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I. We are all liable at various times to be troubled with perplexities about our duty, not because we find it hard or unpleasant, but because we cannot clearly see our way, and this perplexity sometimes amounts to something like darkness, and causes much fear. It is sometimes a doubt about the past, whether we have done right, and sometimes about the present, whether we are in the right way, and sometimes about the future, what we are henceforward to do. Such scruples and perplexities are sent or are permitted to come, it matters not which, by God; and it is intended that with these, as with all other opportunities that come in our way, we should fulfil some end which God would have fulfilled, and their purpose is too plain to be mistaken for a moment.
II. Scruples or difficulties which come in the way of duty are of the wrong kind; they are perversions of conscience, and they require a satisfaction which we have no right to ask. Very often they ask to have settled by reason what really is a matter of feeling. Very often they ask to be blessed with feelings which God chooses to give or withhold at His own pleasure, and which we cannot demand at our pleasure. The time is spent in lamenting past sins which ought to be spent in attending to present duties; the heart is given up to fears which ought to be given up to God; weak regret takes the place of vigorous resolution; longings for a sense of God's presence, or for a sense of our own love, fill up our souls when we ought to be proving our love by the proof which He has named, that is, keeping His commandments. All such scruples and such inward difficulties are not healthy, and to indulge them is not right.
III. We should consider whether these inward questionings elevate the general tone of our minds, not merely for the discharge of immediate duties, but for the formation of higher and nobler purposes in life. Unless this be the case, these self-questionings are simply of no use whatever. There were no men in the whole of the world's history who devoted themselves more entirely to questions of this sort than the Jewish Pharisees. And it ended in their case with the grossest and worst hypocrisy. Something of the same sort is very possible still. And the only way to avoid it is always to press the gaze of our consciences towards God and God's will rather than towards ourselves.
Bishop Temple, Rugby Sermons p. 101
Liberty is one of the ideas on which the progress of mankind depends. It is now said that liberty is not only an indefinite term, but that it is nothing more than a negation. We are told, in order to prove its indefiniteness, that it has meant different things to different people and at different times, and that, if you ask a number of persons, they will give different explanations of it according to their prejudices or desires. And that is true enough. But all the same, it does not prove that the idea is indefinite in itself. It is the characteristic of any large idea to take different forms at different times: in fact, it must do so it is the characteristic of an idea to grow as mankind advances, and its form is therefore sure to change. Outwardly, it must always be in a condition of weaving and unweaving, of ebb and flow, of birth and death. But if people took the trouble, they could at any time arrive at its root and express that in a definite statement. That is the work of the student.
I. The idea of liberty on the side of religion is founded on the fact that God has made each one of us a distinct person; that we each possess, and are bound to act up to, an individuality. I have an intellect, heart, character, and life of my own, modified by circumstances and by the influences of others, but my own; and I have a body of thought as the result of this, which I have a more absolute right to than I have to my property, and which I am bound to express by a stronger duty than that which binds me to my property. Why is that? From the religious point of view I answer, Because it is God who has made you an individual. It is He Himself who, in you, has made you a representative of a distinct phase of His being, a doer of a distinct part of His work. If anything is remarkable in Christianity, it is the way in which it gave an impulse to individual thought and to the freedom of self-development.
II. But this development is impossible if thought and its expression are restrained. For a father to do that for his child is bad enough for a state or a church to do it for a large number of their subjects is worse still; and whenever this liberty is repressed by force of arms, those who do it are fighting against God. And men have always felt this and every struggle for liberty of thought becomes a religious one, and ought to be considered as such. We hold then, (1) that God practically says to man, "Fight out every question; I give you absolute freedom of thought on them, and I wish you to use it." On the whole, and often by reason of the very elements which seem to oppose it, there has been in this world a fierce freedom of discussion and thought, and it has had its source in God. (2) We hold, secondly, since God guides the world, that, however fierce the battle, and however confusing the chaos of opinions, the best and noblest thing will in the end prevail, and its idea in its right and perfect form stand clear at last and be recognised by all. And when all the ideas which are necessary for man to believe and act on have gone through this long series of experiments, and are known and loved by all, then will the race be perfect.
