Tuesday, May 30th, 2023
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
Simeon's Horae Homileticae Horae Homileticae
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Romans 10". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ shh/ romans-10.html. 1832.
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Romans 10". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
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PAUL’S LOVE TO HIS BRETHREN
Romans 10:1. Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
TO seek the salvation of our fellow-creatures is but an unthankful office. The intimations which we are obliged to give them respecting their guilt and danger, are considered by them as uncharitable censures, rather than as friendly admonitions; and thus we call forth only the resentment of those, whose eternal interests we are most anxious to promote. St. Paul, who was most abundant in labours for the salvation of his brethren, experienced, beyond all others, their hatred and contempt. Aware that this would be the effect of his exertions, he was always studious to counteract it; and scarcely ever mentioned an offensive truth, without testifying, by some following observations, that it was dictated by love. Throughout the whole Epistle to the Romans, this appears in a very striking light. Having shewn, in the second chapter, that the Jews, notwithstanding their being in covenant with God by circumcision, were as much in need of salvation as the idolatrous and abandoned Gentiles, he corrects the apparent severity of his remarks, by saying, “What advantage then hath the Jew? Much every way [Note: Romans 2:28-29. with 3:1, 2.].” Proceeding afterwards to shew that the law could not justify any man, and fearing that he might on that account be thought an enemy to the law, he removes all ground for that suspicion; “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law [Note: Romans 3:28. with 31.].” Comparing afterwards his connexion with the law to the state of a woman that has lost her husband, who is therefore at liberty to be married to another; and observing, that sin took occasion from the law itself to bring forth fruit unto death; he guards them against imagining that he meant thereby to cast any reflection upon the law, as though it was itself sinful; “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid [Note: Romans 7:1-6. with 7.].” Having yet further, in the prosecution of his argument, asserted, that the incapacity of the law to save men was the reason of God’s sending his own Son to save them, he (after some enlargement on this subject) appeals to God in the most solemn manner, that, instead of speaking these things from any ill will to his Jewish brethren, he “could wish himself even accursed from Christ for them,” if by that means they might be saved [Note: Romans 8:3. with 9:1–5.]. Thus also, in the passage before us, having shewn that the Gentiles were admitted into the Church and made partakers of salvation, while the Jews were cast out, he assures them that nothing could be more adverse to his wishes than this awful dispensation; “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
The same caution would we also use in ministering to you the Gospel of Christ. We are of necessity obliged to declare to you many unwelcome truths: but God knoweth, that our only motive in declaring them is, to benefit and save your souls; and that, while that is the object of our public ministrations, it is also the frequent subject of our secret prayers.
Let us, in elucidating our text, consider,
What it was that the Apostle desired in their behalf—
St. Paul had no wish to proselyte men to a party, or to procure followers to himself—
His object was to “save” them—
[Salvation comprehends not only a deliverance from all the penal effects of sin, but a restoration to the favour and image of God, and an exaltation to all the glory and felicity of heaven — — —
This is the greatest of all blessings. The concerns of time and sense are of no value in comparison of it: yea, crowns, kingdoms, worlds, are lighter than vanity itself — — — It is a blessing which all equally stand in need of. There is no man that is not a sinner before God, and therefore no man that is not exposed to his everlasting displeasure. Though men may differ with respect to the degrees of their guilt, there is no difference whatever with respect to their liableness to the wrath of God, and their need of his saving mercy — — — It is a blessing, without which existence itself will prove a curse. If those who did not partake of it could be annihilated, or if there were a purgatory, where those who die unprepared for it may be rendered fit to enjoy it, we might account our present life a blessing. But there are two states, in the one or other of which all must be fixed for ever: and they who enjoy not the felicity of heaven, must endure for ever the miseries of hell. Let us consider for a moment what those miseries are, and we shall need nothing more to shew us the value of salvation — — —]
This object lay near his heart, and called forth his most earnest exertions—
[He was not contented to obtain salvation himself: he was anxious for the welfare of his fellow-creatures, and laid to heart their interests, as though they were his own — — — Nor did he rest satisfied with good wishes and desires: he laboured with incredible assiduity and self-denial, suffering all things cheerfully, not excepting imprisonments and death itself, for the advancement of their happiness [Note: 2 Corinthians 11:23-29. 2 Timothy 2:10.] — — — In secret also did he “labour fervently for them in prayer night and day.” He knew the efficacy of intercession; and therefore besought God, with strong crying and tears, to take the veil from their hearts, and to enlighten them with the saving knowledge of his truth — — —]
For our own information, it will be proper to inquire,
In what way he directed them to seek it—
The whole Epistle to the Romans was written with the express view of setting forth the way of salvation. It shews at large that we are fallen and ruined creatures; that God has sent his only-begotten Son into the world to redeem us; and that all who would be saved, must seek for mercy through his meritorious blood and righteousness. But in a more peculiar and emphatical manner did he urge these truths in that part from whence our text is taken.
He shewed them that they must found all their hopes on Christ alone—
[Consult the preceding context. There he states a matter of fact well known to all; namely, that the idolatrous and abandoned Gentiles, who had never thought about salvation, had been prevailed upon to seek after it, and had actually attained it, because they were willing to accept it in God’s appointed way, by faith in Christ alone: whereas the Jews, who had shewn considerable attention to the concerns of their souls, had failed of attaining salvation, because they disdained to seek it in this way. He tells them, that this fact agreed with the prophecies, which actually foretold this very event, and declared (many hundred years before) that Christ would thus become a stumbling-block to that self-righteous people [Note: Romans 9:30-33.].
The same he sets forth also in the following context. He confesses that his Jewish brethren had a zeal to serve God; but it was a mistaken zeal. In three things they fatally erred: they were ignorant of the plan which God had devised for justifying sinners—they were seeking to establish a righteousness of their own, by which they might be justified before him—and when a better righteousness was proposed to them, even the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, they would not trust in it, or submit to be saved in such an humiliating way—That these were errors, even the law itself might teach them; for “Christ was the end of the law for righteousness:” He was the very object to whom both the ceremonial and moral law directed them, for the obtaining of such a righteousness as should justify them before God: and this righteousness they were to obtain by faith in him. The moral law shut them up to this method of obtaining salvation, because it denounced nothing but curses against every one that had violated it even in a single instance [Note: Galatians 3:10; Galatians 3:23-24.]: and the ceremonial law taught them to look to that Great Sacrifice which Christ was in due time to offer for the sins of the whole world [Note: ver. 2–4.].
