds when we have approached the throne of grace; how little have we stood in awe of his Majesty! How unaffecting has been our sense either of our wants, or of his power and readiness to help us!

And if we look at the prayers which we have offered, we shall see cause to acknowledge that they have been dull, formal, and hypocritical.

Our confessions have neither been attended with humility nor followed by amendment.

Our petitions have been without faith and without fervor.

Our thanksgivings, which should have been the warm effusions of a grateful heart, have frozen on our very lips!

Indeed secret prayer is by the generality either wholly omitted, or performed as a task or drudgery.

As for family devotions, they are wholly, and almost universally, neglected.

In the public assemblies, instead of breathing out our hearts before God, our thoughts are wandering to the ends of the earth; or, as the Scripture has said, "we draw near unto God with our mouth, but our heart is far from him."

Let us all therefore consult the records of our own consciences, that we may judge ourselves with respect to these things; nor let us forget that every such omission and every such defect has swelled the number of our transgressions, and greatly aggravated our guilt and misery.

3. The third commandment respects the manner of worship; "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain." The name of God is never to be uttered by us but with awe and reverence. But, not to mention the stupid indifference with which it is often repeated in prayer, how generally, how daringly is it profaned in common conversation, so generally, that no age, gender, or quality is exempt from this impious custom; and so daringly, that it is even vindicated: the thoughtless manner in which that sacred name is used, is often urged as an excuse for the profanation of it; when it is that very thoughtlessness which constitutes the profanation. But instead of extenuating the guilt of this sin, we shall do well to consider what God has said respecting it, "The Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain."

4. The fourth commandment respects the time of worship; "Remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy." In what manner we are to keep it holy, the Prophet Isaiah teaches us Isaiah 58:13, "If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, From doing your pleasure on My holy day, And call the Sabbath a delight, The holy day of the LORD honorable, And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, Nor finding your own pleasure, Nor speaking your own words." But how has this day been regarded by us? Have we conscientiously devoted it to God, and spent those sacred hours in reading, meditation and prayer? Have we, as well by example as by precept, inculcated on our families a regard for the Sabbath? and have we improved it for the welfare of their souls as well as of our own?

Alas! have not those blessed seasons been rather wasted in worldly business, worldly company, and worldly pleasures? Yes, it is to be feared that however we may have kept up a mere formal attendance on the external services of the Church, we have not any of us accounted our sabbaths a delight, or spent them in devout and holy exercises. We may rest assured however, that of every such abuse of the Sabbath, we shall give a strict account; for if God has so solemnly warned us to "remember that we keep the Sabbath holy," no doubt he himself will remember what regard we payed to it.

Here end the commandments of the first table, which relate to God, as those of the second table relate more especially to our neighbor; yet not so entirely as to exclude ourselves. We proceed therefore with them:

5. The fifth commandment, "Honor your father and your mother," requires a befitting deportment not only towards our own immediate parents, but towards all mankind, however related to us; our superiors, equals, and inferiors:

to our superiors, we owe submission;

to our equals and inferiors, we owe love and humility.

But how often have we affected independence, and refused submission to lawful authority! How often have we envied the advancement of our equals, or exalted ourselves above them! How often have we treated our inferiors with haughtiness and severity! Even our natural parents we have by no means honored as we ought, nor sustained any relation in life as God has required us to do. In all these respects therefore we have sinned before God, and "treasured up wrath for ourselves against the day of wrath!"

Thus far many will readily acknowledge themselves guilty. But so ignorant are mankind in general of the spirituality and extent of God's law, that they account themselves blameless with respect to all the other commandments. If they have not literally, and in the grossest sense, committed murder, adultery, theft, or perjury, they have no conception how they can have transgressed the laws which forbid these things.

But let us calmly and dispassionately examine this matter; bearing this in mind, that it is our interest to know our sins; because by knowing them, we shall be stirred up to seek the forgiveness of them through the Savior's blood. Whereas, if we remain ignorant of our sins, we shall not feel our need of the Savior, and shall consequently die without a saving interest in him.

6. The sixth commandment then respects our own and our neighbor's life; "You shall not murder." We take for granted that none of us have imbrued our hands in human blood: yet this by no means exempts us from the charge of murder. Our Lord, in that justly admired Sermon on the Mount, has given us the clue whereby we may be led to a true exposition of this and of all the other commandments; "You have heard," says he, "that it has been said by them of old time, You shall not kill, and whoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment. But I say unto you, that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment; and whoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; and whoever shall say, You fool, shall be in danger of Hell fire."

By this comment of our Lord's, we are assured that causeless anger and passion are esteemed by him as violations of this commandment. And John in the third chapter of his first epistle confirms this by saying, "He who loves not his brother abides in death; whoever hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him." From this additional testimony therefore we see that the hating of any person, or the not truly loving him, is a species of murder in the sight of God.

Who then is innocent? Who has been free from passion? Who has not often conceived anger and hatred against his neighbor? And shall it be thought unreasonable to call this murder?

Look at the effects of anger; how often has it terminated in murder, when the perpetrators of the act little supposed themselves capable of such an atrocious crime! If we have been irritated and provoked by small occasions, who can tell what our anger might have effected if the occasion had been increased, and the preventing grace of God withdrawn? And what is that which the world has falsely called a sense of honor? It is revenge, it is murder; murder in the heart, as it often proves murder in the act.

But there are other ways of committing murder: if we have wished a rival dead, in order that we might be advanced; if we have wished an enemy dead, because of our aversion to him; if we have wished a relation or any other person dead, in order that we might succeed to his fortune or preferment, or if we have rejoiced in the death of another on any of these accounts—then we have manifested that same principle in our hearts, which, if kindled by temptation and favored by opportunity, would have produced the most fatal effects.

Nor is this all: we are no less guilty in the sight of God, if we do what tends to the destruction of our own life, than if we seek the destruction of our neighbor's life. Not to mention therefore the too common act of suicide, how many bring upon themselves pain, sickness, and disease, I may add too, an early and premature death, by means of debauchery and excess.

Let not any one therefore imagine himself innocent even in respect of murder: for in every instance of anger, impatience, or intemperance, yes, whenever we have wished for, or rejoiced in another's dissolution, we have violated this commandment.

7. The seventh commandment respects our own and our neighbor's chastity: "You shall not commit adultery." Fornication and adultery are by many practiced without remorse, and recorded without shame. But to such we may well address the words of Solomon: "Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth, and walk in the ways of your heart and in the sight of your eyes; but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment!"

Nor will it avail anything to say, that we committed these sins only in our youth; and that now we have left them off; for sin is sin, whenever and by whoever committed; and however it may have escaped our memory, it is not therefore erased from the book of God's remembrance; nor however partial the world may be in its judgment respecting it, will it escape due notice at another tribunal; for we are assured by the Apostle, that "whoremongers and adulterers God will judge."

But this commandment extends much further than to the outward act—it reaches to the inmost thoughts and desires of the heart! Let us hear an infallible expositor; let us hear what our Lord himself says in his Sermon on the Mount: "You have heard that it has been said by them of old time, You shall not commit adultery: but I say unto you, that whoever looks on a woman to lust after her, has committed adultery with her already in his heart!" By this commandment therefore is forbidden all indulgence of unclean thoughts, and consequently all immodest words, all obscene allusions, all wanton looks, all impure desires and affections. Who then will say, "I am pure!" Who will take up a stone to cast at another?

8. The eighth commandment respects our neighbor's goods; "You shall not steal." Theft is universally branded with disgrace: and it may be hoped that we who have been so far out of the reach of poverty, have never been reduced to so infamous a practice. Yet how many are guilty of practices equally repugnant to the spirit of this commandment! How many defraud the government by withholding or evading taxes! How many defraud the public by circulating coin which they know to be either base or defective! How many defraud those with whom they transact business, by taking undue advantage of their ease, their ignorance, or their necessities! How many defraud their creditors by neglecting to pay their debts! And how many defraud the poor by not giving to them what the Great Proprietor of all has made their due!

If indeed we regard only these effects of dishonesty, they will probably appear to us light and insignificant; but if we look to the principle which gives birth to these things, it will be found no less corrupt than that which manifests itself in theft and robbery. Odious therefore as the imputation of fraud may justly be considered, there is not one who has not at some time or other been guilty of it: so that this commandment as well as all that have preceded it, will accuse us before God.

9. The ninth commandment respects our neighbor's reputation; "You shall not bear false witness." We offend against this law, not only when we perjure ourselves before a magistrate, but whenever we misrepresent the conduct of others, or pass hasty and ungrounded censures upon them. All whisperers therefore and backbiters, and all who circulate reports injurious to their neighbor, are condemned by it. Nor does it forbid such falsehoods only as are pernicious, but such also as are jocular or exaggerated: for, as to the morality of the act, it matters little whether we falsify to our neighbor, or against him.

Who then has not been often guilty in these respects? Who does not feel the force of the Psalmist's observation, that "as soon as we are born we go astray, speaking lies!" Nor let any think lightly of this sin: for so detestable is it in the sight of God, that he has given us this solemn warning, "All liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death!"

10. The tenth commandment, "You shall not covet," is perhaps the most extensive of any; because while the others forbid the indulgence of any sinful act, this forbids the first risings of desire after any sinful object—it utterly condemns the least motions of discontent at our own lot, or of envy at the lot of others. It was this commandment which first wounded the conscience of the Apostle Paul; he was in all points relating to the ceremonial law, and according to the letter of the moral law, he was blameless; and he conceived that he must therefore of necessity be in a state of salvation. But this good opinion of his state arose from his ignorance of the spirituality and extent of the law: and when his eyes were once opened to see that the law condemned him for the first risings of evil, as well as for the actual commission of it, he became guilty in his own sight, and acknowledged the justice of his condemnation.

Thus he says of himself; "I had not known sin but by the law; for I had not known lust (that is, the evil and danger of it) unless the law had said, You shall not covet: for I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died." The plain meaning of which is this: before he understood the spirituality of the law he thought himself safe; but when that was revealed to him, he saw himself justly condemned for his offenses against it.

May that same, that beneficial, conviction be wrought also in our hearts! for our Lord has told us, that "the whole need not a physician, but those who are sick;" plainly intimating thereby, that we must feel our need of him, before we shall be willing to receive his saving benefits. Though therefore we may think as highly of our state as the Apostle did of his—yet if we feel not our condemnation by the law, we shall but deceive ourselves; and though we be possessed of his knowledge, zeal, and holiness—yet shall we, like him, be "dead in trespasses and sins!" For until we are indeed weary and heavy laden with a sense of sin, we never shall, nor ever can, come unto Christ for rest.

To Conclude—

If, while we have been surveying the duties of the first table, we have called to mind our low esteem for God, together with the unnumbered instances wherein we have neglected his worship, misemployed his sabbaths, and profaned his name; if in examining the duties of the second table, we have remembered our multitudinous violations of them, both generally, by misconduct in the different relations of life, and particularly,

by anger and intemperance,

by actual or mental impurity,

by dishonesty or lack of liberality,

by willful and allowed falsehood,

by discontent with our own lot,

or coveting of another's,

then surely we shall confess with the Psalmist, that "our iniquities are grown up unto Heaven, they are a sore burden too heavy for us to bear!"

"Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep your law." To make us thus cry out for mercy is the proper use of the law; for the Apostle says, "The law is our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ." And if we once obtain this view of the law, and by it the knowledge of our sins, we shall then have the best preservative against errors: for instead of making the divinity of Christ and his atonement a matter of mere speculative inquiry, we shall see that we have no safety but in his blood, and no acceptance but in his righteousness. We shall then "count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ," and shall each of us be like-minded with that great Apostle who said, "I desire to be found in Christ, not having my own righteousness which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith."

 

#1832

THE BELIEVER'S RIGHTEOUSNESS

Romans 3:21-22.

"But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe."

IT is justly observed by our Lord, that "those who are whole need not a physician, but those who are sick." Persons never value a remedy until they are aware of their disease: they must know their condemnation and misery by the Law, before they will receive with gratitude the glad tidings of the Gospel. On this account Paul labors through the whole preceding part of this epistle, and especially in the ten verses before the text, to prove all, both Jews and Gentiles, guilty before God; and to show that they need a better righteousness than any which they themselves can work out. Then he introduces that righteousness which is exhibited in the Gospel, and is offered to every repenting and believing sinner.

To elucidate the subject before us, we propose to show,

I. What is that righteousness whereby we are to be saved—

The Apostle's description of it is as clear and comprehensive as we can possibly desire:

1. It is "the righteousness of God"—

Twice is it called "the righteousness of God;" by which expression we are to understand that it is a righteousness provided by God for sinful man, wrought out by God himself in the midst of us, and accepted by God on our behalf.

When we were destitute of any righteousness of our own, and incapable of establishing one that would be sufficient for us, God, in his infinite mercy determined to provide one for us, that would be commensurate with the demands of law and justice, and fully adequate to our needs. For this end he sent his co-equal, co-eternal Son to fulfill the precepts of the law which we had broken, and to endure its penalties which we had incurred. The Lord Jesus came into the world and executed his high commission; and thus, as the Prophet Daniel expresses it, "brought in an everlasting righteousness, Daniel 9:24." He being "Emmanuel, God with us," his righteousness is truly and properly the righteousness of God.

This righteousness God accepts for us as though it were our own. In consideration of what Jesus suffered, he remits our punishment; and in consideration of Christ's meritorious obedience, he bestows on us the reward of eternal life. Hence, from beginning to end, this is distinguished from the righteousness of man; seeing that it was provided by God the Father, wrought out by God the Son, and shall be accepted both by the Father and the Son on our behalf.

2. It is a righteousness "apart from the law"—

By this expression the Apostle distinguishes it from any righteousness arising from our obedience to the law; and intimates that it is totally independent of any works of ours, past, present, or future. No works of ours can add to it in the smallest degree, or render it either more satisfactory to God, or more sufficient for us.

On the contrary, if we were to attempt to unite anything of our own with it, instead of rendering it more firm, we would utterly make it void; and instead of securing to ourselves a saving interest in it, we would cut off ourselves from all hope of acceptance by it, Galatians 5:2; Galatians 5:4.

We must not be understood to say, that this righteousness supersedes the practice of good works, (for it lays us under tenfold obligation to perform them, Titus 2:11-12.) but that it excludes all reliance on our own works, and will on no account admit a creature's righteousness to participate in the honor of justifying us before God.

3. It is a righteousness "by faith in Jesus Christ"—

As in the foregoing expressions this righteousness is declared to be God's, exclusive of any works of man, so here we are told how it becomes ours. But this part of the subject will be more fully considered under the third head of our discourse; I will therefore only observe at present, that we must obtain a saving interest in this righteousness, not by working, but by believing in Christ. We must no more attempt to purchase it by our works, than to add to it by our works; or, if we will purchase it, we must "buy it without money and without price! Isaiah 55:1."

To confirm the Apostle's description, we shall proceed to show,

II. What evidence we have that this is the only justifying righteousness—

There will be no room left to doubt respecting it, if we consider, that,

1. It was "manifested" to be so by the Gospel—

This truth had been obscurely intimated under the law; but "now" it was fully "manifested" by the Gospel. When Christ was just entering on his ministry, John the Baptist pointed him out as "the Lamb of God that would take away the sins of the world! John 1:29." Christ himself declared that he was about to "give his life a ransom for many, Matthew 20:28," and that they were to receive the remission of sins as purchased by his blood, Matthew 26:28. Peter in his very first sermon exhorted the people to believe in Christ for the remission of their sins, and declared to them that there was no other name whereby they could be saved, Acts 2:38; Acts 4:11-12. Paul in numberless places insists upon our seeking justification solely by faith in Christ, without the smallest mixture of dependence on our own works, Romans 4:3-5; Romans 4:14; Romans 5:9; Romans 5:15-18. And when Peter, through fear of the Jews, had given some reason to think that an obedience to the Mosaic ritual ought to be, or at least might be, added to the righteousness of Christ in order to render it more effectual, Paul reproved him publicly before all the Church, and reminded him that all, not excepting the Apostles themselves, must be justified solely by the righteousness of Christ, without any works of the law, Galatians 2:14-16. Is not this a strong confirmation of the point before us?

2. It was "witnessed by the law and the prophets"—

The moral law may in some sense be considered as bearing testimony to the righteousness of Christ: for though it makes no express mention of it, yet, by condemning all without exception, it "shuts men up to faith in Christ," and serves as "a schoolmaster to bring them to Christ, Galatians 3:22-24."

The ceremonial law in all its ordinances pointed directly to Christ. It is not possible to contemplate the Paschal lamb, or the scape-goat, or indeed any of the sacrifices or ablutions, without seeing Christ prefigured by them, and confessing him to be "the end of the law for righteousness" to believing sinners, Romans 10:4.

If we consult the prophets, they are unanimous in directing us to Christ. The prophecies that preceded Moses, represent Christ as the one conqueror of the serpent, Genesis 3:15, and the one source of blessedness to man, Genesis 12:3; Genesis 15:6. Moses himself spoke of him as the prophet, to whom all must look for instruction and salvation Acts 3:22-23. Jeremiah calls him by name, "The Lord our righteousness Jeremiah 23:6;" and Isaiah represents every child of God as saying with exultation, "In the Lord have I righteousness and strength! Isaiah 45:24-25." To adduce more proofs is unnecessary, since we are assured by Peter, that all the prophets unite their testimonies to the same effect, Acts 3:24; Acts 10:43. What stronger evidence than this can any man desire?

But we have further to inquire,

III. How Christ's righteousness becomes ours—

Faith alone is the means whereby we obtain a saving interest in Christ's righteousness is—

This also is twice intimated in the text: nor can it be too often repeated, or too strongly insisted on. We must come to Christ as perishing sinners; and, without attempting to establish, in whole or in part, our own righteousness, we must submit to be saved by his righteousness alone! Romans 10:3. We must be contented to have his "righteousness imputed to us without works, Romans 4:6," and to make his obedience the one ground of our hope, Romans 5:19. They alone who thus regard Christ, can properly be said to believe in him; and it is only when we thus believe, that "he is made of God righteousness unto us, 1 Corinthians 1:30."

On our believing, Christ's righteousness is instantly put to our account—

This righteousness is bestowed upon us freely by God himself; it is not only given "unto" us as a portion, but is put "upon" us as a garment. In this light it is spoken of by our Lord himself, who counsels us to "buy it from him that we may be clothed, and that the shame of our nakedness may not appear, Revelation 3:18." Without this, we are despoiled of our innocence, and exposed to shame, as our first parents were upon the introduction of sin: but as they were covered by the skins of their sacrifices according to the direction which God himself had given them, Genesis 3:7; Genesis 3:21, so are we by "putting on the Lord Jesus Romans 13:14;" nor, when clothed with his righteousness, can even God himself behold a spot or blemish in us, Ephesians 5:27. Hence the Church rejoices with joy unspeakable, Isaiah 61:10, and is rendered fit for the presence of her heavenly bridegroom, Revelation 19:8.

APPLICATION—

Must not the self-righteous moralist then stand confounded before God?

Surely it is no light matter to pour contempt on the righteousness of God, as though it were insufficient for us without "the filthy rags of our righteousness, Isaiah 64:6." It is no light matter to reject the united testimony of the law and the prophets, of Christ and his Apostles. And as the guilt of such conduct is great, so is also the danger: and whoever persists in it must irremediably perish, Romans 9:30-32.

On the other hand, would not the self-condemning sinner receive encouragement from this subject?

It is well to condemn ourselves, but not to despond. Twice is it declared in the text, that this righteousness is for "all" who will believe in Christ. Compare Acts 13:38-39 with Isaiah 1:18 and Romans 5:20-21. And is it not sufficient for all? Let all then "set to their seal that God is true." Let them honor the righteousness of Christ by their affiance in it; and it shall be "manifested" to their consciences, no less than in the Scriptures themselves, that it is complete in itself, adequate to our necessities, and effectual for all who rely upon it.

 

#1833

THE JUSTICE OF GOD IN JUSTIFYING SINNERS

Romans 3:22-26.

"This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-- he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus."

 

THE whole plan of the Gospel takes for granted that we are in a lost and helpless condition. Its provisions are suited to such, and to such only. Hence the Apostle proves at large that "we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God;" and then he states, in the plainest and strongest manner, the method which God has proposed for our restoration to his favor.

The words of the text will lead us to show,

I. The way of a sinner's justification before God—

The manner of our justification is here plainly declared—

There seems indeed a senseless tautology in the expressions of the text; but the words "freely," and "by grace," are of very different import, and are necessary to convey the full meaning of the Apostle.

We are justified "freely," that is, without any cause for it in ourselves. See John 15:25. And for the truth of the assertion, see Titus 3:5; no works before our justification, no repentance or reformation at the time of our justification, no evangelical obedience after our justification, are at all taken into the account. There is no merit whatever in anything we ever have done, or in anything we ever can do. Our justification is as independent of any merit in us, as was the gift of that Savior through whom we are justified.

Our justification also springs from no motive in God, except his own boundless "grace" and mercy. When speaking merely after the manner of men, we say, that God consults his own glory: but, strictly speaking, if the whole human race were punished after the example of the fallen angels, he would be as happy and as glorious as he is at present: just as the sun in the firmament would shine equally bright, if this globe that is illuminated by it were annihilated. We can neither add to, nor detract from, God's happiness or glory in the smallest possible degree. His mercy to us therefore is mere grace, for grace sake.

Yet it is of great importance to notice also the means by which we are justified—

Though our justification is a free gift as it respects us—yet it was dearly purchased by our blessed Lord, who "laid down his own life a ransom for us." There was a necessity on the part of God, as the moral Governor of the world, that his justice would be satisfied for our violations of his law. This was done through the atoning blood of Jesus; on which account we are said to be "justified by his blood," and to he "redeemed to God by his blood." The Father's grace is the source from whence our justification flows; and "the redemption that is in Christ" is the means, by which God is enabled to bestow it consistently with his own honor.

In this view the text informs us, that "God has set forth his Son to be a atoning sacrifice , or mercy-seat. See Hebrews 9:5. the Greek, through faith in his blood." The mercy-seat was the place where God visibly resided, and from whence he dispensed mercy to the people, as soon as ever the blood of the sacrifices was sprinkled before him 2 Corinthians 5:19." But that typical mercy-seat is accessible no more: Christ is now the true mercy-seat, where God resides, and from whence he dispenses all his favors of grace and peace. God requires, however, that we would come with the blood of our Great Sacrifice, and sprinkle it, as it were, before him, in token of our affiance in it, and as an acknowledgment, that we hope for mercy only through the blood of atonement.

But in our contemplation of this subject, we are more particularly called upon to show,

II. The justice of God as displayed in it—

God had exercised "forbearance" and forgiveness towards sinners for the space of four thousand years; and was now, in the Apostle's days, dispensing pardon to thousands and to myriads. That, in so doing, God acted consistently with his own justice, the Apostle here labors to establish: he repeats it no less than thrice in the short space of our text. We shall therefore show distinctly, how the justice of God is displayed,

1. In the appointment of Christ to be our atoning sacrifice —

If God had forgiven sins without any atonement, his justice, to say the least, would have lain concealed: perhaps we may say, would have been greatly dishonored. But when, in order to satisfy the demands of justice, God sends, not an angel or archangel, but his only dear Son, and lays on him our iniquities, and exacts of him the utmost farthing of our debt, then indeed the justice of God is "declared," yes, is exhibited in the most solemn colors. The condemnation of the fallen angels was indeed a terrible display of this attribute: yet was it no proof of justice in comparison with that more conspicuous demonstration which was given of it in the death of God's co-equal, co-eternal Son.

2. In requiring us to believe in him as our atoning sacrifice —

God wills that every one would come to "Christ" as a atoning sacrifice through faith in his blood, or, in other words, would express his dependence on that blood that satisfied divine justice. As the offender under the law, when he put his hand upon the head of his sacrifice, confessed his own desert of death; and as the high-priest, when he sprinkled the blood of the sacrifices before the mercy-seat, confessed that the hope of all Israel was derived from that blood Leviticus 16:2; Leviticus 16:14; so when we look to Christ as our sacrifice, or approach him as our mercy-seat, we must carry, as it were, his blood with us, and sprinkle it on our consciences before him, as an acknowledgment that by the justice of God we were deservedly condemned, and that we have no hope of mercy except in such a way as will consist with the immutable rights of justice. Thus it is not sufficient for Christ to have honored divine justice once by enduring its penalties; but every individual sinner must also honor it for himself by an explicit acknowledgment, that its demands must be satisfied.

3. In pardoning sinners out of respect to this atoning sacrifice —

That sinners are justified through Christ, may well appear an act of transcendent mercy: but it is also an act of justice; and the justice of God is as much displayed in it, as it would be in consigning sinners over to everlasting perdition. It is not an act of mercy, but of justice, to liberate a man whose debt has been discharged by a surety. But when Christ has paid our debt, and we, in consequence of that payment, claim our discharge, we may expect it even on the footing of justice itself. And whereas it is found, that no living creature ever applied to God in vain, when he pleaded Christ's vicarious sacrifice, it is manifest, that God has been jealous of his own honor, and has been as anxious to pay to us what Christ has purchased for us, as to exact of him what he undertook to pay on our behalf: so that his justice is as conspicuous in pardoning us, as it has been in punishing him.

INFERENCES—

1. How certain is the salvation of believers!

That which principally alarms those who stand before a human tribunal, is an apprehension that justice may declare against them. But there is no such cause for alarm on the part of a believer, seeing that justice is no less on his side than mercy. Let all then look to Christ as their all-sufficient atoning sacrifice , and to God as both "a just God and a Savior." Then shall they find "that God is faithful and just to forgive them their sins 1 John 1:9," yes, is "just in justifying all that believe."

2. How awful will be the condemnation of unbelievers!

While they slight the united overtures of mercy and justice, what do they but arm both these attributes against them? Now, if they would seek for mercy, justice, instead of impeding, would aid, their suit. At the last day, how will matters be reversed! When justice demands the execution of the law, mercy will have not one word to say in arrest of judgment, but will rather increase the vengeance by its accusations and complaints. Let this be duly considered by us, that we may actively glorify God as monuments of his saving grace, and not passively glorify him as objects of his righteous indignation.

 

#1834

JUSTIFICATION WITHOUT BOASTING

Romans 3:27-28.

"Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law."

IT may well be supposed, that any revelation, purporting to be from God, would, in addition to all external evidences, have internal proofs also of its divine original. Accordingly, if God would reveal a way of salvation to fallen creatures, we should of course expect it to be such a way, as would display the riches of his own grace, and secure all the glory of it to himself.

Now when we look into the Gospel, we find precisely such a method of salvation revealed to us. And herein it differs from all the methods that ever have been devised by man: for they uniformly reserve a share of the glory, at least, to the creature: whereas the Gospel gives all the glory to God alone.

Paul, having opened throughout the whole preceding part of this epistle the state of fallen man, and the way prescribed for his acceptance with God, puts this question, "Where then is boasting?" And having told us, that it is, and must for ever be, "excluded by the law of faith," he repeats his former conclusion, and represents it as confirmed by this additional evidence of its truth; "Therefore we conclude," etc.

In discoursing on these words, we shall show,

I. That the way of salvation (whatever it may be) must exclude boasting—

This will appear undeniably true, if we consider,

1. The avowed design of God in the revelation he has given us—

Paul speaking on this subject, repeats even to tautology, that God designed from the beginning to exalt his own grace, and had so planned the way of salvation, as that every part of it might redound to his own honor, Ephesians 1:5-7; Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 1:11-12; Ephesians 1:14; Ephesians 2:4-5; Ephesians 2:7-9, especially verse 7. All possibility of boasting was studiously cut off from man. With this view the knowledge of this salvation was imparted to the poor and ignorant in preference to the wise and noble, 1 Corinthians 1:26-29; and every person that embraced it was necessitated to seek everything in and through Christ, that "the loftiness of man might be laid low, and that God alone might be exalted! 1 Corinthians 1:30-31 with Isaiah 2:17."

2. The disposition and conduct of all that have ever embraced it—

Abraham, the father of the faithful, accounted himself only "dust and ashes, Genesis 18:27;" "nor had he anything whereof to glory before God, Romans 4:2."

Job, "a perfect and upright man, so that none was like him upon earth," yet spoke with the utmost abhorrence of justifying himself before God, Job 9:2-3; Job 9:20-21; Job 9:30-31; Job 42:6.

David, "a man after God's own heart," cries, "Enter not into judgment with your servant, O Lord, for in your sight shall no man be justified, Psalm 143:2."

Isaiah, that most distinguished prophet, lamented that he was vile as a leper, Isaiah 6:5 with Leviticus 13:45; and confessed that his righteousnesses were as "filthy rags, Isaiah 64:6."

Paul, who was "not a whit behind the very chief apostles," yes, "labored more abundantly than they all," acknowledges himself the very "chief of sinners, 1 Timothy 1:15," desires to be found in Christ, not having his own righteousness, Philippians 3:8-9, and boils with indignation at the thought of glorying in anything but the "cross of Christ, Galatians 6:14."

If any might glory in themselves, we might suppose that the glorified saints and angels would have liberty to do so: but among them there is one only theme, "Worthy is the Lamb! Revelation 5:11; Revelation 5:13."

Now if the way of salvation (whatever it may be) correspond with God's design in revealing it, or with the dispositions of those who have been the most distinguished ornaments of it, then it must of necessity cut off from man all occasion of glorying in himself. We may say therefore with the Apostle, "Where is boasting then? It is excluded."

Having determined this point, let us proceed to inquire,

II. What is that way of salvation which alone does exclude boasting—

There are but two possible ways in which any man can be saved, namely, by works, or by faith. Many indeed have attempted to unite them; but that is impossible, seeing that they are distinct from, and directly opposed to each other, Romans 11:6. Let us then inquire which of the two excludes boasting?

1. Do works exclude boasting?

The law of works says, "Do this, and live." Now suppose a man to be saved by his own obedience to this law; will he not have to boast? May he not say to a perishing fellow-creature, "I made myself to differ from you?" May he not justly take credit to himself for his own superior goodness? Yes, even in Heaven, may he not unite his own praises with those of his Maker, and ascribe salvation partly to himself?

It is of no use to say, that our works are only in part the ground of our acceptance; and that even for them we are indebted to the operation of Divine grace: for, works are works, by whoever they are wrought in us; and, as being wrought in and by us, they are our works; and in whatever degree they form the ground of our justification before God, in that degree (be it little or great) they give us a ground of glorying: and to deny this, is to confound grace and works, which are as distinct, and as irreconcilable with each other, as light and darkness, Romans 11:6.

2. Does faith exclude boasting?

This says, "Believe and be saved." By this law we are constrained to receive everything out of the Redeemer's fullness, and to acknowledge him as our "all in all." Nothing is left for us to ascribe to ourselves.

The planning of salvation was the work of God the Father.

The procuring of salvation was the work of God the Son.

The imparting, continuing, and perfecting of salvation is the work of God the Holy Spirit.

We cannot glory over a fellow-sinner, and say, "God had respect to my good qualities, (either seen or foreseen) and on account of them distinguished me from you."

In gospel salvation, no room is left but for shame to ourselves, and gratitude to God.

Here then we may boldly say with the Apostle, "By what law is boasting excluded? of works? Nay, but by the law of faith."

It remains then for us to inquire,

III. What conclusion we are to draw from these premises—

Nothing can be more express than the conclusion drawn by the Apostle—

We have seen that the way of salvation (whatever it be) excludes boasting; and that salvation by faith is the only way that does exclude boasting: from hence therefore the conclusion is plain, that salvation must be by faith and not by works.

But there is an emphasis in the Apostle's words which deserves particular attention. He does not merely affirm that salvation is by faith rather than by works, but by faith exclusive of works. No "deeds of the law" are to be added to faith in order to render it effectual: we must be saved by faith simply, by faith solely. If any work whatever be added to our faith as a joint ground of our hope, or as a motive to induce God to justify us, or as a price whereby we are to obtain a saving interest in Christ, "faith will be made void, and the promise will be of no effect, Romans 4:14." We must not trust any more in our good works than in our vilest sins! For the very instant that the smallest stress whatever is laid on our good works as procuring our justification before God, boasting is introduced, and all hope of salvation is annihilated. Not even faith itself saves us as a work, but solely as uniting us to Christ, by whose righteousness we are justified.

Nor can anything be more certain than the conclusion drawn by the Apostle—

When men argue, even from the clearest premises, we must be cautious in admitting their conclusions; because they frequently put more into their conclusions than their premises will bear. Indeed, it is necessary to watch every step of their arguments, because of the fallacies which often escape their own observation, and would, if unguardedly acceded to, mislead our judgment also. But no suspicion need be entertained respecting the point before us, since the premises are stated, and the conclusion is drawn, by God himself. If we will dispute about the one or the other, we must debate the matter with God; for it is to God's arguments, and not to man's, that our assent is now required.

Before we conclude, we will consider some OBJECTIONS that may be urged against the foregoing statement. It may be said that,

1. It contradicts many positive assertions of Holy Scripture—

Our Lord does, in answer to the young man's inquiry, "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?" say, "If you will enter into life, keep the commandments, Matthew 19:16-17." But our Lord did not mean to say, that he, a fallen creature, could keep the commandments, so as to obtain eternal life by them: his answer was intended to show him, that he must not seek for life in such a way: and, to convince him that he had not kept the commandments so perfectly as he supposed, our Lord put him to the test; and gave him thereby a very convincing proof, that he must seek salvation in another way, namely, by becoming his disciple, and embracing his salvation.

There are many other passages that speak of our works being rewarded: and it is true, that works done in faith, will receive a reward of grace. But is there no difference between a sinner's being justified by the merit of his works; and a justified person's receiving a reward of grace on account of his works? In the one case a man may boast, that he has, in part at least, purchased Heaven: in the other case, he must acknowledge his justification to be altogether of grace; and his increased weight of glory to be from the superabounding riches of divine grace, proportioned to his services, but not founded on his merits.

But this matter is beyond a doubt: for we are told, that there could not be a law given that would give life to fallen man: and that that was the very reason why a different way of salvation was prescribed to him, Galatians 3:21-22. So that whatever is said in the Scriptures respecting the reward which God will give to our works, we may be sure they never can be rewarded on the ground of merit, nor can we ever obtain life by the performance of them.

2. It encourages people to disregard good works—

If this objection were founded in truth, we would think it sufficient to invalidate all that the Apostle himself could say in confirmation of the text: for we may be well assured, that God can reveal nothing that in its consequences is destructive of morality. But why would it be thought injurious to good works, to affirm, that they cannot justify us before God? Is there no other end for which they would be performed, than to purchase Heaven by them? Are they not necessary to prove the sincerity of our faith? Do they not honor God, and benefit our fellow-creatures, and strengthen the religious principle within us, and tend to make us fit for Heaven, yes, and (as has been observed above) increase our happiness in Heaven?

If we affirm that food is of no use to clothe us, or that clothes are of no use to feed us, do we teach men to despise food and clothing, merely because we deny their utility for purposes for which they never were designed? Surely there are motives enough to the practice of good works, without urging one, which, if entertained in the mind, would at once destroy all their value in the sight of God.

But let us see whether experience gives any countenance to this objection. Were Abraham, David, Paul, regardless of good works, because they believed that they must be justified by faith without works? Were those who are so justly celebrated for their faith in the eleventh chapter to the Hebrews, inattentive to good works, when they chose the most cruel torments, and even death itself, in preference to an accusing conscience? We may even appeal to you respecting those of our own day: Who are they that are condemned for their strictness and sanctity? those who exalt the merit of good works, or those who maintain justification by faith alone?

See then how little reason there is for this objection.

In fine, we shall address a few words,

1. To those who are yet cleaving to the law of works—

None but those who are taught of God, can conceive how prone we are to self-righteousness, or how subtle are its workings in the heart. We may accede to every idea that has been suggested, and yet be secretly founding our hopes on something that we have done, or that we intend to do; or, which is the same in effect, seeking to recommend ourselves to Christ, that he may become our Savior.

We entreat you, brethren, to he on your guard, lest, after all your good wishes and desires, you be proved to have built upon a foundation of sand, and be left to inherit your own deserts.

2. To those who embrace the law of faith—

Much depends on your conduct: the eyes of the world are upon you; and they will be ready to spy out every blemish in you, in order to justify their rejection of your sentiments. Others may commit a thousand sins, and escape censure; but, if you are guilty of anything amiss, all mouths are open, not against you only, but against your principles, and against all who maintain them. We say then, with the Apostle, "Let those who have believed, be careful to maintain good works."

Be much on your guard, that you "give no occasion to the enemies to speak reproachfully:" but rather endeavor to "put to silence the ignorance of foolish men by well-doing." Thus will you "adorn the doctrine of God our Savior," and give a practical refutation of the calumnies that are circulated respecting you.

 

#1835

FAITH ESTABLISHES THE LAW

Romans 3:31.

"Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith?

Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law."

A GENERAL prejudice obtains against the way of salvation by faith: but it prevailed equally even in the apostolic age. Paul himself saw that his statement of the Gospel did not escape censure. He perceived that it was deemed injurious to the interests of morality; he therefore anticipated and answered this objection.

To bring the subject fully before you, I will propose for your consideration three things:

the objection made,

the objection obviated,

the objection retorted.

I. The objection MADE—

People suppose we make void the law through faith; but the truth, however clearly we may state it is, for the most part, misapprehended. In explaining salvation by faith we affirm two things concerning the law:

1. That the law has no power either to condemn or to justify a believer—

It cannot condemn him, because Christ has redeemed him from its curse, Galatians 3:13.

It cannot justify him, because he has transgressed it, and its demands of perfect obedience are unalterably the same.

Faith in Christ delivers him from the penal sanctions of the law, but does not in any respect lower its demands.

2. That his obedience to the law makes no part of his justifying righteousness—

Faith and works, as grounds of justification, are opposite to each other, Romans 11:6. If our works had any share in our justification, we would have a ground of boasting; which is utterly to be excluded, Romans 3:27. The smallest reliance on our works makes void all hope by the Gospel, Galatians 5:2; Galatians 5:4. All dependence therefore on the works of the law must be entirely renounced.

These affirmations evidently exclude morality from the office of justifying. They are therefore supposed to discountenance all practical religion; but this mistake originates in the ignorance of the objectors themselves.

This will be seen, while we notice,

II. The objection OBVIATED—

The believer, so far from making void the law, establishes it. The power of the law is twofold:

to command obedience,

to condemn for disobedience.

The believer establishes the law in each of these respects:

1. In the law's COMMANDING power:

He owns its absolute authority over him as God's creature; all his hope is in the perfect obedience which Christ paid to it for him; he looks upon his obligations to obey it as increased, rather than vacated, by the death of Christ; he actually desires to obey it as much as if he were to be justified by his obedience to it.

2. In the law's CONDEMNING power:

He acknowledges himself justly condemned by it: he founds his hope in Christ as having borne its curse for him: his own conscience cannot be pacified but by that atonement which satisfied the demands of the law: bereft of a hope in the atonement, he would utterly despair: he flees to Christ continually "to bear the iniquity of his holiest actions."

Thus he magnifies the law, while the objector himself, as I will now prove, makes it void.

To see this more fully, consider,

III. The objection RETORTED—

The person who objects to salvation by faith alone, is in reality the one who makes void the law. Objections against the doctrine of faith are raised from a pretended regard for the law; but the person who blends faith and works effectually undermines the whole authority of the law. He undermines,

1. The law's commanding power—

He is striving to do something which may serve in part as a ground of his justification; but he can do nothing which is not imperfect; therefore he shows that he considers the law as less rigorous in its demands than it really is: consequently he robs it in a measure of its commanding power.

2. The law's condemning power—

He never thoroughly feels himself a lost sinner; he does not freely acknowledge that he might be justly cursed even for his most holy actions; he even looks for justification on account of that which in itself deserves nothing but condemnation: and what is this but to lower its condemning power?

Thus the advocates for the law are, in fact, its greatest enemies; whereas the advocates for the Gospel are the truest friends to the law also!

INFERENCES—

1. How absurd is it for persons to decide on religion without ever having studied its doctrines!

In human sciences men forbear to lay down their dogmas without some previous knowledge of the points on which they decide; but in theology, all, however ignorant, think themselves competent to judge. They indeed, who are taught of God, can judge; but unenlightened reason does not qualify us to determine. Let us beware of indulging prejudices against the truth. Let us seek to be "guided into all truth by the Holy Spirit."

2. How excellent is the salvation revealed to us in the Gospel!

Salvation by faith in Christ is exactly suited to man's necessities. It is also admirably calculated to advance the honor of God. Every man that is saved magnifies the law, and consequently the lawgiver. The commanding and condemning power of the law are equally glorified by the sinner's dependence on the obedience and sufferings of Christ: but in those who are condemned, its sanctions only are honored. Thus is the law more honored in the salvation of one, than in the destruction of the whole human race. Let all then admire and embrace this glorious salvation!

#1836

JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH ALONE

Romans 4:1-8.

"What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about--but not before God. What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: "Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him."

THE mind of man, however open to conviction from the plain deductions of reason, is susceptible of peculiarly strong impressions from that species of argument, which, at the same time that it addresses itself to his intellect, has a tendency to engage his feelings, and to enlist his prejudices in its favor.

All the prejudices of the Jews were in favor of Abraham their father, and of David, the greatest of their monarchs, and one of the most distinguished of their prophets: and, if the conduct of these two could be adduced as precedents, there would need but little further argument to convince a Jew, that the thing which was so recommended was right.

Of this prejudice Paul availed himself in the passage before us. He had proved, beyond all reasonable doubt, that the justification of a sinner was, and must be, solely by faith in Christ: he had proved it from the guilty state of all, whether Jews or Gentiles, (which precluded a possibility of their being justified by any works of their own Romans 3:20;) and from the Lord Jesus Christ having been sent into the world to make an atonement for sin, and thereby to reconcile the demands of justice with the exercise of mercy. He had shown, that this way of salvation cut off all occasion of boasting, and was equally suited both to Jews and Gentiles; and that, instead of in validating the law, as at first sight it might appear to do, it did in reality establish the law.

Having thus proved his point by argument, he now comes to confirm it by example; and he adduces such examples, as the Jews could not but regard as of the highest authority.

We must bear in mind what the point is which he is endeavoring to maintain: it is, That the justification of the soul before God is not by works of any kind—but simply, and solely, by faith in Christ. This he proceeds to prove from the examples,

I. Of Abraham—

What (he asks) did Abraham, the great progenitor of the Jewish nation, find effectual for his salvation? This he answers,

1. By an express declaration of Holy Writ—

The manner in which he appeals to the decision of Scripture is well worthy of notice. "What does the Scripture say?" It matters little, what this or that man may say: we must abide by what God has spoken. His word shall stand, though the whole universe would rise up to contradict it. On Scripture therefore we must found our sentiments, and on that alone: if men speak according to his word and testimony, it is well: "if not," whatever may be their pretenses to wisdom, "there is no light in them, Isaiah 8:20."

Now the Scripture declares, that "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness, Genesis 12:1-3 with 15:5, 6." In the passages referred to, there were two promises made to him: the one was, that one particular "seed would be given to him, in whom all the families of the earth would be blessed;" and the other was, that a spiritual seed would be given him, who would be as "numerous as the stars of Heaven." These promises he firmly believed; and so believed them, as actually to repose all his hope and trust in that promised Seed, who was to be the Savior of the whole world. "This faith of his was counted to him for righteousness;" or, in other words, this Savior, on whom his faith reposed, was made the source of righteousness and salvation to his soul.

This particular declaration of Holy Writ is referred to by the Apostle a great many times, on account of its singular importance: but, as its importance will more fully appear in the sequel of our discourse, we shall proceed to notice how Paul answers his own question.

2. By arguments founded upon Scripture

He justly observes, that, when the Scripture thus represents Abraham as justified by faith all works are of necessity excluded from any participation in the office of justifying: for if it is supposed that a man is justified, either in whole or in part, by his works, his reward would come to him as a debt, and not as a gift. However great the distance maybe between the work and the reward, it will make no difference with respect to this point: if the work be proposed as the ground of the reward, and be performed in order to merit that reward, then is the reward a debt which may be justly claimed, and cannot with justice be withheld.

Moreover, if works be thus admitted as purchasing or procuring the reward, then may the person who performs them have a ground of boasting in himself: he may say with truth: This I earned; this I merited; this could not justly have been withheld from me. But had Abraham any such ground of boasting? No! the Scripture denies that he had, in that it ascribes his salvation, not to any righteousness of his own, but to a righteousness imputed to him, and apprehended by faith alone.

But while the Apostle argues thus strongly and incontrovertibly on the passage he has cited, we must not overlook the peculiarly forcible language which he uses, and which, if it had not been used by him, we would scarcely have dared to use. In declaring who the person is that is thus justified, he tells us that it is the person "who works not" (with a view to obtain justification by his works), but "believes on him who justifies the ungodly."

Of course the Apostle is not to be understood as saying, that the justified person will continue "ungodly," or that he will "not work," after he has been justified; but only as saying, that he does not work with a view to obtain justification, or come as a godly person to receive a recompense: in coming to the Savior, he will bring nothing but his sins with him, in order that he may be delivered from them, and obtain a saving interest in the Redeemer's righteousness, in which he may be clothed and stand before God without spot or blemish.

But still the terms are such as to mark with the utmost force and precision, that, from the office of justifying, works must be for ever excluded; and that we must, like Abraham, be justified by a righteousness not our own; a righteousness which cuts off all occasion of boasting, and which makes our salvation to be altogether of grace!

But, as to the Apostle's arguments several OBJECTIONS may be made, we will endeavor to state and answer them.

1. This statement of Abraham's being justified by faith is directly contradicted by James—

James, it is true, does say that Abraham was justified by his works; and specifies the offering up of his son Isaac as the work for which he was justified: and further declares, that in that act the passage quoted by Paul received its accomplishment, James 2:21-23. But here is no opposition between the two Apostles; as the scope of the context in the two passages will clearly evince.

James is evidently speaking of the difference between a living and a dead faith; and he shows that Abraham clearly proved his to be a living faith, by the fruits it produced, James 2:18.

But Paul is speaking of the way in which Abraham was justified before God: and the faith whereby Abraham was justified, was actually exercised forty years before the time that James speaks of. The faith by which Abraham was justified was exercised twenty years before Isaac was born. See Genesis 15:5-6. And we suppose Isaac to have been at least twenty years old when his father offered him up; which we consider as a decisive proof of these two things, namely, that Abraham was justified (in Paul's sense of that term) by faith without works; and next, that James did not intend to contradict Paul, but only to guard his doctrines from abuse.

2. Though it was not for offering up his son that God justified Abraham—yet it was for another act of obedience, namely, his submitting to circumcision—

This idea is entertained by many, who oppose the doctrine of justification by faith alone: but it is as erroneous as that before stated: for Abraham had no son at all, when he exercised faith in God's promises, and by that faith was justified before God: and he had waited some years in expectation of the promised seed, before Sarah gave him her servant Hagar to be his wife, Genesis 16:3; and Ishmael was thirteen years old when God renewed his covenant with Abraham, and enjoined him the use of circumcision: so that, in this, as in the former case, Abraham was justified many years before the act took place for which our objector would suppose him to be justified.

This is so important an observation, that Paul, in the verses following our text, dwells upon it with all the emphasis imaginable verse 9-11 with Genesis 17:23; deducing from it a truth which is of infinite importance to us, namely, that, as Abraham was justified in his uncircumcised state, he is as truly the father of us uncircumcised Gentiles, as he is of his lineal descendants, the circumcised Jews.

3. If we are constrained to acknowledge, as indeed we must, that Abraham was justified by faith without works—yet that was a personal favor to him on account of the extraordinary strength of his faith, and not to be drawn into a precedent for us—

But this also is as erroneous as either of the foregoing objections: for though it is certain that he is celebrated above all men for the strength of his faith, and that the exercises of his faith are recorded to his honor—yet it is expressly affirmed by Paul, that "it was not written for Abraham's sake alone, that faith was imputed to him for righteousness, but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him who raised up Jesus from the dead, who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification, verse 20-25."

Having thus considered the example of Abraham, we proceed to notice, that,

II. Of David—

The passage which Paul adduces from the Psalm of David, in confirmation of his argument, is peculiarly deserving of our attention, Psalm 32:1-2.

In the words themselves, we, if not directed by an inspired Apostle, would not have found any decisive evidence of justification by faith alone—

There is nothing in it respecting imputation of righteousness, but only of a non-imputation of sin. That non-imputation, or forgiveness of sin, might, for anything that appears in that passage to the contrary, be obtained by works: for there is nothing said about faith in Christ, or indeed about faith at all. Moreover, the words, as they stand in the psalm, and are followed by what is spoken of an honest spirit, seem to intimate the very reverse of what Paul has deduced from them, namely, that a man, who, in consideration of his honest spirit, has his infirmities forgiven, is a blessed man.

But Paul has, by Divine direction, put a sense upon them which beyond all possibility of doubt determines the question before us—

He tells us, that David in this passage "describes the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputes righteousness without works." Here it is not possible to shut our eyes against the doctrine of imputed righteousness. We do not approve of taking one or two particular expressions, and giving them in our discourses a prominence and importance which they do not hold in the inspired volume. But we equally disapprove of keeping out of view any doctrine which is clearly taught in the Holy Scriptures: and we must say, that the doctrine of "righteousness imputed to us without works," is more clearly taught here, than if it had been maintained in a long and elaborate course of argument; because it is introduced so incidentally, and because the Apostle goes, if we may so speak, so much out of his way on purpose to introduce it. To introduce it, he represents David as saying, what (in words) he did not say; and he omits some very important words which he actually did say. It is observable, that Paul stops short in his quotation, and leaves out those words of David, "and in whose spirit there is no deceit." And why did he omit them? We apprehend, for this reason. If he had inserted them, he might have been supposed to countenance the idea, that, though we are justified by faith—yet it is not by faith only, but by faith either as connected with an honest spirit, or as productive of an honest spirit: whereas we are justified by it, not as united with holy dispositions, nor as an operative principle in the soul, but simply and solely as apprehending Christ, in and through whom we are justified.

Thus by a remarkable addition, and by a no less remarkable omission, he brings the words of David to bear upon his point, and to prove what is of incalculable importance to every soul of man.

We would earnestly wish these words of David to be understood in their full import, as declaring explicitly, that we are to be justified by a righteousness not our own, nor obtained by any works of ours; but by a righteousness imputed to us, and apprehended entirely by faith, even by the "righteousness of Christ, which is unto all, and upon all those who believe Romans 3:22."

From hence then we may see, how incontrovertibly the doctrine of justification by faith alone is established; and,

1. How far the doctrine of "justification by faith" is from being a new doctrine—

Wherever this doctrine is preached, a clamor is raised against it, just as it was in the Apostle's days, Acts 17:19, as a "new doctrine:" but let any one look into our Articles and Homilies, and see whether it be not the doctrine of our Church. It is that very doctrine which constituted the basis of the Reformation! Then let us go back to the apostolic age: Can anyone read the epistles to the Romans and the Galatians, and doubt what Paul thought of it? If we go farther back, to David and to Abraham, we see that they sought salvation in no other way than simply by faith in Christ. We may go farther back still, even to Adam, whose views were precisely the same, and who had no hope but in "the Seed of the woman, who would bruise the serpent's head."

There has been but one way of salvation for fallen man from the beginning of the world: nor shall there be any other as long as the world shall stand! Acts 4:12. If it is new in any particular church, the fault is not in him who preaches it, but in those who have preceded him, who have neglected to preach it. Dismiss then this prejudice; and receive the glad tidings of a Savior with all the joy and gratitude that the occasion demands.

2. How far the doctrine of "justification by faith" is from being an unimportant doctrine—

Many who do not reject the doctrine itself—yet consider it as a merely speculative doctrine, a mere strife of words. But our reformers did not so think it, when they sealed the truth of it with their blood. Nor did Paul think it so, when he denounced a curse against any man, yes even against any angel from Heaven, that would attempt to establish any doctrine that interfered with it! Galatians 1:8-9. See how strongly he guards us against any dependence whatever upon our own works, as entirely invalidating the whole Gospel, and destroying utterly all our hope in Christ, Galatians 5:2-4.

It was owing to the aversion which the Jews had to this doctrine, that so few of them were saved; while the Gentiles, who felt less difficulty in submitting to it, were brought in vast multitudes into the kingdom of our Lord, Romans 9:30-32. Know then, that this doctrine of justification by faith alone without works, is absolutely necessary to be received, and known, and felt, and gloried in; and that if we build on any other foundation, we must inevitably and eternally perish! 1 Corinthians 3:11.

3. How far the doctrine of "justification by faith" is from being a discouraging doctrine—

Another calumny generally circulated respecting justification by faith, is that it is an alarming and terrifying doctrine, and calculated not only to bewilder weak persons, but even to deprive them of their senses. But the very reverse of this is true. Doubtless, before that this doctrine can be received aright, a man must be made sensible that he is in a guilty and undone state, and incapable of effecting his own salvation by any works of righteousness which he can do: but when once a person is brought to that state, the doctrine of a full salvation wrought out for him by Christ, and freely offered to him "without money and without price," is replete with consolation: it is marrow and fatness to the soul; "it is food indeed, and drink indeed."

Look at the three thousand on the day of Pentecost, and see the effect of this doctrine upon them, Acts 2:46-47. Look at the Ethiopian Eunuch, and at the whole city of Samaria, when Philip had preached it to them, Acts 8:8; Acts 8:39; and then you will see the proper tendency of the doctrine, and the sure effect of it wherever it is received.

If any works of ours were required to purchase salvation, that doctrine might well drive men to despair: for, it would be like telling the wounded Israelites, when they were in the very article of death, to perform some arduous feats in order to procure their restoration to health; or rather, like telling the dead to raise themselves in order to their enjoyment of life. But the erection of the brazen serpent, that the dying might look unto it and live, is a lively emblem of that salvation which is offered to the world through faith in a crucified Redeemer. The more pungent is the grief which any feel on account of their guilt and helplessness, the richer is the consolation which will flow into their souls the very instant they believe the glad tidings of the Gospel!

4. How far the doctrine of "justification by faith" is from being a licentious doctrine—

There is no end to the calumnies raised against this doctrine, and against all who maintain it. The preachers of it, even those who are most sober, and most guarded, and most practical, are always represented as saying, that, if only men will believe, they may live as they please. But there is nothing more contrary to truth than such a representation as this. We always affirm that though works are excluded from the office of justifying the soul, they are indispensably necessary to prove the sincerity of our faith; and that the faith which is not productive of good works, is no better than the faith of devils.

Then, as to the actual effects which are produced by this doctrine, look back to our reformers: look back to Paul, the great champion of this doctrine: look back to David, and to Abraham, and to all the saints recorded in the eleventh chapter to the Hebrews; or if you wish for living examples, look to thousands who maintain and glory in this blessed doctrine. We will appeal to matter of fact: who are the persons that in every place are spoken of as precise, and righteous overmuch, and as making the way to Heaven so strait that nobody can walk in it? Are not these the very persons, even these who maintain salvation by faith alone?

That there are some who do not adorn this doctrine, is true enough: and so there were in the apostolic age. But do we not bear our testimony against them, as well as against the self-righteous despisers of the Gospel, yes, with far greater severity than against any other class of sinners whatever?

Be it remembered then, that the Gospel is "a doctrine according to godliness;" and that "the grace of God which brings salvation teaches us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live righteously, soberly, and godly in this present world." And we now declare before all, that those who profess the Gospel in words, and deny it in their works, will have a less tolerable portion in the day of judgment than Tyre and Sidon, or even Sodom and Gomorrah!

 

#1837

THE PARDONED BLESSED

Romans 4:7-8.

"Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him."

My uniform rule has been, where passages in the Old Testament are cited in the New Testament (which in some instances occurs several times), to treat them only once. Here I deviate from my accustomed plan, because, in my Discourse on Psalm 32:1-6, my object was to trace David's experience as was there delineated: whereas the two first verses of that Psalm which are here cited, being of singular importance in relation to Christian experience in general, I treat them here again.

To enter into the real scope of these words, it will be proper to compare them with the Psalm from whence they are cited. In themselves, they are simple, and easy to be understood: but taken in their connection with the context before us, and with the interpretation put upon them by the Apostle—they are involved in considerable difficulty: and more especially, when we observe the peculiar omission of the closing words of David, which seem necessary to a proper exhibition of his mind, and a full comprehension of his meaning, we are rather surprised at the way in which they are here referred to, and at the obscurity that is thrown around them.

On comparing the two passages together, we find the Apostle, in appearance at least, adding to David's words what he never distinctly uttered, and omitting a very essential part of what he did utter. Yet the Apostle spoke by inspiration of God; and if we attentively consider his statement, we shall not only find it unexceptionable, but shall feel greatly indebted to him for throwing much additional light upon a most interesting and important passage of Holy Writ.

To unfold these words so that they may be clearly and fully understood, I will,

I. Explain their true import—

This will appear if we consider David's words,

1. According to the plain meaning of the terms themselves—

"Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, whose sins are covered." It is an acknowledged truth that sin, by whoever committed, involves the soul in guilt, and subjects it to God's heavy displeasure. And how terrible his wrath is, no words can express, no imagination can conceive. But, if a man has attained the forgiveness of his sins, his obligation to punishment is cancelled, and he is liberated from all the miseries to which, without such forgiveness, he must have been subjected to all eternity.

Who that contemplates this great deliverance, must not congratulate the man on his escape? Who must not account him "blessed?" To have the punishment due to his offenses mitigated, or to have them shortened to the space of ten thousand years, would be a state of comparative blessedness; but to have it altogether remitted, must surely entitle the man to conceive of himself as truly "blessed!"

2. According to the construction put upon them by Paul—

Paul says, that David in these words "described the blessedness of the man, to whom God imputes righteousness without works, verse 6." Now this does not appear in the words themselves, nor would we ever have known that such an idea was comprehended in them, if we had not been assured of it by God himself, that is, by an Apostle writing under his immediate inspiration. But, being so instructed, we know for certain that this construction of the words is unquestionably correct.

The fact is, that no one ever has his sins pardoned without having at the same time the righteousness of Christ imputed to him for his acceptance before God. We sometimes distinguish between the active and passive righteousness of Christ, as if his death atoned for our sins, and his obedience to the law constituted a meritorious righteousness, to be made over to us in a way of imputation, Romans 5:19; and this may perhaps be warranted by what is said by the Apostle, "Christ, who knew no sin, was made sin (a sin-offering) for us, that we (who neither had, nor could have, any righteousness of our own) might be made the righteousness of God in him, 2 Corinthians 5:21."

But whatever ground there may appear to be in Scripture for this distinction, the two can never be separated from each other: the whole of Christ's life and sufferings constituted his one obedience unto death, by which salvation, in its full extent, was purchased for us, Philippians 2:8; and he who partakes of salvation, receives it, not in part only, but in the full extent to which it has been obtained for him.

It is obvious that a man whose iniquities stood in need of pardon, could not purchase Heaven by any merits of his own. He could neither possess, nor procure by any works of his own, a perfect righteousness wherein to stand before God. Yet such a perfect righteousness he must have: and if he ever possess such a righteousness, it must be, by having the righteousness of another imputed to him. When therefore the Apostle quotes the words of David, he puts upon them the true construction which they were designed to bear: for though David, in words, speaks only of a non-imputation of sin, he must of necessity be considered as speaking also of an imputation of righteousness without works, seeing that the one is of necessity involved in the other, and can never exist without it.

Now then take the words of David in this sense, and say whether that man who is clothed in the robe of the Redeemer's righteousness, and so covered, that God himself cannot behold a spot or blemish in him, be not "blessed! Ephesians 5:27." Surely it is impossible to entertain a doubt of this, or to withhold for a moment our assent to David's assertion, according to the construction put upon it by the Apostle Paul.

3. According as they stood associated in David's mind—

David says, "Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit." But these concluding words the Apostle entirely omits. What was his reason for this? Did Paul conceive that any man who was not purged from "deceit" could be happy? Or had he less jealousy on the subject of holiness than David? Why then did he stop short, and quote the words of David in such an imperfect way? Did he act thus by accident only, or by design? Surely this matter needs explanation.

I doubt not but that he acted thus by design, exactly as our blessed Lord himself did in his first sermon that he ever preached, when, in citing the words of the Prophet Isaiah, he stopped short, when he came to the words which were irrelevant to his present subject, and never mentioned them at all. Compare Isaiah 61:1-2 with Luke 4:17-19, where our Lord stopped short in the middle of the sentence, omitting all mention of "vengeance" when he wished to impress his hearers with nothing but the words of "grace."

The Apostle was engaged in a most important topic, and establishing by argument the doctrine of justification by faith without works. He had shown that Abraham, who had so abounded in good works, had nothing whereof he could boast, and that he had been justified solely by faith in the promised Seed, verse 1-3. He proceeds then to establish the same doctrine from the words of David, who had pronounced that man blessed, not whose good works could avail, whether in whole or in part, for his justification before God, but, "whose transgressions were forgiven, and whose sins were covered;" and who, consequently, if saved at all, must be saved by a righteousness imputed to him.

But, if the Apostle had proceeded to cite the remaining words of David, he would have obscured his argument, and given occasion to an adversary to misrepresent, or at all events to misunderstand, his meaning. An adversary, if the last clause of David's words had been inserted by Paul, might have said, 'I agree with you, Paul: we are to be justified by faith: but then it is not by faith as apprehending the righteousness of another, but by faith as working out a righteousness for itself; or, in other words, not by faith without works, but by faith as an active, operative, sanctifying principle: and the person who possesses and exercises such a faith, has somewhat of his own to glory in.'

Now this would have utterly subverted the Apostle's argument: and therefore the Apostle, not choosing to give occasion for any such objection to his statement, altogether omitted the words on which the adversary would have founded it. He could indeed easily have answered the objection: but he judged it best to cut off all occasion for it.

But David had no such reason for restraining his words; and therefore he gave full scope to what was in his mind: and knowing that the justifying office of Christ is never separated from the sanctifying office of the Holy Spirit, and that no man under the power of sin could be blessed, he added, "and in whose spirit there is no deceit." He knew it would be to no purpose that a man was pardoned, if he was not also renewed in the spirit of his mind.

Suppose Satan himself to be pardoned; suppose further, that he was admitted into Heaven; he could not be happy even there, unless he was made a new creature: for, being enslaved by all manner of evil dispositions, and under the influence of all his malignant habits—he would, though in Heaven, be a devil still; and consequently far from anything approximating to real blessedness.

The very essence of happiness lies in a conformity to the Divine image: and he only who possesses that, is happy. The truly blessed man, and the only man that can be called "blessed," is "the Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit."

The words of my text being thus explained, I proceed to,

II. Confirm the sentiment contained in them—

Here I speak without hesitation. The man thus justified through faith in Christ, and thus renewed by the Holy Spirit, is blessed. For,

1. In him are all the wonders of redeeming love accomplished—

What did the Father design in giving his only dear Son to take our nature upon him? What, but that we might be "saved from wrath through him, John 3:16 and 1 John 4:10."

And for what end did the Lord Jesus Christ shed his precious blood for us upon the cross, but "to redeem us from all iniquity, and to purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works, Titus 2:14."

And for what purpose did the Holy Spirit come down and dwell in our hearts, but to transform us into the Divine image, and to "make us fit for the inheritance" which Christ has purchased for us!

Now in the person before described, all these things are already attained. His sins are pardoned: the robe of Christ's righteousness is put upon him, Romans 3:22; and he is "sanctified throughout in body, soul, and spirit, 1 Thessalonians 5:23." Is not he then "blessed?" If not, I only ask, where will you find a "blessed" man on earth?

2. In him all the great ends of life are answered—

For what has God preserved our souls in life unto this hour, and given us so many opportunities for spiritual improvement? Has it not been that we might be brought to the knowledge of him, and into a state of acceptance with him, and to a conformity to his blessed image?

That God has assigned us many works to do, and many duties to perform, I readily acknowledge: but they are all in subserviency to the great work of salvation. That is "the one thing needful:" and whatever we may have done, or whatever we may have attained, without that, we have done nothing, and attained nothing.