III. Now, these things, being believed, are a ground of the idea of liberty I have put forward. We ought to fall in with the method of God's education of the race, and the way to do it is for the state in public life, and for ourselves in social and private life, to give perfect liberty of thought and its expression on all possible subjects. "But if we allow absolute freedom of thought and expression we do not produce any clear ideas on any subject, only a chaos of opinions as, for example, on the subject of Liberty." That is only too likely to be your view, if you do not believe in a God who is educating the race. And you are driven back, having no faith or hope, on the plan of authority; but the true lover of liberty, who believes in God as a Divine and guiding Spirit in men, has not only hope, but certainty that a solution will be found. He knows that the best and highest view of the idea will in the end prevail, and that the more liberty of discussion he gives, even of evil and dangerous opinions, the sooner will the solution be arrived at.
S. A. Brooke, The Fight of Faith, p. 99.
Liberty at Home.
I. If is the habit of some parents, not only to check, but even to forbid the expression of opinion on the part of their sons and daughters long after they have reached an age when they ought to be able and to be encouraged to think for themselves. As long as their opinions are the mere echoes of those that rule the household nothing is said, but the moment they differ from them restriction comes in. Such a household lives under a paternal despotism, a government which may have some good results as long as the children are quite young, but the results of which are evil in a home when the age of childhood is passed as they are evil in a state when the age of barbarism has been gone through. For if this kind of despotism succeeds, either through love or through violence, and you have imposed your opinions and your character on your children, what have you done? You have crushed that which was individual in them, their own views. They are not themselves; they have never known what they are, and of course they have no original power and can make no progress. Their life is dull, their thoughts conventional, and they become in after life only one addition the more to the rolled pebbles on the beach of society. And if English parents were all to follow the same plan, or if English children did not continually break through this plan, our society would soon sink into the prolonged infancy of a society like that of China, and all the progress of the nation and of the race of man, so far as England sets it forward, be stopped. That would be the result of complete success, and it is just the same in states as it is in families.
II. Having freedom, your children will not abuse it, for they will not only love you, which counts for nothing in these matters, but have real friendship for you, which does; and it will be a friendship which will since you have accustomed them to weigh evidence frankly give its full weight to your longer experience. Then, too, they will never be exposed to those violent religious shocks which come on young men and young women who have been hidden away from the difficulties of the day, and who are often utterly overwhelmed when they come out into the world. A boy so trained is not likely to have all his religion knocked on the head, like many weak persons at their first entrance into controversy. Nor is he much horrified with himself if he does doubt or get in some religious darkness, for he has been taught by his father that God is educating him, and that in the end he must see truth. He does not then give up the battle, for his whole training makes him love God too well for that; but he is not in a great hurry, nor is he ever in despair. He watches and waits when he cannot see his way; he is ready to move forward when he does; he has a great faith to support him that he is God's for ever, and that God will make the best opinion prevalent both for him and the world. And through all, his "parents" who have always reverenced his soul, always given his questioning intelligence and soul freedom of expression, always looked forward to, and when it came accepted, even with joy, the time when he would emancipate himself from the narrower interests and say, "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" remain his friends, trusted, believed in, communicated with. He owes to them the greatest gift one man can owe to another, independence of mind, and at the root of life a noble, religious faith faith that God has chosen him to be a living individual person, and that He will make him perfect in the end.
S. A. Brooke, The Fight of Faith, p. 118.
References: Romans 14:5 . T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. v., p. 23.Romans 14:5 , Romans 14:6 . F. W. Robertson, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 160.
I. Look at the text as it is interpreted for us by the section of the Epistle to the Romans in which it is found. That section is devoted to an elucidation of the principles by which the early Christians were to be guided as to their observance or non-observance of particular festival days and as to their abstinence or non-abstinence from certain kinds of meats and drinks. "None of us," says the Apostle, "liveth to himself." However it may be with others, none of us Christians liveth unto himself. Each of us has accepted Christ as his Redeemer and Lord, and is seeking in all things to serve Him, so if one eateth, he eateth unto the Lord, and if another eateth not, he eateth not unto the Lord. Because we are seeking to live to Christ, there is, in reference to all matters indifferent, perfect liberty to the individual conscience, and no one has a right to judge or set at nought another for doing that of which he is fully persuaded in his own mind, and which he is seeking to do as unto the Lord. Not our own pleasure, but rather the glory of Christ and the edification and peace and progress of the brotherhood, is to be made the rule of our lives.