Thus plainly did he direct them unto Christ, as their only, and all-sufficient Saviour.]
In pointing them thus to Christ, he did most effectually consult their everlasting welfare—
[The way of salvation by faith in Christ is plain, suitable, safe, and glorious. Nothing can be more plain. Suppose a person about to be imprisoned for debt has that debt discharged by a surety; he will see as clear as the light what is the true ground of his deliverance. Such then is the deliverance which we have by Christ — — — And this way of salvation is suitable. If you were to propose any other method whatever, it would be altogether unsuitable for fallen man — — — but this is suited to the greatest of sinners; and that too even in their dying hour — — — How safe it is, must appear to all who consider that Christ is God equal with the Father; that he assumed our nature, and died upon the cross, on purpose to make atonement for us; and that the promise and oath of Jehovah are pledged for the acceptance of all who truly believe in Christ — — — And glorious will it be found to all eternity, inasmuch as all the perfections of the Deity are honoured by it, and the happiness of all that shall be saved is enhanced by it beyond all calculation or conception — — —]
Those who are careless about their souls—
[We are bound to desire and pray for your salvation: and we hope that in some small measure we can adopt respecting you the language of the text. But you must desire salvation, and pray to God for it yourselves; or else it will be in vain ever to expect it. We appeal to you, Whether God will or can bestow it upon those who are too proud to ask for it, and too thoughtless to desire it?]
Those who are seeking salvation, but in a mistaken way—
[Do not think it sufficient that you desire to be saved; or that you are zealous in seeking after salvation. The Jews were not only zealous in their way, but confident that they were right; and yet never attained the object of their pursuit. Remember, you must be humbled; you must be contrite; you must rely on Christ alone — — —]
Those who have obtained mercy of the Lord—
[While we desire, and pray to God for, the salvation of others, we rejoice and bless our God for you. We consider the prosperity of your souls as the richest recompence of our labours. Ye have “received Christ Jesus the Lord:” see to it then that ye “walk in him,” and “abide in him,” and “cleave unto him with full purpose of heart.”]
CHRIST THE END OF THE LAW FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS
Romans 10:4. Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
ZEAL, if directed to a good object, is highly commendable: as the Apostle says, “It is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing.” In reference to the concerns of religion, it is indispensably necessary for all who would approve themselves to God: “Whatever our hand findeth to do, we should do it with our might.” But in proportion to its value when operating in a good cause, is the danger of it, when engaged on the side of error. This appears from the havoc which Paul in his unconverted state made of the Christian Church; purely from a desire to render, as he thought, an acceptable service to the Lord. Such, alas! is yet the zeal of too many: it is well-intentioned, but blind, and ignorant, and injurious: nevertheless, such a zeal, conscientiously exercised, at all times deserves respect, and should be treated with respect even by those who suffer from it. The conduct of the Apostle towards the unbelieving Jews was, in this point of view, worthy of universal imitation. He was constrained to tell them that they were in error, and that their error was replete with danger to their souls: but he told them of it in terms as conciliatory as love could dictate, or language could afford. He assured them, that they were objects of his tenderest regard, and that he felt the deepest anxiety for their welfare. He even bare testimony in their behalf, that, in the zeal they manifested, they had an unfeigned desire to serve God: but unhappily they were mistaken in their views of the Mosaic law, which was never intended to afford them a justifying righteousness, but was designed rather to lead them to that very Jesus whom they so hated and despised, and who was indeed “the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.”
The information here given to them is of vital importance to every child of man. To place it in a just point of view, we propose to shew,
What is that righteousness which God has provided for fallen man—
In the verse preceding our text, mention is twice made of “the righteousness of God;” by which expression we are not to understand that attribute of the Deity which we call righteousness, but that way of obtaining righteousness and salvation which God has provided for sinful men. In this sense the expression is used in other parts of this epistle, especially in the third chapter; where it is said, “The righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets, even the righteousness of God which is unto all, and upon all, them that believe [Note: Romans 3:21-22.].” But,
What kind of righteousness is this?
[However much God may graciously desire the salvation of men, we cannot for a moment imagine, that for the attainment of it he will disregard the claims, and violate the rights, of justice, or holiness, or truth. We may be sure, that, if he has provided a righteousness for man, that righteousness will be found consistent with all his perfections, and with the honour of his moral government. How such a righteousness could be devised, was far beyond the reach of finite wisdom to conceive: but God’s wisdom is infinite; and he has, by the substitution of his own Son in the place of sinners, provided precisely such a righteousness as was worthy of God, and suited to the necessities of man. The law required obedience, and denounced death as the penalty of one single transgression. Man transgressed its commands, and became obnoxious to its curse. Before he could be restored to the favour of his God, the penalty must be inflicted, and the obedience paid. But this it was impossible for man to do, seeing that the penalty was everlasting death; and man was despoiled of all power to do the will of God. Therefore God was pleased to send his co-equal, co-eternal Son into the world, that, as man’s substitute, he might endure the curse which we had merited, and render the obedience which we owed. Thus, by this wonderful contrivance, every obstacle to man’s salvation is removed. Must the penalty denounced against sin be inflicted? It has been inflicted on God’s only dear Son. Must the law be fulfilled in all its extent? It has been fulfilled to the uttermost by him. So that to those who have him for their surety, there is a plea in arrest of judgment; a plea, which God himself will admit, as just, and adequate, and perfectly consistent with his own honour.]
And where shall we find this righteousness?
[It is treasured up for us in Christ Jesus; who, having been sent into the world, “to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness [Note: Daniel 9:24.],” executed the work assigned him: and, being now constituted the Head of his Church, and having all fulness of spiritual blessings treasured up in him for our use, he imparts this righteousness to every one who truly believes in him. Indeed, he is himself made righteousness unto them; as St. Paul has said, “He is of God made unto us wisdom, and righteousness [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:30.].” This shews how we are to understand that declaration of the Prophet Jeremiah, “This is the name whereby he shall be called, The Lord our Righteousness [Note: Jeremiah 23:6.].” We are not merely to compliment our Saviour with this title, but really and truly to rely upon him in this particular view, as possessing in himself all that righteousness whereby we are to be justified, and as imparting it to all, who are united to him by faith. In a word, we must all “look unto him in order to obtain salvation,” and, with an express recollection, that all which we have is not in ourselves, but in him, “we must say, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength [Note: Isaiah 45:22; Isaiah 45:24.].”]