Suppose us to have labored successfully, and acquired crowns and kingdoms, what would they be in comparison with pardon, and peace, and holiness? Ask Solomon, who possessed a greater measure of earthly joys than any other man, what he thought of them? He pronounced them all to be "vanity and vexation of spirit:" so far were they from rendering him truly "blessed." The man possessed of earthly things knows not how soon he may have to relinquish them, and to curse the day that he ever attained them: but the man whom David pronounces "blessed," is prepared for everything.

He is prepared either for life, or death.

If God see fit that he should live, he is prepared to fill up any station either of action or of suffering. In action, he will do everything for God's honor; and in suffering, he will receive it all as from God, and improve it all for the advancement of his soul's eternal welfare.

On the other hand, if God see fit to call him hence, he is ready to depart, at whatever hour his Lord shall call him. In fact, though willing to continue on earth his appointed time, "he is longing to be depart, that he may be with Christ." He numbers death among his richest treasures; and, in whatever shape it may come, he welcomes it, as Jacob did the wagons that were to bear him to the presence of his exalted and beloved Joseph.

I ask then now again, is not this man justly called "blessed?"

3. In him is the felicity of Heaven already begun—

Wherein does the blessedness of Heaven consist? Is it not in near access to God, in an assured consciousness of his love, and in an incessant ascription of praise to him? All this is begun in the believing and renewed soul. "God has shined into the heart of him whom he has pardoned and sanctified, and has revealed to him all the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, 2 Corinthians 4:6." He even dwells in the bosom of the believer, and sheds abroad his love there, and enables him to "rejoice in the Savior with a joy that is unspeakable and full of glory," that is, of the very same nature with that which the glorified saints and angels possess in Heaven. True, he enjoys these things but in part: but still the little he does enjoy, is both a pledge and a foretaste of what he shall one day be filled with to the utmost extent of his capacity for ever and ever!

It is needless that I pronounce him "blessed:" for I am well assured that there is not a soul here present that has not already anticipated me in this, and said, "O that I were that happy man!"

Let me in conclusion address a few words to,

1. Those who are seeking their happiness in earthly things—

I will suppose you to have attained all that mortal man can possess: find me in all the sacred volume one single passage that pronounces you blessed. Find me but one single passage, and I will say, "Go on, and prosper." But I need only appeal to your own experience. What has all that you have ever attained done for you? Has it made you truly happy? You know it has not. Nothing short of that state which we have before contemplated can make you happy. Seek then blessedness where alone it can be found. Seek it in a reconciled God and Savior. Seek it in a sense of his pardoning love, and in conformity to his mind and will. The creature, in its utmost fullness, is only "a cistern that will hold no water:" but in your Savior you shall find "a Fountain of living waters!"

2. Those who profess to have attained the blessedness here spoken of—

"What manner of persons ought you to be in all holy conduct and godliness!" Do but look at the millions around you, who are yet unpardoned, unsanctified, unsaved! What do you owe to God, who has made such a difference between you and others, yes, and between you and your former selves! Surely there would be no bounds to your gratitude, no limits to your devotion to such a Benefactor.

 

#1838

JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH NECESSARY TO THE HONOR OF GOD, AND THE HAPPINESS OF MAN

Romans 4:16.

"Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring--not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all."

TO many the doctrines of the Gospel appear mere arbitrary appointments; and justification by works seems as much entitled to our approbation as justification by faith alone. But the doctrines of the Gospel are grounded on absolute and indispensable necessity: we are shut up to them: we have no other ground of hope. After man had fallen, it was not possible that any law would be given him whereby he might regain his lost happiness. If such a law could have been devised, God would have given it in preference to the plan of salvation provided in the Gospel; as Paul tells us; "If there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law, Galatians 3:21." But a Savior was necessary; and justification by faith in him was necessary, indispensably necessary,

I. For the honor of God—

It is surely fit that God would have the undivided honor of all that he has done—

He has made the universe for the express purpose of glorifying himself in the works of his hands, Revelation 4:11; and both the celestial and terrestrial bodies reflect upon him the honor due unto his name, Psalm 19:1. In the various dispensations of his providence also God has respect to his own glory, "upholding all things by the word of his power," and ordering all things, even from the rise and fall of empires, to the preservation of a sparrow or the falling of a hair from our head! 1 Samuel 2:6-8. Isaiah 45:5-7.

But, if in the works of creation and providence God has all the glory, shall he not much more have it in the work of redemption? Who first devised that wondrous work? The counsel of peace was between the Father and the Son from all eternity, Zechariah 6:13. Ephesians 3:9. Who prevailed upon the Father to give his only Son out of his bosom to be our surety and substitute, and to accept his vicarious sin-atoning sacrifice in our behalf? All this was the result of God's "eternal purpose which he purposed in himself," "according to the counsel of his own will, and to the praise of the glory of his own grace, Ephesians 1:9-12; Ephesians 3:10-11."

We may further ask also, How is it that this salvation is imparted to the souls of men? Do men attract his notice first by their own superior merits? Or do they of themselves begin to seek his favor? Does not God in every instance go before them with the blessings of his goodness; and of his own good pleasure give them "both to will and to do, Philippians 2:13."

Now all this exercise of love and mercy is intended by God himself to show to the whole universe "the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness towards us through Christ Jesus, Ephesians 2:7."

Is he then, or is he not, to have the glory of this work? Is it fit, that, when he gives all, and his creatures receive all, the crown would be taken from his head, and be placed on the head of those, who, but for the superabundance of his grace, must all have perished like the fallen angels? We think that, however prejudiced any may be against the doctrine of justification by faith alone, it is impossible for them not to see that man has no right to invade the prerogative of the Most High, and that "God cannot, consistently with his own honor, give his glory to another, Isaiah 42:8."

But, if man's salvation be in any measure by works, God will not have all the glory of it—

"Therefore is salvation by faith, that it may be by grace." Were it in any measure by works, it would become "a debt, and not a reward of grace, verse 4." Let but the smallest part of our reward be claimed as a debt, and there is an end of God's honor as the sole Author of our salvation.

Man imagines that he has a right to boast: indeed he cannot but boast: he cannot but say, I paid a price for this benefit: whether the price be equal in value to the benefit conferred, is nothing to the purpose: it was the price demanded; and the man who pays this price may claim the benefit, as having performed the terms on which that benefit was suspended.

To suppose that salvation can be of faith and of works at the same time, is absurd; the two are incompatible with each other: "If it is of works it cannot be of grace;" and "therefore it is of faith, that it may be by grace, Romans 11:6."

But justification by faith alone is yet further necessary,

II. For the happiness of man—

If justification were by works, "the promise would be sure" to none—

Consider what must be done to secure the promised benefit:

First, such a number of good works must be performed as shall be sufficient to purchase the remission of all our past sins. But who shall ascertain what measure of them shall suffice? Or who, if it were ascertained, shall perform them?

Next, such a number of good works must be performed as shall suffice to purchase eternal happiness and glory. And who shall tell us the amount of these that is required? Or who will undertake to pay the price? Whatever is paid to purchase mercy for other acts, must need no mercy for itself: and how many of such acts can you produce?

Nay further; it must be not only a perfect work, but a surplus of works; for if it is a work that has been enjoined, you are still only "an unprofitable servant; you have done no more than was your duty to do." What store of such works have you with which to purchase Heaven?

But you will say that God has mitigated the demands of his law, and is now satisfied with imperfect obedience. I ask, Where has he done so? and What is the measure of imperfection which he allows? Can you answer this? Can any human being answer it? But, for argument sake, you shall fix your own standard; you shall fix it where you please; and you shall be judged by nothing but your own law. Suppose that you have now fixed it; have you from the beginning observed in all things your own law? Have you come up truly and habitually to your own standard? if not, you must be condemned out of your own mouth.

Reduce the law to anything you please, to sincerity, if you choose it; and I then ask, Are you sincerely abstaining from everything which you believe to be evil, and doing everything which you believe to be pleasing unto God, from day to day, from month to month, from year to year? Are you willing to found all your hopes of salvation on your sincerity? Are you content that all the promises of mercy shall for ever fail you, if in any one instance you ever have been, or ever shall be, defective in your performance of these conditions? Will you look to this method of salvation to "make the promise sure?" Alas! there is no man that ever could, or ever can, stand on such a ground as this.

But justification being by faith alone, the promise is sure to all who believe—

To all who truly believe in Christ the promise is infallibly sure, whatever be their nation, their character, their attainments, their circumstances. The Jew and the Gentile are here perfectly on a level, Romans 3:29; nothing is conceded on account of circumcision; nothing is withheld on account of uncircumcision: the righteousness of Christ shall be equally on the one or the other the very instant they believe in Christ! Romans 3:22. Nor will it make any difference whether they have been more or less sinful in times past. The blood of Christ is as sufficient to cleanse one, as another: the very man that nailed our Savior to the cross, or that pierced his side with the spear, may be as effectually delivered from his guilt, as any other sinner in the universe, provided he really and truly look to the Lord Jesus Christ to save him! For "all that believe, are justified from all things, Acts 13:39."

Moreover, babes in Christ have the promise as sure to them, as the young men or fathers have. Salvation is not suspended on the strength of our faith, but its reality; not on the time that it has been exercised, but on the simplicity and sincerity with which it is exercised. Hence John says, "I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name's sake 1 John 2:12." It is not said here, that their sins shall be forgiven, when they have attained such an age; but, that they are even now already forgiven to them, notwithstanding their weakness and insufficiency.

We must go further still, and say, that, though the believer would be in the very article of death, and have no time left him for the performance of good works—yet would the blood of Christ, sprinkled by faith, cleanse him from all sin; and the righteousness of Christ, apprehended and applied by faith, shall justify him perfectly before God.

The penitent thief had reviled our Savior on the cross, no less than the impenitent one: yet, the very instant he cast himself on the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, he was accepted; and our Lord himself said to him, "This day you shall be with me in Paradise!" The promise being made to all who believe, it is as sure to the believer, as the power and veracity of God can make it.

To improve this subject, we shall,

1. Guard the doctrine from abuse—

That the doctrine of justification by faith may be abused, is certain: for so it was in the days of Paul himself, Romans 6:1; Romans 6:15. But truth is not therefore to be renounced because it may be perverted; but we must, as Paul himself did, hold fast the truth, and rescue it from those perversions to which it is exposed.

We have stated with all possible plainness, that we are to look for our justification solely by faith, without the smallest dependence on any works of our own. But are we therefore at liberty to neglect good works? Or can our final salvation be secured without them? Assuredly, in their place, good works are as necessary as faith itself: only we must take care not to confound their respective offices. The use of faith is, to apprehend Christ; and the use of good works is, to glorify Christ. In no other way can Christ be apprehended, than by faith; and in no other way can he be glorified, than by good works, John 15:18. Now God has clearly pointed out the way in which his people must walk: and it is only by walking in that way that they can arrive at the mansions prepared for them, Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 2:10.

It is necessary therefore that we should cultivate all Christian virtues, adding one to another throughout their whole extent: and it is by this course of action that we are to "make our calling and election sure, 2 Peter 1:10-11." Here we would particularly remind you, that the very same word which is used in my text by Paul in reference to faith, is used by Peter in reference to works. And how are we to explain this? Are we to set the two Apostles against each other? No! they are easily reconciled: Paul is speaking of faith as securing a saving interest in the promises; Peter is speaking of works as the appointed road in which we are to walk, and which alone will lead us safely to the kingdom of Heaven. As, on the one hand, without faith we can never be united unto Christ, or be partakers of his righteousness; so, on the other hand, if it produce not obedience, our faith will be of no more avail than the faith of devils! And this is exactly what James tells us, James 2:14-20; as also does Paul in this very epistle, where he says, that "to those who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, God will give eternal life! Romans 2:7."

If the Apostle therefore did not contradict himself, neither are we to consider the other Apostles as contradicting him, but only as affirming, that in their place good works are necessary, no less than faith is necessary in its place.

Behold then, while we maintain with all steadfastness the doctrine of justification by faith, we declare to all that the King's highway is the way of holiness, Isaiah 35:8, and that "without holiness no man shall see the Lord! Hebrews 12:14."

2. Commend it to your cordial acceptance—

If you sought for nothing but present comfort, methinks you would without hesitation embrace the doctrine of salvation by faith. For at what comfort can a man ever arrive, who seeks salvation by his works? How can he ever get satisfaction on the subjects on which all his happiness depends? How can he know what is sufficient for his acceptance, and whether he has done what under his circumstances is sufficient? And, if he can never attain the knowledge of these things, in what sad uncertainty must he be held all his days respecting the final salvation of his soul!

Is it not a fearful thing to stand on the brink of eternity, and not to know whether we are going to Heaven or to Hell? The doctrine of justification by faith presents a clear and definite idea to the mind. Doubtless, in the lower stages of the divine life, there may be considerable suspense even there; because a person may not be certain that his faith is so simple and entire as it ought to be: but still he has a definite object in view, namely, to cast himself wholly upon the Lord Jesus Christ, and to rely altogether upon him: and, though he may not have an assured confidence of his acceptance in Christ, he knows that it is as impossible for a man who flees to Christ to perish, as it is for God to lie: and this conviction is a source of unbounded consolation to his soul, Hebrews 6:17-19. In this conviction he has "an anchor for his soul, both sure and steadfast"—an anchor which shall enable him to ride out in safety all the storms which either the world or Satan can raise against him.

But present comfort is but a secondary consideration. The question is, What will avail us at the day of judgment? What will secure to us the promise then? God has told us, that he has appointed salvation to be by faith for this very end. Will God then, who has declared, that, if we believe not on his Son we are condemned already, and that his wrath abides on us; will he, I say, reverse his sentence in favor of those who have proudly rejected the salvation which he offered them? This cannot be. Let me therefore entreat all to renounce all dependence on their own works, as Paul did on his, Philippians 3:9; and to seek salvation in that adorable Emmanuel, of whom it is said, "In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and in him shall they glory, Isaiah 45:25."

 

#1839

Abraham's Faith

Romans 4:20-25.

"Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why "it was credited to him as righteousness." The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness--for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification."

THERE is no Christian grace, the lack of which is so much condemned in Scripture, or the exercise of which is so much applauded, as faith. In the Epistle to the Hebrews there is one whole chapter occupied in celebrating the saints that were distinguished for this grace. Among these Abraham makes a very conspicuous figure. In the chapter before us also the Apostle mentions this eminent trait in Abraham's character, and expatiates upon it in support of that, which it is the one scope of this whole epistle to establish, namely, the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

In opening the Apostle's words, we shall consider,

I. The faith of Abraham—

This faith was most extraordinary—

It had respect to two things, which God had promised him, namely, The birth of a son by Sarah, whose progeny would be numerous as the stars of Heaven Genesis 15:4-6; and the gift of one particular seed, in whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed, Genesis 12:2-3; Genesis 22:17-18. As incredible as these events appeared, he staggered not at God's promises relating to them; but was fully persuaded that they would be fulfilled in their season.

Considering his age and Sarah's, he being one hundred years old, and she ninety, there was no hope, according to the course of nature, that a child would be born unto them. But natural impediments were of no account with him: he knew that, whatever God would promise, he was able also to perform: and therefore, while "Sarah laughed" at the tidings in a way of unbelieving derision, Abraham laughed at them in a way of believing exultation. Compare Genesis 17:17 with 18:12.

The gift of a Savior too to descend from his loins, a Savior in whom both his own soul, and the souls of all his believing posterity, would be blessed, he fully believed. Our blessed Lord himself assures us, that, at the distance of two thousand years, "Abraham saw his day, and was glad! John 8:36." Abraham knew himself to be a sinner before God, and consequently that he needed a better righteousness than his own, to procure him acceptance with God in the last day: and he believed that this promised Seed would work out a righteousness for him, a righteousness commensurate with his necessities, yes, and with the necessities of the whole world. "This Gospel was preached to Abraham" in the promise before us, Galatians 3:8, and on this he founded all his hopes, and placed the most unshaken affiance.

By this faith he was justified before God—

"This faith of his," my text informs us, "was imputed to him for righteousness." But what are we to understand by this? Was the mere act of faith made his justifying righteousness? No, assuredly not: for if it were so, "he had something to boast of;" which the Apostle assures us he had not verse 2.

Faith, as an act, is a work of our own, just as love, or any other grace is: and if he was justified by it in that view, he was justified by works, which no man ever was, or ever can be. No; it was instrumentally, as apprehending Christ, that faith justified him. In Christ alone his justifying righteousness was found: and it was by faith that he laid hold on this righteousness, and applied it to himself for the salvation of his soul. That is the righteousness which God has appointed to be received through faith in Christ, and which he has declared, "is unto all, and upon all, those who believe Romans 3:21-22."

Now the Apostle marks this point with peculiar jealousy and precision. It might be supposed that, because Abraham, in token of his believing the promise made to him, obeyed the command given him relative to circumcision, his obedience was meritorious, and was, in part at least, a ground of his justification before God.

But the faith by which he was justified existed many years before he was circumcised; and his circumcision was "a seal of that righteousness which he had long before possessed in his uncircumcised state:" and consequently, it was his faith only, and not any subsequent obedience, that justified him, verse 9-11. The moment he believed in Christ as the promised seed, that moment the righteousness of Christ was imputed to him, and he was justified by it in the sight of God.

Having distinctly considered the faith of Abraham, I proceed to state,

II. The instruction to be derived from his faith—

Though God was pleased to honor his servant Abraham by transmitting to posterity an account of his faith—yet this was not the only, or the principal, reason that induced him to record these things concerning Abraham. His chief intent was,

1. To show us how all are to seek justification before God—

Abraham believed in God as able to accomplish all that he had promised: and by this faith he was justified. Thus we are to believe in God as having already accomplished his promises, in having given up his Son to "die for our offenses," and having raised him from the dead as the author and pledge of our eternal justification. It is by the death of Christ, and through the prevailing intercession, which, in his exalted state, he makes for us, that we are to be reconciled to God. We must not for one moment dream of any other way of acceptance with God. If so eminent a man as Abraham was incapable of being justified by his works, then much more must we: and if he was necessitated to look to Christ in order to obtain salvation, then beyond all doubt we must stand indebted to the same Savior for all our hopes of happiness and glory.

2. To assure us that, if we truly believe in Christ, we cannot fail of being justified—

Abraham's views of Christ must assuredly have been very obscure: yet, as dark as they were, they availed for his justification before God. But we have an incomparably clearer knowledge of Christ: we see him in his person, work, and offices, and therefore have stronger ground for our faith in him. If we then receive the record of God concerning him, and rely fully upon him as "dying for our offenses, and as raised again for our justification," shall not we be accepted with God?

We need not fear. Our souls may appear as dead with respect to spiritual fruitfulness, as Abraham's and Sarah's bodies were with respect to their having a son and heir; and to the eye of sense it may appear as improbable that we would inherit the promise, as that they would; but if we believe, we shall soon find that "all things are possible to him who believes:" we shall have the righteousness of Christ imputed to us; and, being made heirs with Abraham, we shall be enabled to "walk in his steps, verse 12." on earth, and "sit down with him in the kingdom of our Lord in Heaven! Galatians 3:6-9."

By way of conclusion, we would entreat you to reflect upon,

1. The folly and danger of self-righteousness—

For what end did the Apostle take such pains to show us that the most eminent saints of old were not justified by their works, but to caution us the more strongly against trusting in our own works? Let us not imagine this to be a light matter: on this one point our everlasting happiness depends. If we will renounce all dependence on ourselves, and "submit to Christ's righteousness," we shall be saved: but if we will "go about to establish our own righteousness," either in whole or in part, we must inevitably, and eternally, perish! Romans 9:30-32; Romans 10:3.

2. The value and importance of faith—

The highest commendation imaginable is given to faith in the words before us. Two things are spoken of it, which would render it very precious in our eyes; it "gives the highest glory to God," and brings the richest benefit to man. Faith glorifies all the perfections of the Deity, in a far higher degree than any other grace whatever: and it saves the soul; which cannot be said of any other grace.

Faith is the instrumental cause of our justification; all other graces are the fruits and effects of justification already imparted to us.

Let us seek then to exercise faith, and to be "strong in faith:" and let us be well assured, that the more confidently we rely on the promises of God, the more certainly shall we laugh with holy exultation, and obtain a testimony from God that we were accepted in his sight.

 

#1840

BENEFITS ARISING FROM A JUSTIFYING FAITH

Romans 5:1-5.

"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."

IT may excite surprise, that the Apostle would contend so earnestly for the doctrine of justification by faith alone, when on many other subjects he evinces a candor that might almost be construed into indifference. The eating of foods offered to idols; the observance of times and seasons which under the Jewish law were regarded as holy; yes, and even the practice of circumcision itself, if not set in opposition to the Gospel; were left by him to the discretion of men, to be used or neglected as they thought fit. But to receive the doctrine of justification by faith was not left to the option of any; nor was any alternative offered them, but to submit to it, or perish. This however was not without good reason, since it was not possible to substitute anything in the place of that doctrine, or to interfere with it in any degree, without making void the whole work of redemption. Moreover, by this doctrine such blessings were insured to man as could not be procured by any other means. Some of these the Apostle enumerates in the passage before us: and we shall consider them in the order in which they lie—

I. A state of favor and acceptance with God—

Man, as a sinner, is exposed to the wrath of God, and is under a sentence of actual condemnation. But being justified by faith in Christ, he is freed from guilt through the atoning sacrifice which has been offered for him, and is brought into a state of reconciliation with God. From the moment that he believes in Christ, "the anger of God is turned away from him;" and there remains, if we may so speak, no longer anything upon him, which can call forth the Divine displeasure against him: his sins are all washed away in the Redeemer's blood; and he is clothed from head to foot in the robe of the Redeemer's righteousness, so that in the sight of God he stands without spot or blemish, Ephesians 5:27. Jude, verse 24. Having thus perfect reconciliation with God, he has peace in his own conscience, even that "peace of God which passes all understanding."

Into this state "he has access by faith in Christ;" and in it "he stands," having this peace as an abiding portion. It is the very portion which Christ himself promised to all his faithful followers; "In me you shall have peace:" "My peace I give unto you." And hence the Lord Jesus bears, as his own peculiar title, that glorious name, "The Prince of Peace! Isaiah 9:6."

Next, in succession to this blessing, is,

II. A joyful hope of his glory—

The believer, being made a child of God, has become "an heir of God, and a joint-heir with Christ, Romans 8:17;" and he immediately begins to look forward to that inheritance to which he has been begotten, which is "incorruptible, and undefiled, and never-fading; and is reserved in Heaven for them, as they are reserved by the power of God for it, 1 Peter 1:4-5." To this inheritance our blessed Lord encouraged his disciples to have respect continually, and to anticipate in their minds the everlasting fruition of it: "In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And, if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there you may be also, John 14:2-3."

And accordingly we find the Apostle Paul sweetly assured of the possession of it, as soon as he would be liberated from this earthly tabernacle, 2 Corinthians 5:1. Philippians 1:21; Philippians 1:23; and teaching all believers to expect the same portion at the period of their dismissal from the body 2 Timothy 4:8. Well may the believer rejoice in such a hope: for, what are earthly crowns and kingdoms in comparison with those to which he is heir! Revelation 3:21.

While the believer receives such great benefits from Christ, he experiences,

III. A delight even in tribulations for his sake—

Tribulations must of necessity in themselves be painful: but as endured for Christ, they become a source and occasion of joy. The believer knows beforehand that he shall be called to suffer them, 1 Thessalonians 3:4; and he is prepared to glory in them, as the Apostles did, who, when they had been imprisoned and scourged for their fidelity to Christ, went forth from their persecutors, "rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his sake! Acts 5:41."

They know that their sufferings will be productive of present, no less than of eternal, benefit to their souls; that, though in the first instance tribulation may cause impatience, it will ultimately "work perseverance," by bringing him to a meek submission to the Divine will; from perseverance so increased, he will derive "experience," or a decisive evidence that God is with him, and that the grace of God has wrought effectually on his soul. By that experience his "hope" will be exceedingly confirmed; for he will see the very justice, as well as the truth, of God pledged to recompense what is so endured for his name's sake, 2 Thessalonians 1:6-7; and this "hope will never make him ashamed," as theirs will, who look for salvation in any other way than through faith in Christ.

Thus he will see that "his light and momentary afflictions are in reality working for him a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory! 2 Corinthians 4:17-18;" and in this view of them he will greatly rejoice; even as Paul did, who took pleasure in his multiplied distresses, 2 Corinthians 12:10, and counted even the most cruel death for the sake of Christ and his Church as a subject of the most heartfelt congratulation, Philippians 2:17-18. Instead of repining at his trials, he receives them as a most invaluable gift of God to him for Christ's sake, Philippians 1:29, and glorifies God for them as a most precious testimony of his love, 1 Peter 4:12-16.

His enemies indeed "do not think so, neither do they mean so:" nothing is further from their hearts than to advance the work of godliness in the souls of those whom they persecute, and to augment their joy: but this is the real effect of persecution, which, like fire, purifies them from their dross, and causes its victims to leap for joy, Luke 6:23.

To this elevated state of mind the believer is advanced by,

IV. A sense of God's love shed abroad in the heart.

This, as it is usually interpreted, is made to sanction the idea, that a sense of God's love in the soul is of itself a sufficient ground for an assurance, that our hope is truly scriptural, and shall never be disappointed. But such an idea would lead to the most fatal delusions. A most able and judicious commentator (Mr. Scott), aware of this danger, endeavors to remove it, by including in "the love of God shed abroad in the heart," all the fruits resulting from it.

But an easier, and, in the Author's judgment, a better way to get rid of the difficulty, is, to connect this clause of the text with those words in verse 3, "We glory in tribulations also;" the intermediate parts being taken parenthetically. Then the proper sense of these words may is given to them without any danger, and a beautiful light be thrown on the whole passage: for though the love of God in the heart is not of itself a sufficient evidence of the soundness of our hope, it is, beyond everything in the world, an incentive to glory in sufferings for the Lord's sake. We would read it thus: "We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."

This is a blessing which, though not to be appreciated or understood by those who have never received it, is yet most assuredly enjoyed by many of God's chosen people. We scarcely know how to describe it, because it consists chiefly in an impression on the mind occasioned by manifestations of God's love to the soul. Nothing is more certain than that Christ will "manifest himself to his people, as he does not unto the world." This he will do by the agency of the Holy Spirit, who will "take of the things that are Christ's, and will show them unto us."

As "a spirit of adoption" too, he will give us views of the Father, as our Father in Christ Jesus: he will also "witness with our spirits that we are Christ's;" and will be in us as "a pledge of our everlasting inheritance;" and will "seal us unto the day of redemption."

By all these operations on our souls, he will "fill us with joy and peace in believing," yes, with "a joy unspeakable and full of glory!" This is in reality a foretaste of Heaven itself; and, where this is, a man, if he had a thousand lives, would be ready to lay them all down for his Lord and Savior, accounting nothing dear to him, so that "Christ might but be magnified in him, whether by life or death."

How persons have been transported with these manifestations, and been enabled by them to triumph over their most malignant enemies, ecclesiastical history, yes the history of our own martyrs, sufficiently informs us. This sense of the Divine presence and love is not indeed at all times equally powerful on the soul: but it is the privilege of all who flee unto the Savior as their only refuge, and rely upon him as their only hope.

We would exhort you then, beloved,

1. To hold fast the doctrine of justification by faith alone—

No other doctrine brings such blessings along with it. Hence, those who impugn this doctrine, pour contempt on all these effects of it, as delusions that have no reality, and as the creatures of a heated imagination. But we must discard the Scriptures themselves, if we discard these things from the experience of God's people: and therefore let none deprive you of your hope. Believe in Christ: make him "all your salvation, and all your desire." Dismiss with abhorrence every thought that tends to lower him in your estimation, or to rob him of his glory; and to the last hour of your lives "live altogether by faith in Him, who has loved you, and given himself for you."

2. To seek the privileges connected with justification by faith alone—

If any enjoy them not, the fault is utterly their own. Circumstances may interfere to put a difference between one and another, so that persons, equally pious, may not be equally full of peace and joy: and the same persons may sometimes experience a diversity of frames. But, generally speaking, these blessed exercises of mind will be found in men in proportion to the simplicity of their faith, and the entireness of their devotion to God.

All the persons in the blessed Trinity are engaged to make you thus blessed.

The Father lays his anger aside, and speaks peace to your souls.

The Lord Jesus Christ, as your Advocate with the Father, secures these blessings for you, and, as your living Head, imparts them to you.

And the Holy Spirit communicates to you all those exquisite delights, which the sense of God's love, and a prospect of his glory, are calculated to inspire.

Seek then the peace that passes all understanding; and the joyful "hope that purifies the heart:" and seek such an abiding sense of God's presence, as shall raise you above all the things of time and sense, and convert tribulation itself into a source of joy and a ground of glorying. Then will you adorn this doctrine of God our Savior; and will put to shame the enemies of the Gospel, by the transcendent efficacy of it upon your souls.

 

#1841

THE BELIEVER'S SECURITY IN CHRIST

Romans 5:6-10.

"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!"

IT is pleasing to see with what delight the Apostle Paul dwells upon the transcendent excellency and unbounded love of our Lord Jesus Christ! Whatever he is insisting on, he is sure to introduce the Savior's name; and, when once he has introduced it, he scarcely knows when to leave the heart-reviving topic: and, if he has left it for a moment, he is ever eager to recur to it again. Hence the connection of his sentences is frequently remote; as we apprehend it to be in the instance before us.

We conceive that the proper connection of our text is with the two first verses of the chapter; in which the Apostle has spoken of Christ as the true and only source of our acceptance with God, and of that hope of the glory of God, which animates our souls. Then, after expatiating on the further benefits which we receive through him, he comes to state more explicitly, How it was that Christ procured these blessings for us; and, Why we may be assured of the ultimate possession of them. In this view of the text we shall be led to show,

I. What Christ has done for us, as enemies—

Our state by nature is here justly described—

We are "ungodly," we are "sinners," "enemies" to God and to all vital religion: at the same time, we are also "without strength," altogether impotent to that which is good. What a description is this! how humiliating! And yet how just!

Yet, when we were in this state, did the Lord Jesus Christ undertake our cause—

He assumed our nature, and in that nature died. Nor was it merely for our benefit that he died, but in our actual place and stead. "He bore our sins in his own body on the tree," and suffered, "he, the Just, for us the unjust, 1 Peter 2:24; 1 Peter 3:18.

This may be illustrated by the substitution of the ram in the place of Isaac, Genesis 22:13. We were exposed to the wrath of God; and that wrath he bore for us: "He became a curse for us, Galatians 3:13." The cup of divine which we must have been drinking to all eternity, he drank to the very dregs!

What a stupendous exercise of love was this!

Well may it be said, that God, in this act of mercy, "commends his love towards us:" for it is indeed such a display of love as finds no parallel in the whole universe. There could scarcely be found on earth, one person, who would consent to die in the place of another, who was confessedly "a righteous man," and just in all his dealings: though possibly there might be some who would lay down their lives for "a good man" who was eminently pious and useful in the world, See Romans 16:4.

But who ever made such a sacrifice for his enemy? The utmost stretch of human affection is, "to lay down one's life for a friend, John 15:13." But such was not the love of Christ: "while we were yet sinners and enemies, He died for us! How different was this from all that ever occurred on earth, either before or since! If one man has ever died for another, it has been from the consideration of his being either peculiarly excellent in himself, or a great benefactor to others, or from a very high degree of friendship for him. But when Christ died for us, we, so far from having anything to recommend us to him, were ungodly in ourselves, and enemies to him." Truly this was "a love that surpasses knowledge;" a love, the heights and depths whereof can never be explored, Ephesians 3:18-19.

From this love of Christ to his enemies the Apostle takes occasion to declare,

II. What we may expect from Christ, as friends—

Nothing can be plainer or more conclusive than the Apostle's argument, that, if Christ has already done so much for us under circumstances so unfavorable, then much more shall, whatever remains to be done for us, now that we are in a state of friendship with him—will assuredly be completed in due season.

To elucidate the force of this argument, we would call your attention to the following positions. If Christ would now abandon the work in which he has proceeded so far, and would leave his people to perish at last:

1. He would defeat all his Father's counsels—

The Father from all eternity predestined unto life a number of the human race, who therefore are called, "A remnant according to the election of grace, Ephesians 1:4-5; Ephesians 1:11. 2 Thessalonians 2:13. Romans 2:5."

These he gave unto his Son John 17:2; John 17:6; John 17:9; John 17:11; John 17:24; that he might redeem them by his blood, and have them as "his portion for ever and ever! Isaiah 53:10."

These in due time he calls by his word and Spirit; he adopts them into his family, transforms them into his image, and will finally exalt them to a participation of his glory.

That this counsel may be carried into effect, he commits them to his Son, that they may be kept by his power and grace, and "be preserved blameless unto his heavenly kingdom."

But if Christ would relinquish his care of them, and leave them ultimately to die in their sins, all these counsels would be defeated; and with respect to those who were so deserted, it would be said, "Whom he did predestine, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified," them he left to perish!! Romans 8:28-30.

But shall God's purposes be so frustrated? Shall this golden chain of salvation, which reaches from eternity to eternity, be so broken? No! "Of those whom his Father gave him, he never did lose any, nor ever will John 17:12."

We do not say that he will save them and allow them to remain wedded to their sins. God forbid, that such a blasphemous idea would enter into the mind of any: but from their sins he will save them, Matthew 1:21; and "through sanctification of the Spirit, 1 Peter 1:2," "he will keep them from falling, and present them faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy! Jude verse 24."

2. He would render void all that he himself had done—

He has given up his own life a ransom for his elect people, and has actually reconciled them to God by his own obedience unto death. Can we conceive, that, after he has done all this, he would become indifferent to those whom he has thus redeemed? Will he be satisfied thus to shed his blood in vain? If he has "bought us with a price," will he be content to lose what he has so dearly purchased? After he has actually "redeemed us by his blood, and justified us," will he leave us to be condemned? Will he, now that nothing is lacking on his part, but to supply us with his grace, and to uphold us in his arms—will he, I say, relax his care of us, and leave us to perish? Having done the greater for us, when enemies—will he forbear to do the less for us, as friends? Having done the greater unsolicited—will he refuse to do the less when entreated night and day?

In the days of his flesh, notwithstanding all the obstacles in his way, he ceased not to go forward until he could say, "It is finished." And will he now leave his work unfinished? Having been "the Author of faith" to us, will he decline to be "the Finisher? Hebrews 12:2."

Justly does David argue, like the Apostle in our text: "You have delivered my soul from death; will not you then deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living? Psalm 56:13."

In like manner, we also may be "confident of this very thing, that he who has begun a good work in us, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ, Philippians 1:6." Our great "Zerubbabel has laid the foundation of his house; and his hands will finish it! Zechariah 4:9."

3. He would forget all the ends of his own exaltation—

He is "exalted to be a Prince and a Savior! Acts 5:31," and to "put under his feet all his own, and his people's enemies, 1 Corinthians 15:25;" and do we suppose that he will neglect this work? After "having spoiled principalities and powers, and triumphed over them openly upon the cross Colossians 2:15," will he, now that he is invested "with all power in Heaven and on earth" on purpose to complete his triumphs, give up the palm of victory, and allow Satan to rescue from his hands those, whom with such stupendous efforts he has delivered? It is not as a private person that Jesus has ascended, but as the "Forerunner" of his people, Hebrews 6:20. Will he then forget those whom he has left behind? Will the Head be unmindful of his members, Ephesians 5:30. And shall the first-fruits be waved, and no harvest follow, 1 Corinthians 15:20 with Leviticus 23:10-11. "Living, as he does, on purpose to make intercession for us," will he forget to intercede, Hebrews 7:25. And having all fullness treasured up in him for his Church, Colossians 1:19, will he forget to impart of it to those for whom he has expressly received it, Psalm 68:18. As our High Priest, he must not only enter with his own blood within the veil, and there make continual intercession for us, but must come forth to bless his people, Deuteronomy 10:8; and, having fulfilled his office thus far, will he now abandon it?

The Apostle had certainly no such apprehensions when he laid so great a stress on the resurrection of our Lord, as to make it more efficacious for the salvation of men, that even the whole of Christ's obedience unto death, Romans 8:34. We may be sure, therefore, that as he, in his risen state, "is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by him," so he will do it, and "will bring Satan himself shortly under their feet, Romans 16:20."

4. He would falsify all his own great and precious promises—

How express is that promise which he has made to all his sheep, that "none shall ever pluck them out of his hands! John 10:27-30." Will he be unmindful of this? or is he become so weak that he is not able to fulfill it? He said to his disciples, "You have not chosen me; but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you would go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit would remain, John 15:16;" but how can this be true, if he allow them to become barren, and to be cut down at last as cumberers of the ground?

Why did he say, "Believe in God: believe also in me," if he meant, after all, to disappoint our confidence? Can we conceive, that, after comforting his disciples with the assurance that he was "going to prepare mansions in his Father's house for them, and would come again and receive them to himself, John 14:2-3;" can we conceive, I say, that he would leave them to take up their abode in the regions of everlasting darkness and despair? No! he is "the Amen, the true and faithful Witness;" and "every promise that is made to us in him, is yes and Amen," as immutable as God himself, 2 Corinthians 1:20.

ADDRESS—

1. Those who are inquiring after the way of salvation—

Nothing can be more plain than the way of salvation, as it is marked out in our text. How must we "be reconciled to God? Through the death of his Son!" How must we be justified and saved from wrath? We must "be justified by his blood," and "saved from wrath through him." How, after having been reconciled to God by the death of Christ, must we finally attain complete salvation? We must be "saved by his life;" that is, we must from first to last live by faith in the Son of God, looking to his death as the meritorious ground of our acceptance, and to his renewed life in Heaven as the one source of all our stability, and the surest pledge of our eternal happiness.

But, it may be asked: Am I among the number for whom these blessings were purchased? If you are among the number of those who feel themselves "ungodly and sinners, and enemies to God, and without strength," then are you the persons for whom Christ died, and for whom he is improving every moment of his renewed life. What, I would ask, can be more plain than this? What room is here left for doubt?

Truly, if salvation is not altogether by Christ Jesus, that is, by the efficacy of his death, and the operation of his grace, Paul must have been the most incautious and erroneous writer that ever lived. But, if he was neither ignorant nor deceitful, then is the way of salvation so plain, that not any poor "way-faring man, even though he be a fool, can err therein." We charge you then, brethren, to flee for refuge to the hope that is set before you; and to "determine to know nothing as a ground of hope, but Jesus Christ and him crucified!"

2. Those who, having sought for reconciliation through Christ, are afraid of being cast off, and left to perish—

What is it that fills you with such fears as these? Is it on account of Christ that you are distressed? Or on account of your own weakness and unworthiness?

If you are afraid of Christ, what is it in him that you stand in doubt of; his power, or his willingness to save? Surely there can be no doubt on either of these points.

If your fears arise from a view of your own weakness and sinfulness, why would that prove a bar to your acceptance with him, which was, I had almost said, a reason for his dying for you, and which constantly calls forth his compassion towards you? True, if you continue ungodly, you have no hope: for "the unrighteous cannot inherit the kingdom of God." But, if you desire truly to be delivered from all your corruptions, and to receive constant supplies of grace from him, then you may safely trust in him to carry on and perfect the work he has begun. He who first sought you, will not be sought by you in vain. He who bore your sins in his own body, will carry them all away into the land of oblivion. He who reconciled you to God, will maintain your peace with God. He who has completed everything as far as it depended on his death, will much more perfect what depends upon his life. Be strong then, and of good courage; and hold fast your confidence, and the rejoicing of your hope, firm unto the end.

 

#1842

HAPPINESS OF THE MORE-ADVANCED BELIEVER

Romans 5:11.

"Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation."

THOSE remarkable words of the prophet, "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him," are usually interpreted in reference to the future world: but Paul speaks of them as fulfilled to us under the Christian dispensation: for, having cited them, he adds, "But God has revealed them unto us by his Spirit, Isaiah 64:4 with 1 Corinthians 2:9-10." So great are the privileges and blessings which we enjoy under the Christian covenant, that no words can adequately express them, no imagination can fully conceive them. We may say respecting them, what God said to Ezekiel respecting the abominations practiced by Israel in the chambers of imagery, that the oftener we search into them, the more and greater we shall find them, Ezekiel 8:3-16. Truly, "the riches of Christ are unsearchable Ephesians 3:8." This is strongly intimated by Paul in the passage before us.

He had expatiated on the blessings which we enjoy in, and by, Christ: "We have peace with God" by him; and through him are enabled to "rejoice in hope of the glory of God." Nay more, we are enabled to "glory in tribulations also," as the appointed means of perfecting the Divine work within us, and of fitting us for the glory which God has taught us to expect verse 1-3. But neither is this all: for God would have us rise above the mere consideration of our own happiness, even though it consists in a possession of all the glory of Heaven; and he would have our minds occupied with the contemplation of his infinite perfections, and "filled with all the fullness" of his communicable felicity, Ephesians 3:19. Hence the Apostle, declaring this to be the actual experience of the great body of the Church at Rome, says, "Not only is this so," (that is, we not only enjoy the fore-mentioned blessings,) "but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation."

In discoursing on these words, we shall be led to show,

I. The happy state of believers in general—

The believer has now already received reconciliation with God—

Reconciliation has been purchased for men by Christ's obedience unto death: and it is freely offered to them in the name of Christ, by those who go forth as his ambassadors to a guilty world: and it is accepted by those who believe their testimony, and embrace the offered salvation. It is on this account that the Gospel is called, "The ministry of reconciliation, Deuteronomy 33:26-29." Those who receive the glad tidings have all their iniquities blotted out from the book of God's remembrance. He is no more angry with them, as he was in their unbelieving state; but looks upon them as dear children, in whose happiness he will be eternally glorified. They are now privileged to regard him no longer as an angry Judge, but as a loving Father. Their state is precisely that of the Prodigal Son, after he had returned to his Father's house: they are freely forgiven for Christ's sake; nor shall so much as one upbraiding word be ever uttered against them. Their Father rejoices over them as restored to his favor, and delights to honor them with all suitable expressions of paternal love. Are not these persons truly blessed? 2 Corinthians 5:18-20.

This is the state of every believer without exception—

If a man has lived in sin for ever so many years, and have at last been led, with deep penitence and contrition, to the foot of the cross, this mercy is instantly given to him. The long-continuance of his former iniquities is no bar to his acceptance. The very first moment that he comes weary and heavy-laden to Christ, he finds rest unto his soul.

Neither does the enormity of a man's transgressions make any difference in this respect. He may have been as vile as ever David was; and yet, on coming truly to Christ, his iniquities shall all be pardoned, and it shall be said to him, "The Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die!" "Though his sins may have been as crimson, they shall instantly become as white as snow! Isaiah 1:18."

The healing virtue of the brazen serpent was not felt by those only whose wounds were of a less dangerous nature, but by those who were at the very point of death. Just so, shall a sight of our crucified Redeemer operate, however long the wounds of sin have been inflicted, or to whatever extent they may have brought death upon the soul.

We may add also, for the encouragement of the young, that, however weakly their infantile minds have embraced the truth, yet, if they be really sensible of their lost estate, and truly look to the Lord Jesus Christ as their only hope—then he will "take them up in his arms and bless them," and will "ordain praise for himself even in the mouth of babes and sucklings."

But the more immediate object of our text is, to set before us,

II. The yet happier state of the more advanced believer—

Every believer without exception receives reconciliation with God: but the advanced believer is yet more highly privileged. He has this blessing in common with others; but "not only so." No! he rises higher; he soars even to God himself; and "rejoices" and "glories in" God. It is the same word as is used in verse 3,

1. As a God of all grace—

The more we are advanced in the divine life, the more deeply do we feel our own emptiness and utter helplessness. This, we might suppose, would rather weaken and interrupt his joy: and so it would, if his views of God were not also proportionably enlarged. But he views God as "a God of all grace, 1 Peter 5:10;" and whatever grace he more particularly needs, he sees a fullness of it treasured up in his reconciled God for the supply of his necessities.

Does he desire peace? God is to him "the God of peace, Hebrews 13:20."

Would he abound in hope? God is to him "the God of hope, Romans 15:13."

Would he have an increase of patience and of consolation to support him under his diversified afflictions? God is to him "a God of patience and consolation, Romans 15:5."

In short, whatever the Christian needs, God is a God of it to him, not only as having an inexhaustible fullness of it in himself, but as, if we may so speak, made up of it, as if it were his only perfection.

What a joyful thought is this to the believer who is accustomed to seek his all in God, and to "live altogether by faith in the Son of God, who loved him, and gave himself for him!"

2. As his covenant God and Father—

God, in the new covenant which he has made with us, has stated this as an inseparable provision of that covenant, that he will be "the God of his people," and "a God to them, Jeremiah 31:33 with Hebrews 8:8."

Whatever he is—he will be for them.

Whatever he has—he will, as far as they are capable of receiving it, impart unto them.

He will not merely be a Friend, or a Father, to them: more, he will be a God! All that a God can be to them, or can do for them—he will be, and do!

All this he pledges to them by covenant, and by oath, "that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for him to lie, they might have strong consolation who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before them, Hebrews 6:17-18." Well then may those who have laid hold on this covenant, rejoice in him. The Jews, on account of their external relation to him, "made their boast of God, Romans 2:17;" and they had reason so to do. But how much greater reason has the Christian to do so, who has laid hold on that better covenant, which "is ordered in all things and sure," and which shall never wax old, or decay!

3. As his everlasting portion—

It is not here only that God will be the portion of his people, but for ever in the eternal world. Such he was to Abraham; "I am your shield, and your eternal great reward! Genesis 15:1." And such he will be to every believer; as it is written, "My flesh and my heart may fail; but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever, Psalm 73:26." In that tabernacle that is above, God will dwell in the midst of his people, and be their God, and will wipe away all tears from their eyes, Revelation 21:3-4. It is his presence that will constitute the felicity of Heaven: there will be no sun or moon there; for God himself, and the Lamb, will be the light of that world; and all created enjoyment will vanish, like the light of the glow-worm before the meridian sun! Revelation 21:22-23.

Justly in this view of his privileges does David say, and justly may every believer say, "The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and of my cup: the lines are fallen to me in pleasant places; yes, I have a goodly heritage! Psalm 16:5-6."

ADDRESS—

1. Let all avail themselves of the opportunity now afforded them—

At this hour do "we preach peace to you by Jesus Christ, Acts 10:36;" and "as ambassadors of God, we beseech you in Christ's stead, be reconciled to God." To all without exception is this invitation given. To every one does he address those memorable words, "Look unto me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth Isaiah 45:22."

Will any of you then be content to continue at enmity with God, and to have God an enemy to you? O lay down the weapons of your rebellion, and seek your happiness in God. Surely "in his favor is life; and his loving-kindness is better than life itself." Only begin this day to rejoice in your God; and "there shall be joy among the angels in the presence of God on your account."

2. Let all seek the highest attainments in the divine life—

There is a holy ambition which all should feel. We should not any of us be content to obtain reconciliation with God: we should seek to rejoice in God. We would say with David, "I will go unto the altar of God, of God my exceeding joy, Psalm 43:4." It is greatly to he lamented that the generality of Christians live far below their privileges. If only they have peace with God, and can rejoice in hope of his glory, and can glory in tribulations for his sake, they are ready to think, that they are in as good a state as they need to be.

But, brethren, while we rejoice that you are so far advanced, we would have you "not only so:" we would have you "forget what is behind, and press forward towards that which is ahead." We would have you "covet earnestly the best gifts." It is your privilege "to rejoice in God all the day," yes, to "rejoice in him with joy unspeakable and full of glory 1 Peter 1:8."

Nor is it your privilege only, but your duty also: for it is said, "In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory, Isaiah 45:25." I call you then to live near to God, and to "delight yourselves in God," and to have even now "the pledge" of Heaven in your souls, Ephesians 1:14. "Let Israel then rejoice in him who made him; and the children of Zion be joyful in their King! Psalm 149:2."

 

#1843

DEATH BY ADAM, AND LIFE BY CHRIST

Romans 5:18-19.

"So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous."

THE more we investigate the Gospel of Christ, the more mysterious it appears in all its parts. To a superficial observer it seems that the way of salvation through a crucified Redeemer is plain and simple: but it is surely an astonishing mystery, that those who have destroyed themselves would be redeemed by the blood of God's only dear Son, and be saved by a righteousness that was wrought out by him. Yet that is but a small part of the mystery revealed to us in the Gospel. There we learn, that at the instant of our birth we are under a sentence of condemnation for the sin of our first parent; and that, as we are lost in him, so we are to be recovered by the Lord Jesus Christ, inheriting righteousness and life from him, the second Adam, as we inherit sin and death from the first Adam.

This is the subject of which the Apostle treats in the passage before us. He had throughout the preceding part of this epistle declared the way of salvation through Christ: but now he traces up sin and death to Adam as our federal head or representative: and righteousness and life to Christ as our federal head or representative under the new covenant. This opens to us a new view of the Gospel, and leads us farther into the great mystery of redemption than the preceding statements had enabled us to penetrate.

That we may avail ourselves of the light which is thus afforded us, we shall,

I. Consider the comparison here instituted—

It is here assumed as an acknowledged truth, that by the sin of Adam we all were brought under guilt and condemnation—

Adam was not a mere private individual, but the head and representative of all mankind. Hence what he did in eating the forbidden fruit, is imputed unto us, as though it had been done by us: and we are subjected to the punishment that was denounced against transgression, "In the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die!" This in the preceding context is repeatedly affirmed: "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for all have sinned, verse 12." Again, "Through the offense of one, many died, verse 15;" Again, "The judgment was by one to condemnation verse 16;" And again, "By one man's offense, death reigned by one, verse 17."

So also it is twice mentioned in our text. Nor is it merely asserted: it is proved also, and that too by an argument which all can easily understand. The death of infants demonstrates the truth in question: for, nothing is plainer than that God will not inflict punishment, where no guilt attaches: but he does inflict punishment, even death itself, on infants, who cannot possibly have committed sin in their own persons.

For whose sin then is this punishment inflicted? Surely for the sin of Adam, our first parent; who was the head and representative of all mankind. The law which denounced death as the penalty of transgression, comprehended, not him only, but us also: and therefore, having transgressed it in him, we are considered as sinners, and are subjected to all the penalties of transgression. To account for the agonies and death of new-born infants on any other supposition than this, is impossible.

With this is compared our justification to life by the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ—

Christ is that person "by whose obedience many are made righteous." He is given to us as a second Covenant-Head. There is however this difference between him and Adam: Adam was the head of all his natural seed; and Christ is the head of all his spiritual seed. They are included in him; and all that he did or suffered is put to their account, as though they had done or suffered it themselves: and his entire righteousness is imputed to them for justification, precisely as Adam's disobedience is imputed to us for condemnation. The parallel indeed holds yet farther still: for as Adam's guilt is imputed to us before we commit personal sin, so is Christ's righteousness imputed to us before we perform any personal obedience.

Nevertheless, our obedience is not therefore rendered either useless or uncertain; for, as from Adam we receive a corrupt nature, so from Christ we receive a holy and divine nature: and as all our personal disobedience aggravates the guilt and condemnation which we derived from Adam; so our personal obedience, after we have been justified in Christ Jesus, enhances the degrees of glory to which we are entitled at the instant of our justification.

Now all this is plainly affirmed in our text: nay, it is, in the verses preceding our text, affirmed, that we receive more from Christ than ever we lost in Adam, verse 15-17. And this is a striking, and very important, truth. For,

FIRST, we are placed in a safer state than that which we lost in Adam. Adam was placed in a state of probation, to stand or fall by his own obedience; and, notwithstanding all his advantages, he fell, and ruined both himself and all his posterity. But we, when justified in Christ's righteousness, are given to him, that we may be kept by his power unto everlasting salvation: and he has expressly declared, that "none shall ever pluck us out of his hands."

NEXT, we are made to possess a better righteousness than any which we could ever have inherited from Adam: for if he had stood, and we had stood in him, and partaken of his righteousness for ever, we would still have had only the righteousness of a creature: but now we have, and shall have to all eternity, the righteousness of the Creator. Yes, "Jehovah himself is our righteousness:" and whereas, with a creature's righteousness, we could have claimed nothing, being only unprofitable servants, with the Creator's righteousness we may claim on the footing of justice as well as of mercy, all the glory of Heaven!

ONCE MORE: Our happiness is infinitely enhanced beyond anything it could ever have been, if we had stood in Adam. The felicity of Heaven would doubtless have been inconceivably great under any circumstances: but who can conceive what an addition it will receive from the consideration of its being the purchase of the Redeemer's blood, and the fruit of those eternal counsels by which the whole work of redemption was both planned and executed?

Thus then is the comparison between the first and second Adam shown to be strictly just; except indeed that the scale preponderates beyond all expression or conception in favor of the Lord Jesus, who has done "much more" for us than ever we lost in Adam; or than Adam, though he had continued sinless, ever could have done, either for himself or us.

But that this subject may produce a suitable impression on our minds, we will,

II. Suggest one or two reflections upon it—

It is much to be regretted, that the great mysteries of religion are but too often made the subjects of mere speculation. But every doctrine of Christianity should be practically improved, and especially a doctrine of such vital importance as that before us.

From the doctrine of our fall in Adam and our recovery in Christ, we cannot but observe,

1. How deep and unsearchable are the ways of God!

That ever our first parent would be constituted a federal head to his posterity, so that they would stand or fall in him, is in itself a stupendous mystery. And it may appear to have been an arbitrary appointment, injurious to the whole race of mankind. But we do not hesitate to say, that if the whole race of mankind had been created at once in precisely the same state and circumstances as Adam was, they would have been as willing to stand or fall in Adam, as to have their lot depend upon themselves; because they would have felt, that, while he possessed every advantage that they did, he had a strong inducement to steadfastness which they could not have felt, namely, the dependence of all his posterity upon his fidelity to God: and consequently, that their happiness would be more secure in his hands than in their own.

But if it could now be put to every human being to determine for himself this point; if the question were asked of every individual: Whether do you think it better that your happiness would depend on Adam, formed as he was in the full possession of all his faculties; subjected to only one temptation, and that in fact so small a temptation as scarcely to deserve the name; perfect in himself, and his only companion being perfect also, and no such thing as sin existing in the whole creation; whether would you prefer, I say, to depend on him, or on yourself, born into a world that lies in wickedness, surrounded with temptations innumerable, and having all your faculties only in a state of infantile weakness, so as to be scarcely capable of exercising with propriety either judgment or volition.

Would any one doubt a moment? Would not every person to whom such an option was given, account it an unspeakable mercy to have such a representative as Adam was, and to have his happiness depend on Adam, rather than on his own feeble capacity and power? There can be no doubt on this subject: for if Adam, in his more favorable circumstances, fell—then much more would we in circumstances where it was scarcely possible to stand. Still however, though we acknowledge it to be a gracious and merciful appointment, we must nevertheless regard it as a stupendous mystery.

But what shall we say of the appointment of the Lord Jesus Christ to be a second Covenant-Head, to deliver us by his obedience from the fatal effects of Adam's disobedience? Here we are perfectly lost in wonder and amazement. For consider, Who Jesus WAS? He was the co-equal, co-eternal Son of God.

Consider, What he undertook to DO? He undertook to suffer in our place and stead all that was due to us, and to confer on us his righteousness with all the glory that was due to him!

Consider farther, On what TERMS he confers this blessing upon us? He requires only that we believe in him: "Look unto me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth".

Consider yet farther, What provision he has made for the FINAL HAPPINESS of those who thus believe in him? He does not restore them to the state of trial in which Adam was originally placed, but to a state of comparative security, inasmuch as he himself undertakes to "perfect that which concerned them," and to be "the Finisher of faith" to those in whom he has been "the Author of it, Hebrews 12:2."

What an inscrutable mystery is here:

That such a person would be given; and such a righteousness be wrought out by him!

That a saving interest in this righteousness would be conferred on such easy terms!

And lastly, that such security would be provided for all his believing people!

Well might the Apostle say, "Great is the mystery of godliness:" and well may all the angels in Heaven occupy themselves, as they do continually, in searching into it with the profoundest adoration! 1 Timothy 3:16.

Let us then contemplate these wonders with holy awe. Let us not make them a theme for disputation, but a subject of incessant admiration, gratitude, and praise.

2. How obvious and urgent is the duty of man!

Here we are in the situation of fellow-creatures, wholly incapable of saving ourselves, and shut up to the way of salvation provided for us in the Gospel. God does not consult us, or ask our approbation of his plans. He calls us, not to give our opinion, but to accept his offered mercy. To dispute, or sit in judgment on his dispensations, is vain.

We are like shipwrecked persons, ready to perish in the great deep. When the ship is just on the point of sinking, it is no time to complain, that our lives, by the laws of navigation, were made to depend on the skill of the captain; or that the management of the vessel had not been committed to ourselves; or that God, when he formed the world, placed a rock in that particular situation, notwithstanding he foresaw, from all eternity, that our ship would be wrecked upon it. All such thoughts at that time would be vain: our only consideration under such circumstances would be, how shall I be saved from perishing?

And if we saw a ship hastening towards us for our preservation, we would be wholly occupied in contriving how we might secure the offered aid.

This, I say, is precisely our case: we are lost in Adam; but that God, who foresaw that we would be wrecked in him, provided his only dear Son to be a Savior to us; and has sent him to save all who feel their need of mercy, and are willing to enter into this ark of God.

Behold then, brethren, what your duty is: it is to "flee for refuge to the hope that is set before you." If you feel a rebellious thought arise: Why did God make me thus? Let it be answered in the way prescribed by the Apostle, "Nay but, O man, who are you that replies against God Romans 9:20." If you were not consulted about your dependence on Adam, were you consulted about the appointment of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the way of recovery by him? No! this was the unsolicited gift of God, who determined thus to glorify himself in blessing and exalting you. Embrace then, with all thankfulness, the salvation offered to you in the Gospel. Lay hold on Christ: rely upon him: place all your hope in his obedience unto death; seek for justification solely through his blood and righteousness: and expect to receive from him all, yes "exceeding abundantly above all that you can either ask or think." (The corruption that we derive from Adam, is a totally distinct subject from that treated of in the text; and on that account is left unnoticed here.)

 

#1844

THE ABUNDANT GRACE OF GOD

Romans 5:20-21.

"Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: that as sin has reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord."

FROM eternity God determined to glorify his grace: for this end he permitted sin to enter into the world. The publication of his law also promoted the same end: it served to show how awfully sin had abounded, and consequently to magnify that grace which destroyed sin. To this effect the Apostle speaks in the text and the words preceding it.

We shall endeavor to show,

I. How sin has abounded—

The transgression of Adam was of a very malignant nature!

In the whole preceding context, Adam's sin in particular is referred to, and it may well be considered as of a crimson dye.

It argued a contempt of God's goodness, which had bestowed so much upon him, Genesis 2:8-9.

It argued a doubt of God's veracity, which was engaged to inflict the penalty, Genesis 3:4.

It argued a rejection of God's authority, which forbad the eating of that fruit Genesis 2:17.

It argued an attempt to invade the peculiar prerogatives of God Genesis 3:5.

Surely in this single transgression, sin greatly abounded.

But sin spread also over the whole world—

Adam begat sons "in his own fallen likeness." All his descendants inherited his corruption, Job 14:4, and cast off the yoke which their Maker had imposed upon them: there was not so much as one single exception to be found Psalm 14:2-3. On this very account God once destroyed all but one family.

Sin had moreover prevailed in every heart to an awful degree—

Every faculty of men's souls was debased by it.

The understanding was blinded,

the will was made obstinate,

the conscience was seared,

all the "members of their bodies also were made instruments of unrighteousness."

There was not an imagination of their thoughts that was not evil, Genesis 6:5.

It even took occasion from the holy law of God to rage the more.

God gave his law to reveal and repress sin—but sin would not endure any restraint: it rose like water against the dam that obstructs its progress, Romans 7:8, and inflamed men both against the law, and against him who gave it. Thus, in using so good a law to so vile a purpose, it displayed its own exceeding sinfulness, Romans 7:13.

But God did not altogether abandon our wretched world!

II. How grace has much more abounded—

God determined that his grace would be victorious and that it would establish its throne on the ruins of the empire which sin had erected. For this purpose he gave us his Son to be a second Adam, Romans 5:14. 1 Corinthians 15:22; 1 Corinthians 15:45. He laid on him the curse due to our iniquities:

he enabled him to "bring in an everlasting righteousness:"

he accepted us in him as our new Covenant-Head:

he restores us through him to eternal life.

Thus the superabundance of his grace is manifest,

1. In the object attained—

The destruction of man for sin was certainly tremendous: yet was it no more than what was to be expected. The fallen angels had already been banished from Heaven. No wonder then if man was made a partaker of their misery.

But how beyond all expectation was the recovery of man! How wonderful that he would be restored, while a superior order of beings were left to perish; and be exalted to a throne of glory from whence they had been cast down! This was indeed a manifestation of most abundant grace.

2. In the method of attaining it—

Sin had reigned unto death by means of Adam, and certainly the destruction of the whole world for one sin argued a dreadful malignity in sin. Yet was there nothing in this unjust or unreasonable. If, instead of being represented by Adam, we had all undergone the same probation for ourselves, we have no reason to think that we would not have fallen, like him. If we had possessed exactly the same grace as he, and been subjected to the same temptation, we would have acted as he did. The constituting of him our representative was a great advantage to us, because he had much stronger inducements to fidelity than we could have: we would have been concerned only about ourselves; whereas he had the interests of all his posterity depending on him.

Besides, he met his temptation when all his powers were in a state of maturity, and when there was no evil example before him; whereas we would be tempted from our earliest infancy, and with the additional influence of bad examples.

But who could have thought that God would send us his own Son? That he would constitute him our new Covenant-Head and representative? That he would remove the curse of sin by His death? That he would accept sinners through his righteousness? That he would remedy by a second Adam what had been brought upon us by the first? This was a discovery of grace that infinitely transcends the comprehension of men or angels!

3. In the peculiar advantage with which it was attained—

If Adam had retained his innocence, we also would have stood in him as our representative. We would however have possessed only a creature's righteousness; but in Christ we possess the righteousness of God himself! 2 Corinthians 5:21. Our reward therefore may well be augmented in proportion to the excellence of that, for which we are accepted: besides, the glory of God is infinitely more displayed in Christ, than ever it would have been if Adam had not fallen! Our happiness therefore, in beholding it, must be greatly increased. Thus our restoration through Christ will bring us to the enjoyment of far greater happiness than ever we lost in Adam, Romans 5:15. This point is insisted on from verse 15 to 19. What can more fully manifest the superabounding grace of God?

Improvement—

1. For caution—

This doctrine seems liable to the imputation of licentiousness. Paul foresaw the objection, and answered it in Romans 6:1-2; his answer should satisfy every objector: but the reign of grace consists in destroying every effect of sin; therefore to indulge sin would be to counteract, and not to promote, the grace of God. Let the professors of religion however be careful to give no room for this objection: let them "put to silence the ignorance of foolish men by well-doing."

2. For encouragement—

How strange is it that any would despair of mercy! The infinite grace of God has been exhibited in many striking instances, Luke 7:47. 1 Timothy 1:14; 1 Timothy 1:16. Let us seek to become monuments of this mercy: let us not indeed "sin, that grace may abound;" but let us freely acknowledge how much sin has abounded in us, and yet expect through Christ "abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness."

 

#1845

THE GOSPEL SECURES THE PRACTICE OF HOLINESS

Romans 6:1-4.

"What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."

WE are told that "the Gospel was to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness;" while to all who had an experience of it in their souls, it was both "the power of God, and the wisdom of God, 1 Corinthians 1:23-24." The grounds on which the Jews and Greeks so greatly inveighed against it were various: its apparent contrariety to the revelation given by Moses rendered it offensive to the one; and its proposing to us a Savior, who appeared unable to save himself, rendered it contemptible to the other.

But there was one ground of offense which exposed it equally to the reprobation of all; and that was, the unfavorable aspect which it had in relation to holiness. Men of every religion were ready to cry out against it in this view: and therefore the Apostle, having stated the plan of the Gospel salvation with all possible clearness, takes up this objection, and gives an answer to it; such an answer, indeed, as neither Jews nor Gentiles could have anticipated; but such as must approve itself to all whom God enables to comprehend it.