II. Consider the text as an inevitable condition of human existence. No man's life terminates on himself alone, but each of us exerts an influence through his character and conduct upon all with whom he comes in contact. Make haste, then, and see whether the effect of your life on others is good or evil; and if evil, seek for goodness and renewal at the hand of Christ.
III. Read the text as it expresses the deliberate purpose of every genuine Christian. The true believer forswears self. From the moment of his conversion his whole being runs Christward. The volume of the river may be small at first, but, small as it is, its direction is decided, and it gathers magnitude as it flows, for it drains the valley of his life. He keeps himself for Christ, because he owes everything to Christ.
W. M. Taylor, Contrary Winds, p. 341.
References: Romans 14:7 , Romans 14:8 . R. S. Candlish, Sermons, p. 250; J. H. Thom, Laws of Life, vol. ii., p. 331; S. Martin, Comfort in Trouble, p. 190; D. Moore, Penny Pulpit, No. 3057.
I. First among the causes of the gospel's triumph, if it be not rather the sole cause, is that the belief in the crucifixion and resurrection was not a bare profession, but a real inward life. That some new principle was really working in and fashioning the minds of believers is always assumed by the apostles, and not in the way of a heated enthusiasm, in which the mind projects the colours of its tainted eyesight upon the facts it sees, but as calmly as we could speak of the transactions of the parliament, the law-court, or the exchange. Young lads and tender women, common workmen and slaves, showed that a new spring moved all their actions; and those who came in contact with them, if they had in their hearts any germ of good at all, must have felt the influence of this moral supremacy. And can we find any other solution of this change than the simplest of all, that Christ was keeping His promise of being ever with His disciples? It was God who wrought in them; it was the promised Spirit of God that guided them; it was the Lord of the dead and living who was sitting at the right hand of God and helping and communing with those whom the Father had given Him.
II. Supposing the Divine agency to be admitted, then it follows that our Lord's nature is Divine. God cannot have been working for so many centuries in the Church causing men to bring forth fruits of righteousness in order to confirm in the earth an idolatrous delusion. Had the Church of Christ been perpetuating that worst of errors, taking the glory of God and transferring it to another, long since would the fountains of grace have been dried up from it, and the spiritual rains of heaven would have refused to refresh it until its idolatry was purged away. But we may bow the knee in His name, we may look up to Him on His Divine throne, we may say with Thomas, "My Lord and my God," because the steady fulfilment of His promises and the streams and blessing ever derived from Him by His Church assure us that His account of His Divine relation to the Father is the very truth.
Archbishop Thomson, Lincoln's Inn Sermons, p. 109.
Reference: Romans 14:7-9 . J. Duncan, The Pulpit and Communion Table, p. 249.
I. What is meant by this strange word "unto"? We live "unto the Lord." It seems to impart at once into the phrase an air of unfamiliarity if not of actual unreality. I will try and explain this. The right and full understanding of it indeed would make any one a master of St. Paul's philosophy, but some understanding of it we all may win.
II. We have very close relations with each other. No one saw more clearly than St. Paul that religion was bound to take these relations into account, to illuminate and sanctify them. Christ's religion is above all others the religion of humanity. But St. Paul knew very well that the religion which is based only on men's relations to one another would be a very imperfect one; for there is a third element in religion which must never be absent, and that is God. By the word unto, live unto the Lord, St. Paul embodies the relation between these three great elements. Live, he says, and perform all your duties to society and to one another; and the way to do so is to live unto the Lord. You are to live with men, for men, but with your thoughts reaching out unto God. These real personal relations between your individual soul and God are not to be sacrificed to your duties to one another; nay, more, you cannot live as St. Paul bids you live, until you live unto God, with your eyes and thoughts and prayers turned to Him.
III. Consider how a real living obedience to the command to live unto the Lord would affect our lives here in our present society. (1) To live means with us all to work. Work in one form or other occupies a large part of our lives. Do you not think it would make a great difference to any man if he felt that all his work was done unto the Lord, not unto men? It would make his work trustworthy; discontent would have no place; consciously superficial work would be impossible, for our work is done for the eye of our Master in heaven. (2) Again, think what dignity it adds to labour. We are working under our Master's eye, and no work that He gives us is petty or uninteresting. (3) An honest endeavour to grasp this conception is the greatest possible help against positive downright sins; it gives calmness, hopefulness, and the courage of a soul at rest.