What an agreement there is between the Old and the New Testament in relation to this righteousness, will appear, whilst we shew,
How the law itself directs us to it—
Had the Jews understood the true import of their own law, they would never have rejected Christ: for he was the very scope and end,
Of the moral law—
[The law, when given to man in innocence, was intended to justify him, if he should continue to obey it to the termination of the period destined for his probation. But when once he had fallen, there was no possibility of his ever obtaining justification by it. We, as partakers of his guilt and corruption, are in the same predicament with him: “in him we have died;” and, if ever we obtain life, we must seek it in the way pointed out to him, even in that “Seed of the woman that was in due time to bruise the serpent’s head.” St. Paul tells us, that, “if there had been a law given, which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law [Note: Galatians 3:21.].” But this being impossible, (since man in his fallen state could not fulfil it, nor could God, consistently with his own holiness, relax its demands,) God re-published it from Mount Sinai, to shew unto men how greatly they had departed from it, and to drive them by its terrors to that Refuge which he had prepared for them. That these were the true ends for which the law was given, is expressly asserted: St. Paul puts the question, “Wherefore then serveth the law?” And he answers it by saying, that “it was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should, come to whom the promise was made.” It was given to convince them of their transgressions, to stop their mouths with a sense of their guilt and misery [Note: Galatians 3:19. with Romans 3:19-20.]; and to “shut them up unto the faith that should afterwards be revealed.” In a word, instead of ever being given to afford a ground of hope to men by their obedience to it, it was intended “to be a schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith [Note: Galatians 3:22-24.].” Haw it effected this, may be seen in the Apostle Paul, whose hopes it utterly destroyed, and whom it constrained to seek acceptance through Christ alone [Note: Romans 7:9.].]
Of the ceremonial law—
[This, it is true, was appointed to make an atonement for sins, so far as to screen the transgressor from the penalties that were to be inflicted by the civil magistrate. But it never really took away sin: “it was not possible for the blood of bulls and of goats to take away sins [Note: Hebrews 10:4.].” The annual repetition of the same sacrifices shewed, that “they could not make a man perfect as pertaining to the conscience:” they were, in fact, only “remembrances of sins made every year,” in order to direct men to that Great Sacrifice, which should in due time be offered, and which alone could effect reconciliation for us with our offended God [Note: Hebrews 9:9-10; Hebrews 10:3-4.]. The very circumstance of the ceremonial law making no provision for the expiation of presumptuous sin, shewed that it could not answer the necessities of fallen man [Note: Numbers 15:30.]. Hence the Apostle tells us, that the law was only a “shadow of good things to come [Note: Hebrews 10:1.];” a shadow, of which Christ was the body [Note: Colossians 2:17.]. Agreeably to this, the most noted types of Christ are expressly applied to him, as having in his own person fulfilled their office, and abrogated their use. The paschal lamb proclaimed to Israel, that unless their houses were sprinkled with its blood, they would fall by the sword of the destroying angel: and St. Paul says to us, that “Christ, our passover, is sacrificed for us [Note: 1 Corinthians 5:7.].” Again, the lamb offered every morning and evening in sacrifice, we are told, shadowed forth the Lord Jesus Christ, as the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world [Note: Revelation 13:8.],” even that “Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world [Note: John 1:29.].” In a word, all the sacrifices proclaim to us this truth, that “without shedding of blood there is no remission.”
Thus it appears, that neither the moral nor ceremonial law could provide us with any righteousness wherein we might stand before God; but that both the one and the other directed us to Christ, “in whom alone all the seed of Israel can be justified, and in whom alone they must glory [Note: Isaiah 45:25.].”]
But it remains yet to be inquired,
In what way we are to be made partakers of it—
In reference to this there exist amongst us, even as among the Jews, the most fatal mistakes.
The great mass of those who feel a concern about their souls, seek for righteousness by the works of the law—
[As for those who really think that their own works have such an exalted merit in them, as to deserve heaven of themselves without any reference whatever to Christ, we would fondly hope, that they are very rarely to be found amongst us. But there are two ways in which men, whilst they profess some reliance upon Christ, do in reality make their own works the foundation of their hopes; namely, by looking for salvation by their works for Christ’s sake, or by Christ for their works’ sake. There are a great many shades of difference between persons who may be arranged under these two heads, and many nice distinctions have been drawn in order to shew the various delusions which men harbour in their minds in reference to this subject: but all this different classes may be safely reduced to these two.
Let us pause a moment, to consider whether we ourselves do not belong to the one or other of them.
There are many who, as we have said, seek salvation by their works for Christ’s sake. They will not go so far as to say, that Christ has done nothing for man’s salvation: on the contrary, they think that they are much indebted to him; for that to him they owe it, that their imperfect obedience shall be accepted for their justification before God. They do indeed suppose that their repentance, their reformation of life, their alms-deeds, and their attendance on divine ordinances, will procure to them the favour of God: but then it is not because these things are absolutely meritorious, so as to deserve and purchase heaven; but because the Lord Jesus Christ has procured a relaxation of the perfect law of God, and obtained for them that their sincere obedience shall be accepted instead of perfect obedience. And, if their obedience should not be altogether sufficient for the desired end, they expect he will add a portion of his merits to theirs, so that there shall be no deficiency upon the whole.
But a very little knowledge of God’s perfect law is sufficient to dispel this fatal delusion. The law neither is mitigated, nor can be mitigated: it never can require less than it did. It required of man to love God with all his heart, and mind, and soul, and strength, and to love his neighbour as himself. But from which of these has God released us? or from which, consistently with his own honour, can he release us? The law remains the same as ever it was, both in its requirements and its penalties: and, as our works never did, nor ever can, come up to its demands, it can never do any thing but denounce a curse against us, as long as we continue under it: as the Apostle says, “As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse;” for it is written, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them [Note: Galatians 3:10.].” Whilst therefore it curses us, it of course can never justify: nor can our defective obedience to it form any part of our justifying righteousness before God.