From the words of my text, I will take occasion to show,

I. The supposed tendency of the Gospel to encourage sin—

The Gospel certainly, when stated as Paul stated it, has, to a superficial observer, this aspect—

It greatly magnifies the grace of God in the salvation of fallen man.

It sets forth that grace, in all its freeness, and in all its fullness.

It offers salvation freely, "without money and without price."

It offers salvation through the righteousness of another, even the righteousness of our incarnate God and Savior.

It offers salvation by faith alone, without works; saying, "To him who works not, but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness, Romans 4:5."

Nor does it make its offers to the most righteous only; but to all, not excepting even the vilest of mankind; saying, "Where sin has abounded—grace shall much more abound; that as sin has reigned unto death—so shall grace reign, through righteousness, unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord, Romans 5:20-21."

Hence men in every age have characterized it as licentious—

In Paul's day, many drew from his statements this inference, that, supposing his statements to be true, men might very safely "continue in sin, so that the grace of God," in pardoning it, "might be the more abundantly displayed." At this day also, wherever the Gospel is faithfully delivered, men bring the same objections against it. Because we offer salvation to the chief of sinners, saying, "All that believe shall be justified from all things! Acts 13:39," we appear to them to make light of sin. And because we declare that the good works of men make no part of a man's justifying righteousness; and that the best work that ever we performed would, if relied upon in ever so small a degree, not only not add anything to the work of Christ, but would invalidate and render void all that he ever did and suffered for us; we seem to make light of holiness; since we declare, that the evil we have committed shall never condemn, nor shall the good that we may do ever justify, the believing soul.

Men cannot imagine what inducement we can have to practice good works, if they are not to justify us; or to abstain from sin, if it may so easily be blotted out by one simple exercise of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Hence the whole Gospel appears to them a strange, unintelligible, and licentious doctrine; calculated only to mislead the simple, and palatable only to hypocrites and fanatics.

But, in answer to all such objections, I will show,

II. The security it gives for the practice of universal holiness—

Doubtless, nothing but divine grace can secure the practice of holiness: and, to a man destitute of that sanctifying principle, all sentiments, of whatever kind, will be ineffectual for the purification of his soul. A man may profess the greatest regard for good works—yet not perform them; or he may profess the greatest regard for Christ, and not render to him the obedience of the heart: on the contrary, he may "turn the grace of God into lasciviousness Jude, verse 4." But, so far as any principles can prevail, those of the Gospel, when embraced in their purity, will be found to produce holiness both of heart and life. So the Apostle declares, in answer to the objection before stated.

To enter fully into the Apostle's argument, see what a man professes at his first entrance into the Church of Christ—

He is "baptized into Christ:" into Christ, "as dying for his offenses, and as raised again for his justification, Romans 4:25." To the Savior, so dying and so rising, he feels himself bound to be conformed; dying to sin, as He died for sin; and rising, like him, to a new and heavenly life, verse 8-11. His immersion, at the time of his baptism, represented this to him: and he, in submitting to it, pledged himself to seek the experience of this change in his soul, and never to rest until he shall have attained it.

Christ, after his crucifixion, was buried: and in baptism the believer is "buried with Christ;" and engages to become as separate from all his former lusts, as Christ was from all the concerns of this perishing world. And the same power that wrought in Christ, to raise him from the dead, works effectually in his soul, to accomplish in him this wondrous renovation after the Divine image. "Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father;" and by the same glorious power the believer is enabled to "walk in newness of life."

Now, all this a man professes in his baptism: he then, in the sight of God and of the world, acknowledges these to be his most decided sentiments, and his unalterable obligations. He declares, before all, that he owes everything to Christ, and is bound to employ every faculty of his soul for Christ; "living altogether for that Savior who died for him and rose again, Romans 14:7-8."

Now mark what aspect this profession must have on all his future life—

I grant, that he may be drawn aside from the path of duty, and go back to all the evil courses from which he professes to have been delivered, 2 Peter 1:9; 2 Peter 2:20. But, in the midst of all he must say, 'This course of life does not proceed from my Christian principles; nor is it in accordance with them. No! it is altogether in opposition to my avowed sentiments, and is one continued violation of my most solemn engagements. The Gospel is not to be blamed for what I do, any more than it was for the sins of Judas or of Peter, of Ananias or of Demas, or of any other person that ever dishonored his Christian calling.'

In a word, the man who has been baptized into the faith of Christ bears in the face of the whole world this unequivocal testimony: "The grace of God, which brings salvation, teaches me, that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, I should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world:" and, if it produces not this effect, the fault is in myself alone.

Now, I look upon this as a complete answer to the objection in my text. I admit that a person professing the principles of the Gospel may walk unworthy of them: but I utterly deny that the Gospel has anything in it to encourage such a life: on the contrary, I assert, that a man's entrance into the Church by baptism is an open acknowledgment that a very different life befits him; and that he cannot depart from holiness without expressly contravening all his principles and all his obligations.

APPLICATION—

1. Is there now anyone who entertains the objection here made against the Gospel?

Alas! there are many who will falsely represent the preachers of the Gospel as saying to their hearers, "Only believe; and you may live as you please." But methinks there is not one, among all this host of objectors, who believes his own statement. For it is a notorious fact, that those very persons, who decry our ministry as encouraging licentiousness, will, with the very next breath, cry out against us, as making the way to Heaven so strait, that none but a few enthusiasts can walk in it.

But, supposing them to be sincere, they only betray their own ignorance. Paul says in my text, "Know you not, that so many of us as were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death?" No! they know nothing of the matter: they know nothing of the Christian's principles; nor do they at all consider his obligations.

The Christian never accounts himself free from the moral government of the law, though he knows himself free from its condemning sentence. On the contrary, he feels a thousand motives for obedience, which a mere self-righteous moralist has no idea of: and if a proposal were made to him to "sin, that grace might abound," he would reply with indignation and abhorrence, "God forbid!"

To you, then, I say, be diligent in your inquiries, and candid in your judgment. Where, among the self-righteous moralists, did you ever find such attainments in holiness as in the Apostle Paul? These attainments were the genuine fruit of his principles; as he himself has told us: "The love of Christ constrains us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead; and that he died for all, that those who live would not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him who died for them, and rose again, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15." Only receive the Gospel as he preached it; and it shall operate in you as it did in the Churches which were planted by him.

2. Is there anyone here who, by his conduct, gives occasion for this objection?

That there is not any avowed Antinomian among us, I can easily believe: but are there not those who, by their ungoverned tempers, or their covetous practices, or their unholy lives, "give occasion to the enemies of religion to blaspheme," and to "speak evil of the truths" which Paul preached?

Ah! brethren, if there are one such person in the midst of us, let him remember what our blessed Lord has said: "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses will come: but woe unto him by whom they come: for it were better that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were cast into the midst of the sea, than that he would offend one of God's little ones! Luke 17:1-2."

It is a lamentable fact, that one man who dishonors the Gospel by an unholy conduct, does more injury to the souls of men, than ten holy men can do them good. Everyone, however blind to the excellencies of the godly, has his eyes open to behold the faults of those who profess godliness; yes, and his mouth open too, to report and aggravate all the evil that he has either seen or heard: for it is by this that worldly men seek to justify themselves in their contempt of a religion which is so disgraced. I charge you then, my dear brethren, guard against everything which can produce these fatal effects; and beg of God rather to cut you off from the earth at once, than to allow you to become a stumbling-block to the world, and a scandal to his Church.

3. I trust there are those present who bear in mind and exemplify their baptismal vows—

Yes, I hope there are among us many who "walk worthy of their high calling," and "adorn the doctrine of God our Savior" by a holy and heavenly conduct. To such persons I would say, be steadfast in your course, and endeavor to "abound more and more." And, that you may see what heights are to be attained, set the Lord Jesus Christ before you both in his death and resurrection; that, "being planted in the likeness of the one, you may be also in the likeness of the other, verse 5."

What had he to do with the cares or pleasures of this world, when he was "buried" in the grave? Or when has a moment's intermission of his services to God occurred, since his resurrection from the dead? Let this, then, be your pattern, both in your death unto sin, and in your living unto righteousness: and, as you acknowledge yourselves to have "been bought with a price, seek and labor to glorify Him with your bodies and your spirits, which are his! 1 Corinthians 6:20."

 

#1846

THE CHRISTIAN RISEN WITH CHRIST IN NEWNESS OF LIFE

Romans 6:8-11.

"Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus."

THE Gospel in every age, when freely and faithfully delivered, has been calumniated as injurious to morality. But Paul, though he well knew how his doctrines would be misrepresented, did not on that account mutilate the Gospel, or declare it less freely than it had been revealed to him: he proclaimed salvation altogether by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, without any works or deservings on our part: but at the same time he showed that good works, though excluded from any share in justifying the soul, would of necessity be practiced by every believer; because the believer, by his very profession, was, and could not but be, "dead unto sin, and alive unto righteousness."

He showed that there would of necessity be in the believer's soul a conformity to his Lord and Savior, since he bound himself to it in his baptismal engagements, or rather professed to have the actual experience of it before he was baptized; so that he must be a hypocrite, and no true believer, if he was not holy both in heart and life. To this effect he speaks in the whole of the preceding context, verse 1-7; and in the words which we have just read, he confirms the idea, and founds upon it an animated exhortation.

To elucidate this difficult, but important subject, we shall consider,

I. The truth he assumes—

He takes it for granted that the believer is "dead with Christ." The believer, by virtue of his union with Christ, partakes in all that Christ either did or suffered for him. Was Christ crucified, dead, and buried? The believer also is crucified, dead, and buried. Only Christ underwent this in his body; whereas the believer experiences it in his soul. The believer has what is called "the old man," or "the body of sin:" and this it is which undergoes a change equivalent to that which Christ experienced in his mortal body. This old man is "crucified." Crucifixion was a long protracted punishment: but though the death of the crucified person was slow and gradual, it was sure. It is in this way that "the old man," or "the body of sin," in the believer, is destroyed: he is not so instantly slain, as never to move again: but it is nailed to the cross: it is gradually weakened: and, in the purpose and intention and determination of the believer, it is as really dead, as if it were already altogether annihilated.

The believer, at his baptism, considered this as solemnly engaged for on his part, and as shadowed forth, yes, and as pledged also to him on the part of God, in the rite itself: "he was baptized into Christ's death, and buried, as it were, with Christ by baptism into death." This was his profession; and this is his obligation: and wherever true and saving faith exists in the soul, this profession is realized, and this obligation performed.

Hence it may be assumed as a universal truth, that, as a scion participates in the state of the stock into which it has been engrafted, so the believer, engrafted as he is into a crucified Savior, "is planted together with him in the likeness of his death," or, in other words, is "dead with Christ."

In close connection with this is,

II. The persuasion he intimates—

"We believe," says he, "that we shall also live with him."

It is not in his death only that the believer is conformed to Christ, but in his resurrection also. As the believer has an "old man," which dies, so he has also "a new man," which lives: and in the latter, no less than in the former, he resembles Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ, in his risen and ascended state, lives with God, and to God, employing for his God and Father all the power that has been committed to him.

Thus the believer lives in a state of intimate fellowship with God, consecrating to him all his newly-acquired powers, and improving for him every faculty that he possesses. This is his privilege, no less than his duty: and therefore we may be fully persuaded that the weakest believer, if truly upright, shall attain this high and honorable employment.

This persuasion is founded on a firm and solid basis—

We "know that Christ dies no more." Those whom he raised to life, as Lazarus and others, were constrained at last to pay the debt which our nature owes, and to yield to the stroke of death: but "over Christ, death has no more dominion." He so fully expiated sin, that none of its penal consequences attach to him any longer. But the life which he possesses has both perpetuity and perfection, being wholly and eternally devoted to the care of his people, and the honor of his heavenly Father. And here is the believer's security: "Because Christ lives, he shall live also, John 14:19." The believer's "life is hid with Christ in God;" yes, "Christ himself is his life:" and therefore we may be assured, that his believing people shall be preserved to "appear with him in glory! Colossians 3:3-4." We do live in him: and therefore we shall live with him for evermore.

From hence is deduced,

III. The duty he inculcates—

"Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord." This would be a point fixed and settled in our minds: I am a Christian. I am dead to sin. I have no more to do with "my former lusts in my ignorance, 1 Peter 1:14; 1 Peter 4:2-3," than Christ himself has with the "sins which he once bore in his own body on the tree." "The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life," have no more charms for me, 1 John 2:15-16. Those "lords which once had dominion over me," are now dead; and I am liberated from their yoke. This is the precise idea contained in verse 7.

As a Christian, I possess a new and heavenly life: I am alive unto God, as Christ himself is; and must live unto God, as Christ himself does. There is not an act performed by Christ either in providence or grace, which has not respect to the glory of his Father: so, "whether I eat, or drink, or whatever I do, I must do all to the glory of God, 1 Corinthians 10:31."

As for being satisfied with any lower standard, it is impossible: my Christian profession utterly forbids it. Those who seek to be justified by their works, may be satisfied with such a quota of works as shall, in their apprehension, screen them from punishment; but I can be satisfied with nothing but a perfect conformity to Christ. My lusts that are crucified, shall never (God helping me) come down from the cross: there they are doomed to perish: and the sooner they die, the better. My new life shall be spent as Christ's is, in executing the office assigned me, and in glorifying my God.

Christians, this is the state to which you are to aspire; and if you rest in anything short of this, you are not worthy of the Christian name.

In this subject we may see,

1. The proper tendency of the Gospel—

The proper tendency of the Gospel is, to "sanctify us wholly," and to make us pure, as Christ himself is pure, 1 Thessalonians 5:23. 1 John 3:3. And let the enemies of the Gospel calumniate it ever so much as tending to licentiousness, they show that they believe it to be a doctrine according to godliness, by the excessive offense which they take at the smallest inconsistency in the Christian's conduct. If they did not know that his principles required, and tended to, the highest possible perfection, why are they so offended, and why do they exult so much, at the smallest imperfection? The proper tendency of the Gospel then is holiness, the enemies themselves being judges.

2. The true criterion whereby to judge of our faith in Christ—

We will not disparage other parts of Christian experience; but the only safe test whereby to try ourselves, is, the degree in which we are dead to sin, and alive to God: "The tree must be known by its fruits".

3. The connection between our duty and our happiness—

We have fixed the standard of Christian duty high. True, but does any one doubt, whether such a conformity to Christ is not also our truest happiness? Truly, Heaven itself consists in this: "We shall be like him, when we shall see him as he is! 1 John 3:2."

 

#1847

A PROMISE OF VICTORY OVER SIN

Romans 6:14.

"Sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace."

IT is often made a ground of objection against the Gospel, that it is unfavorable to morality. But the very reverse of this is true; for the Gospel not only inculcates moral duties as strictly as the law itself, but suggests far stronger motives for the performance of them, and even provides strength whereby we shall be enabled to perform them.

A great part of this epistle was written on purpose to establish the doctrine of justification by faith: and yet here is one whole chapter devoted entirely to the enforcing of universal holiness, and to the removing of all ground for the objection before referred to: and in the text an express declaration is given, as from God himself, that sin shall never regain its ascendency over the hearts of his people. We shall consider,

I. The promise here given to us—

The promise is express, and relates to our deliverance from sin, of whatever kind it be—

Sin of almost every kind has dominion over the unregenerate man. All persons indeed are not addicted to the same lusts; nor do they gratify any one lust in the same degree: but the seeds of all evil are in the hearts of all men; and if any person abstains from any particular act of sin, it is rather because he is not strongly tempted to commit it, than because he has not a propensity to commit it; and it is universally found, that the sins which are peculiar to our age, our constitution, our situation and circumstances in life, do habitually get the dominion over us. But God promises, that it shall not be so with his people; that they shall be delivered from this ignominious bondage; and be enabled to resist the solicitations of appetite and passion.

We must not however imagine that this promise extends to absolute perfection: for, however desirable the attainment of perfection might be in some points of view, it is not the lot of any in this world. Even the most eminent of God's saints have failed, and that too, in those very points wherein their peculiar eminence consisted: Abraham, Moses, Job, and all others, have proved sufficiently, "that there is not a just man on earth who lives and sins not:" and that, "if any say they have no sin, they deceive themselves, and the truth is not in them."

Nor does the Apostle mean that sin, even of a grosser kind, shall never, in any instance, be found in a child of God; for, as "in many things we all offend," so, under the influence of strong temptation, we may act very unsuitably to our holy calling: Noah, Lot, David, Solomon, afford melancholy proofs of such weakness and depravity.

But this is asserted in the text, and attested by the universal voice of Scripture, that no child of God shall ever give himself up to the willful and habitual indulgence of any one sin whatever. No! every child of God will watch against sin in the heart, as well as in the act; and will pray and fight against it to the last hour of his life. And the reason why he never can sin in the same willful and habitual way that he did before, is, that he has the seed of God, or a living principle of grace, within him, that constantly impels him to hate and flee from all iniquity, 1 John 3:9; and, "because he is Christ's, he cannot but daily crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts".

The limiting of this promise to believers leads us to show,

II. Its connection with our new-covenant state—

Believers are "no longer under the law but under grace"—

Once they were, like others, under a covenant, which cursed them for disobedience, but afforded them no hope of pardon for past offenses, nor any means of resisting sin in the future. But now they have embraced that better covenant, the covenant of grace, wherein God offers them a full remission of all their former sins, and assures them that he himself will give them grace sufficient in every time of need. On this promise they rely, knowing by bitter experience that they have not in themselves a sufficiency even to think a good thought, and that God alone can give them either to will or to do any good thing.

It is on this very account that God guarantees to them, if we may so speak, the attainment of universal holiness—

By embracing God's covenant, they become his children, members of his family, and heirs of his glory. Now God's honor is concerned that his own children shall not be left in bondage to the devil: Besides, after having made them heirs of his glory, he never will leave them under the power of a corrupt nature; because that would incapacitate them for the fruition of his glory, even if they were admitted to a participation of it: an unholy nature would utterly unfit them for the services and enjoyments of Heaven.

But there is yet another reason why God fulfills this promise to them; God has made it a part of his covenant, that he will cleanse his people from all their filthiness and all their idols, Ezekiel 36:25-27; and pledged his word that he will not only forgive all their sins, but cleanse them from all unrighteousness 1 John 1:9. Now this promise they rest upon, and plead as their only hope; and will God, who cannot lie, rescind it? No! he will fulfill it to them in the time and manner that he judges most conducive to his own glory.

To improve this subject, let us observe that,

1. To lay hold on this covenant should be the first great object of our lives—

Where else shall we find deliverance from the judgments denounced against us for our violations of the first covenant, or obtain strength for our obedience to God's holy will? All efforts of our own will be utterly in vain; it is Christ alone who can effect either the one or the other of these things; and it is only by looking to him, and laying hold of his covenant, that we can obtain these blessings at his hands.

But let us once obtain a saving interest in him, and all these things are ours; pardon, peace, holiness, glory—all are ours, the very instant we believe in him. What then can be put in competition with this? Truly all the things of time and sense sink into utter insignificance, when compared with this: and therefore let us regard this as the one thing needful, and make it the one object of our whole lives to be found in Christ, and to secure the blessings which he has purchased for us.

2. None, however, can have any interest in the covenant of grace who do not experience deliverance from sin—

Though no man is admitted into the covenant of grace on account of any holiness that there is in him—yet none are left unholy after they have been admitted into it. "That very grace of God which brings us salvation, teaches us to deny every species and degree of ungodliness! Titus 2:11-12." To fail in this would be to defeat a principal end of Christ's death, Titus 2:14. If there be any allowed sin in us, we deceive ourselves, and our religion is vain, James 1:26.

3. But none have any reason to despair on account of the inveteracy of their lusts—

Were it required of us to purify our hearts by any exertions of our own, we might well despair. But holiness is not only enjoined—it is promised; it is promised by Him, who is able also to perform. Let none then say, "My wound is incurable!" for with God all things are possible: and we, however weak in ourselves, shall be "able to do all things through Christ who strengthened us." If we were at this instant led captive by ten thousand lusts, no sin whatever would have dominion over us in the future, provided only we took refuge in the covenant of grace.

4. Nevertheless, this promise does not supersede the necessity of prayer and watchfulness on our part—

God's promises are free; "yet will he be inquired of by us before he will perform them." Nor are we at liberty to run into temptation because he has promised to keep us; for that would be to tempt him: but, in the exercise of prayer and watchfulness, he will keep us. If Paul, that chosen vessel, was obliged to keep his body under control, and to bring it into subjection, lest he himself would be a cast-away, surely the same care and diligence are necessary on our part. It is our comfort however, that, while we run, "we do not run as uncertainly;" and while "we fight, it is not as one who only beats the air, 1 Corinthians 9:26;" for victory is secured for us, and God himself "will bruise Satan under our feet shortly," and preserve us blameless to his heavenly kingdom.

 

#1848

CONVERSION A GROUND OF THANKSGIVING

Romans 6:17.

"But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted."

EXEMPTION from the punishment of sin is doubtless an inestimable blessing; but deliverance from its power is equally precious. The most advanced Christians greatly delight in this part of salvation. Hence Paul thanks God for bestowing this mercy on the Church at Rome. We shall consider from the text,

I. The character of all while in an unconverted state—

All are "servants of sin" until they receive converting grace—

All indeed are not slaves to the same sin.

Some are led captive by their lusts and passions.

Others are drawn away by the pleasures and vanities of the world.

Others are under the dominion of pride and self-righteousness.

All, without exception, are alienated from the life of God, Ephesians 4:18; all are full of unbelief and self-sufficiency.

This, however humiliating, is an indisputable truth—

The Scriptures everywhere assert this respecting fallen man, John 8:34. Romans 6:16 with the text. The most eminent saints confess it to have been their own case, Titus 3:3; experience proves it with respect to ourselves. The very excuse which men offer in extenuation of their sins, namely, "that they cannot live as God requires," establishes this truth.

But it does not remain so in regenerate persons; as appears from,

II. The change they experience in conversion—

God instructs them in "the form of sound doctrine"—

There is in Scripture a "form of sound doctrine." This in all its parts is set before them. They are enlightened by the Spirit to understand it: they have it applied with divine efficacy to their souls.

This form of doctrine they "obey from the heart"—

They yet indeed feel a law of sin in their members; but "they no more serve sin" willingly as before: on the contrary, "they now delight in the law of God." They obey it, not in appearance only or by constraint, but willingly and without reserve.

They are now cast, as it were, into the mold of the Gospel—

This is also the case, wherever the Gospel takes effect, Colossians 1:6. The wax has every lineament of the seal, and the coin has every lineament of the die: so do they resemble God, who are renewed by the Gospel, 2 Corinthians 3:18.

The blessedness of this change will appear if we consider,

III. How great a cause of thankfulness such a conversion is—

The Apostle thanks God that they were no longer slaves of sin—

Sin is at all times a ground of shame and sorrow, Romans 6:21. Paul esteemed it so in his own particular case, 1 Timothy 1:13; every saint of God views it in the same light. Paul therefore did not mean that their subjection to it was a ground of thankfulness; but the subject of his thanksgiving is, that the Romans, who once were slaves of sin, were now radically devoted to God.

This is a ground of unspeakable thankfulness on many accounts:

1. On account of the moral change in the persons themselves—

What can be more deplorable than to be a slave of sin? What can be more truly blessed than to have all our actions and affections corresponding with the word of God? Surely this is a ground of thankfulness.

2. On account of the effects of this change on society—

How much better member of society must a child of God be than a slave of sin! How much happier would the world be, if such a change were general! On this account therefore it became the Apostle to be thankful.

3. On account of the eternal consequences that must follow this change—

Those who die as slaves of sin must suffer its punishment. They are now the children of the devil, and must soon be his companions in misery, John 8:44. But the regenerate are children and heirs of God. Surely eternity will scarcely suffice to thank God for this.

We shall conclude with a suitable ADDRESS—

1. To the unregenerate

All who have not been freed from sin are of this number. Alas! the friends of such have little cause to thank God for them: they have rather reason to weep and mourn, Jeremiah 13:17; they may indeed bless God that the stroke of vengeance has been delayed. O that all such persons might know the day of their visitation! Let all cry to God for his converting grace: nor let any rest in an external or partial change. Nothing but a cordial compliance with the Gospel, and a real conformity to it, will avail us in the day of judgment.

2. To the regenerate

The foregoing marks have sufficiently characterized these persons. Such persons will do well to reflect on the mercy they have received:

The recollection of their past guilt will serve to keep them humble.

A consciousness of their remaining infirmities will make them watchful.

A view of the change wrought in them will make them thankful.

Let the regenerate then adopt the words of the Psalmist, Psalm 103:1-3.

Let them beware of ever returning to their former ways, 2 Peter 2:20-21.

Let them press forward for higher degrees of holiness and glory, Philippians 3:13-14.

3. To those who doubt to which class they belong—

Many, from what has been wrought in them, have reason to hope; yet, from what still remains to be done, they find reason to fear. Hence they are long in painful suspense. But let such remember, that sin, if truly lamented and resisted, does not prove them unregenerate, James 3:2; on the contrary, their hatred of it, and opposition to it, are hopeful signs that they are in part renewed. Nevertheless, let them endeavor to put this matter beyond a doubt, 2 Peter 1:10. Let them look to Christ as their almighty deliverer, John 8:36; let them pray for, and depend upon, his promised aid, 2 Corinthians 12:9.

 

 

#1849

THE UNPROFITABLENESS AND FOLLY OF SIN

Romans 6:21.

"What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!"

AS an appeal to the judgment of men is, when just, the most powerful mode of silencing the contentious, so an appeal to their conscience is the strongest possible method of convincing the ignorant, and of humbling the proud.

With such kinds of argumentation the Scripture abounds. God himself appeals to his apostate people: "What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and become vain?" "Have I been a wilderness to Israel? Jeremiah 2:5; Jeremiah 2:31."

Thus, in the passage before us, Paul, laboring to impress the Christians at Rome with a sense of the indispensable necessity of renouncing all their former ways, and devoting themselves wholly to the Lord, puts to them this pungent question, "What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!" To answer this question, no strength of intellect, no extent of information, is required: nothing is lacking but an honest and upright heart. The poor, as well as the rich, can tell whether they have been happy in the ways of sin: to the one therefore as well as to the other, we would address the language of our text; entreating every one to consult the records of his own conscience, and to answer to himself the question, as in the presence of his God.

The points respecting which we would make our appeal to all, are,

I. The unprofitableness of sin, as learned by experience—

Whether men have drunk deep of the cup of pleasure, or have followed their earthly inclinations with more measured steps, we would ask, in reference to all their former ways,

1. What benefit did you reap at the time?

Sin, previous to the commission of it, promises much; but what solid satisfaction has it ever afforded us? Suppose a man to have had all the means of gratification that Solomon ever possessed, and, like him, to have withheld his heart from no joy; still, we would ask him, Was your pleasure of any long duration? Was it without alloy? Is not that true which Solomon has said, "Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful, and the end of that mirth is heaviness, Proverbs 14:13." I doubt not but that every man who will faithfully relate his own experience, "Laughter," I said, "is foolish. And what does pleasure accomplish? Ecclesiastes 2:2."

A similar testimony must be given by those who have been the most sober and discreet. They have not, it is true, the same measure of guilt upon their consciences, as they would have had, if, like the others, they had "run into every excess of riot" but if, as must he confessed by all, they have lived to themselves, and not unto the Lord, we must put the same question to them: Have you found real happiness in your ways? Have you not, in the midst of all your self-delight, had a secret consciousness that you were not prepared for death and judgment? Did not that consciousness embitter your lives, so far at least, that you could not bear to think of the state of your souls, and the realities of the eternal world?

God has said, that "the wicked are like the troubled sea when it cannot rest, which casts up mire and dirt." Whatever peace therefore you have felt has been a false peace, which in reality rendered you more miserable, in proportion as it hid your misery from your view. "There is no peace, says my God, to the wicked! Isaiah 57:20-21."

2. What benefit have you in the retrospect?

Supposing sin to have made us ever so happy at the time, how does it appear when we look back upon it? Is not that which was "rolled as a sweet morsel under the tongue, become as gall in the stomach?" Would not the voluptuary be well pleased on the whole, that the criminal excesses of his former life had never been committed? Would he not be well satisfied to have lost the gratifications, if he could expunge from his conscience and from the book of God's remembrance, the guilt which they have entailed upon him?

And if the man who has sought his happiness in less criminal enjoyments, but has wasted in mere earthly pursuits the time that was given him to prepare for eternity, could recall his misspent hours, would he not rather that they would have been spent in seeking the things belonging to his eternal peace? Though he may not look with delight on a pious character who has given up himself unreservedly to God, does he not secretly reverence that man, and wish that his latter end might be like his?

3. What benefit have you in the prospect of your account at the solemn day of judgement?

If ever we look forward to death and judgment, what do we think of a sensual or worldly life in reference to those seasons? Will it afford us any pleasure in a dying hour, to reflect, that we have, on such and such occasions, gratified our criminal desires, or indulged in reveling and excess?

Or will a life of mere external decency afford us comfort, when we consider how we have neglected God and our own souls?

Shall we not then wish that we had paid more attention to the Savior, and lived under the influence of his blessed Spirit?

Still more, when standing at the judgment-seat of Christ, will it be any joy to us, that, while in this world, we took so little pains to obtain mercy from the Lord, and to secure his favor?

Alas! alas! How will a carnal or worldly life then appear? Would to God, that we would view things now, as we shall surely view them in that day!

Instructed by these lessons of experience, let us proceed to contemplate,

II. The folly of sin, as taught us by grace—

The very first effect of grace is to humble us before God. The more enlarged our views are of our past transgressions, the more shall we blush and be confounded in the remembrance of them. Of every true Christian it may with certainty be affirmed, that, like Job, he "abhors himself, and repents in dust and ashes!" He is "ashamed,"

1. That he has so requited the goodness of his God—

In an unconverted state, men can receive innumerable blessings at the Lord's hand, and never consider from whence they flow. Even the great work of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ is not regarded as any sufficient incentive to love and serve him. But no sooner does grace enter into the soul, than all the wonders of God's love and mercy are seen in their proper colors; and the man is amazed at his more than brutish ingratitude! How wonderful does it appear, that God would so love him as to give his only dear Son to die for him; and yet that he would live all his days in an utter contempt of that stupendous mystery, trampling on that precious blood that was shed to cleanse him from sin, and doing despite to that blessed Spirit, who strove to bring him to repentance! Truly, that expression of Agur is adopted by him, not as a hyperbole, but as a just representation of his case; "I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man! Proverbs 30:2." The circumstance of his being forgiven is so far from obliterating this sense of his baseness, that it renders the feeling of it incomparably more poignant; according as the Prophet Ezekiel has said, "Then shall you loath yourselves for all your iniquities, and for all your abominations, after that I am pacified towards you, says the Lord."

2. That he has bartered for such trifles an immortal soul—

The loss of the soul is scarcely thought of, when the fascinations of sin are strongly felt. But after a man is awakened to see that "the end of these things is death," then what folly and madness does a life of sin appear! Even if the whole world could have been gained, it would be regarded as of no value in comparison with the soul: how empty and vain do such trifles as he has obtained then appear, when for the enjoyment of them his eternal interests have been sacrificed, and the everlasting wrath of God incurred!

The folly of Esau in selling his birthright for a bowl of lentil stew, may be considered as wisdom in comparison with his, in selling Heaven and his immortal soul for the transient pleasures of sin: and, if an irrevocable sentence of exclusion from the heavenly inheritance is passed upon him, he is ready to acknowledge the justice of it, or, like the man without the wedding garment, to confess by silence the equity of God's judgments.

ADDRESS—

1. Those who are yet seeking their happiness in the creature—

We need not here discriminate between different degrees of guilt. It is sufficient for our condemnation that we have lived to ourselves rather than to God. Whatever we may have had recourse to for consolation, it has proved only like the husks with which the Prodigal sought to satisfy the cravings of nature: nothing but the bread that is in our Father's house can ever satisfy an immortal soul. O let us think, What must be the consequence of living at a distance from God! See Jeremiah 6:15-16. Speak not peace to yourselves in such a state! Well does Peter say, "What must the end be of those who obey not the Gospel of God?" Only let the end of our course of living be kept in view, and we shall see the folly and madness of every pursuit that has not an immediate tendency to secure the blessedness of Heaven.

2. Those who are seeking their happiness in God—

You have no reason to be ashamed of the fruit which you have gathered. At the time that you have been serving God, you have found "the work of righteousness to be peace," and, that "in keeping God's commandments there is great reward."

In the retrospect of a life devoted to God, there is the purest joy. "Our rejoicing," says Paul, "is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity we have had our conduct in the world."

And O! what comfort is there in the prospect of our great account! We know that "if we have our fruit unto holiness, our end will be everlasting life!" And if in our last hours we can say with Paul, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith," then we may add with him, "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous Judge shall give me."

Go on then, brethren, "strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might." We congratulate you that you have learned to blush and to be ashamed of all your former ways: and we would, as we are specially instructed by God himself, urge you to a most careful observance of all the commandments of your God. This is the way to preserve a good conscience before him; and so acting, "you will not be ashamed before him at his coming! 1 John 2:28."

 

#1850

MAN'S DESERT, AND GOD'S GRACE

Romans 6:23.

"The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

THE distribution of rewards and punishments in the day of judgment will be in perfect agreement with the works of men; the righteous will be exalted to happiness; the wicked will be doomed to misery. The Gospel makes no difference with respect to this: it provides relief for the penitent, but rather aggravates than removes the condemnation of the impenitent. But it opens to us an important fact: namely, that the punishment of the ungodly is the proper fruit and deserved recompense of their own works. Whereas the reward bestowed upon the godly is a free unmerited gift of God for Christ's sake.

The Apostle has been showing, throughout this whole chapter, that the Gospel increases, instead of relaxing, our obligation to good works; and that it will avail for the salvation of those only who "have their fruit unto holiness:" but in the text he assures us, that those who are saved will be saved by mere grace; whereas those who perish will perish utterly through their own demerit.

In the words before us, we have a short, but accurate, description of,

I. Man's desert—

By "death," we must understand everlasting misery—

It is a truth that temporal death was introduced by sin: but that cannot be the whole that is meant by the Apostle in the text, because the "death" procured by sin stands in direct opposition to the "life" which is bestowed by God, which is expressly said to be "eternal." By "death" therefore we understand an everlasting banishment from God's presence, together with a "suffering of his vengeance in eternal fire."

This is the penalty that is due to sin—

It is in vain that people endeavor to soften down the expressions of Scripture upon this subject, and to substitute annihilation for eternal misery. Our blessed Lord, in his account of the judgment-day, declares that he himself, as the Judge of the living and dead, will doom the wicked to a participation of the misery inflicted on the fallen angels, and that their punishment shall be of the very same duration with the happiness of the righteous, Matthew 25:41; Matthew 25:46. See also Mark 9:43-48.

Nor is this more than the real desert of sin. The word we translate "wages," means "provisions" which in the earlier part of the Roman empire constituted the only pay of soldiers: and it must be confessed that a soldier's pay, at the best, is but a very moderate compensation for the dangers and fatigues of war: his wages are certainly no higher than justice demands. Thus the penal evil of damnation is no more than a just recompense for the moral evil of sin—it is the "wages" due to sin.

It is worthy of remark also, that this awful doom is not spoken of as the penalty of many or of great sins, but of "sin," of every sin, whether great or small. Every "transgression of God's holy law is sin, 1 John 3:4;" and, though all sins are not of equal malignity, there is not any sin which does not deserve God's wrath and fiery indignation, or against which an everlasting curse is not denounced, Galatians 3:10.

How dreadful then is the desert of every man, of the more moral and decent, as well as of the immoral and profane! for "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" and therefore all are deserving the punishment of sin, eternal damnation.

Let us now turn our thoughts to a more pleasing subject, namely,

II. God's grace—

Notwithstanding our desert of eternal punishment, God has offered to us everlasting life—

"He is not willing that any would perish, but that all would come to repentance and live." He has opened the gates of Heaven, and invited sinners of every description to enter in. Nor has he required anything to be done in order to purchase an admittance into it: he offers it freely, as a "gift" to all who will accept it. His invitation is to all who wish for it, to those also who have no money, to come and receive it at his hands "without money, and without price! Isaiah 55:1."

In this he has strongly marked the different grounds of a sinner's condemnation, and a saint's acceptance.

Eternal misery is awarded to the one, as "wages earned".

Eternal happiness is conferred upon the other, as a "gift bestowed".

Indeed our minds must be humbled: and we must be willing to accept salvation as a gift: for, if we carry any price whatever in our hands, we cut ourselves off from all hope of obtaining the desired blessing, Galatians 5:2; Galatians 5:4.

This gift however is bestowed only "through the Lord Jesus Christ"—

All possibility of regaining happiness by the covenant of works was prevented by the very terms of that covenant: in token of which, the way to the tree of life was obstructed by a fiery sword! Genesis 3:24. But another, and a better "way, is opened to it through the Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we may have boldness, and access with confidence" into the presence of our God! Hebrews 10:19-20. Through him, as a Mediator, God can exercise mercy towards us in perfect consistency with his own honor; and through him, as the appointed channel, God will convey to us all the blessings of grace and glory. But then he expects that we come to him through Christ, and receive his blessings from Christ: for, as there is no other way unto the Father but through the Son, John 14:6, so neither is there any way of obtaining from the Father, but by receiving out of the fullness which he has treasured up for us in Christ Jesus, Colossians 1:19. John 1:16.

ADDRESS—

1. To those who are living in any allowed sin—

We will suppose you are free from any gross immoralities; but that you are neglecting the great concerns of your souls, or attending to them with only a divided heart. Consider then, I beseech you, what you are doing: you are earning wages every day, every hour, every moment: whether you think of it or not, you are earning wages, and the day of reckoning is near at hand, when they shall be paid you by a just and holy God! Every act, every word, every thought is increasing the sum that shall be paid to you. Who can calculate the amount of a debt which has been increasing with awful rapidity from the first moment that you began to act? Yes, you have been doing nothing throughout your whole lives, but earning wages that shall be paid to you to the full, or, in other words, you have been "treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath! Romans 2:5."

Consider, if the desert of one sin is eternal death—then what must be your desert, whose sins are more in number than the sands upon the sea-shore! Reflect on this, while there is an opportunity of cancelling the debt, and while the mercy of God can be extended to you. But remember, that you must not attempt to discharge the smallest part of this debt yourselves: if you take but one single sin upon you, you must suffer eternal damnation forever. Go therefore to Christ, and through him unto the Father: go with the guilt of all your sins upon you; cast yourselves entirely upon the mercy of your God; plead nothing but the merits of his dear Son; and "look for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life! Jude, verse 21."

2. To those who have obtained mercy, and deliverance from sin—

Numberless are the considerations which should excite your gratitude for the mercies you have received. Consider:

the greatness of the guilt that has been forgiven you;

the riches of the glory which has been conferred upon you;

the freeness with which it has been bestowed;

and, above all, the means which have been used in order that you might be partakers of these benefits, even the appointment of God's only-begotten Son to be your dying Savior, and your living Head.

Consider these things, I say, and then judge what ought to be the frame of your minds.

What an abhorrence should you have of sin!

What gratitude should you feel towards that God who exercised such mercy towards you, and towards that adorable Jesus, through whose mediation alone it could ever have been communicated! Stir up yourselves then to "render unto God according to these benefits;" and exert yourselves to the uttermost to "glorify him with your bodies and your spirits, which are his! 1 Corinthians 6:20."

 

#1851

DEADNESS TO THE LAW, AND UNION WITH CHRIST

Romans 7:4.

"So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God."

THAT the Gospel is hostile to the interests of morality, is an objection that has been raised against it, from the first promulgation of it by the Apostles, even to the present age. That the Gospel is a most wonderful display of grace and mercy, must be acknowledged: but it does not therefore encourage any man to live in sin: on the contrary, it teaches men, and binds them by every possible tie, to "live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world."

To this effect the Apostle speaks throughout the whole preceding chapter. He begins with stating the objection urged against the Gospel; "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?" And then he answers it at large; and affirms, that the covenant of grace, so far from invalidating our obligation to good works, absolutely secures the performance of them, Romans 6:14-16. In the chapter before us he is continuing the same argument, and putting it in a new light: he represents men as by nature married to the law, and bringing forth fruit to sin and death; but afterwards, as separated from the law, and married to Christ, in order to their bringing forth the fruits of holiness to the praise and glory of God.

His words will naturally lead us to consider,

I. The state to which we are brought by the death of Christ—

We are all by nature bound to the law—

God gave his law to Adam as a covenant, promising life to him if he were obedient, and denouncing death against him as the penalty of disobedience. Under that covenant we all are born: and on the terms prescribed by it we look for happiness or misery in the future world. The connection between us and it is indissoluble; like that of an husband; our obligations to whom nothing but death can dissolve.

But by the death of Christ we are liberated from it—

Christ, our incarnate Lord, has fulfilled every part of God's law; enduring its penalties, as well as executing its commands: and this he has done, as our Surety: so that, if we believe in him, we may plead his obedience unto death for all the punishment it denounces against us; and may even plead it also as having procured for us a title to all its promised blessings. Our blessed Lord, in fulfilling the law, has abrogated it as a covenant; and has obtained for us a new and better covenant, of which he himself is the Surety, Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 8:8; Hebrews 8:13.

As a rule of conduct, the law does, and ever must, continue in force; because it is the transcript of the mind and will of God, and contains a perfect rule for the conduct of his creatures, 1 Corinthians 9:21; but as a, covenant it is dissolved; and is, in respect of us, dead; so that we have no more connection with it than a woman has with her deceased husband: our obligations to it, and our expectations from it, have ceased for ever! Galatians 2:19. This is a just and beautiful representation of the believer's state: perhaps there is not in all the Scriptures another image that conveys a complete idea of our state, in so clear, and so intelligible a way as this.

We all see in a moment the bonds by which a woman is tied to her husband during his life, and the total dissolution of them all by his death: we see that the deceased husband has no longer any authority over her, nor can any longer be to her a source either of good or evil.

Now if we transfer this idea to the law, and think of the law as a husband that is dead, or as a covenant that is annulled, then we shall have a just view of a believer's state respecting it. Throughout the whole context, Paul expatiates so fully upon this point, and explains himself so clearly, that we cannot possibly mistake his meaning, verse 1-6. The only doubt that can arise is, what law he refers to? But this doubt is dissipated in a moment: for he speaks of that law which prohibits inordinate desire; and consequently it is, and must be, the moral law, verse 7.

Such being the liberty which Christ has procured for us, let us consider,

II. The improvement we would make of it—

Our blessed Lord offers himself to us as an husband—

Under this idea he is frequently spoken of in the Old Testament, Isaiah 54:5; Isaiah 62:5. Psalm 45:10-17, is, as it were, a celebration of the heavenly nuptials. The same is also frequently applied to him in the New Testament, John 3:19. Ephesians 5:25-27. In some sense indeed it is the espousal only that takes place in this world, Hosea 2:19-20. 2 Corinthians 11:2. The consummation is deferred until our arrival in the world above, Revelation 19:7-8; Revelation 21:9-10.

In this relation we would cordially receive him—

Our former husband being dead, we are at liberty to be married to another. And where shall we find one who is more worthy of all our love and obedience? If Jesus so loved us when enemies, as to lay down his own life for us, what will he not do for us, when we become bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh; yes, when we become "one spirit with him, Ephesians 5:30. 1 Corinthians 6:17." To him then let us unite ourselves by faith, and devote ourselves to him as wholly and exclusively, as the most faithful and affectionate of women does to her newly-acquired husband.

We shall then have the honor and happiness of bringing forth fruit unto God—

By our connection with the law, we have brought forth fruit only unto sin and death: but by the mighty operation of divine grace, we shall be enabled to bring forth fruit unto God, and holiness, and life, Compare Romans 6:21-22 with our text and context. We shall no longer live under the influence of a slavish spirit, aiming only at the mere letter of the commandment, and regarding even that as an irksome service; but we shall aspire after the utmost spirit of the commandment, and strive with holy ardor to make the highest possible attainments, longing, if possible, to be as "holy as God is holy," and to be as "perfect as God is perfect." Our services will resemble those of the heavenly choir, who look, and watch, and pant, as it were, for an opportunity to testify their love to God, and to execute, in all its extent, his holy will.

How should the prospect of such fruit stimulate our desires after Christ! Let us bear in mind, that the bringing of us to such a state was the great object which he sought in giving up himself for us, 1 Peter 2:24; and let it be also the great object of our solicitude in devoting ourselves to him, Romans 14:7-8.

From hence then it appears,

1. How concerned we are to know the law—

It was "to those only who knew the law," that the Apostle addressed himself in our text, verse 1; others could not have understood his meaning, but would have accounted all his representations as "foolishness, 1 Corinthians 2:14." Thus shall we also be incapable of entering into the sublime import of this passage, if we do not understand:

the nature of the law,

the extent of its requirements,

the awfulness of its penalties, and

the hopeless condition of all who are yet under it as a covenant of life and death.

But if we have just views of the law, then shall we be prepared for the Gospel, and be determined, through grace, that we will not give sleep to our eyes, or slumber to our eye-lids, until we have obtained a saving interest in Christ, and been received into a covenant of grace with him, as our Husband, our Savior, and our all.

2. How interested we are, in embracing the Gospel—

By this we are brought into a new state: we have new relations, both to God and man: our spirit is altogether new, as our attainments also are: our hopes and prospects also are new: "A beggar taken from a dunghill, and united to the greatest of earthly princes 1 Samuel 2:8," would experience a very small change in comparison with that which we experience, when we enter into the marriage covenant with Christ.

O let us consent to his gracious proposals, and give up ourselves wholly unto him; then shall we "know the blessedness of his chosen," and comprehend, as far as such imperfect beings can, the incomprehensible wonders of his love; and after bringing forth fruit to his glory here, we shall be partakers of his kingdom in the world above.

 

#1852

THE SPIRITUALITY OF THE LAW

Romans 7:7.

"What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, "Do not covet."

THERE is nothing, however good, which has not been abused to the vilest purposes. The blessings of providence are rendered subservient to intemperance. The Holy Scriptures also are often wrested to support error. But we must not blame the things that are perverted, but the persons who pervert them. We must estimate things by their use, and not by their abuse.

To this effect the Apostle speaks respecting the law of God. He had spoken of the law as the accidental occasion of sin and death, verse 5. From hence he supposes that some would object against the law as the cause of sin and death. But, shuddering at such a blasphemous thought, he refutes the objection; and shows that, instead of being a promoter of sin, it revealed and prohibited sin in its first and most secret workings; and, in his vindication of it, he opens to us,

I. Its nature—

The law here spoken of must be the moral law, because it is that which forbids inordinate desire. Its spirituality may be seen by considering,

1. The commandments in general—

Our Lord comprises them all in two, namely, love to God, and love to man, Matthew 22:37-40.

Our love to God must be supreme, without intermission or reserve. The smallest defect in the degree or manner of our love is a violation of our duty towards him.

Our love to our neighbor must resemble our love to ourselves: it must be as extensive, as constant, as uniform, as influential.

The moral law is transgressed, not by overt acts only, but by secret thoughts. In this extent our Lord himself explains those very commandments, which we would be most ready to limit and restrict, Matthew 5:21-22; Matthew 5:27-28; hence it appears, that we may be blameless respecting the outward breach of the law, and yet have transgressed every one of the commandments throughout our whole lives.

2. The particular commandment before us, covetousness—

This, in the very letter of it, extends to our inclinations and desires:

it prohibits all dissatisfaction with our own state or lot;

it prohibits all envy at the prosperity of others;

it prohibits all desire of any evil or forbidden object;

it prohibits all inordinate love even of good and lawful objects;

it does not say, that we must not indulge a wrong desire, but that we must not even have a wrong desire.

Well therefore does David say respecting the law, "Your commandment is exceedingly broad Psalm 119:96."

It may seem unjust in God to publish such a law, seeing that man in his present fallen state cannot keep it one single hour. But God could not, consistently with his own honor and our good, publish a less spiritual law than this; and this will be found both "just and good verse 12," if we consider,

II. Its use—

Many are the uses of this law both to saints and sinners, but there is one use in particular mentioned in the text; and to that we shall confine our attention.

The nature of sin is but little understood—

The generality think that sin consists only in the outward act. Hence they suppose themselves in a good and safe state. This was the case with Paul himself before his conversion. And it is equally the case with every unconverted man.

But the law is intended to reveal sin to us in its true colors—

Like a perfect rule, it leads to a discovery of our smallest obliquities. When applied to our motives, and principles, and to the manner and measure of our duties—it shows us that our very best actions are extremely defective. Thus it plucks up by the roots all conceit of our own goodness, and causes us to lie low before God as miserable sinners. It was to a view of the law that Paul owed his knowledge of his own sinfulness. And it is by this light that we must see the evil of our state.

APPLICATION—

1. What do we know of sin?

Have we ever seen the spirituality and extent of the law?

Have we ever laid the law as a line to our consciences?

Have we ever measured our best actions by the law?

Have we ever been bowed down under the weight of our transgressions?

Have we ever felt the impossibility of being justified by the law?

No attainments in knowledge or goodness will profit us without this. Paul himself, though he thought well of his own state, was really dead while he was ignorant of the law; and when the spirituality of the law was revealed to him, then he saw and confessed himself an undone sinner! verse 9. Let us then seek increasing views of the law, that we may be made truly humble and contrite.

2. What do we know of the Deliverer from sin?

There is One who has fulfilled the demands of the law. His obedience and righteousness will avail for us.

Have we fled to him as the fulfiller of the law for us?

Have we take refuge in him who bore its curse for us?

Do we see the need of him to "bear the iniquity of our holy things?"

Let us then bless God for such a Savior, and "cleave to him with full purpose of heart."

3. What regard are we yet daily showing to the moral law?

We are indeed delivered from its penal sanctions; nor ought we to regard it any longer as a covenant. But we are still subject to its commands, and ought to receive it as a rule of life. If we are sincere, we shall not account even the strictest of its commandments grievous, 1 John 5:3.

Let us then remember that it still says to us, "You shall not covet." Let us, in obedience to it, mortify all discontent and envy, all improper and inordinate desire: and let it be the labor of our lives to glorify God by our professed subjection to it.

 

#1853

THE SPIRITUALITY OF THE LAW

Romans 7:9.

"I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died."

WHEN we behold the extreme supineness of those around us in relation to their eternal concerns, we are naturally led to inquire, What the reason of it is? Is it that they imagine there is no God; or no future state; or no connection between their present life and their eternal destiny? No! they acknowledge their accountableness to God; but they are ignorant of the rule by which they shall be judged: and hence they conclude that they are in no danger, when, if they were apprised of their real state, they would he filled with alarm and terror. Thus it was with the Apostle Paul previous to his conversion: while ignorant of the spiritual nature of God's law, he thought himself secure of acceptance with God: but when he had juster views of the law, he had juster views of his own spiritual condition also. Here then, as in a looking-glass, we see,

I. The apprehensions which ignorant men have of their state before God—

None are so blind as to think they have never sinned: but the generality suppose that they have never sinned in any great degree, so as to endanger their eternal happiness, or to justify God in consigning them over to eternal misery. If in some respects their actions have been incorrect, they imagine that have had no bad intentions: their conduct may have been bad, but their hearts were good. If they have refrained from gross immoralities, and been observant of some outward duties, they will, like the Pharisee, "thank God that they are not as other men;" and will boast before him of the good deeds which they have done, Luke 18:11-12. As for being in any danger of perishing, they cannot for a moment admit the idea: they think, that if God were to cast them into Hell, he would be unjust; that they have never merited such a doom: and it would be quite irreconcilable with the goodness of God to suppose him capable of proceeding with such severity against persons of their description.

Such were Paul's views of himself; "he was alive without the law once:" having extremely contracted views of his duty, he thought he had done nothing to deserve punishment, and was secure of eternal life and salvation. And such is the delusion by which the whole host of unconverted men are blinded at this day.

Hence we perceive,

II. The means by which alone they can be brought to a juster knowledge of their state—

When God was pleased to arrest Paul on his way to Damascus, and to reveal himself to him, he manifested to him the spirituality and extent of the law. Paul had before thought that the commandments related only to outward acts; whereas he was now made to see that an inordinate desire was as much forbidden as the most criminal action; and that an impure or angry thought were in God's sight as adultery or murder, verse 7 with Matthew 5:22-23; he saw too that the curse of the law was denounced against every violation of its commands; and that it as truly condemned men for a dissatisfied or envious wish, as for the most flagrant transgression, Galatians 3:10.

From this time all his delusions vanished: he no longer cherished the fond idea of meriting salvation by his past or future obedience: he saw that he had not in any one action of his life come up to the full demands of the law; and that consequently he must renounce all dependence on the law for his justification before God.

Thus were his views rectified: and it is in this way alone that anyone can attain a just knowledge of his state. "The commandment must come" with power to his conscience: he must see the spirituality of the law as extending to every thought and motion of the heart, and the holiness of the law as unalterably consigning over to the curse every one who shall transgress it in the smallest particular. Then his hopes of salvation from obeying the law will forever vanish; and he will seek for mercy solely through the atoning blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus.

But let us more distinctly consider,

III. The view they will have of themselves, when rightly informed—

While men are ignorant what the law requires, sin appears to be, as it were, dead, and destitute of power either to enslave or condemn them: but when they have a discovery of the law, they will perceive that sin has all along exercised a tyrannic sway over them, and brought them under the heaviest condemnation. Their whole life will appear to have been one uninterrupted course of sin; and to have been spent, unwittingly indeed, but truly, in "treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath." Their best actions now will be viewed as defiled with sin, and as deserving punishment: and they will see their need of one to "bear the iniquity of their holy things," as well as of their more evident transgressions. They will now confess, that "if God would enter into judgment with them, they could not answer him" for one act, or word, or thought, in their whole lives. Hence they lie before him as sinners under the sentence of "death," and cast themselves wholly on the mercy of God in Christ Jesus.

Instead of rising against the denunciations of his wrath, as they once did, they are silent, Matthew 22:12; well knowing that "he will be justified in his sayings, and be clear when he judges, Psalm 51:4." Thus from thinking themselves "alive" and pure—"sin revives in them, and they die."

Improvement—

1. How mistaken then are those who imagine that they have no cause to fear the wrath of God!

We will grant, that, according to the world's estimate, they are very worthy characters: but are they more exemplary than the Apostle Paul was before his conversion? Let them hear his own account of himself, and judge, Philippians 3:4-6. If then he, when his eyes were opened, saw that he was a "dead" condemned sinner, let not any of us delude ourselves with the idea that we are in any better state.

2. How suited is the Gospel to those who feel their guilt and misery!

Are we lost? it was such persons that Christ came to seek and to save. Have we nothing to present to God in order to obtain salvation? He requires nothing at our hands, but to receive it freely from him "without money, and without price." Let "the law then be to us as a schoolmaster, to bring us unto Christ;" and let us look to "Christ as the end of the law for righteousness to every one who believes."

 

#1854

SPIRITUAL CONFLICTS OF BELIEVERS

Romans 7:18-23.

"I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members."

OF all evils that can be mentioned, Antinomianism is the worst; because it makes the Lord Jesus Christ himself a minister of sin, and turns the most glorious revelation of his grace into an occasion of unrestrained licentiousness. But while we reprobate with utter abhorrence the idea of sinning that grace may abound, we dare not, with some, deny or pervert the Gospel of Christ. We must affirm, that the Gospel offers to us a free and full salvation through the blood of Christ, and that those who believe in Christ are altogether dead to the law, so as to have nothing to hope for from its promises, or to fear from its threats.

If, from this assertion, any one would infer, that we think ourselves at liberty to violate the precepts of the law, he would be much mistaken. There were some who put this construction on Paul's statements; to whom he replied, "Shall we then continue in sin, that grace may abound?" and again, "Shall we then sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? Romans 6:1; Romans 6:15." To each of these questions he answered, "God forbid:" and in like manner we reject with indignation the remotest idea that we would make the Gospel an occasion of sin.

But, while Paul vindicated himself from this charge, he showed, that, as a woman who had lost her husband was at liberty to be married to another man, so the law to which he once owed allegiance being dead, he was at liberty to be married to Christ, and by him to bring forth fruit unto God.

The terms however in which he expressed himself seemed to encriminate the law, as much as he had before seemed to cast reflections on the Gospel. "When we were in the flesh, the motions of sins which were by the law did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death, verse 5." Here, as he had before denied to the law the office of justifying a sinner, so now, in appearance, he seemed to accuse it as being to him the author both of sin and death. But these representations also he rejects; and shows, that the law had only been the occasion of sin, and not the cause of it, verse 8; and that it had also been the occasion of death, but was by no means the cause of it, verse 13.

The proper cause both of sin and of death was the corruption of our nature, which remains with us even to our dying hour; as he himself could testify by bitter experience. This experience of his he then proceeds to describe. But as commentators have differed widely from each other in their explanations of the passage, we will endeavor to show,

I. Of whom it is to be understood—

That we may bring the matter to a fair outcome, we will distinctly inquire,

1. Does the passage relate the experience of an ungodly man, or of one that is truly pious?

Those who explain it of an ungodly man say that the whole preceding chapter represents a true Christian as made free from sin, Romans 6:6-7; Romans 6:11; Romans 6:14; Romans 6:18; and that to interpret this passage of a true Christian, would be to make the Apostle contradict himself. As for the opposition which the person here spoken of makes to his sinful propensities, it is nothing more (say they) than the ordinary conflict between reason and passion; and it may therefore properly be interpreted as experienced by an ungodly man.

But to this we answer, that, though an ungodly man may feel some restraints from his conscience, and consequently some conflicts between reason and passion, he cannot say that he really "hates sin," or that "he delights in the law of God after the inward man, verse 15, 22." The carnal and unrenewed mind neither is, nor can be, subject to the law of God, 1 Corinthians 2:14; it is altogether enmity against God, Romans 8:7; and therefore the character here drawn cannot possibly be assigned to an ungodly man.

2. Does Paul in this passage impersonate a godly man who is in a low state of grace, or does he speak altogether of himself?

That the Apostle does sometimes speak in the person of another, in order that he may inculcate truth in a more inoffensive manner, is certain, 1 Corinthians 4:6; but we conceive it to be clear that he speaks here in his own person: for it is undeniable that he speaks in his own person in the preceding part of the chapter, where he tells us what he was in his unconverted state verse 7-11; and now he tells us what he is, at the time of writing this epistle.

In verse 9 he says "I was alive without the law once;" and then afterwards, in verse 14 he says, "The law is spiritual, but I am carnal:" and so he proceeds to the very end of the chapter declaring fully and particularly all the workings of his mind. This change of the tense shows clearly, that from stating his former experience, he proceeds to state that which he felt at present.

Moreover, in the concluding verse of the chapter, where he sums up, as it were, the substance of his confession in few words, he particularly declares, that he spoke it of himself: "So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin." To interpret á ô ò ã , "I the same man," that is, not I myself, but I that other person, is such a perversion of language as cannot with any propriety be admitted.

And this is yet further evident from what he adds at the beginning of the next chapter, where he says, "The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death, Romans 8:2."

The only thing that can raise a doubt whether the Apostle speaks in his own person or not, is the strong language which he uses. It is certainly strong language to say of himself, "I am carnal, sold under sin." But this differs as widely from what is said of Ahab, who "sold himself to work iniquity," as the motion of a volunteer differs from the motion of a person who is dragged in chains.

To understand the Apostle, we must consider the subject on which he is writing. He is comparing himself with the spiritual and perfect law of God. To fulfill that in its utmost extent, was his continual aim: but by reason of his indwelling corruption he could not attain his aim: and this may well account for the strong terms in which he speaks of his corrupt nature.

And, if we compare his language with that which the holiest men that ever existed have used in reference to themselves, we shall find that there is a perfect agreement between them. "Behold, I am vile!" says Job; "I repent and abhor myself in dust and ashes." David also complains, "My soul cleaves to the dust." And the Prophet Isaiah, on being favored with a vision of the Deity himself, exclaimed, "Woe is me, I am undone! I am a man of unclean lips." And it is a fact, that the most eminent saints in every age have felt a suitableness in the language of Paul to express their own experience, just as they have also in those expressions of our Liturgy, "We are tied and bound with the chain of our sins; but do you, O Lord, of the pitifulness of your great mercy, loose us!"

Having shown that the passage relates the Apostle's own experience, we will proceed to show,

II. Its true import—

The Apostle is speaking of that corrupt principle, which, notwithstanding his attainments, still remained within him, and kept him from that perfect conformity to the law of God to which he aspired. This principle he represents as having the force of a law, which he was not able fully to resist. He had indeed within himself a principle of grace which kept him from ever yielding a willing obedience to his indwelling corruption; but it did not so free him from the workings of corruption, but that he still offended God in many things:

1. In a way of occasional aberration—

To conceive of this subject aright, we may suppose the holy and perfect law of God to be a perfectly straight line on which we are to walk; and the corrupt principle within us to be operating on all our faculties to turn us from it.

Sometimes it blinds the understanding, so that we do not distinctly see the line.

Sometimes it biases the judgment, so as to incline us, without any distinct consciousness on our part, to smaller deviations from it.

Sometimes with force and violence it impels the passions, so that we cannot regulate our steps with perfect self-command.

Sometimes it operates to delude the conscience, and to make us confident that we see the line, when in reality it is only a semblance of it, which our great adversary has presented to our imagination in order to deceive us.

By this principle, a continual warfare was kept up in his soul against his higher and better principle, keeping him from what was good, and impelling him to what was evil; so that he often did what he would not willingly have done, and did not do what he gladly would have done. Thus, as he expresses it, there was "a law in his members warring against the law of his mind, and bringing him into captivity to the law of sin in his members."

This representation exactly accords with that which he gives of every child of God, in the Epistle to the Galatians: "The flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other, so that you cannot do the things that you would, Galatians 5:17."

This is by no means to be understood as though he acknowledged that he was driven to any gross violations of God's law; for with respect to them he had a conscience void of offense: but in respect of smaller deviations from the exact line of duty, he could not assert his innocence: he felt, that however much he longed for perfection, "he had not yet attained, nor was he already perfect."

2. In a way of constant defect—

The law of God requires that we would love God with all our heart, and all our mind, and all our soul, and all our strength; and that every action, every word, every thought, be in perfect accordance with this rule. But who has not reason to confess that his very best duties are defective, in extent, in intensity, and in continuance? Who comprehends in any one action all that assemblage of pure motives, and purposes, and affections, that were combined in the heart of our Lord Jesus Christ? Who at any time feels all that ardor in the service of his God which the angels in Heaven feel? Or, supposing he did at some highly-favored season serve God on earth precisely as the glorified saints are serving him in Heaven, who must not confess that it is not always thus with him? However "willing his spirit may be, he will find that his flesh is weak."

Indeed, in proportion as any man aspires after perfection, he will lament his imperfections; and in proportion as he sees the beauty of holiness, he will loath himself for his defects. We doubt not but that Paul's spirituality of mind led him to complain more bitterly of the defects, which, with all his exertions, he was not able to prevent, than he would have done in his unconverted state of more plain and palpable transgressions.

It might be supposed that the more holy any man was, the more free he would be from such complaints: but the very reverse of this is true: the persons "who have received the first-fruits of the Spirit, are those who groan most within themselves for their complete redemption, Romans 8:23;" yes Paul himself, as long as he was in the body, did "groan, being burdened, 2 Corinthians 5:2; 2 Corinthians 5:4;" to his dying hour he resumed at times that piteous moan, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me! verse 24."

Paul indeed makes a wide distinction between these sins of infirmity, and willful sins. Of these sins of infirmity, he twice says, "If I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me, compare verse 17, 20;" that is, my new nature in no respects consents to these sins; nay, the full bent and purpose of my soul is against them; but the remainder of my indwelling corruption, which I hate and oppose to the uttermost, keeps me from attaining that full perfection that I pant after: and therefore I hope that God will accept my services, notwithstanding the imperfection that attends them.

