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The Present Blessing
Whatever difficulty the commentator may find in this adoption by the Apostle of the words of the lawgiver, the evangelical import of the passage is both clear and rich. The redemption in Christ is set forth with marvellous plainness and power. Note the three leading characteristics of His great salvation.
I. It is marked by clearness. The ninth verse gives the true Apostles' creed, 'Because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved'. It is a definite creed. All have heard of the lament of the dying German metaphysician: 'Only one man in Germany understands my philosophy, and he does not understand it'. But the message of Christ does not call upon us to grasp abstruse and incomprehensible speculations; only to accept simple, definite, historical facts. It is a short creed. It is a simple creed. 'With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.' Here is the grand point too often overlooked. We approach religion as though it were a science to be dealt with intellectually, as other sciences are, whereas it is in a special sense the sphere of the heart. As we know God chiefly through our heart, so with the heart we must understand and appropriate the salvation which He has wrought out for us in Christ.
II. It is marked by nearness. 'It is in thy mouth.' All the great words summed up in the one word 'salvation' are in our mouth, and have been in our mouth since our earliest days. 'And in thy heart' We need not gaze into heaven or peer into the abyss; God is already within us, seeking to effect the purpose of His will. The energy necessary to save and perfect lies even now latent, dormant within. The difficulty is not to find Christ, it is to avoid Him; the difficulty is not to get Him into our life, but to keep Him out.
III. It is marked by freeness. Genius is for the few, whilst in the redemption of the soul the same Lord over all is rich unto all who call upon Him. In mythology we read of one of the gods fettering a terrible wolf with a thread of silk: with the softer, more ethereal thread of faith working by love Christ tames the wildness of our nature, and winsomely leads us along the lilied pathways of purity and peace.
We do not offer a salvation far off, but here. We do not offer a salvation far off, but now. The poet speaks of running back to fetch the age of gold, but we need not traverse nineteen centuries to find Christ; He has annihilated time, and stands at our side mighty to save.
W. L. Watkinson, The Bane and the Antidote, p. 187.
References. X. 6. J. S. Bartlett, Sermons, p. 108. X. 6-9. F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. vi. p. 63. X. 7. Expositor (4th Series), vol. iii. pp. 245, 369; ibid. (5th Series), vol. vii. p. 222.
See Augustine's Confessions, book viii. ii., and Clough's fine poem, A Protest.
Belief and Confession
With the mouth, Confession; with the heart, Belief. There are, says St. Paul, in the act of faith two moments, that of believing, that of confessing: they are two and not one.
There is centre and there is circumference, there is fact and the name which echoes the fact, thought and the action which it genders, vision and the art which externalises it, a Belief in the heart and Confession with the mouth, communion held with God and this communion made known to oneself and to the brethren; lastly, there is the life of the soul, which is our faith, and there is the language whereby we live it, which is our creed.
I. Creed enables the personal life, in religion but also in all else. The difficulties arise not over the private creed, but the public: it is here that a man's faith is gauged by his fellows, and is approved or reprobated. So let us ask what is the Creed, when recited in public and in common. Is it then still a language, still an instrument enabling life, but the life of a community.
We will consider what it is that happens when the worshippers turn eastward and utter together, 'I believe in God the Father'. What are they doing? Loading the air with vibrations of sound? Charging the minds of listeners with vibrations of thought? Much more than that We are doing an act of will, and an act not of the private will but the public, the will of the Church of Christ It is our Father Whom I in the midst of the congregation declare, not my Father, as in my chamber. The thing which I will is that my fellow-believers throughout the Church Universal, and I myself with them, should be one in common sonship to the Father of all.
'I believe in Jesus Christ,' Who redeemed us. Again I declare and I will and purpose the redemption of the world by Jesus Christ, the Son, Who for us men and for our salvation became man. The Redeemer, whose day I rejoice to see, is the Redeemer of all living, yea, of the groaning and travailing creation. The Passion, which by declaring my belief in Him I consent to share, is a Passion not only of Christ in me, but of Christ in the Church; a Passion which puts to the cross, and racks and breaks and buries into life the whole organism of the Body of Christ The thing I will is that my fellow-members of His body, and with them I, should be made conformable to the death of Jesus, which is a death unto life.
And when last I declare that 'I believe in the Holy Ghost,' Who sanctifies, I do not declare and purpose the enlightenment of my sole mind, as might some self-sent prophet, but of the collective mind of all who are in Christ; nor the kindling of my own heart's fire, but of the fire on the deep and wide heart of humanity summed in Christ, with my own spark kindled from it; nor a nerving only of my single will, but a massed will of the holy commonwealth. The unction of the Spirit is an anointing not of a believer's single head, but a dew that lights on all the breadth and length of the heavenly kingdom, like as the dew of Hermon which fell upon the hill of Zion.
II. There is no question of re-writing, of modernising the creeds, as some would propose, offering us samples of how to do it, which do not attract. This must not be done, unless the life of the symbolism were at stake. It must not be done, because the life of the Church must be continuous, and this continuity requires fixity in the formula of the life: a watchword or signal cannot be changed, only because a new one might be convenient for a modern and for the moment. And it must not be done because an ancient speech is also consecrate, and has power, has a pure and holy and wholesome magic on the will of the commonwealth, and to change it would be to unnerve the sanctions of the creed.
But, last, it does not need to be done, because there are some truths which can be told in words which do not need re-writing, which do not grow old, but have eternity, or what is, for any mortal man's interest, eternal.
J. Huntley Skrine, Sermons to Pastors and Masters, p. 35.
References. X. 9. F. Pigon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. li. p. 356. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxii. No. 1898. Expositor (6th Series), vol. v. p. 45; ibid. vol. viii. p. 345. X. 9, 10. W. P. Du Bose, The Gospel According to St. Paul, p. 45. C. Perren, Revival Sermons in Outline, p. 264.
To a world distracted by hostile creeds and colliding philosophies, it [Christianity] taught its doctrines, not as a human speculation but as a Divine revelation, authenticated much less by reason than by faith. 'With the heart man believeth unto righteousness;' 'He that doeth the will of My Father will know the doctrine, whether it be of God'; 'Unless you believe you cannot understand'; 'A heart naturally Christian'; 'The heart makes the theologian,' are the phrases which best express the first action of Christianity upon the world. Like all great religions, it was more concerned with modes of feeling than with modes of thought.
Lecky, History of European Morals, iii.
References. X. 10. S. A. Eliot, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lx. p. 23. H. Allen, Penny Pulpit, No. 1647, p. 217. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ix. Nos. 519 and 520, and vol. lii. No. 3011. X. 11. Ibid. vol. xxxvi. No. 2145. X. 12. Lyman Abbott, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lviii. p. 123. X. 13. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iii. No. 140. X. 14, 15. Ibid. vol. xxxix. No. 2327. X. 14-17. C. S. Home, Relationships of Life, p. 139.
The time had now arrived when it was necessary for Addison to choose a calling. Everything seemed to point his course towards the clerical profession. His habits were regular, his opinions orthodox. His college had large ecclesiastical preferment in its gift and boasts that it has given at least one bishop to almost every see in England. Dr. Lancelot Addison held an honourable position in the Church, and had set his heart on seeing his son a clergyman.
Compare Earle's description in his Microcosmography of the career of a younger brother. 'If his annuity stretch so far, he is sent to the university, and with great heartburning takes upon him the ministry, as a profession he is condemned to by his ill fortune.'
References. X. 15. H. R. Heywood, Sermons and Addresses, p. 138. A. P. Stanley, Canterbury Sermons, p. 1. J. Baines, Sermons, p. 86.
The Roman senators conspired against Julius Cæsar, to kill him. That very next morning, Artemidorus, Caesar's friend, delivered him a paper, desiring him to peruse it, wherein the whole plot was discovered; but Caesar complimented his life away, being so taken up to return the salutations of such people as met him in the way, that he pocketed the paper, among other petitions, as unconcerned therein; and so, going to the senate-house, was slain. The world, flesh, and devil have a design for the destruction of men; we ministers bring our people a letter, God's Word, wherein all the conspiracy is revealed. 'But who hath believed our report? 'Most men are so busy about worldly delights, they are not at leisure to listen to us or read the letter; but there, alas I run headlong to their own ruin and destruction.
References. X. 16. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlviii. No. 2804. X. 17. W. E. Barton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. li. p. 83. W. H. Hutchings, Sermon Sketches, p. 228. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xviii. No. 1031. Expositor (6th Series), vol. vi. p. 6. X. 20, 21. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iv. No. 207. X. 21. J. Keble, Sermons for the Holy Week, p. 126. X. 25. Expositor (6th Series), vol. iv. p. 439. XI. 1. Ibid. vol. xi. p. 40. XI. 2. H. Jones, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliv. p. 138. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ix. p. 422.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Romans 10". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Easter