When men are driven from this refuge, they then flee to the other, of which we have spoken, and look for justification by Christ for their works’ sake. They see that in Christ alone can be found such a righteousness as the law requires; and they now look to him as their righteousness. But yet they dare not go to him, as it were, with all their sins upon them; they think they must wash themselves first with the tears of penitence, and make some compensation for their past iniquities by newness of life: and then they hope that he will accept them, and present them faultless before his heavenly Father. And if they cannot see in themselves such a measure of penitence and reformation as they think necessary to recommend them to him, they dare not go to him: they think it would be presumption in them to trust in him: they cannot conceive how his mercy should extend to such wretches as they see themselves to be. On the other hand, if by much prayer and diligence they have attained some measure of the goodness which they are striving after, then, I say, they can go to him with courage, and feel a comfortable persuasion that he will accept them. Thus they found their hopes, not simply on his merits, but on some measure of goodness in themselves, which they carry with them as a price to purchase his favour. But the Scriptures tell us, that we must go to receive salvation at Christ’s hands, “without money and without price [Note: Isaiah 55:1.]:” that salvation must be wholly of grace, from first to last [Note: Romans 11:6.]: that we must go without any work whatever, to be “justified by him as ungodly [Note: Romans 4:5.]:” and that, if we attempt to carry to him any thing of our own, either as a joint ground of our hope, or as a warrant for our hope, in him, “he shall profit us nothing [Note: Galatians 5:2; Galatians 5:4.].”]
But we must be made partakers of Christ’s righteousness solely and entirely by faith—
[This is asserted so strongly, and so frequently, that one can scarcely conceive how any one who has ever read the Scriptures should entertain a doubt of it. Nor is it asserted only, but maintained frequently, in a long course of argument in direct opposition to the Jewish notion of salvation by works [Note: Romans 4:1-14.]. The reasons for it also are stated again and again. Salvation “is by faith, that it may be by grace [Note: Romans 4:16.].” It is “by faith, lest any man should boast [Note: Ephesians 2:8-9.].” It is by faith, that the whole universe may glory in Christ alone [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:31.]. But the reproof which Paul gave to Peter at Antioch puts this matter in the clearest light. Peter had preached to the Gentiles, salvation by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Some Judaizing teachers, who, whilst they professed to believe in Christ, were zealous for the observance of the Mosaic law, coming thither, he feared to offend them; and, to ingratiate himself with them, he required the Gentiles to conform to some Mosaic rites to which they had never before been subjected, and from which the Jews themselves, had they known their liberty, were free. We are not told that Peter promised them salvation by these works: but he evidently taught them, that, though Christ was the only Saviour, they might recommend themselves to him, and confirm their interest in him, by the observance of these rites. Thus, in fact, he adulterated and undermined the Gospel, and endangered the eternal welfare of all his followers. On this account St. Paul blamed and reproved him before the whole Church: and the reprehension which he gave to Peter has been transmitted to us, that we may see of what importance it is to maintain the doctrine of salvation by faith, uncontaminated and undisguised. Hear the account which Paul himself gives of it: “When I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified [Note: Galatians 2:14-16,].” This shews us, that nothing is to be blended with, and nothing to be added to, the faith of Christ; but that all who are justified, must be justified simply, and solely, by faith in Christ.
We must not be understood to say, that good works are not necessary after we are justified; for they are indispensably necessary, to prove the sincerity of our faith: but it is in reference to the matter of justification only that we now speak: and there they must be excluded altogether. Christ is our only righteousness: and it is b faith only that we can ever apprehend him.]
The whole state of the Apostle’s argument in the passage before us, leads us to conclude with the following advice:
Seek not to establish any righteousness of your own—
[Self-righteousness is deeply rooted in the heart of man. Its workings are numerous and subtle: and the danger arising from it is more than can be conceived. It robs God of his glory: it subverts the very foundations of the Gospel: it usurps the office of the Saviour: it invades the unalienable prerogatives of God. Do not think it a light sin. Do not hastily conclude that you are free from it. Search and try your hearts: see what is the ground of your hopes: see whether you are willing to go to Christ as the very chief of sinners; or whether you are not rather wishing to find some worthiness in yourselves, that may serve as a ground of confidence in your approaches to him, and as a foundation of your hope of acceptance with him. For be assured, that if you stumble at this stumbling-stone, you will frustrate the grace of God, and cause the death of Christ, as far as respects yourselves, to be in vain [Note: Galatians 2:21.].]
Submit humbly and cheerfully to the righteousness of Christ—
[Strange indeed is it that it should be any act of submission to believe in Christ: but it is in reality such a submission as our proud hearts are never brought to without much difficulty. We may see how a spirit of pride wrought in Naaman, when he was told by the prophet to “wash in Jordan, and be clean.” Had he been told to do some great thing, he would have complied immediately: but to “wash in Jordan” appeared to be so inadequate a remedy, that he would not condescend to try it. Thus, when we say to men, “Believe, and be saved,” we seem to propose to them a remedy of no value. Were we to lay down rules for them, and tell them what penances to inflict on themselves, and what services to perform in order to the purchasing of heaven, we should find them willing to undertake whatever we might prescribe. The very thought of being their own saviours would suffice to carry them through the greatest difficulties. But when we say to them, “Believe only, and ye shall be saved,” they are ready, like Naaman, to “turn away in a rage.” This however is what we are commissioned to say: and, if an angel from heaven were to give you any direction contrary to that, he would be accursed [Note: Galatians 1:8-9.]. O let your hearts be humbled before God. Methinks, when Jesus said to the lepers, “Go and shew yourselves to the priests;” or, when to the blind man, “Go and wash in the pool of Siloam,” they found no reluctance to comply. Why then should you? Can you cleanse your own leprosy? Can you open your own eyes? Can you effect your own salvation? No assuredly, you cannot. If any man could have saved himself, methinks it was the Apostle Paul. But he, disclaiming all thoughts of ever accomplishing such a work, “desired to be found in Christ, not having his own righteousness, but the righteousness which is of God by faith in Christ [Note: Philippians 3:9.].” Be ye, brethren, like-minded with him; and then you may, like him, be “always triumphing in Christ,” and be assured, that, “when Christ, who is your life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory [Note: Col 3:4].”]
Romans 10:8-10. That is, the word of faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
IF we would know with certainty what the Gospel is, we should examine carefully what the Apostles preached. But in various places their discourses appeared to have a different aspect, according as they were called to lay the foundations of religion, or to build up the superstructure: and therefore we are concerned to receive from these inspired teachers a summary of their own doctrines: and this is precisely what we are favoured with in the passage before us. Let us, then, take these words as our guide: for in them we may clearly see,
The terms on which salvation is offered to us—
We are told, in few words, what was “the word of faith which Paul preached.” Two things he insisted on, as indispensably necessary to our salvation”
Faith in Christ as our crucified and risen Saviour—
[The Lord Jesus Christ was “sent of God to be the Saviour of the world [Note: 1 John 4:14.].” All that was necessary for man’s salvation he effected on the cross: and God, in token that he himself was satisfied, raised the Lord Jesus from the dead, and exalted him to his own right hand, that there he might carry on and perfect the work assigned him. Of us he requires, that we believe in Christ, as thus sent, thus accepted, thus qualified: and that, discarding every other hope, we place our dependence on him alone.
This mode of salvation is contrasted with the law, which proposes obedience alone as the ground of hope. But by obedience can no man living be saved; because we have already violated the law; and, even if at this moment our past violations of it were forgiven, we should be unable to render to it the obedience it demands. That ground of hope, therefore, being renounced, we must rely simply on the Lord Jesus Christ, and seek salvation altogether by faith in him.]
A public confession of him under that character—
[No confession of ours can add any thing to his all-finished work. Yet are we required to confess him openly; because his glory, and the good of man, demand it of us. If we should conceal our faith in him, who would be benefited? or in what respect would he be glorified? Methinks such concealment would reflect on him the greatest disgrace; and it would assuredly tend to harden others in their unbelief. Hence our blessed Lord required, that “all who would derive benefit from him, should deny themselves, and take up their cross daily, and follow him.” And if we do not this, he declares that he will not acknowledge us as his disciples. Our faith, destitute of this fruit, will be in vain. Thus, though confession cannot add to faith, it is equally necessary with faith; the one being the root; the other, the fruit proceeding from it — — —]
For our encouragement, we are informed what will be,
The certain issue of a compliance with those terms—
Whosoever shall thus believe in Christ, and thus confess him, “shall be saved.” This expression is plain, positive, unqualified. But we are informed in our text what will be the bearing of each requirement, and in what respect a compliance with each will tend to the attainment of the end proposed. To each of them has the Lord Jesus Christ assigned its proper office:
Faith will invest us with his “righteousness”—
[He has wrought out a righteousness for sinful man; a righteousness fully commensurate with the utmost demands of law and justice [Note: ver. 4.]. This righteousness faith apprehends. In truth, it cannot be apprehended in any other way. If we were able to purchase an interest in it by any works of our own, salvation would in fact be by works; seeing that to purchase salvation, or to purchase that which gives us salvation, is, in reality, and in effect, the same. We are continually told, that this righteousness becomes ours by faith: “It is revealed from faith to faith [Note: Romans 1:17.]:” and “it is unto all, and upon all, them that believe [Note: Romans 3:22.].” From the moment that any one believes in Christ, this righteousness becomes his; yea, “Christ is made unto him righteousness [Note: 1Co 1:30];” and he is entitled to call the Lord Jesus, “Jehovah our Righteousness [Note: Jeremiah 23:6.];” and to say, “In the Lord have I righteousness and strength [Note: Isaiah 45:24.].” Arrayed in this spotless robe, he will be so pure, that the eye of God himself will not discern a spot or blemish in him [Note: Eph 5:27].]
Confession will insure to us his final approbation—
[True, it will add nothing to Christ’s perfect righteousness: but it will evince the sincerity of our faith: and on it will the very sentence of our Saviour’s approbation be grounded, as displaying, beyond a doubt, the equity of his procedure. Our Lord has said, that on this shall his ultimate proceedings with us depend: “Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven [Note: Matthew 10:32-33.].” Nor is this a mere arbitrary appointment: for the confessing of Christ openly has a great tendency to improve our character, and to prepare us for his glory. Doubtless it will be an occasion of many trials and many sufferings: for the ungodly world will hate the servants even as they hated the Master, and persecute them even as they persecuted him. But “he was made perfect through sufferings [Note: Hebrews 2:10.]:” and by the fire of affliction must we also be purged from our dross [Note: 1 Peter 1:6-7.]. Our afflictions are but, in fact, the completing of that which was yet lacking in his [Note: Colossians 1:24.]: and, in enduring them, we are assimilated to his image [Note: 1 Peter 4:13.]. Thus, though our confession of him adds not any thing to his perfect righteousness, it tends to fit us for the recompence which his overflowing bounty will accord to us. Assuredly, therefore, we may expect, that “if we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him,” and to all eternity “be glorified together [Note: 2 Timothy 2:12.Romans 8:17; Romans 8:17.].”]
Let, then, your faith in Christ be cordial—
[It is not to be a mere assent of the understanding, but an acquiescence of the heart. Twice is this mentioned in our text: nor is it possible for us to lay too great a stress upon it. In point of strength, I doubt not but that the faith of devils is superior to that of men: but they have no love to Christ, nor any delight in any thing relating to him. But ye, beloved, must see a glory in the whole of his mediation, and must feel exquisite delight in committing yourselves altogether to him. Nor must this be an occasional act, but the daily habit of your minds: “The entire life which you now live in the flesh, you must live by the faith of the Son of God, who has loved you, and given himself for you [Note: Galatians 2:20.].” Nor must there be in you the least bearing towards any righteousness of your own. You must indeed endeavour to be “righteous even as he is righteous [Note: 1 John 3:7.]:” but your dependence must be on him alone,]
Let your confession of him be uniform and unreserved—
[Never, for a moment, should you give way to fear [Note: Luke 12:4-5.], or suffer any carnal consideration to influence your minds, so as to damp your zeal in his service [Note: John 12:42-43.]. It is not necessary that you should be obtrusive, and force religious subjects on those who are utterly averse to them: this would be to “cast pearls before swine.” But you should watch for opportunities to honour the Saviour, and to lead others to the knowledge of him. And on no account should you ever be “ashamed of him [Note: Mark 8:38.]:” but should be ready, at all times, to “follow him without the camp, bearing his reproach [Note: Hebrews 13:13.]. If you possessed, like Moses, all the treasures of Egypt, you should consider them as of no account in comparison of the infinitely richer treasure which you will find in “the reproach of Christ [Note: Hebrews 11:24-26.].” If only “Christ may be magnified in you,” it should be equally a welcome service to you, “whether it be by life or by death [Note: Philippians 1:20.].”]
SALVATION BY CHRIST UNIVERSALLY TO BE PROCLAIMED
Romans 10:12-15. There is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
MEN, as sinners, need to be reminded from day to day, that there is a Saviour provided for them, and that the salvation wrought out by him, is offered freely to every child of man. To declare this is the special work of the ministry; which is therefore called, The ministry of reconciliation, because the end and object of it is to proclaim this truth, “that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” In delivering this message, we sometimes appear to ourselves as in danger of wearying our audience by needless repetitions; but we check ourselves when we hear St. Paul apologizing for the same conduct in these words; “To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous; but for you it is safe.” We might diversify our subjects more, and thereby administer to the gratification of “itching ears;” but there is no subject in the universe of such vital importance as this; and therefore we most approve ourselves faithful to our high calling, when, like Paul, “we know nothing among you but Christ, and him crucified.”
St. Paul, in all the preceding context, has shewn, that salvation is simply by faith in Christ: and that, in publishing it equally both to Jews and Gentiles, he had only done what Moses and the prophets had done before him; and what must be done, if ever either Jews or Gentiles are to be made partakers of it.
The words which we have read will naturally lead us to set before you,
The way of salvation—
There is but one way of salvation for all mankind—
[As soon as ever sin entered into the world, the way of salvation by the works of the law was closed. From that day to this, “the flaming sword, once placed at the east of Eden, has prohibited all access to the tree of life,” except that which was opened in the promise, that “the Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head [Note: Genesis 3:15; Genesis 3:24.].” From that time, this way of salvation was shadowed forth in sacrifices, with the skins of which our first parents were clothed, to remind them, that they must be clothed in the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, which alone could cover the shame of their nakedness from the eye of their offended God [Note: Genesis 3:21. with Rom 3:22 and Revelation 3:18.]. The prophets all bare testimony to this same truth: Isaiah speaks of Jesus as that “foundation which God has laid in Zion, and declares that whosoever believeth in him shall not be ashamed [Note: Isaiah 28:16.];” and Joel, in the words quoted in our text, affirms, that “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord, shall be saved [Note: Joel 2:32.].”
These words deserve somewhat more of a distinct consideration. They refer beyond all doubt to the Messiah, and to the dispensation which he was to introduce. All the preceding context indisputably proves this [Note: Joel 2:28-31.]; and St. Peter, on the day of Pentecost, expressly declares that they were fulfilled by the descent of the Holy Ghost to testify of Christ, and to convert souls to him [Note: Acts 2:16-21.]. But in the prophet Joel the person on whose name we are taught to call, is Jehovah: it is no subordinate Lord, but Jehovah himself: from whence we know assuredly, that the Lord Jesus Christ, who is there spoken of, is “Emmanuel, God with us.” O blessed truth! He who was “a Child born, a Son given, is the Mighty God,” “God manifest in the flesh,” “God over all, blessed for evermore [Note: Isaiah 9:6. 1 Timothy 3:16. Romans 9:5.].” Him we are to invoke, and on him we are to rely, as “The Lord our righteousness:” and, if we do so in sincerity and truth, renouncing every other hope, we shall be saved: his righteousness shall justify us; his Spirit shall renew us; and his grace shall keep us even to the end; “In him we shall be saved with an everlasting salvation; we shall not be ashamed or confounded world without end [Note: Isaiah 45:17.].”]
This salvation is equally free for all—
[“There is no difference between the Jew and the Greek.” This way of salvation existed before there was a Jew in the world: and the only advantage which the Jews enjoyed, was, that this way of salvation was made known to them in types and shadows, when it was altogether forgotten by the world at large. This distinguishing mercy, however, made no difference as to the way in which they were to be saved: it afforded no new ground of hope to the Jew; it took not away any old ground of hope from the Gentile. If a Gentile, like Job or Melchizedec, looked to the Great Sacrifice that was in due time to be offered, he was saved by it, though he did not descend from the loins of Abraham: and, in like manner, now, every creature in the universe who shall believe in Jesus, shall be saved by him: for “this same Lord over all (the Lord Jesus [Note: Acts 10:36.]) is rich unto all that call upon him:” there is no limitation, no exception whatever; for, “whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord, shall be saved.”
Behold then in few words the way of salvation. The Lord Jesus Christ, who bare our sins in his own body on the tree, and “made reconciliation for us by the blood of his cross,” is the one object of our faith and hope: and all who with humility and earnestness call upon him for salvation, shall surely find it, both in time and eternity.]
This salvation being designed for all, we cannot doubt,
The duty of diffusing universally the knowledge of it—
Without the instrumentality of human agents, it cannot be hoped that the knowledge of salvation should be spread throughout the earth—
[Doubtless God, if he pleased, might, as in the first creation, speak the word only, and there should be spiritual light throughout all the dark regions of the earth. But this is not the way in which God has ever wrought to any great extent; nor has he given us reason to expect that he ever will work in this way, for the conversion of those who are yet in darkness and the shadow of death. He has sent forth an order of men on purpose to preach his Gospel throughout the world. The Jews indeed could not endure this dispensation: they condemned with most inveterate malignity the Apostle’s conduct in preaching to the Gentiles: but he asks them in our text, How the Gentiles ever could attain the knowledge of salvation, if it were not preached to them? The Apostle’s argument is this: Ye Jews, know from your own prophets, that salvation is confined to those “who call on the name of the Lord.” I by inspiration know, that that Lord is the Lord Jesus Christ. And now I ask, “How can the heathen call on him of whom they have not heard? or how can they hear without a preacher?” This argument is incontrovertible: and we appeal to it as a complete vindication of all the efforts that are made by different societies to diffuse the knowledge of salvation throughout the world.]
It is by this instrumentality that God himself has taught us to expect the wished-for event—
[The words cited from the Prophet Isaiah are undoubtedly to be understood in reference to the Gospel dispensation. They primarily indeed describe the joy occasioned among the captive Jews in Babylon, when they saw the messenger hastening over the distant hills to bring them certain tidings of their redemption; but all the following context shews, that they refer to an event in which the whole world was interested, “seeing that “God had made bare his arm in the eyes of all nations, and that all the ends of the earth were to see the salvation of God [Note: Isaiah 52:7; Isaiah 52:10.].”
Contemplate then the passage in this view. See the messenger of the Lord of Hosts running over the mountains to proclaim salvation to a ruined world. Those who are unconscious of any bondage, may deride his folly for giving himself so much unnecessary trouble. But how would it be with those who saw themselves under a sentence of condemnation, and were expecting the executioner to inflict the judgment denounced against them? Would they not behold with interest his every step? Would not his every motion, as it were, appear lovely in their eyes? Would not the tidings produce on all who believed them, the effect once wrought on the liberated Grecians, who all night long rent the air with that cheering sound, “A Saviour, a Saviour?” Look at the converts on the day of Pentecost; and know assuredly, that if, like Peter, we will unite in extending the knowledge of the Gospel, thousands shall in due time arise to attest, and to rejoice in, the tidings we proclaim. Yes, “the Gospel of peace” will be received by them as “glad tidings of good things.”]
Now, in conclusion, we will call upon you,
To perform your duty—
[Let no Jewish prejudices or heathen infidelity (both of which, alas! are but too prevalent amongst us) discourage you. You must expect, not only that they who feel no value for their own souls will frown at your attempts to convert the souls of others, but that persons who really mean well, yea, and some who are truly pious, may, on some account or other, not be able cordially to unite with you in the blessed work. But know, that the salvation of mankind is a work which every redeemed soul should labour to promote. We would not overlook indeed the things of minor importance: but we would not suffer them to stand in the way of such a work as this. What had become of the whole Gentile world, if the Apostles had waited till their unbelieving brethren, or even the Judaizing Christians, had given their consent to have a free salvation offered to the Gentile world? Alas! we had been in darkness even until now. Labour then, beloved brethren, in every possible way to promote the knowledge of salvation among both Jews and Gentiles, yea, and among those who, though they call themselves Christians, are so only in name and profession. Circulate the Scriptures in every language under heaven: send missionaries to the ends of the earth; seek also to bring into the fold of Christ the lost sheep of the house of Israel: and whatever be the office to which your situation and circumstances appear to fit you, be ready to execute it: and, in answer to God’s inquiry, “Who will go for us?” be ready to reply, “Here am I, Lord; send me.”]
To enjoy your privileges—
[All the blessings of salvation, if only you believe in Christ, are yours: yours is that peace of God which passeth all understanding: yours are all the treasures both of grace and glory; holiness is yours, as well as pardon; for the faith that brings you into a state of peace with God will “work by love,” and “purify the heart.” Ye are not straitened in your God: be not straitened in your own souls. Ask much; expect much; for your “Lord is rich unto all who call upon him.” Set not limits, either to the objects of his bounty, or the riches of his grace; for his riches are unsearchable; and they are promised indiscriminately to all who call upon him. What a blessed word is that, “Whosoever!” Here is no limitation, no exception: all that is required of us is, to believe in Christ, and to call upon him. O! call upon him day and night; be earnest; be importunate; wrestle with him, as Jacob did; and let him not go, until you have received his blessing. Well I know how unbelief is apt to interpose between him and your souls. You will be ready perhaps to say, “True; but I fear I do not call aright.” Ah! brethren, this is a device of the enemy to rob you of the blessings which Christ is ready to bestow. If you call not on him as you would, still call upon him as you can: lie at the foot of his cross: trust in him: if you cannot trust, then hope in him: in a word, look unto him, renouncing every other ground of hope; and fear not but that he will make all grace abound towards you; and that what he has begun in time, he will perfect in eternity.]
CHRIST MADE KNOWN TO THE GENTILES
Romans 10:20-21. Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me. But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gain-saying people.
IT is scarcely to be conceived to what a degree prejudice will close both the eyes and ears of men against the plainest truths. Nothing could be plainer than the avowed purpose and determination of God to cast off the Jews in the event of their continued impenitence, and to admit the Gentiles to a participation of those privileges of which the Jews in the first instance had the exclusive enjoyment. Moses had declared it in the most direct terms; that “God would provoke the Jews to jealousy by those who were not a people, and by a foolish nation he would anger them:” the plain import of which was, that he would transfer his favours to the Gentiles, in case the Jews should continue to abuse them. But Isaiah, as my text expresses it, was very bold; affirming in a way of prophetical anticipation, that God was already found of the Gentiles, to whom his Gospel, so long slighted by the Jews, was now proclaimed [Note: See Isaiah 65:1-2.]. Yet strong as these assertions were, the Jews could not for a moment admit the idea, that the Gentiles should be admitted to a participation of their privileges. But St. Paul assures them, that so it had been determined many centuries before, and, in fact, that so it had been done.
In discoursing on the predictions here cited, we shall consider them,
As prophecies fulfilled—
In them we see,
God’s promise to the Gentiles—
[The Gentiles are here plainly designated. They “sought not God, nor asked after him” at all: they were altogether ignorant of God, and unconcerned about him. They did not regard the notices of him which were visible in all the works of his hands. They were contented to live without him in the world; and so far did they put him from them, that “he was not in all their thoughts.”
Yet to these was God now made known in the person of his Son: the glad tidings of salvation had been proclaimed to them; the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon them; and Christ, in all his fulness, and in all his glory, had been revealed in their hearts. God had now been found of them, not as a Creator merely, but as a Saviour; a Father, a Friend, a Portion, “an everlasting great Reward.” Though they had been in darkness and the shadow of death during all the time that God had made himself known to the Jews, yet at last “the light had risen upon them, and God’s glory was seen upon them.” “As soon as they heard him, they obeyed his call;” and within a few years from the publication of the Gospel to them, such multitudes became obedient to the faith, that they filled, as it were, every part of the Roman empire; so gloriously was the prediction fulfilled in the eyes of the whole world.]
His complaint of the Jews—
[For two thousand years had the Jews been the Lord’s peculiar people, the sole depositories of his revealed will, the only visible monuments of his saving grace. During all this time had God stretched out his hands to them with more than parental tenderness and affection, intreating them to accept his overtures of mercy, and urging them not to put away from them the blessings which he of his own sovereign love had prepared for them. He had assured them, that in and through their Messiah they should possess all the blessings both of grace and glory. He had spared no pains to draw them to himself. He had wrought such miracles for them as had never been wrought for any other people from the foundation of the world. He had loaded them with benefits without number, given them his statutes, his ordinances, his Sabbaths, and sent from time to time his prophets to instruct and warn them. In short, every thing that could be done for his vineyard, he had done in it.
But how had they requited all this unbounded love? Had they turned to him? had they loved, and served, and glorified him? No: from the beginning they had been “a disobedient and gainsaying people.” Hear how God complains of them by the Prophet Jeremiah [Note: Jeremiah 35:13; Jeremiah 35:15.] — — — But the most perfect contrast between his tenderness towards them and their obstinacy will be found in their treatment of Hezekiah’s messengers, when he sent them through the whole land to entreat and importune them to return to God [Note: 2 Chronicles 30:6-9.] — — — (Mark the extreme tenderness with which God here “stretches out his hands to them.”) And how did they receive these gracious communications? “Hear, O heavens, and be astonished, O earth!” they “laughed the messengers to scorn, and mocked them.” Thus did they also in the days of Christ and his Apostles; they were always “disobedient, always gainsaying” and opposing every thing that was said or done for their welfare; till at last, by their “contradictions and blasphemies,” they constrained the Apostle Paul to turn from them, and to execute without any further reserve the commission he had received to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles [Note: Acts 13:44-47.] — — — With what a different spirit the Gentiles received these tidings was immediately made manifest: “they heard the Apostle with gladness, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many of them as were ordained to eternal life, believed [Note: Acts 13:48.].”
Thus, in reference both to Jews and Gentiles, was this prophecy clearly and undeniably fulfilled.]
But it will be proper to view these prophecies,
As events yet daily accomplishing—
Verily God is yet found of those who sought him not—
[We speak not now of men’s conduct after they have received the grace of God; for no man who has been made partaker of God’s grace can possibly neglect to seek him. But the question is, Whence arose their good desires? were they of themselves, or of God? Let this be answered from our Liturgy: “O God, from whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed.” Yes, it is “God, who of his own good pleasure gives us both to will and to do;” or, as our article expresses it, “who worketh in us, that we may have a good will, and worketh with us when we have that good will.” And here we will appeal to every humble mind, to every one that has found the Saviour in truth; What was your state when God first stirred you up to seek him? Were you not careless and unconcerned, or, at least, resting in a mere form of godliness, without any experience of its power? Did you apprehend him, before he apprehended you? Did you love him, before he loved you? Did you choose him, before he chose you? A proud Pharisee may arrogate to himself the glory, and say, that he made himself to differ: but so will not any one who is really taught of God. The true Christian will say with Paul, “It was not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” Wherever there is one really united to Christ by faith, and washed in his blood, and renewed by his Spirit, there is one who will say from his inmost soul, “By the grace of God I am what I am.”]
On the other hand, thousands who are sought by God with all imaginable tenderness, yet continue in a state of wilful and obstinate disobedience—
[This is the case with the generality of those who bear the name of Christ. God comes to them by his providence, his word, his Spirit, and seeks to turn them to himself: but they pull away the shoulder, and refuse to “hear the voice of the charmer, charm he never so wisely.” For how many years has God been striving with some amongst us, who yet continue alienated from the life of God through the blindness and hardness of their hearts! Think, in what diversified ways he has dealt with us, in order that he might fulfil in us his good pleasure, and accomplish in us the rich purposes of his grace! From the first moment that reason began to expand and operate, he began also to work upon our consciences, and to draw us by the influences of his Spirit. Say, ye who are now in the vigour of youth, or grown to man’s estate, whether ye cannot call to remembrance many interpositions of the Deity, when he sought to stop you in your career of sin, and to bring you to repentance? And ye who are advanced in life, say, whether every year that has been added to your lives has not brought with it much additional ground for God’s indignation against you! Behold then, the conduct of the Jews is realized and renewed in us: and the Lord Jesus Christ has reason to repeat over us the complaint once poured forth over the disobedient Jews, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered you, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings! but ye would not.” Yes, at the day of judgment shall this be our condemnation, “I would; but ye would not.”]
There is yet a further point of view in which these prophecies may be considered; namely,
As truths illustrative of the whole economy of salvation—
The Gospel is altogether a dispensation of grace—
[This is its most distinguishing feature: it is a plan devised and ordained of God for the displaying of “the exceeding riches of his grace.” Every thing that God has bestowed upon fallen man in relation to it, has been unsought, and unsolicited. We may see the whole exemplified in our first parent Adam. When he fell, did he cry to God for mercy? Did he ask for a Saviour? Did he implore such measures of grace as might restore him to the Divine image? No: instead of “seeking after” God, or even asking of God whether there were any possibility of ever being restored to his favour, he fled from God, and hid himself; and, when called forth from his hiding-place, he cast the blame of his transgression on God himself. This shews us what every man by nature does, and would continue to do, if God, of his own grace and mercy, did not infuse into his mind a better disposition. Man in his fallen state is dead, “dead in trespasses and sins:” he is like the dry bones in Ezekiel’s vision, till God breathes upon him, and bids him live. Nay, he would revert to that state again, if God did not uphold him every moment. In vain would be all his past experience of redeeming love, if Christ, in whom his life is hid, were not constantly to impart more grace to him, and grace sufficient for his multiplied necessities.
Brethren, it is to this state of conscious and willing dependence upon the Lord Jesus Christ that we wish you to be brought: this is what the Apostle calls “living by faith on the Son of God.” This alone answers the end of the Gospel dispensation: this alone honours God, or can bring solid peace into the soul. We pray you to seek this “spirit of faith,” and to abound in it more and more — — — To the Lord Jesus Christ must you give glory from first to last: it was He who opened your heart, as he did Lydia’s of old, to attend to the concerns of your souls; and He, who was “the Author of your faith, must also be the Finisher.” Regard him in this view; and live upon him in this view; and give him glory in this view: and the more grateful your acknowledgments to him, the more abundant will be his communications to you, both in time and in eternity.]
But those who partake not of this grace have themselves only to blame—
[God “willeth not the death of any sinner, but rather that he come to repentance and live.” He even condescends for our encouragement, to declare this upon oath: “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of a sinner, but rather that he turn from his wickedness and live.” And then he further confirms this by the kindest and most affectionate entreaties; “Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” Let no man think to excuse himself by saying, “If God give me not his grace, how can I help myself? For God offers his grace to every man freely: “Ho! every one that thirsteth, come to the waters; come, buy wine and milk, without money and without price!” Our blessed Lord gave a similar invitation; “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink; and out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” In like manner, in the book of Revelation it is written, “The Spirit and the Bride say, Come: and whosoever will, let him come and take of the water of life freely.” What will ye say after such invitations as these? Will ye say, We cannot? If ye do, we will tell you, beforehand, our blessed Lord’s reply, “Ye will not come unto me, that ye may have life.”
You are to “seek him: and then he will be found of you,” “Seek, and ye shall find,” is a rule to you, though it is not to God. He may dispense his blessings to whomsoever he will, and under whatever circumstances: but you must seek his blessings; and, if you seek them not, you must abide the consequences. What those consequences will be, ye may judge from the Jews. Has not God punished them at last?” Go to Shiloh, and see what he did to them there:” go to Judζa, and see how his anger has burned against them there: look at them in every quarter of the globe; and know, that, as he has scattered them, so will he fulfil his threatenings upon you: and when he shall say, “Bring hither those mine enemies, and slay then) before me,” ye will be silent, not having a word to say in arrest of judgment. Be prevailed on then to seek his face, yea, to seek him with your whole hearts. Take encouragement from the patience he has already exercised towards you, and “account his long-suffering to be salvation.” Be assured, that at this moment he waiteth to be gracious unto you; and that if you will only be content to “go on your way weeping, bearing precious seed, ye shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing your sheaves with you,” even an everlasting harvest of felicity and glory.]