In like manner, we, if we have the testimony of our consciences that we allow no sin, but fight against it universally, and with all our might, may rest assured, that "God will not be extreme to mark what is done amiss," but that our services, notwithstanding their imperfection, shall come up with acceptance before him.

In considering this experience of the Apostle, we must especially attend to,

III. The improvement to be made of it—

We may learn from it,

1. How constantly we need the atonement and intercession of Christ—

It is not for the sins only of our unconverted state that we need a Savior, but for those of daily occurrence, even for those which attend our very best services. As Aaron of old was to bear the iniquity of the people of Israel, even of "their holy things, Exodus 28:38," so our great High-Priest must bear ours. Nor can the best service we ever offered unto God be accepted by him, until it has been washed in the Redeemer's blood, and perfumed with the incense of his intercession! 1 Peter 2:5.

Guard then against all conceit of meriting anything at the hands of God. Guard also against self-delight, as though you had wrought some good work in which no flaw can be found. If God were to lay a line and plummet to your best deeds, there would be found inconceivable obliquities and defects in them, Isaiah 28:17. Psalm 130:3. Be sensible of this, and then you will learn how to value the Pearl of great price, even the Lord Jesus Christ, for whom you will gladly part with all that you have, that you may obtain a saving interest in him and in his salvation.

2. What reason we have to watch over our own hearts—

Carrying about with us such a corrupt nature, and knowing, as we do, that even Paul himself could not altogether cast off its influence, how jealous should we be, lest we be led into the commission of iniquity, even while we imagine that we are doing God service! Even the Apostles of our Lord, on more occasions than one, "knew not what spirit they were of." And we, if we will look back on many transactions of our former lives, shall view them very differently from what we once did: and no doubt God at this moment forms a very different estimate of us from what we are disposed to form of ourselves.

How blinded men are by pride, or prejudice, or self-interest, or passion, we all see in those around us.

Let us be aware of it in ourselves: let us remember, that we too have a subtle adversary, and a deceitful heart.

Let us never forget, that Satan, who beguiled Eve in Paradise, can now "transform himself into an angel of light" to deceive us, and to "corrupt us from the simplicity that is in Christ."

Let us pray earnestly to God to keep us from his wiles, to disappoint his devices, and to bruise him under our feet. If God keeps us, we shall stand; but, if he withdraws his gracious influences for one moment, we shall fall!

3. What comfort is provided for us, if only we are sincere before God—

If we wish to make the Apostle's experience a cloak for our sins, we shall eternally ruin our own souls. His experience can be of no comfort to us, unless we have the testimony of our own consciences that we "hate evil," of whatever kind it be, and "delight in the law of God," even in its most refined and elevated requirements, "after our inward man." But, if we can appeal to God, that we do not regard or retain willingly any iniquity in our hearts, but that we sincerely endeavor to pluck out the right eye that offends our God—then may we take comfort in our severest conflicts. We may console ourselves with the thought that "no temptation has taken us but what is common to man," and that "God will, with the temptation, make for us also a way to escape." We may go on with confidence, assured of final victory; and may look forward with delight to that blessed day, when sin and sorrow shall depart from us, and death itself be swallowed up in everlasting victory!

 

#1855

PAUL'S SPIRITUAL CONFLICTS

Romans 7:24-25.

"O what a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin."

THE Epistle to the Romans, as a clear, full, argumentative, and convincing statement of Gospel salvation, far exceeds every other part of Holy Writ. And the seventh chapter of that epistle equally excels every other part of Scripture, as a complete delineation of Christian experience. The Psalms contain the breathings of a devout soul, both in seasons of trouble and under the impressions of joy. But in the passage before us the Apostle states the operation of the two principles which were within him, and shows how divine grace and his corrupt nature counteracted each other. The good principle did indeed liberate him from all allowed subjection to sin: but the corrupt principle within him yet exerted such power, that, in spite of all his endeavors to resist it, he could not utterly overcome it. Having opened thus all the secret motions of his heart, he gives vent to the feelings which had been alternately excited by a review of his own experience, and of the provision which was made for him in Jesus Christ.

In discoursing upon his words we shall show,

I. The Apostle's experience—

We shall not enter into the general contents of this chapter, but confine ourselves to the workings of the Apostle's mind, in,

1. His views of his sin—

He considered sin as the most loathsome of all objects. In calling his indwelling corruption "a body of death," he seems to allude to the practice of some tyrants, who fastened a dead body to a captive whom they had doomed to death, and compelled him to bear it about with him until he was killed by the offensive smell. Such a nauseous and hateful thing was sin in the Apostle's estimation. He felt that he could not get loose from it, but was constrained to bear it about with him wherever he went: and it was more loathsome to him than a dead body, more intolerable than a putrid carcass!

The bearing of this about with him was an occasion of the deepest sorrow. Whatever other tribulations he was called to endure, he could rejoice and glory in them, yes, and thank God who had counted him worthy to bear them. But under the burden of his indwelling corruptions he cried, "O what a wretched man I am!"

Nor was there anything he so much desired as to be delivered from it. When he had been unjustly imprisoned by the magistrates, he was in no haste to get rid of his confinement: instead of availing himself of the discharge they had sent him, he said, "Nay, but let them come themselves and fetch me out." But from his indwelling sin he was impatient to be released; and cried, "Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Not that he was at a loss where to look for deliverance; but he spoke as one impatient to obtain it.

2. His views of his Savior—

If his afflictions abounded, so did his consolations abound also. He knew that there was a sufficiency in Christ both of merit to justify the guilty, and of grace to sanctify the polluted. He knew, moreover, that God for Christ's sake had engaged to pardon all his sins, and to subdue all his iniquities. Hence, with an emotion of gratitude, more easy to be conceived than expressed, he breaks off from his desponding strains, and exclaims, "I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!" I thank him for Christ, as an all-sufficient Savior; and I thank him through Christ, as my all-prevailing Advocate and Mediator. While he saw in himself nothing but what tended to humble him in the dust, he beheld in Christ and in God as reconciled to him through Christ, enough to turn his sorrow into joy, and his desponding complaints into triumphant exultation.

That we may not imagine these things to be peculiar to Paul, we proceed to show,

II. Wherein our experience must resemble his—

"As face answers to face in a looking-glass, so does the heart of man to man:" and every one who is converted to God will resemble the Apostle,

1. In an utter abhorrence of all sin—

Sin is really hateful to all who see it in its true colors; it is properly called, "filthiness of the flesh and spirit, 2 Corinthians 7:1;" and all who feel its workings within them, will "loath both it, and themselves on account of it, notwithstanding God is pacified towards them, Ezekiel 16:63.

Ungodly men may indeed hate sin in others; as Judah did, when he sentenced his daughter Tamar to death for the crime in which he himself had borne a share, Genesis 38:24-26; and as David did, when he condemned a man to die for an act which was but a very faint shadow of the enormities which he himself had committed, 2 Samuel 12:5-7.

Ungodly men may go so far as to hate sin in themselves, as Judas did when he confessed it with so much bitterness and anguish of spirit; and as a woman may who has brought herself to shame; or a gambler, who has reduced his family to ruin. But it is not sin that they hate, so much as the consequences of their sin.

The true Christian is distinguished from all such persons in that he hates sin itself, independent of any shame or loss he may sustain by means of it in this world, or any punishment he may suffer in the world to come. The Apostle did not refer to any act that had exposed him to shame before men, or that had destroyed his hopes of acceptance with God, but to the inward corruption of which he could not altogether divest himself: and every one that is upright before God will resemble him in this respect, and hold in abhorrence those remains of depravity which he cannot wholly extirpate.

Nor will the true Christian justify himself from the consideration that he cannot put off his corrupt nature. No, he will grieve from his inmost soul that he is so depraved a creature. When he sees:

how defective he is in every grace,

how weak his faith is,

how faint his hope is,

how cold his love is;

when he sees that the seeds of pride and envy, of anger and resentment, of worldliness and sensuality—yet abide in his heart; he weeps over his wretched state, and "groans in this tabernacle, being burdened."

Not that this grief arises from fear of perishing, but simply from the consideration that these corruptions defile his soul, and displease his God, and rob him of that sweet fellowship with the Deity, which, if he were more purified from them, it would be his privilege to enjoy.

Under these impressions he will desire a deliverance from sin as much as from Hell itself: not like a merchant who casts his goods out of his ship merely to keep it from sinking, and wishes for them again as soon as he is safe on shore; but like one racked with pain and agony by reason of an abscess, who not only parts with the corrupt matter with gladness, but beholds it afterwards with horror and disgust, and accounts its separation from him as his truest felicity.

Let every one then examine himself with respect to these things, and ask himself distinctly, "Am I like Paul in loathing sin of every kind, and of every degree? Does my grief for the secret remains of sin within me swallow up every other grief? And am I using every means in my power, and especially calling upon God, to destroy sin root and branch?"

2. In a thankful reliance on the Lord Jesus Christ—

The hope of every true Christian arises from Christ alone: if he had no other prospect than what he derived from his own inherent goodness, he would despair as much as those who are gone beyond a possibility of redemption. But there is in Christ such a fullness of all spiritual blessings treasured up for his people, that the most guilty cannot doubt of pardon, nor can the weakest doubt of victory, provided he relies on that adorable Savior, and seek his blessings with penitence and contrition. In him the Apostle found an abundance to supply his needs; and from the same inexhaustible fountain does every saint draw water with joy.

And what must be the feelings of the Christian when he is enabled to say of Christ, "This is my Friend, this is my Beloved!" Must he not immediately exclaim, "Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift!" Must not the very stones cry out against him, if he withholds his acclamations and hosannas? Yes, "to every one who believes, Christ is, and must be, precious!" "All that are of the true circumcision will rejoice in him, having no confidence in the flesh." And the deeper sense any man has of his own extreme vileness, the more fervently will he express his gratitude to God for providing a Savior so suited to his necessities.

Let us then learn from this subject,

1. The nature of vital godliness—

Religion, as it is experienced in the soul, is not as some imagine, a state of continual sorrow, nor, as others fondly hope, a state of uninterrupted joy. It is rather a mixture of joy and sorrow, or, if we may so speak, it is a joy springing out of sorrow. It is a conflict between the fleshly and spiritual principle, Galatians 5:17, continually humbling us on account of what is in ourselves, and filling us with joy on account of what is in Christ Jesus!

As for those who dream of sinless perfection, I marvel at them. Let them explain their notions as they will, they put away from themselves one-half of the Apostle's experience, and suffer incalculable loss, in exchanging true scriptural humility for Pharisaic pride, and unscriptural self-delight. The being emptied of all our own imaginary goodness, and being made truly thankful to God for the blessings we receive in and through Christ, is that which constitutes the Christian warfare, and that which alone will issue in final victory.

2. How little true religion there is in the world—

We hear every living man complaining at times of civil, domestic, or personal troubles; and we find every man at times exhilarated on some occasion or other. But we might live years with the generality of men, and never once hear them crying, "O my inward corruptions: what a burden they are to my distressed soul!"

Nor would we see them ever once rejoicing in Christ as their suitable and all-sufficient Savior. Yes, if we were only to suggest such a thought to them, they would turn away from us in disgust. Can we need any further proof of the prevalence, the general prevalence, of irreligion? May God make use of this indisputable fact for the bringing home of conviction upon all our souls!

3. What consolation is provided for those who have ever so small a portion of true religion in their hearts—

Many experience the sorrows of religion without its joys; and they refuse to be comforted because of the ground they have for weeping and lamentation. But if their sins are a just occasion of sorrow; their sorrow on account of sin is a just occasion of joy: and the more they cry, O wretched man that I am, the more reason they have to add, "Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ." Let this ascription of praise be our alternate outpouring now; and before long it shall be our only, and uninterrupted, song forever!

 

#1856

THE PRIVILEGE OF TRUE CHRISTIANS

Romans 8:1.

"There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus; who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit."

TO establish that fundamental doctrine of our religion, the doctrine of justification by faith alone, is the main scope of this epistle. Having argued the point, and shown that the objection of its encouraging men to sin, is without any real foundation, the Apostle sums up the whole in the words before us; and declares, as the just inference from his preceding arguments, that the believer in Christ, who acts agreeably to his profession, has nothing to fear from the condemnation of the law.

From this inspired declaration we learn the state, the character, and the privilege of every true Christian—

I. His state—

He is "in Christ Jesus." This is altogether a term peculiar to the New Testament: but it expresses admirably the condition into which the Christian is brought, as soon as he believes in Christ.

He is savingly interested in Christ as his all-sufficient Savior—

He has fled to Christ for refuge from the curses of the broken law: and has obtained peace with God by faith in his atoning sacrifice. Though in himself he deserves nothing but condemnation, he is "accepted in the beloved," and "made an heir of God through Christ."

He is united to Christ as his living Head—

Christ is "made Head over all things to the Church." "He is the vine, of which believers are the branches." Everyone knows how it is that the branch is nourished and enabled to bear fruit, namely, by its union with the stock, and by sap derived from the root. Thus it is that the believer "receives continually out of the fullness that is in Christ," being, in fact, not only "one body," but also "one spirit, with him".

In a word, the person that is in Christ is one who can say, "In the Lord I have righteousness and strength."

In strict accordance with this is,

II. His character—

"A tree is known by its fruit," as the Christian is by his.

"He walks not after the flesh."

Notwithstanding he is in Christ, he still carries about with him a corrupt nature, "a body of sin and death." He has yet "the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and incapacitating him to serve God so well as he could wish. But "he does not walk after the flesh;" nor will he "obey it in the lusts thereof." In this respect he is widely different from the ungodly world. They desire nothing but the things of time and sense. He is not satisfied with anything which has not a direct reference to eternity.

"He walks after the Spirit"—

He possesses a new and heavenly principle, under the influence of which he lives: and his conduct is in Heaven, "where Christ sits at the right hand of God:" nor can anything please him which does not advance his eternal interests, and tend to the honor of that Savior who bought him with his blood.

Viewing thus his state and character, we shall not wonder at what is here declared to be,

III. His privilege—

"There is no condemnation to him." We say not, that there is no desert of condemnation in him: for he is still a weak and corrupt creature; and there is much "iniquity even in his holiest acts." But "there is no condemnation now remaining to him."

The law only curses those who are under the law. But the believer is "no longer under the law, but under grace;" and consequently, so far as he is concerned, the law is disarmed of its power, and is incapable of inflicting upon him its penalties. As a woman, when her husband is dead, is no longer under his power; so the Christian, now that the law is abrogated, is no longer liable to its sentence, Romans 7:4-6. He stands before God perfect in Christ Jesus, yes, "without spot or blemish:" and he has nothing to fear on account of his past infirmities or his present conflicts: for God will carry on the work begun in his soul, and will "perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ".

ADDRESS—

1. The mere nominal Christian—

Do not think that your observance of a round of duties is any evidence of your acceptance with God. You must be "in Christ" by a living faith, if ever you would be accepted by him; and by virtue derived from him, must be bringing forth fruit to the glory of his name. And, if this be not your state and character, deceive not yourselves, for the text itself intimates that there is condemnation for you, and that you have no part or lot with God's believing people. I beg you, lay this matter to heart, and seek, before it be too late, the blessings purchased by the Redeemer of the world.

2. The over-confident professor—

Some there are who will pronounce the words of our text with the same unhallowed confidence, as if there were no condemnation awaiting any man. But, brethren, your state and character should be tried, before you claim the privilege belonging to God's faithful people. "If you walk after the flesh, you shall die," whatever you may imagine to the contrary! "If you are Christ's, you will surely crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts".

3. The timid and doubting Christian—

Some, because they still feel within themselves the workings of corruption, will doubt whether they can by any means belong to Christ. But the very text intimates, that there will yet be the flesh stirring within us; only, that, if we are Christ's, we shall not "walk after it."

Say then, my dear brethren, do you find your pleasure in earthly things? Is it not, rather, painful to you that you cannot more entirely mortify all earthly desires, and find all your comfort in the things of God? I do not say this to encourage or sanction a slothful habit; but I say it in order to "strengthen your hands that hang down," and to show you, that, if, with Paul, you are constrained to cry, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me?" you would also add with him, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

 

#1857

THE GOSPEL FREES MEN FROM SIN AND DEATH

Romans 8:2.

"For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death."

THE world in general account it liberty to give loose to their passions. But such freedom is indeed the sorest bondage to sin and Satan! Romans 6:16. None possess true liberty but those who are freed by Christ, John 8:36. The state of the demoniacs when healed by Christ resembled theirs, Luke 8:35. Paul was made a glorious example of it to all ages. He was once under condemnation, both because he adhered to the covenant of works, and was governed by his own impetuous will: he now rejoiced in a freedom from the sin that he had indulged, and from the curse to which he had subjected himself, "The law of sin and death."

We shall first explain, and then improve the text—

I. Explain it—

It is not needful to state the various interpretations given of the text. We shall adopt that which seems most easy, and agreeable to the context. We will begin with explaining the terms.

"The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" is the Gospel covenant, as confirmed to us in Christ, and revealed to us by the Spirit—

The "Spirit of life" is the Holy Spirit, who is the author and preserver of spiritual life, John 3:5. Ephesians 3:16. The "law" of the Spirit, is the Gospel as revealed and applied by him: it is called a law because it has all the essential properties of a law. A law is a precept enforced with sanctions: and such is the Gospel: it is a precept, 1 John 3:23; and it is enforced with the most encouraging and solemn sanctions, Mark 16:16; it is often spoken of as a law both by prophets and Apostles, Isaiah 2:3. Romans 3:27; it is said to be the law of the Spirit "in Christ Jesus," because the blessings of the Gospel are treasured up in Christ, confirmed to us through Christ, and received by us from Christ, Colossians 1:19. 2 Corinthians 1:20. John 1:16.

"The law of sin and death" may be understood either of the covenant of works or of our indwelling corruption—

The covenant of works is a "law" to which all are by nature subject: it is called the "law of sin and death," because both sin and death come by that law. Without that law there had been no transgression, and, consequently, no sin (which is the transgression of a law); nor death (which is the penalty inflicted for transgression). Compare 1 John 3:4. Romans 5:13. 1 Corinthians 15:56. Hence it is called "the ministration of death and of condemnation." 2 Corinthians 3:7; 2 Corinthians 3:9. Our indwelling corruption also operates as "a law" within us, Romans 7:23; it invariably hurries us on to "sin and death, Romans 7:5."

We shall next explain the proposition contained in the terms.

The proposition is, that "the Gospel frees us from the curse of the law, and from the dominion of sin"—

When we embrace the Gospel we cease to be under the covenant of works, Romans 6:14, latter part; we then partake of all the blessings which Christ has purchased for us; we are liberated from the condemnation due to sin, Romans 8:1; we are freed, through the aid of the Spirit, from the power of sin, Romans 8:13; Romans 6:14, former part.

This proposition is to be understood as extending to all believers—

It is not true with respect to the Apostles only; it was exemplified in all the first converts One hour they were full of guilt and wickedness; the next they were rejoicing in the pardon of their sins, and in the practice of all holy duties, Acts 2:46-47, and is experienced still by every sincere Christian.

The text thus explained is capable of most useful improvement—

II. Improve it—

It is replete with very important instruction—

It shows us the wretched state of every unregenerate man—

We are all in bondage to "the law of sin and death;" we are justly subjected to the curses of the broken law, Galatians 3:10; we are also led captive by our own corrupt appetites; even Paul himself was in this very state, Romans 7:9. Let us then humble ourselves under a conviction of this truth.

It declares to us the only method of deliverance from the state sin and death.

It was the Gospel which freed the Apostle. The same will avail for every other person. We must however "obey the Gospel," and receive it as our "law of faith;" we must look for its blessings from Christ through the Spirit. In this way we may all adopt the language of the text in reference to our own happy experience.

It affords also abundant matter of reproof—

It reproves those who despond as though there were no hope for them.

Many think their guilt is too great to be pardoned, and their lusts are too strong to be subdued; but Paul's case was intended to prevent such desponding fears, 1 Timothy 1:16. Let none therefore any more complain like those of old, Ezekiel 37:11; every one may find encouragement in the power and mercy of God, Isaiah 59:1.

It reproves also those who speak against an assurance of faith.

It would indeed be presumptuous in some to profess an assurance of faith; but God is desirous that all his people would enjoy it, 1 John 5:13; let not any one therefore reprobate it as presumption; let every one rather seek the assurance expressed in the text.

It may administer comfort also to many sincere Christians.

Many are yet fighting against their manifold corruptions, and because they obtain not a perfect deliverance, they tremble under apprehensions of the divine wrath. But Paul himself bewailed bitterly his indwelling corruptio,n Romans 7:24; yet that did not prevent him from rejoicing in the partial freedom he experienced. Let upright souls take comfort from this reflection.

 

#1858

CHRIST THE AUTHOR OF OUR SANCTIFICATION

Romans 8:3-4.

"For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit."

THE necessity of holiness is allowed by all: the means of attaining it are known to few. Christ is regarded as the meritorious cause of our justification before God; but he is not sufficiently viewed as the instrumental cause of our deliverance from sin. He is represented in the Scriptures as "our sanctification," no less than "our wisdom and our righteousness, 1 Corinthians 1:30;" and we would do well to direct our attention to him more in that view.

In the preceding context he is spoken of as delivering his people from condemnation, and many judicious commentators understand the text as referring to the same point: yet, on the whole, it appears more agreeable both to the words of the text, and to the scope of the passage, to understand it in reference to the work of sanctification. Paul had just said that "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus," that is, the Gospel, "had made him free from the law of sin, as well as of death." He then adds, that on account of the insufficiency of the law to condemn and destroy sin, God had sent his own Son to effect it; and that through his incarnation and death its power would be effectually broken.

From this view of the text, we are led to consider,

I. The end and design of Christ's Mission—

God's desire and purpose was to restore his people to true holiness—

Sin was the object of God's utter abhorrence: it had marred the whole creation: it had entered into Heaven itself, and defiled the mansions of the Most High: it had desolated the earth also, and all that dwelt upon it. To remedy the miseries introduced by sin, and to root it out from his people's hearts, was a design worthy of the Deity; since, if once they could be brought to "fulfill the righteousness of the law," by walking, in their habitual course of life, no longer after the flesh, but after the Spirit—then eternal honor would accrue to him, and everlasting happiness to them.

The law was not sufficient to effect this—

The law was indeed perfectly sufficient to direct man, while he remained in innocence: and it was well adapted to reclaim him when he had fallen; because it denounced the wrath of God against every transgression of its precepts, and set forth a perfect rule of duty. But "it was weak through the flesh:" man was deaf, and could not hear its threatenings; he was dead, and could not execute its commands. Hence, as to any practical effects, it spoke in vain.

God therefore, in order that his purpose might not fail, sent his only dear Son—

He sent his co-equal, co-eternal Son, "in the likeness of sinful flesh," and to be a sacrifice "for sin" that, through his obedience unto death, he might "deliver those who had been, and must for ever have continued, subject to bondage." How this expedient was to succeed, will come under our consideration shortly: we therefore only observe at present, that it was a plan which nothing but Infinite Wisdom could have devised! It could not have entered into the mind of any finite being, to subject God's only dear Son to such humiliation;

to make him a partaker of our nature, with all its sinless infirmities;

to substitute him in our place, and, by his vicarious sacrifice, to restore us to the image and favor of God.

This does, and must for ever, surpass all finite comprehension.

But though we cannot fathom all the depths of this mystery, we may show

II. In what way it is effectual for the end proposed—

We speak not of the way in which the death of Christ obtains our justification, but of the way in which it is instrumental to our sanctification. In reference to this, we say,

1. It displays the evil and malignity of sin—

The evil of sin had been seen in a measure by the miseries which it had introduced, and by the punishment denounced against it by the holy God. But in what light did sin appear, when nothing less than the incarnation and death of Christ was able to expiate its guilt or destroy its power! Let any person behold the agonies of Christ in the garden, or his sufferings and death upon the cross, and then go and think lightly of sin if he can! Surely if men were more habituated to look at sin in this view, they would be filled with indignation against it, and seek incessantly its utter destruction.

2. It obtains for us power to subdue sin—

Though man is in himself so weak that he cannot, of himself, even think a good thought—yet through the influence of the Holy Spirit he can "fulfill the righteousness of the law," not perfectly indeed, but so as to walk in newness of life. There is a two-fold fulfilling of the law mentioned in the Scriptures; the one legal, the other evangelical. Compare Matthew 5:17 with Romans 13:8 and Galatians 5:14. Now, by the death of Christ the promise of the Spirit is obtained for us; and all who seek his gracious influences, shall obtain them. Thus the axe is laid to the root of sin. "The weak is enabled to say, I am strong:" and he, who just before was in bondage to his lusts, now casts off the yoke, and "runs the way of God's commandments with an enlarged heart."

3. It suggests motives sufficient to call forth our utmost exertions—

The hope of Heaven and the fear of Hell are certainly very powerful motives; yet, of themselves, they never operate with sufficient force to produce a willing and unreserved obedience. While the mind is wrought upon by merely selfish principles, it will always grudge the price which it pays for future happiness. But let the soul be warmed with the love of Christ, and it will no longer measure out obedience with a parsimonious hand: it will be anxious to display its gratitude by every effort within its reach. "The love of Christ will constrain it"

to put forth all its powers;

to "crucify the flesh, with its affections and lusts,"

and to "perfect holiness in the fear of God."

INFERENCES—

1. How vain is it to expect salvation while we live in sin!

If we could have been saved in our sins, can it be conceived that God would ever have sent his own Son into the world to deliver us from them; or that, having sent his Son to accomplish this end, he would himself defeat it, by saving us in our iniquities? Let careless sinners well consider this: and let the professors of religion too, especially those in whom sin of any kind lives and reigns, lay it to heart: for if sin is not "condemned in our flesh," our bodies, and souls too—we shall be condemned forever.

2. How foolish is it to attack sin in our own strength!

A ball, with whatever force it be thrown, and however long it may proceed in a right direction, will follow at last the inclination of gravity, and deviate from the line in which it was first impelled. Thus it will be with us under the influence of legal principles: we shall certainly decline from the path of holiness, when our corrupt propensities begin to exert their force. Our resolutions can never hold out against them. We must have a new bias; "a new heart must be given us, and a new spirit be put within us," if we would persevere unto the end.

Let us not then expect to prevail by legal considerations, or legal endeavors. Let us indeed condemn sin in the purpose of our minds, and sentence it to death: but let us look to Christ for strength, and maintain the conflict in dependence on his power and grace. Then, though unable to do anything of ourselves, we shall be enabled to "do all things through Christ who gives us strength."

3. How are we indebted to God for sending his only Son into the world!

If Christ had never come, we would have remained for ever the bond-slaves of sin and Satan. We would have still continued, like the fallen angels, without either inclination or ability to renew ourselves: whereas, through him, many of us can say, that we are "made free from the law of sin and death." Let us then trace our deliverance to its proper source:

to the Father's love,

to the Savior's merit, and

to the Spirit's influence.

And let us with sincere gratitude adore that God, who "sent his Son to bless us, in turning away every one of us from our iniquities! Acts 3:26."

 

#1859

THE CARNAL AND THE SPIRITUAL MAN COMPARED

Romans 8:5

"For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit."

IT is a certain and blessed truth, that all who believe in Christ are delivered from the condemnation due to their sins. But it is no less true, that all who believe in Christ are delivered also from the dominion of sin, and are enabled to walk in the paths of righteousness and holiness: and it is only by men's attainment of this latter state that their attainment of the former can be ascertained.

At the time that men believe in Christ, they have a new and spiritual principle infused into them by the Spirit of God: and where that principle exists, it will of necessity manifest itself by its appropriate operations. Hence the carnal and the spiritual man may be clearly distinguished from each other. Each will follow the predominant principle by which he is actuated: "Those who are after the flesh, will mind the things of the flesh; and they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit."

That the two characters may the more clearly appear, I will set them before you,

I. In a distinct and separate view—

The carnal man will follow carnal things—

There is in man, by nature, a carnal principle only. Whatever be his feelings, or whatever his pursuits, he is influenced by no other principle than that which he has in common with the whole human race: and the objects of his pursuit are such only as that principle affects. In a word, he seeks nothing beyond the things of time and sense. Pleasure, riches, honor, are, in his estimation, the great sources of happiness to man; and they alone are deemed worthy of his attention. His pleasures may be more or less refined; but, whether they are of an intellectual or fleshly nature, his end in pursuing them is the gratification of his own tastes and pleasures.

As in the animal creation there is a diversity of pursuit, but the same end; so in men one may affect the sports of the field, another the indulgence of his appetites and passions, and another the investigations of science; but still self-pleasing is alike the principle of all. So also, in the pursuit of riches or honor, the immediate efforts of men will be suited to the sphere in which they move: but the king upon a throne, and the beggar upon a dunghill, however wide asunder the objects of their pursuit may be, will be wrought upon in the same way by the things which appear to be within their reach, and will show that they are alike under the influence of a principle that is purely carnal.

Even in the things which have respect to religion, a carnal man will still feel no higher principle than self: self-seeking, self-pleasing, self-righteousness, and self-dependence, will be found at the root of all that he does in waiting upon God. He has no real delight in any devotional exercise; and all his conformity to religious observances is a mere tribute to self, rather than to God: it is a price paid for self-esteem, and for the esteem of those around him.

The spiritual man, on the other hand, will follow spiritual things—

There is in him, as we have said, a principle infused into his soul by the Spirit of God, and operating to the production of a new and spiritual life. The person who has received this new nature will affect objects and employments suited to it. Acceptance with God will be the first great object of his pursuit. In comparison with this, nothing under Heaven will be of any value. The care of the soul will be, in his estimation, the one thing needful. Hence he will devote much time to reading the Scriptures and to prayer. The great work of repentance will now occupy his mind; and the Lord Jesus Christ will be endeared to him as the Savior of the world.

There will be between him and the carnal man the same difference as existed between the healthy and the sick in the days of our Lord. The healthy beheld him with mere curiosity: the sick flocked around him with a determination to obtain, if possible, the healing of their diseases. The spiritual man is in pursuit of Heaven, as begun on earth, and perfected in glory: and, like a man in a race, or in a conflict, he engages with all his might, if by any means he may obtain the prize of his high calling. Even in his earthly engagements he bears in mind his great object, and endeavors to make even temporal pursuits subservient to his attainment of it. He considers his responsibility to God, and acts in everything with a reference to his great and final account.

But, that we may render the distinction between the two characters more clear, it will be proper to consider them,

II. In a combined and contrasted view—

Take both the characters, and consider them,

1. In their judgment

A carnal man may feel a general approbation of religion; but he does not regard it as of paramount importance. What he allows to religion, he rather concedes from necessity, than claims as its unquestionable due. He will conform to religion so far as his temporal interests will admit of it: but where the two come seriously in competition with each other, the world will have a decided preponderance in its favor. The good opinion of men will limit his exertions for God; and the attainment of some earthly object will be prosecuted in preference to the best interests of his soul. To attend to the interests of time and sense will be esteemed by him as of the first necessity; and his spiritual welfare will be subordinated to it.

The spiritual man, on the other hand, will decidedly declare himself on the side of God and of religion. He will not neglect his earthly duties; for he considers them as a part of his duty to God: but if anything earthly stands in competition with what is heavenly, he hesitates not to which he shall give the preference. The things of time and sense are in his eyes but as the dust upon the balance, in comparison with the things which are invisible and eternal: and in the contemplation of his God and Savior, he gives this as the deliberate judgment of his mind, "Whom have I in Heaven but you? and there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison with you!"

2. In their will

The will of man, for the most part, is determined by his judgment: for though he may see a better path, and pursue a worse, yet, at the time, he wills that which he thinks will, under the existing circumstances, contribute most to his happiness. Hence the carnal man, though he may feel some good desires after religion, and some purpose of heart to seek after it at some future period, determines that he will, for the present, give himself to the prosecution of his earthly objects.

Hence, too, he chooses as his associates those who are like-minded with himself, and who can participate with him in his enjoyments. He may know of persons capable of advancing his spiritual welfare: but he has no sympathy with them, nor any desire after their company. Any excess in worldly-mindedness he can forgive and palliate: but anything that approximates to excess in religious matters is deemed by him an unpardonable offense: and one instance of it will do more to repel him from religion, than ten thousand instances of the opposite habit to deter him from a conformity to the world.

The spiritual man, on the contrary, chooses, with deliberate purpose, his spiritual pursuits; nor will he be deterred from them by any regard to the things of this world. His heart is fixed; and though he finds that the world has yet too great an ascendant over him, he maintains his conflicts with vigor, and becomes daily more dead to the world and more alive to God. He uses diligently, too, the means of spiritual advancement; and takes for his friends and associates those who will help him forward in his heavenly way.

3. Their affections

These invariably are most called forth by the things which most preponderate in the soul. The carnal man accordingly betrays his indifference to spiritual objects by his total lack of feeling in relation to them. He may go through his religious observances with constancy; but he rests in them, and never thinks of the manner in which his duties have been performed.

But, in reference to earthly things, he is alive: his hopes and fears, his joys and sorrows, are called forth, according as he succeeds or fails in the objects of his pursuit.

The spiritual man, on the contrary, though not regardless of earthly pursuits, is comparatively unmoved by them; because he is chiefly solicitous that his soul may prosper, and that he may advance in a fitness for his heavenly inheritance. You may find him dejected or happy, without any visible cause: but when you inquire into the reasons of his experience, you will find that some change has taken place in his conflicts with sin, or in his sense of the Divine presence, or in his prospects in the eternal world; and, according as these are favorable or not, his soul becomes elevated or depressed; by which he shows that his chief treasure is in Heaven.

APPLICATION—

Take this portion of Holy Writ,

1. As a test whereby to try your state—

Hitherto I have left unnoticed the peculiar force of the word which the Apostle uses to designate the regard which we feel towards the different objects here spoken of. But the question is, not so much what our external conduct is in relation to them, as what the disposition of our minds is. Which of the two objects do we savor? to which does our taste lead us? and in which do we find most enjoyment? Now, if we will only take notice where our thoughts lead us, at those seasons when nothing particular has occurred to determine their course, we shall infallibly discover the real bias of our minds. If they run out after anything that relates to this vain, transient world, we are carnal. If they run out after things spiritual and eternal, we may rank ourselves among the number of those who are truly spiritual.

The same judgment we may form, by noticing what subjects we most delight to converse about, whether on those which pertain to this life only, or those which relate to the kingdom of our Lord and the interests of our souls. Whatever it is that we most relish and most delight in, that is the thing which occupies the chief place in our hearts, and determines us to be either spiritual or carnal, as the case may be. Take, then, this test; and "judge yourselves, that you be not judged of the Lord."

2. As a rule whereby to regulate your conduct—

It is clear from this passage, what ought to be the constant habit of our lives. We should be growing continually in a deadness to the world, and in a superiority to everything here below. The great concerns of eternity should more and more occupy our minds; and the whole course of our life should be such as to bear witness to us that we are candidates for Heaven. As to this present world, we would consider ourselves as mere pilgrims and sojourners, that have but little interest in anything around us, and whose chief concern is to pass through it in safety to our destined home.

 

#1860

THE CARNAL AND SPIRITUAL MIND CONTRASTED

Romans 8:6.

"To be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace."

THE people of the world in general are much mistaken with respect to the means of solid happiness. They seek the vanities of time and sense in hopes of finding satisfaction; and they shun religion under the idea that it would make them melancholy: but the "way of transgressors is hard, Proverbs 13:15." On the contrary, the ways of religion afford both peace and pleasure, Proverbs 3:17. The testimony of Paul respecting this is clear and decisive. His words naturally lead us to consider the difference between the carnal and the spiritual mind,

I. In their operations—

By "the carnal mind" we understand that principle of our fallen nature which affects and idolizes carnal things. The spiritual mind imports that principle which leads the soul to spiritual objects, and is implanted by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the regenerate.

The difference between these two principles is discoverable in our thoughts

The thoughts will naturally be fixed on the objects that are best suited to the reigning principle. Our occupations in life indeed will give a direction to our minds: a carnal mind may from necessity be conversant about spiritual things, and a spiritual mind about carnal things.

Particular occasions also may fix the attention much either on spiritual or carnal objects. But we speak of those seasons only, when the mind is free from pressing engagements, and can fix on the things which it most desires; to these objects they recur with frequency, fervor, and delight. If we are under the dominion of a carnal principle, we shall be thinking of some pleasure, profit, honor, or other worldly vanity. If we are led by a spiritual principle, God, and Christ, and the concerns of the soul, will occupy the mind.

The principles will also operate on the affections

Whatever we most esteem, we desire it when absent, hope for if it is attainable, love the means of attaining it, and rejoice in it when secured. If there is danger of losing it, we fear; we hate the means that would deprive us of it; and if it is lost, we grieve. The carnal mind is thus exercised about carnal objects: the spiritual mind is thus exercised about spiritual objects. Hence that caution given us with respect to the affections, "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." Colossians 3:1-2

The principles will yet further influence our aims and ends of action

A carnal man can only act from carnal motives: he will have carnal aims even in spiritual employments, Zechariah 7:5-6. A spiritual man, on the contrary, will act from spiritual motives: he will act with spiritual views even in his temporal concerns. The one will seek his own interest or honor, and the other will seek God's glory, 1 Corinthians 10:31.

This difference in the operation of the two principles causes a corresponding difference,

II. In their effects—

The effect of the carnal principle is dreadful beyond measure—

This principle reigning in us proves us destitute of spiritual life; yes, rather, the reign of it is itself a state of spiritual "death:" it must moreover terminate in everlasting death. This is irreversibly decreed by God, Galatians 6:7; and it must be so in the very nature of things. What comfort could a carnal person have in Heaven? there are no objects there suited to his inclination; nor has he any delight in the employments of the celestial spirits.

The effect of the spiritual principle is inexpressibly glorious—

Wherever it prevails, it is a proof of spiritual life: it is also invariably the means of filling the soul with "peace." Nor can it issue otherwise than in eternal life and peace. This also is according to the express constitution of God, Galatians 6:8; and it must be so in the very nature of things. Spiritual-mindedness constitutes our fitness for Heaven, while it is also an anticipation and foretaste of Heaven.

ADDRESS—

1. The carnal-minded—

In what a lamentable state are they whose consciences testify that their thoughts, affections, and aims, are altogether carnal! Let it be remembered that it is God who declares this. Who would dare to continue in such a state another day? Let those who feel their misery plead that promise, Ezekiel 36:26. There is the same grace for them as has been effectual for others.

2. The spiritual-minded—

Happy those who are of this description! Let such adore the grace that has caused them to differ from others. Let them endeavor to improve in spirituality of mind; let them guard against relapses, which will destroy their peace; and let their eyes be fixed upon the eternal state, where their present bliss shall be consummated in glory!

 

#1861

THE VILENESS AND SPIRITUAL IMPOTENCE OF THE NATURAL MAN

Romans 8:7-8.

"Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God."

TO those who know not what is in the heart of man, it must appear strange that persons not very dissimilar in their outward conduct would be adjudged to widely different states in the eternal world. But in the most imperfect of the regenerate, there is a predominant principle of love to God; whereas in the best of unregenerate men there is a rooted enmity against him: and this alone places their eternal destinies as far asunder as Heaven and Hell.

Paul has been speaking of the final outcomes to which a carnal and a spiritual mind will lead: and because it may seem unaccountable that the one would terminate in eternal damnation, while the other is productive of eternal life and peace, he assigns the reason of it, and shows that the carnal mind is enmity against God, and that a person under its influence is incapable of rendering him any acceptable service.

In the Apostle's words there are three things to be considered:

I. Paul's assertion—

The mind here spoken of, is that which actuates every unregenerate man—

"The carnal mind" does not necessarily imply a disposition grossly wicked. It is (as it is explained in verse 5) a savoring of earthly and carnal things, in preference to heavenly and spiritual things. And this is the disposition that rules in the heart of every child of man.

This "mind is enmity against God"—

There is not one of God's perfections, to which this disposition is not averse. It deems . . .

his holiness too strict,

his justice too severe,

his truth too inflexible,

and even his mercy itself is hateful to them, on account of the humiliating way in which it is sovereignly dispensed.

Even the very existence of God is so odious to them, that they say in their hearts, "I wish there were no God! Psalm 14:1."

God once put himself into their power; and they showed what was the desire of their hearts by wickedly murdering him. If they could have rid the universe his very being, they would, no doubt, have gladly done it!

This mind is not merely inimical to God, for then it might be reconciled; but it is "enmity" itself against him, and must therefore be slain, before the soul can ever be brought to the service and enjoyment of God.

This assertion, though strong, will not be thought too strong, when we consider,

II. Paul's proof—

The carnal mind "is not subject to the law of God"—

The law requires that we would love God supremely, and our neighbor as ourselves. But the carnal mind prefers the world before God, and self before his neighbor. There are different degrees indeed, in which a worldly and selfish spirit may prevail; but it has more or less the ascendant over every natural man; nor is there an unregenerate person in the universe who cordially and unreservedly submits to this law.

It not only is not subject to God's law, but "it cannot be"—

There is the same contrariety between the carnal mind and the law of God, as there is between darkness and light. It has been shown before, that the carnal mind is enmity itself against God; and that the very first principle of obedience to the law is love. Now how is it possible that enmity would produce love? "We may sooner expect to gather grapes from thorn-bushels, or figs from thistles."

This incapacity to obey the law of God is justly adduced as a proof of our enmity against him: for if we loved him, we would love his will; and if we hate his will, whatever we may pretend, we in reality hate him.

A due consideration of the Apostle's argument will secure our assent to,

III. Paul's inference—

We cannot please God, but by obeying his law from the heart. All external compliances are worthless in his eyes, if not accompanied with the love and devotion of the soul. But such obedience cannot be rendered by the carnal mind; and consequently those who are in the flesh, that is, are under the influence of a carnal mind, "cannot please God:" they may be admired by their fellow-creatures; but whatever they do will be an abomination in the sight of God.

On the whole then we may learn, from this subject,

1. The grounds and reasons of the Gospel—

The principal doctrines of the Gospel have their foundation, not in any arbitrary appointment of the Deity, but in the nature and necessities of man. We must seek reconciliation with God through Christ, because we are "enemies to him in our minds by wicked works." We must seek the renewing influences of the Spirit, because our nature is altogether corrupt, and incapable of either serving or enjoying God. When therefore we hear of the indispensable necessity of being born again, and of the impossibility of being saved except by faith in Christ, let us remember that these are not the dogmas of a party, but doctrines consequent upon our fallen state, and therefore of universal and infinite importance: and that, if we were to be silent on these subjects, we would be unfaithful to our trust, and betray your souls to everlasting ruin.

2. The suitableness and excellence of its provisions—

If man were commanded to reconcile himself to God, or to renovate his own nature—then he must sit down in despair. Darkness could as soon generate light, as fallen man could effect either of these things. But we are not left without hope: God has provided such a Savior as we need, to mediate between him and us: and such an Agent as we need, to form us anew after the Divine image. Let us then embrace this Gospel, and seek to experience its blessings. Let us, as guilty creatures, implore forgiveness through the blood of Jesus; and, as corrupt creatures, beg the Holy Spirit to work effectually in us, and to render us fit for a heavenly inheritance!

 

#1862

THE NECESSITY OF HAVING THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST

Romans 8:9.

"But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ."

MAN at his first creation was made in the Divine image; God communed with him as a friend, and dwelt in him as a temple: but this harmony was not of long continuance: man sinned; and God in righteous judgment departed from him.

Not willing however that his apostate creatures would irrecoverably perish, God sent his Son to make atonement for their sins, and his Spirit to renew their natures, so that they might be restored to his favor, and rendered fit for the inheritance they had forfeited. It is of this Spirit that the Apostle speaks in the text, and declares that we must have him dwelling in us if we would belong to Christ. We might understand the Spirit as referring to the disposition of Christ; but the context evidently confines its import to that blessed Spirit, who "raised up Christ from the dead, and will in due time raise up us also." He is called "the Spirit of God," and "the Spirit of Christ," because Christ is God, and the Spirit acts as his deputy. We propose to show,

I. That we may have the Spirit—

By "having the Spirit" we do not mean, that we are to have those common operations of the Spirit, which the most ungodly men both experience and resist, Genesis 6:3. Isaiah 63:10 (for then the Apostle's assertion would be frivolous in the extreme.) Nor do we mean those miraculous powers, which were given in the apostolic age (for many, who were Christ's, never received those powers; and many exercised those powers who never belonged to Christ, Matthew 7:22-23;) but we mean those special influences of the Spirit, whereby men are enlightened, and transformed into the Divine image. In this sense we affirm that we may have the Spirit of Christ.

Paul prayed that the whole Church at Ephesus might have "the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ;" and that they might be "renewed by the Spirit in their inward man, Ephesians 1:17; Ephesians 3:16;" and, speaking of the Christian Church at large, he especially ascribes their attainments to the operations of the Holy Spirit; "Not by works of righteousness which we have done," says he, "but according to his mercy God has saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, Titus 3:5-6."

Why do the Scriptures speak so much respecting our having the Spirit? They teach us to pray for the Spirit, Luke 11:13; they promise the Spirit to us, John 7:37-39; they require us to make use of the Spirit and depend upon him in all holy exercises, "to live in the Spirit, walk in the Spirit, pray in the Spirit, Galatians 5:25. Jude, verse 20." Would all this be spoken if we were not to expect the Holy Spirit? Is it enthusiasm for us to expect what all the first Christians had, what the Scriptures require us to have, and what we ourselves continually pray for? If we use these prayers for the Spirit's influence with sincerity, the world will call us enthusiasts; but we had better be accounted enthusiasts by man, than hypocrites by God. We would need to apologize for arguing so plain a point, if the daring infidelity of the age did not render it, alas! too necessary.

We must carry our assertion still further, and say,

II. That we must have the Spirit—

The aid of God's Spirit is necessary in order to our being Christ's:

Without the Spirit we cannot know Christ—

By nature, we are altogether blind to spiritual things. We are assured on most unquestionable authority, that "the natural man accounts the things of the Spirit to be foolishness, and that he not only does not receive, but cannot know them, because they are spiritually discerned, 1 Corinthians 2:14." And, with respect to the knowledge of Christ in particular, our Lord tells us that, as no man knows the Father but the Son, so no man knows the Son but the Father, and he to whom God shall be pleased to reveal him, Matthew 11:27. The Spirit of God must "take of the things that are Christ's and show them unto us;" he must "open our understandings to understand them;" and unless he "guides us into all truth," we shall wander in the mazes of ignorance and error to the end of our lives, and "perish at last through lack of knowledge,"

Without the Spirit we cannot resemble Christ—

We have altogether lost the image of God; nor can we ever recover it by any power of our own. That image consists in righteousness and true holiness, not the smallest part of which we can obtain without the Spirit.

If we would not go on fulfilling the lusts of the flesh, we must walk in the Spirit, Galatians 5:16.

If we would mortify the deeds of the body, it must be through the Spirit, Romans 8:13.

If we would have our trials sanctified, it must be through a supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, Philippians 1:19.

If we would "wait for the hope of righteousness by faith, it must be through the Spirit, Galatians 5:5."

There is not any single grace which can be produced by any other means; they are all fruits of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23; and as long as any man continues destitute of the Spirit, he must of necessity continue earthly and sensual, Jude verse 19. He, and he alone, can give us either to will or to do any good thing, Philippians 2:13.

Now is holiness necessary in order that we may resemble Christ; and is every part of holiness, both root and branch, the produce of God's Spirit; and can any one doubt whether it is necessary for us to have the Spirit?

Without the Spirit we cannot enjoy Christ—

We have not naturally any taste for spiritual enjoyments; we desire the things of time and sense, and those only. Indeed, how is it possible that we would enjoy him whom we do not know? Or how can his love be shed abroad in our hearts but by the Spirit? Romans 5:5. If any one thinks he can enjoy Christ by any power of his own, let him only make the experiment; let him retire to his closet for one hour, and say, 'I will spend this hour in the enjoyment of Christ; I will delight myself in him with my whole heart.' Let him make the attempt, and he shall soon be undeceived by the most convincing of all arguments, his own experience. Nor are we afraid to rest the whole argument upon the outcome of such a trial.

Nor can we enjoy Christ hereafter any more than we can in this world, if we are not prepared for it by the Spirit of God. There is a "fitness for the inheritance of the saints in light" which we must have, before we can find comfort in the presence of our Lord. What pleasure could we take in him whom we do not at all resemble? "What communion could light have with darkness, or Christ with Belial, 2 Corinthians 6:14-15." We find that even now, when our corruptions are so restrained, one single hour is irksome, if spent in spiritual exercises; and we may be sure we could not bear to be occupied without intermission to all eternity in those duties, for which we have no inclination, yes, from which we are most exceedingly averse!

But let one asseveration of the true and faithful Witness stand in lieu of ten thousand arguments: You MUST be born again, says our Lord; and that, not of water only, but of the Spirit; or else you can never enter into the kingdom of God! John 3:5-7.

We shall endeavor to improve this subject,

1. By a general inquiry—

Have we the Spirit? Or are we yet destitute of his gracious influences? Some think this a needless inquiry, and one which cannot be satisfactorily resolved. But can we "be brought out of darkness into marvelous light," and be "turned from the power of Satan unto God," without knowing that we have experienced some change? Paul supposes such ignorance to be inconsistent with saving conversion to God: he asks, "Don't you know that your bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit? 1 Corinthians 6:19." And again, "Don't you know that Jesus Christ is in you, unless you are reprobates? 2 Corinthians 13:5." Now here he not only declares that we are reprobates if we have not the Spirit of God, but considers this truth as known and acknowledged by all true Christians.

Inquire then, whether you have been enlightened, renewed and sanctified by the Spirit of God, and whether you are yet daily experiencing his powerful operations? Let not this matter hang in suspense, lest you be found reprobates and sons of perdition, when you are imagining yourselves saints, and heirs of glory.

2. By a particular address—

Let those, whose consciences testify that they have not the Spirit, stand convicted and condemned. The text speaks of all such without exception, "if any man," etc. Let it be remembered that, however cultivated our minds may be with human literature, and however amiable our natural dispositions, we must have the Spirit of Christ, or we do not belong to him. And what a dreadful state is this! For if we are not Christ's—then whose are we? It must be said to us, as our Lord said to the Jews, "You are of your Father, the devil." And are any of us willing to be disclaimed by Jesus in the day of judgment? Would we that he would then say to us, "You do not belong to me?" If not, let us now seek his good Spirit, and live henceforth under his influence and direction.

But let those who have reason to believe that they have the Spirit, rejoice. They are Christ's; they are his friends; they are the very members of his body; they are "his portion, the lot of his inheritance." O happy, happy souls, how highly privileged even now! and how unspeakably blessed in the future world! Be not afraid then of the scoffs of an ungodly world; let them curse, if God does but bless. Improve your present privileges: be careful lest by any means you "grieve the Holy Spirit whereby you are sealed:" look to him more and more to comfort and transform your souls; and expect with patience that blessed period, when Christ shall acknowledge you before the assembled universe, and number you among his jewels in the day that he shall count them up! Malachi 3:17.

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THE OFFICES OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (continued)

Romans 8:9.

"But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ."

Preached before the University of Cambridge, in November, 1831.

ON a remote occasion I endeavored to set forth in this place, the law; and, on a subsequent occasion, the Gospel. These two subjects, taken together, form a whole, so far as relates to Christianity as a system. But for the full development of our holy religion in its spiritual operations and practical results, the office of the Holy Spirit should be separately and distinctly considered. This part, therefore, it is now my intention to supply.

But, in entering on a subject so deeply mysterious as this, I may well ask, "Who is sufficient for these things?" Besides, in reference to it, there is a still further ground of discouragement, arising from the opposition which the subject itself meets with in the human mind. To a person who has never experienced anything of a work of grace upon his own heart, the work of the Spirit appears to be little better than an enthusiastic conceit; and when pressed upon his conscience as a matter to be experienced at the peril of his soul, it excites, I had almost said, a feeling of indignation, inasmuch as it requires of him a greater degree of submission to God than he is willing to yield, and a closer fellowship with God than he has any inclination to attain.

I think this admits of an easy illustration. It is an indisputable fact, that we are, by nature, altogether alienated from the life of God. Now we all feel, that, when alienated from a fellow-creature, however we may bear with him in a crowd, we are indisposed to have much personal fellowship with him alone. So, also we feel in reference to God. We can hear of him at a distance, and not be disturbed; but, by reason of our alienation from him, we are averse to be brought into very near communion with him. We can bear with a display of his perfections in the universe, because, though we see him as our Creator—he is not sufficiently near us to exercise any material control over us: but when he is brought near to us in the law, as our Governor—we feel somewhat of a painful constraint, because of our responsibility to him, and the account we must one day give of ourselves to him at his tribunal.

Let him then be brought still nearer to us in the Gospel, as our incarnate and suffering God, and our inquietude is proportionably increased; because we are made to realize more deeply the terrors of his wrath, which demanded such a sacrifice, and the personal obligation which lies upon us to surrender up ourselves unreservedly to him.

But, in the offices and operations of the Holy Spirit, we are led to view him, not merely as God, in the universe, displaying himself around us; or as God, in his Church, declaring his will to us; or as God, in our nature, interposing for us; but as God, in our hearts, dwelling and operating in us. This brings him into such immediate contact with us, and requires of us such a minute attention to all our ways, that we shrink back from every part of the subject, and, for the pacifying of our own minds, cast reflections upon it as visionary, unintelligible, and absurd. I do not mean to say that there is in the minds of men a distinct consciousness of such a process, but only that there is in reality such a process in the human mind, though men are not exactly aware of it.

Men do not like to have God too near to them; and the nearer he is brought to them, the more they show their aversion to that which is the means of presenting him to their minds. Under such circumstances, I scarcely know how to enter upon the work which I have undertaken. Indeed I am strongly reminded of the feelings of Paul himself, when, in reference to his ministrations at Corinth, he said, "I was among you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling! 1 Corinthians 2:3." Yet, from so interesting a subject, especially while I judge it necessary to complete the plan which I had originally proposed, I dare not draw back. The importance of it will plead my apology, if any apology be required for "declaring to you the whole counsel of God." Indeed, we need go no further than to the words of my text, to see the inconceivable importance of the subject which I am bringing before you.

What! If any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him!" What can this mean? Who is this "Spirit?" What is it to "have" him? Why is the having him so indispensable to my welfare? What must I do in order that I may get possession of him? And what must become of me, if I possess him not!

I say, to any man that has the least concern about his soul, these thoughts must force themselves with an overwhelming power upon his mind. And it is in the hope that God may in his tender mercy make use of me, for the exciting and the satisfying of these inquiries, that I now address myself to this deep and comprehensive subject. But let me entreat, not only your candor, (for of that I am, from long and uniform experience, well assured,) but your prayers, also, that God may enable me so to speak, as to approve myself to him; and enable you so to hear, that you may derive eternal benefit to your souls; so that both "I who sow, and you who reap, may rejoice together in Heaven for evermore."

For the unfolding of the subject I shall endeavor to show, distinctly and separately in my four discourses—

I. Who is that Spirit whom all of us as Christians are expected to possess.

II. Why the possessing of that Spirit is indispensable to our being Christ's accepted followers.

III. What that Spirit will work in us in order that we may be Christ's.

IV. What he will work in us when we are Christ's.

And, while I speak, may "the word go forth with the Holy Spirit sent down from Heaven," and "come in demonstration of the Spirit and of power" to the hearts of all who hear me! 1 Peter 1:12. 1 Corinthians 2:4.

I. Who is that Spirit whom all of us as Christians are expected to possess. The Holy Spirit here spoken of is the Third Person of the ever-blessed Trinity. As such he is set forth in the ordinance of baptism, which is administered in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Matthew 28:19. And as such he is addressed in that blessing uttered by Paul, "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen, 2 Corinthians 13:14." In both of these passages his distinct personality is recognized, and his proper deity acknowledged.

Had he been a mere quality, as some have imagined, it is not to be conceived that his name would have been united with that of the Father and of the Son in these solemn acts of worship. But, in fact, the whole Scriptures bear witness to him as God, equally with the Father and the Son. Ananias, "in lying to the Holy Spirit, lied unto God, Acts 5:3-4." And we, in being his temples, are the temples of the living God, 1 Corinthians 3:17 with 6:19.

But, while in his essential Godhead he is equal with the Father and the Son, in his office he is inferior to them both, and acts, if I may so say, a subordinate part under the Gospel dispensation. And this accounts for his being called, The Spirit of the Father, Matthew 10:20. John 15:26; and The Spirit of the Son, Galatians 4:6, under which latter designation we are this time called more particularly to consider him.

My text says, "If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." Now it is of importance to ascertain, why this name is given to the Holy Spirit. I conceive that the following reasons may fitly be assigned for it. He is so called, I apprehend,

1. Because of his peculiar agency in reference to Christ himself.

2. Because of his subserviency to Christ in the economy of redemption.

3. Because of its being his special office to glorify Christ.

He is called The Spirit of Christ,

First, because of his peculiar agency in reference to Christ himself. It was he who formed the human nature of Christ in the Virgin's womb. Mary was told by the angel Gabriel, that she would conceive in her womb, and bring forth a son, and call his name Jesus: and, on her inquiring of him how that saying of his would be accomplished, seeing that she was a virgin, the angel answered her, saying, "The Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you: therefore, also, that holy one who shall be born of you, shall be called the Son of God, Luke 1:35."

The endowments of the Lord Jesus for his heavenly commission were also communicated to him from the same source; as the Prophet Isaiah very distinctly foretold: "The Spirit of the Lord God shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and of might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord, and shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord, Isaiah 11:2-3." Indeed our Lord himself, when entering upon his ministerial office, purposely referred to another passage in the same prophet, expressive of the same truth, and declared to his audience, that that very Scripture was then fulfilled in their ears: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind; to set at liberty those who are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord, Luke 4:18-19 with Isaiah 61:1-2."

The solemn consecration also of the Lord Jesus to his office at the time of his baptism, was visibly attested and confirmed by this same divine Agent: "The Holy Spirit descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him; and a voice came from Heaven, which said: You are my beloved Son; in you I am well pleased, Luke 3:22."

Further, it was "by the Spirit that he was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, Matthew 4:1;" and by that same Spirit, was enabled to vanquish that mighty foe; as our Lord himself declared: "If I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you, Matthew 12:28." By the same divine Agent also was he assisted in offering himself a sacrifice upon the cross; for "through the eternal Spirit, he offered himself without spot to God, Hebrews 9:14;" by him also was he afterwards raised up from the grave, to which his crucified body had been consigned: "He was put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit, 1 Peter 3:18."

Now, as ministering thus to the Lord Jesus, from the first moment of his existence to the period of his restoration from the grave, the Holy Spirit is peculiarly entitled to the name given him in my text, "The Spirit of Christ."

But this name further pertains to him on account of his subserviency to Christ in the economy of redemption. Christ, as Mediator, was sent by the Father, and acted in all things as a servant to his Father, Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 53:11, doing nothing, and speaking nothing, but in accordance with the Father's will, and in obedience to the Father's commands. He himself says, "I have not spoken of myself; but the Father who sent me, he gave me a commandment what I would say, and what I would speak, John 12:49." And precisely thus did the Lord Jesus Christ send the Holy Spirit to effect his will.

It was by the Holy Spirit that Christ spoke in the ministry of Noah to the antediluvian world, 1 Peter 3:18-20, and instructed all his people in the wilderness, Nehemiah 9:20. It was by the Holy Spirit that he moved the prophets in succeeding ages to declare future events, 2 Peter 1:21, and especially to predict "his sufferings, and the glory that would follow." And in reference to this very thing, Peter calls the Holy Spirit, "The Spirit of Christ, 1 Peter 1:11."

On all these occasions, Christ acted by the instrumentality of the Holy Spirit, who, according to the plan fixed in the Divine counsels, was deputed to fulfill the will of Christ. This was made manifest by our blessed Lord while he was yet on earth: for on many different occasions, he promised to his disciples to "send them the Holy Spirit, John 16:7." He told them also that the Father would send them the Holy Spirit in his name, John 14:26; yes, in an authoritative manner, "he breathed on them, and said, Receive the Holy Spirit, John 20:22;" and on the day of Pentecost, he, according to his promise, sent forth the Holy Spirit on all his disciples, as it is said: "Being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has shed forth this which you both see and hear, Acts 2:33."

In everything which from that period the Holy Spirit enabled the Apostles to do and teach, he acted as the deputy of Christ, not himself originating what he revealed, or speaking it of himself, but declaring to them what Christ himself had heard and received from the Father, John 16:13; and what he, the Holy Spirit, had heard and received from Christ. Our Lord himself says, in one place, "The words that I speak unto you, I speak not of myself; but the Father that dwells in me, he does the works, John 14:10;" and again, "The word which you hear, is not mine, but the Father's who sent me, John 14:24;" and then afterwards, respecting the Holy Spirit, he says, "When he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but, whatever he shall hear, that shall he speak; and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you, John 16:13-15."

But there is a yet further reason for the Holy Spirit being called "the Spirit of Christ," namely, that to him was delegated the express office of glorifying Christ. Our Lord, as you have just heard, said, "He shall glorify me; for he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you." Accordingly we find, that all the miracles which were wrought by the Apostles for the confirming of the doctrines which they preached, were wrought by the agency of the Holy Spirit, Hebrews 2:4; and that, too, for the express purpose of bearing witness to Christ as the true Messiah, John 15:26. It was "that one and the self-same Spirit who wrought all in all in all, 1 Corinthians 12:7-11."

The different graces also which were exercised by the saints for the honoring of Christ, were formed in them by this same divine Agent; on which account they are called, "the fruits of the Spirit Galatians 5:22." In fact, as Christ was the fountain from which, in all cases, the living water flowed, John 7:37-39, and the reservoir from whence the holy oil descended through the golden pipes of divine ordinances upon all God's waiting and obedient people, Zechariah 4:6; Zechariah 4:11-12, so in everything which the Holy Spirit either then did, or at the present moment does, impart to men, in a way either of gifts or graces—his object has ever been the same, namely, to bear testimony to Christ, and to fix our regards on Christ, as our only and all-sufficient Savior.

See this exemplified at the time of Peter's mission to Cornelius. Peter commending to Cornelius the Lord Jesus as the only Savior, whether of Jews or Gentiles, says, "To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name, whoever believes in him shall receive remission of sins." Then we are told, that instantly, "while Peter yet spoke these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all them that heard the word," precisely as he had done on the Apostles at the day of Pentecost, Acts 10:43-44; Acts 11:15.

Thus, in all that is now revealed to the souls of men respecting Christ, or that is imparted to them as the purchase of his blood, it is communicated to them by the Spirit; so that all, without exception, must say, "We have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us by God, 1 Corinthians 2:10; 1 Corinthians 2:12."

In this mode of speaking of the Holy Spirit, we may possibly be thought to have made him inferior to the Father and the Son. But the inferiority is not personal, but official; not as the Sacred Three exist in themselves, but as they sustain and execute their respective offices in the economy of redemption. As bearing, what may be called a subordinate part in the mysterious work of man's salvation, a disparity may be ascribed to him; and he may be called "the Spirit of the Father," and "the Spirit of Christ;" but, in himself, he is equal both with the Father and the Son, and is in every way entitled to the same respect, and "love," and confidence, as they, Romans 15:30.

Be it then remembered, that this is He whom every Christian must have dwelling and abiding in him. Paul expressly calls him, "The Holy Spirit which dwells in us, 2 Timothy 1:14." And if we mark carefully the whole passage from whence my text is taken, we shall find him designated by those different names, The Spirit of God, and The Spirit of Christ, and Christ himself. Hear the Apostle's words: "You are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwells in you. If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness; (that is, if Christ be in you, though your bodies shall suffer the penalty of death, your souls shall never die) but if the Spirit of him who raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you. Romans 8:9-11."

Now then this Spirit we must all "have;" and if we have him not, we cannot belong to Christ.