J. M. Wilson, Sermons in Clifton College Chapel, p. 52.
I. Note, first, that St. Paul feels and acknowledges the difference that separates the fundamental question of the faith of Christ from those of merely subordinate importance. That Christ, the commissioned Son of God, and Himself God manifest in the flesh, is the sole hope of the believer, exclusive of all reference to human merit; that if man will be just before the living God, it is only in and through Christ that he can be accepted as such; that His work is a complete work, to which man can add nothing, but from which man receives everything; that this is the cardinal fact of the religion which God brought from heaven to earth, and that in this, as in a germ, is enfolded the whole glorious story of eternity, St. Paul insists, reiterates, enforces. But in minor differences of view the principle of charity, wrought by the belief of the main and fundamental, is the guiding star.
II. The "Lord" here spoken of is at once Christ and God. Unto Him, as Christians, we are called upon to live; He who is the principle of our spiritual life is also made the object of it, as the vapours of the ocean supply the rivers that return unto the ocean itself. Unto Him, as Christians, we are called upon to die; He who died for us is made the object of our death likewise. To live unto God is but to return Him His own right in the human heart, to concentrate on Him those affections which originally were formed for Him alone. What is it but to know that even while this shadowy world encompasses us there is around and above it a scene real, substantial, and eternal a scene adequate, and at this moment adequate, to answer all the ardent longings of our bereaved souls a scene in which every holier affection, widowed and blighted here, is to be met and satisfied? To live in this belief, this hope; to read in the death of Christ death itself lost in immortality; to make the God of the New Testament the friend, the companion, the consoler of all earthly sorrow; to feel the brightest colours of ordinary life fade in the glory that shall be revealed, this is to live the life that heralds the immortality unto God.
W. Archer Butler, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 17.
The Christian Idea of Life.
I. "To the Lord we live; to the Lord we die." That idea of life is founded on the great truth expressed in the previous verse "For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself." In one aspect that is a universal and inevitable law. We are not separate beings, linked only together by outward ties or for selfish purposes. We are not lonely men floating in the stream of time, just now and again in transient companionship with our fellows. Our life is, and must be, part of a larger life, the life of humanity; for by mysterious chains of influence we are bound to each other and to the world. Now, Paul says that what all other men must do unconsciously the Christian does consciously. Unable to live entirely for himself, he chooses not to live for himself at all. He gives the law its highest meaning in voluntarily dedicating his life and death as one perpetual offering to God, and living thus, he lives most nobly as a blessing to society.
II. The motive by which this consecration may be realised. This is given us in the verse which follows our text: "For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that He might be the Lord both of the dead and living." It is from Christ's lordship over life, therefore, that the inspiration springs by which we are enabled to dedicate our whole lives. There are two aspects of this lordship. (1) By the power of His love Christ is Lord over our voluntary life. Among our fellow-men we recognise a kinghood of souls. There are those whom we reverence as spiritual leaders, to whom we yield a loving homage. We rejoice to look up to those greater spirits for guidance and help, and in a sense they reign over us. But far more profoundly is this true with regard to Christ. (2) The second aspect is Christ's lordship over the inevitable events of life. All things are given into His hands. He is King over our whole histories. Our disappointments, failures, sorrows, "death's agonies and fears," are known to and sympathised with by Him. Does not this form a glorious inspiration to surrender?
E. L. Hull, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 74.
References: Romans 14:8 . Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 162.Romans 14:9 . Parker, Hidden Springs, p. 332; R. S. Candlish, Sermons, p. 266; S. Martin, Comfort in Trouble, p. 204; R. S. Candlish, Sermons, p. 266. Romans 14:10 . Church of England Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 165; Todd, Lectures to Children, p. 62; F. W. Robertson, The Human Race, p. 134; Parker, City Temple, vol. ii., p. 289. Romans 14:11 . Plain Sermons, vol. iv., p. 259. Romans 14:12 . E. Garbett, Experiences of the Inner Life, p. 74; H. P. Liddon, Advent Sermons, vol. i., p. 383; R. W. Church, Church of England Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 365; H. W. Beecher, Sermons, vol. ii., p. 131; Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. viii., p. 245; Outline Sermons to Children, p. 217; G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 347. Romans 14:16 . W. Ince, Church of England Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 344.