But here it will be asked, What is meant by "having" the Spirit? Are we all to possess the power of "working miracles, and speaking divers kinds of tongues, 1 Corinthians 12:10." No! the time for such things is long since passed. That they may be renewed at the time when God's ancient people shall be restored to his favor, and the Gentile world shall be converted to the faith of Christ, is probable enough: but no such power exists at this day, except in the conceit of a few brain-sick enthusiasts; nor, if it did, would it have any bearing upon the subject before us. The possession of that power would not constitute us as Christ's: for we have reason to think that Judas wrought miracles, as well as the other Apostles; and yet, as our Lord tells us, he was no better than a devil all the while! John 6:70.

That possession of the Spirit of which my text speaks, is of such a discriminating nature, that no man who has the Spirit can fail to belong to Christ, and no man who has the Spirit not can have any part or lot with him. The Spirit of God is promised to us, to dwell in us as in his temple; for we are to be "the habitation of God through the Spirit, Ephesians 2:22;" and he is further to operate in us effectually for all the ends and purposes of our salvation, producing in us all "the fruits of goodness, and righteousness, and truth Ephesians 5:9."

His motions may not unfitly be compared with the operations of the soul in the human body. Without the soul, the body cannot perform any vital function whatever: but when that spiritual inhabitant is present with us, and discharges its proper offices, we show, by the various exercises of our mind and body, that the Spirit really dwells in us. Now the Spirit of God performs in the soul an office somewhat analogous to this.

The soul by itself has respect only to things visible and temporal; but, when filled by the Spirit of God, it occupies itself about things invisible and eternal. And precisely as the body needs the presence and operation of the soul for the discharge of its offices in relation to this world, so does the soul need the influences of the Holy Spirit for the discharge of its duties in reference to the world to come.

To a carnal mind, this may appear strange. But it corresponds exactly with what Paul says: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me! Galatians 2:20." And again, he says, "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with him in glory! Colossians 3:4."

The particular operations of the Spirit of Christ will come under our consideration hereafter. My present object is merely to show who that blessed Spirit is, whom we are to have dwelling in us, and for what ends and purposes he is promised to us. He is none other than God himself: and, as I have said, he operates as really and effectually in our souls, as our souls operate in our bodies.

I am aware that this is a truth but little considered; a truth, the very mention of which is, by the generality of Christians, accounted visionary at least, if not impious and profane. But if this truth is not admitted, yes, and admitted too as a matter of primary importance, all that we shall have to advance in our remaining discourses, will only create disgust. I beg, therefore, that this be duly weighed; that the text, in conjunction with the context, be diligently studied; and that prayer be offered by us all to Almighty God, who has promised to "give wisdom to those who ask it at his hands, James 1:5;" so that our minds may be led to receive the word with candor, and our hearts be opened to embrace it. If we enter not into a candid investigation of this subject, the word will only prove a stumbling-block to our feet, and "become a savor of death unto death," instead of being, as I would wish it, "a savor of life unto life, 2 Corinthians 2:16."

Truly there is a great fault, both among Christian ministers and Christian hearers, in relation to it. Ministers in general enter not, by any means, with sufficient clearness and fullness into this part of divine truth. Many, who, at the time of their ordination, have professed that they were "moved by the Holy Spirit" to take upon them the ministerial office. I say, many who have thus, in the presence of the whole Church, professed their faith as in perfect accordance with our subject, in their ministrations altogether overlook it, except at the time appointed by the Church for the special consideration of it; and even then they touch it but superficially, and bring it forward only lest the expectation of the people, who look for some instruction respecting it, would be disappointed.

And Christian hearers feel no lack, though they pass the whole remainder of the year, without ever being reminded of the truth of which my text speaks; that is, of the necessity of having the Holy Spirit imparted to us in order to our final salvation. Nay, even "Masters of Israel," of whom better things might be hoped, are yet ignorant of these things; and, when told that they must be born again of the Spirit, too often reply, with Nicodemus, "How can these things be? John 3:9-10."

In fact, we of the Church of England, having a season consecrated to the special consideration of this subject, have, from this very circumstance, our guilt greatly aggravated. We have heard, from year to year, the declaration in my text; and yet perhaps have never once put the question to ourselves, "Have I received the Holy Spirit?

Have I the Spirit of Christ dwelling in me?

Have I ever sought this gift, and earnestly implored of God to bestow it on me?

Have I, in the course of my whole life, so much as once felt any solicitude about it?"

Let this whole assembly put these questions to themselves; and then let them see in what a perilous state they are, and with what a disposition of mind they ought to come to the further consideration of this all-important subject. Indeed, indeed, I must declare, from Almighty God, that, whatever any man may think of his attainments or his virtues, he is not a Christian truly, if his soul is not a temple of the Holy Spirit. He may have many amiable qualities, but he does not belong to Christ; nor can he ever dwell with Christ in the eternal world, if Christ does not dwell in him, and abide with him, in this world.

Whence the necessity for this heavenly gift arises will be opened in our next lesson. But I must, in the mean time, warn all, that the subject is a matter of life and death. It is not to be listened to with mere curiosity, but as a point which at our peril we must understand, and at our peril must experience. If it is of importance whether we belong to Christ or not, it is of importance to ascertain whether we have this evidence of our belonging to him: for the declaration of God is unquestionable, and his decision is irreversible; nor is there any exception whatever made: "If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ."

He may be in a high and dignified station in the church—but he is not therefore Christ's. He may be greatly distinguished for the variety and extent of his intellectual attainments—but he is not therefore Christ's. He may be looked up to as a pattern of moral excellence and virtue—but neither will that be any decisive evidence of his belonging to Christ. Whoever, or whatever he may be, if he has not the Holy Spirit abiding in him, he is none of Christ's. He may now make light of this truth; he may explain it away; he may "puff at it, Psalm 10:5" (as the Scripture speaks), with contemptuous indignation; but he shall find it true to his cost. Let me, however, hope that the minds of all shall "be opened, as Lydia's was, to attend to what shall be spoken, Acts 16:14;" and that "the word being received with meekness as an engrafted word, shall prove as effectual, as it is able to save your souls! James 1:21."

But, while I would impress on all, a sense of the absolute and indispensable necessity which exists for our possessing this heavenly gift, I must not close my subject without declaring, for the comfort of my audience, the willingness of Almighty God to bestow the Spirit upon all without exception. He has told us, that if an earthly parent will not refuse bread to his famished child, much less will He refuse his Holy Spirit unto those who ask him Luke 11:13.

Nor let any be discouraged on account of their unworthiness. A more unworthy character can scarcely be conceived than that of the Samaritan woman, whose guilt, it would seem, was not a little aggravated by refusing to our Lord a draught of water; yet to her did he say, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that says unto you, Give me to drink—you would have asked of him, and he would have given you living water, John 4:10; John 4:14."

Let all of us then come thirsting for this water of life. Nor let any erroneous presumption be harbored in our minds, as though there were nothing peculiar in this gift; but let every one of us seek it, yes, seek it earnestly, "with strong crying and tears," so that we may be heard and answered, and "the Savior be magnified in the midst of us, Acts 19:17," and "our souls be saved in the great day of the Lord Jesus! 1 Corinthians 5:5."

 

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OUR NEED OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (continued)

Romans 8:9.

"But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ."

THE Jewish religion, by the express command of its Divine Author, would not admit of any relaxation of its principles, or any departure from its established ordinances. Not only did it prohibit any connection with idolaters, but it forbade even the mention of the name of any false God. In all its appointments, it formed so broad a line of separation between the Jews and the rest of the world, that it was considered by the Gentiles as inspiring its followers with an utter hatred of all the human race.

The New Testament has, to a certain degree, shared among the heathen the same universal antipathy, and upon the same grounds. If the religion of the Lord Jesus would have admitted of any union with idolatry, he would have been readily received among the objects of worship which the Romans venerated; and his religion, instead of being universally hated, would have been judged worthy of general respect. But the Apostles were commanded to preach the Gospel everywhere, as requiring an exclusive regard; and to enforce it with this authoritative declaration, that "all who believed and embraced it would be saved, but that all who embraced it not would be damned! Mark 16:16."

Its doctrines were inculcated as so sacred, that "if even an angel from Heaven would attempt to establish any position contrary to them, he would be held accursed, Galatians 1:8-9." This inflexible spirit pervades the whole of our religion, so far as it relates to its fundamental truths. Every man must yield to it at his peril: and not to those parts only which are commended to us by our reason, but to those parts also which depend entirely on revelation, and to which reason is constrained to bow. Not to mention innumerable other passages which partake of this unbending character, I will take that which forms the subject of our present series: "If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ."

Here is a declaration so broad, so explicit, so determinate, as to admit of no qualification, no exception whatever. To it every child of man must submit; and "whoever shall stumble over it as a rock of offense, shall be broken; and on whoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder! Matthew 21:44." Taking for granted that you have, agreeably to my request, examined carefully for yourselves my text in connection with the context, and that you see my interpretation of it to be correct, I proceed, with all humility, to the further consideration of the solemn truth which I have undertaken to develop.

Now, whether we could show the reasonableness of this declaration or not, it would be our bounden duty to receive it with implicit confidence, and to regard it as the avowed and unalterable determination of the Most High God. But I think it may be clearly shown, that this is by no means an arbitrary appointment, resulting merely from the sovereign will of God. It appears to be rather a declaration founded on the actual state of man as a fallen creature.

When man was in his original state of holiness, in himself complete, he needed neither a Savior to work out a redemption for him, nor the Holy Spirit to apply that redemption to him.

But, as a fallen creature, he stands in need of both. A Redeemer is necessary for him, that he may be brought back to God; and the gift of the Holy Spirit is necessary for him, in order that he may come to Christ aright, and find acceptance with God through Christ.

This need of the Spirit's influence is the part of my subject which I am now called to unfold; and I pray God, that, while I address myself to it with all Christian fidelity, "the word may come to every soul among you, not in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance, 1 Thessalonians 1:5.

Let me however first, in a few words, repeat what we mean, when we say, that men must "have" the Spirit of Christ: for, unless we have definite ideas upon that subject, we can never fully comprehend the point which we are endeavoring to set before you.

It is obvious that the possession of the Spirit, which is here spoken of, must be somewhat very different from any natural or acquired endowment, since we may possess everything which constitutes us rational and accountable beings, and yet not be Christ's. While, on the other hand, however defective we may, in other respects, be, the possession of the Spirit will infallibly prove us to belong to Christ. If it is asked, What does this possession of the Spirit import? I answer, It is, as I showed in my last lesson, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our souls, as his temple, and his operating in us, as a quickening and influential principle of life.

That point being determined, we shall proceed, agreeably to the plan laid down in the preceding lesson, to show,

II. Why the possession of that Spirit is necessary to our being Christ's accepted followers. For the elucidation of this, there are three points to be established; namely:

first, That all our faculties are impaired by sin;

next, That, without an entire renovation of them, Christ can never accept or acknowledge us as his;

lastly, That none but the Spirit of Christ can ever accomplish in us this necessary work.

These points being established, the reasonableness, no less than the certainty, of God's declaration in my text, will appear, to the conviction of every gainsayer, and to the satisfaction of every unprejudiced mind.

First, then, let it be remembered, That all our faculties are impaired by sin.

It is clear, that we are not now such as we were when we first came out of our Creator's hands. We were created, originally, "after God's own image, Genesis 1:26." Our mind was in perfect accordance with his mind, and our will with his will. There was not so much as a thought of our hearts which did not emanate from him, and had not respect to his glory. Our bodies were every way fitted to aid the soul in all its operations. Not an inclination, affection, or appetite, existed in us, but in perfect unison with the proper offices of the soul, and in subservience to its dictates. Man's whole delight was in God alone. As far as God's happiness was in any respect derived from the creature, it was God in the creature, and not the creature itself, that was the real source of that happiness: the creature was only the medium of communication between him and his God. The goodness of God was seen and tasted by him in everything: and every object around him afforded him an occasion of admiration, and gratitude, and love. To dwell in the presence of God, to commune with him, to receive and execute every intimation of his will; in a word, to admire God in everything, to adore him for everything, and to glorify him by everything; this was the constant employment of man in his state of innocence, and the one uniform occupation both of his soul and body.

But what of all this is now left to us? We are altogether departed from God. Every faculty of our souls, and every member of our bodies, has become depraved, so that there remains in us no part of the moral image of our God. As beings of a superior order, we still are the lords of this lower creation; and, in the exercise of this authority, we, to a certain degree, resemble Him who is the governor of the universe, 1 Corinthians 11:7. But in righteousness and true holiness, which I call his moral image, we bear no resemblance to him whatever.

Our understanding is blinded, so that, instead of approving God's revealed will, we turn away from it with dislike.

His law, as contained in the Ten Commandments, is deemed by us unnecessarily strict; and the sanctions by which it is enforced are regarded as needlessly severe.

His very Gospel, which is the result of his eternal counsels, and contains in it "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, Colossians 2:3," is treated by us as a cunningly devised fable. To the self-righteous among us, it is a stumbling-block; and to those who are wise in their own conceit, it is mere foolishness. We are, both in heart and life, altogether opposed to it.

In our eyes sin has no deformity, and holiness has no beauty. Communion with God affords us no pleasure. Prayer and praise are exercises which are a burden to us, rather than a delight; and instead of walking in constant and familiar fellowship with God, as Adam did before the fall, we flee from him, as Adam did after his transgression, and rather hide ourselves from him as an enemy, than go forth to meet him as a friend.

But "is it I who say this; or says not the Scripture the same also, 1 Corinthians 9:8." God's own account of us is, that "when he looked down from Heaven upon men, to see if there were any that did understand and seek after God, they were all gone aside, they were all together become filthy, there was not one that did good, no, not one! Psalm 14:2-3 with Romans 3:10-18." He further adds, that "every imagination of the thoughts of men's hearts was only evil continually, Genesis 6:5." Nor let it be supposed that this was descriptive only of some more flagrant transgressors who lived at one particular age or place: for the Apostles themselves, previous to their conversion, were of this very character, as Paul most candidly confesses. Speaking of those "who walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in all the children of disobedience," he says, "Among whom we all had our conduct in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature children of wrath, even as others! Ephesians 2:2-3." And again, "We ourselves also were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and Pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another! Titus 3:3."

But, together with the Scripture, let me appeal to personal experience. What have been our own habits even from our youth? Have we delighted ourselves in God? Has it been the joy of our hearts to draw near to him in the exercise of prayer and praise? And have we sought after the communications of his grace and the testimonies of his love, as our supreme happiness? When the question has occurred to our minds, "Who will show us any good?" has the reply of David instantly been made, "Lord, lift up the light of your countenance upon us, Psalm 4:6." Must we not rather confess, that every vanity has been regarded by us with a deeper interest than our God, and every base lust been served in preference to him? Yes, we have, as the Scripture asserts, "worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for evermore! Romans 1:25." And if at any time we have been reproved for this, our heart has risen up against the will of God, in the very spirit of Pharaoh, when he said, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go Exodus 5:2."

And now I make my appeal to you. Is this overstated? If any thinks that it is, tell me who is there among us whose body has at all times been in perfect subjection to his soul, so as to render a prompt and uniform obedience to its holy motions? With whom has it not rather been in a constant state of rebellion against the soul; and in whom, unless he have been renewed by divine grace, does it not, with insatiable avidity, follow yet daily its own corrupt desires? It is true in all of us, though not exactly in the same way, that the body, which was ordained to serve, exercises a tyrannic sway over, the soul; and the soul, which was ordained to regulate all the motions of the body, is made a very pander to its corrupt appetites.

Now then, agreeably to what I mentioned as the second point to be considered, I beg you to inquire with care, and to judge with candor, whether, while we are in such a state, Christ can receive us, and acknowledge us as his? I think it clear that he cannot: for it would counteract all the purposes of God in the redemption of the world. If we trace up, as we must, the whole work of redemption to the eternal counsels of God—I ask: To what has he predestined his people? Is it not that they would be "conformed to the image of his Son, Romans 8:29." To what has he chosen them? Is it not that they may be "holy and without blame before him in love, Ephesians 1:4."

Yes, to no one soul among us shall salvation ever be given, but "through sanctification of the Spirit," as well as through "belief of the truth, 2 Thessalonians 2:13." But how would these purposes be accomplished if men were saved with all their corruptions unmortified and unsubdued?

Besides, it would defeat all the ends of our Savior's mission. "He came to destroy the works of the devil, 1 John 3:8;" to "redeem us from all iniquity, and to purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous for good works, Titus 2:14." Even at the time of his conception in the womb, his name Jesus was given him as declarative of this very thing, that he would "save his people," not in their sins, but from them, Matthew 1:21. But he might as well have never come at all, if these ends are to be set aside, and mankind are to be saved without any respect to their moral character.

Further, the office of the Holy Spirit, as a sanctifier, would be altogether frustrated and superseded: yes, and the whole word of God would be invalidated and made void. God has declared, that "the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God, 1 Corinthians 6:9;" and that "no unclean thing shall enter into his presence, Revelation 21:27." But what truth would there be in these declarations, if an unrenewed man could stand with acceptance in the sight of God?

But in fact, an unregenerate man could not be happy in the presence of God, even if he were admitted to it. For, how could so corrupt a creature endure the presence of a holy God; and a creature so full of enmity against God, be happy in immediate communion with him? How could a person who has never found any pleasure in holy exercises, bear to spend an eternity in duties for which he has no taste, no fitness, no capacity? He has no fitness for Heaven. He would be altogether out of his element there. Heaven would be no Heaven to him, for lack of the dispositions necessary for the enjoyment of it. If "two cannot walk together on earth, except they be agreed, Amos 3:3," then much less could the glorified saints and angels, all formed after the perfect image of their God, admit to their converse, and associate themselves with, those who bear upon their souls nothing but the image and deformity of Satan!

Paul puts this in a very striking point of view, and appeals to us for the justness of his sentiments: "What fellowship," says he, "has righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what concord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has he who believes, with an infidel 2 Corinthians 6:14-15."

If then Christ will not make void the eternal purposes of his Father, and the ends of his own incarnation and death—if he will not render nugatory the office of the Holy Spirit as the sanctifier of God's elect—and if he will not so dishonor himself as to number among his people those who have spent their whole lives in "treading under foot his blood, and doing despite to the Spirit of his grace, Hebrews 10:29." In a word, if he will not exalt to his glory those who have no taste, no capacity for the enjoyment of it, I think it clear, that Christ neither will nor can acknowledge any people as his, until they have received an entire renovation of their nature, and a fitness for that glory to which he would exalt them.

Let me not, however, be misunderstood. I am far from saying that our fallen nature renders us incapable of enjoying Heaven, provided we are washed from our guilt in the blood of Christ, and be renewed by his Spirit in our inward man. On the contrary, not only will the Lord Jesus Christ, in that case, receive and acknowledge us as his, but "God the Father also will rejoice over us with joy, and rest in his love, and rejoice over us with singing! Zephaniah 3:17;" and both the Father and the Son will be eternally glorified in us.

But this I say, that, until we are restored to the Divine image, the Lord Jesus can never have pleasure in us, nor can God the Father ever recognize us as his peculiar and redeemed people; for our Lord has repeatedly, and in the most authoritative manner, asserted, that, "Except we are born again, we cannot enter into the kingdom of Heaven! John 3:3." If ever we would belong to Christ, we must be so renewed, as to be made, if not in act—yet in desire and endeavor at least, "as pure, as Christ himself is pure 1 John 3:3," and "as perfect, as our Father who is in Heaven is perfect, Matthew 5:48."

But here arises the question, By what power can this change be effected? And I answer, (as I undertook, in the third place, to show,) it is by the Spirit of Christ alone that this change ever was, or ever can be, wrought.

To imagine that this change is of necessity wrought in baptism, is a very fatal error. I presume not to say that God cannot accomplish it then as well as at any other time. Nor do I deny but that God does, on some occasions, make that ordinance the means of peculiar benefit to the soul. But the mere administration of the baptismal rite can no more sanctify a man, than the administration of the Lord's supper can. And if a man at the Lord's supper may, by receiving it amiss, "eat and drink his own damnation, 1 Corinthians 11:29;" so, by receiving baptism amiss, he may receive a curse rather than a blessing! This was actually the case with Simon Magus, who, though baptized by Philip the Evangelist, remained in the very "gall of bitterness, and the bond of iniquity! Acts 8:23."

There is, doubtless, (and I wish the avowal of it to be distinctly noticed,) a great change effected in baptism. But it is a change of state, and not of nature. By baptism a person is admitted into covenant with God, and obtains a title to all the blessings of the Christian covenant, exactly as a Jew by circumcision became entitled to all the blessings of the Jewish covenant. Paul says, "To them, as Israelites, (who have been admitted into covenant with God by circumcision,) to them "pertains the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises, Romans 9:4." But were they therefore renewed, and sanctified, and saved? Surely not: for the Apostle "appealed to God, that, notwithstanding their title to these blessings, he had "great heaviness and continual sorrow in his heart" on their account, Romans 9:2.

So then it is with those who have been baptized: they have a title to all the blessings of salvation; a title which, in an unbaptized state, they did not possess. But the actual possession of those blessings can only be obtained by the exercise of faith in Christ for the justification of their souls, and by the influence of the Holy Spirit for their restoration to the Divine image. To regard it in any other view, is to assimilate it to the extreme unction of the Papists, and to lead men into the most fatal error.

If, then, we do not of necessity receive a new nature in baptism, when and how are we to receive it? Can we, by any efforts of our own, form it in ourselves? I answer, No! It is called in Scripture "a new creation, 2 Corinthians 5:17;" and a man can no more create himself anew, than he could create himself at first. If any thinks that he has within himself a power to renew himself after the Divine image, he has, within his own reach, the means of proving it to demonstration. Let him set about it, and accomplish it, and he will at once disprove every word which the Scripture speaks respecting this matter. Our Lord says, "Without me you can do nothing, John 15:5;" and Paul says, that "God alone can give us either to will or to do anything that is good, Philippians 2:13." Yes, that of ourselves "we are not sufficient even to think a good thought as of ourselves: our sufficiency for it must be of God, 2 Corinthians 3:5." If any man thinks this not true, let him try it.

I readily acknowledge, that a man may correct some outward vices, and practice some outward duties; but can he bring himself to hate every kind and degree of sin, and to loath and abhor himself on account of his indwelling corruptions? Can he, without the Spirit's influence, so "mortify the deeds of the body, Romans 8:13," as no longer to live after the flesh? And can he sit loose to all the things of time and sense, and "set his affections" wholly and exclusively "on things above, Colossians 3:2." Can he, in a word, bring himself to love God supremely, and to delight himself truly in all holy exercises? Can he further so form his soul after the likeness of Christ, as, under the heaviest trials, to indulge no other tempers than those which he manifested, and willingly to lay down his life, as he did, and as every follower of Christ must be ready to do, Luke 14:26, for the honor and glory of his God?

Let him do these things by any power of his own, and we will at once acknowledge the erroneousness of our present statement. But the more diligently the attempt be made, the more deeply will any man be convinced, that he must have the Spirit of Christ; and that, without the renovating influences of that Divine Agent, he can never become one of Christ's peculiar and approved people.

The Spirit of Christ must "open the eyes of our understanding, Luke 24:45."

The Spirit of Christ must "renew us in our inward man, 2 Corinthians 4:16."

The Spirit of Christ alone can so reveal the Savior to us, that, with any measure of true affiance, we would "call him Lord, 1 Corinthians 12:3."

No other power than his can ever assimilate us to the risen Savior, enabling us to die unto sin, and to rise again unto righteousness, Ephesians 1:17-21. Nothing, I say, but the mighty working of that power that raised Christ himself from the dead, can effect this change in us: and, consequently, the assertion in my text is clearly proved, "If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ."

Let it then be borne in mind, that, as this is not a mere arbitrary appointment of the Deity, so neither is it an enthusiastic conceit. It is a decision of the Most High, arising out of the necessities of our nature, and proceeding from the boundless riches of his grace, which has made such an astonishing provision for us.

I hope I may now consider this point as proved, and may henceforth assume it as an acknowledged truth, that the doctrine of the Holy Spirit's influence is founded on the state and character of every living man. Indeed, if my statement upon this part of my subject has failed to carry conviction along with it, all that I shall have to bring forward in my two remaining discourses will appear destitute of any solid foundation, and unworthy of any serious attention. It is on this account that I have devoted one entire discourse to this part of my subject. I know whom I address, and that they will justly expect to see every step of my argument made clear and unquestionable. I have great and important truths to bring before you in my remaining discourses; and, if I show you not to your satisfaction the foundation on which they stand, then I cannot hope, or even wish, at any time, and least of all in these days of fanaticism and folly, that they would be favorably received by you. "I speak as unto wise men; and I call upon you to judge what I say, 1 Corinthians 10:15."

But I do hope that the words which I have delivered have carried conviction along with them. And if any doubt remains on the mind of a single individual, I call upon him to study well the state of his own soul before God. If any one of you thinks himself not so fallen as I have represented, let him examine well the Scriptures, and compare them with the whole of his past life. Or, if he thinks he can restore himself to God's image by any power of his own, let it be seen that he can do so, and let him prove it by an actual appeal to fact. Or if, in the failure of these endeavors, he is disposed to maintain that he has no need of such a transformation of soul as I have spoken of, then let him inquire diligently, and see whether there is not on God's part an insurmountable obstacle to his admission into Heaven in an unrenewed state; and also, whether, if admitted into those blissful mansions, there would not be on his part an insuperable impediment to his enjoyment of them; and whether that be not true, which our Lord declared to the obstinate and unbelieving Jews, "Where I go, you cannot come! John 8:21."

But none of you will ever be able to satisfy yourselves on any one of these points. If you could establish any one of them, you would set aside the authority of the inspired volume, and disprove at once the whole of Christianity. But if you acknowledge, as you must, the truth of our preceding statement, then set yourselves immediately to make a due improvement of all that you have heard.

Beg of God, especially, that you may be impressed with a deep sense of your exceeding sinfulness, and of your need of the Holy Spirit's influence to renovate your souls. And do not rest in a mere outward acknowledgment of your guilt and helplessness, but cry mightily to God, and "give him no rest, Isaiah 62:7" until he bestows his Holy Spirit upon you. Nor harbor a thought of delaying this work to "a more convenient season, Acts 24:25;" for, who can tell whether that more convenient season shall ever arrive? More especially now that Gods judgments are so visibly, and with such rapid strides, traversing the earth, and may, for anything we know be even already at our doors; who can tell, whether even a single day may be allowed to you for repairing your present neglect, and for acquiring that renovation of soul which you so greatly need. Indeed, this is no time for any of us to delay our preparation for death and judgment. [November 13, 1831, when the cholera had actually begun to show itself at Sunderland.]

On the contrary, the very circumstance of the proximity of danger, would give tenfold energy to our endeavors; since, in the event of any sudden seizure, a consciousness of having experienced this change, would tend to tranquillize our minds, and, by disarming death of its terrors, to counteract the effect of disease itself, which would otherwise gather strength from the fears that were excited by it.

I mean not, however, to be an alarmist on these matters: but on the matters of eternity I am an alarmist, even as the Apostle Paul was; and "knowing," as he did, "the terrors of the Lord, I would persuade men! 2 Corinthians 5:11." Yes, I would persuade every one among you, old and young, rich and poor, learned and unlearned, to "flee from the wrath to come! Matthew 3:7," and to "lay hold on eternal life! 1 Timothy 6:12."

I ask every one here present: Is my text true, or is it not? If it is true, what is it less than madness to waste the time now afforded you for obtaining the gift of God's Holy Spirit, and securing thereby the salvation of your souls? It will be too late to repent, when we are taken hence, or to "ask for even a drop of water to cool our tongues! Luke 16:24;" when now, if we would but cry to God, we might obtain "rivers of living water, John 7:38."

Were we but in earnest, no soul among us would be allowed to seek this gift in vain. Our blessed Lord has promised his Holy Spirit to us; yes, he has himself received this heavenly gift on purpose that he may bestow it upon us, Psalm 68:18. It is, "he received;" but in Ephesians 4:8. "he gave." He received in order that he might give. But, however free his promises be, "he will be inquired of by us," before he will perform them, Ezekiel 36:37. The promise runs, "Ask, and you shall have; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you, Matthew 7:7."

Let us then, in dependence on this promise, entreat of God to give us, in the first place, his Holy Spirit as a "spirit of grace and supplication, Zechariah 12:10;" and then, in answer to our prayers, to "pour out his Spirit, even, as it were, in rivers and floods upon us, Isaiah 44:3;" so that there might be accomplished in us that good work, which it is the Spirit's office to perform, by renovating our souls, and "causing us to walk in God's statutes, and to keep his judgments, and do them, Ezekiel 36:27."

Then, having obtained this inestimable gift, let us be careful to improve it aright, never "resisting his holy motions Acts 7:51," lest we provoke God to "withdraw his Spirit from us, Psalm 51:11," and with holy indignation to swear, that "his Spirit shall strive with us no more, Genesis 6:3;" and that "we shall never enter into his rest, Hebrews 3:11."

The most important parts of my subject must of necessity be deferred to the remaining opportunities of addressing you. This, which I may call only a prefatory part, I will conclude with that beautiful Collect of our Church, in which the whole that has been brought before you is thus briefly and piously expressed: "O God, forasmuch as without you we are not able to please you, grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

(continued)

#1865

THE SPIRIT'S WORK IN UNBELIEVERS (continued)

Romans 8:9.

"But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ."

IN our two preceding discourses, we touched on points necessary to be considered in order to a just apprehension of our subject; but they were rather of an introductory nature, than a direct unfolding of the subject itself. We now come to that which is of prime importance, and in which our present and eternal interests are most deeply involved, namely, the work which the Holy Spirit accomplishes in men, in order to their becoming the people and the property of Christ. And in our statements we will exercise all imaginable caution—not, on the one hand, to fall short of what the Scripture indispensably requires; nor, on the other hand, to strain any requirement of Scripture beyond what it plainly and incontrovertibly imports. For if, on the one hand, we are bound, at the peril of our souls, not to withhold anything that can be profitable to you; so we are extremely anxious, on the other hand, not by carrying any part of our subject to excess, to "make sad the heart of any whom God would not have made sad, Ezekiel 13:22."

In prosecution of the plan laid down above, I now come to state,

III. What the Holy Spirit will work in us in order to our being Christ's. And here I shall comprehend the whole in those three acknowledged duties: repentance, faith, and obedience. I say then, that, in order to bring us to Christ, the Holy Spirit will:

first, Convince us of sin;

secondly, He will reveal Christ to us, as the appointed and only Savior;

thirdly, He will lead us to an unreserved surrender of ourselves to God, in a way of holy obedience.

First—He will convince us of sin. This is the first work of the Spirit in bringing us to Christ; and until this is accomplished, we neither are, nor can be, Christ's. Of this work, there is not any real experience in the natural man. He may have, as we often see, a spirit of bondage; which appears from the apprehensions which men betray in the prospect of death and judgment: but as for any real humiliation for his sin, he has it not; nor can he form it in himself by any power of his own. It is only when Christ sends his Holy Spirit into our souls, that this great preparatory work is accomplished in us. It is that heavenly Agent alone, who can "take away from us the heart of stone, and give us an heart of flesh, Ezekiel 11:19." Hence our blessed Lord has promised to send his Holy Spirit for this very end: "I will send the Comforter unto you; and when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, John 16:7-8."

Now, the Holy Spirit will convince us, not of the mere existence of sin, for nobody can be ignorant of that; but of the extent and heinousness of our transgressions. In order to this, he will reveal to us the spiritual import of the law. While in a natural and unconverted state, we have little notion of the law, except as it appears in the mere letter. But the Holy Spirit will show us that it extends to every motion of the heart; that an angry wish is murder; and an impure look is adultery, Matthew 5:21-22; Matthew 5:27-28; and an inordinate desire after anything whatever, is a violation of the tenth commandment, Romans 7:7.

Thus he shows us that our sins, which to the generality appear only as the stars in a cloudy night, few, and at a great distance from each other—are, in reality, like the stars in the clearest night, viewed through a telescope of the largest power, when their numbers (the number of our sins) exceed all that we could ever have imagined; forming, as it were, one continuous mass through the whole space of our lives, Psalm 40:12. The various aggravations of our sins are then, also, brought to light, and are revealed to us as:

the vilest ingratitude towards our heavenly Benefactor;

the most injurious rebellion against our almighty Creator;

and the most inconceivable folly, as destructive of our eternal welfare!

We are apt, for the pacifying of our own minds, to balance our virtues against our faults. But the Holy Spirit, by applying the law to our consciences, and showing us the extent of its demands, makes us to see that our brightest virtues are, in fact, but splendid sins, falling, as they do, infinitely short of that perfection which the law requires of us. Thus the Holy Spirit shows us, not only the depth of our guilt, but the awfulness of our deservings; and that, if we die in an unpardoned state, we have nothing to expect at God's hands, but wrath and fiery indignation!

But, in addition to all this, there is one sin in particular of which the Holy Spirit will convince us, and which is especially referred to by our Lord—the sin of unbelief. Our Lord says, "I will send the Comforter, to reprove the world of sin, because they believe not on me, John 16:7-9." Now this is a sin of which the unconverted man makes no account. If he thinks of it at all, it is rather in extenuation than in aggravation of his other sins. He considers unbelief rather as his misfortune than his fault. He never once suspects that there is in him a corrupt bias, and an evil heart of unbelief; and that these are the main causes of his departing from the living God, Hebrews 3:12. Nor is he at all aware that his unbelief owes its origin to the corruption of his heart, and not to any lack of clearness in the things revealed.

God has sent his only dear Son into the world, to reconcile sinners unto him, by his own obedience unto death. He has, also, given most abundant evidence of this, such as must of necessity convince any dispassionate and candid mind. And he invites all men to accept of mercy in this his appointed way. The heathen, who have never heard of this merciful provision made for them, are not accountable for their neglect of it; but we, who have been instructed in the knowledge of Christ, and who profess to be followers of that Divine Savior, have "made light of these things," and are utterly inexcusable for not having inquired more fully into the mystery of redeeming love, and for having practically said, "We will not have this man to reign over us! Luke 19:14."

Now, when the Spirit of God brings this to our view, it appears the very summit of our guilt and folly; for, in fact, instead of requiting the Savior's love as we ought, with all imaginable gratitude and self-devotion, we have done nothing, throughout our whole lives, but "crucify to ourselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame, Hebrews 6:6."

Thus the Spirit of God brings to our view a sense of our guilt and danger. But this is not all. He breaks the heart, and humbles it in the dust, and makes us cry out, with the converts on the day of Pentecost, "Men and brethren, what shall we do! Acts 2:37." This effect is absolutely universal. There may be a difference in the degrees with which these feelings are produced in different people: but in quality, and effect, they are the same in all. In all do they produce that "broken and contrite spirit, which God will not despise, Psalm 51:17."

Now let not this work be mistaken. Where it exists, whether the person have been more or less moral, it reveals to the mind such a total alienation from God, such an entire lack of the Divine image, and such an hateful depravity of heart, as makes a man to say, with the prophet, "Woe is me! I am undone! Isaiah 6:5;" yes, and to exclaim with Job, "Behold I am vile! I repent and abhor myself in dust and ashes! Job 40:4; Job 42:6."

These may be thought to be merely particular instances, peculiar to some distinguished saints, and that they are not to be realized or expected among us. But the Prophet Ezekiel tells us, that all of us without exception must "loath ourselves for our iniquities and abominations, and that not only before, but after, that God is pacified towards us, Ezekiel 16:63; Ezekiel 36:31."

This is the very state which our Lord describes, when he says, that "he came to seek and to save that which was lost Matthew 18:11;" and, until we know ourselves to be thus lost, we never shall come to Christ aright. We must feel ourselves, like Peter, actually sinking in the waves, and, under a sense of our perishing condition, must stretch out our hands, crying, "Save, Lord, or I perish! Matthew 8:25."

The next, the second work of the Holy Spirit is, to reveal the Lord Jesus to us as the appointed and only Savior of the world. For this also a divine agency is needed, as much as for the humbling of our souls before God. We may indeed acknowledge, that the Lord Jesus Christ is the appointed Savior. We may even contend for it as an article of our creed, and write learned dissertations upon it; but all this is widely different from that kind of view which the Spirit of Christ gives to the believing soul.

It is not as a speculative truth that the Holy Spirit brings this to the mind, but as a matter of indispensable importance to every soul of man; like that of pointing out the city of refuge to a man, who, hearing the pursuer of blood rapidly gaining ground upon him, feels that he must flee with all his might, if by any means he may attain the wished-for gate of safety, before the avenger shall have overtaken him.

The Spirit of God, as our Lord himself has expressed it, "takes of the things that are Christ's, and shows them to the inquiring soul."

He shows to us what Christ has done and suffered for a ruined world: that he has left "the bosom of his Father John 1:18," and assumed our nature, and "borne our sins in his own body on the tree! 1 Peter 2:24."

He shows us, that Christ is also a living Savior, sitting at the right hand of God to complete in Heaven the work which he began on earth; and that he is coming again in due season to receive us to himself, that where he is we may be also, John 14:3.

He shows us, that our blessed Lord has, in all this work, accomplished everything that was either predicted concerning him in the prophecies, or shadowed forth in the Mosaic ritual.

He shows us, that by that one offering of himself upon the cross, he has made an ample satisfaction "for the sins of the world, 1 John 2:2," and effected a perfect reconciliation between God and man, Colossians 1:20, so that now God can be "just, and yet a Savior, Isaiah 45:21;" yes, he may be "just, and yet a justifier of them that believe in Christ, Romans 3:26."

He shows us, that, "if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies to the purifying of the flesh, much more shall the blood of Christ, who, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot to God, purge our conscience from dead works to serve the living God, Hebrews 9:13-14."

Convincing us, I say, of these things, he assures us, that, if only we "live by faith in this Savior," and "receive out of his fullness" our daily "supplies of his Spirit" and grace, we have nothing to fear; for that work that is now begun in us, shall assuredly be carried on and perfected "until the day of Christ, Philippians 1:6." From this time the sinner builds on "Christ as the only true foundation, 1 Corinthians 3:11," and glories in him as "all his salvation and all his desire, 2 Samuel 23:5." Even a full assurance of faith he is now enabled to exercise, under a full conviction that "there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, Romans 8:1;" and that "all who believe in him are justified from all things, Acts 13:39."

A full assurance of hope, indeed, a true believer may lack; but a full assurance of faith he must have, and would never lose. Faith, being founded simply on the truth of God, would never vary, under any circumstances whatever; but hope is founded partly on the promises of God, and partly on a consciousness that we are in that state to which the promises are made, and, therefore, it may vary, yes, and would vary, according to the progress we have made in the divine life, and the fitness we have attained for the heavenly inheritance.

Faith is a duty, and can never be too strong.

Hope is a privilege, and would rise or fall according to circumstances.

The lack of an assured faith is sin. The lack of an assured hope may indeed argue a low, or even a sinful, state; but it is in itself rather a duty than a sin, provided we are not in a state that warrants such a hope. Strong faith will, doubtless, for the most part, generate a lively hope, and render it as influential for our safety, as it is conducive to our comfort. Hope is, in fact, the daughter of faith; and, when grown to maturity, will perform the same offices as faith, "purifying the heart after the Savior's image, Acts 9:15 with 1 John 5:3," and "saving the soul," both with a present and an everlasting salvation, Romans 8:24.

This distinction between faith and hope is necessary for our comfort, and should be particularly borne in mind by those who minister in holy things; for many, from confounding the two, are adverse to the doctrine of a full assurance of faith; while many, from the very same cause, are induced to write bitter things against themselves without any just occasion for their disquietude, apprehending that their weakness of hope argues, of necessity, a lack of faith.

But a person may have strong faith, while yet he is very far from an assured hope. The Canaanite woman, who was repeatedly rejected by our Lord as an unfit person to enjoy the blessing which she solicited—("I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, Matthew 15:24;" "I cannot take the children's bread, and cast it unto dogs, Matthew 15:26,")—showed, by her persevering importunity, that her faith in Christ was strong; and, therefore, our Lord commended her, saying, "O woman, great is your faith: be it unto you even as you will, Matthew 15:28." This, then, I have spoken, lest any, because they have not an assured hope, would think themselves destitute of a saving faith. If our faith in Christ is simple and entire, "we shall be saved by him with an everlasting salvation, Isaiah 45:17."

If it is thought this knowledge of Christ is attainable by any human efforts, let the Apostle's declaration be borne in mind: "By grace you are saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God, Ephesians 2:8." And he elsewhere tells us, that "it is granted to us to believe in Christ, Philippians 1:29." It was "by the Spirit of wisdom and revelation that any of old attained the knowledge of Christ, Ephesians 1:17;" and it is by the same divine Teacher that we must all be brought to him at this time; as it is said, "All your children shall be taught of God, John 6:45;" and again, "No man can come unto me, unless the Father, who has sent me, draws him, John 6:44."

But I observed, that the Spirit of Christ yet further (in the third place) enables the believer to devote himself wholly and unreservedly to God. This is as necessary as either of the former. In fact, without this, where it can be effected, the others, even if they could exist, would be of no saving benefit to the soul. An entire surrender of the soul to God is that for which the graces of penitence and faith are given. But this also is the work of the Spirit, and can never be wrought by any finite power.

The man now possesses "a divine nature, 2 Peter 1:4," totally distinct from that which he brought into the world with him. He is altogether "a new creature, Galatians 6:15;" made so by him who created him at first, and "breathed into him a living soul Genesis 2:7." And can there be any doubt by whom this change is wrought? Let the Apostle's testimony determine this point: "We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, Ephesians 2:10." And again, "He who has wrought us for the self-same thing is God; who also has given unto us the pledge of the Spirit, 2 Corinthians 5:5."

I have said that the Spirit of God makes known to the believing soul, the mercies of God in Christ Jesus; and by this manifestation of God's love, he constrains the believer to "give himself up, a living sacrifice to God, Romans 12:1;" and, from a consciousness, that "he has been bought with a price, to glorify God with his body and his spirit, which are his, 1 Corinthians 6:20."

From this time, the man enters on a new course, mortifying the whole body of sin, and crucifying all his corrupt affections; as it is written, "those who are Christ's, have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts, Galatians 5:24." From this time, also, all the fruits of the Spirit are brought forth by him, and he progressively abounds in all the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God, Philippians 1:11."

Holiness, in all its branches, is now the chief desire and delight of his soul. "By walking in the Spirit, he is kept from any desire to fulfill the lusts of the flesh, Galatians 5:16." "He can no longer commit sin, as he once did, because he is born of God, 1 John 3:9." Were it possible, he would become "holy, as God himself is holy, Leviticus 19:2." His continual prayer is, that "the God of peace would sanctify him wholly; and that his whole body, soul, and spirit, may be preserved blameless unto God's heavenly kingdom, 1 Thessalonians 5:23."

As for the world, and all its vanities, he is crucified to it "by the cross of Christ; and the world, even in all its most attractive graces, is as a crucified object to him, Galatians 6:14." The relation between him and the world, like the tie of a departed relative, is dissolved, Romans 7:4; and though in the world, "he is no more of the world, than Christ himself was of the world, John 17:16."

To walk before God, and with God, and to "maintain continual fellowship with the Father and the Son, 1 John 1:3," is now his one ambition, his one pursuit. And it is only in proportion as he has attained this change, that he has any evidence that he belongs to Christ. In this way, allowing only for circumstantial varieties in different cases, the Holy Spirit completes in men the three different works which I mentioned, as necessary in order to our becoming Christ's.

I know that there are some who would call this a legal statement. But I have no hesitation in saying that it is the statement which is found in every page of the inspired volume; and that no part of it can, by any means, be dispensed with.

If we are not penitent, we can never come to Christ aright.

If we rely on anything but his meritorious blood and righteousness, we can never be accepted by him.

If we yield not ourselves up to him in a way of holy obedience, he will never acknowledge us as his.

The same Scripture which says, "Unless you repent, you shall all perish, Luke 13:5," says also, "He who believes not the Son, shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him, John 3:36;" and still further adds, "Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord, Hebrews 12:14."

Now no true disciple of Christ would wish any one of these demands to be waved, or softened down in any respect. He would most gladly comply with them all. He would assign . . .

no measure to his penitence,

no bounds to his faith,

no limits to his obedience.

In actual attainment, it is true, he has many defects, and much that affords him occasion for grief and shame: but, in heart and mind, he is like-minded with God; and he can appeal to God, that he would regard a perfect conformity to his revealed will as a very Heaven upon earth.

Now comes the question which it behooves every one of us to put to himself with all sincerity:

What evidence have I that I am Christ's?

Has the Spirit of Christ actually wrought these things in me?

Does my conscience bear me witness that I am deeply penitent before God: and that not merely on account of some flagrant transgression which I may have committed, but for the indwelling corruptions of my heart, and for the defectiveness of my very best duties?

Do I take the law as my rule of judgment, and feel that I have need, in reference to every one of the commandments, to pray from my inmost soul, "Lord, have mercy upon me for my past violations of this law, and incline my rebellious heart to keep it in the future?"

Can I also appeal to God that I do flee to Christ for refuge, renouncing utterly every other ground of hope, and "determining to know nothing, and rely on nothing, for my acceptance with God, but Jesus Christ and him crucified? 1 Corinthians 2:2."

Do I look with a holy jealousy and indignation on everything that would divide with him the honor of my salvation; and is this the most rooted and habitual sentiment of my heart, "God forbid that I would glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ! Galatians 6:14."

Further, does "the love of Christ constrain me to live, not to myself, but to Him who died for me and rose again? 2 Corinthians 5:14-15;" and does my whole walk, both in public and private, bear witness for me, that I live only for God and for eternity; and that all my other pursuits, of whatever kind they are, are subordinated to this, and made subservient to it?

Let it be remembered, I am not now asking whether we do these things perfectly; but whether we do them sincerely and habitually; and whether every deviation from this heavenly course be a source of grief and shame to us? Yes, whether we are "laboring after perfection 2 Corinthians 13:9," though we know we are not able to attain it?

Moreover, is all this manifest to those around us, and especially to those who are most conversant with us in our daily walk? Do they see, and can they testify in our behalf, that this is indeed the constant habit of our minds, and the uniform tenor of our life? Do they see a marked difference between us and the world around us; and that we are, in fact, "lights in a dark world, holding forth in our conversation the word of life? Philippians 2:16;" and proving to every beholder the truth of our profession by the consistency of our conduct?

Let us not put away from us these searching inquiries; let us not turn away from them as though this change were unattainable, or as though we could be saved without it. Let us remember what is at issue, and how deeply we are interested in it. I want to know whether I am Christ's. I want to know whether, if I were to die this day, Christ would acknowledge me as his; or whether I have not reason rather to fear, that he would say to me, "Depart from me; I never knew you! Matthew 7:23."

I am aware that some will endeavor to evade these things, by saying that we require too much. Then I demand, which of these things can be dispensed with?

Can repentance be dispensed with?

Can faith be dispensed with?

Can obedience be dispensed with?

There is not a person here who does not know, that not one of these things can be neglected, but to the certain destruction of our souls.

Again, I ask, which of these things can be wrought in us by our own power; or for which of them is not the operation of the Holy Spirit necessary?

If repentance can be wrought effectually in you by any power of your own, prove it.

If faith in Christ can, prove it.

If obedience to his commandments can, prove it.

But be careful not to mistake the shadow for the substance. Do not think that merely saying that you possess these things, or that you intend hereafter to attain them, will suffice. You must possess them; you must possess them in reality; you must possess them now, if you would have any scriptural evidence that you are Christ's, or any well-founded hope of dwelling with Christ in the eternal world.

I charge you before God that you examine, every one of you, your present state, and that you defer not any longer the attainment of the things on which your everlasting salvation depends.

Think, I beg you: if you do not belong to Christ, then you belong to the devil? Fearful thought! I pray God that no one among you may ever have to learn this by bitter experience; but that all of you may, from this moment, lay it to heart, and improve, while yet you may, this day of your salvation! I tremble, lest in any of you this day of grace be terminated by death; and, when you are vainly hoping for acceptance with Christ as his peculiar people, Satan would lay claim to you as his vassals, and possess you forever—sad trophies of his victorious power, and wretched monuments of his malignant sway!

And now, in conclusion, may God send down his Holy Spirit upon you all "to bear testimony to the word of his grace, Acts 14:3," which has been delivered to you, and render it "the power of God to the salvation of your souls, Romans 1:16." Amen and Amen.

 

#1866

THE SPIRIT'S WORK IN BELIEVERS (continued)

Romans 8:9.

"But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ."

IN entering on this closing part of our subject, I feel peculiar difficulty, not from any lack of scriptural and incontrovertible materials, but from the very nature of those materials which, being wholly of an experimental nature, can only commend themselves to those who, by actual experience, are qualified to judge of them.

There are, as we all know, different kinds of life: vegetable life, animal life, and rational life—each rising above the other, and each, in its order, evincing a manifest superiority above that which is below it. But there is a fourth kind of life, of which the Scripture speaks; namely, a spiritual life, which rises as far above the rest, as any one of them does above another. All have their proper powers, which, however, they cannot exceed.

The vegetable life has productiveness, but no consciousness nor activity.

The animal life has feeling, but no perception of the deductions of reason.

The rational life apprehends moral truth; but forms no just conception of things which are spiritual.

The spiritual life is exercised on things that are matters of pure revelation, which reason is not of itself able to apprehend.

But I wish to guard against a common misapprehension respecting this spiritual life. It is by no means correct to speak of it as constituting a new sense; for then it would be a man's misfortune only, and not his fault, if he did not possess it. But it is correct to say, that the spiritual man has a spiritual perception, which the natural man does not possess.

The merely rational man has a film over his eyes; he views things through the medium of sense, and not of faith; and the medium through which he looks at objects, distorts them, if it does not altogether hide them from his sight.

But in the spiritual man, the Holy Spirit, as "eye-salve," clears away the film, Revelation 3:18, and enables him to discern things as they really are. Faith also assists him, by bringing remote objects with greater clearness to his mind.

The power of the telescope to bring to our view things that are invisible to the naked eye, is well known. Now this is the office and effect of faith, which enables us, if I may so speak, to behold both God himself, and the hidden mysteries of God, Hebrews 11:27, and to obtain a clear perception of things which are altogether beyond the reach of the eye of sense.

Hence it appears that the merely rational man labors under a twofold disadvantage in comparison with the spiritual man: he looks through a dense medium of sense, which distorts, or altogether conceals, the objects before him; and he lacks that peculiar looking-glass of faith, which would present them truly, and bring them, if I may so say, directly upon the retina of his mind.

This is what John means, when he says, "The light shines in darkness, and the darkness comprehends it not, John 1:5;" and this is, in very explicit terms, declared by Paul to be a matter of universal experience, 1 Corinthians 2:14-16. "The natural man (whoever he may be) receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him (being seen by him only in a distorted view): neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (and he lacks that spiritual perception, whereby alone he can truly apprehend them).

But he who is spiritual, judges all things (having a clear and just perception of them); yet he himself is judged of no man (for it were a downright absurdity for a blind man to sit in judgment on one who sees). For who (that is what merely natural man) has known the mind of the Lord, that he would instruct him (the spiritual man)? But we (we who are spiritual) have the mind of Christ" (and are, therefore, able to judge both ourselves and others).

But while, in order to guard against misapprehension, I speak thus, I well know that there are many, very many, in the midst of us, who can form the most accurate judgment of all we say, and who, if not in relation to every word, will yet, as a whole, set their seal to the truth of it; and, therefore, I hesitate not to lay before you what I truly believe to be in perfect accordance with God's revealed will, though on a subject so recondite and mysterious.

I am not, however, without a consciousness, and with deep grief I utter it, that, under a profession of bringing forth only scriptural truth—some give vent to the truest absurdities, talking about dreams and visions, and arrogating to themselves I know not what claims of supernatural endowments. But against all such delusions and conceits I would enter my most solemn protest.

The truth of God, though elevated above reason, is in perfect accordance with reason; and by its reasonableness as a part of divine revelation would I wish every word that I utter to be tried. I ask nothing more than this; that as God, of his own sovereign will and pleasure, bestows on some greater natural gifts than on others, so he may act in reference to spiritual gifts: and that, as all our natural faculties are called forth into action by things visible—our hopes and fears, and joys and sorrows, being excited by them according to the interest we have in them; so our spiritual faculties may be called into action by things invisible, even by all the wonders of redeeming love, according as the blessings of redemption are manifested to the soul, and our interest in them is made the one subject of our present and prospective happiness.

Having premised thus much, I now come to show, in the fourth and last place,

IV. What the Holy Spirit will work in us when we are Christ's. We must never forget that the Holy Spirit unites with the Lord Jesus Christ in the whole of his mediatorial office, though each sustains and executes in a more appropriate way that part which has been assigned to him by the Father: and, if any of us are "washed, and justified, and sanctified, it is in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God, 1 Corinthians 6:11." But it is the Spirit's office to which I must confine myself: and while I address myself to this arduous and momentous subject, may the Lord Jesus Christ himself "be with us," as he has promised, Matthew 28:20, and "baptize us with the Holy Spirit and with fire, Matthew 3:11," to consume the dross that is within us, Isaiah 4:4, and to kindle in our hearts an inextinguishable flame of love towards his blessed name!

The Holy Spirit then will perform in us the offices of a Teacher, a Sanctifier, and a Comforter.

Let us view him first as a TEACHER.

The young convert knows little beyond "the first principles of the oracles of God, Hebrews 5:12." He is like a person just landed on a newly-discovered country, the beauty and riches of which he has yet to learn. But the Holy Spirit of Christ will open things to us, even as the Lord Jesus himself did when on earth to his disciples, gradually, as we are able to bear them; and with increased knowledge, he will give us "senses proportionably exercised to discern good and evil, Hebrews 5:14," and thus will "lead us on to perfection, Hebrews 6:1."

The fundamental doctrine of salvation by faith is known by us when we first come to Christ. But there is much which as yet is very indistinctly seen.

For instance, the nature and difficulty of the Christian warfare is yet but very partially discovered. The deceitfulness and desperate wickedness of the human heart is but little known; (in fact, who but God can know it to its full extent, Jeremiah 17:9.) "the deceitfulness of sin, Hebrews 3:13." also is by no means clearly discerned. As for "the devices of Satan, 2 Corinthians 2:11," the young believer is still "ignorant of them" to a great extent; and of "the wiles" whereby that subtle adversary deludes the souls of men, he has scarcely any conception, Ephesians 6:11. Little does he imagine what power that old serpent has to "beguile the minds of the simple, Romans 16:18," and "to corrupt them, even as he deceived our mother Eve, from the simplicity that is in Christ, 2 Corinthians 11:3." Armor is provided for him against that great enemy of souls Ephesians 6:13; but he knows not yet how to use it, so as to defeat him, who is but too justly called Apollyon, Revelation 9:11." He has in his hand "the word, which is the sword of the Spirit, Ephesians 6:17;" but he knows not how to use it with effect: "he is unskillful in the word of righteousness, Hebrews 5:13." It is not until after many conflicts that he learns, what are the parts on which he is most open to assault, what are the stratagems whereby that wily adversary most successfully ensnares him, and what are the means by which he is to ensure the victory over all his assailants. In the spiritual warfare, as in that which is temporal, experience can be gained only by active service. There is however this difference between them: in temporal warfare, proficiency is the result of human ingenuity; whereas, in the spiritual warfare, it is the Spirit of God alone who can inspire us with the knowledge whereby we are to vanquish the legions of spirits that are combined against us, Ephesians 6:17-18.

But, further, the Holy Spirit will also discover to us the fullness and excellency of the Gospel salvation. The plan of salvation is, as I have already acknowledged, understood by the truest babe in Christ. But the excellency of it will be more and more unveiled to him, until, from the obscurity of the morning dawn, he attains the fuller light of the meridian sun; according as it is written by the prophet, "Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: his goings forth are prepared as the morning, Hosea 6:3;" and as Solomon also has assured us, "The path of the just is as the shining light, which shines more and more unto the perfect day, Proverbs 4:18."

The young Christian knows little of that covenant to which all our salvation must ultimately be traced; the covenant entered into between the Father and the Son for the redemption of our fallen race.

The covenant, wherein Christ, on the one part, undertook to stand in our place and stead, and to endure, in his own person, the penalty which he had incurred.

The Father, on the other part, both gave unto him a chosen people, John 17:2; John 17:6; John 17:9; John 17:11-12; John 17:24, and engaged to accept them as righteous, on account of what he would do and suffer for them.

"This covenant is ordered in all things, and sure:" and the blessings of it are all treasured up for us in Christ, our great head and representative, Colossians 2:9, and are thus secured to us for ever: as it is written, "Our life is hid with Christ in God: and therefore, when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, we also shall appear with him in glory, Colossians 3:3-4. These blessings, too, are to be received from him, John 1:16. simply "through the exercise of faith, that thus they may be sure to all the seed, Romans 4:16;" for no human being could ever have hoped to possess them, if they had been committed to any other depository, or if the attainment of them had been suspended on the strength and fidelity of man.

To unfold these things to the soul is the Holy Spirit's office. For this end he is given to us as "an unction that shall abide with us," and that shall, to a certain degree, by the clearness of his communications, supersede the necessity for human instruction, 1 John 2:27; and, being given to us for this end, he enables the believer gradually to dive more and more deeply into this mystery, which the human eye cannot penetrate, at least not so penetrate as to behold its excellency, Ephesians 1:17-18. These are among "the deep things of God, which the Spirit alone searches," even the things which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor heart conceived, but which are revealed to the soul by the Spirit of God, 1 Corinthians 2:9-10, and can be known in no other way, 1 Corinthians 2:11-12.

True, these things are written plainly in the inspired volume, even as the figures are engraved with the utmost possible plainness on the sun-dial: but both in the one case, and in the other, are they written in vain, until light is given from Heaven to shine upon them: then only does the word perform its office in the one; and then only is the end answered for the illumination of the soul in the other. Until that takes place, "the natural man, however learned he is in other respects, will never discern aright the things of the Spirit of God: they will be no better than foolishness unto him."

The believer, thus taught of God, has a knowledge of the Deity, of which he had scarcely the slightest notion before. What astonishing views has he of the wisdom of God in devising such a plan, whereby God's own justice might be duly satisfied, and his mercy flow down to man in perfect consistency with all his other attributes! When he contemplates the goodness of God, thus exercised; the holiness of God, thus honored; and the truth of God, thus kept inviolate; and all the perfections of God, thus harmonizing and glorified—and all this for him; he is perfectly astounded; it seems too good to be true; it seems to him all as "a mere parable, Ezekiel 20:49."

But seeing how suited all this is to his necessities, and how sufficient for his wants, and that, in any other way than this, he could find no more ground of hope for himself than for the fallen angels—he is forced to believe it. He sees that it is revealed in the Bible as with a sun-beam, and established by evidence that admits not of the slightest doubt; and when he sees further, that it has a transforming efficacy upon all who receive it, he is constrained to receive it as the very truth of God, and to say, "Lord, to whom else shall we go? You, even you alone, have the words of eternal life;" and "we believe and are sure, that you are that Christ, the Son of the living God! John 6:68-69."

I merely give these things as samples of what the Holy Spirit will effect in the believing soul as a Teacher; for the same powerful agency is extended to every part of divine truth; and every part, also, of Christian experience, seeing that he is expressly promised to "guide us into all truth, John 16:13," so that, by his effectual teaching, "we may know all things, 1 John 2:20."

We will next consider his operations, under the office of a SANCTIFIER. In this view we speak of him in our catechism, as "sanctifying the elect people of God." In fact, all that he does as a Teacher, is in order to his work as a Sanctifier.

Does he "reveal Christ in us," so as to give us brighter views of his person, and a more comprehensive knowledge of his work and offices? It is, that "we, beholding as in a looking-glass the glory of the Lord, may be changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord, 2 Corinthians 3:18."

Does he further enable us to "comprehend the breadth and length, and depth and height, and to know with progressive clearness and certainty the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge? it is, that we may be thereby "filled with all the fullness of God, Ephesians 3:18-19."

With increasing knowledge he gives an increase of spiritual perception; and with that perception, a spiritual appetite; and with that appetite, a spiritual attainment; and this continues to advance, until "the soul with all its powers is brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ! 2 Corinthians 10:5."

I think the whole process, though above the conception of the highest archangel, may, for all practical purposes, be brought down to the apprehension of a child.

Our blessed Lord compares it to the wind, which is mighty in operation, but visible only in its effects. "It blows when and where it wills, but we cannot tell either whence it comes, or where it goes, John 3:8;" yet of its agency we have no doubt whatever. The truest child acknowledges it, while the wisest philosopher is unable adequately to explain it.

The magnet would furnish us with a similar illustration of this truth; for its influence, if not rendered visible by actual experience, would not be credited.

But there is another natural process which will give us a fuller, and, perhaps I may say, a more distinct, apprehension of this mysterious subject. A river flowing from its source in one current to the ocean, may serve to show us the natural man, with all his faculties, both of body and mind, departing from God, and proceeding with fatal indifference and perseverance, until he is finally lost in that abyss from whence there is no return. But, within a certain distance from the sea, we may behold that same river arrested in its course by the tide, and returning with equal rapidity towards its fountain-head: and in that we may behold the sinner returning to his God.

Even from the partial back-currents which are occasioned by local obstacles, we may behold the parallel yet more strikingly illustrated: for in either case, these may serve to show, that, as in man's departure from God there are some risings of compunction, and some little, though ineffectual, restraints, from the remonstrances of an accusing conscience; so, in the believer's return to God, there are some remnants of corruption, which betray a lack of that completeness of soul, which he will enjoy in the eternal world. But the point particularly to be noticed is: How is this change effected? How is it effected in the river? Is it through the power and instrumentality of man? No! it is by the invisible, but powerful, attraction of the moon. The operation of the moon is not seen but in its effects: yet it is not on that account denied: the effects are unquestionable; nor can they reasonably be traced to any other cause; at all events they cannot in the smallest possible degree be ascribed to man.

And how is the change effected upon the souls of men? It is the Holy Spirit who operates upon them to bring them back to God. True, his operations are not seen, except in the effects produced by them: but those effects infinitely exceed all human power: and in the unerring word of God they are ascribed to the Holy Spirit, whose peculiar office it is, not only to regenerate us at first, but progressively to change us into the Divine image, and to render us fit for our heavenly inheritance, Titus 3:3; Titus 3:5.

That there are defects in the best of men is certain; but that only makes the analogy more complete. There are, and will be, intervening obstacles, that will, at some times, and under peculiar circumstances, interfere with the believer's progress, Romans 7:18-19; but these do not interrupt his general course, or give any just cause for questioning the influence under which he moves, Romans 7:21-24. His habitual "walk is, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, Romans 8:1; Romans 8:5."

We have said, that the work is progressive. He goes from grace to grace, 2 Peter 3:18, from victory to victory, "growing up into Christ in all things, until he arrives at the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, Ephesians 4:7; Ephesians 4:13."

At first he is represented in the Scriptures as "a child, then as a young man, and then as a father, 1 John 2:12-14;" and the work in his soul is compared to the corn, which appears first in "the blade, then in the ear, and then as the full corn in the ear, Mark 4:28."

These very comparisons show that the believer is not at first all that he will be at a future period: his heart will be more and more weaned from earthly things, and with more and more intensity be fixed on things above, until he is "changed into the image of his God in righteousness and true holiness, Ephesians 4:24." This advance towards maturity will be more or less visible to all around him. There will be in him more solidity, more uniformity, more consistency. His principles will be more and more commended to all around him by their efficacy to "beautify his soul, Psalm 149:4," and to adorn his life, 1 Peter 3:3-4. In a word, he will be renewed, not in his mind only, but "in the spirit of his mind, Ephesians 4:23," and will become "an epistle of Christ known and read of all men," an epistle not "written by any human hand, but by the Spirit of the living God! 2 Corinthians 3:2-3." He will be in himself, and will constrain all who know him to acknowledge that he is, what the Scriptures emphatically call, "A man of God, 2 Timothy 3:17."

And what is the result of all this?

What, but that in and by the whole of this work, the Holy Spirit performs the office of a COMFORTER? Under this character, "the world knows him not, neither can receive him: but believers do know him; for he dwells with them, and shall be in them, John 14:16-17." throughout the whole of their earthly pilgrimage. Even at their first coming to Christ, the Holy Spirit, in some measure, discharges this office, speaking peace to their troubled consciences, and enabling them to rejoice in their unseen, but beloved Savior, 1 Peter 1:8.

This was eminently conspicuous on the day of Pentecost, when the whole multitude of believers who had just before been filled with terror, "ate their bread with gladness and singleness of heart, blessing and praising God, Acts 2:46."

Through the whole course of their future life, he carries on this work, revealing Christ more and more clearly to them, and applying the promises with sweet assurance to their souls. Hence the word so applied is said to "work by the power of the Spirit of God, Romans 15:19," and to "come to men, not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance, 1 Thessalonians 1:5;" and the Holy Spirit himself is called "the Holy Spirit of promise, Ephesians 1:13," because in this way he makes use of the promises for their good.

Thus he performs the office of a Comforter towards Christ's redeemed people: he gives them near "access to God" in prayer, Ephesians 2:18; and in their supplications "helps their infirmities, Romans 8:26 and Jude, verse 20," and "makes intercession for them, and in them, according to the will of God, Romans 8:27." He is in them a Spirit of adoption, enabling them to go to God with confidence, crying, Abba, Father! Romans 8:15; and, "shedding abroad God's love in their hearts, Romans 5:5," he "witnesses with their spirits, that they are children of God Romans 8:16."

In this way, also, he establishes them in Christ, 2 Corinthians 1:21, and "seals them unto the day of redemption, 2 Corinthians 1:22 with Ephesians 1:17," and "is within them a pledge of their heavenly inheritance, Ephesians 1:14." "A pledge" is a part of a payment, and a pledge of the remainder; and such is the Holy Spirit in the believer's soul, giving him already, in possession, a measure of the heavenly felicity, and assuring to him, in due season, the full and everlasting possession of it. In a season of affliction especially, do the communications of his grace abound. We read of those who "received the word with much affliction, and joy of the Holy Spirit, 1 Thessalonians 1:6;" and "in proportion as any person's afflictions abound, the Holy Spirit will make his consolations to abound" with still greater and more transcendent efficacy, 2 Corinthians 1:5.

It is worthy, however, of observation, that the comforts which he administers at an earlier, and at a more advanced period—are, for the most part, widely different; the one being rather of a tumultuous nature, the other more serene; the one more transient, the other more abiding; the one elevating the spirits of a man on account of the good that has accrued to him; the other humbling and abasing his soul, on account of his great unworthiness; the one is a fire recently kindled, in which there is a considerable mixture of flame and smoke, the other like a fire that has become bright and solid, and burns with an unobtrusive, but mighty, efficacy.

In confirmation of what I have said, I need only add, that this is the very description which God himself has given us of his kingdom: that it "consists not in externals of any kind, but in righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, Romans 14:17."

And now, will anyone say that these blessings were peculiar to the apostolic age, and are not to be expected by us? What then is the meaning of that interrogation, which Paul addressed to the whole Corinthian Church, "Don't you know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you, 1 Corinthians 3:16-17." And, again, "Don't you know that Jesus Christ is in you, except you be reprobates, 2 Corinthians 13:5."

Hence it is evident, that this is a truth of which we must not only have the actual experience, but a consciousness also, that it is realized in us: and the man who questions it as a matter of Christian experience, has yet to learn the very first principles of the Christian faith: for even to the murderers of our Lord did Peter on the day of Pentecost announce, that this blessing would be theirs; and that too even to their latest posterity: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit: for the promise is to you and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call, Acts 2:38-39."

In fact, this is the promise which was originally made to Abraham for himself and all his believing posterity, whether of the Jewish or Gentile world, even "the promise of the Spirit through faith, Galatians 3:14."

This objection therefore being set aside, I confidently ask whether I have carried any one of these matters to excess, either requiring more than the Scriptures require, or promising more than the Scriptures promise? I can truly say, that I have exercised all possible caution on this head. I know and lament, that there are crude and enthusiastic conceits entertained by some, who would have us believe that they are actuated by certain divine impulses, irrespective of the word as the medium of conveying them, and in despite of the vanity and folly which they themselves betray as their invariable result. But I trust, that not one word that I have spoken can be thought to have countenanced any such conceits as these.

The written word is the medium by which the Spirit works, and the standard by which his agency must be tried; and, if his operations do not produce holiness, as well as light and comfort, they are no better than a delusion, a desperate and a fatal delusion.

The offices of the Holy Spirit cannot be separated from each other. He is a Teacher, a Sanctifier, and a Comforter: and I advisedly place the office of a Sanctifier between the other two, because it is equally connected both with that which precedes, and with that which follows; with that which precedes, as the end for which divine teaching is administered, and with that which follows, as that without which no true comfort can possibly exist.

I entreat, then, that you will all look for the Holy Spirit to impart to you these blessings: and, I declare before God, that no one of you will ever behold the face of God in peace, if you do not both desire and obtain the Holy Spirit for these ends. The word of God is immutable; "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ."

If any be disposed to deride the sacred influences of the Spirit, imputing to Satan, as it were, what is wrought by the Holy Spirit, let them beware of the sin against the Holy Spirit; for they tread close upon it, if they do not actually commit it. I would have them remember, that, in proportion to the light against which they offend, and the malignity with which they utter their scoffs, they approach this fatal sin: and, if once they do commit it, our blessed Lord declares that "they shall never have forgiveness, either in this world, or in the world to come; and that they are therefore in danger of eternal damnation! Matthew 12:32, and Mark 3:28-29."

On the other hand, if any have experienced the workings of the Holy Spirit to bring them to Christ, let them watch and pray against temptation and sin of every kind, lest by any open or secret declension from the ways of God, they "grieve, Ephesians 4:30." and "vex the Holy Spirit, Isaiah 63:10," and quench his sacred motions, 1 Thessalonians 5:19, and thus "their last end become worse than their beginning, 2 Peter 2:20."

But "I hope better things of this assembly, though I thus speak, Hebrews 6:9." Scoffers do not abound at this day as once they did. The truths of the Gospel are better understood, and its mysteries are more justly appreciated: and, provided only the deep things of God be stated with modesty and sobriety, they find a favorable acceptance now, where once, perhaps, they would only have provoked a smile. On that head, therefore, I feel no occasion to dwell.

But this very circumstance, which renders a profession of piety more easy, makes the danger of departing from it more imminent; since, as in the case of the stony-ground hearers, that which is hastily received, is but too often as hastily relinquished, Matthew 12:20-21. To every one of you then I say, "Hold fast what you have, that no man take your crown, Revelation 3:11;" or rather, look to the Lord Jesus Christ for more enlarged "supplies of his Spirit, Philippians 1:19;" for "He has received this gift for men, even for the most rebellious, Psalm 68:18. It is our privilege, not only to "have the Spirit," but to "be filled with the Spirit, Ephesians 5:18." Many of you, I would hope, "have already received the first-fruits of the Spirit, Romans 8:23;" but be not satisfied with these. "Christ came, not only that you might have life, but that you might have it more abundantly! John 10:10." He has promised to "pour floods upon those who are thirsty, Isaiah 44:3." Yes, he would have you to "live in the Spirit, Galatians 5:25," and "walk in the Spirit, Galatians 5:25," and "purify your souls by the Spirit, 1 Peter 1:22," and "abound in hope through the Spirit, Romans 15:13;" and be filled with "joy in the Holy Spirit, Acts 13:52."

See to it, then, that you avail yourselves of these immense advantages; and beg of God to "pour out his Spirit more and more abundantly upon you through Jesus Christ, Titus 3:6," that, being "led in all things by the Spirit, you may be, and give decisive evidence that you are, the children of God, Romans 8:14." And may "the Holy Spirit be so richly poured out upon us from on high, that this our wilderness may become a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be so luxuriant as to be counted for a forest, Isaiah 32:15."

 

#1867

GOD'S DWELLING IN US IS A MOTIVE TO HOLINESS

Romans 8:10-12.

"But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation--but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it."

IN the Scriptures, privilege and duty are inseparably connected. By this means we are kept at an equal distance from presumptuous confidence and painful servility; and the best feelings of the soul are rendered subservient to our eternal welfare. This observation is verified, as in many other passages, Romans 12:1 and 1 Corinthians 6:20.

We propose to consider,

I. The grounds of the conclusion—

Believers have God himself dwelling in them—

God is here represented as a Triune God:

The Father raised Christ.

Christ dwells in all believers at the same instant.

And the Holy Spirit will raise the saints at the last day.

Can any one of these be less than God? Their distinction and equality may be further proved from Matthew 28:19. It is observable also that in verse 9, the Spirit of Christ is called the Spirit of God; and he dwells in all his believing people, 2 Corinthians 6:16. 1 John 1:3 and 2 Corinthians 13:14.

Believers do not indeed pretend to distinguish the agency of one of these divine persons from that of another (for indeed no one of these persons acts separately from the others) but they exercise:

faith in the Father, as their protector and governor;

faith in the Son, as their mediator and advocate;

and faith in the Spirit, as their guide and comforter.

This is a most inestimable privilege to them, far greater than that mentioned in 1 Kings 8:27.

By means of this they enjoy the richest blessings—

Their souls are quickened from their death in trespasses and sins, and, by a new principle of life infused into them, are enabled to live unto God: and this "life they have because of Christ's righteousness" wrought out for them, and imputed to them.

Their bodies also, though doomed to "death, as the penalty of sin," "will be raised again by that very Spirit who now dwells in them:" and these shall participate with the soul the glory and felicity of the heavenly world.

Such being the premises from which the conclusion is drawn, we proceed to consider,

II. The conclusion itself—

We certainly are "debtors to the flesh" to a certain degree—

The flesh cannot exist without care and labor; and whatever is necessary for the preservation of life, or the restoration of our health, it is our bounden duty to do.

But we are not debtors to obey its dictates

To "live after" the flesh, must import a consulting of its ease, a complying with its solicitations, a devoting of ourselves to its interests: to this extent we certainly are not debtors to the flesh.

This may plainly be concluded, as from many other topics, so especially from the foregoing statement—

The privileges given to us strongly prohibit a carnal life. Can the Triune God, who dwells in us, be pleased with our living after the flesh? Is not the very intent of his mercies to bring us rather to live after the Spirit?

The mercies too which we enjoy by means of those privileges, teach us the same divine lesson. The quickening of our spirit would lead us to "mind the things of the Spirit." And the prospect of endless felicity and glory for the body would keep us from seeking its present gratifications to the destruction of its eternal interests. To whoever we are debtors, we are not (in this extent at least) debtors to the flesh.

INFERENCES—

1. How mistaken are the people of the world in their course of life!—

The generality live as if they had nothing to do but to consult the flesh; and when exhorted to mind the concerns of their souls, reply immediately, "I must attend to the interests of my body." But in thus opposing the declaration in the text, they will ruin their bodies as well as their souls for ever.

2. How unmindful are even Christians of their duty and interest!—

The best of men find it difficult to "keep under their bodies;" and there are seasons when they are apt to yield to sloth or sensual indulgence: but let all remember their obligations and professions, and labor rather to pay what they owe to the Spirit.

 

 

#1868

MORTIFICATION OF SIN

Romans 8:13.

"If you live after the flesh, you shall die: but if you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live."

IT is of infinite importance to know our state as it is before God, and to ascertain on scriptural grounds, what our condition will be in the eternal world. Numberless are the passages of God's word which will afford us the desired information; but there is not in the whole inspired volume one declaration more explicit than that before us. It presents to our view two momentous truths, which, as they admit not of any clearer division or arrangement, we shall consider in their order.

I. A carnal life will terminate in everlasting misery—

To "live after the flesh" is to make the gratifying of our corrupt nature the great scope and end of our lives—

The "flesh" does not relate merely to the body, but to the whole of our corrupt nature. It is used to signify that innate principle of sin which governs the unregenerate, and continually fights against the spiritual principle in those that are regenerate, John 3:6. Galatians 5:17. And its fruits comprehend the actings of the mind, no less than those of the body, Galatians 5:19-20.

To "live after" this corrupt principle, is, to be governed by it in all our deliberations and pursuits. It signifies nothing what may be the immediate path which we choose for ourselves, provided our main object be to gratify ourselves. One may seek pleasure, another riches, another honor, another the knowledge of arts and sciences; but if they have no higher end of life than to attain these things, they all equally live after the flesh! Compare verse 5 with Philippians 3:19.

The consequence of such a life will be eternal death—

The death mentioned in the text cannot relate to the mere death of the body, because that must be experienced by the spiritual, no less than by the carnal man. It must import that death of the soul, which is emphatically called the second death, Revelation 20:14. Nor can there be a doubt but that this will be the fruit and consequence of a carnal life. And shall this be thought a hard saying? Surely not, for such a sentence is only a repetition of what the person has before passed upon himself: he has practically said to God, "Depart from me; I desire not the knowledge of your ways! Job 21:14-15, I will be a God to myself Psalm 12:4, and make myself happy in my own way."

God replies to him, "You would not have me; and you shall not have me; depart from me for evermore! Compare Psalm 81:11 with Matthew 25:41." The very state in which they lived, was a state of spiritual death, verse 6; no wonder therefore that it terminates in everlasting death.

As a counterpoise to the apparent severity of this truth, the Apostle adds, that,

II. A life of mortification and self-denial shall terminate in everlasting happiness—

To mortify our corrupt nature ought to be the continual aim of our lives—

The "deeds of the body" are of the same import with "the flesh" in the preceding clause. Our corrupt nature is often represented as a body, because it has many parts or members whereby it acts, Romans 7:24, Colossians 2:11. This we would endeavor to mortify in its outward actings, and in its inmost motions. As it consists principally in making self our idol, we must watch against it, and labor to bring it into subjection, that God in all things may be glorified by us. If we search our own hearts, we shall see a continual proneness to self-seeking, self-pleasing, and self-dependence. But instead of gratifying this propensity, we should make God's will the rule, and his honor the end, of our actions. We must therefore maintain a warfare against it, and resist it manfully, until it is subdued! 1 Corinthians 9:27.

This however cannot be done effectually but by the assistance of the Holy Spirit—

We can walk after the flesh without any difficulty: it is natural to us, as it is to a stone to roll down a precipice. But to mortify the flesh is impossible to man: it can be effected only by the mighty working of that power which raised Christ himself from the dead, Ephesians 1:19-20 and 1 Peter 1:22 with the text; yes, the inclination, as well as the ability, to mortify it is the gift of God, Philippians 2:13. This however is no excuse for our subjection to the flesh, since the Holy Spirit's empowerment shall be given to all who ask, Luke 11:13.

The consequence of successfully combating the flesh shall be unspeakably blessed—

If eternal death be the fruit of self-indulgence, then eternal life shall be the fruit of self-denial. There is this difference indeed; that whereas the former is the wages due to sin, the latter is the gift of God through Christ, Romans 6:23. We may well wonder at this marvelous grace of God, who has annexed such glorious consequences to our poor and feeble endeavors. But he delights in mercy, and will not allow us to exert ourselves in vain.

By way of improvement we shall add a word,

1. Of reproof—

Suppose it had been written, "If you live after the flesh, you shall go to Heaven;" could the generality take any surer way to obtain the blessing, than that which they now pursue? And whence is it that, in direct opposition to the word of God, they can go on so confidently and so securely? The reason is, that Satan suggests to them, as he did to our first parents, "You shall not surely die!" But shall we believe Satan in opposition to God? Did not the crediting of Satan ruin the whole world? and will it not eventually ruin us also?

Be it known then that we have but one alternative: mortification, or damnation. Either sin must be our enemy, or God will. If therefore we would not perish for ever, let us immediately begin, in dependence on God's Spirit, to "mortify our earthly members, Colossians 3:5;" for it is an eternal truth, that, "if we live after the flesh, we shall die."

2. Of caution—

We are in great danger of mistaking the nature and extent of that mortification which is required of us in the text. We may be restrained from sin by the influence of education, as Joash, 2 Chronicles 24:2; or put away many sins, as Herod, Mark 6:17; Mark 6:20; Mark 6:27; or set ourselves for a time against our besetting sin, as Judas under the terrors of a guilty conscience,. Matthew 27:3-4; (as a mariner may cast all his goods out of his ship to save the vessel, without any aversion to the goods themselves). Or we may exchange our sins: prodigality for avarice, sensuality for self-righteousness, or the love of vanity for sloth and indifference.

But all this falls very far short of our duty: we must not be lopping off branches, but must lay our axe to the root. The besetting sin, though dear as a right eye, or needful as a right hand must he cut off; at least, its dominion must be destroyed, and its motions be incessantly resisted, Mark 9:43-48.

In short, to root out sin, and to serve, honor, and enjoy God must be our daily business, our unintermitted employment. Nor must we ever think that we belong to Christ, until we have the testimony of our conscience, that we are thus crucifying the flesh with its affections and lusts, Galatians 5:24.

3. Of encouragement—

As we have ruined ourselves, God might well leave us to restore ourselves: and then indeed would our condition be most pitiable. But he graciously offers us the assistance of his Spirit; so that none need despair. None need to decline the work of mortification for lack of strength to accomplish it; seeing that "the grace of Christ is sufficient for us," and through the aids of his Spirit we can do all things, Galatians 5:16 and Philippians 4:13. Yes, "his strength shall be perfected in our weakness."

Let every one then address himself to the work: "Have not I commanded you? says the Lord: be strong, therefore, and of a good courage; for the Lord your God is with you! Joshua 1:9," "Be strong, and let not your hands be weak; for your work shall be rewarded! 2 Chronicles 15:7."

 

#1869

THE LEADINGS OF THE SPIRIT

Romans 8:14.

"As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God."

THOUGH Christ's obedience unto death is the only meritorious ground of our salvation—yet it is certain that Heaven is held forth to us as a prize which we are to attain by running, and as "a recompense of reward" which we are to gain by labor. Many shrink back at this idea, on account of the vast disproportion between the work and the reward: and well they may shrink back, if nothing is taken into the consideration but the intrinsic excellence of our works. But there is one point of view in which the disproportion will not appear so great, or perhaps will altogether vanish. We know that a poor man thinks himself liberally paid for his labor, if, after toiling a whole week, he receive a pound or two for his trouble: but the child of a monarch would account himself very ill rewarded for such work, though he would be paid at a much higher rate.

It is thus with respect to the point before us: If we are considered as men, the reward of eternal glory infinitely exceeds the labor of a few years of obedience: but, if we are considered as children of the living God, and as performing our works through the agency of his Spirit, the recompense of Heaven is no more than what is suited to our rank and dignity. This seems to be the idea of the Apostle in the text: he has observed, that "if through the Spirit we mortify the deeds of the body, we shall live:" but, lest we would think it incredible that such a reward would follow a life of mortification, he assigns the reason of it; "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God;" and consequently, they may expect a reward suited to their high character, and to the dignity of the Spirit who works in them.

In discoursing on these words, we shall show,

I. Who they are that are led by the Spirit—

It is obvious and undeniable that all are not led by the Spirit; and indeed the very text intimates that their number is limited to a part only of mankind. To distinguish precisely who these are, is a matter of some difficulty: for though we may easily show, what the Spirit will lead us from, or what he will lead us to, we shall speak to no purpose, unless we take such discriminating marks as are found in none but true Christians. To make the matter as clear as possible,

1. We will propose some marks, which, though found in all true Christians, are insufficient to distinguish them—

A person is not necessarily led by the Spirit, because he follows the dictates of his natural conscience. Every true Christian consults his conscience, and obeys its voice—but others may do so as well as he. Cornelius was evidently a conscientious man; but did not become a Christian until Peter set before him "words, whereby he and all his household would be saved, Acts 11:14." If that instance be thought doubtful we will adduce two others that admit of no doubt. The Rich Youth in the Gospel thought he had "kept all the commandments from his earliest youth:" and Paul, while he was a Jew, "had walked before God in all good conscience," and had been, "touching the righteousness of the law, blameless." But neither the one nor the other of these was led by the Spirit: the one renounced Christ rather than his riches, Matthew 19:20-22; and the other was converted only by a miraculous interposition of the Lord Jesus, Acts 9:1-6. From hence it is evident that men may be honest, and upright, and conscientious, and yet have no just reason to conclude themselves children of God.

Again, a person is not necessarily led by the Spirit because he has experienced a change in his views and affections. Doubtless, every Christian has experienced such a change: but the like is said of "the stony-ground hearers;" who not only received the word so as to inform their understanding, but so as to kindle in their hearts a lively joy, Matthew 13:20. Though therefore we may be moved under a sermon, and find as much pleasure in it as Ezekiel's hearers, Ezekiel 33:32—yet this is no satisfactory evidence of our conversion to God.

Further, a person is not necessarily led by the Spirit, because he makes an open profession of religion. For though every true Christian will confess Christ openly—yet "the thorny-ground hearers" also do the same; and it is worthy of notice, that they are represented as never relinquishing their profession, Matthew 13:22. Though therefore we may openly join ourselves to the Lord's people, and be numbered among them by others, and bear reproach for our attachment to them, and bring forth fruit which resembles theirs—yet all this will be no decisive proof that we are led by the Spirit, or that we have any part in the Christian's salvation.

2. We will propose some marks which will distinguish the true Christian from every other person under Heaven—

We may be sure that we are led by the Spirit, if we come daily to Christ as perishing sinners. No formalist or hypocrite can do this: he may talk about it, but he cannot do it: he has not that brokenness of heart, that contrition, that sense of his extreme need of mercy, which are necessary to bring him thus to Christ. There is in all unconverted persons an insuperable reluctance to come to him in such a humiliating way, a reluctance that nothing but an Almighty power can overcome. Our Lord himself says, "No man can come unto me, unless the Father, who has sent me, draw him John 6:44." If therefore we are daily coming to Christ with self-loathing and self-abhorrence, and building all our hopes of salvation on the merit of his blood, we can affirm, on the testimony of Christ himself, that we are of those who are under the leadings of his Spirit.

Another mark whereby this point may be ascertained, is our being willing to receive Christ as our Lord and Governor. The unregenerate, however desirous of being saved from misery, cannot be prevailed on cordially to submit to the yoke of Christ. The declaration of Paul is, that "no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Spirit, 1 Corinthians 12:3." By this expression we must understand, not an incapacity to utter these words, but an incapacity to utter them cordially in reference to oneself. If therefore we be enabled cheerfully to sacrifice our own will, and if we seek sincerely to have "the very thoughts of our hearts brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ," we have another indisputable evidence that we are under the Spirit's influence and guidance.

A still further mark, which is also decisive on the point, is, our mortifying of all sin without reserve. The most specious hypocrite in the universe has some secret lust which he will not part with, and which he cannot, by any power of his own, subdue. "It is through the Spirit alone that we can mortify the deeds of the body, verse 13." If, then, there be no sin which we plead for; no sin, though dear as a right eye, or useful as a right hand, which we are not watching and laboring to destroy; it is evident, beyond all controversy, that we are led and strengthened by the Spirit of God.

This point being ascertained, we proceed to notice,

II. The glorious state to which they are exalted—

It is almost incredible that sinners, like us, would ever become children of the Most High God; yet is it certain, that all who are led by the Spirit of God, are exalted to this state—

1. They are brought into the relation of God's children—

Once they were "children of wrath," and "children of the wicked one:" but now they are adopted into God's family, and numbered among his children. Nor is it by adoption only that they stand thus related to him, but by regeneration also: for they are "begotten of God, even by the incorruptible seed, the word of God," and are made "partakers of a divine nature." Once they regarded God only as a Governor and a Judge; but now they have "a spirit of adoption given to them, whereby they can call him, "Abba, Father!" What an unspeakable honor is this! If David thought it "no light matter to be called the son-in-law of such a king" as Saul, what is it to be called the sons of the Most High God, the King of kings, and Lord of lords!

2. They enjoy all the privileges of God's children—

What are the privileges which are annexed to that relation among men? Think of them; comprehend them all; and they will fall infinitely short of those which it is your happiness to enjoy, both in this world, and in the world to come.

In this world you have every temporal blessing secured to you, to the utmost extent of your necessities, by the express promise of your heavenly Father. The children of men may say, of their respective possessions, this estate, or that kingdom, is mine. But of the children of God it may be said, "All things are yours." As far as it can conduce to your real happiness, the whole world is yours, yes, all things, whether present or future! 1 Corinthians 3:21-23.

As for spiritual blessings, there is nothing which the Lord Jesus Christ himself enjoyed when on earth, that is not made over to you also. You may have constant access to your Father's presence; you may ask of him whatever you will; you shall have his continual guidance in difficulties, support in trials, and consolation in troubles. Everything shall be ordered and over-ruled for your good; and you shall be carried on through all your destined labors, until you can say, "It is finished!" Of none but God's children can this be said; but of them it may be said without one single exception.

You may carry your views yet farther, even to the world to come; and there also shall your happiness extend. There is reserved for all the Lord's children "an inheritance, which is incorruptible and undefiled, and never-fading." If we are children, then are we heirs, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ! Think then of all that God the Father has in Heaven to bestow; think of all that the Lord Jesus Christ, as your living Head, now enjoys there; and you will then have some faint idea of the inheritance reserved for you.

Among men, if an eldest son would inherit all his father's property, the rest of the family would be unprovided for. But in Heaven it is not so: every one has all that he could have, though there would be none but himself to possess the inheritance. Even here every man has all the light of the sun, notwithstanding millions of his fellow-creatures enjoy it together with him: and in like manner in Heaven, all the glory and felicity of it is the portion of every saint around the throne of God.

Are you then really under the leadings of the Holy Spirit? Rejoice and adore your God, who has called you into so near a relation to him, and invested you with honors higher than even the highest archangel is privileged to possess.

From this subject we may further learn,

I. The importance of discovering by what spirit we are led—

Many are not led by the Spirit of God, but by the spirit of the world; which, as Paul tells us 1 Corinthians 2:12, and as experience too fatally proves, is contrary to the Spirit of God in all its actings. What spirit, I would ask, is that which leads the young into all manner of pleasure and gaiety; and causes those of middle age to be so immersed in cares, as scarcely to leave them a single hour to serve God? What spirit is that which even in advanced life engages the thoughts and affections still on the side of the world, when time has worn away almost all capacity to enjoy it? Yet this is the spirit by which the generality are actuated to their dying hour.

But even where religion appears to occupy the mind, many, alas! are led only by their own spirit. The very manner in which they speak and act shows, that pride and conceit and vanity are the predominant dispositions of their hearts. They have a zeal perhaps for some favorite tenets, or for their own particular party; but they lack the humility, the meekness, and the love which are the distinguishing features of all who are born of God.

It is not easy for persons to discern what spirit they themselves are of, even when all around them see how awfully they are deluded. But it concerns us all to examine carefully our own hearts and ways, that we may not deceive our own souls: for whatever we may imagine, they alone are children of God, who bear the image of their Father: and those who fulfill the will of Satan, are, as God himself testifies, the children of the wicked one! John 8:44 and 1 John 3:10.

Surely we would guard against so fatal a delusion as this, lest, when we enter into the eternal world, expecting to behold the face of our God in peace—we meet only an accusing God, and an avenging Judge!

2. The importance of honoring God whose motions we profess to follow—

In professing to be led by the Spirit of God, you claim, of course, the honor of being the children of God. And if you claim this honor, O think what manner of conduct yours would be; how holy, how spiritual, how heavenly! It would not be thought sufficient to maintain what may be called a blameless conduct; you should shine as lights in the midst of a dark world, Philippians 2:15-16, and "walk worthy of him who has called you to his kingdom and glory!"

Would you see the particulars wherein such conduct consists? read it in that direction which Paul gives to the Colossian Church: "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity, Colossians 3:12-14." Here is living Christianity: this is to walk as Christ walked: and by this shall all men know that you are the disciples of Christ, "the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty."

#1870

THE SPIRIT OF BONDAGE AND THE SPIRIT OF ADOPTION

Romans 8:15.

"You have not received the Spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father!"

OUR blessed Lord in his last discourse with his disciples, promised to send down from Heaven the Holy Spirit, who would "convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment." And accordingly, on the day of Pentecost he did send down the Holy Spirit, who instantly wrought in the most powerful manner on the minds of thousands, filling them with the deepest convictions, and with the richest consolations. From that time the Holy Spirit has continued so to work on the minds of men: in some as a Spirit of bondage, and in others as a Spirit of adoption. The nature of the Holy Spirit's operations is the same in both cases; their use and tendency being to bring men to God: the difference which is found in the effects, is occasioned by the state of the persons on whom the Spirit works: in those whose minds are yet blinded by Satan, and enslaved by sin—he produces only bondage and fear; but those who are deeply penitent, and sincerely desirous of fulfilling the word of God, he introduces into a state of light and liberty and joy.

Corresponding with these different states of men was the difference between the Jewish and the Christian dispensations; the one of which was intended to introduce the other: and it was good, as far as it answered that end: but, as an ultimate state to rest in, it was bad: it consisted only of "weak and beggarly elements," and imposed an insupportable yoke, from which it is our happy privilege to be released. It is in reference to that dispensation chiefly that the Apostle uses the word "again;" because the Jewish converts at Rome had, previous to their embracing of Christianity, groaned under that yoke: but the others also, in their heathen state, had experienced a bondage not very dissimilar; and therefore the same expression may not improperly be applied to them also.

That we may have a distinct view of the whole of the Spirit's operations, we shall consider them,

I. In reference to the dispensation under which we live—

The Christian dispensation, as contrasted with the Jewish, is called "The ministration of the Spirit, 2 Corinthians 3:8," because under that dispensation the Spirit is poured forth far more abundantly than before.

The Jewish economy tended only to bondage—

The terrific manner in which the law was given, generated nothing but fear in all who heard it. Even Moses himself said on the occasion, "I exceedingly fear and quake." And the strict prohibition to all the people not so much as to touch the border of the mount, clearly showed to them that it was not a dispensation whereby they were ever to obtain a near access to God.

The two tables of the law, which were then given to Moses, were so holy, that though in the letter they might be observed, in the spirit they could not be kept by any child of man: and yet they were enforced with the most solemn sanctions, the smallest violation of any one command subjecting the offender to death, even eternal death. What but fear could result from such a dispensation as this?

The very sacrifices prescribed for the relief of those consciences which were oppressed with guilt, tended, in fact, to confirm, rather than relieve, the bondage of their minds. For how could they imagine that "the blood of bulls and of goats would take away sin?" Hence "the offerers were never made perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;" and the annual repetition of the same sacrifices confirmed their apprehensions, that their sins, so imperfectly atoned for, were not effectually removed. The sacrifices were to them only "a remembrance of sins from year to year, Hebrews 10:1-4."

Moreover, the people in their own persons could not approach unto their God: they must deliver their offerings to the priests and Levites. Nay, not even the priests could enter within the veil, nor even the high-priest himself, except on one day in the year, and then only in the precise manner that was prescribed to him. In all this, the Holy Spirit, who even under that dispensation was not altogether withheld from men, "signified to the Jewish nation that the way into the holy of holies was not yet manifested, Hebrews 9:6-8."

Even the promises that were given for their encouragement were, for the most part, only such as were calculated to work upon an earthly mind, and in no respect to bring them to a state of peace and joy. Hence, except those few favored saints who had an insight into the Gospel, and were enabled to look through the shadows of the law, to Christ as the substance of them—all were in bondage, serving God from fear, rather than from love; and rendering to him rather the reluctant services of the body, than the willing devotion of the soul.

The Christian dispensation, on the contrary, tends to produce in us a happy childlike disposition—

The new covenant, which it holds forth to us, offers life and salvation on far different terms than were prescribed by the old covenant. The old covenant said, "Do this and live!" The new covenant says, "Believe and be saved! Romans 10:5-9." The Gospel reveals unto us a sacrifice, that is, "Christ's sin-atoning sacrifice;" and offers us a Savior, who is "able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him."

Under this dispensation every one is privileged to enjoy the most intimate access to God, to "come with boldness into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, to draw near to God with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having his heart altogether sprinkled and purged from an evil conscience, Hebrews 10:19; Hebrews 10:22." Further, these rich blessings are revealed to us as the fruits of God's everlasting love, no less than as the purchase of the Redeemer's blood; and to the blessings of time are added all the glory and felicity of Heaven, as the assured portion of all God's chosen people!

But, besides this clearer revelation of God's grace and mercy, there is a manifestation of it made to the souls of the faithful by the Spirit of God, who "sheds abroad in their hearts the love of God" the Father, and "takes of the things that are Christ's to show unto them," and by his own sanctifying operations "delivers them from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the children of God."

With this contrasted view of the two dispensations agree the express declarations of God himself—

The nature of the two dispensations is thus distinctly marked by a very striking allegory; in which the Spirit generated in those who were under them is contrasted by that of a slave and a child, Galatians 4:1-6; moreover, the transition from the one to the other is illustrated by the very same images as have been already noticed, Hebrews 12:18-24; and the final outcome of our adherence to the one or to the other is declared to be precisely such as might be expected: to the slave, banishment; and to the son, an everlasting inheritance, Galatians 4:24-25; Galatians 4:30.

But, to enter fully into the subject, we must consider it,

II. In reference to the experience of individual believers—

The Holy Spirit strives in a greater or less degree with all:

In the unconverted, he works as "a spirit of bondage"—

The Spirit is the true Author of every good desire. The least disposition towards what is good is as much his work as the most spiritual exercises of God's dearest children. His operation therefore must be traced as well in the hearts of the unconverted, as of the converted.

In the commencement, he operates in a way of legal hopes: in the progress, he impels to slavish fears: and, with those who are not the subjects of saving grace, he terminates his operations by instigating to self-righteous endeavors.

A person first beginning to think about his soul, (for which thought he is wholly indebted to the Spirit of God,) is desirous of putting the most favorable construction on all his former ways, and of dissipating all apprehensions about his eternal state. Hence he persuades himself, that he has never committed any great sins; or, if he has, that they were committed under such circumstances as greatly to palliate their guilt: that, at all events, God is too merciful ever to visit his offenses with such a terrible punishment as the Scriptures speak of: and that his good deeds, which he either has performed, or hopes to perform, will counter-balance all the evil he has done.

By degrees his mind becomes more enlightened, and he sees that his sins have been neither so few, nor so trivial, as he had imagined. And now his legal hopes vanish, and are succeeded by slavish fears. The declarations of God respecting the final condemnation of the wicked are credited by him; and his claims of innocence or good desert are seen to be destitute of any solid foundation. Now the thoughts of death and judgment are terrible to him; and, as Paul says, He, "through fear of death, is all his lifetime subject to bondage." To such an extent do "these terrors of the Lord" operate on many, that they hate their very existence, and would gladly surrender it up, if they could but perish like the beasts, and never be called to any future account.

These apprehensions lead, as may be expected, to self-righteous endeavors. The person who is under their influence, sets himself to read, and pray, and attend the ordinances. He dispenses alms to the poor; he renounces many practices which he once justified, and performs many duties which he once neglected; hoping, if possible, to make up for all the time that he has lost, and to conciliate the favor of his offended God.

As his light increases, and the insufficiency of human merit is discovered by him, he looks to the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, to atone for his faults, and to supply his defects. Perhaps in time the folly of depending on human righteousness is seen by him; and he is willing to seek for salvation through Christ, provided he may but recommend himself to Christ by some obedience of his own, and have in himself the warrant for embracing the Savior, and for expecting his salvation. Thus he founds his hopes, if not entirely—yet in some measure, on his own good works; and though doing well, as far as respects the ardor of his exertions, he fatally errs in making self the ground of his dependence, and perishes for lack of a better righteousness than his own!

This was the progress of the Spirit's work in the unconverted Jews, Romans 9:31-32; and such it is also in thousands at the present day.

In those who are converted, he works as a Spirit of adoption—

To these he imparts sublimer gifts, enabling them to look up with confidence to God, crying, "Abba, Father!" He gives them an assured testimony of their acceptance with God as a reconciled God and Father; setting, as it were, upon their hearts the Father's seal, 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, and witnessing with their spirits that they are the children of God, verse 16. Thus, drawing them by his gracious influences, he brings them into a state of holy "fellowship with the Father and the Son," causing them to walk with God as dear children, and to live habitually as in his presence; they "dwelling in God, and God in them;" yes, being "one with God, and God with them."

As brought into the family of God, they now, through the power of that same blessed Spirit, live in a humble dependence upon God for all that they stand in need of for body and for soul, for time and for eternity. "All their care is cast on Him who cares for them;" and the life which they live in the flesh they live by faith in the Son of God, "receiving everything out of his fullness," in the time and measure that Infinite Wisdom sees best for them.

Nor are these heavenly gifts uninfluential on their conduct. They now walk in the habit of grateful obedience to God, desiring and striving to be "perfect, even as their Father who is in Heaven is perfect." They serve their God no longer from fear, as slaves—but from love, as obedient children, whose ambition is to do their Father's will on earth, as it is done in Heaven.

Elevated thus, and sanctified by the Spirit's influence, they are filled with a joyful expectation of dwelling speedily, and to all eternity, in the immediate presence of that Savior, "whom unseen they loved, and in whom even here they rejoiced with joy unspeakable and full of glory." They "look for, and hasten unto, the coming of that blessed day," when they shall behold him face to face! The time seems long until they shall enjoy that bliss; and, with a holy impatience, they are ready to cry, "Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly!"

They know that, as children, they are heirs: they have already, in the consolations of the Spirit, had "a pledge of their inheritance;" and they long for the full possession of it, "desiring to depart, that they may be with Christ."

Thus does the Spirit work, though certainly in different degrees, on all the children of God, inspiring them with filial joys, as he fills the unregenerate with slavish fears.

In conclusion, we would entreat all of you to inquire: What spirit you have received?

1. Have you received the Spirit of God at all?

Many, alas! have scarcely so much as "heard whether there be any Holy Spirit:" or, if they have, they regard all idea of his agency upon the soul as visionary and delusive. But let such persons know, that they are altogether dead in trespasses and sins. If the Spirit of God has not so far wrought upon our minds as to convince us of our lost estate, we have not as yet taken one single step towards Heaven. The declaration of Paul in the preceding context is, "If any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his."

2. Have you received the Spirit as a spirit of bondage?

Despise it not: the fears and terrors with which he has filled your minds, may be introductory to your final liberty, and your complete salvation. It is thus that the Spirit usually, if not invariably, works in those who are "translated from the kingdom of darkness, into the kingdom of God's dear Son." He first wounds, and then heals, the soul. He "convinces us first of sin," and then "of righteousness and of judgment:" he causes us to feel ourselves lost, and makes use of that feeling to lead us to Him who came into the world to seek and save us. "Despise not then the day of small things:" for "then shall you know if you follow on to know the Lord."

On the other hand, we must say: Do not rest in it. The spirit of bondage will generate fear; but it will not produce either love or holiness, both of which are necessary to your everlasting salvation. If we have no better principle than slavish fear to make us obedient to our God, what are we better than the heathen? The Christian must regard God, not merely as a Judge, but as a Father. He must obey, not through fear of the lash, but from a real love to his name, and a sincere delight in his holy will. The truth, if it enters into our hearts, will make us free: and it will "deliver us from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the children of God."

3. Have you received the Spirit as a Spirit of adoption?

Then be thankful, and adore your God for the exceeding riches of his grace towards you. But take care that you do not deceive your own souls respecting it. It is possible to mistake in this matter, and to refer to God's agency, the delusions of Satan and of your own hearts. Many indulge a very unhallowed confidence in God. But, though it is our privilege to put away slavish fear, it is our duty to cherish to the uttermost a filial fear of offending God. We must "walk in the fear of the Lord all the day long." If we are on our guard in this particular, then our confidence cannot be too strong; since there is nothing which a loving father can bestow on his obedient child, which our God will not confer on us. Know then your privilege, and rejoice in it; and with all the confidence which the repetition of the word implies, go into the presence of your God from time to time, crying, "Abba, Father!"

But take that you "grieve not the Holy Spirit of promise, whereby you are sealed unto the day of redemption, Ephesians 4:30." Watch over your every action, word, and thought; endeavoring to walk "as obedient children," yes, "as dear children," worthy of the relation in which you stand to God; "being holy, as He who has called you is holy! 1 Peter 1:14-15."

 

#1871

THE WITNESS OF THE SPIRIT

Romans 8:16.

"The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God."

THERE is a tribunal before which we must all appear at the last day: but we need not wait until that time to ascertain our true character. Every man has a tribunal erected in his own bosom. The conscience, according to the light it has received, accuses or excuses, those who will listen to its voice. This is common to heathen as well as Christians, Romans 2:15. But God's people are favored with the additional testimony of the Holy Spirit. Of this the Apostle speaks in the passage before us.

We shall endeavor to show,

I. What is the witness here spoken of—

Witnesses imply a doubt of the thing which is to be confirmed. The thing to be ascertained here is, "That we are the children of God." Respecting this, many are in suspense all their days; but God has provided means for the removal of these doubts.

He has been pleased to give us the witness of his Spirit.

1. Through the medium of rational deduction—

We may judge of our state by comparing it with the declarations of Scripture. God has given many marks and characters of his own people, for example, in the book of 1 John. We may examine by these marks how far our practice corresponds with our duty, and know from the testimony of an enlightened conscience our real state. This is a scriptural way of judging: Paul used it He knew that God required real integrity of heart, Psalm 51:6. He therefore labored to attain it, Acts 24:16. He had the testimony of his conscience that he had attained it, Hebrews 13:18. And this testimony was to him a ground of joy before God, 2 Corinthians 1:12; and exhorts us to use it, 2 Corinthians 13:5. Peter represents the attainment of this as a principal part of our baptismal engagement, 1 Peter 3:21; John also assures us, that this is the way in which God would have us to know our state, 1 John 3:20-21.

2. In a way of immediate impression—

The Spirit, as a "Spirit of adoption," testifies to the believer's soul, that he belongs to God. Not that this testimony is given without any reference to the Scripture; yet it is imparted in a more instantaneous manner, and in a far higher degree, at some times than at others. God by his Spirit sometimes "sheds abroad his love in the heart" in such a measure, and shines so clearly on the work he has already wrought there, as to convey immediately a full persuasion and assurance of a saving interest in his favor. As by "the sealing of the Spirit" he stamps his own image on his children for the conviction of others, so by "the witness of the Spirit" he testifies of their adoption for the more immediate comfort of their own souls.

These manifestations are given, for the most part, to prepare the soul for trials, to support it under them, or to comfort it after them: but they cannot be explained for the satisfaction of others. We cannot convey to any man a just idea of sensations which he has never felt; they must be experienced in order to be understood.

The work of the Spirit in regeneration is not fully understood even by those who are the subjects of it, notwithstanding its effects are as visible as those of the wind, John 3:8. We cannot expect, therefore, that his less visible operations would be more intelligible to those who have never experienced them at all. See Revelation 2:17. Yet may they be sufficiently proved from Scripture to be the privilege and portion of true believers. See Romans 8:15; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; and Ephesians 4:30; which clearly show, that the Holy Spirit does operate on the souls of God's people, and perform towards them the office both of a sanctifier and a comforter.

To guard the doctrine against every species of delusion, we shall show,

II. How to distinguish it from all false and enthusiastic pretensions—

Many, it must be confessed, have pretended to this witness on false grounds Some have imagined that the Spirit witnessed their adoption because they have had a singular dream, or a portion of scripture has been suddenly and strongly impressed upon their minds, or they have enjoyed peculiar comfort in their souls—and Satan is ready enough to help forward such delusions. But the witness of the Spirit may be distinguished from all enthusiastic pretensions to it, if we consider attentively,

1. What precedes it—

Conviction of our lost estate, faith in the Redeemer, and devotedness to God as our rightful Sovereign, must precede it. If we have not these things, we cannot be God's children; and we may be sure the Spirit will never attest a falsehood.

2. What accompanies it—

Humility of mind, a jealous fear of ourselves, and a love to the weakest of God's people, attend these divine communications. Whereas pride and conceit, with a presumptuous confidence, and a contempt of others, are ever found in deluded enthusiasts.

3. What follows it—

Manifestations of God to the soul always produce: zeal in his service; victory over sin; and a longing for the enjoyment of him in Heaven. But supineness, subjection to evil tempers, and a forgetfulness of the eternal world, generally characterize the self-deceiving professor. Let every one therefore examine his profession by these marks.

ADDRESS—

1. Those who know nothing of this testimony of the Spirit—

You probably do not understand the regenerating influences of the Spirit; and yet you see them manifested in the lives of many around you. Do not then condemn the witness of the Spirit merely because you cannot comprehend it; rather pray to God that you yourselves may be his children, and that the Spirit may testify to you of your adoption.

2. Those who profess to have received it—

A delusion in this is above all things to be guarded against: if your dispositions are habitually bad, your professions are all a delusion: where the witness of the Spirit is, there will the fruits also of the Spirit be.

3. Those who long to receive it—

To have the full witness of the Spirit is desirable, but not necessary: it is a great mercy if we enjoy his lower attestations in a good conscience. Let us labor to serve God, and leave to him the time, manner, and degree, in which he shall reveal himself to us.

4. Those who now enjoy this witness—

The manifestations of God to the soul are a very Heaven upon earth; let them therefore be duly esteemed and diligently improved; but beware lest you "grieve the Spirit by whom you are sealed." Be looking forward with increasing earnestness to your inheritance; and while you enjoy the inward witness that you are the children of God, let the world have an outward evidence of it in your lives.

 

#1872

THE PRIVILEGES OF GOD'S CHILDREN

Romans 8:17.

"Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory!"

THERE are many high-sounding titles among men, which are no otherwise profitable to the possessors of them, than as they please their imagination, and gratify their pride. But the honorable appellations given to the true Christian, are connected with real and substantial benefits, which every one who is counted worthy of them shall infallibly enjoy. Believers are called in Scripture, "Children of God." Now this name is not a mere figure of speech peculiar to Scripture: for though it is true that the Scriptures speak of children of promise, children of disobedience, children of the curse, importing only that the persons so called are of such or such a character; yet the term "Children of God" is of a more determinate meaning: it imports a relation to God as a Father; and includes all that is comprehended in that relation. Hence the Apostle, having spoken of believers under this term, immediately draws this inference from it; "If we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ."

In considering these words, we shall set before you,

I. The privileges of believers—

It is here taken for granted that believers are children of God: we therefore pass over that, and notice only the privileges attached to that relation. And here we find them.

1. Briefly stated—

We know what is usually understood by the term "heir." An heir is one who has a title to an estate, not as having earned or merited it, but simply by right of primogeniture (being the firstborn child). He comes to the full possession of it as soon as he is of age; and in the mean time he is supported out of it agreeably to the rank of life he is hereafter to sustain.

Now from hence we may see what is implied in the term, when applied to the children of God. They have a claim to Heaven itself as their inheritance, 1 Peter 1:3-4. But their right does not at all arise from anything they have done to deserve or purchase it: it is founded solely on their having been born of God through the operations of the Holy Spirit upon their souls, John 1:13. They come to the full possession of it at the time appointed of the Father: but, while they continue as minors, they are educated, and maintained, in a manner suited to their high and heavenly birth: they have the Holy Spirit himself for their teacher, 1 John 2:27; they have manna from Heaven, even "angels' food," for their support, John 6:53-55. Psalm 78:25; they have the garments of salvation for their clothing, Isaiah 61:10; and angels for their attendants to minister unto them, Hebrews 1:14.

In some respects indeed the parallel does not hold: for, among men, the eldest only is the heir, and the younger have smaller portions allotted to them. But, of the children of God, every one has an equal right to the whole inheritance. Besides, the heirs of men may die, or be defrauded of their inheritance: but the children of God have their inheritance reserved for them; and they are kept for it, 1 Peter 1:4-5. Moreover, the heirs of men retain their possessions but a little time, and lose them entirely at death: but the children of God come to the full enjoyment of their inheritance when they die; and then possess it for ever and ever!

2. Strongly amplified—

When the Apostle says, "heirs; heirs of God," he does not intend merely to repeat the idea, but to enlarge and amplify it by a very important addition. The children of men, though denominated heirs of such or such a person, can only inherit the substance belonging to that person: but the children of God inherit all that God has, and, if we may so speak, all that he is. To them belong "all things," whether present or future, whether temporal or eternal, 1 Corinthians 3:21-23. To them belong also all the perfections of the Deity, so far at least as they need to have them exercised for their good in this world, and for their happiness in the next: they can say with David, "The Lord himself is the portion of my inheritance! Psalm 16:5."

Further light is thrown upon this subject by the additional expression, "joint-heirs with Christ." Christ is the Lord and "Heir of all things, Hebrews 1:2." But "he is not ashamed to call us brethren, Hebrews 2:11." By virtue of this relation to him, we are partakers of all that he inherits.

Has "his Father appointed unto him a kingdom? Such is appointed to us also!" Luke 22:29.

Has his Father called him to a throne? We also are seated on it together with him! Revelation 3:21.

Does he, agreeably to his Father's will, possess a glory and felicity infinitely surpassing our highest conceptions? The same also is given to us for our everlasting portion! John 17:22.

But, whatever be the means of bringing us to the enjoyment of this portion, our right and title to it arises wholly from our relation to God the Father as his children; "If children, then heirs;" "if a son, then an heir of God through Christ, Galatians 4:7."

We must not however forget,

II. The condition on which they are bestowed—

Though we are not required to do anything in order to earn these privileges, or to render an equivalent for them when bestowed upon us—yet conditions are imposed upon us; and we must submit to those conditions, if ever we would participate in the blessedness of God's children.

For the sake of clarity, we will show,

1. What the condition is—

Christ, our elder Brother, was a sufferer, "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, Isaiah 53:3." In this respect all the family must resemble him: every one of them must learn obedience in the same way, Hebrews 5:8, and be perfected by the same means, Hebrews 2:10. It is appointed to all the disciples of Jesus to "take up their cross, and follow him." They must expect the same treatment from an ungodly world as he experienced: they must be hated, reviled, persecuted: "the disciple cannot be above his Lord; it is sufficient for him to be as his Lord:" "if they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, much more will they call those of his household."

Now it is not easy for flesh and blood to endure these things: we are ever ready, through pride and anger, to resent such treatment; or, through shame and cowardice, to shun it. But the condition is plain and absolute: No cross, no crown! "We must suffer with him, if ever we would be glorified together."

2. The equity of it—

Our sufferings are intended as a test of our love to Christ. There was no necessity for our blessed Lord to submit to sufferings, unless he chose to undertake our cause, and put himself in the place of sinners: yet, purely for our sakes, he endured even death itself, yes, the painful and accursed death of the cross. If our trials then were a thousand times more severe than they are, would it not befit us cheerfully to sustain them in proof of our regard for him? If he voluntarily bore so much for our good, it is surely reasonable that we would, when called to it, endure somewhat for his glory.

But our sufferings are also intended to secure to us, and augment, the inheritance itself. Nothing tends more to wean us from the world, than the opposition we meet from worldly men. Our "tribulation also works patience;" yes, it both exercises and confirms our every grace, Romans 5:3-4. Strange as it may appear, the enduring of trials for Christ's sake tends greatly to the advancement even of our present happiness, inasmuch as "this will result in your being witnesses to them, Luke 21:13," and puts honor upon us, Philippians 2:29. 1 Peter 4:13-14, and is, for the most part, attended with the richest consolations of the Spirit, 2 Corinthians 1:5. And, beyond all doubt, it will hereafter be recompensed "with a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory! 2 Corinthians 4:17."

Can we then complain of a condition, which at once conduces to God's glory, and to our happiness? We should rather rejoice that we are counted worthy to suffer in so good a cause, Acts 5:41; and be contented to obtain the inheritance in the way which our heavenly Father has ordained, 2 Timothy 3:12. Acts 14:22."

ADDRESS—

1. Those who are afraid of the cross—

Never think to alter the condition which God has imposed, for it is absolutely irreversible, 2 Timothy 2:12-13." Consider the time when our Lord imposed the condition; and blush for your timidity, Matthew 16:21; Matthew 16:24.

Consider how little it is in the power of man to do against you, and what a sad alternative you prefer, Luke 12:4-5. Matthew 16:25; and let your cowardice humble you in the dust. Think what a worm it is that you are afraid of, and what an omnipotent Being you displease! Isaiah 51:7-8; Isaiah 51:12-13; and lastly, consider whether the inheritance will not abundantly repay all that you can endure in the way to it. Let such reflections as these occupy your minds. Count the cost at once, and learn to "sell all for this invaluable pearl! Matthew 13:44-46."

2. The suffering children of God—

Think it not strange that you meet with fiery trials, 1 Peter 4:12; you have often been forewarned respecting it, 1 Thessalonians 3:4; and they are all working for your good, 1 Peter 1:7.

If you were to suffer for evil-doing, there would be reason for shame: but to suffer for well-doing is honorable, and acceptable with God, 1 Peter 2:19-20; 1 Peter 4:15-16.

While the heir feels the restraints of his minority, he comforts himself with the prospect that he shall before long be of age, and launch into the complete fruition of all his wishes. Your trials are, as it were, a needful discipline to which you must submit for a little time: but soon they will for ever end, and all the felicity of Heaven will be yours! "Be patient therefore until the coming of you Lord James 5:7; James 5:10-11,;" consoling yourselves with that delightful promise, "He who overcomes, shall inherit all things! Revelation 21:7."

 

#1873

PRESENT TROUBLES AND FUTURE GLORY

Romans 8:18.

"I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us!"

An expectation of ultimate advantage is that which gives activity to men in every situation of life. But, while it operates with full force in things relating to this world, its influence is scarcely felt by the generality of mankind in relation to spiritual and eternal realities. Hence they are easily drawn aside from the path of duty by the allurements of time and sense, or driven from it by the terrors of persecution. Whereas, if they would duly estimate the pleasures or pains of this present life, and weigh them in a balance against the glory and felicity of the world to come, they would be stimulated to patience and diligence in well-doing, since they could not but see with the Apostle, that the one were not worthy to be named in comparison with the other.

That we may judge of the Apostle's estimate, I will endeavor to set before you:

the trials of the saint in this life,

the glory that awaits him in the life to come.

I. Distinctly—

The TRIALS of a saint in this life are great—

"Man is born to trouble," and every man must expect his share of it in this world: but the saints have a greater portion of it than others. In common with, others, they are called to endure pain of body, distress of mind, loss of friends, poverty of circumstances, and every other evil incident to this mortal state.

But besides all this, they have many trials peculiar to themselves.

From within, they are often bowed down under a sense of guilt, or under their indwelling corruptions: they are sometimes harassed with temptations, which, as fiery darts, wound and inflame their inmost souls: and sometimes they are overwhelmed with the hidings of their Father's face, and ready to sink in utter despair. How grievous these sensations are, no words can adequately express.

They are also much tried from without. The contempt, the hatred, the persecutions they endure, are often grievous to be borne; and would shake their fidelity, if they were not upheld and strengthened by their God.

Let this accumulated load be weighed as in a balance, and it will be found exceedingly heavy, insomuch that, "if in this life only they had hope," the saints would be of all men in the most pitiable condition.

But the GLORY that awaits him is also great—

There is a glory that shall be revealed to us, and a glory that shall be revealed in us: both of these are included in the words before us; and, taken together, they comprise all the glory and felicity of Heaven.

The very place to which we shall be admitted, is described by all the powers of language, in order to convey to us some faint idea of its beauty, Revelation 21:10-23. There we shall behold all the angelic hosts with the spirits of just men made perfect (how bright and blessed an assembly must that be!) Yes, we shall see the Lamb of God, that very Jesus who was crucified for us, seated on his throne; and we shall behold the Father also face to face—we shall see him as he is, in all the brightness of his glory.

Together with this, we ourselves shall be fully changed into the image of our God: we shall resemble him both in body and soul, as far as finite creatures can resemble the infinite Jehovah. We shall also participate in the blessedness of the Deity: and every vessel, according to its capacity, shall be filled with joy.

But it is in vain to estimate what is so infinitely above our comprehension; for "we know not yet what we shall be." Even our present privileges surpass all that the carnal eye; or ear, or heart, has ever seen, or heard, or conceived! 2 Corinthians 2:9; much more therefore must the happiness of Heaven infinitely exceed all that language can express, or imagination conceive.

Such being the two states of suffering and of glory as viewed distinctly, let us now bring them under our review,

II. In a way of comparison—

Sufferings, of whatever kind, are painful to flesh and blood; but when estimated according to the word of God, they are light, mixed, and momentary.

How light are they in comparison with what they might be: or of what we deserve: or of what Jesus endured for us: or of what myriads of our fellow-creatures are now enduring in Hell!

Besides, amidst them all, we have innumerable mercies for which to be thankful: and, if they were continued throughout our whole lives, they would be as short as the twinkling of an eye, in comparison with the state to which we are hastening.

The glory that awaits us is exceeding great, even "a weight" as great as the soul with its most enlarged powers is able to support. It is also unmixed with any alloy of sin, or sorrow: and its duration will be eternal, even co-existent with the soul itself.

What comparison then is there between them? So infinitely does the glory exceed all the sufferings that we can endure in this life, that if we add hyperbole to hyperbole, and strain all the powers of language and of thought, to express the difference, we never can do justice to the subject, or declare a thousandth part of that which really exists, 2 Corinthians 4:17. The Apostle's estimate was formed as the result of a minute and accurate computation; and therefore the accuracy of it is past a doubt. In fact, the Apostle does not institute a comparison between them (for they will not admit of any comparison); but he says that the sufferings are "not worthy" (not worthy of any consideration, no, not of a thought), when the glory that shall follow them is kept in view!

Improvement—

We may learn from hence,

1. How to judge of God's dispensations—

To those who look no farther than to the present life, "the ways of God appear unequal," since the godly are oppressed, and the wicked triumph. But let eternity be taken into the account, and all the seeming inequalities will vanish. The godly will be recompensed for their sufferings; and the wicked will receive the due reward of their impieties. The Judge of all the earth will not only do right, but will manifest the equity of all his dispensations.

2. How to comfort the afflicted soul—

When believers are complaining that their trials are exceeding heavy, and that they are ready to faint because of them, we would lead them to view their sufferings in a way of comparison, or in a way of contrast.

We would compare the good they lose or the evil they sustain—with the good and evil that are beyond the grave.

Or we would contrast the good to be enjoyed in a life of sin, with the evil which sin will hereafter bring upon us.

Or compare the evil to be sustained in this life, with the good with which it shall hereafter be compensated.

In either of these methods the Scriptures point out these distinctly: they compare present with future good, Hebrews 11:16 and present evil with future blessings, Luke 12:5. So also they contrast present good with future evil, Ecclesiastes 11:9; and present evil with future good, Hebrews 10:34. And the effect of both these methods in composing the mind is intimated in 2 Corinthians 4:18. We may, with God's help, put an end to their murmuring; and make them willing to bear their present afflictions, in expectation of the benefit that will result from them.

3. How to regulate our own conduct—

Are we under trials? We should view our sufferings as ordered by God himself in number, weight, and duration, and consider them as means appointed by him for the perfecting of his work within us. Then, whatever our trials be, we shall not give way to an undue depression of mind; but shall commit ourselves to God in silent resignation, and wait for our recompense in the eternal world!

 

#1874

THE STATE OF GOD'S CHILDREN

Romans 8:23.

"Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies."

MUCH is spoken in Scripture respecting the happiness of the saints. And doubtless they are on many accounts the most blessed people upon earth. But they also experience in a great degree the sorrows that pervade the universe. It is not in this poor world, but in the future world, that they are to attain perfect uninterrupted felicity.

The Apostle is here encouraging the afflicted Christians to endure their trials patiently, in expectation of a rich eternal recompense. He tells them that the whole creation were supported under their present sufferings by a hope of some happier state: and that he himself, notwithstanding the privileges he enjoyed, participated with them in the common lot.

From his words we are led to consider,

I. The state of the creation at large—

This is fully developed in the four verses preceding our text. There are however considerable difficulties in those verses; but chiefly arising from the inaccuracy of the translation. Read them thus, and the main difficulties will be overcome: "The earnest expectation of the creation waits for the manifestation of the sons of God: (for the creation was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who has subjected the same;) in hope that the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now."

The whole creation was reduced to a very deplorable condition by the fall of man.

The material world underwent a most awful change: cursed was the ground for man's sake: the earth rendered barren without continual and laborious culture, or fruitful only in briers and thorns, which, if left unrestrained, would speedily overrun it: and the atmosphere rendered the source of fatal storms, and tempests, and pestilential vapors for the destruction of man, Genesis 3:17-18.

The animal world, first subjected to man's control, and harmless in all their habits, had such a change wrought within them, that they all of various orders prey one upon another, and are more or less arrayed in hostility to man.

The rational world partook more largely still of this fatal change: for man universally, and without exception, was despoiled of the Divine image, and corrupted in all his faculties, whether of mind or body, and subjected to innumerable diseases, and miseries, and death.

But things shall not always continue thus—

There is a time coming, when God will manifest himself in a more especial manner to his own people; and it is therefore called, "The manifestation of the sons of God:" and then shall the sentence denounced against the whole creation be reversed, in order that every creature, according to its capacity, may partake of that universal blessedness.

The material world will become again what it was at first, beautiful in all its parts, fertile to the utmost extent of man's necessities, and healthful throughout every place and every climate.

The animal world shall have all their venomous propensities removed, and the prophet's description shall be fully realized among them, "The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea! Isaiah 11:6-9."

The whole rational world shall then be converted unto God; "for the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea."

Thus throughout the whole creation shall, to a certain extent, the paradisiacal state be restored.

Now, as this will be a state of inconceivable blessedness, the whole creation is represented as looking and longing for it—

It will be remembered that our blessed Lord was foretold as "the person whom all nations desired." Now he was foretold under that character, not because all nations did desire him, but because all nations, if they had known him, would have desired him. So here the whole creation is said to look and wait for the day spoken of in my text, not because they do indeed expect it with such solicitude, but because they would expect it in that way, if they were fully apprised of the blessedness attendant on it.

And, as in other passages of Holy Writ, the woods and the hills are often spoken of as participating in, and expressing, the joys of God's people; so here, by a very strong figure, the whole creation is represented as stretching forth the neck with eagerness, in looking for it, and groaning with impatience for its arrival; yes, and as experiencing the pangs of giving birth until they shall be liberated from their present burden.

Nor are these expressions at all too strong, if the different parts of the creation were capable of discerning and appreciating the blessedness of the change that shall await each in its proper sphere, and to the full extent of its capacity. Every part is at this time "under the bondage of corruption," that is, under the curse introduced by sin; and every part, according to its capacity, shall be delivered from that bondage, and be brought, so far as it is capable of it, into a participation of the "liberty that shall then be accorded to the children of God."

These were the feelings assigned to the inanimate creation at the first advent of our Lord in his abased state, Psalm 96:11-13; Psalm 98:4-9; and the same creatures may well be said to pant for a renewal of their joys, when our Lord shall come again to establish his kingdom over the face of the whole earth.

But all this may, almost without a figure, be uttered as descriptive of,

II. The state of God's children in particular—

Believers have already the foretaste of these joys in their own souls—

The "first-fruits" were a part of any produce, devoted to God as an acknowledgment that the whole was from him: and while they sanctified the whole harvest, they assured to the possessor the full enjoyment of it, Deuteronomy 26:2; Deuteronomy 26:10-11. Proverbs 3:9.

Now the harvest of "the Spirit" is that abundant effusion of holiness and happiness which God will pour forth on his people in the latter day, not unlike to what they enjoyed on the day of Pentecost, or to that which our first parents possessed in Paradise. And "of this Spirit God's people have now the first-fruits." They are renewed in the spirit of their mind after the very image of their God in righteousness and true holiness: and, with this renewal of their nature, they are also "filled with joy of the Holy Spirit;" even with a "joy that is unspeakable and full of glory!"

Now it might be supposed that these, by reason of their present attainments, would be less anxious for the promised period before referred to, when the whole creation shall be restored, as it were, to its original purity and happiness. But the very reverse of this is the case: for in every age these are the persons who most pant and long for the promised felicity. Yes, says the Apostle, "we ourselves who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, even the redemption of our body."

Of the joys they now experience they look forward to the everlasting consummation—

"Believers are now the children of God, 1 John 3:1," his children both by adoption and grace.

Now adoption, among the Romans, was two-fold; first, private, in the house, and afterwards public, in the forum.

The former of these every believer has received already through the operation of the Spirit of God upon his soul, verse 15, 16; but for the latter he waits until that period when God shall come to gather together his elect from every quarter of the world, to restore to every soul its long moldered body, and to make the whole man, in body and soul, eternally blessed in his presence. That is the period when "the body will enjoy the redemption" that has been long since possessed by the soul; and a blessedness will be then imparted to the whole man, of which his present most exalted happiness is but a pledge and foretaste. Now the believer knows that that period shall arrive: and he longs for it, and "groans within himself," through the ardor of his desires after it.

Even here his anticipations of it have been sweet, infinitely beyond the powers of language to express, ("a joy unspeakable;") what then shall the full possession be in the complete enjoyment of his God? From the private adoption, by the testimony of the Spirit, he has been almost enrapt at times into the third Heaven, notwithstanding the clog which his body has imposed upon his soul.

What then shall the public manifestation of this honor in the presence of the whole assembled universe be, when his "redeemed body" shall possess all the purity and perfection of his soul, and not only partake of all the joys of his soul, but aid the sold in its everlasting possession of them? I wonder not that Paul groaned in this body, being burdened; yes, that he groaned, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with his heavenly house, namely, with his body in its renovated and perfect state, 2 Corinthians 5:2-5. This ought to be the state of every true believer; and it will be in proportion as he lives near to God, and has "his conduct in Heaven."

By some the period referred to in my text is supposed to commence at the Millennium, of which time Peter speaks when he says, "We look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness, 2 Peter 3:13." And, if any find comfort in that view of the subject, I would not move a finger to rob them of it. I have no objection to persons following their own views of Scripture truth: every man has the same right to do it as I myself have. But, when these uncertain matters are made the subject of disputation in the Church of God, to the creating of dissensions and divisions, and to the turning of the minds of pious persons from the more clear and fundamental truths of the Gospel, then I bitterly regret it, and am ready to weep over it as "a device of Satan to turn men from the simplicity that is in Christ."

If any choose to apply this passage to the Millennium, and to look for its accomplishment then, let them. But let them bear with those who cannot see with their eyes, or feel that there is any advantage in their views.

Let all agree in this, to look and groan inwardly for the time of their consummate felicity, whether it occur at a little earlier or a little later period: for this is the point in which all are to agree; and in this consists the highest attainment of the Christian life: "We come behind in no gift, while we are waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, 1 Corinthians 1:7" to perfect our felicity; and we are sure, that "to those who so look for him, he will appear a second time unto their everlasting salvation, Hebrews 9:28." My prayer therefore for all of you, my brethren, is, "May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into a patient waiting for Christ, 2 Thessalonians 3:5."

That I may bring this subject home more powerfully to men's business and bosoms, I would add,

1. Let us not take up our rest in this poor world—

This world is but a passage to a better; it is a wilderness which we must pass through in our way to the heavenly Canaan. As to our present accommodations, we need not be much concerned, whether they be a little more or less suited to our present convenience. We are but "pilgrims and sojourners here," hoping in due season to attain our rest hereafter.

Let us then look forward to "that rest which remains for us," and under all existing difficulties derive our consolations from the prospect of the happiness that awaits us.

This is, not the duty merely, but the high privilege, of the Christian. This it is which raises the Christian above all the world besides. What are crowns and kingdoms, if a man has no prospect beyond the grave? On the other hand, What is martyrdom itself to one who sees it as the very door of Heaven, and knows that the body which agonized for a few moments, shall reign in glory for evermore?

I say then to every one among you, "Set not your affection on things below, but on things above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God," and where "all who suffer with him now, shall be glorified together with him" to all eternity!

2. Let us press forward more earnestly after the happiness reserved for us—

Who can conceive the blessedness of that state to which we are hastening? If "eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor heart conceived the things which are enjoyed by God's people in this present world," then how much less can any just conception be formed of their future state?

If the possession of the first-fruits is so glorious, what must the harvest be!

If the privilege of being God's children be so delightful now, that the very hope of it raises us above all the joys or sorrows of this present world, what shall the full manifestation of it be when all the interests of time and sense are for ever passed away?

Let us then survey more and more the blessedness of Heaven, where we shall behold face to face that Savior who died for us, and be with him for ever, possessing, according to their capacity, all the fullness of his beauty, his felicity, and his glory!

Dear brethren, let this prospect swallow up every inferior consideration, and animate us to run with ever increasing diligence the race that is set before us. Let us "forget all that is behind, and reach forward to that which is before, and press on with all imaginable ardor for the prize of our high calling in Christ Jesus." And, in the desire of that full blessedness, let us cry continually with the beloved Apostle, "Come, Lord, and take me to yourself! Yes, come, Lord Jesus, come quickly!"

 

#1875

THE OFFICE OF HOPE

Romans 8:24-25.

"We are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man sees, why does he yet hope for? But if we hope for what we do not have, then do we with patience wait for it."

If it is asked: What is that feeling of the mind, which, beyond all others, gives life and activity to rational agents? We answer: It is hope. Influenced by this, all persons in every department of life put forth their energies: the merchant braves the storms; the soldier encounters his enemies; the student consumes the midnight oil in his laborious researches.

To this also is chiefly to be referred the Christian's exertions in the service of his God. True it is, that love and gratitude have a constraining influence upon him: but it is also true, that these principles would be ineffectual to carry his soul through all its trials, if they were not confirmed and animated by the yet more powerful operation of hope.

Great, no doubt, are the privileges and enjoyments of the Christian in this present world: he is a child of the Most High God; and has "a spirit of adoption within him, enabling him to cry, Abba, Father." He has also "the witness of the Spirit testifying both in and by his own spirit, that he is a child of God."

But, after all, little solid comfort would he derive from these reflections, if he did not look forward to an inheritance, to which, by virtue of his relation to God, he is entitled. Hence the Apostle represents the Lord's people as deriving their chief consolation from the prospect which they have beyond the grave, verse 23, yes, and "as being saved by hope," through the operation of which upon their minds "they patiently wait for" the termination and outcome of all their present trials.

We propose on the present occasion to consider the nature and effects of the Christian's hope:

I. The NATURE of the Christian's hope—

We are most generally said to be saved by faith, Romans 5:1; but here salvation is ascribed to hope. There is, in fact, a near affinity between the two: and we cannot adopt any better method of illustrating the nature and operations of hope than by instituting a comparison between it and faith. That faith and hope are very nearly allied, appears from this, that in Paul's account of Abraham, he represents the two principles as concurring with each other, and having an united influence on his obedience: "Against hope," says he, Abraham "believed in hope, Romans 4:18."

In some things the two principles AGREE—

They agree in their ORIGIN: both of them are the gift of God, and the fruits of the Holy Spirit's operation on the soul.

Have we faith? It is the gift of God, Ephesians 2:8. Philippians 1:29, the fruit of a divine operation, Colossians 2:12, a work of grace, Acts 18:27.

If we have hope, we have been begotten to it by God himself, 1 Peter 1:3, even by his gracious influence on our souls, 2 Thessalonians 2:16; and to his Holy Spirit must be ascribed all its increase in the soul, together with all the peace and joy that flow from it, Romans 15:13.

They agree also in their USE: both the one and the other being intended to further the salvation of our souls. As we are saved by faith, Romans 10:9, so are we by hope also, Romans 8:24.

They agree yet further in their DURATION: they have no scope for exercise beyond this present life. Faith is by Paul opposed to sight, 2 Corinthians 5:7; and as in Heaven "we shall see God face to face, and know him even as we are known," the dark and enigmatical visions of faith will cease, 1 Corinthians 13:12.

In like manner we are told in our text, that "hope that is seen, is not hope: for what a man sees, why does he yet hope for?" We shall have in Heaven the actual possession of what is now the object of our hope. Then faith will be lost in sight, and hope in enjoyment.

In other things the two principles materially DIFFER—

They differ in their foundation. Faith is founded solely on the veracity of God. Hope is founded, partly, on the word of God, and, partly on our conformity to that word. The word of God reveals a dispensation of mercy to sinful man. But what hope does that generate in the minds of the fallen angels? They believe it, as much as we do: but, having no evidence in themselves that they comply with the terms on which that mercy is given, they do not hope in it: "they believe and tremble! James 2:19." It is the penitent alone that has hope in God: and his hope arises from his consciousness that he does embrace the mercy offered him, and conform to the terms which God in his wisdom has prescribed to all who shall ultimately be saved by it.

They differ also in their qualities. Faith is properly a virtue; and the lack of it under all circumstances is a sin. As a virtue, there is no other so frequently or so highly commended; (where that has been exercised, humility, and love, and every other grace that has been exercised with it, has been overlooked, and that alone commended, Luke 7:50;) and as a sin, no other is so strongly reprobated as unbelief, Mark 16:16.

Hope, on the other hand, may rather be called a privilege than a virtue; and despondency, a curse, rather than a sin. So far indeed as hope agrees with faith in its foundation, so far it agrees with it in its moral qualities: but as far as it is founded, not on the word of God, but in a man's own conformity to that word, so far its moral qualities differ from those of faith: for instead of its being a sin for an ungodly man to despair of salvation in his present state, it is a sin for him to indulge a hope: it is the vilest presumption in him to think that he can ever be saved in an impenitent and unbelieving state: and to despair of salvation in such a state is his very first step towards Heaven.

They differ yet further in their objects. Faith is incomparably more extensive than hope. Faith has respect to both good and evil: it embraces in its view both Heaven and Hell. But hope has good alone for its object.

Faith comprehends everything that God has revealed, whether past, present, or future: hope looks only to what is future.

Faith regards every declaration of God, whether historical or prophetic, promissory or menacing, hortatory or preceptive: but hope has respect to the promises alone. It invariably terminates on some good, which is yet future, and which God has promised.

Lastly, They differ also in their offices. Though both of them agree in their general use, to promote the salvation of men, they have exceedingly distinct offices.

Faith apprehends the Lord Jesus Christ, and, by uniting us to him, interests us in all that he has done and suffered for us: it also receives out of his fullness all those graces and blessings which the Father has been pleased to treasure up in him for the benefit of his Church.

Hope merely expects those blessings: and, by presenting future good to our view, stimulates us to diligence in the pursuit of it.

Both of these principles "save us;" but faith brings that good into the soul which hope had only anticipated; and, by presenting invisible realities to our view, gives to hope a more ample scope for exercise.

Faith is the parent of hope: but hope, once formed in the soul, becomes an active helper to faith. Neither can operate to any good effect without the other. Faith without hope is paralyzed; and hope without faith is dead. But, when faith duly apprehends Christ, and hope leads us to wait patiently for his full salvation, then the work of God goes on prosperously within us, and we are in the sure way to everlasting life.

Such being the nature of the Christian's hope, we proceed to inquire into,

I. The EFFECTS of the Christian's hope—

These are represented under the general term, Salvation, "We are saved by it." But how does it effect salvation for us? We answer, By it,

1. We are comforted in our afflictions—

Afflictions are the lot of all, but especially of the Lord's people. All of them have a cross to bear; and tribulation is their appointed way to the kingdom of Heaven. Indeed, so painful are the trials which they have to endure for the Lord's sake, that, "if in this life only they had hope, they would be of all men most miserable," or, at least, most to be pitied, 1 Corinthians 15:19. But the prospect of eternal glory so lightens their burden, as to make it quite easy to be borne, Acts 20:24.

To this effect the Apostle speaks in the chapter before us; (and he delivers the sentiment as the result of his own most careful investigation,) "I reckon (I compute by accurate calculation) that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us, verse 18." In another epistle he gives a full and accurate description of his views and feelings on this subject. "He was continually delivered unto death for Jesus' sake," but he was perfectly satisfied with his condition, because "he knew, that he who had raised up the Lord Jesus, would raise him up also by Jesus, and present him, together with his beloved converts, 2 Corinthians 4:11-14," "faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy! Jude verse 24." The prospect of that blessed event made all his "afflictions light," yes, lightness itself, 2 Corinthians 4:17-18.

It may be thought, perhaps, that this superabundant grace was given to him as an Apostle, and is not to be expected by us. But it is to be expected by every saint whom "God has begotten to a lively hope:" for our blessed Lord tells all his followers, not merely to bear their persecutions with patience, but to make them a ground of joy and exultation, because of the glorious recompense that awaits them in the eternal world! Matthew 5:10-12.

And who that has ever suffered much for righteousness' sake, has not found this to be the effect of his hope towards God? Many among us may say with David, "I would have fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, Psalm 27:13." But under the influence of this hope their consolations have abounded in proportion to, yes, and far above, all their accumulated afflictions, 2 Corinthians 1:5.

2. We are supported in our conflicts—

To all true Christians there are, on some occasions, "fightings without, and fears within." But the grace of which we are speaking, serves them as a helmet, that will resist the stroke of their most potent adversary. In the panoply of God, this piece of armor yields to none in point of efficacy and importance: salvation is pre-eminently ascribed to it: it is called, "The helmet of salvation, 1 Thessalonians 5:8 with Ephesians 6:17." It is well known that persons clothed with armor from head to foot, especially if contending with persons not so protected, enter into the combat with peculiar confidence. This was particularly observable in the French cuirassiers at the memorable battle of Waterloo. And thus especially does the Christian whose mind is well established by hope: he is "strong and very courageous," not doubting but that God is with him, and that he shall be "more than conqueror through Him who loved him."

The assaults which he has to sustain may indeed be violent and very terrible, even like the waves of the sea, that threaten to overwhelm the tempest-tossed bark. But his "hope, like an anchor sure and steadfast, enables him to out-ride the storm, Hebrews 6:19." That "anchor cast within the veil," keeps his mind composed Isaiah 26:3, and assures him, that he is safe, though earth and Hell would combine their efforts to destroy him, 2 Timothy 1:12.

How this grace operated on the saints of old, we may see at large in Paul's Epistle to the Hebrews. Many, under its influence, "took joyfully the confiscation of their goods Hebrews 10:34;" and many, even of the weaker gender, when called to endure the severest torments that could be inflicted on them, "would not so much as accept the deliverance" that was offered them, because "they hoped assuredly to obtain a better resurrection, Hebrews 11:35."

Thus will it operate on us also. Precisely as the expectation of a future harvest leads the gardener to encounter all difficulties, and cheers his mind during the long continuance of an inclement winter, so the prospect of reaping in due season enables the Christian to endure unto the end, James 5:7-8. He has never seen the felicity which he pants after; but he expects assuredly the ultimate possession of it; and therefore "patiently waits for" the final consummation of all his hopes, Romans 8:25.

3. We are encouraged in our exertions—

To a man who has Heaven in his eye, nothing is impossible. Behold Moses, when at the summit of human grandeur and power: an alternative was before him, "to suffer affliction with the people of God—or to enjoy the pleasures" and honors of the court of Pharaoh. Which did he prefer? He chose "the reproach of Christ, esteeming it to be greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt." And what guided him to this strange decision? It was hope; "he had respect unto the recompense of the reward, Hebrews 11:24-26."

In like manner Paul "pressed forward with incessant ardor in his heavenly course, forgetting what was behind, and reaching forward to what was before." And, if we inquire into the principle which animated him to such exertions, we shall find that it was precisely that which is mentioned in our text—the hope and prospect of securing "the prize of his high calling."

We may even say that our blessed Lord himself, as a man, was actuated by the same divine principle; since it was "for the joy that was set before him, that he endured the cross and despised the shame, and rested not until he sat down at the right hand of the throne of God, Hebrews 12:2."

And we too, if we would "run our race with patience," must imitate him in this respect, Hebrews 12:1; we must keep our eye steadily fixed on him, and continue without intermission "looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ! Titus 2:11-13." Then shall we "be steadfast, unmoveable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord," when we are convinced in our mind, "that our labor shall not be in vain in the Lord, 1 Corinthians 15:58."

ADDRESS—

1. Those whose hopes are presumptuous—

There is no man who does not hope that he shall be saved at last. But we ought to be "able to give a reason of the hope that is in us, 1 Peter 3:15." If we cannot do this, and a satisfactory reason too, our hope is altogether vain and delusive. We have before said, that hope, as well as faith, must, in part at least, be founded on the word of God. Look to it then, that your hope is truly scriptural, and that you seek with all diligence that humility and contrition, that faith and love, that purity and holiness, that zeal and devotedness to God—which are the distinguishing characters of all who shall ultimately attain the kingdom of Heaven. If you are "without Christ, you are without hope, Ephesians 2:12;" but if you flee to him for refuge, you may be perfectly assured of acceptance with him, Psalm 130:7-8. John 6:37.

2. Those who are harassed with doubts and fears—

There are many, of whom there is reason for a good hope, who yet do not enjoy that comfort in their minds which the religion of Christ is calculated to impart. In some this disquietude arises from imperfect views of the Gospel: they do not see the freeness and fullness of that salvation that is provided for them in the Gospel; and they are looking for some qualifications in themselves to warrant their confidence in the Savior. They do not distinguish aright between the offices of faith and hope. They do not see that the vilest creatures under Heaven are warranted to believe in Christ for salvation, and to hope for acceptance with him in his appointed way of penitence and faith; but that to hope for Heaven as persons actually brought into a state of salvation, requires an evidence in our own souls, that we are, in a measure at least, transformed into the Divine image.

To such persons then we would say, Do not look for qualifications in yourselves to warrant your application to Christ, or your affiance in him; but, while you accept salvation freely through his blood and righteousness, look to him also for the communications of his grace to renew and sanctify your hearts, and to make you fit for his inheritance.

With some indeed these doubts and fears originate rather in a consciousness of some unmortified lust, or of habitual negligence in the divine life: and where this is the case, we must declare, that peace and confidence would be a curse to them. We must "awake to righteousness, and not sin," if we would have any comfortable evidence that we are the Lord's people, or any happiness in looking forward to the eternal world. But, from whatever cause men's doubts arise, we would address to them that encouraging exhortation, "Turn to your stronghold, you prisoners of hope, Zechariah 9:12."

3. Those who have a good hope through grace—

Rejoice in the exalted privilege to which God has called you; and endeavor to render to the Lord according to the benefits he has conferred upon you. It is said by John, that, "he who has this hope in him, purifies himself even as Christ is pure, 1 John 3:3." Take care then that your hope operates in this way—let it stir you up to the utmost possible exertions in the way of holiness. Rest not in low attainments: think nothing yet attained, while anything remains to be attained. Keep your evidences clear: let them not be clouded by any unmortified lust, or secret neglect: and then shall you "hold fast the rejoicing of your hope firm unto the end, Hebrews 3:6." This is the way to be both holy and happy: and, thus living, you may be well assured, that your "hope shall never make you ashamed! Romans 5:5."

 

#1876

THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT IN STRENGTHENING MEN FOR SUFFERING OR DUTY

Romans 8:26.

"Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we would pray for as we ought: but the Spirit himself makes intercession for its with groanings which cannot be uttered."

A HOPE of eternal happiness is as an anchor to the troubled soul; it enables a person to bear up under the heaviest afflictions. But the mind of a believer would soon faint, if it were not strengthened from above. God therefore communicates his Spirit to his people under their trials. By his Spirit he enables them to go forward in the way of duty. Paul has been speaking of sufferings as the Christian's portion here, verse 17, 18. He has mentioned "hope" as a principal support to the soul under them, verse 24. He now specifies the Holy Spirit's agency as another means of confirming and establishing the soul.

This agency of the Spirit we may consider,

I. In seasons of suffering—

Men are, in themselves, too weak to sustain many or severe trials—

There is much impatience in the heart of every man. It too often reveals itself even in those who are, on the whole, pious. Sometimes it is called forth by small and trifling occasions. How passionately did Jonah resent the loss of his gourd? Jonah 4:8-9. How bitterly would the disciples have revenged an act of unkindness? Luke 9:54. There is no trial so small but it would overcome us, if we were left to ourselves; and those who have endured heavy trials, often faint under small ones.

But God sends his Spirit to help the infirmities of his people—

We cannot exactly discriminate between the Spirit's agency and ours. Indeed the Spirit acts in and by our endeavors. Feeble therefore as our strength is, we must exert it: and if we cheerfully put our hands to the work, the Holy Spirit will always afford us effectual support. He leads us to see the source and tendency of their trials. He strengthens the natural vigor of our minds. He suggests to us many consolatory thoughts. Thus he fulfills to us that gracious declaration, Psalm 147:3.

These operations of the Spirit are yet more manifest,

II. In seasons of prayer—

God's people "know not even what to pray for"—

A great variety of passions may agitate their minds. When this is the case, their petitions may be unfitting and sinful. Even a sense of guilt will often stop the mouth before God. Compare Psalm 32:3; Psalm 32:5. Sometimes also trouble itself will utterly overwhelm the soul, and incapacitate it for prayer, Psalm 77:4. Our Lord himself seems to have experienced such a disturbance of mind, John 12:27; nor are there any praying persons who have not often found themselves straitened in the exercise of prayer.

It yet oftener happens that they know not how to pray "as they ought"—

We may easily utter good and suitable words before God; but it is by no means easy to pray with fervent importunity. An insurmountable languor or obduracy will sometimes come upon the soul. Nor though we were ever so fervent can we always exercise faith. Many have felt the same workings of mind with David, Psalm 77:7-10. At such seasons they cannot pray as they ought.

But the Holy Spirit will "make intercession for them"—

Christ is properly our Advocate and Intercessor, 1 John 2:1; but the Spirit also may be said to "intercede for us." The Spirit intercedes in us at the throne of grace, while Christ intercedes for us at the throne of glory. He sometimes enables us to pour out our hearts with fluency. This he does by revealing to us our needs, quickening our affections, and testifying to us God's willingness to answer prayer. He does not, however, always operate in this way.

He will make intercession "with unutterable groans"—

The joy of Christians is represented as being sometimes inexpressible 1 Peter 1:8; but frequently a sense of sin overwhelms them. Then sighs and groans are the natural language of their hearts. Nor are such inarticulate prayers unacceptable to God. We have a remarkable instance of their success in the history of our Lord, John 11:33; John 11:38; John 11:41. Perhaps no prayers are more pleasing to God than these! Psalm 51:17.

INFERENCES—

1. How many are there who live all their days without prayer!

Those in whom the Spirit intercedes are often made to feel their inability to pray aright. Under a sense of their infirmities they are constrained to cry to God for the help of his Spirit: but many pass all their days without any painful sense of their weakness. They satisfy themselves with a formal performance of their duties. Such persons never pray in an acceptable manner, John 4:23. Real prayer implies fervor and importunity, Isaiah 64:7; and it is in vain to think that we have the spirit of grace, if we have not also the spirit of supplication, Zechariah 12:10. May we therefore never be found of the number of those, whom the prophet and our blessed Lord have, on account of their formality in prayer, condemned as hypocrites, Matthew 15:7-8.

2. What comfort may this passage afford to praying people!

Many are discouraged by the difficulties which they experience in the duty of prayer. If they feel not an enlargement of heart, they doubt whether their prayer will be accepted. But God will notice the groaning of his people, Psalm 38:8-9. Such inward desires may often be more pleasing to him than the most fluent petitions: they are, in fact, the voice of God's Spirit within us. Let not any then be dejected on account of occasional deadness. Let every one rather follow the advice of the prophet, Habakkuk 2:3. God, in due time, will assuredly fulfill his promise, Psalm 81:10.

 

#1877

ALL THINGS WORK FOR GOOD

Romans 8:28.

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose!"

TRUE believers have the greatest encouragement to draw near to God; they have supernatural assistance when pouring out their hearts before him, and are assured by God himself that their prayers shall be heard. Yet sometimes, like the Israelites in Egypt, the more they renew their requests, the more they find their burdens increased, Exodus 5:6-8; hence, like them, they are also sometimes ready to murmur and despond, Exodus 5:20-21; but, by grace they are enabled to wait patiently the Lord's leisure, and invariably, in the outcome, the clouds which they so much dreaded, burst in blessings on their heads.

This Paul declares to be the experience of all true believers. In his words I wish you to notice,

I. The description he gives of true Christians—

Christians are sometimes described in the Scriptures by their regard for God, and sometimes by God's regard for them. The text leads us to speak of them in both points of view:

1. Their regard to God—

The "loving of God" is a character peculiar to true Christians: others are represented rather as "haters of God," and enemies to him in their minds, Romans 1:30. Colossians 1:21; but those who are partakers of his grace, have their natural enmity removed: they behold his excellency, and are sensible of their obligations to him: hence they love him, and strive to love him with their whole hearts.

2. God's regard for them—

Their regard for him sprang not from any good dispositions in themselves; it resulted purely from the manifestations of God's love to them: he formed "purposes" of love to them from all eternity, Jeremiah 31:3. In due time he "called" them by his grace, and made them his people; and this distinguishing favor is the true source of their love to him. To this effect both our Lord and his beloved Apostle testify, John 15:16. 1 John 4:19.

To the eternal purposes of God, therefore, and not to the inclinations of our carnal minds, must all the good that is in us be traced.

To persons of this description the Apostle announces,

II. His strange yet assured confidence respecting them—

It is under sufferings that the superiority of the Christian's state is to be seen to the greatest advantage. Of them the Apostle speaks; and declares that, of whatever kind they are, they shall work for the good of those who love God—

The Christian may be called to bear the heaviest afflictions; but they shall bring him to consideration, stir him up to prayer, wean him from the world, and lead him to seek his rest above.

He maybe assaulted also with the most distressing temptations; but these will show him the evil of his heart, and the faithfulness of his God. They will also teach him to sympathize with his tempted brethren.

Even death itself will be among the number of the things that shall prove beneficial to him. This is the most formidable enemy to fallen man: it cuts him off from all means and opportunities of salvation, and seals him up under endless and irremediable misery; but to a true Christian it is a most invaluable treasure, 1 Corinthians 3:22. Death puts an end to all his sorrows and temptations, and introduces him to the immediate, everlasting enjoyment of his God.

Nor can we doubt of this blessed truth—

The Apostle speaks of it not as a matter of conjecture, but of certainty: as he knew it, so may "we know" it, from the declarations and promises of God, Psalm 25:10. Both David and Paul have attested it also from their own experience, Psalm 119:71. Philippians 1:19; nor is there any Christian in whom it has not been realized.

It is not however singly or separately that all things work for good, but as taken "together" in a collective view. Separately considered, many things may have wrought for evil, by producing sinful tempers or actions; but when viewed as connected with all their effects and consequences, the most untoward circumstances will be found to have worked for good.

This subject naturally suggests,

1. A rule whereby to judge of God's electing love—

Our election of God can be known only by its effects, 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5. To ascertain it, we must inquire whether we have been called by his grace, and whether, in consequence of that call, we love God supremely? If we experience these effects, we may safely conclude that God has entertained eternal purposes of love towards us; but if we trace not these effects, our pretensions to a saving interest in his electing love is a fatal delusion. Let them, in whom these evidences are found, rejoice; but rejoice with trembling.

2. A ground of comfort under his apparent frowns—

Afflictions are not at the present joyous, but grievous; and because they are his rod, we are ready to say, "All these things are against me!" But Scripture tells us, that "the trial of our faith is precious, 1 Peter 1:7." Let the afflicted then consider what "good" may be accruing to them.

Their troubles may be working so as to reveal, prevent, punish, or destroy sin.

Or they may be working to impart, exercise, strengthen, or perfect grace.

What reason, in either case, have the afflicted to take comfort! We think little of inconveniences if they do but promote our temporal interest. Would we then be averse to any trials that may tend to our spiritual advantage? Let us wait to see "the end of the Lord," and be solicitous rather about our future benefit, than our present ease.

3. A motive to love and serve God with our whole hearts—

Things are never represented as working for the good of the wicked; on the contrary, their temporal "blessings are often cursed" to them; yes, even spiritual blessings only aggravate their guilt and condemnation, 2 Corinthians 2:16. Christ himself proves, not a Savior, but a stumbling-block to them, 1 Peter 2:7-8. But for God's people, all things, sin excepted, work for good. Would they not then love him for such distinguishing mercy? Can they ever do enough for him, who so marvelously overrules all events for them?

#1878

PREDESTINATION CONSIDERED

Romans 8:29-30.

"For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified."

THE subject of predestination is confessedly very deep and mysterious: nor would it be entered upon without extreme caution, both as to the mode of stating it, and to the persons before whom it is stated. It is much to be lamented, that there exists in the minds of many a strong prejudice against it; insomuch that the very mention of it is deemed by them little short of heresy; I had almost said, of blasphemy. But this surely is not a way in which any part of God's revealed will is to be treated.

That the inspired writers do speak of it, is undeniable: and that our own Church also has made it an Article of faith, which all her ministers and members are to receive, is also certain. On these accounts we must not discard the doctrine through fear of offending any who may be hostile to it; though on the other hand we ought not so frequently or so strongly to insist upon it as unnecessarily to wound and grieve them. The true medium which a minister would aim at, is, to give to this doctrine, as well as to every other doctrine, as precisely as possible that measure of prominence and importance which it bears in the sacred writings. To be bringing it forward on every occasion, just as if it were among the first principles of religion, we consider as very injudicious, and detrimental to the best interests of religion: but to omit it altogether, we deem unworthy of a faithful servant of Christ.

To the doctrines which have an opposite aspect, we give all due weight; and therefore we may be allowed to put this also before you, according as it is plainly declared in the passage which is now under our consideration.

The Apostle having designated "those who love God" as persons "who have been called according to God's purpose," proceeds to show, that from first to last God is the author of their salvation: he foreknew, and predestined them from all eternity to the privileges which they enjoy; and will infallibly complete his purpose respecting them, in their effectual calling, their free justification from all their sins, and their final glorification at his right hand for ever.

In the Apostle's statement we may see,

I. The principal ends of predestination—

God acts in all things according to his own sovereign will and pleasure: yet is that will regulated by the counsels of infallible wisdom, Ephesians 1:5; Ephesians 1:11. While therefore in all things he consults primarily his own glory, he has respect to such ends and objects as are most suited to promote his glory. The ends he has proposed to himself, in predestinating men to life, were two-fold:

the immediate end respected us;

the ultimate end respected his beloved Son, through whom all his purposes were to be accomplished.

1. The immediate end respected us—

He decreed that all the objects of his choice "would be conformed to the image of his Son." But how were they to be conformed to him? We answer: In holiness, in sufferings, and in glory.

We are to be conformed to Christ in holiness. Our blessed Lord was altogether without spot or blemish, a perfect exemplar of universal holiness: his bitterest enemies could not find any imperfection in him; and John's testimony concerning him is, "In him was no sin, 1 John 3:5." Such, "according to the measure of the gift of Christ," are we to be also, Ephesians 4:7. Like him we must live, not unto ourselves, but unto our God alone; making it "our food and our drink to do his holy will." Though in the world, we must not be of the world, any more than he was John 17:14; John 17:16; we must rise superior to all its concerns, resist all its temptations, mortify all its lusts, and "walk in all things as Christ walked, 1 John 2:6."

The same mind altogether that was in him, must be in us also, Philippians 2:5. And to this we are predestined. We were not chosen of God from eternity, or made the subjects of his new-creating grace in time, because we were holy, or because he foresaw that we would be holy; but that we "might be holy." "We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we would walk in them, Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 2:10." These two passages deserve the most attentive consideration in this view.

We are to be conformed to Christ in sufferings. Throughout his whole life our Savior was "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." "Though he was a Son—yet he learned obedience by the things which he suffered:" and "he was made perfect through sufferings."

In like manner we also must be "a poor and afflicted people, Zephaniah 3:12." We must "take up our cross daily, and follow him:" we must be "hated by all men for his sake." "If they called the Master of the house Beelzebub, much more will they call those of his household." "The servant cannot expect to be above his Master." "We must "follow him outside the camp, bearing his reproach." To this also we are predestined. So Paul expressly affirmed respecting himself, 1 Thessalonians 3:3-4; and so he affirms respecting us also: "All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution! 2 Timothy 3:12."

We are to be conformed to Christ also in glory. "He is now seated on the right hand of the Majesty on high;" and there shall we also in due time be seated. Yes, "having suffered with him, we shall also reign with him," and "be glorified together with him, verse 17 with 2 Timothy 2:12." We shall be like him in glory: "our vile body will be fashioned like unto his glorious body, Philippians 3:21; our soul also will be changed into his perfect image, 1 John 3:2; and our blessedness be altogether assimilated to his, Revelation 3:21. And to all of this also our predestination extends.

It is not to the means of grace only that "we are chosen, but to salvation itself, and to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14. See also Acts 13:48 and 1 Thessalonians 5:9."

2. The ultimate end respected our Lord Jesus Christ himself—

The first-born were entitled to many privileges: to them belonged dominion, and the priesthood, and a double portion of the inheritance. In respect of all the rest of the creation, not excepting even the angels themselves, we may be styled the first-born, Exodus 4:22. Hebrews 12:23. The whole family of believers are "kings and priests unto God," and are entitled to inherit the kingdom of our heavenly Father, Revelation 1:6. Matthew 25:24.

But in respect of us, Christ is the First-born; for "He in all things must have the pre-eminence, Colossians 1:18." He is to be the Head of all his Church and people, Ephesians 1:21-22; and to this He is predestined; yes, it is in order to this that they also are predestined to the attainment of his glory. It was decreed in the eternal counsels of his Father, that "if he would make his soul an offering for sin," he would have "a seed to serve him," and would assuredly "be satisfied with the travail of his soul, Psalm 22:30 with Isaiah 53:10-11."

Had not this been absolutely decreed, it might have happened that not so much as one might ever have been saved, and that, consequently, Christ might have shed his blood in vain. For, if everything had been left entirely dependent on the free will of man, all might have used their free will precisely in the same way; and every child of man might have rejected him, exactly as the great mass of mankind are actually doing.

But can we conceive that God would have given his Son to bear the iniquities of a ruined world, and have left it to mere chance, whether any single individual would ever obtain mercy through him, or become a jewel in his crown? We cannot conceive this; in fact, we know that it was not thus left to chance. We are sure that there is a chosen people, who were from eternity given to Christ, to be redeemed by his blood, and to be saved by his grace: and that of those who were so given him, he neither has lost, nor ever will lose, so much as one! John 17:2; John 17:6; John 17:9-12; John 17:24. How many these are, God alone knows: but we are sure they are "many," even "a multitude, whom no man can number, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation! Revelation 5:9; Revelation 7:9."

The only difference lies in this: that those who maintain this doctrine refer all the glory of man's salvation to God alone, making him the Author and the Finisher of it, from first to last: while those who deny the doctrine, give a great measure of the glory to the creature—for, however they may acknowledge that salvation through Christ is a gift to mankind at large, they make every individual the first moving cause of his own salvation: and exactly in proportion as they ascribe salvation either to human merit, or human agency as independent of God's grace, in that proportion they give to man a ground of glorying before God.

Whatever they may say, according to them, it is man "who makes himself to differ;" and his salvation must ultimately be ascribed to him as its true, proper, original, and moving cause.

It is in this view that we are anxious to have the doctrine of predestination properly understood. As a mere abstract and speculative point, we could very contentedly wave the discussion of it: but, as involving the honor of God, we cannot but consider it as deserving our most serious attention. Nevertheless, if any man cannot receive it, we are not disposed to contend with him, but are contented with pressing on his consideration such matters only as are of primary and fundamental importance.

Hoping however that the truth of the doctrine has approved itself to you, we shall proceed to state,

II. The way in which those ends are accomplished—

The order and method of God's dispensations, from eternity to eternity, are here clearly marked:

1. He "foreknows" elect men as objects of his love—

As far as relates to mere prescience, all things are equally exposed to the view of the omnipresent God; and those who shall ultimately perish, are as much "foreknown" by him, as those that shall be saved. Many in this sense are foreknown by him, who are not predestined, or called, or justified, nor ever will be glorified. But the word here used imports more than mere prescience, and includes an affectionate regard to the persons foreknown. In this sense it is elsewhere used John, 10:14. Romans 11:2 and in 1 Peter 1:20, the same word is rendered, by a far stronger term, "fore-ordained." And in this sense it must be understood in the passage before us. It is equivalent to that expression of the prophet Jeremiah, "He has loved us with an everlasting love! Jeremiah 31:3." And if we inquire into the reason of this love, we can assign no other than that which our blessed Lord has assigned, "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in your sight! Matthew 11:26."

2. He then "predestinates" them unto life—

We speak of this, as though it succeeded the former in point of time: but with God there is no interval between his foreknowledge and fore-ordination. The inward affection, and the decree consequent upon it, are perfectly co-existent. But in God's predestination, he has respect both to the end and to the means; or rather to the end by the means. He does not ordain men to life in a way of sin, but, as we have already shown, in a way of holiness. This is strongly asserted by Paul, in a fore-cited passage; "God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth! 2 Thessalonians 2:13." And Peter to the same effect says, We are "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience, and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 1:2."

3. In due time he "calls" them by his word and Spirit—

The calling here spoken of, is not the mere external call of the Gospel: for many are so called, who, rejecting the call, are never justified or glorified. It is the effective internal call, whereby they are "made willing in the day of God's power." "The word comes to them in demonstration of the Spirit and of power," and they are "turned from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God, 1 Corinthians 2:4. Acts 26:18." This is the call which they experience, and which is the combined result of God's eternal purpose, and his effectual grace, 2 Timothy 1:9.

4. These, as soon as they believe, he "justifies" them—

Whatever sins a man may have committed, they are all blotted out of the book of God's remembrance, the very instant that he obeys the Gospel call: "All who believe," says the Apostle, "are justified from all things, Acts 13:39;" nor shall so much as one of "his sins and iniquities ever be remembered against him anymore! Hebrews 8:12."

5. These, in due time, he "glorifies" them—

Yes, blessed be God, the chain of God's purposes reaches from eternity to eternity; nor shall one link of it be broken. The glorification of the saints is in part effected, even in this life; inasmuch as "the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon them, 1 Peter 4:14;" and "they are changed into Christ's image, from glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord, 2 Corinthians 3:18." But in Heaven their, felicity will be perfect. There "all that was in part will be done away:" they will "see as they are seen, and know as they are known;" and will be like, and with, their God, for ever and ever.

Here, it may be observed, is no distinct mention made of sanctification; and this may be supposed to give some countenance to those who imagine that sanctification is unnecessary to our final salvation. But sanctification is not omitted here: on the contrary, it is interwoven with the whole statement. For respecting whom are all these things spoken? Respecting those "who love God." Now love to God is the root and summit of all holiness: and therefore it is plain, that the persons spoken of as called, and justified, and glorified—must be holy. Moreover, the thing to which they are predestined is, "to be conformed to the image of Christ." But how can that be if they be not holy?

Again, sanctification is yet further implied in their justification, from which it must of necessity spring, as an effect from a cause; as also in their glorification, to which it is necessary as a means to an end: for without a "fitness for their inheritance" they could not possibly enjoy it. We see therefore that the omission is in appearance only, and not in reality; and that there is no ground whatever afforded for antinomian licentiousness.

Many who do not in their hearts disapprove of this doctrine—yet think of it as affording matter for speculation only, and as of little, if any, use with respect to practice.

But, in fact, it is a doctrine of great practical importance; for it lays the axe to the root of:

1. All boasting—

If any man is disposed to boast, he must, in his own opinion at least, either have merited salvation in some measure by his own goodness, or effected it by his own power. They who deny the doctrine of predestination do unavoidably give some occasion for men to boast: for whether they make God's predestination to be influenced by something done, or something foreseen—still it is the inherent and independent goodness of man that is made the determining ground of God's choice, and the original cause of man's salvation!

But the doctrine of predestination plucks up all such conceits by the very root! It makes God's sovereign choice the primary source of man's happiness, and God's immutable purpose the means of its final consummation.

If it is asked: Why did God love him? it must be answered, "Because he would love him, Deuteronomy 7:7-8; Deuteronomy 9:4-5."

If it is further asked: Who "has wrought all his works in him?" it must be answered, God! Isaiah 26:12. 2 Corinthians 5:5. It is God who laid the foundation, and who carries on the spiritual building even to the end: and when the top-stone is brought forth, every sinner in the universe must "cry: Grace, grace unto it!" Zechariah 4:6-9."

2. All presumption—

The doctrine of predestination is objected to by many, under the idea that it authorizes and encourages persons to say, "I am elected, and have therefore no cause to fear, or even to take heed of my ways." But, if any man were so to abuse the doctrine, we would immediately ask him this question: Are you conformed to the image of Christ? Here is a test whereby to try our pretensions: and it will instantly reveal of what value they are in the sight of God.

If a man has an evidence in his own soul, that a work of grace has been begun within him, and that he has been enabled, in a considerable degree, to "put off the old man, and put on the new," then, in proportion as that change is manifest, he may infer from it his election of God: but, if that change does not appear in his life and conduct, then he may know infallibly, that, in speaking of himself as one whom God has predestined unto life, he deceives his own soul, and gives advantage to his great adversary to destroy him.

Let this then be well known, that we must try ourselves whether we be in the faith: and we must determine the matter, not by any groundless conceits of our own, but by our proficiency in righteousness and true holiness.

3. All despondency—

The doctrine of predestination, if abused, may generate both presumption and despondency: as our Church, in her 17th Article, has told us. But this does not militate against the doctrine itself; for on the same ground, we might decry every other doctrine of Christianity. Be it so: a man has not at present any evidence that he is one of God's elect. Does this warrant him to conclude that he is given over to a state of reprobation? Surely not: for, if he looks into the Scriptures, he will find that even the Apostles themselves were once in a carnal unconverted state, yes, "were children of wrath, even as others, Ephesians 2:3."

But as the Apostles were in God's own time delivered from that state, so may we be, notwithstanding we are at this moment in a state which is most unpromising. God did not choose the Apostles for any good that was in them, or that he foresaw would be in them: and therefore he may magnify his grace towards us, even as he did towards them. His grace is his own, and he may confer it on whomever he will: and it is a most consolatory thought, that, as he may, so he often does, cause his grace to abound where sin has most abounded.

This we are sure is the doctrine of our Church; and we cannot do better than refer you to her Article upon this subject. Nevertheless, if any man be not able to receive this doctrine, we would on no account press it upon his mind: we would rather say to him, Discard it from your mind: and take the broad promises of Scripture, wherein it is declared, that "the blood of Christ cleanses from all sin," and that he "will save to the uttermost all who come unto God by him." Take, I say, these promises, not with any reference whatever to God's eternal counsels towards you personally, but with a perfect confidence that he will fulfill them to all who rely upon him; and that no sinner in the universe who comes to him in his Son's name, shall ever be cast out.

 

#1879

GOD'S GIFT OF HIS SON A GROUND FOR EXPECTING EVERY OTHER BLESSING

Romans 8:32.

"He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?"

IF we contemplate the mysterious work of redemption, and the grace of God as displayed in it, we shall be filled with wonder and amazement, verse 30; and in the view of it we shall defy all the enemies of our salvation, verse 31; but if we contemplate the means by which redemption has been effected, even by the gift of God's only dear Son, our exultation will rise to the highest summit of confidence and triumph. We may then assure ourselves, as the Apostle does in the text, that God's past goodness to us is a just ground for expecting every other blessing at his hands.

In these words we notice,

I. What God has done for us—

The state of fallen man was desperate: no possible way was left whereby we might restore ourselves to God's favor. God, in compassion to us, "spared not his own Son—may either mean that he spared him not in a way of justice, that is that he exacted of him the utmost farthing of our debt (see 2 Peter 2:4.) or that he spared him not in a way of bounty, that is, withheld him not. The latter seems to be the sense in this place."

Nothing less than the incarnation and death of the Son of God could remedy the miseries which mankind had brought upon themselves; yet, such was God's regard for our sinful race, that, rather than they would perish, he would not withhold his only Son.

He even "delivered him up" to death—

God sent not his Son merely to instruct us: he gave him to make atonement for our sins: he sent him to die even the accursed death of the cross.

We "all" were the persons for whose sake God thus delivered him—

All indeed are not alike benefitted by this gift; but it was designed alike for all, and there is a sufficiency in the death of Christ to expiate the sins of all. If any receive not salvation through him, they owe it, not to any lack of love and mercy in the bosom of Jehovah, (for he wills not the death of any sinner,) nor to any lack of merit in the Savior, (for his blood can cleanse from all sin,) but altogether to their own obstinate unbelief. Every one, who desires acceptance through him, may confidently say, He was delivered up for me.

This manifestation of Divine goodness affords abundant ground for,

II. The inference drawn from it—

God will "give us all things" that are needful—

The general expression "all things" must be understood in a limited sense. God will not give worldly riches and honors to his people; but all things that are good for them he will bestow, whatever they need for body or soul, for time or eternity.

He will give us all things "freely"—

He does not need to have blessings extorted from him by importunity: he is far more willing to give than we are to ask; nor does he give because we ask, but stirs us up to ask, because he before determined to give: he will bestow everything on his people as a father on his own children.

This may be inferred from what he has already done—

Will not he, who has given his own Son, give smaller things? Will he, who was so gracious to his enemies, forget his friends? Will he, who did so much unsolicited, refuse those who cry day and night unto him?

This inference is so obvious, that the Apostle appeals to the reason of every man to judge of it. He insinuates that to doubt it would be the height of absurdity: he seems to think that God could not act otherwise.

By way of improvement,

1. Let us endeavor to estimate aright this gift of God—

God's own Son is infinitely above all creatures: all the hosts of angels and all the glory of Heaven are nothing in comparison with him. Had he been a mere creature, the Apostle's inference had been inconclusive. If our Lord were only a creature, the reasoning would be to this effect: 'If God delivered up one creature to endure temporal pain, how shall he not deliver millions of creatures from enduring eternal misery? If he gave one creature, who was infinitely below himself, to be deprived of life for a time, how shall he not give himself, who is infinitely above all creatures, to be our everlasting portion?'

What force or propriety would there be in such reasoning as this? He, against whom the sword of vengeance was put forth, was Jehovah's fellow, Zechariah 13:7. 1 Timothy 3:16. Let our gratitude rise in proportion to the excellency of this gift: let us contemplate its excellency, until we exclaim with the Apostle, "Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!" 2 Corinthians 9:15

2. Let us avail ourselves of the encouragement given us to ask for more—

We daily need many things both for our bodies and souls, and we have the fullest assurance that God will grant us what we need. Let not anyone then say, "I am too unworthy to ask." What worthiness was there in man to obtain the gift of God's own Son? After him, can there be anything too great for God to bestow? Surely then the weakest and the vilest may enlarge their petitions. If we "open our mouths wide, God will fill them."

3. Let us be chiefly solicitous to receive Christ himself—

God will bestow everything "with Christ." We cannot receive his blessings without him, nor him without his blessings. Let us then in every state labor most to secure our interest in Christ. If he be ours, we cannot but have everything in, and with him, 1 Corinthians 3:21-23.

 

#1880

PAUL'S CONFIDENCE

Romans 8:33-34.

"Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God who justifies.

Who is he that condemns? It is Christ who died, yes rather, who is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us."

OF all the systems that mankind have devised for reconciling themselves to God, there is not any that will afford solid confidence to the soul: they have never been able to fix a standard that would be a sufficient test of men's attainments, or to draw a line of distinction between those who would attain salvation, and those who would fall short of it. Hence, after all their labors, they are left in a painful uncertainty about their eternal state. But the Gospel removes all suspense on this subject; and gives to those who cordially embrace it, a full assurance of their acceptance with God.

In the New Testament we find scarcely any intimation of believers being harassed with doubts and fears: but there are many instances wherein they express the most assured expectation of happiness and glory. In confirmation of this, we need look no further than to the words before us; wherein Paul speaks of them as having communion with Christ in his most exalted privileges, and as possessing the very same confidence as the Messiah himself enjoyed. Compare Isaiah 50:7-9 with the text. He, not in his own person only, but in the behalf of all God's people, challenges the whole universe to lay anything to their charge, so as ultimately to condemn them.

We shall consider,

I. His confident challenge—

The name by which he characterizes God's people is most appropriate—

Among the ungodly world, there is scarcely a more sarcastic or contemptuous expression ever used, than that by which God himself designates his own people. When they say, "There is one of the elect," they mean by it, "There is a sanctimonious hypocrite, and a contemptible fanatic." But, whatever opprobrium they may attach to the word "elect," be it known, that there is an elect people, whom "God has chosen in Christ Jesus from before the foundation of the world, Ephesians 1:4," and that too, irrespective of any works that they would afterwards perform, 2 Timothy 1:9. Romans 9:11. He chose them because he would choose them, and loved them because he would love them, Deuteronomy 7:6-8. And if any are disposed to quarrel with this exercise of sovereign grace, let them tell us, who made the distinction between the Jews and the rest of the world; and why he did so. Let them also tell us, why he, who in that sovereign way chose nations, may not also choose individuals: and why he, who chose some to enjoy the means of salvation, may not choose others to salvation itself. Proud man may frame distinctions, if he pleases: but if the exercise of God's sovereignty is unjust in the one case, it must be unjust also in the other; and if it is admitted in the one case, it must be also in the other.

Ignorant men are ready to think, that this is a proud title: but it is the most humiliating title that can be imagined; because it acknowledges that no man on earth would ever have chosen God, if God had not first chosen him. It is the rejection of this title, not the assumption of it, that argues pride; inasmuch as it implies, that some have within themselves an excellence, which has attracted the notice of Almighty God, and induced him to confer on them the most distinguished privileges.

In behalf of these he expresses the most assured confidence of their salvation—

No assertion, however strong, could so fully declare his confidence, as the challenge does which he gives to the whole universe.

We are not to understand him as saying, that there is no ground for accusing and condemning the elect; but, that they are brought into such a state that nothing ever shall be laid to their charge so as finally to effect their ruin.

Let us then, with him, give the challenge to all who may be supposed most likely to prevail against us; to the law, to Satan, to conscience, yes, with reverence be it spoken, even to God himself.

The law indeed may accuse us of having violated every commandment in ten thousand thousand instances: yet will we defy it to condemn us.

Satan may affirm with truth, that we have been his vassals far the greater part of our lives: yet he shall not prevail against us.

As for conscience, that will testify against us, that we have indulged many secret lusts, and been guilty of innumerable transgressions: yet shall not its allegations be heard to our confusion.

It is needless to say what the omniscient God might lay to our charge, what rebellion against his Majesty, what neglect of his dear Son, what opposition to his Holy Spirit: but yet, notwithstanding all, so is the believer circumstanced, that God himself can find nothing for which to condemn him.

Doubtless these are strong assertions; and we may perhaps be ready to question the truth of them. But, if there were the smallest room for doubt, would the Apostle have been so confident in his challenge? Would he have repeated the challenge in such unqualified terms, if he could have been answered in so easy and obvious a manner as some imagine?

As arrogant as the Apostle may appear, we shall cease to think him so, if we consider,

II. The grounds of his confidence—

His answers might be read, like the questions themselves, in the form of interrogatories; and they would derive much additional spirit and force from this construction, which indeed both the preceding and following context seem to countenance. But in whatever way his words are pointed, the import of them is much the same. He grounds his confidence on,

1. The sovereignty of the Father's grace

The elect, having believed in Jesus, are actually brought into a justified state. Justification implies a free, a full, an everlasting remission of all our sins. It is a free gift bestowed upon us, not as saints, but as sinners: we are not first made godly, and then justified; but are first justified, and then made godly. Paul expressly gives this title to God, "The justifier of the ungodly, Romans 4:5." When God of his infinite mercy vouchsafes to justify a sinner, he does not put away some sins, and retain others; but "blots them all out as a morning cloud, Isaiah 44:22," and "puts them from us as far as the east is from the west, Psalm 103:12." It is a blessed and a certain truth, that "all who believe are justified from all things, Acts 13:39." Nor does God cancel our debt for a time only, intending to call us to account for it at a future period: for he covenants with us, that "our sins and iniquities he will remember no more, Hebrews 10:17;" and he assures us, that "his gifts and calling are without repentance, Romans 11:29."

Now if God thus justifies his elect, we may well ask, "who shall condemn them?" If he "cast all our sins into the very depths of the sea, Micah 7:19," who shall bring them up again from thence, and lay them to our charge? He "beholds no iniquity in Jacob, Numbers 23:21," but views us as "complete in Christ Colossians 2:10;" and has formed a chain that shall not be broken: "whom from eternity he foreknew and predestined, them, in his appointed time, he called and justified; and them he will also glorify" for evermore! Romans 8:30.

2. The perfection of the Redeemer's work

Every part of Christ's work was considered by the Apostle as a security for the salvation of God's elect. His death, his resurrection, his ascension, his intercession, are so many pledges, that no one shall ever trust in him in vain.

For what end was it that Christ died, but to procure "eternal redemption" for his people! Hebrews 9:12. "He gave his own life to be a ransom for them! Matthew 20:28." "He shed his blood for the remission of their sins! Matthew 26:28." "He died that they might live no longer to themselves, but unto him who died for them, 2 Corinthians 5:15."

We confess, that, if we look only at their steadfastness, they may come into condemnation; and "the weak brother for whom Christ died, and that has been actually washed in his blood, may perish, Romans 14:15 and 1 Corinthians 8:11;" but their security is in Christ, who will not readily forego the ends of his death, or give up to Satan the souls which he has purchased at so dear a rate!

The resurrection of Christ is a great additional security to the believer; because it was a liberating of our surety from the prison to which he had been carried on our account; and consequently it argues the full discharge of that debt which he had taken upon himself. Hence a peculiar stress is laid upon it in the text; as also in another place, where it is said, "If when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life! Romans 5:10." Now if he "died for our offenses, and rose again for our justification, Romans 4:25," will he allow this end to be defeated? We may be well assured he will not.

From the ascension of Christ a yet fuller assurance may be derived, because he is gone to "the right hand of God" both as our forerunner and our head. He is not only "preparing places for his people," but is invested with all power in Heaven and in earth, and has the government of the whole universe committed to him, on purpose that he may put down all his, and his people's, enemies, 1 Corinthians 15:24-25. If then he kept his people when he was on earth, so that not one of them was lost, John 17:12, will he now allow any to pluck them out of his hand? No! he has said, that "they shall never perish! John 10:28;" and he will assuredly fulfill his word.

If anything further be requisite for the comfort of our minds, we find it abundantly supplied in the intercession of Christ. The only doubt that can arise on this subject is, whether our manifold backslidings will not provoke the Father to cast us off? But "Christ ever lives to make intercession for us," and thereby preserves that peace, which otherwise would be interrupted every hour.

If indeed our transgressions were willful and habitual, we would prove ourselves at once not to be of the number of God's elect. But if they be only such as arise from the infirmity of our nature; if they be lamented, resisted, and diminished; and if they make us to cleave more earnestly to Christ, Christ will be "our Advocate with the Father, 1 John 2:1," and will prevail so as to "save us to the uttermost, Hebrews 7:25."

From all these grounds we may affirm with the fullest assurance, that "there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus! Romans 8:1."

To improve this subject, let us stir up ourselves,

1. To humble inquiry—

Are we of the number of "God's elect?" This is no difficult point to ascertain: for though we cannot look into the book of God's decrees, to see whether God have chosen us—we may search the records of our own conscience, to see whether we have chosen God: and this will determine the point at once. If we have chosen God as our portion, and Christ as our way to the Father—it is an indisputable evidence that God had before chosen us; because we never would have loved him, if he had not first loved us. But if we feel no such delight in God, we have no reason to think that we belong to him. Let this mode of inquiry be instituted; and let it be pursued with the seriousness which it deserves.

2. To grateful adoration—

What debtors are we to the grace of God, that grace that chose us, that grace that treasured up a fullness for us in Christ Jesus! What do we owe to him, who, when he had passed by angels, was pleased to choose us; and when he might justly have driven us beyond the hope of mercy, has placed us beyond the fear of condemnation! Surely, if we do not pour out our hearts in devoutest gratitude before him, the very stones may well cry out against us!

But while we render to him the tribute of a thankful heart, let us also glorify him by a holy life. It is "to good works that we are chosen, Ephesians 2:10. Titus 2:14," and "to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit, 2 Thessalonians 2:13;" and therefore we must answer the end of our election, if we would finally enjoy its blessings. Let us then walk worthy of our high calling, and cultivate all the dispositions of God's elect; and be as studious to avoid all grounds of accusation, as to escape the miseries of condemnation itself.

 

#1881

PAUL'S ASSURANCE OF PERSEVERING

Romans 8:38-39.

"I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature—shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord!"

AS there is a typical resemblance between that good land which was promised to the Jews, and that better country which is reserved for us in Heaven, so is there a striking resemblance between those, whether Jews or Christians, who have looked forward to the accomplishment of the promises. We see Moses while he was yet on the other side of Jordan, and Joshua soon after he had arrived on the borders of Canaan, appointing the boundaries of the twelve tribes, settling everything with respect to the distribution of the land, and ordering various things to be observed, just as if they were already in full possession of the whole country without one enemy to oppose them.

This appears at first sight presumptuous; but they knew that God had given them the land; and therefore, notwithstanding the battles which were yet to be fought, they doubted not in the least but that they would obtain the promised inheritance. Thus also the Apostle, in the passage before us, speaks in the language of triumph on behalf of himself and of all the Christians at Rome—and that too even while they were surrounded with enemies, and conflicting on the field of battle.

It will be profitable to consider,

I. The point of which the Apostle was persuaded—

"The love of God" is that which God has manifested to us "in Christ Jesus," not merely in sending his Son to die for us, but in forgiving our sins, and adopting us into his family for his sake.

From this love the Apostle says: "Nothing shall ever separate us from the love of Christ!" and, to strengthen his assertion, he calls to mind the various things which might be supposed capable of effecting a separation; and declares concerning each, that it never shall.

He mentions four distinct couplets.

First, "neither death nor life" shall be able to separate us from the love of Christ!

Death is that which is most of all dreaded, Hebrews 2:15, and life is that which is most of all desired, Job 2:4. More especially, if the one be attended with bitter agonies, or the other with all the pleasures of sense, their influence over us is exceeding great. But neither the one with all its terrors, nor the other with all its comforts, shall ever dissolve the union that exists between God and his believing people!

Next, "neither angels, nor principalities, nor powers" shall be able to separate us from the love of Christ!

By angels must certainly be meant the evil angels, since the good angels are employed in ministering to the heirs of salvation, and would rather confirm them in the love of God than separate them from it. Whereas, the evil angels, like a roaring lion, are constantly seeking whom they may devour.

"Principalities and powers" are civil magistrates, who hold dominion over the visible, as the devils do over the invisible, world: and who, alas! too often unite their influence with that of Satan to destroy the Church.

But neither the one nor the other, nor both combined, shall ever separate a believer, however weak he may be, from the love of God!

Moreover "things present or things to come" shall be able to separate us from the love of Christ!

Present things may be so embarrassing as greatly to perplex us; and things future may appear so formidable as to make us think it almost impossible for us to maintain our ground against them; but they shall never prevail to destroy a child of God.

Lastly, "neither height nor depth" shall be able to separate us from the love of Christ!

To some the height of earthly prosperity is a dreadful snare; to others the depth of adversity and distress. But the believer may defy them both: for not only they shall not be able, but "nothing in the whole creation" shall be able to separate him from the love of God!

This confidence of the Apostle being so extraordinary, let us consider,

II. The grounds of his persuasion—

These were twofold; general, as relating to others; and particular, as relating to himself; the former creating in him an assurance of faith; the latter an assurance of hope. We notice,

1. The general grounds—

These are such as are revealed in the Holy Scriptures, and are common to all believers.

The stability of the covenant which God has made with us in Christ Jesus, warrants an assurance, that all who are savingly interested in it shall endure to the end. It secures to us not only a new heart, but a divine agency, "causing us to walk in God's statutes, Ezekiel 36:26-27." It engages that God shall never depart from us, nor we from him, Jeremiah 32:40. In short, it promises us both "grace and glory, Psalm 84:11."

Now this covenant shall not be broken: if Heaven and earth fail, this shall not, Isaiah 54:10; there shall not be one jot or tittle of it ever violated: it is "ordered in all things, and sure, 2 Samuel 23:5." Consequently the believer shall never be deprived of any of its blessings.

The immutability of God is another ground of assured faith and hope. Why did God originally set his love upon us? Was it for our own goodness, either seen or foreseen? Alas! we had no existence but in God's purpose: and, from the moment we began to exist, we have never had one good thing in us which we did not first receive from God, 1 Corinthians 4:7. If then God loved us simply because he would love us, Deuteronomy 7:7-8, and not for any inherent loveliness in us—will he cast us off again on account of those evil qualities which he well knew to be in us, and which he himself has undertaken to subdue? This would argue a change in his counsels: whereas we are told that, "with him there is no variableness neither shadow of turning, James 1:17;" and that "his gifts and calling are without repentance, Romans 11:29."

The offices of Christ may also be considered as justifying an assured hope of final perseverance. For our Lord did not assume the priestly, prophetic, and kingly offices merely to put us into a capacity to save ourselves; but that his work might be effectual for the salvation of all whom the Father had given to him. At the last day he will be able to say, as he did in the days of his flesh, "Of those whom you have given me, I have lost none!" If he is ever living on purpose to make intercession for them, and is constituted Head over all things to the Church on purpose to save them, then he will keep them; none shall ever pluck them out of his hands! 1 Samuel 2:9. 1 Peter 1:5. John 10:38, nor shall anything ever separate them from the love of God!

2. The particular grounds—

We need not resort to any express revelation made to Paul, in order to account for his confidence: for he could not but know that he had believed in Christ, and that he was as desirous of being sanctified by his grace as of being saved by his blood; and consequently, he could not doubt his saving interest in the promises. And wherever conscience testifies that this is the real experience of the soul, there a person may entertain the same assured hope as Paul himself did.

It would not indeed be expedient for young converts to indulge too strong a confidence; because their sincerity has been but little tried, and they are by no means sufficiently simple in their dependence on God. In proportion therefore as the evidences of their faith are defective, and the means of stability are overlooked, they must relax their confidence of persevering to the end.

As for those who are continually living in a sinful state, it would be a most horrible delusion in them to say, that nothing would separate them from the love of God: since they have reason to doubt at this moment whether they be at all savingly interested in his love.

But a humble contrite person, that is living by faith in the Son of God, and maintaining a suitable conduct in his heart and life, he may conclude himself to be in the love of God, and be persuaded firmly that nothing shall be able to separate him from it. He then stands in the very situation of the Apostle, as far as respects his own personal experience, and therefore may indulge the same joyful hope and persuasion that he shall endure unto the end.

Nor need he be at all discouraged on account of his own weakness, since the more weak he feels himself to be, the stronger he is in reality, 2 Corinthians 12:10; inasmuch as he is made more dependent on his God.

In a word, an assurance of faith respecting the accomplishment of God's promises to believers, should be maintained by all, since his word can never fail: but an assurance of hope respecting our own personal interest in those promises, should rise or fall according to the evidences we have of our own sincerity.

ADDRESS—

1. Those who know nothing of this joyful persuasion—

Do not condemn that of which you are not capable of judging aright: but seek a saving interest in the love of God; and believe in Christ, through whom the Father's love shall be secured, and by whom it shall be revealed to your soul. When "the love of God has been shed abroad in your own hearts," you will be better able to judge of the confidence which that love inspires.

2. Those whose persuasion accords with that of the Apostle—

Nothing surely can be conceived more delightful than to possess an assured hope of eternal happiness and glory. But let it never be abused to the encouragement of sloth. If we profess that nothing shall separate us from the love of God, then let us take care that nothing does separate us from it. Let not the temptations of Satan, or the persecutions of men, not the comforts of life, or the terrors of death, let nothing felt at present, or feared in future, let nothing in the whole creation draw us aside from the path of duty, or retard our progress in the divine life! Jude, verse 20, 21.

 

#1882

THE PRIVILEGES OF JEWS AND CHRISTIANS

Romans 9:1-4.

"I speak the truth in Christ--I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit--I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises."

IT is generally thought an office of love to conceal from persons any truths, the recital of which will afford them pain: but true love will rather stimulate us to declare such truths as are necessary to be known, though it will incline us to declare them with the greatest tenderness and circumspection. An admirable pattern presents itself before us in the text.

The Apostle was about to enter on a most offensive subject to the Jews, but a subject that ought never to be concealed frzom them, namely, the determination of God to cast off their nation, and to engraft the Gentiles on their stock. But, as it would be thought that he was actuated only by a spirit of revenge, he declares to them, in the most solemn manner, and appeals to God for the truth of it, that so far from wishing their hurt, he was affected with the deepest sorrow on their account; and that there was nothing he would not do or suffer, if it might but be the means of saving them from the impending eternal ruin.

His enumeration of the privileges which they abused, and his pathetic lamentation over them, may well lead us to consider,

I. The exalted privileges enjoyed by true Israelites—

The Jews, as a nation, were favored beyond all the nations upon earth—

God honored them with an adoption into his family, he regarded them as his children, Exodus 4:22-23. Jeremiah 31:9-10, and acted towards them as a father, Deuteronomy 32:6; Deuteronomy 32:10; Deuteronomy 32:13-14. He given to them a symbol of his presence: the ark, and the Shechinah, or bright cloud, upon it, were visible tokens of his presence, and were regarded as the "principal glory" of that distinguished people, 1 Samuel 4:21-22. Psalm 80:1.

He "gave" them also from Heaven a revelation of his will:

The moral law he promulgated in the form of "a covenant," and wrote with his own finger on two tables of stone. The covenant was but one: but it is spoken of in the plural number, either because it was given on two tables, or because it was repeatedly published in different forms.

The judicial law he formed as a code, according to which he himself, and all the magistrates under him, were to govern them.

And the ceremonial law he instituted for "the service" of his temple, that they might worship him in a befitting manner.

Because the sacred oracles were so great a blessing, Deuteronomy 4:7-8. Romans 3:1-2, the Apostle speaks of them in three different views. To all these he added "a promise" of his rest, and a continued enjoyment of it, unless they would provoke him by their iniquities to deprive them of it, Deuteronomy 30:15-20.

But their privileges were only a shadow of those enjoyed by true Israelites—

As, under the Jewish dispensation, "all were not Israel who were of Israel, Romans 9:6."

Just so, under the Gospel, "those who are Christ's, are the true seed of Abraham, and heirs according to the promise, Galatians 3:29."

Now to those who are "Israelites indeed" belong those infinitely rich blessings, which, in a figure, were enjoyed by the national Jews. They are really the sons of God, as soon as ever they believe in Christ, John 1:12. 1 John 3:1-2. Ephesians 2:19, and have a spirit of "adoption" given them whereby they cry, Abba, Father! Romans 8:14-15. They have God, not merely residing in a bright cloud, but dwelling in their own hearts, 1 Corinthians 3:16, and displaying to them his "glory" in the face of Jesus, 2 Corinthians 4:6. To them is revealed that "covenant," which is "ordered in all things and sure, 2 Samuel 23:5," together with the whole of their duty both to God and man; so that, by adhering to his directions, they are sure to prove both duteous citizens, and accepted worshipers.

Lastly, they have also exceeding great and precious "promises," comprehending everything that is good for body and for soul, in time and in eternity, 1 Timothy 4:8.

But, by how much the more exalted our condition under the Gospel is, by so much the more may we see,

II. The disposition we should manifest towards those who despise these privileges—

The expressions used by the Apostle admit of different interpretations. Some consider him as saying that he was willing to be excommunicated from the church of God, and to be treated by them, even as he was by his enemies: and others, as saying, that he was willing to suffer for them after the example of Christ. In the Greek, "Be as I am, for I was as you are." The same idea is more fully expressed in Acts 26:9-11. According to this interpretation, the Apostle's words are a plain and obvious reason for his excessive grief: for, having been in their situation, and knowing from bitter experience the evil of it, he could never think of them without the keenest sensations of sorrow and compassion.

If the strength of the expression, "I wished myself accursed from Christ," appears to militate against this interpretation, we observe, that the Apostle puts the effect for the cause, that is, the ultimate effect of his aversion to Christ for the aversion itself. A similar mode of expression repeatedly occurs in Scripture. See Isaiah 28:15; Isaiah 30:10. See also Acts 13:46 and Revelation 2:24, where the depths of Satan import what those depths were in reality, and not what the people themselves called them. But, in whatever sense they are taken, they certainly import that,

1. We should be deeply concerned about their state—

There were various things which grieved and wounded the Apostle's mind, yes, that occasioned him great heaviness, and continual pangs, compare Galatians 4:19; he was much affected, not only with the numbers of those that were rejecting his message, but with the peculiar advantages they had for knowing the truth, the strong obligations which their very profession, as God's Israel, laid them under to receive it, and the aggravated guilt under which they must speedily and eternally perish!

All these reasons are incomparably stronger as applied to those, who while they call themselves Christians because of their infant baptism, are unmindful of the privileges they enjoy. Who can think of the many thousands that bear the Christian name, who yet never draw near to God with filial affection, never behold the light of his countenance, never lay hold on his covenant of grace, never stay themselves in truth upon his promised mercy; who, I say, can think of these, and not wish that his "head were a fountain of tears to run down for them night and day, Jeremiah 9:1."

If one soul is of such value, that the whole world can never compensate for the loss of it, how shocking is the thought of millions of souls perishing under such an accumulated load of guilt! Surely no heaviness can be too great, no anguish too abiding—when we are surrounded with such objects, objects despising their own mercies, and "treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath."

2. We should account nothing too much to do or suffer for their salvation—

When God threatened to destroy the whole Jewish nation, and offered to raise up from Moses a nation in their stead, Moses begged that he himself might be blotted out of the list of God's visible church, rather than that tremendous threatening would be executed, Exodus 32:32. And certainly the Apostle Paul, whose labors and sufferings for the good of his fellow-creatures were unparalleled, 2 Corinthians 11:23-27, would gladly have submitted to any temporal calamity, if it might but operate for the salvation of Israel.

And who that considers what Jesus has done for the salvation of men, does not see the reasonableness of such a disposition? Who does not condemn himself for his lack of love to his fellow-immortals, and his lack of zeal in their service? If we condemn the world for their supineness, methinks the people of God have yet more occasion to blush for their own! For, what the world do, they do ignorantly; but they, who are taught of God, can see the state of those around them, and yet too often look upon them, either with cold indifference, or inactive pity. But let every Christian cultivate a better spirit; nor ever be satisfied, until he can appeal to God, and say, "I would endure all things for the elect's sake, that they may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory! 2 Timothy 2:10."

INFERENCES—

1. How far are they from a Christian spirit, who not only use no means for the salvation of others, but oppose and thwart them that do!

If a faithful servant of God exerts himself for the good of mankind, how many will cry out against him as bothersome and fanatical, ostentatious and uncharitable! Who, among the Prophets, or Apostles, or who, even in the present day, has ever shown, in the smallest degree, the disposition manifested in the text, without exposing himself to much calumny and contempt?

But let the opposers of vital godliness and holy zeal, compare themselves with the Apostle, and ask, whether they breathe anything of his spirit? And let them no longer persist in fighting against God, and destroying their fellow-creatures; but rather turn unto God, that they themselves may be partakers of his offered mercy.

2. How earnest should every professing Christian be in seeking his own salvation!

If we ought to be deeply concerned about the souls of others, and to be willing either to do or suffer anything, in order to promote their welfare—then how much more should we lay to heart our own state, and exercise self-denial for the good of our own souls! If we duly estimated the privileges which God has given us, if we considered the happiness to which an improvement of those privileges would lead, and the misery that will infallibly result from the neglect of them, we would engage with incomparably greater zeal in the work of our salvation; we would make it our food and drink to do God's will; nor would life with all its joys, or death with all its terrors, be allowed to divert us from the prosecution of our purpose.

 

#1883

OUR DUTY TOWARDS THE JEWS

Romans 9:1-5.

"I speak the truth in Christ--I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit--I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen."

FIDELITY in ministers is absolutely indispensable. Without it we cannot approve ourselves either to God or man. Yet in the exercise of it we should maintain a tenderness of spirit, "speaking the truth" indeed, but speaking it "in love." When at any time, as frequently we must, we bring painful truths to the ears of our hearers, we should convince them, that we are not actuated by anything but a spirit of love. Paul was especially careful upon this head; as may be seen in all his epistles, but especially in this which is before us.

It is pre-eminently deserving the attention of ministers. He is constrained to declare to the Jews, God's determination to reject the Jews from being his people, and to admit the Gentiles in their stead to those privileges which the Jews had hitherto exclusively enjoyed. But, as this was a topic which must of necessity be most painful to their feelings, he labors to convince them, that, in all which he would declare respecting it, he was actuated only by a sense of duty, and not by any unkind feelings towards them; and that, so far from wishing them this evil, he would submit to anything to deliver them from it. He calls God to witness, that he had nothing more sincerely at heart, than that, as they had already possessed, so they would ever continue to possess, the most distinguished tokens of God's love and favor.

In the words which we have just read, we may see,

I. The distinguished privileges of the Jewish people—

In setting these forth, the Apostle addresses them, not as strangers, but as "his brethren, his kinsmen, according to the flesh;" and then records the distinctions that had been conferred upon them; specifying both those which had been bestowed for their own personal benefit, and those which had been conferred for the benefit of the whole world.

They were "Israelites," descended from Jacob, who, in remembrance of his wrestling with the angel, and prevailing with God in prayer, was honored with the name of Israel. "To them pertained the adoption," they, as a nation, being regarded as "God's first-born." To them had been given "the glory," even that bright cloud, which was the symbol of the Deity; which guided their forefathers through the wilderness, and afterwards abode both in the tabernacle and the temple, resting upon the ark, and residing between the cherubim, until the temple itself was destroyed by the Chaldean army.

Theirs also were "the covenants;" both the covenant of grace, which was given to Abraham; and the national covenant, which was made with them in the time of Moses.

To them had God also "given the law," proclaiming it with an audible voice from Mount Sinai, and delivering it to them written with his own finger upon tables of stone.

To them also was given the ceremonial law, comprehending every minute particular respecting "the service of God;" so that in no case whatever were they left in doubt how they would approach him with acceptance.

The promises also were theirs, both those which related to the sending of the Messiah, and those which related to the possession of Canaan.

"Theirs too were the fathers," Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, than whom none of the children of men had ever been more highly favored with divine and heavenly communications.

But to these benefits, which may be considered as personal, we must add that which infinitely exceeds them all, and in which the whole world are interested, namely, that "of them, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever." Yes, when the ever-blessed, the co-equal, the co-eternal Son of God came into the world, that by his own obedience unto death, he might accomplish the redemption of sinful man, he assumed his human nature from them, even from a Jewish Virgin; so that, in a more strict and appropriate sense than any other person, a Jew may say of him: He is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh.

Consider now how glorious these distinctions were. To what other nation was any one of them ever given? Or what has the greatest monarch upon earth, who can be in any degree compared with them? The honors which come of man are lighter than vanity itself, when compared with those which come from God: and when weighed in this scale, the highest monarchs in the universe are not so elevated above a slave, as the basest Jew is exalted above them.

But what shall we say to the giving birth to the Messiah, who was "the mighty God," "Emmanuel, God with us!" Here all words fail us: in vain does the imagination attempt to grasp so wonderful an event. "God manifest in the flesh!" How "great this mystery of godliness!" and how infinitely ennobled are that people, to whom the ever-blessed God is so nearly related!

The more we contemplate the privileges of the Jewish people, the more we see,

II. The deep concern which we should feel for them—

The Apostle declares his compassion for them in the strongest terms; in considering which, it will be proper to notice,

1. What is implied in Paul's words—

It is plain that Paul did not approve of that spurious charity which is so prevalent in our day. Most people cannot endure to think that any would finally be left to perish. They regard it as the summit of uncharitableness, to suppose that Jews and Gentiles are all in a state of guilt and condemnation, and that they can be saved only by their conversion to the faith of Christ. But let anyone refer to our text, and he will see at once what Paul's opinion was on this most interesting subject.

If the Jews in their unconverted state were safe—then why was Paul so grieved on their account? Should he have felt such "great heaviness and continual sorrow of heart" for them, or made such solemn appeals to God respecting his concern for them, if they had been in a state of favor and acceptance with God? There cannot possibly be a doubt on this subject: he regarded them all as perishing in their sins, according to that declaration of our blessed Lord, "If you believe not that I am he, you shall die in your sins! John 8:24."

Let this then be borne in mind in reference to that unhappy people, yes, and in reference to ourselves also, if we are not truly and sincerely devoted to God, as a penitent, believing, and obedient people.

2. What is expressed in Paul's words—

The terms, especially those in the third verse of our text, are so strong, that commentators have been at a loss to explain them, so as to render them consistent with what may reasonably be supposed to have been the actual experience of Paul. As for his wishing himself eternally banished from God for his brethren's sake, it could not be: though he might, like Moses, be contented to be blotted out from the list of God's people here in this world, Exodus 32:32, or even to be treated as accursed after the example of Christ, for his brethren's sake.

But we need not have recourse to either of these interpretations; for by only putting a part of the Apostle's words into a parenthesis, the sense will be perfectly simple. He once was as full of enmity against Christ, and determined to have no connection with him, as any of his brethren: and he knew that, in effect, this was to "wish himself accursed from Christ, See Isaiah 28:15. where the effect is put for the cause precisely in a similar way."

He tells them therefore, that, having been in the same perilous circumstances with themselves, he felt the more deeply for them. Thus by putting into a parenthesis those words, "I once wished myself accursed from Christ," the sense will exactly accord with what the Apostle says in his Epistle to the Galatians, "Be you as I am: for I was as you are, Galatians 4:12."

But though by this explanation of the text we get rid of that from whence it seems to derive its greatest force, enough remains in it to serve as an example to the whole world. Paul knowing that his brethren, while they continued in unbelief, were perishing in their sins, "had great heaviness and continual sorrow in his heart on their account," and regarded nothing too much to do or suffer, if by any means he might be instrumental to their salvation.

This is what every Christian should feel; and it is a shame to the whole Christian world that so little of it is felt among us. How few can truly join in the solemn appeal which is here made to the heart-searching God! Instead of an appeal to God respecting the greatness and continuance of our sorrow on behalf of the Jewish nation, does not conscience rather call for a confession, that we have had no more heaviness or sorrow of heart for them, than if they had been in a state of perfect safety? Alas! when have we spent one single hour in prayer for them? What sacrifices have we made, or what exertions, for the enlightening of their minds, and the saving of their souls? If we would say, "My heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved," would not our daily experience give the lie to our profession? Surely we have need to blush and be ashamed, every one of us.

Had we seen a vessel wrecked, and all the crew perishing in the ocean, there is not one among us so inhuman, but he would be filled with the tenderest concern for them, and exert himself to the uttermost, if by any means he might save some of them. But we have seen millions of God's ancient people perishing for ever, and have had the means of saving them within our own reach, and yet have made no efforts for their welfare, nor felt a pang on account of their destruction. O brethren! let it not be thus with us any longer: but let us cultivate the spirit of the Apostle, and labor henceforth as he did, for the salvation of our Jewish brethren.

It will be in vain, however, to urge you to exertions for others, if you begin not with your own souls. Here is, in reality, the root of all our neglect of others: we are not truly and thoroughly concerned even about ourselves! Alas! if we were to make, respecting our own souls, the appeal to God which the Apostle made respecting his Jewish brethren, then how few could utter it in truth! Let us try it one moment: "O my God, I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart" on account of my own sins; I feel them as a heavy burden, too heavy for me to bear; and I find no rest in my soul, but by coming weary and heavy-laden to my Lord and Savior.

Beloved brethren, is this true of you? can you say it and "not lie?" Does your conscience attest the truth of it? and does the Holy Spirit, the heart-searching God, bear witness to it?

What a fearful state must you then be in, if, with your superior advantages, you are yet impenitent and unbelieving, like the Jews themselves? Surely there is need that your brethren in Christ, who once were in your perilous condition, but have been converted by the grace of God, should weep and mourn over you, even as the Apostle did over the unbelieving Jews!

Will you say, that there is no occasion for you to fear, since in your infant baptism you were made "members of Christ, children of God, and heirs of the kingdom of Heaven?" True, you have by baptism all that the Jews derived from circumcision. See the Church Catechism, which with great propriety represents us as enjoying by baptism, all the privileges which the Jews enjoyed by circumcision.

But notwithstanding those privileges, we must perish for ever, if we believe not in the Lord Jesus Christ. The external title to those blessings we obtain as soon as by baptism we are admitted into covenant with God: but the actual enjoyment of them we can obtain only by the exercise of faith in Christ. But this is the very reason why you should weep the more for your sins; because, when you already possess such glorious advantages, even as the Jews did by circumcision, you would lose them all, instead of securing the everlasting possession of them through the exercise of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Apostle acknowledges the exalted privileges of the Jews, "to whom pertained the adoption" into God's family: but he had great heaviness and continual sorrow in his heart for them notwithstanding, because their guilt was the greater, and their condemnation would be the heavier on account of their impenitence and unbelief.

And so, while you are exalted to Heaven, even like Bethsaida and Capernaum, in the privileges you enjoy, there is reason to fear that you will be cast the deeper into Hell for your misimprovement of them, and that in the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon, yes, and for Sodom and Gomorrah, than for you.

Begin then, all of you, with your own souls; and then extend your concern to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And do not think that your labors for them will be in vain; for the same power which can convert and save you, is able to effect the same blessed work for them.

Less than omnipotence will not suffice for you—and to omnipotence all things are alike easy. See what God did for the Jews in the first ages. See what he did for the benighted Gentiles, who were quite as far from God as the Jews at this hour can be. Think of our forefathers once bowing down to stocks and stones, and see what Britain now is. Or, if you are yourselves renewed by divine grace, see what wonders have been wrought for you.

At all events, do what you can to serve your God, and to benefit your fellow-creatures, fully confiding in that gracious declaration, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

 

This subject being important in reference to the Jews, a short and easy mode of treating it is here subjoined—

 

#1884

ISRAEL IN THE MIDST OF ISRAEL

Romans 9:6.

"They are not all Israel who are of Israel."

EVIL as have been the dispositions of those who have set themselves against the doctrines of the Gospel, we have been greatly indebted to them: since they have called forth statements which we would never otherwise have received; and have drawn from the Apostles of our Lord a disclosure of their inward motives and principles, which nothing but an absolute necessity for the vindication of their own character could ever have elicited.

The epistle before us is full of objections started against every doctrine which the writer of it maintained. In the former part of the third chapter the objections are urged with a pertinacity and boldness, which compelled the Apostle to say respecting the persons who so urged them, that "their damnation was just! Romans 3:8."

In the sixth and seventh chapters, the objections against both the Law and the Gospel gave rise to an elucidation of them, so clear, that there can be no doubt entertained respecting their proper use, or their transcendent excellence.

In the chapter which we are about to consider, the Apostle begins with expressing his deep and continual sorrow on account of the judgments impending over the Jews for their obstinate rejection of their Messiah. He then anticipates an objection which would be brought against him; namely, that if, as he had supposed, the Jews were to be cast off, the word of God, which had promised all manner of blessings to Abraham and his seed, would be made void. But to this he replies, that the promises were made to Abraham and his spiritual seed: and that all others, however they might be descended from him after the flesh, would assuredly be cast off, since "all were not Israel, who were of Israel;" neither, because they were the natural seed of Abraham, were they necessarily to be numbered among the children to whom the promises were made, verse 6, 7.

Now, in considering this reply, I shall notice,

I. The affirmation itself—

It is here supposed that the whole nation of Israel possessed the same advantages, and, in appearance, enjoyed the same blessings. Yet the Apostle distinguishes between some of them and others; and affirms, that some had claims and privileges, to which the others were not entitled. This was true respecting them: and it is true at this time, also, in relation to ourselves. For, as then, so now also,

1. All are not objects of the same electing love

It is undeniable, that God chose Abraham out of an idolatrous world, and gave to him a promise of blessings which were withheld from others of the human race, and which had never been merited by him. To his seed also were these blessings promised; but not to Ishmael, who was then alive: no, they were entailed on a son who would afterwards be born, and would be born too after that neither the father nor the mother could, by reason of their advanced age, expect any progeny. Here, then, was the same sovereignty manifested as in the selection of Abraham himself.

In the children of Israel, too, was the same sovereignty displayed: for, even while the twins were in their mother's womb, God's determination respecting them was made known; and it was appointed that the blessings of the covenant would descend to the younger in preference to the elder: as it is written, "Not only that, but Rebekah's children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad--in order that God's purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls--she was told, "The older will serve the younger." Just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." Romans 9:10-13

In this, the intention of God to display his sovereignty in the disposal of his blessings is expressly asserted, as the end for which he made the appointment at that precise time: for it was impossible that they would have done either good or evil previous to their birth; and, consequently, nothing of theirs could be the ground of God's dispensation towards them.

The same point is no less clearly seen in the objections which are urged against it.

The objector replies, that, if this doctrine is true, then God must be unrighteous, since he withholds from one, what he gives to another verse 14.

Now, what room can there be for any such objection as this, except on the supposition that the Apostle has been maintaining the sovereignty of God in the disposal of his favors? On any other supposition, it would be impossible for the idea to arise, that there was, or could be, "unrighteousness with God." The Apostle's answer shows the same: for he proves that the doctrine which he had maintained was declared to Moses, when God said to him, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion verse 15." And the conclusion which the Apostle draws from the whole clearly confirms the same: "So, then, it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy verse 16." I ask again, What room could there be for such an answer, and such a conclusion, if the Apostle had not asserted and maintained the doctrine of election as exercised by God according to his own sovereign will and pleasure?

But the same is pursued still farther.

Paul, not contented with having established his point, prosecutes it yet farther; and declares that God had exercised the same sovereignty in raising Pharaoh to the throne of Egypt, and in making use of the pride and obduracy of that haughty monarch as the means of displaying his own almighty power, and of confirming the word which he had previously declared to Moses, verse 17, 18.

And this calls forth another objection: "You will say then unto me, Why does he yet find fault? for who has resisted his will verse 19." Here again, you will perceive, is an objection which could not possibly arise, but on the supposition that the Apostle is maintaining the absolute sovereignty of God. And his answer to it proves the same: "Nay, but, O man, who are you that replies against God? Shall the thing formed say unto him who formed it, Why have you made me thus? Has not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor? verse 20, 21."

Of all the images that could ever be thought of, it would not be possible to find one which could more strongly illustrate the sovereignty of God than this. It is here indeed supposed, that all men are alike corrupt and sinful, all one mass of sin; no part of which has any greater claim upon God for mercy, than the potter's clay has on him for distinguishing favors at his hands.

Let this reasoning be candidly considered, and the inference from it will be clear. Nothing but our high thoughts of self, and our low thoughts of God, could ever make us entertain a doubt about the truth which is here maintained. Indeed, we see it at this day, as well as in former ages. God chose the Jews of old, and distinguished them above the rest of the world: so he has done with the Christians now. Moreover, he had an Israel in the midst of an Israel then: and so he has now a people within a people; a Church within a Church; an elect within a mass who are partakers only of external privileges. Yes, as then, even so at this present time also, there is a remnant according to the election of grace, Romans 11:6.

2. All are not partakers of the same converting grace

The Jews had all the same ordinances of grace; but did not all make the same improvement of them. In the ministry of John the Baptist, those who were the least likely to receive his word were the most effectually impressed with it: "The tax collectors justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John; but the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized by him, Luke 7:29-30."

The twelve Apostles were chosen by our blessed Lord according to his sovereign will and pleasure; and for them were reserved advantages, not known to any others. To them our Lord explained in private the parables he delivered in public; saying to them, "To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven; but to others, in parables; that seeing, they may not see; and hearing, they may not understand, Luke 8:10." To them, in like manner, was peculiar favor shown after our Lord's resurrection; for "then he opened their understandings to understand the Scriptures, Luke 24:45."

But see this matter yet more plainly in the Apostle Paul. He was full of wrath, "breathing out threatenings and slaughter" against the whole Church of Christ; and yet, while pursuing his murderous career, he was stopped, and converted by the grace of God; the Lord Jesus Christ himself appearing to him in the way, and revealing himself to him; while, of all who were present, not one except himself was permitted to hear the words that were spoken to him. Was here no proof of God's electing love?

Take the ministry of this Apostle: some received his testimony, and others rejected it. And whence was it, that, at Philippi, a poor woman, named Lydia, embraced the truth, while the magistrates and a great mass of the inhabitants joined in persecuting the Christians who proclaimed it? We are told, that "the Lord opened her heart to attend to the things that were spoken by Paul! Acts 16:14-15." The same words made one cry out, "Paul, you are beside yourself;" and another, "You almost persuade me to be a Christian! Acts 26:22; Acts 26:28."

And is it not so at the present day? Are not still, as formerly, "many called, and few chosen?" Does not the Savior himself, as preached unto men, still become a sanctuary to some, while he proves a stumbling-block and a rock of offense to others? 1 Peter 2:6-8. And whence is this? To what must it be traced, but to God's electing love!

Assuredly, to that does the Apostle trace it, in the case of his Thessalonian converts: for, in his first epistle to them he says, "Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God; for our Gospel came not unto you in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance, 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5."

So then it is in every instance, where persons are enabled to receive the word aright: "it is given them to believe, Philippians 1:29;" and "they believe through grace, Acts 18:27;" or, in other words, they are "quickened from the dead, Ephesians 2:1," and "made willing in the day of God's power, Psalm 110:3;" and to God must they trace their new creation, as entirely and exclusively as the creation of the world, Ephesians 2:10. To these "the word becomes a savor of life unto life; while to others it is made a savor of death," to their deeper condemnation, 2 Corinthians 2:16.

3. All are not heirs of the same eternal glory—

All are not vessels unto honor. But this, however, must be remembered, that while it is God alone who prepares any to glory, the wicked fit themselves for destruction. This is marked, in a peculiar manner, in the chapter from whence my text is taken, verse 22, 23; and we must never forget it: for though the salvation of man is altogether of God, his condemnation is of himself alone, the fruit of his own willful perseverance in sin! That those who are saved owe their happiness to God's electing love, is clear from hence, that "God has from the beginning chosen them to salvation, 2 Thessalonians 2:13;" and "called them unto his eternal, glory 1 Peter 5:10." The process, as ordained in God's mind, and executed in time, is thus declared in the chapter preceding that which we have been considering: "Whom he did predestine, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified! Romans 8:30."

Among those who are exalted to glory, there will be no difference in relation to this matter: they will all acknowledge that "they did not choose God, but God chose them, John 15:16;" and that "they loved him, because he first loved them, 1 John 4:10; 1 John 4:19;" and, in ascribing glory to his name, they will remember this saying, "To him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and has made us kings and priests unto God and the Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen! Revelation 1:5-6."

Having shown, I trust, the truth of the affirmation, I proceed to state,

II. The improvement to be made of it—

Among the diversified uses to be made of it, I will mention three:

It would teach us,

1. A holy fear and jealousy respecting ourselves—

[Editor's note: We do not agree with the Anglican theology expressed in the next paragraph.] It is here admitted that we are of Israel: that, as the Jews had all been admitted into covenant with God by circumcision, so have we by baptism; and that, as "to them belonged the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the Law, and the service of God, and the promises," so do all the blessings of the Gospel belong to us Romans 9:4-5, precisely in the same manner and to the same extent that the privileges of God's ancient people belonged to them.

But as, then, "all were not Israel who were of Israel," so now all are not Christians indeed who are called by the name of Christ. Our descent from Christian parents will do no more than the descent of Israel from Abraham did for them. We are expressly told on this head, that the unconverted among them were not the true circumcision: "the true circumcision were those who worshiped God in the Spirit, and rejoiced in Christ Jesus, and had no confidence in the flesh, Philippians 3:3." And this is the description of the true Christian: no one deserving that name who does not answer to that character.

The Apostle further confirms this, when he says, "He is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew who is one inwardly: and circumcision is that of the heart; in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God, Romans 2:28-29." Would we not then fear, lest we deceive ourselves, just as the Jews of old did? Would we not carefully "examine ourselves, and prove our own selves, whether we be in the faith? 2 Corinthians 13:5." Would we not compare our character with that of the saints of old, to see whether we be "Israelites indeed, in whom is no deceit? John 1:47." Let it be well settled in our minds, that we are not indeed children of Abraham, unless we "walk in the steps of Abraham, Romans 4:12," and "do his works John 8:39."

2. A humble acquiescence in reference to God's sovereign election—

We are extremely prone to rise against the sovereignty of God, and to deny him the right of disposing of things according to his own will and pleasure. Yet we arrogate that right to ourselves; and if we were called unjust for bestowing our alms on one and not on another, we would indignantly reply, "Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with my own? Matthew 20:15." But do what we will, we cannot deny the election of God in Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob! We cannot deny that there were given to the Jews means of grace, which were withheld from all the world besides. We cannot deny the same in reference to Christians at this day: for we have in our hands the blessed Gospel, which reveals unto us the way of salvation, while five-sixths of the world never so much as heard of Christ! Nay, more: of those who most dispute against the doctrine of election generally, it may be doubted, whether one can be found who, when deeply convinced of his own guilt and misery, will not go to God, and implore mercy for mercy's sake, as much as the most zealous advocate of that offensive doctrine. He will scarcely venture to claim mercy on account of his own merits, whether past, present, or future. And, if he obtains a sense of God's pardoning love, I much doubt whether he will deliberately refuse to make that acknowledgment, "By the grace of God I am what I am! 1 Corinthians 15:10."

That there are depths in this doctrine which we cannot comprehend, I readily admit. But, would the denial of it involve us in no depths? or is there any other doctrine of our holy religion which we can fully fathom? Let us know this, that whether we can comprehend God's ways or not, "the Judge of all the earth will do right! Genesis 18:25;" and whether we are pleased to acquiesce in them or not, "He will be justified in his sayings, and be clear when he is judged, Romans 3:4." Let us, then, not presume to sit in judgment upon God, or dare to "charge him foolishly:" but let us make our supplication to him, assured that "none shall seek his face in vain;" and that "not one who shall come to him in his Son's name shall ever be cast out! John 6:37."

3. An adoring gratitude, if we have been made partakers of his sovereign mercy—

We cannot but see, whether the doctrine of election is true or not, that there is an Israel within an Israel; and that, while a small remnant only are truly alive to God, the great mass of the Christian world are as careless about salvation as even the Jews themselves. If, then, God has in mercy favored us, and made us partakers of his saving grace, shall we "sacrifice to our own net, and burn incense to our own dragnet, Habakkuk 1:16." God forbid. Let us rather bow with humble adoration before our God; saying, "Why me, Lord? Why am I chosen, when so many others are left? Luke 17:34-36." In truth, this is the spirit that befits us.

Even for the favors conferred upon us in providence, it befits us to bless and magnify our God, with a deep sense of our own unworthiness, and with a lively gratitude for such undeserved bounties. But for the blessings of his grace, O what thanks should we render unto the Lord! Hear the Psalmist, when contemplating these things: "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul! and forget none of his benefits!" Let such be the state of our minds. Surely, the more we are sensible of our obligations to God, for his free, unmerited, and sovereign grace—the more profoundly we shall adore him, and the more determinately shall we serve him.

 

#1885

GOD'S SOVEREIGN MERCY THE SOURCE OF ALL OUR BLESSINGS

Romans 9:16.

"So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy."

THE Apostle, being about to declare the rejection of the Jews, and the calling of the Gentiles, introduces his subject with a most solemn appeal to God, that he had "continual sorrow and heaviness in his heart," on account of the unhappy state of his Jewish brethren. He knew that the subject would be very painful to the Jews; and yet he could not, consistently with his duty to God, conceal it from them: but he strove as much as possible to lessen the offense it would occasion, by assuring them of his unbounded affection for them, and his willingness to endure anything, if it might but be subservient to their eternal welfare.

The subject as treated by the Apostle is no less offensive to the great mass of nominal Christians, than it was to the Jews: for he insists so strongly on God's right to dispense the blessings of his Gospel according to his own sovereign will, that the proud heart of man cannot endure it. We are apt to think we have a claim upon God; and that he is bound to do for us all that he has at anytime done for his most favored servants: and, when we are told, that he has a right to do what he will with his own, we deny him that right, and accuse him of injustice, precisely as the Jews themselves did. But the servant of God must speak, whether men will hear, or whether they forbear: he must declare to men the whole counsel of God, "even though briers and thorns be with him, and he dwell among scorpions."

At the same time, it would be his most anxious endeavor to "speak the truth in love." This we would do. God knows that it is painful to us to give offense; yet not so much on our own account, as on account of those who are not able to receive our word. We would gladly do, yes, and suffer too, whatever would be necessary for their welfare: but still we cannot conceal the truth, or "keep back anything that is profitable unto men." We entreat however, that, if we speak anything which may not at first approve itself to those who hear it, they will give us credit for seeking conscientiously their best interests, according to the light that God has given us.

The words of our text are evidently a conclusion drawn from a preceding argument. To view them therefore aright, we must consider,

I. The statement on which the conclusion is founded—

Having intimated the danger to which his countrymen were exposed of perishing in unbelief, he anticipates an objection which they were disposed to make; namely: That they were in no danger, because, as descendants of Abraham, they were savingly interested in the covenant made with him, and were heirs of all the blessings which were promised to him and to his seed: and that, consequently, if they were to perish, "the word of God would have been of no effect, verse 6." To this the Apostle replies that the promises were not made to Abraham's natural seed, but to his spiritual seed, who would be partakers of Abraham's faith: and that, as they were yet in unbelief, they had no part or lot in Abraham's blessings, verse 7, 8. This he proceeds to prove to them,

1. From undeniable and acknowledged facts—

The blessings of the covenant were not given to all Abraham's natural seed, even in the very first instance. Ishmael, who was born according to the course of nature, had no part in that covenant; the blessings of which were restricted to Isaac, who was born many years afterwards, not according to the common course of nature, but solely by virtue of an express promise. Here then was a proof, even in the immediate children of Abraham, that persons might be lineally descended from him, and yet be left without any saving interest in the covenant made with him.

But a further, and still stronger, proof of this took place in the children of this very Isaac, to whom the promise was restricted. His wife Rebecca bore him twins: and while these children were yet in the womb, and "before they could possibly have done either good or evil, it was said to her, The elder shall serve the younger, verse 9-12;" which prophecy was accomplished to their last posterity, as the Prophet Malachi attests, saying, "Jacob have I loved; but Esau have I hated! verse 13 with Malachi 1:2-3."

Now if they would think that in the former instance respect was had to the character of the two children, Ishmael and Isaac, and that the decree was founded on that, such a notion is altogether excluded from the present instance, because the children had done neither good nor evil; and the reason of the decree is expressly said to be, "that the purpose of God, according to election, might stand, not of works, but of him who calls."

Here then an exclusion of a part of the natural seed is further proved, and that too by the sovereign disposal of God himself, irrespective of the characters of the persons respecting whom the decree was made. How much more therefore might those of Abraham's descendants who would continue obstinate in unbelief, be excluded from the blessings of that covenant, which they themselves were so averse to embrace.

2. From the express declarations of God himself—

The Jews in the Apostle's days trusted in the words of Moses, which they interpreted as comprehending all the Jewish nation without exception within the bonds of the covenant. To Moses therefore the Apostle has recourse; and appeals to what God himself had spoken to him. As in the foregoing instances God had exercised his own sovereign will in appointing who would, and who would not, be partakers of his covenant, so, in his communications with Moses also he had claimed to himself the same right, and declared that he would act in the same sovereign way: "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion! verse 15 with Exodus 33:19."

Here God considers all the human race as in a state of guilt and misery, no one of them having any claim on him for mercy, or anything that could entitle him to a preference beyond his brethren: and he declares, that as he would exercise his own sovereign will in dispensing his blessings to them, so he would have his sovereign grace and mercy acknowledged by all who would receive them.

This point is further confirmed by the Apostle's adducing what God had spoken also to Pharaoh. God had exalted Pharaoh to the throne of Egypt, and had invested him with the most arbitrary and unbounded power. Such power was necessary, in order that there might be full scope for the rebellion of man, and the consequent triumphs of God over him. God knew that there were in the heart of Pharaoh all those dispositions which would resist him to the uttermost; and that he would thus call forth eventually those judgments which God, for his own glory, had determined to inflict on the oppressors of his people: and, while Pharaoh was in the very act of rebellion, and hardening himself more and more against his God, God said to him, "For this same purpose have I raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth!" The Apostle, having cited this in confirmation of what he had said respecting Moses, asserts in yet stronger language than before, "Therefore he has mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardens."

Thus the Apostle has proved beyond all contradiction the unquestionable right of God to give, or to withhold, his blessings, according to his own sovereign will and pleasure.

But before we proceed to the conclusion which the Apostle draws from hence, we would guard what has been already spoken from any misconstruction. Though God's right to give or to withhold his blessings is asserted, together with the actual bestowment of them according to his sovereign will—yet he never withholds his blessing from any creature who humbly seeks it at his hands; much less does he ever infuse evil into the mind of any man in order to glorify himself in his destruction. His hardening of Pharaoh's heart consisted in leaving him to himself, and to the unrestrained exercise of his own evil dispositions: and if we were all left as Pharaoh was, we would harden our own hearts precisely as Pharaoh did. In a word, God's blessings are never dispensed but in a way of grace; his judgments are never executed but in a way of righteous retribution.

Having thus stated the argument on which the Apostle's conclusion is founded, we come to the consideration of,

II. The conclusion itself—

The conclusion is justly formed from the premises. It is indeed a humiliating conclusion, and a truth which our proud hearts are very averse to acknowledge; but still we must join issue with the Apostle, and say, "It is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God that shows mercy!"

Let not this however be understood, as though it sanctioned any lack of exertion on our part—

God does not here forbid us to will or to run, nor does he exempt us from the duty of both willing and running: no such thing is here expressed, nor can any such thing be deduced from it. How grievous is it that any would be found impious enough to cite this passage as discountenancing exertions on our part! In the whole sacred records, from the beginning to the end, there is not to be found one single word that can warrant such an idea as this. On the contrary, God always complains of us for not exerting ourselves, and refers our final condemnation to this as its proper ground and cause: "You will not come unto me, that you might have life," says our Lord. "How often would I have gathered you together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you would not!" As for those who say, "I can do nothing without God, and therefore, until God comes, I may as well sit still, and attempt nothing;" God, so far from giving occasion for such a sentiment and such conduct, calls us most earnestly to exertion, and promises that we shall not exert ourselves in vain: "Ask and you shall have; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." "Whoever comes unto me, I will never cast out!""When said I ever to the seed of Jacob, Seek me in vain?" Know then, that to found any such sentiment on the words of the Apostle, is a gross perversion of the word of God, and an impious plea for antinomian licentiousness. But, that you may have a just view of this assertion,

Its plain import is, that God's free grace and mercy are the true and only sources of all good—

Whatever be our success in the divine life, we must not refer it to our own volitions, or our own exertions. For, what inclination has the natural man to that which is truly good? None at all: there is not one good thought or desire in the heart of an unregenerate man: his will is altogether towards what is evil Genesis 6:5; and if a good inclination be manifested by any one of us, it has been previously put into our hearts by Him who "gives us to will and to do, of his own good pleasure, Philippians 2:13." Nor can any exertions of ours in our natural state be of themselves effectual; for our blessed Lord expressly says, "Without me, or separate from me, you can do nothing." We must therefore "never sacrifice to our own net, or burn incense to our own dragnet."

God must have all the glory: it is "he who works all our works in us:" "Of him is our fruit found," and to all eternity our song must be, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto your name be the praise."

It is impossible for us ever to be too jealous upon this head. We are told, that "of him are all things, and for him are all things:" and therefore to him we must look for everything that we need; and to him, even to his sovereign grace and mercy, must we ascribe everything that we have received. If we differ, either from others, or from our former selves, we must never forget for one moment, "who it is that has made us to differ:" and If we are able to say with the Apostle, "I have labored more abundantly than others," we must instantly correct ourselves, and add, "Yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me!

There are some who put a totally different construction on our text, and interpret it as though the Apostle had said, "It is not of him only that wills, etc." Thus, by their interpolation, they expressly contradict the Apostle, and subvert the whole train of his reasoning. If this were the meaning of the Apostle, what occasion would there be for the objections of his adversaries in verse 14 and verse 19? Alas! that ever such liberties would be taken with the word of God!"

It remains only now that we show you,

1. How these sentiments are to be maintained—

We confess with grief and shame that many carry these sentiments too far, and maintain them in a very unhallowed way. But, while we maintain what God has so plainly taught, we would lift our voice without ceasing against every abuse of these doctrines. To those who accord with these views of divine truth, we most affectionately suggest the following cautions:

Take heed to the manner in which you maintain these truths. Let none of you maintain them presumptuously, as though you could fathom the depths contained in them, or as though they gave you any licence for sloth and supineness. They contain mysteries, which God alone can fully comprehend, and difficulties which he alone can fully reconcile: but be it remembered, that there are far more and greater difficulties involved in a denial of them: and that our wisdom is to receive every word of God with child-like simplicity, and to say, "What I know not now, I shall know hereafter."

Nor let any hold them irreverently. Some will speak of these deep things of God as familiarly as if there were no mystery at all in them, or as if they were the uninspired dogmas of some ancient philosopher. But when we enter on "such holy ground," we would, as Moses, "take off our shoes," and proceed with reverential awe. "God is in Heaven, and we upon earth; therefore should our words be few," and diffident, and humble.

Nor would they be maintained uncharitably. Many there are who cannot see these truths, who yet are in a state truly pleasing to God; yes many, at whose feet the best of us may be glad to be found in Heaven. It is a great evil, when these doctrines are made a ground of separation one from another, and when the advocates of different systems anathematize each other. Let all such dispositions be banished from the Church of God. Whoever may be wrong, they never can be right who violate charity, or refuse to others the right of judging for themselves. For the fundamental truths of Christianity, we must contend to the uttermost, (though even for them with meekness and love,) but in reference to truths which are involved in so much obscurity as those which relate to the sovereignty of God, mutual kindness and concession are far better than vehement argumentation and uncharitable discussion.

Lastly, let not these truths be maintained exclusively. Many are so partial to these deeper truths, that they can hardly condescend to speak of repentance and faith; and, as for exhortations to duty, they are apt to think such things legal and carnal.

O beloved! flee from such a spirit, as you would from the plague: wherever it exists, it betrays a sad lack of humility. Be as little children: let every word of God be dear to you; and be as ready to dwell upon the invitations, and precepts, and exhortations of the Gospel, as on these deeper mysteries, which may easily be strained too far, and may give occasion for inferences, plausible indeed, but erroneous, and contrary to the analogy of faith.

2. How they are to be improved—

The proper use of these deeper truths is to abase us with humility, as creatures destitute of all good; and at the same time to exalt us, as creatures infinitely indebted to the grace of God. Make this improvement of them, and they can never do you any harm: yes, receive them for these ends, and there are no other truths whatever that will operate to an equal extent. Who ever maintained the doctrines of grace more strenuously than the Apostle Paul? Yet who ever so labored in the cause of his adorable Redeemer? Take him then for your pattern, both in your sentiments and conduct; and then you will show that nothing so "constrains, as the love of Christ;" nothing so stimulates to a compliance with God's will, as a sense of obligation to the riches of his grace.

 

#1886

GOD'S SOVEREIGNTY NOT TO BE ARRAIGNED BY MEN

Romans 9:19-24.

"One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'" Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath--prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory-- even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?"

THERE are some persons so partial to, what we may call, the high doctrines of the Gospel, that they can scarcely endure to hear anything else: they are like persons whose taste is vitiated by strong drink or highly-seasoned food; they have no appetite for anything which does not savor of their favorite opinions. This is a great evil in the Church, not only as injuring the souls in whom it exists, but as tending exceedingly to strengthen the prejudices of others against the doctrines which are so abused. Those who are thus disposed towards "the deep things of God," fancy themselves edified, merely because their corrupt taste is gratified: but their edification is not real and scriptural; for, if it were, it would incline them to receive with meekness and humility every word of God; whereas they treat with contempt everything which seems to savor of plain practical religion. We regret exceedingly that such persons exist: but we must not, on their account, run into an opposite extreme, and keep these doctrines altogether out of sight: we must "not shun to declare unto men the whole counsel of God."

Whatever is revealed in the sacred records must be brought forth in its season: nor are we at liberty to "withhold from men anything that may be profitable unto them." We therefore address ourselves to every subject in its place: though on such subjects as that which is before us, we would do it with fear and trembling, conscious how unable we are to do justice to it, and fearful lest by any means we would make it an occasion of offense to those who are not prepared for the investigation of it.

The sovereignty of God is to the proud heart of man an unpalatable subject; but in the passage before us we are called to vindicate it against the objections of those who are disposed, like the Jew in our text, to contend against it.

To place the matter in its true light, we shall consider,

I. The point at issue between the objector and Paul—

Paul had strongly intimated, that the Jews were now to be rejected from the Church of God, and that the Gentiles were to be admitted into it. This he knew was a most offensive subject to the Jews; and therefore he had shown, both from God's word to Moses, and his dealings with Pharaoh, that God had a right to communicate his blessings, or execute his judgments, in such a way as would conduce most to his own glory. The Jew, not convinced, is represented as declaring, that, if God exercise his sovereignty in this way, the blame of man's condemnation must be transferred to God himself, since it was impossible for man to resist God's will.

That this was the question between them, is evident; for to this end Paul's arguments had tended; and nothing less than this could have given rise to such an objection: to this also the answer of the Apostle directly applies. The objection, it is true, did not fairly arise out of Paul's statement: but the Jew took occasion from his statement to found his objection upon it: and to the question, thus stated, we must now reply.

II. The Apostle's determination of it—

Paul hearing such a blasphemous objection as this, "Why does God yet find fault? for who has resisted his will?" replies to it,

1. In a way of just reprehension—

"Who are you, O man, that replies against God?" Consider yourself as a creature; What right have you to sit in judgment upon God? Do you understand all his counsels? Are you able to fathom the depth of his wisdom? Can you "find out the Almighty to perfection?" How can you presume thus to arraign the conduct of your God, and to "condemn him that you may be justified?" What would you think of your own child, if he, while yet a child, would stand up and accuse you as unwise and unjust, in the most deliberate exercise of your counsels? Or, what would you think of an ignorant peasant who would presume thus to sit in judgment upon the counsels of a learned judge? Are you then authorized to arraign the conduct of your God?

But consider yourself as a sinner, and how atrocious does your conduct then appear! You who might justly have been consigned over to perdition the first moment you had sinned, do you complain of your God as unjust and tyrannical, if he dispenses to others the blessings which you have refused to accept? Impious wretch! As well might the clay rise up against the potter, and condemn him for having fashioned it according to his own will.

2. In a way of sound argument—

Two things Paul proceeds to substantiate against his objector: the one was, That God had a right to dispose of everything according to his own sovereign will and pleasure: and the other was, That in the way he had hitherto disposed of them, and had determined still to dispose of them, he was fully justified.

Let us consider these assertions more fully—

A potter, it is acknowledged, has a sovereign right over his clay: and so has God over all the works of his hands. When he formed angels, was he bound to furnish them with all the faculties they possess? And, having formed them, might he not have annihilated them again, and consigned them over again to their former non-existence? When he formed man and beast of the same clay, might he not have given higher faculties to the brute creation, and less to man? Or might he not have reduced man immediately to the state of the beasts, without doing any injury to man? Is not this, in reality, what God is doing every day, as it were, before our eyes; bereaving one and another of his mental faculties, and reducing him to a state far below the beasts? It is evident, that God may of the same lump make one vessel to honor, and another to dishonor, either in their first creation, or in their subsequent use and destination.

The same also we may say in relation to the eternal states of men, if only we consider them as they really are—one vast mass of guilt and corruption.

When Adam fell, God was at liberty to leave him as he was, in all his guilt and corruption—or to redeem him from it, and to make him a vessel of honor by his new-creating power.

When God chose Abraham out of the whole world of idolaters, he was at liberty to have chosen others besides him, if he had been pleased to do so, or to have restricted the blessings of his covenant to Ishmael and Esau, instead of limiting them to Isaac and Jacob. If he had seen fit to do this, whom would he have injured? Or who would have had any right to complain?

Whom did he injure when he chose the Jews? Did he by separating them from the rest of mankind, and granting exclusively to them the ordinances of his grace, do any injustice to the Gentile world? Or, now that he is pleased to send his Gospel to the Gentiles, does he do any injustice to the Jews? In favoring us with the full light of revelation, does he injure the millions of Muhammadans and Pagans who are less favored than ourselves? In like manner, if he sends to some of us fuller opportunities of instruction than to others, or richer communications of his grace—is he not at liberty to do so?

Let it be remembered, that the question is not, Whether God shall punish an innocent person, or a guilty person beyond his deserts? That could receive no other answer than that given by the Apostle, "Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid!" But the question is, Whether, when all mankind are in a state of guilt and condemnation, God may not "have mercy on whom he will have mercy?" And to this question we reply by asking another, "May He not do what he will with his own? Matthew 20:15."

But let us turn to the latter part of the Apostle's answer; wherein he asserts confidently, that if we attend carefully to the way in which God has disposed of men, and has determined still to dispose of them, he is, and ever must be, justified.

God has determined glorify himself from his dealings with mankind, whether they will it, or not. He will be glorified both in those who are saved, and in those who perish.

"What if God, willing to show his wrath, and make his power known, endure the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction?" is he not at liberty to do so?

Take, for instance, Pharaoh. If God had pleased, he might have cut off Pharaoh on his first refusal to let the people of Israel go; or at any one of the ten successive plagues: but he was not obliged to do so: he was surely at liberty to spare him, and exercise forbearance towards him, and to remove in succession the different plagues from him, and to give him space for repentance, until he had filled up the measure of his iniquities, and was quite ripe for those signal judgments that had been denounced against him.

In like manner, the Jews might justly have been cut off, when they renounced their allegiance to God, and worshiped the golden calf. God might, without any impeachment of his justice, have executed then the threatened judgment of destroying instantly that rebellious nation, and raising up another from the loins of Moses. But he saw fit to exercise mercy towards them, and to impart to them yet more abundant communications of his grace and favor. Surely in this he did them no injury.

So also under all their provocations in the wilderness, during the space of forty years, and under all their apostasies from him in the land of Canaan for the space of fifteen hundred years, he might, if he had seen fit, have destroyed them: and, to say the least, he did them no injury in bearing with them, until, by the crucifixion of their Messiah, they had "filled up the measure of their own and their fathers' iniquities." God's fore-knowing how much they would abuse his mercies, was no reason why he would not exercise mercy towards them: for by his forbearance his mercy was displayed; and by their accumulated guilt and aggravated condemnation his indignation against sin, and his power to avenge it, were more conspicuously displayed.

The same we may say in reference to any person or number of persons; God is not bound to cut them off the moment they sin against him: he may continue to cultivate the barren fig-tree year after year, if he is pleased to do so, in order to show more clearly its incurable sterility, and his own justice in its final excision. Thus, I say, He may act towards "the vessels of his wrath."

So also he may pursue a similar line of conduct towards "the vessels of mercy," in order ultimately to "make known upon them the riches of his glory."

He was not compelled to bring out Abraham from his family and his country, while he was yet a child: he was at liberty to leave him bowing down to stocks and stones, like all the rest around him, until the hour which he in his secret counsels had appointed for his effectual calling was arrived. Nor, when God called Abraham, was he compelled to call all other Gentiles at the same time: he was at liberty to "leave them to their own ways" until the times of the Messiah, in order to show more fully, that "the world by wisdom knew not God," and that, if left to themselves, nothing but universal ruin must ensue.

Paul tells us, that God, in his secret counsels, had "separated him as a chosen vessel, even from his mother's womb:" yet had God left him for many years to his own heart's lusts, and to the perpetration of the most enormous wickedness. Was God unjust in this? Was God bound to convert him before? Was he not at liberty to leave this man to the dictates of his own deceived conscience, that he might gain the more glory in his conversion, and "show forth in him all long-suffering, for a pattern to all who would hereafter believe in him to life everlasting, 1 Timothy 1:16."

The dying thief as well. Was not God at liberty to let him go on as he did to the last hour of his life, that he might show in him what divine grace and mercy could effect, even at the eleventh hour? God would have done no injury to any of these, if he had never so distinguished them by his power and grace: nor, in having so distinguished them, has he done any injury to others, either to Paul's companions in his journey, or to the other thief upon the cross.

It was thus that our blessed Lord acted in reference to Lazarus. When called to come and heal him, he stayed until he had been dead four days on purpose that, by raising him after so long a time, his own power might be the more abundantly glorified. John 11:6; John 11:15; John 11:40. And did he do any wrong in this?

But if our proud hearts be yet disposed to rise up against God, and reply against him, the extraordinary caution with which Paul gives his answer must silence us for ever. Between the vessels of wrath and the vessels of mercy, he makes this striking distinction; that the vessels of wrath are prepared for destruction, but the vessels of mercy are prepared for glory by their God. The judgments executed on the ungodly, at whatever period they are inflicted, are brought on them, not by any absolute decree of God, but by their own willful and obstinate continuance in sin: but the blessings imparted to the godly are solely the fruit of God's sovereign grace and mercy. Those who perish must take all the shame to themselves; and those who are saved must give all the glory to their God.

The manner in which the Apostle states his argument, would not be altogether unnoticed. "What if" so and so? Who has anything to reply against it? Is there anything in it contrary to reason? let him bring it to the test of reason. Is there anything contrary to Scripture? Let him consult the passages to which I now refer him, and he shall see, that this very mode of dealing towards all mankind, whether Jews or Gentiles, is precisely that which all the prophets have taught us to expect at the hands of God, verse 25-27.

He has, for his own glory, left the Gentiles for two thousand years, and taken the Jews for his peculiar people; and now, for his own glory also, will he for a season leave the Jews, and take the Gentiles. In this matter, neither the one nor the other have any claim upon him: in taking the one and leaving the other, he did no injustice formerly: and in now abandoning those whom he formerly took, (more especially since they have filled up the measure of their iniquities,) and in taking those whom he then left, he does no injustice now: but in both he is, and will be, glorified. He even in this world glorifies, both in the one and in the other, his patience and long-suffering, and forbearance; but, in the world to come, he will glorify his perfections upon both of them in a more appropriate way; on the vessels of wrath, his power; but on the vessels of mercy, his free, and sovereign, and unbounded grace.

Having investigated with care the Apostle's answer, we will conclude with suggesting,

III. The proper improvement of the subject—

The subject offers many important hints,

1. To objectors—

These, alas! are a very numerous body, even in the Christian world. Favored as we are above the rest of the world, it might be hoped that we would be the last to arraign the sovereignty of Almighty God. Yet among us there are many who will dispute against the doctrines of grace, precisely in the way that the unbelieving Jew is represented as doing in our text. One would be ready to suppose, from the confidence with which they urge their impious objections, that they had been the secret counselors of the Most High. They determine, without any hesitation or doubt, what will, and what will not, consist with the Divine attributes.

Beloved brethren, this is not the way in which it befits frail dust and ashes to proceed: and if you will presume thus to reprove God, you must "answer it" at your cost, Job 40:2. Be assured that such conduct ill befits you, and is most offensive to your God, Job 40:8; and your wisdom is to forbear all such impiety in future, Job 40:5.

Go to any person deeply versed in sciences of any kind; and he will tell you paradoxes without number which you cannot understand, which yet he knows to be true, and is able to prove, if you had sufficient knowledge of that particular science to comprehend him. Know then, that God also, if he has revealed what appears paradoxical to you, can fully reconcile his own declarations, and will do so in the eternal world; though, if he were now to do it, you would not have capacity sufficient to discern the truth and excellence of his communications. Be assured, that, "as the heavens are high above the earth, so are his thoughts and ways high above yours."

But there are many among those who pretend to vindicate the ways of God, who are scarcely less worthy of reproof than those who presume to condemn them. There are many who speak of "the deep things of God," as if they were as plain and easy and intelligible as the simplest truth that can be mentioned. They dwell exclusively on these great and hidden mysteries, and leave all the plainer doctrines of repentance, faith, and obedience, as low matters, unworthy of their attention, and as unprofitable to any good end. Nothing pleases them but what brings immediately to their view the Divine decrees: and of these they speak in a way that the Scriptures by no means authorize. They draw conclusions from partial statements, without giving due weight to things which God himself has spoken on the opposite side: and then they vindicate with unhallowed boldness and confidence what they themselves have put, as it were, into the mouth of God.

This was the very conduct of Job's friends; and justly were they rebuked by God for their presumption. They took partial declarations of God, and then put their own unqualified construction upon them, and deduced from them inferences which they were never intended to bear. In this way they bore down righteous Job as an ignorant self-deceiver. But God declared that they had not spoken the thing that was right, as his servant Job had done; and required them to humble themselves for their folly and impiety.

Let not any of you ever subject yourselves to the same reproof: for "Woe to him," says God, "who strives with his Maker! Isaiah 45:9." It befits you, doubtless, to investigate, and as far as possible to understand, every truth of God: but, in things so infinitely beyond the reach of human intellect, it befits you to be humble, modest, diffident: and in things respecting which the most pious men may differ in their judgment, it befits you cheerfully to concede to others the liberty which you arrogate to yourselves. And we are well persuaded, that mutual candor and forbearance among those of opposite principles, would do infinitely more towards the bringing all to just views, than all the angry contentions of violent partisans.

2. To all persons without exception—

You, brethren, have other things to do than to be wasting your time about unprofitable disputes. You are all at this very moment vessels of wrath—or vessels of mercy! You are now, even while I am speaking to you, under the hands of the Potter. You are actually upon the lathes, preparing and fashioning, either for vessels of honor, or vessels of dishonor. The question that most concerns you is, for which are you preparing? and how you may know for which you are destined? In order to ascertain this, you need not look into the book of God's decrees, but simply examine the state of your own hearts.

For what are you preparing? Are you diligently seeking after God from day to day? Are you living by faith upon the Lord Jesus Christ, washing daily in the fountain of his blood, and renewed daily by the operations of his Spirit? Are you progressively advancing in the enjoyment of his presence, the performance of his will, and the attainment of his image? Are you, in a word, beginning to live the life of Heaven upon earth? This will mark you as vessels of honor: and the lack of this is sufficient to stamp you vessels unto dishonor.

It is not necessary that you would be committing any flagrant sins in order to constitute you vessels of wrath: it is quite sufficient that you are not growing up into Christ as your living Head, and devoted altogether to his service and glory. Let these inquiries then occupy your mind, and trouble not yourselves about the "secret things which belong only to your God." Whether you are pleased with the Potter or not, he is going on with his work; and in a short time he will cut you from the lathe, and fix your everlasting destinies! But, blessed be his name! He is able to change both your form and use: and, if you call upon him, he will do it; and he can do it as easily as a potter can mar the clay which has been formed only for a degraded use, and fashion it into a vessel of the most dignified description. While you are upon the lathe, nothing is impossible! Who can tell but that you have been allowed, even to this hour, to fit yourselves for vessels of wrath, in order that God may be the more glorified in the change that shall be wrought in you? Yes, perhaps the hour is now come for Saul's conversion: perhaps this is the hour when he has decreed to humble you in the dust before him, and to make you a vessel of honor that shall display, almost beyond all others, the riches of his glory! O lift up your hearts to him, and pray, that at this time his grace may be magnified in you, and that you may be monuments of his love and mercy to all eternity.

But perhaps with others the hour is come, when the measure of your iniquities shall be filled, and when, like Pharaoh, you shall be made signal monuments of God's wrath and indignation. What a fearful thought! The Lord grant that it may not be realized in any of you. But beware! His mercy and forbearance will have an end; and that end may be much nearer than you expect. Let not one hour more pass unimproved, but "Seek the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near."

As for you who have reason to hope that you are already vessels of mercy, O! bless and praise your God. Remember, you were taken from the same mass of clay, as others who bear a very different shape. Remember, too, to whom you owe the distinction that has been conferred upon you. Had you been left to yourselves, you would have been in as degraded a state as any. It is God, and God alone, who has made you to differ, either from others, or from your former selves. Give him then the glory of his rich and sovereign grace, and seek daily to become more and more "vessels of honor, fit for your Master's use! 2 Timothy 2:20-21."

 

#1887

CHRIST REJECTED BY THE JEWS, AND BELIEVED ON BY THE GENTILES

Romans 9:30-33.

"What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the "stumbling stone." As it is written: "See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame."

A VERY great proportion of the controversies which exist in the Christian world, arise from an over-straining of just principles, and carrying them to an undue extent. Many are not contented with maintaining what God has plainly declared; but they will found on his declarations everything that appears to be deducible from them. But, however legitimate any deduction may appear to us, we should make a great difference between it and the word on which it is founded; more especially if there be in the Holy Scriptures other passages directly opposed to our deductions. We should remember, that our finite faculties are incapable of comprehending all that the infinitely wise God has seen fit to reveal: and therefore, when we advance even a hair's breadth beyond what God has expressly authorized, we should proceed with the utmost caution.

A rash and presumptuous mind will, without hesitation, build the doctrine of reprobation upon the declarations of Paul in this chapter. But Paul forbears to press his principles so far, because, however such an inference might appear just in the eyes of fallible man, it would have been in direct opposition to other declarations of Almighty God. His moderation is beautifully exhibited in this chapter.

In order to silence the blasphemous cavils of an objector, he had been constrained to occupy high ground, and to assert God's sovereign right to dispose of all his creatures, even as the potter has power over the clay, which he has prepared for his own use. But when he comes to sum up his argument, he does not refer the rejection of the Jews to the mere sovereign will of God, but to their own obstinate pride and unbelief: thereby showing us, that, while we properly refer all good to God—we must trace all evil to ourselves. If we are saved, it is God who saves us, from first to last; but, if we perish, we perish through our own fault alone.

For the further elucidation of our text, we shall consider,

I. The fact here stated—

It was a plain and undeniable fact, that the Gentiles had embraced the Gospel, and the Jews had rejected it—

The GENTILES, until they heard the Gospel, were in a most deplorable state of wickedness. See Romans 1 throughout. Nor did they, at least with very few exceptions, at all think of seeking after God. Having but little sense of their guilt, and no idea whatever of any way in which their guilt might be removed, they concerned not themselves about a future state. The sentiment of the great mass among them was, "Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die." But, on the first proclamation of the Gospel to them, they received it gladly, and experienced, throughout all the Roman empire, its saving benefits. Thus was fulfilled in them that prophecy, "I am sought by those who asked not for me: I am found of those who sought me not, Isaiah 65:1."

The JEWS, on the other hand, many of them at least, had a considerable desire after a righteousness that would justify them before God: and they actually sought after such a righteousness, by conforming to the rites and ceremonies of the Mosaic law. But through their undue attachment to that law which was now fulfilled and abrogated in Christ Jesus, they set themselves against the Gospel, and thereby cut themselves off from all participation of its benefits.

The offer of salvation, through the merits of another, was a stumbling-block to them: they thought, that if they observed the duties of the moral law, and compensated for their defects by a strict attention to the ceremonial law, then all would be well: and being persuaded of this, they would not hear of a salvation, which dispensed with the observances on which they placed so great a dependence. It was to this alone, and not to any secret and irresistible decrees of God, that they were thus left to perish.

Thus it was that the Gentiles embraced the Gospel, and were saved by it; while the Jews, with all their superior advantages, rejected it, and perished.

But this fact only verified what had been long ago predicted by the prophets—

Christ had been represented as "a foundation-stone," on which whoever would build would live for ever, Isaiah 28:16. On the other hand, he had been represented as a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense, over which many would fall to their heavier condemnation, Isaiah 8:14-15. Thus the very Scriptures that announced his advent, declared that he would be "set for the fall, as well as for the rising again, of many in Israel, Luke 2:34." This, if viewed abstractedly, was a very improbable event: for, however he might be disregarded by the Gentiles, the probability was that the Jews, of whose nation he was, who expected his advent, and, from their own prophecies, might have learned his character; who actually saw all his miracles, and heard all his discourses; who, moreover, were assured on the most infallible testimony respecting his resurrection from the dead; who saw also the very same miracles wrought by his followers as had before been wrought by himself; I say, the probability was that the Jews would have immediately become his most devoted followers. But the conduct of this infatuated people was altogether contrary to all such expectations; a