In this verse of Scripture joy is not the first but the last of three. Joy is the home in which the pilgrim rests; righteousness and peace are the paths by which he reaches it.
I. Righteousness. It is the want of righteousness, or guilt, that disturbs our peace or damps our joy. Here lies the root of the ailment, and here, therefore, must the cure begin. A righteousness suitable to our need must obviously consist of two parts the evil must be removed and the good imparted. Christ's sacrifice and work correspond to this twofold need of guilty man. His death blots out the guilt, and His life becomes the righteousness of His believing people. Christ personally is everything in the gospel.
II. Peace enjoyed flows from righteousness possessed. When I have righteousness then I have peace. The peace of which the text speaks dwells on earth, but it has been produced there by another peace which has its home in heaven. It is when God is at peace with me that I am at peace with God. When His anger is turned away my confidence in Him begins. I need not cherish my dread when He has taken His wrath away. When peace is proclaimed from the judgment-seat to me, peace echoes from my glad heart up to heaven again.
III. Joy in the Holy Ghost. Here at last is the thing we have been seeking all our days; it is joy, or happiness. There are two conditions possible to a human soul in this life: the one, to be in sin and at enmity with God; the other, to be righteous in Christ's righteousness, and at peace with God through the blood of the Cross. In respect of the happiness which these two conditions yield, they are related as night and day are related in respect to light. In the region nearest us, and at certain times, they may approach or seem to approach an equality. The night sometimes, through moon and stars and wintry meteors, has a good deal of light in it; and the day sometimes, through rising smoke and hovering clouds, has a good deal of darkness in it. A night of many stars may seem brighter than a day of many clouds; but the night is notwithstanding far different from day. Immortal souls in sin and under wrath may have many bright joys as they traverse this life, but their joys are only sparks on the surface of an eternal night; on the other hand, Christian disciples may have many sorrows, but these are only clouds hovering in the thin atmosphere of earth, hiding heaven from view for the moment, but leaving all the eternity beyond an undimmed, unending light.
W. Arnot, Family Treasury, July, 1861.
References: Romans 14:17 . Parker, City Temple, 1871, p. 445; G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 97.
Romans 14:19 (R.V.)
I. This was wise counsel, and counsel that we cannot doubt was in accordance with the mind of Christ. But it has not been much heeded in the Church. Of course there have been peaceable and charitable spirits here and there, who have looked with kindliness and respect on those from whom they have differed in opinion or practice, who have even been willing to receive and to honour as brethren all who loved the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, and have been honestly trying to do His work. But the disposition to follow the things that make for strife, and by which one may be set at variance with another, has been, perhaps, more common than the disposition to follow the things which make for peace, and by which we may edify one another.
II. Let us endeavour to be both just and generous in all our relations with those who serve the same Master as ourselves, and in all our criticisms and our judgments upon them. I do not mean at all that we should disguise and conceal our convictions on questions of great though not of the greatest importance, because those convictions may not commend themselves to our neighbours. We are not bound to do that. We are not even at liberty to do it. But we may be persuaded, and we may say with all humility that we think we have learned from the Lord Jesus, that certain conceptions of the Church, and of the nature of religion and of duty, which we hold and cling to, are more in harmony with His will than other conceptions which are held and cherished by our neighbours. We may be persuaded of this, and yet abstain from everything that can engender strifes, keeping ever, strong as our convictions may be, and clear and uncompromising though we may be in the avowal of them, "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." That is to be our aim. In view of the controversies of our time it is incumbent on us to take heed to ourselves, lest in defending what we think to be truth we break the peace and sin against the law of charity, which is the supreme law of the kingdom of God.
H. Arnold Thomas, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxx., p. 379.
References: Romans 14:19 . J. Irons, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. xvi., p. 341.Romans 14:20 . Saturday Evening, p. 28. Romans 14:22 . G. E. L. Cotton, Sermons and Addresses in Marlborough College, p. 386. Romans 15:1 . H. W. Beecher, Sermons, 1st series, p. 113.
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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Romans 14". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany