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Bible Commentaries
Romans 11

The Biblical IllustratorThe Biblical Illustrator

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Verses 1-10

Romans 11:1-10

God hath not cast away His people.

God hath not cast off His people

This is proved by--

The known facts of their history--Paul and his companions in the faith.

The secret operations of the Spirit of God--as exemplified in the case of Elias.

The results to be achieved in the national rejection of Israel.

1. The conversion of the Gentiles.

2. The consequent conversion of the Jews.

3. The completion of the redeeming purpose on earth.

The ultimate purpose of God’s judgments--the demonstration of His own glory. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The remnant, the admonition, and the hope

1. Distressed though the apostle was that anything should have caused the exclusion of his kinsmen from the benefits of Messiah’s kingdom, yet the fact was patent that it was because of their unbelief, and that it had been predicted. Henceforth they should no longer be, as a people, the people of God. Even when admitted into the kingdom of God, which they still might be by “the obedience of faith,” they should have no pre-eminence over their believing Gentile brethren (John 10:16).

2. Now all this might well fill the heart of the patriotic Jew with thoughtful sadness. For he had been accustomed to give to the glowing predictions of Israel’s prospective glory an altogether national and literal interpretation. How sadly disappointing, then, to be now assured that the Israel there spoken of was, not Israel after the flesh, but after the spirit! He would ask, “How am I to understand the matter? Hath God cast away His people?” “God forbid!” exclaims the apostle. “As a nation, and because that they have rejected the Lord’s Christ, He has rejected them, but this only so far, and so long, as they reject Him.” Therefore--

He has not cast them away indiscriminately; they have not all been rejected; there is still a foreknown remnant.

1. Such a total rejection the apostle had never affirmed. Should any one assert that so he had taught, let him reflect that he also was “an Israelite,” etc. But he was not therefore excluded from the benefit of Christ’s salvation. No; not even though he had once been a “blasphemer,” etc. (1 Timothy 1:16).

2. Nor had the apostle alone from amongst the Jews obtained mercy (Acts 21:20). Nor could he have anything like an adequate conception of the number of Jewish believers. These whom God had foreknown He had by no means cast away. Though perhaps unknown of men, they were “known of God” (Revelation 7:1-8). Such secret ones the Lord has always had (Romans 11:2-5; cf. 1 Kings 19:9-18; Isaiah 1:9; Isaiah 10:22).

3. This remnant had obtained that salvation (Romans 9:27), which the rest refused to accept on the stipulated terms; while that rest, because of their self-righteous and obstinate unbelief, had been judicially blinded and hardened (Deuteronomy 29:4; Psalms 69:22-23). Thus it is that God always deals with incorrigible sinners. They persist in loving darkness, and hating light, and He blinds them. They reject the sure foundation, and it becomes a stone of stumbling. Thus He dealt with Pharaoh and his hosts, with the unbelieving Israelites in the times of Moses, David, Solomon, and Isaiah. And thus He deals with them still (Acts 13:40-41; Habakkuk 1:5). These unbelieving Jews are the cast away; but the believing Jews (a foreknown remnant) are elected and saved. But now--

With respect to those who have been “cast away”; have they “stumbled” to a hopeless “fall”? Had God ordained that it should be so? “God forbid!” is the vigorous reply.

1. God did not purpose less mercy for them, but He did intend more for the Gentiles. Indeed, it was this very opening the door of faith to the Gentiles that chiefly caused the offence of the Jews. But by this, which occasioned their fall, salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.

2. And now the apostle turns to the Gentile Christians to admonish them against a spirit of exultation over the fallen and rejected Jews. The admonition was probably needed, the persecuting spirit of the Jews being calculated to provoke retaliation. It was still more needed in after times, when Christian rulers and Churches then acted towards that scattered people as though they had been deprived of all the rights of common humanity. But the God of Israel had given no right to any to add one stripe to their chastisement. His severity was intended not for destruction, but salvation; and how much more desirable the latter than the former result! (verses 12-15).

3. And that their salvation is even yet possible is further evident (verse 16). The “firstling” of the “dough” and “the root” of the tree--figures to designate the great progenitors of the whole Jewish nation--having believed in God, had obtained salvation, and had become holy to the Lord. Nay, Jehovah had so presented them to Himself that their descendants also were to be accounted a “holy nation.” True, this did not insure their unconditional salvation. It had not prevented great numbers from forsaking the God of Israel (Isaiah 1:4); but for their fathers’ sakes He would spare no pains to “renew them again unto repentance,” and to give them hearty welcome on their return (Isaiah 54:6-8). Many individual Jews had already believed and been saved. These, therefore, might be regarded as, in a secondary sense, the first-fruits unto God, and served to prove that, on like terms, all Israel might be saved.

4. Nay, further, the apostle maintains that the Jews occupied a position more favourable to their salvation. If the Church be symbolised by the olive-tree the Jews were the natural branches as related to Abraham, the father of the faithful, and, as by solemn covenant, separated to fire service of Jehovah. Compared with them, the heathen are indeed but branches of the wild and uncultured tree (Ephesians 2:11-12). And be it that “some of the branches were broken off,” and that many from the wild olive have been grafted into the true olive, let them remember that this has been effected “contrary to nature,” and therefore not exult over the off-broken branches: forasmuch as the state of neither the off-broken nor engrafted branches is irreversible. If the believing Gentile suffers the spirit of pride to displace that of humble trust in the Saviour, he, too, shall not be spared. And if the now reprobated Jew shall receive Him, then shall he also be re-engrafted into the ancient stock. “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God” (verses 22-24).

5. And not only so, but however improbable it might seem, the time would arrive when all Israel should acknowledge Christ as Lord, and be thereupon welcomed back into His fold (verses 25-27). In the meantime, and as far “as concerns the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes.” And that which has brought them into this position is the free grace of God, which resolved to include you also. But as touching “the election” the believing remnant, which continues from age to age (verses 5, 6), “are beloved for the fathers’ sakes.” For God Himself has given a sure word of promise that, whithersoever they may be dispersed, when they shall make confession of their iniquity, then will He remember His covenant (Leviticus 26:40-45). “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” All alike are “by nature” unbelieving and disobedient. To the consciousness of this fact it is that God shuts them up, and that in order that they may be induced to seek and to secure salvation. (W. Tyson.)

The rejection of Israel

Not absolute.

1. A remnant saved.

2. Exemplified in Paul and many known Jewish converts.

3. Confirmed by the history of Elijah.

4. This remnant is of grace (verse 6).

Not arbitrary.

1. The rest were blinded.

2. Because of their disobedience.

3. By the just visitation of God.

4. As announced beforehand by their own prophets. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

God’s people

Cannot fail on earth.

1. Individuals are still converted (verse 1).

2. The purpose of God is unchangeable (verse 2).

Is still small.

1. But not so small that we should be discouraged.

2. Great enough to occasion joy and gratitude.

Consists of all true believers who--

1. Repudiate all human merit.

2. Receive God’s mercy as a free gift.

3. Do not harden themselves against the truth. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

God’s Church wider than man’s

The conspicuously good are the few--not the many. The many are the called; the few are the chosen who accept the call. God had not wholly cast away His people (verse 1). It was then as it had been in the time of Elijah (verse 4). And how is it now? Let us beware of uncharitable judgments. Nothing is easier than sweeping censures. God is tender in His judgments of men, often justifying many whom we in our severity should condemn. Still, would Christ acknowledge the majority in the churches, or would He have to turn to the minority? Certainly to only a small minority, whose faith is proved by their character and works. For, strip away from the profession of Christianity its accidental accompaniments, and what do you find? Nothing that is perfect, even in the loftiest; and nothing of unmixed evil in the meanest. But you will find in the few, in spite of great faults, a faith in Christ so genuine as to give a sure pledge that the goodness of the man will assuredly conquer the badness in the end. The man in whom the love of truth is a passion, in whom justice is a matter of greater concern than the falling of the heavens, and who burns with shame at the thought of an impure deed, and who has courage enough to suffer in the righteous cause like his Great Master;--why, that man forms part of God’s elect remnant, who put to shame the majority of those who cry aloud the name of Christ, but who do not His deeds.

Some of these few are not found within the boundaries of the recognised Church. They are in Christ’s Church, but not in man’s. And that is a cause of jealousy and anger to many of us. When Paul told the Jews that God was founding a Church outside their own nation, he knew that he was wounding their prejudices to the quick. So strongly did he feel this that he had to fortify himself by an appeal to Moses (Romans 10:19). But though fact and prophecy supported his statement, they would not admit that God was working upon lines outside their own. And yet the apostle insists upon it as the great revealed mystery which was to crush their pride and to precipitate their fall (verse 25). And so now God is wider in His plans than our pride and prejudice think. We find it almost as hard to believe as the Jew did, that God has a Church outside the Church. And yet, are we not confronted by facts? I believe the Church is our right and natural place, and that it is its natural work to be foremost in doing whatever contributes to the highest welfare of men. But has it not been, and is it not so still, that God has other sheep which are not of this fold? Some of these have maintained an outward connection with the Church, though the Church has not identified itself with them. They have worked alongside the Church rather than with it. Wilberforce and Clarkson did not get the sympathy and support of the Church till their cause was triumphant. Who are the true prophets of this generation? For the most part men upon whom the Church looks askance. When we get to heaven we shall find men there whom we never expected to see, and miss others perhaps whom we expected to find in the foremost places.

This outer Church of the Gentiles was to provoke the Jews to jealousy and emulation. The Jews fell that the Gentiles might rise, and the Gentiles had risen that they might stimulate the Jews to rise too. The Church is evermore in need of this constant renewal and reconstruction. At the time of the Reformation Christian truth had to be rediscovered, and a new Church formed outside the lines of the old Church. But the fundamental principle of the Reformation did not long preserve its supremacy--the right of every man to exercise his own judgment--for the Protestants soon began to persecute men like the Catholics. There is a great cry in our day that religion is in danger, and that the churches are failing; such a cry as must have gone forth among the Jews when Paul first preached, but has the cry any greater warrant now than it had then? Was not religion then really rooting itself in a richer soil, and preparing to bring forth better fruit? The devout Catholic thought that the Reformers were devils, and prophesied the overthrow of all religion. But was it not rather a fresh ploughing and sowing of the human soul, and a new opening of the heavens? And as to the cry in our day, if the Christianity depended on the Roman Syllabus, the Thirty-Nine Articles, the Westminster Confession, then we might tremble, but God forbid that we should be overcome by such an ignoble fear. We believe in the religion of Christ, and we can see before it a nobler future. As the Jews had to learn from the Gentiles in order to their recovery, so we have some things to learn from the outer boundaries of God’s Church. (C. Short, M.A.)

God hath not cast away His people.

The glory which will redound to God from the conversion of the Jews

Their national preservation through so long a tract of time will furnish a wonderful illustration of the Divine power.

1. They can look back along a line of ancestry compared with which that of the Norman and the Saxon are but of yesterday. Nations which did not exist till long after the Jew had acquired a history, have long ago run their course; but he is unchanged.

2. Nor will any of the ordinary means of national preservation account for their continuance.

(1) They have not, like the Chinese, been stationary, and built in from the rest of the human family. From about B.C. 740, till the destruction of Jerusalem, they suffered as many dispersions, partial or entire, as there were centuries.

(2) Foreign alliances will not explain it. For, besides the fiercest commotions within, they have sustained a quick succession of the most sanguinary invasions from without.

(3) Arms, climate, genius, politics, equally fail to explain it. For they have been crumbled and scattered over the face of the earth; and yet they exist. Old empires which oppressed them have fallen; but the Jew has lived on amidst their ruins. “Young nations have started into being, and he has been present to mingle with their elements, but never uniting. And, as if to complete the wonder, their number at this moment is very nearly the same as it was on their leaving Egypt.

3. Now, the only way to account for their preservation is the scriptural one, viz., to ascribe it to Divine power. “I am God, I change not; therefore, ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” When, then, they shall be turned to the Lord, with what new emphasis and enlarged meaning will they have to sing Psalms 124:1-8.

God shall be glorified when it shall be seen that this preservation has not been effected by mere power, but that, from first to last, that power was under the guidance of wisdom, or was exercised according to a plan. A new light is dawning on the mind of men respecting this plan.

1. Formerly the historian only recorded facts. But now it has occurred to him that all the facts of history are connected; that could the principles of this connection be traced history would form one organic whole; and hence, to trace and to expound these principles is now the highest office of the historian--the philosophy of history.

2. Every lover of the Bible, however, should remember that its histories were never written in any other way. It both states the facts, and the principles which unite them. True, after sketching the early history of the race, it confines its history to the Jews. But in that you have, in effect, a type of the whole. And more; in that, you frequently catch glimpses of the others at the most eventful moments of their existence. And more still; the Bible is prophetic as well as historic. Before Herodotus had begun to amass his materials, Isaiah had sung the glory of the latter day; and Daniel had foretold the kingdoms which would arise to the end of time.

3. The Bible never speaks of the course of human events but as conducted on a great plan. And with this peculiarity, that from the time of the promise to Abraham, the entire plan was regulated in relation to his posterity. Nay, ages earlier than that the plan began to evolve (Deuteronomy 32:7-8). The great principle on which the habitable part of the globe was mapped out was a principle of relation to the chosen people. And, as the great drama of Providence unfolded, the civilised world invariably found itself involved with that people. Read Psalms 78:1-72 th, 105th, and 106th, and do you not hear Jehovah, as He leads them through the nations, saying, “Touch not Mine anointed, and do My prophets no harm”? Are they invaded and oppressed? “Who delivered up Jacob to be a spoil, and Israel to the plunderers? Was it not Jehovah?” Does the Assyrian afflict Israel? “The Assyrian, saith God, is the rod of My hand.” Does the Persian deliver Israel? God calls Cyrus by name. Did nations change hands in consequence of the Persian movement? “I have given Egypt for thy ransom; Cush and Sheba for thee.” Have the ancient persecutors of Israel perished? Their destruction was foretold! And when, at length, “the time shall have come, yea, the set time to favour Zion,” what ground will there be for saying, “Ye know … that not one thing has failed of all that the Lord your God spake concerning you”!

God’s glory shall be enhanced when it shall appear that the entire plan of His conduct towards israel has directly tended to promote their highest welfare by illustrating the great principles of His moral government.

1. The principle of mediation--of making the conduct or relationship of one a reason for blessing others. “God hath not cast away His people.” They are still beloved “for the fathers’ sakes,” and their conversion will, at length, establish this fact. It will show them that they have never been absolutely renounced, and why Abraham himself was beloved, and that there never was but “one Mediator between God and man,” the day of whose coming Abraham saw and was glad.

2. Justice (verse 22). Looking back on their history they will behold it covered with the memorials of the Divine displeasure against sin, and learn that every stroke of His fatherly chastisement was intended to bring them in penitence to His feet.

3. The bringing of good out of evil. It will be seen that God has made the mutual jealousy of the Jew and Gentile an occasion of good to each. The apostacy of the human race was the occasion of Israel’s election at the first. And when, after repeated apostacies, Israel was abandoned, that became the occasion of salvation to the Gentiles (verse 15). Their slavery in Egypt was a time of merciful visitation for that country. Their seventy years’ captivity in Babylon were calculated to enlighten and to bless the people of that empire. And at their conversion they will see with amazement that the very act which completed their guilt--the crucifixion of Christ--has become the means of their own salvation.

4. The timing and distribution of God’s judgments and mercies so as to make us feel our entire dependence on Him. Would you know, e.g., why it was that Israel, when brought out of Egypt, was not led straight to Canaan? (Deuteronomy 8:2-3). Would you know why it was that the coming of Christ was so long delayed; and why the conversion of the Jews did not take place at the commencement of the Christian dispensation? (verse 32). God waited for the Gentiles till they had proved that the world by wisdom would never know God. And He is now waiting for the Jews till it shall be evident that all ground for self-dependence has utterly perished.

But what if this great system of discipline should leave them worse than it found them? Would not their conversion redound, to a degree inconceivable, to the glory of God? The strength of a mechanical power is estimated by the resistance which it overcomes. And the honour which will accrue to the grace of God in the conversion of the Jews is to be estimated partly by the amount and the duration of their previous resistance to that grace.

1. Viewed in this light their conversion will reflect transcendent honour on the power of the grace which effects it. For we are not now speaking of the conversion of a people who had never before enjoyed the light of revelation, but of a people who, in this sense, have never been in darkness. Nor are we speaking of a people who were merely indifferent to Christianity, but of a people who have ever been actively hostile to all spiritual religion. Nor are we speaking of this people as nominally converted merely, as many of the European nations were. To exchange the form of godliness for the power proclaims the presence of a Divine agent; but to worship the very Being on whom the heart had hitherto vented its bitterest execrations, implies a change so great that it might almost excuse unbelief for saying, “If the Lord would open windows in heaven, might this thing be?” But unbelief itself is silenced by the declaration, “I will pour My Spirit upon thy seed, and My blessing upon thine offspring.”

2. Associated with this display of omnipotent energy there will be the exercise of unlimited grace in forgiveness. When it is remembered that the Jews of that future day will be the descendants and approvers of those who shouted, “Away with Him; crucify Him; His blood be upon us and upon our children!” and that, by their persevering unbelief, generation after generation have virtually crucified the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame, how amazing appears that exercise of mercy which is to cancel such an accumulation of guilt! When they shall see that they owe their forgiveness to that blood which they invoked in guilty imprecations on their own heads, what all-subduing views will they obtain of the prevalence of His intercession, of the unchangeableness and riches of His grace!

3. This change will take place at such a period as shall still further redound to the glory of God. There is a fulness of time for it. As the coming of Christ took place at a crisis when the state of the world demonstrated the necessity for it, and displayed its grace, so doubtless will be His coming in the conversion of the Jews. Probably they will have reached the last stage of guilty unbelief; or they will be sorely pressed by evils from without; or, abandoning all expectation of ever beholding their Messiah, they will have given themselves up to despair; or all these forms of evil will have combined in one. This we know, that the design of the whole gospel constitution is that no flesh should glory in His presence; that the inscription on the topstone of the fabric will be, “To the praise of the glory of His grace.”

4. In harmony with the spiritual and Divine character of this event will be the means or manner of its accomplishment. Not that all means will be dispensed with. But these shall be of so humble a character, and their success shall so far exceed all human calculation as to furnish the most glorious exposition of the words, “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord.”

Another element of the glory which will redound to God will be found in the number of the converted. A few here and there will doubtless be renewed, from time to time, prior to that period. But then the change will be so general as to satisfy the large prediction that “all Israel shall be saved.” They shall come from the east and from the west, etc., to swear allegiance to the Cross of Christ. And what joy will seize the Gentile Church when it shall be announced, “Then hath God also to the Jews granted repentance unto life”! And if there is joy in heaven among the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth, who can conceive the rapture when it shall be there proclaimed, “All Israel is saved!”

This reminds us of the further accession of glory to God from the conversion of the Jews, resulting from the effects of the event upon others.

1. For what an unsurpassable proof will it furnish of the Divinity of the whole scheme of revelation! As the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost was reserved by God for the crowning proof of the new economy, so the greater effusion of the same Spirit, upon the same people, is reserved to complete the proof of its claims as it draws towards a close.

2. What an unsurpassable proof will that event display of the all-sufficiency of the grace of God! At the opening of the Christian economy in the conversion of Saul Christ showed forth all long-suffering for a pattern, etc. In a similar manner God appears to be reserving the richest display of His saving grace till towards the last.

3. What an impulse, too, will be given to the piety of every part of the Christian Church l (verse 12). The newly-converted Jews will probably exhibit a measure of self-denying zeal for the glory of God, which the Church had come to consider absolutely impracticable, For “he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the Lord before them.”

4. How eminently will this increase of the Church tend to the union of all its parts! That most ancient of all schisms between Jew and Gentile shall then be healed. Every minor distinction in the Church shall cease. And thus it will be seen that an important step has been gained towards the attainment of that “which God hath purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation,, of the fulness of times” He might gather together in one all things in Christ.

5. And will not--must not all this inconceivably augment the joy of the Church? (J. Harris, D.D.)

God’s remainder

1. We are living in a time when the reigning influences of society tempt or drive from integrity and purity; and some who were venerated shock the confidence reposed in them by grievous falls. There are dangers in such times that touch conscience and try faith. But God is not changed; moral virtue is not unreal; there are still men good and true. God hath not cast away His people. There are seven thousand reserved amid the general degeneracy.

2. Baal was the idea of prolific reproduction in nature. His was a popular worship ever, and set up its accursed altars in the Holy Land. Pouring light upon the faith of the new kingdom of redeeming grace from ancient history, as was his wont, Paul goes back to that dark spot. He is showing that no matter how many fall away faith lives on. The times are never so bad that they can corrupt utterly the immortal grace that lies hidden in the heart of the Church. Mammon may establish its worship, but there is still a holy place, and an ark of the covenant, sacraments and ministry, and heavenly grace. God does not cast away His people.

3. The apostle recalls the old prophet Elijah, and makes a strong case. Matters in Church and State had come to the worst. Two tottering thrones, on soil soaked with family blood, frowned at one another in anger, but upheld no just law and protected no personal rights. Over one of the fragments of the schism ruled a tyrant--Ahab--consistent in cruelty and persevering in appetite, with Jezebel, who made royalty contemptible and womanhood shameful. Ahab and Jezebel are names of vices almost as much as of persons, and have been for nearly three thousand years. After his victory at Carmel, Elijah’s splendid dream of the reformation of God’s kingdom was broken. When men animated by great purposes fail, they seem smaller to themselves than ever. It was like the hiding of the face of God. But now there comes a magnificent revelation which shows that true greatness does not stand in great results that can be seen. Success does not lie in the numbers counted. Power is stored up in hidden places and in lonely consciences. Have done with measuring God’s power with your geometry, or estimating His army by arithmetic. Do the duty that lies nearest thee. It scatters doubt; overcomes opposition; breaks up despair. The Almighty takes care of His reserves. We want the inspiration of this better faith. Consider two facts--

The inroads of a subtle and popular worldly-mindedness, weakening the Church deplorably in its conscience and its heart. There is a power attacking Christianity from without, and corrupting it within. What are the foremost among the objects of the people in business and social life? Duty and righteousness? Do the young enter social life to carry there the influence of Christ? What spirit is in the ascendant in our populations? Is there not here “the man of sin” who is “anti-Christ”? Worldliness is a false god; lying, because it makes promises which are never kept; cruel, because it kills the better life; impious, because it defeats the glorious end for which God put His image in every man. This impious secularism creeps into the Church. It is charged that its converts do not come up to its standard, and that concessions are made of principle, and mercenary treacheries adopted to crowd its seats. Retribution cannot but follow if these things be true. But spiritual power is not to be judged by outward achievements. Granted that the world is as worldly, unbelief as prevalent, inconsistency as widespread, the Church as timid and supple as prophets fear or sceptics declare. “What saith the answer of God? I have reserved,” etc. This opens to us the opposite fact--

The immortal survival of the secret life of the Church and of personal piety, although it is in a minority, and cometh not with observation. God makes much out of little, and saves by a handful of heroes, calling up His reserves out of obscurity, and never letting His altar fires die out. Seven thousand a slight proportion. They were out of sight, scattered saints crouching in corners. Elijah was looking on things on their earthly side. Not so the All-seeing. There was an unreckoned hope in obscure men and women Elijah did not know. Always a light left burning in Switzerland, in Germany, in England, in Scotland. The gates of hell do not prevail.

Here is, then, a law for practical use. What God requires of us is personal fidelity, or the earnest training of private Christian character in each one by himself, irrespective of any visible results or any possible discouragements. For this there are the clearest grounds.

1. It follows straight on in the way of the beginnings of the Church under the hand of the Lord. Get one man brave enough to do right against any maxims of a majority; one woman brave enough to lift others into her own pathway of light, and you are working precisely in the line of Him who knows what is in man, and redeems the race.

2. The doctrine is strong in that it is practicable. Every individual has one realm all his own--his conscience. Disappointed, baffled, elsewhere, he can make that all Christian. Pagan pleasures may allure others. You may not know where others--helpers--are. But your own place is in “the munitions of rocks.” And the Master will always be there with you.

3. This sphere of personal Christian character touches others wonderfully, but never depends upon them so as to surrender to them if they go over to Baal. Your knees are your own to bend to whom you will. The apostles called no convention. Great reforms are in single souls before they are in parliaments, synods, or constitutions. God’s harvests spring from single, solitary seeds. It is not miracle but law. The patient power of the Lord reserves His remnant of faithful hearts. His work is done first by single, then by united hands. Character, steadfast, pure, holy, is at once its force and its fruit. (Bp. Huntington.)

Wot ye not what the Scripture saith of Elias?--

The Old Testament Scriptures

Are not superseded.

Ought to be carefully studied.

Illustrate the principles of the new. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The prophet’s complaint and God’s answer

The complaint of the prophet.

1. Hasty.

2. Erring.

3. Desponding.

The answer of god.

1. Exact.

2. Reproving.

3. Inspiring. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Mistakes concerning the number of the righteous

Sometimes we make them from--

The peculiar state of our own minds. This seems to have been the condition of Elijah. His language betrays--

1. Severity.

2. Petulance.

3. Despair.

Observing multiplied instances of false profession. The apostasy of one pretender excites more attention than the lives of solid, steady Christians.

The righteous themselves. Because of.--

1. The obscurity of their stations.

2. The diffidence of their dispositions.

3. The manner of their conversion.

4. The diversity of their opinions.

5. The imperfection of their character.


1. The use which the apostle makes of his subject.

2. Are you among the number of the saved?

3. Let all true Christians consider the Author and end of their salvation.

4. Remember also for whom you have been saved. (W. Jay.)


Looks at the things which are seen.

Overlooks those which are unseen. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

But what saith the answer of God?--

The answer of God to Elijah

All doubts in matters of religion are to be decided by the Word of God (John 5:39; Mark 12:24). Elijah erred because he spake without his book. Remember this--

1. In all matters controverted. When it is questioned whether images are to be worshipped, angels and saints prayed to, etc., who shall resolve us? We are to take no man’s word, not even the word of Elijah for a matter of faith. What saith the Scripture? Men may err, but the answer of God is according to truth.

2. In matters of practice. If it be questioned whether thou shalt break the Sabbath, deceive thy neighbour, etc. Thy companions, it may be, and thine own heart will entice thee to do such things, but what saith the Scripture? They which do such things shall be damned.

The Church of God shall never be brought to such an exigent in the most difficult times, but that there shall be many thousands which shall worship God in spirit and truth.

1. The best on earth do err, as Elijah who erred by a passion of anger and fear. Order your passions by the law of grace, for if they be ungoverned they blind the mind, and as unruly horses draw the chariot of our judgment into the bye-paths of error.

2. Elijah erred in his censure concerning true worshippers; be not, then, rash in censuring. It is rashness to censure particular men, much more whole Churches to be antichristian. How darest thou refuse communion with them who have communion with Christ?

3. Neither multitude nor visibility are certain notes of the true Church, for then there had been no Church in Elijah’s time, for the multitude was with Ahab and Jezebel, and Elijah could not discern one beside himself. The Papists say the Church was always visible, but the creed confuteth them, for we believe in the holy Catholic Church. But holiness is invisible and so is Catholicity. We may grant that particular Churches are visible, and yet here some cautions are to be remembered. They may be invisible in respect--

(1) Of place. As the sun is always visible, but to us only when it ariseth in our hemisphere. So at Jerusalem the Church was not to be seen when it removed to Pella.

(2) Of the time, as in Elijah’s and Queen Mary’s days. As the sun behind a cloud in some respect is invisible, so may it be said of a Church.

(3) Of persons which should discern it. A Church is sometimes invisible through the fault of men’s eyes, which are either weak as of Elijah, or blind as of them which hate the Church.

Those who in dangerous times are preserved in grace are so preserved merely by the power and goodness of God (1 Samuel 25:39; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 2 Timothy 4:18; Jude 1:24).

1. Though Jezebel search every corner of the land, yet God reserveth seven thousand which bow not the knees to Baal. God can keep us from our enemies; let persecutors cease their malicious practices, and let us serve God without fear.

2. In regard to the preaching of the gospel these are golden days, but in regard of the overflowing of iniquity these are perilous times. Art thou preserved? glorify God. It is not thy goodness that thou dost not as others, but the goodness of God.

3. Be admonished of two things.

(1) Presume not of thine own strength. Peter bragged of his courage, and yet played the coward. Hazael thought great scorn ever to do as Elisha foretold to him, and yet afterwards he did such things.

(2) Be not secure and careless. God reserveth some, but those which use the means to persevere in well doing. (Elnathan Parr, B.D.)

Verses 6-10

Romans 11:6-10

And if by grace, then is it no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace.

The Christian doctrine of Divine grace

Man is the object of grace.

1. The present dispensation is only the perfection of many, and grace is the characteristic of all. But the gospel is emphatically “the gospel of the grace of God.” The Father is “the God of all grace.” “Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Spirit is the “Spirit of grace.” This grace is uniformly stated as the cause of the electing purpose--the reason of our personal justification--the germ of the renovating process--the potent motive to all piety, as it is the prolific source of all favour.

2. The atonement is the effect of Divine grace. Jehovah is not merciful because Christ has died, but Christ has died because Jehovah was merciful.

3. “The grace which bringeth salvation,” is, in no sense, impaired by any arrangements which had a reference to ourselves. Antecedent questions of justice and satisfaction could not injure the display of that love which was equally in the Father and the Son; which was equally evinced in inflicting and enduring death.

4. The death of the Cross is only a means to the most benevolent end. A benefaction is not commonly reduced in its value by its cost, nor a deliverance by its peril. Is the grace of God the greater, or the less, when encountering no difficulty, or when encountering it to overcome it? Is the grace of God more brightly, or more faintly glorious, when associated with moral principles, or when disregarding them?

5. The gospel, while it upholds the claims of the Divine law, has an exclusive bearing upon us as sinners. Let the awful negotiations between the Father and the Son--who are one--be whatever they were--the sinner has no righteousness or claim. Salvation is a question not of justice but of grace.

6. No blessing of the gospel is in any legitimate sense the subject of purchase. Christians are “the purchased possession”; they are “bought with a price.” But the “sure mercies” of the covenant are free gifts. God was ready to forgive, but there was an impediment. The atonement removed that impediment and “the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ,” now flows without check or restriction. “By the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men.”

The grace, which is so pre-eminent, cannot be confounded with any inferior or incongruous principle. Let us define--

1. Grace is free favour; it can be related to no right, and contained in no law. Whenever bestowed, it depends upon the mere will of him who exercises it. If there is any necessity for it, it “is no more grace.”

2. Work is individual action or conduct, and implies those particular qualities which provoke praise or condemnation. This course of accountable behaviour is properly--

(1) Personal. We all feel possessed of a something which we cannot transfer. Whatever we have taken part in still attaches to us. We reap what we have sown.

(2) Work must be voluntary to be accountable. If I am compelled to do what I disapprove, the hand is mine, but that hand is only a mechanical instrument of another’s will.

(3) Work, therefore, goes to form the general character of the moral agent. A succession of works forms, a habit, a variety of habits mould a character. Such has merit or demerit.

3. But if this be the just delineation of work, it cannot be employed indiscriminately with grace. Grace is opposed to work as it--

(1) Is extrinsic of the person. It reaches us from another source. Personal qualities it may inspire--but its origin is supernal and Divine.

(2) Is independent of the volition, Man had no desire to be saved in this manner; it is the “kindness of God our Saviour,” “who doeth as it pleaseth Him.”

(3) Most jealously and tenaciously challenges that merit and honour which virtuous and sinless obedience claims, and the Divine code awards. “To him that worketh, the reward is reckoned not of grace but of debt.”

Grace and work are often violently tortured into an unnatural alliance. That system cannot reconcile itself to the idea of grace, which--

1. Proceeds upon the merits of human ronduct. Merit is a relation of justice, and not of favour.

2. Rests human acceptance on a foreknowledge of some attractive qualities of character. For whence do these originate? Foreknowledge is not potential. Who has smitten the rock, and melted it into streams of grief? Who has turned the “wilderness into the fruitful field”?

3. Reckons on the self-determining power of the human will. How is it, in conversion, that the will, which is but the bias of our tainted nature, elects the part of good, but by the grace of Him from whom all good proceeds?

4. Accounts the gospel as a provision of simple facility to man to save himself. By this view we are never to invoke Christ’s righteousness and expiation, but when, after our most strenuous self-justifying efforts, we feel that a little more may be required to give our case its perfect recommendation.

5. Varies the universal freeness of the gospel by moral differences in man. Without distorting or forcing into one another the things which differ, Christianity surveys all men in their equal need of salvation, and in their ruin without it.

6. Founds our duty upon a bestowment of grace.

The effects of these opposing principles.

1. How differently they explain Christianity! If work predominate over grace, the gospel is the republished law, and if the unabated law, is a message of despair; or if the extenuated law changes that glory into whatever is short-sighted and inconsistent; and in the prostration of that law, sinks the standard of our good, falls the pattern of our dignity. But let grace have the pre-eminence. What a change comes over the “great salvation”! It is pardon to the guilty, restoration to the undone. It never pauses until it has found out “our low estate,” and never relaxes its effort until it has lifted us from it.

2. How oppositely they affect the mission of Christ! We honour grace in the degree to which we honour the mediation of Christ. But “if it be of works,” at once the Saviour’s mediation is degraded. For what did He “pour out His soul unto death”? According to this unworthy calculation--to follow in the train of the sinner who strives to save himself, ready to lend His aid, should occasion require it.

3. How inversely they influence the human mind.

(1) Which of these two principles is the better fitted to inspire that humility of dependence which every relation of the creature, and much more every adjunct of the sinner, dictate? There is all the difference of claim and suppliance. “God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are”! “God be merciful to me a sinner”! The gospel repeats “By grace ye are saved”; it adds the reason, “blot of works, lest any man should boast.”

(2) But the spirit of grace, in contradistinction to work, is also the spirit of obedience. (R. W. Hamilton, D.D.)

Salvation by grace

Some are all their days laying the foundation, and are never able to build upon it to any comfort to themselves or usefulness to others. And the reason is because they will be mixing with the foundation stones that are only fit for the building. They will be bringing their obedience, duties, mortification of sin and the like, into the foundation. These are precious stones to build with, but unmeet to be first laid to bear upon them the whole weight of the building. The foundation is to be laid in mere grace, mercy, pardon in the blood of Christ; this the soul is to accept of and rest in merely as it is grace, without the consideration of anything in itself, but that it is sinful and obnoxious to ruin. This it finds a difficulty in, and would gladly have something of its own to mix with it; it cannot tell how to fix these foundation stones without some cement of its own endeavours and duty; and because these things will not mix, they spend fruitless efforts about it all their days. But if the foundation be of grace, it is not at all of works; otherwise grace is no more grace. If anything of our own be mixed with grace in this matter, it utterly destroys the nature of grace, which, if it be not alone, is not at all. (J. Owen, D.D.)

What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for.

The judgment upon Israel is


Self-occasioned (cf. Romans 9:31-32)


A fulfilment of prophecy uttered--

1. By Isaiah.

2. By David.

Is a warning to us. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Israel’s failure

What he sought--righteousness.

How he sought it. Not by faith, but by works.

What was the result?

1. The elect obtained it by faith.

2. The rest failed--were blinded. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Seeking and obtaining salvation

So many seek salvation and are not saved because they seek amiss. To seek that we may find, three things are to be observed.

The time. “Seek first the kingdom of God.” If thou seekest it not first but at leisure, it is a thousand to one thou shalt never find it. Usually men postpone this to their age: in their youth nothing but pleasure; old heads must not be set on young shoulders; but when they lie upon their death bed then send for the minister. Is this enough? I should marvel if God should be content with the dregs of thy life when the devil hath had the flower. There is an old saying--He that neglecteth the occasion, the occasion will neglect him, as it appeareth by the example of the five foolish virgins.

The place. He that hath lost a ring and seeks a mile from the place where he lost it is not likely to find it. Seek salvation where it is to be found: that is in Christ, in whom are all treasures. The Jews sought it in themselves and missed of it. But where is Christ to be found? In the house of God; not in an alehouse and the meetings of profane men.

The manner.

1. Seek painfully, as the woman for her groat. The mine of gold lies not in the first spade, it lies deeper, it is well if after all pains we find it at the last.

2. Continue seeking; he that continues to the end shall be saved; it is worth all our pains though all should seek a thousand years, give not over till thou hast found. Israel sought for salvation, in the obedience of the law, but found it not; what shall, then, become of the wicked who seek not at all: of those who seek only vanities. (Elnathan Parr, B.D.)

God hath given them the spirit of slumber.--

The spirit of slumber

Blindness of mind and hardness is a spiritual lethargy, when neither the thundering noise of the law nor the sweet sound of the gospel can awake us.

1. The Greek word used by Paul from the Septuagint signifies pricking and compunction (see margin). This meaning may well be retained, dead sleep being called compunction by a figure; the effect being put for the cause because no compunction can awake it, or the cause for the effect because compunction is the cause of dead sleep in the mind.

2. There is a double compunction: one coming from sorrow for sin (Acts 2:37), another from envy and malice, which was in the Jews, because the gospel of Christ, whom they crucified, was as a dagger at their hearts. This compunction is the cause of such a deadness of mind that, as a man in a dead sleep hears and understands nothing, so an envious mind is impatient to hear or conceive anything for its good. Excess of grief brings a failing of the mind, and envy is a gnawing of the heart against our neighbour. When Stephen preached the Jews gnashed their teeth and stopped their ears. And when Paul preaches at Antioch the Jews rail and contradict, so that a man had as good speak to a dead man as unto them. Chrysostom expounds it as a nailing to their passion, whereby they are unmovable in their perfidiousness. Some translate it ecstasy, for envy makes a man beside himself, capable of no good instruction. Cyprian calls it transpunction, as a vessel having a hole stricken through the bottom, holds not the liquor put in it.

3. The text teaches that God in His just judgment gives over such as are enemies to the gospel to be blinded, that they cannot convert (John 9:39; 2 Corinthians 4:3).

Many in worldly things are of great apprehension and judgment, and yet as blind as beetles, very blocks in religion. Eyes they have, they are no fools, yet they perceive not the things belonging to their peace. As bats and owls see best in the night, so their chiefest understanding is of worldly matters. As a mole within the ground is nimble and quick, but above the ground can make little shift, so talk or deal with these men of earthly matters, they are cunning, but speak of religion and you pose them as with a strange language. Achitophel, a great statesman, goes home in a dudgeon, and in a sullen fit hangs himself; could any idiot have done more foolishly? Pray that thy wit may be sanctified, otherwise thou mayest prove an enemy and be besotted with the worst folly. It is a fearful state to envy the gospel: such are given over to the devil to be blinded, and what will not the devil bring such unto? Needs must he go whom the devil drives: as he tumbled the swine into the sea, so will he thrust such into all iniquity.

To have eyes and not to see, to know the truth and to have no power to apply it to our consciences, is fearful. It is uncomfortable to be born bodily blind, much more is spiritual blindness uncomfortable. When Christ came nigh Jerusalem He wept over it for the blindness of the Jews. When He raised Lazarus He groaned in the spirit for the hardness of their hearts. A grievous plague must blindness of mind he when Christ so wept and groaned for them which were stricken with it, when He never cried Oh! for all His own bitter passions. Repent of thy malice to the Word that thou mayest see. (Elnathan Parr, B.D.)

The hardened sinner

His moral condition.

1. Insensible.

2. Blind.

3. Prejudiced.

The cause.

1. Resistance of grace.

2. Retributive justice.

The consequences.

1. Misery.

2. Despair.

3. Death, unless God interpose in sovereign mercy. (J. Lyth, D,D.)

The present condition of the Jews

The result of long-continued disobedience.

A literal fulfilment of prophecy. Instance--

1. Their moral insensibility, blindness, and prejudice.

2. Their exposure to plunder and misfortune.

3. Their intellectual deterioration.

4. Their servility and subjection to oppression.

A lesson to the world. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Spiritual blindness

“My blindness came on very gradually. I first began to notice that I could not see so far as I used to do, and one morning when looking from the window I could only see across the road. As time went on I could see no further than the mantelpiece, and at length I had to grope my way about the room; and now no one knows what that darkness means but one who has experienced the same.” As she concluded her sad story, I thought that was just like spiritual blindness. Some sin comes, and gradually obscures the light of God in the soul. By and by the darkness deepens, until at length it is darkness which may be felt. Only the removal of the cause of darkness will secure a return of light; and only when sin is forgiven and abandoned is it possible to walk in the light of God’s countenance.

Let their table be made a snare.--

Abuse of privileges

David is speaking both as a prophet and as a type of the Messiah (Psalms 69:22-23). His words are quoted and applied to Jesus (Romans 15:3; John 2:17; John 19:28-29), and applied to Judas (Acts 1:20). Similar denunciations are to be similarly interpreted. They are not the utterances of personal or vindictive feeling, but the denunciations and predictions of God’s Spirit.

Table. What would otherwise have been for good.

1. Daily and common mercies.

2. Spiritual privileges. Sin brings a curse which converts food into poison (Malachi 2:2). “Their table.” A believer’s table is spread for him by God (Psalms 23:5); the table of the unbeliever is regarded as his own.

Snare. Cause of unexpected destruction. Their very mercies are an occasion of sin and misery. To faith the means of grace are salvation; to unbelief, a snare. Table a snare. When the gospel proves a savour of death unto death. The gospel table was spread first for the Jews (Matthew 22:28); the preaching of forgiveness began at Jerusalem (Luke 24:47), and being rejected proved a snare.

Trap--a capture. The sinner caught in Satan’s trap when he rejects the Saviour. Note the gradation--a snare for the foot, a trap for the whole body. The Old Testament falsely interpreted confirms the Jews in unbelief; the New Testament disbelieved becomes the occasion of deeper sin. In opposing the gospel the Jews filled up their sins (1 Thessalonians 2:16). In this sin the wrath of God came upon them to the uttermost. Their passover-table was made their trap. Multitudes thus caught in the siege of Jerusalem perished.

Stumbling-block--that which causes to fall into a snare or trap. The gospel when believed raises men to heaven; rejected it trips them into the bottomless pit. Christ a foundation to some, a stumbling-block to others (Romans 9:32-33). (T. Robinson, D.D.)

Verses 11-22

Romans 11:11-22

I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall?

The rejection of Israel

How occasioned.

1. They stumbled at Christ.

2. Were rejected because of their unbelief.

How overruled.

1. For the benefit of the Gentiles.

2. Indirectly for their own.

How finally compensated.

1. By their fulness.

2. By enlarged blessing upon the world. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The fall of Israel is

Temporary (verses 11-16).

1. It was overruled for the benefit of the world, because in consequence of their unbelief the preachers of the gospel turned to the Gentiles (Acts 13:16).

2. Their fulness--

(1) Must be the occasion of still greater blessing (Romans 11:12-15).

(2) Must be the reflex effect of the success of the gospel among the Gentiles (Romans 11:13-14).

(3) Is guaranteed by the firstfruits (Romans 11:15-16).


1. We should not despise but pity them (Romans 11:17-18).

2. Their fall--

(1) Is a warning to us (Romans 11:19-21).

(2) Should excite admiration of the goodness and severity of God (Romans 11:22).

(3) Should awaken hope and efforts for their recovery. (J. Lyth, D.D)

Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world,… how much more their fulness?--

The calling of the Jews the enriching of the world


God makes all mutations of states to serve to the good of the elect. If the Jews stand it is good; so is it if they fall, and shall be in their rising again. The prosperity of Egypt shall serve the good of Abraham; the destruction of Egypt the good of his children. “All His ways are good to such as keep His testimonies.”

The conversion of the Jews shall be the riches of the world. The more receive of the treasures of God’s grace the greater is every one’s part. So is it not in the treasure of princes. If the king bestow a thousand pounds upon one man it is a great gift; if upon two it is the less to each by half; if upon a thousand it is but a small matter to every one. But in God’s treasures multitudes of partakers diminish not but increase another’s part. The more drink of the waters of life the more floweth the fountain, the more the merrier. Where two or three are gathered together, there is Christ, but where more, there He is the more graciously. The prayer of one availeth much, how much more the prayers of many righteous? Force united is the stronger. Many streams make a great river, many drops a great flood, many sparks a great flame. How might we prevail with God if our whole people would join with one mind and affection in the service of God!

The gospel, faith, repentance, etc., are true riches. Gold, silver, etc., but shadows to these; therefore the man that had his barns full and his conscience empty, not being rich in God, is called fool. Hast thou silver and gold? But if thou hast not a good conscience, the poorest man that feareth God will not change states with thee.

The conversion of the Jews shall be our riches. It should make us think long for their calling. Gain is pleasing to hear of, but more to have it. Knowledge shall then increase upon us as the waters that cover the sea; the light of the moon shall be as the sun, and the light of the sun sevenfold. Zeal and all good graces shall increase. A great light is now risen, but a greater shall arise. Let us pray and long for the revealing of such riches, and in the meantime mourn for the hardness of the Jews, and cry unto God, “Visit Thy ancient people with Thy salvation.”

The casting off of the Jews was our calling; but the calling of the Jews shall not be our casting off, but our greater enriching in grace, and that two ways:

1. In regard of the company of believers when the thousands of Israel shall come in, which shall doubtless cause many Gentiles which now lie in ignorance, error, and doubt receive the gospel and join with them. The world shall then be a golden world, rich in golden men, saith Ambrose.

2. In respect of the graces which shall then in more abundance be rained down on the Church. There shall be more good, and they shall be also more good. (Elnathan Parr, B.D.)

Inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office.--

Paul magnifying his office

Paul’s office. The apostle of the Gentiles. Specially--

1. Commissioned.

2. Qualified.

3. Successful.

How he magnified it.

1. Not by boasting of it, but faithfully fulfilling it.

2. Not by confining himself to the Gentiles, but seeking the benefit of all.

3. Not by glorying in the fall of Israel, but anticipating the blessings associated with their recovery. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Church offices and magnifying them

In the Church--

Every man has his own office.

1. Higher or lower.

2. Assigned by the Great Head.

3. For which he is specially qualified.

4. Therefore responsible.

Should magnify it.

1. Not by glorying in it, but by rightly appreciating it.

2. Not by assumption, but fidelity.

3. Not by despising others, but encouraging them. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Necessaries of the ministerial office

To be prepared for this office we must--

1. Seek to possess ourselves with the most just and influential apprehensions of its nature and high designs.

2. Cherish a devout persuasion of its efficacy.

3. Endeavour to imbibe and visibly to cultivate the spirit appropriate to its discharge.

4. Give to its fulfilment the unreserved and constant dedication of our highest powers. This must appear under the form of

(1) Preparation.

(2) Public labour.

(3) Private assiduity.

5. Continue in the course thus described--

(1) With perseverance and watchfulness unto the end.

(2) With a meek endurance of every trial and privation to which it may expose us.

(3) With cheerful making of every sacrifice necessary to its fulfilment.

6. Cultivate habitual and solemn anticipations of its issues. (R. M’All, D.D.)

The dignity of the Christian ministry

The word “magnify,” employed to express the qualities of an object or pursuit, conveys the idea of something highly esteemed, honourable, glorious. And this is the estimate which Paul put on the office he sustained as a minister of Jesus Christ. The dignity of the Christian ministry may be seen by contemplating--

The authority by which it acts. That the Christian ministry has had its origin in an appointment directly from Heaven, it were folly for any to question who bow to the teachings of revelation. This claim has been asserted from the beginning, and in not a single instance has it ever been modified or relinquished. I say not that the ministry of the New Testament is in all respects identical with that of the Old. There is now no official earthly priesthood, for the one great Sacrifice has been offered “once for all.” And yet I do say that, as a Divinely appointed agency to meet the spiritual wants of the world, the ministry is not peculiar to the Christian dispensation. The ministry, and, in its most important attributes, the Christian ministry too, has existed under every revelation of the gospel as the medium of spiritual intercourse between Heaven and earth. Change of names, or of forms, or of outward service, does nothing to disturb what is strictly essential to the great ministerial function, nor to mar the integrity of that gracious system in which it has ever held an indispensable place.

The objects it contemplates. In all the departments of man’s social condition we discover ample proofs of the salutary influence which the ministry is fitted to exert. The influence of the pulpit upon the intellectual condition of man is a subject worthy the profoundest thought of all who are lovers of their kind. There is no agency under heaven that can bear with so much power upon the convictions and motives of humanity as the ministry of the gospel. Compared with the attainments of the human mind under the influence of Christianity, all its achievements amid the most favourable auspices of paganism are light and trivial. It was reserved for teachers mightier than those of the Academy or the Lyceum to proclaim to the world those great principles upon which its elevation, purity, and glory are made to rest. In like manner must it be said that the ministry of the gospel constitutes a most essential element in the progress of civilisation. The science of government, the theory of civil and religious liberty, are properly understood and appreciated only where the pulpit is true to its glorious mission. But to the ministry of the gospel appertains still higher honour. The gospel has to do pre-eminently with man’s spiritual nature, and has a direct bearing upon interests that affect his eternal destiny. The ministry goes forth on its benevolent mission. It preaches the gospel--the gospel as a source of light, making known a new element in the character of God--an element of mercy. It preaches the gospel as a source of power, by which the bondage of depravity is broken, the prey is taken from the mighty, and the captive is made free. It preaches the gospel as a source of consolation, by which the spirit is cheered amid all the trials of life, till Death itself falls a conquered monster at his feet, and he is away to the bosom of his Father and his God. And I ask, must not the instrumentality that stands connected with such glorious results as these be of all others the most dignified and important?

The means which it employs. Though several agencies might be mentioned having a concurrent influence in accomplishing the objects of the ministry, yet there is one that holds such a preeminence above all others, that we shall confine our attention to it alone: it is truth--“the truth as it is in Jesus.” How comprehensive and profound, how noble and soul-stirring the themes there presented for investigation!

The aids that are pledged to it. Among these we specially note the Spirit and Providence of God. Is there anything the mind can contemplate more truly sublime and beautiful than this alliance of the weakness of humanity with the strength of Divinity? thus constituting the ministry associate labourers with the eternal God in the regeneration of the world! But the Providence of God is also pledged to aid in the same great enterprise. Christ, the Author of the gospel and the Founder of the ministry, is “Head over all things to the Church.” Not only by Him were all things created, but by Him also are they sustained and controlled and made subservient to the accomplishment of His purposes of grace. (D. Kennedy, D.D.)

The ministerial office not an easy one

To one who regretted to Dr. Johnson that he had not been a clergyman because the life of a clergyman was an easy and comfortable one, the Doctor replied, “The life of a conscientious clergyman is not easy. I have always considered a clergyman as the father of a larger family than he is able to maintain. No, sir, I do not envy a clergyman’s life as an easy life, nor do I envy the clergyman who makes it an easy life.”

If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh.--

Provoking to emulation

My text calls us to consider--

The heart of man in a state of indifference towards the unspeakable gift of God.

1. The Jew was satisfied with that which ought not to have satisfied him, and he was indifferent towards that for which he should have craved. He had sacrifices, and should have been watching for the Lamb of God. He had a schoolmaster whose mission it was to lead him to Christ, but he was satisfied with the pedagogue. Toward certain national blessings he was anything but indifferent, but for the incomparable blessings of the kingdom he had no heart.

2. All this is not so much Jewish as human. The emulation of our first mother was, by the primitive temptation, misdirected. Abel was provoked to emulation by the promise of redemption, but Cain was excited to anger, and Adam’s immediate posterity soon became dead in trespasses and sins. Noah was moved with fear, but the world was immovable. Abraham was inspired to become a wanderer, but his near relatives sought a continuing city. Israel was stirred up by Moses to leave Egypt, but soon they preferred to return. From the time of the dedication of the temple the nation began to decline, and then (Isaiah 1:8; Hosea 7:8; Hosea 8:9) no promise or prophecy provoked them to emulation.

3. In the fulness of time the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which is lost. But His generation was crooked and perverse toward Him; “His own” slew Him, and His disciples were slow of heart toward Him. An inferior being would not have been slain. Christ was too good for the people. Their emulation was too low to reach such an object. At and after the day of Pentecost, many Jews were provoked to emulation, but this emulation passed away.

4. No sooner had the light of the world begun to shine than a cry arose for the twilight of Judaism and for the night of Paganism. Men asked and received, they sought and found. And the history of the Church is very much the sad story of the substitution of error for truth. The Reformation provoked to emulation, and subsequently Wesley and Whitfield; but now as heretofore we seem to hear a cry, “Not this man, but Barabbas.” “Not Christ, but Antichrist.” We might speak of millions outside Christendom whose emulation carries them no higher than a senseless idol. We might speak of Christendom content with the human where nothing should satisfy but the Divine.

5. But let us look at “our own flesh.” Multitudes in our England live but to gratify the lowest appetites; their emulation does not raise them to the level of the beasts that perish. Many, free from animal lusts, live for light pleasure and for small enjoyments. A large majority live to earn and to eat the bread that perisheth. Some live to climb to dizzy heights in the social scale. Now that which is good among these varied objects is far below the highest good. There is a spirit in man to satisfy as well as a body. There is Godlike blessedness within reach as well as temporary pleasure, bread that endureth unto everlasting life, honour that cometh from God, but toward these things the multitude in this nation have no emulation.

6. And among those who profess to have accepted the highest good we often observe a low emulation. One has the form of godliness without the power. Another has a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. Others limit their religion to orthodox opinions, or sensations, or correct conduct. The godly emulation of the people is low.

Behold one who has himself received the unspeakable gift, striving to remove indifference from others.

1. There was much in Christ calculated to arouse. He baptized with fire. He brought not peace only, but a sword. The spirit of His ministry was the spirit of expostulation with those who were satisfied with evil called good, or with a lower kind of good than He offered. He spake as the old prophet (Isaiah 55:2; cf. John 4:13-14; John 6:27).

2. John Baptist preached in harmony with this spirit of Christ Jesus. The axe is to be laid to the root of the tree; chaff is to be burned with unquenchable fire. And when men were inclined to rest in him, he cried, “He that cometh after me is mightier than I.”

3. The manifest tendency of the teaching of Jesus to provoke to emulation led in part to His crucifixion. It was this which imprisoned Peter, and stoned Stephen, and beheaded James, and scourged Paul and Silas.

4. The life and example of Paul wrought upon indifference. He provoked the indolent by his activity, the bigot by his charity, the careless by his consistency, the changeable by his belief, the half-hearted by his zeal, and the cold-hearted by the heat of his enthusiasm and love. Unbelievers and false brethren were not at ease in his presence. He stirred men also by direct endeavours for their salvation. “If by any means I may save some.” “Any means”--by preaching and teaching, entreaty, persuasion; wise as a serpent, harmless as a dove, all things to all men to save some.

5. Oh! for Paul-like men to provoke to emulation them which are our flesh! According to our power and opportunity let us try and do it. Our fellow-citizens are near us. We must travel sixteen thousand miles to stir the Japanese and Chinese. Our own flesh are always with us. They see our conduct, and understand our language. To foreigners we may be unable, individually, to set a good example; we cannot address them, but we have opportunity to provoke to emulation our own people. Suffer the example of Paul to provoke you to this good work. But I have something better to present than the example of Paul, even that of Christ. Is this pattern too perfect? Then for the present follow Paul, and let him be your pedagogue unto Christ. (S. Martin.)

Concern for kindred

Our kindred have special claims upon our consideration.

No means should be spared to awaken their religious feeling.

Nothing short of their salvation should satisfy us.

If we cannot save all, at least let us save some. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?--

The conversion of the Jews

The rejection of the Jews deeply affected the apostle. But there were three things which afforded him some consolation in the view of it. They were not all cast away; their rejection was the occasion of spreading the gospel among the Gentiles; they should yet be called in, and made instrumental of enlarging the Church of Christ. I shall show--

That the Jews will be called in. God has dispersed them, and therefore His calling them in must imply not only the taking away of the veil from their hearts, but also His restoring them to their own land. These two things cannot be separated any more than cause and effect.

1. This event is repeatedly foretold (Isaiah 27:12-13; Ezekiel 11:16-20; Hosea 1:10-11; Amos 9:14-15; Zechariah 14:21).

2. The preservation of the Jews confirms these predictions. They have been scattered among all nations for two thousand years, and yet remain distinct, while all other conquered nations have become blended with their conquerors. What other reason can be assigned for this but the Divine purpose of restoring them to their native land? In this view they have been, ever since their dispersion, a standing monument of the truth of God in His predictions, and of the faithfulness of God in His promise to Abraham.

3. This is further confirmed by their peculiar circumstances. They never have been permitted to own any particular country, or to establish any particular government. And though they have generally enjoyed temporal prosperity, yet their wealth has always consisted in personal and not in landed property. So that they have no attachment to any particular place or government, but constantly stand ready to march whenever the promised Messiah shall lead them in triumph to their native land.

Some of the happy effects which will flow from this event.

1. It will greatly confirm the truth of Divine revelation. There are more particular and express predictions concerning the restoration of the Jews than concerning any other event. And whenever it shall take place it will be more easy to discern the agreement between the predictions and their accomplishment than it has been in any other case whatever.

2. According to the text the restoration of the Jews shall have a greater tendency to convert mankind than their dispersion had. Their dispersion broke down the middle wall of partition, and opened the way for spreading the gospel among the nations. The same effect in a greater degree shall be produced by their restoration. And this may be greatly owing to the methods God may employ to bring it about. It is supposed by many that He will convert them in the places where they are dispersed before He conducts them to Jerusalem. And should this be the case it will have a powerful tendency to awaken the attention of all nations to the gospel (Zechariah 8:20).

3. It will have a direct and happy tendency to bring on the latter, day glory. It is easy to see how it will in many ways facilitate the universal spread of the gospel. And there is no doubt they will be as much engaged to spread the gospel as they ever had been to oppose it. Their return, therefore, the apostle represents as the fulness of the Gentiles who will then be united with them, and so all Israel shall be saved; that is, the whole number of God’s elect who are His spiritual Israel.


1. It appears from what has been said that there is a growing evidence in favour of the Divine inspiration of the Scriptures by the fulfilling of prophecies. The evidence of miracles has ceased; but the evidence of prophecy has been continued and increased from the day that God foretold that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head.

2. The sovereignty of God appears plainly from His conduct towards His peculiar people. He claims a right to give temporal favours to one and not to another, and to give spiritual blessings to one and not to another. He promised to give to Abraham and to his seed such temporal and spiritual blessings as He denied to mankind in general. And though for a long time past He has scattered them through the world, yet He has exercised a particular providence over them by which they are preparing to stand again as His peculiar people at the head of the religious world.

3. If the restoration of the Jews shall produce such effects as have been mentioned, then we may safely conclude that God is as really promoting the prosperity of the Church in general at one time as at another. He was as really fulfilling His promise to Abraham while his seed were four hundred years in bondage as while He was pouring down His blessings upon them in the land of promise. God is never slack, as men count slackness, in carrying into effect the great purposes of His grace. God promotes the fruitfulness of the earth by cold as well as by heat, by darkness as well as by light; just so He promotes the prosperity of the Church by all the opposition made to its growth and enlargement. The friends of Christ have no just ground to despond at the apparently slow movements of the wheels of providence, nor His enemies to hope and triumph. In due time the Jews will be restored and converted, and the gospel will spread and prevail.

4. If the Jews shall be called in, then we cannot expect any long settled peace among the nations till that event shall take place. It cannot be brought about without disturbing the harmony of all nations where they reside, and through whom they must make their way to Judaea, which is in the possession of the Mohammedans. It is not to be supposed that the Mohammedans can be conquered without spreading war among the whole Eastern world. And should a general war break out there, it would directly or indirectly affect all Europe, if not America.

5. It appears from what has been said that we have as much reason to believe the Jews will be eventually restored to their native country as they had to believe the coming of Christ. There was a multitude of plain predictions in the Old Testament concerning Christ, which the Jews ought to have believed, but there are as many both in the Old and New Testament concerning the restoration of the Jews. And there are no more apparent difficulties in the way of their returning to their native land than there were in the way of Christ’s coming into the world. But Christians have been very unbelieving in respect to their return, and this has led Christian nations to despise and abuse that ancient people.

6. Since God has plainly told us that He intends to deliver them we ought to desire and do all we can to bring about that great and happy event. We have received unspeakable benefits from their being for a while cast away, and are promised still greater benefits from their predicted restoration. There is no ground to expect the restoration of the Jews without the aid of the Christian world. It is time, therefore, for Christians to be alive to the great work they have to do.

7. This subject teaches us the indispensable obligation we are under to believe, and love, and obey the sacred oracles which the Jews so long preserved, and at length conveyed to us Gentiles. (N. Emmons, D.D.)

The benefit resulting from the conversion of the Jews

The calling of the Jews shall bring such an addition of happiness to the world that it shall have more life, spirit, vigour, put into it both in regard to Jews and Gentiles. The world is now like a man taken with the palsy on the one side, for though it live on the side of the Gentile, yet it is dead on the side of the Jew, and therefore in that regard their calling shall be as life from the dead. Also on the side of the Gentile, many that are now seduced by false teachers shall then embrace the gospel in truth. And partly because those that do believe shall so be confirmed and increased, that in comparison their former life shall not come into remembrance. They shall live more. (Elnathan Parr, B.D.)

For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy.

The holiness of the firstfruit and the lump

1. Concerning these firstfruits the law is set down (Leviticus 23:1-44), where the people may not put sickle into their corn till they have offered a sheaf to the Lord, and then it was lawful for them to reap it. Hence by allusion is our Saviour called the firstfruits of them that sleep, because our resurrection depends upon and is assured by His. Also when they had their corn in, and made ready of it for their use, they might not eat of it till they had offered two loaves to the Lord, and then was their whole lump made lawful for them to eat.

2. God commanded these ceremonies to teach the Jews that they received all blessings from the Lord. So that as princes when they bestow manors upon deserving servants make reservation of some fealty, service, rent, or such like, only to show that they hold of them. So God required this of the Jews.

3. The sanctification of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to be the people of God sanctifieth outwardly all their posterity. The Jews therefore are still a holy people, which appears by their evidence and their letters patents, the tenor of the first grant (Genesis 17:7; Acts 2:38-39; Acts 3:25). And though some of them have forfeited their estate, yet some cannot forfeit the privilege granted to the whole nation. But--

(1) The nation is before called rebellious: how then can it now be called holy? There is a double holiness.

(a) Of regeneration.

(b) Of the covenant; in regard of the first they are rebellious, in regard of the second they are holy.

(2) We are by nature the children of wrath. How then can the Jews be holy by nature or birth? The former definition of holiness makes it plain. In regard of the first, children of wrath; in regard of the second, holy by nature. The first cannot be conveyed by parents to posterity: the second is, as, for example, a gentleman is chosen to some great office whereby he is a great lord; he begets a son, this son is a gentleman by birth, but not a lord, because the honour of his father was not invested in his blood, but a special grace conferred on his person.

The children of Christians are born Christians and holy, by virtue of the covenant having right to the initiating seal--baptism, which right, if they were not born Christians, they could not have. Before baptism our children are either heathen or Christians; but not heathens, for then they might not be baptized till they had made confession of Christ. Therefore they are born Christians. Baptism maketh not a Christian, but signifieth. As there are Jews by nature, so Christians. If any allege that we are not born but reborn Christians, the answer is we are not born regenerate Christians, but to be regenerate. We beget Christians, not believers.

The children of Christians dying before baptism die as Christians, therefore they have hope, and their parents may be comforted over them.

Thou shalt never have comfort that thou art born a Christian till thou believest as a Christian should do. He that is freeborn and will use his freedom must observe some ceremony, and receive some instrument testifying the same; so though we be born of Christian parents we must believe and repent; the sin of the father prejudiceth not the believing, nor the righteousness of the father sayeth the unbelieving child. It is a credit to be born of religious parents if we be religious. If a man have a thousand pound land a year left him, and spend it all in riotous living, what credit is it for him to brag that his friends left him such an estate? nay, it is a shame to him. He is truly noble that is good, but a wicked and vicious man, though he came of a worthier father than Abraham, is to be accounted base. Walk in the steps of thy godly parents, and if they were not godly redeem the baseness of thy family by thy holiness and virtues.

Art thou born a Christian? Why then livest thou like a heathen? If thou art freeborn why becomest thou by thy wickedness the devil’s slave? As thou bearest the name of Christ so live like Him. (Elnathan Parr, B.D.)

Verses 17-24

Romans 11:17-24

And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive-tree, wert grafted in.

The olive-tree

Why it is a symbol.

1. Of God’s faithful witnesses (Zechariah 4:5; Revelation 11:3).

2. Of the Church, as the channel of grace to men.

Why it was chosen by Paul. Because of

1. The holy anointing oil produced by it (Exodus 25:6).

2. Its beauty (Hosea 14:6).

3. Its constant greenness (Psalms 52:8).

4. Its fruitfulness.

5. Its usefulness.

6. Its long duration: (T. Robinson, D.D.)

The parable of the olive

This teaches us--

1. To compassionate the outcasts of Israel.

2. To watch lest we also fall.

3. To reverence and magnify the goodness and severity of God.

4. To look for the recovery of God’s ancient people. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The parable of the olive

We were before our engrafting wild olives. Without God, strangers from the commonwealth of Israel. This Paul bids us remember, that we may praise God for His mercy.

Having received grace let us carry ourselves without boasting against them that want grace. When thou seest a profane man disdain him not, but pray for him, remembering thy former estate.

Those which partake of the fatness of the olive are engrafted. This fatness is the grace given to the root.

1. The grace of justification. Oil is good for medicine-healing wounds and assuaging pain. Also it makes the countenance cheerful; so the grace of Christ, which is called the oil of gladness, maketh the righteous joyful.

2. The grace of sanctification. This may be known by its effects, which are--

(1) In the heart. If thou art engrafted thou hast the heart of Abraham: thou lovest goodness and hatest evil. The wood of the olive will not rot. This denotes soundness. The nature also of the oil is not to be mixed with other things. You may as soon mix light and darkness as grace and sin. The nature of oil, too, is to keep metal from rusting. So the virtue of this grace preserves the soul from sinning, which would eat in and perish the soul.

(2) In the tongue. The blossom of the olive is wonderful sweet; so if thou art of this tree thy speech will be gracious to the hearers. It is a vain thing for a man to seem religious if he refrain not his tongue.

(3) In the life if thou art engrafted thou wilt bring forth much fruit, for the olive is exceeding fruitful.

(a) For God. Oil was consecrated to the Lord, was used in sacrifice, and for the holy lamps.

(b) For man. It is both for medicine and meat. Our lives must be fruitful and profitable to the Church.

3. Sanctification may also be known by its properties.

(1) The olive is a quick bearer; so we must bring forth fruit quickly.

(2) An olive branch was a token of peace. If you pour out water it maketh a noise, but oil falls down softly and with great silence. So the servants of God must be peaceable.

(3) The olive is always green, and never casts the leaves, noting the constant tenor we should keep in our obedience (Psalms 92:14).

(4) Our obedience must be cheerful and free. Anointing with oil makes us nimble, for if we have received hereof we shall not be stiff in the joints, but will run in the ways of the commandments. The olive requires no great cost to make it fruitful, nor a man truly sanctified great entreaty to persuade him to do good. (Elnathan Parr, D.D.)

The privilege and duty of the Gentile


1. Past condition.

2. Gracious acceptance.

3. Present privilege.

4. Consequent duty. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Our duty to the Jew

The duty.

1. Boast not, etc.

2. Despise not.

3. Insult not.

4. But pity and pray for him.

The reasons. Remember--

1. What you were.

(1) Wild.

(2) Uncultivated.

(3) Unfruitful.

2. Your calling.

(1) Grafted in.

(2) Through grace at his expense.

3. Your privileges; enjoying the blessings of the covenant.

4. Your dependence. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The Gentiles may not despise the Jews

They which are advanced by grace are not to boast against them which are in misery (Psalms 12:1; Exodus 3:9; Deuteronomy 10:1; Deuteronomy 10:1; Corinthians 13:4, 5): The Pharisee disdained the publican, but the publican disdains not him, nor is disdained of God. The use of this.

In respect of the Jew. Some are broken off, not all. The Church of the Jews was never east away, only the unbelievers. The olive-tree is pruned, but not stocked up. The body and some of the branches remain, among whom we are grafted. We are grafted in among them, and receive of the fatness with them. The Church of the Jews, not of Rome, is our mother Church. We must be the seed of Abraham if we will have the promises, and therefore believing Gentiles are called the children of Abraham, not naturally, but by incision.

In regard of the Gentiles. Thou art made partaker of the fatness. The same fatness nourisheth the natural and ingrafted branches. The Jew is saved by faith in Christ, so are we. There is no difference between the way of salvation in the Old and New Testament, but as this, in grafting there is clay and binding about. The Jew is bound about with a red ligature in regard of circumcision, we with a white in regard of baptism and the white garments then used. Let us not then boast ourselves against the branches, for though they deserve contempt, woe be to them which are instruments to vex them. Let us love them, as we have good cause, for the root’s sake. There is no name so honourable as that of a Jew; take heed thou use it not in contempt. (Elnathan Parr, B.D.)

Gentile and Jew

The exhortation. Glory not with supercilious contempt. Gentile Christians probably already began to show--

1. An overbearing disposition towards the Jews.

2. A policy of complacency in themselves. Such a spirit soon and long manifested by Gentile Churches. Faith excludes boasting either of ourselves or over others, and charity vaunteth not itself.

The reasons.

1. Thou bearest not the root. The Church not sprung from the Gentiles, and the Jews owe nothing to them.

2. But the root thee. Gentiles owe all to the Jews. Salvation is of the Jews (John 4:22). Christ Himself was a Jew. The Jewish Church was the foundation; Gentiles were built upon it (Ephesians 2:20). The true Christian and Jewish Church but one. (T. Robinson, D.D.)

Gentile and Jew

The Gentile--

Has no ground to exult over the jew.

1. The Jew fell by unbelief.

2. Privileged by His fall the Gentile only stands by faith.

But much more ground for humility.

1. God, who spared not His chosen people.

2. Will not spare the unbelieving Gentile.

3. Therefore be not highminded, etc. (J. Lyth, D.D.)



1. The disposition in man to boast of his privileges.

2. The folly of this.

3. Its danger. (J. Lyth, D.D)


Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in.

The natural branches broken,

And the sinner for whose conversion things are working, spared a time.

A fact stated.

1. These branches were broken off.

2. For a double cause.

(1) “That I might be grafted in.”

(2) Because of unbelief.

A caution given--against--

1. Pride.

2. Indifference to God.

3. Carelessness.

An awful judgment implied. If we take not heed we too shall be broken off. Therefore, serve the Lord, and fear and love Him now. (W. P. Taylor.)

Well; because of unbelief they were broken off; and thou standest by faith.--

Standing by faith

The jews have ever fallen through unbelief.

1. They came to the confines of the “land flowing with milk and honey”; the Anakims, and the cities fenced and walled up to heaven, stood before them for their prey. They measured the men and the walls accurately, but they did not measure how “He that was for them was greater than all that was against them,” and therefore they were sent back to wander and “perish in the wilderness.”

2. Presently we see them with God only as their King, but they could not appreciate an invisible King. As they had before shown no “faith” in God’s protection, so now they disbelieved His sovereignty. “He gave them a king in His anger, and He took him away in His wrath.”

3. In the midst of their distresses they began to lean on idols and arms of flesh, until “unbelief,” ripening into apostasy, they were carried away into Babylon. “Because of unbelief they were broken off.”

4. But in mercy God brought them back again, and infinite was their privilege and opportunity when Christ walked their streets. But “their eyes were blinded,” the living Truth was before their eyes, but “they perceived Him not.” The Holy Ghost descended upon them, they witnessed His wonder-works, they felt the drawings of His grace, but they denied His convictions and blasphemed His glory. And such as was their “unbelief,” so is their punishment. They were “broken off,” and there they lie, fruitless, despised, but never dead, till they shall be “grafted in again.”

What it is to “stand by faith.” “Faith” is simply a medium to transmit pardon and grace. But every saved man finds “faith” the actual instrument which holds him up. In the one case it is as the wire which conveys the message; in the other it is the invisible chain which holds the planet in its course.

2. There is an inferior sense in which a man “stands by faith,” since confidence is always the secret of composure, as composure is the secret of power. The little child will walk, and what is much harder, will “stand” as soon as he has confidence enough.

3. But in its truer signification to “stand by faith” is--

1. To have thrown away every other dependence. I am unable, everything in the universe is unable to keep me, “Hold Thou me up and I shall stand.”

2. To believe, and not doubt, that you are in a state of full acceptance with God. Without this there never will be firmness of principle enough to make you “stand.”

3. To be in continual communication with the Unseen. It is the strength of secret prayer. It is to feel yourself in the deep waters, upheld by an arm that will never, never let you sink.

4. To have the most entire conviction that the work is God’s work, and that He will complete it.


1. Let us be very humble, for it is an easy thing to fall, seeing we only “stand by faith,” and “faith” is a fine, delicate thing, and we all know how hard it is to believe at all times.

2. Nevertheless, let us have a holy confidence, for Christ says, “I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not.”

3. And by and by the Jews will “stand” as never a nation stood, and then that word will be true to them also, “thou standest by faith.” To help along, to help along one single child of Abraham to that “stand of faith” is the present duty. (J. Vaughan, M.A.)

Be not highminded, but fear.--


1. At every turn remember this saying, Be not highminded. Hath God given thee riches, wit, beauty, etc.? Let this sentence alway sound in thine ears. Hearest thou any say: few have the knowledge you have, or can speak as you do? Let this sentence stand sentinel to keep thee from pride.

2. All other sinners fly from God. The proud man resists Him (James 4:6). God gives grace to the lowly. The rain stays not on the tops of the mountains, but the valleys are watered and made fruitful. God teacheth the humble. The proud man is empty. Height weakens a thing; and an empty vessel makes the loudest sound. They which brag most have least in them. The chaff is above the corn, not because it is best, but because it is lightest. Observe--

The signs of this highmindedness.

1. Impatience of admonition. The Pharisees take it in great scorn, that Christ reproveth them of blindness, when indeed they were beetle blind. Proud Zedekiah cannot endure Micah’s admonition.

2. Diminishing the gifts of others while boasting of our own. The proud Pharisee abased the publican and exalted himself. Dost thou impute unto others coldness, covetousness, etc., saying thou wouldest be ashamed if thou wert no better than they, never looking at thine own infidelity, hypocrisy, etc.

3. Meddling with things above us. Many presently upon their supposed conversion enter into controversies and censure whole Churches. David approved his humility by not meddling with things which were too high for him.

4. Contention (Proverbs 13:20).

The remedy.

1. The place to which the remedy is to be applied. The heart, as Peter adviseth, “Deck yourselves inwardly with lowliness of mind.” There may be an abatement of pride outwardly, and none within. There may be as much pride under a leather jacket as under a velvet gown: who seemed more humble or was more proud than Diogenes in his tub?

2. The remedy itself--

(1) A continual remembrance of this and the like Scriptures. Draw these as a sword to take down this peacock.

(2) Remember the example and monition of Christ: Learn of Me (not to walk upon the sea, or to make a world), but to be humble and lowly in spirit.

(3) Consider how God hath judged the proud. Pride thrust angels out of heaven; our first parents out of paradise; hanged Haman upon his own gallows; made Nebuchadnezzar a beast, etc.

(4) Consider that if thou hast any excellency, it is the gift of God (1 Corinthians 4:6-7). It is an ass that will be proud of a lion’s skin, which is not his own. And God can take away thy knowledge, and make thee an idiot; and if thou beest rich, He can make thee poor.

(5) Doth thy heart tickle thee because of thy knowledge, faith, patience, etc.? Cast thy account, thou shalt find that thy wants are more than thy receipts. For one thing thou knowest thou art ignorant of ten. If thou hast one good thought, thou hast a thousand ill ones. Pliny records a secret of the bee--that in a storm it getteth up a little stone, by the weight of it to fly the more steadily, and to get home in safety. If thou be in danger to be blown away with pride, let the thoughts of thy wants be to thee as this little stone.

3. The parties that stand in need of it. All men, specially those which are extraordinarily graced by God. All other sins are in evil, this is in that which is good, and therefore the harder to be avoided. We are all of his mind, who, being asked what song he delighted most to hear, said that wherein his praises were set forth. Even Paul must be taken down with the buffetings of Satan, lest he be proud. Study and pray for humility, the honour of a Christian. Moses’ face shone when he had talked with God, and he wist not. An excellent degree of grace is it to be excellent and not to take notice of it. As boughs the more laden with fruit are the more lowly, and as when the sun is at the highest our shadows are at the lowest, so the more graze would be adorned with the more humility. The devil will tempt thee to all viciousness; if he cannot prevail that way, he will tempt thee to be proud of thy goodness; yea, to be proud because thou art not proud. In the midst of grace pray for a humble heart. (Elnathan Parr, B.D.)

Highmindedness and fear

There is no sin so heinous as self-satisfaction, and no virtue so agreeable to God as humility. These words are addressed to Christians, so highmindedness is not confined to worldly men. Notice--

The particulars of the failing. It includes--

1. Presuming on our privileges. The Christian has many privileges above the world.

(1) Liberty. But he must not presume on that liberty for egotism.

(2) Enlightenment. But he must not make the light to be a pretext for self-assertion.

(3) Holiness. This must not cause him to think more highly of himself than he ought to think.

2. Trusting too much in worldly advantages.

(1) Wealth will make a man high-minded if not properly used.

(2) Ancestry and pedigree.

(3) Beauty of person, strength of limb, a high education, even personal liberality or usefulness.

3. Haughtiness towards others. The man who thinks highly of himself will act it, and treat his fellows with contempt. Like the Pharisee.

The antidote. In this case fear indicates self-mistrust, dread of falling, and reverence for God.

1. Fear is a restraining power. Dread of consequences is an important factor in society. Fear of God is not a slavish torment, but awe and self-abnegation.

2. “But fear.” It is the picture of one feeling his way in the gloom, knowing his own weakness and the awful consequences of a fall, and so taking all needful precautions. It induces therefore--

(1) Prudence.

(2) Watchfulness.

(3) Vigilance.

The details of the fear. Fear what?

1. The natural pride and teaching of the human heart.

2. The effects of self-righteousness. “Pride goeth before a fall.”

3. The danger of being a castaway.

4. The danger of perverting truth. (Homilist.)

Haughtiness of mind and its antidote

Be not highminded is good counsel Men of “lofty eyes” (Psalms 131:1), being busy in the pursuit of things out of reach, oversee those more necessary things which are at hand. The malady here aimed at is an overweening conceit of our own worth, in respect of either knowledge or virtue. A disease fatal to the Jew, and to which the Gentile was most obnoxious. Men raised from the dung-hill to great fortunes have commonly all the vices of rich men, and more.

1. The cause of this malady is not in the gospel, or in the riches of the gospel; but in ourselves, who are willing to be deceived; and in the devil, the forger of all error and deceit. For as God, whose very essence is goodness, doth manifest that goodness out of sin itself, so the devil abuseth good unto evil; and when he cannot drive us to despair by reason of our sin, he makes us presume upon conceit of our righteousness. And all this proceeds from our own wilful error: for, “Pride is the daughter of ignorance.” We see the gospel ex uno situ, but on one side, and that the wrong side. We behold Christ as a Saviour, not as a Lord as well. We entertain prerogatives as prerogatives, and not as obligations also. We contemplate virtues as the work of our own hands, but are blind to their imperfections. We consider ourselves as “branches grafted in,” but cannot see that we may “be cut off” (verse 22). We consider our strength, not our weakness.

2. This haughtiness of mind hinders the very continuance of goodness: it doth not only wither the branch, but it also cuts it off. The Christian may fall, as the Jew; and, if he “continue not in God’s goodness, he also shall be cut off “ (verse 22). When we have gone but a sabbath-day’s journey with the Jew and done but “what was said to them of old,” do we not begin to canonise ourselves? But if we forgive and do good to an enemy; if we fast a day, and give our provision to the poor; then straight, with Absalom, we raise up a pillar and write upon it, “We shall never be moved.” A cup of cold water shall answer for our oppression, an alms at our door for the fraud in our shop, our frequenting of sermons for our neglect of prayer. And all is now quiet within us; we seem to walk on the pavement of heaven, and from thence to behold our brethren (who have more piety, with less noise) as nothing in respect of ourselves. When our hypocrisy hath edge enough to cut us from the olive, our spiritual pride keepeth us in. But one day they will find it true, that doubting out of humility may find heaven-gates wide open, when bold presumption shall be shut out of doors.

But fear. Fear and hope are hewed out of the same rock. As hope is an expectation of good to come, so fear is the apprehension of some approaching evil. And seldom is any hope so strong as to be without some tincture of fear; seldom any fear so strong as to admit of no mixture of hope. For if they be alone and in excessu, they lose their names. Hope without fear is but confidence; and fear without hope is but despair (verse 21). Fear of being cut off, if St. Paul’s reason be good, is the best means to repress in us all proud conceit.

1. And in a matter so great no care and circumspection can be enough. And the reasons are plain. For--

(1) There is an over-easiness to persuade ourselves that we are in favour with God. Men are more apt to presume than to despair, and if despair hath killed her thousands, presumption hath killed her ten thousands. The difference between the sicknesses of the body and of the mind is that in the one we are sensible of our grief, we send for the physician; but in the other we are senseless, and are more afraid of our physic than of our disease. We admit of miserable comforters, that will flatter us to death; and rather than we will want flatterers, we take the office on ourselves.

(2) There is the uncertain knowledge we have of the quality of our works. For in our best intentions there may be imperfections which we know not. My devotion may be irregular; my patience, stupidity; my zeal, rage. With what good meaning do many poor souls do evil!” Who can tell how oft he offendeth?” (Psalms 19:12); therefore let us “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.”

(3) There is the over-ripe conceit and too speedy apprehension of our sufficiency and growth in the duties of Christianity. We are very apt to flatter ourselves that, when we are but newly set forth, we are at our journey’s end. All excellency we can put off to others that have more time to learn it. The Jew is content with his ceremonies; and the Christian, with his outward profession, but less significant than they. But this fear is most requisite in respect of those enemies of our souls which are ever in readiness to surprise us (1 John 2:16). Many men are cut off by themselves and their own folly, when the devil beareth the blame.

2. And, therefore, to keep this jealousy awake in us, the apostle awakes one fear with another, the fear of circumspection with the fear of “being cut off.” For, naturally, fear of evil works a fear of circumspection: and this fear ushers in that fear by which we may call, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15). For, seeing evil before us ready to seize upon us, we begin to advise with ourselves how to avoid it (Luke 16:3; Luke 14:31). Fear is the mother of advice; and consultation dies with fear (Luke 16:4). When we presume, counsel is needless; and when we despair, it is too late. The best preservative of a branch new-grafted is the sight and fear of that knife which may cut him off; and for want of it many branches have been cut off and cast away. (A. Farindon, D.D.)

For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest He also spare not thee.--

All which continue not in grace shall be broken off

(Luke 13:5; Luke 13:5; Revelation 2:1-29.):--God is not moved with outward privileges to tolerate in His orchard those which only cumber the ground. Thou art planted in the Church, which is Paradise, and art watered with those rivers of God, the Word and sacraments. If thou bringest forth no fruit, though Christ Himself had come of thy stock, thou shalt be broken off and thrown away. Here is a good take-heed for many.

For England, Germany, all reformed Churches. The Jews were the famous people of God, and yet cast away for their faithlessness. Where are those renowned Churches of Asia, of Greece? If we continue not to bring forth fruit we must look for the same measure which God hath meted out to them.

For profane persons. If judgment begin at God’s own house, how shall the wicked escape? If an Israelite go to the pot, what should a Canaanite, a hypocrite, a rebel look for?

For the children of God. Art thou one? Walk according to thy profession; if thou growest cold as others, take heed. Hast thou faith? keep it. Hast thou a good conscience? better the peace of it every day by righteous living. Hold that thou hast. Remember what is come to the Jews. When thou seest thy neighbour’s house on fire, it is time to provide water to save thine own. When two ships set forth, if the foremost run upon a rock and split, her consort will be warned. Thou seest covetousness to be the destruction of this man, pride of that, whoredom of another; pray thou against these sins and all other, and be careful. (Elnathan Parr, B.D.)

The rejection of the Jews a warning to Christians

There are two general remarks suggested by the language of the text.

1. The principle of God’s displeasure against sin and sinners is the same, whether it has reference to nations or to individuals. Hence the dismemberment of the Jewish community is adduced as a warning to every professor of the gospel of Christ.

2. The language of the text derives force from the contrast which it involves. Compare it with verse 24.

It is a dreadful thing to abuse spiritual blessings. Yes, it is so dreadful that, in the instance referred to, Jehovah, in His fiery indignation, turned the highest favours He could impart to a nation into a tremendous national curse. “God spared not the natural branches.” He spared them for a while, ‘tis true; just as He spared the old world in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing; but in the end He destroyed them, and that with a sore destruction! The pleading voice of Christ in His gospel, accompanied as I believe it to be in every instance with some degree of Divine visitation, as regards the conscience, tends either to raise the soul to glory, and honour, and immortality, or to sink it into the lowest depths of misery and woe. Men walk in gospel pastures, but they do not feed upon them. The broad sunshine of mercy beams around them, but it finds no avenue to the recesses of their hearts. They approach just so near to the Saviour as to receive from His Spirit an influence, the abuse of which ripens them for destruction, and prepares them as fuel to feed the hottest flames of hell!

How highly it behoves all those who are privileged to enjoy spiritual blessings to look diligently to themselves lest they should fail of the grace of God.

1. Beware of procrastination, that is of putting off till to-morrow what ought to be done to-day. St. Augustine prayed for victory over his besetting sin; but then he acknowledges that he did not wish his prayer to be answered just then. This is human nature; conscience and passion pleading against each other; reason warning and inclination rebelling. To put off coming to Christ until you have tasted more of the pleasures of the world is to create a fearful probability that you will never come to Him at all. If God, when His justice has been insulted, and His patience long tried, has refused to spare others, “O take heed lest He spare not thee.”

2. The subject says to us all--Beware of self-imposition. In other words, it says--Beware of a religion which is unable to protect the soul in an hour of emergency.

3. The subject says to each of us--Beware of trifling or tampering with conscience, and that not merely in reference to delays, but in reference to every other point. One will give up everything save a single prohibited indulgence; and another will give up everything except a single unhallowed pursuit; and each is willing to balance accounts by giving an overmeasure of piety in some other point: for example--the covetous man will be scrupulously honest, and the licentious man will be profusely liberal; but neither will yield, to the claims of the gospel, his besetting sin. Here is the solitary leak which sinks the vessel! You cannot compromise with Heaven. It were more easy to alter the laws of nature, to shiver a sunbeam, or to wrench a planet out of its orbit, than to change one iota of the Divine purpose, in regard to the terms of a sinner’s salvation. (W. Knight, M.A.)

Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God.--

The goodness and severity of God

In every revelation we have of God these two phases appear. Look to--

1. Nature.

2. Providence.

3. The Bible.

4. The Cross.

5. The Jewish nation.

The display of these two phases is necessary to man in this world.

1. To keep the mind from extremes.

2. To induce sinners to repent. (T. Levi.)

The goodness and severity of God

Let me endeavour--

To expose the partiality, and therefore the mischief, of two different views which might be taken of the Godhead.

1. One is incidental to those who bear a single respect to the attribute of goodness.

(1) They look to Him as a God of tenderness and nothing else, and ascribe to Him the fondness rather than the authority of a father. They would admit of no other aspect for religion than that of uniform placidness; and to decorate this bland and beauteous imagination the more, they would appeal to all that looks mild and merciful in the scenery of nature, and it is inferred that surely He, at whose creative touch all this loveliness hath arisen, must Himself be placid as the breeze, and gentle as the zephyr which He causes to blow over it. But Nature has her hurricanes, earthquakes, and thunder, as well as these kindlier exhibitions.

(2) This beholding of the goodness, without the severity of God, lulls the human spirit into a fatal complacency to its own state and prospects, and serves, in practice, to break down the fence between obedience and sin, and to nullify all moral government.

2. But there is also a mischief in looking singly to the sovereignty of God apart from His goodness.

(1) Theologians who have thus erred, and not so much by the views they have given forth of His inviolable sanctity; but rather by the views which they have given forth of such a dread and despotic sovereignty, as to impress the conception of a fatalism, against which all prayer and all performance of man are unavailing. However difficult it may be to adjust the metaphysics of the question, there is one thing unquestionable, and that is an amnesty, offered to all; a propitiation for the sins of the whole world. And, therefore, we would not that so much as one individual should be chilled into hopelessness by the dogmata of a hard or unfeeling theology, against returning to a God who waiteth to be gracious.

(2) But independent of all lofty speculations, there is abroad an impression of severity to which much of this world’s irreligion is owing, and it is a frequent anomaly that they who at times can take comfort in sin under an impression of His goodness have at all times such a sense of His severity as never to attain a thorough confidence in His favour. And just as a man would shut his eyes against a spectacle that pains them, so will they shrink from a contemplation that only serves to put dread into their bosoms, and there is an habitual distance kept up between the spirits of all flesh and Him who is the Father of them. Just as you would rather avoid than encounter the man with whom you are not perfectly at ease, so you have the same motive for shunning God. But it is our very distance from God that sheds a dimness over His character and ways, over His wrath, as well as over His love.

To point to the way in which these two views of the Godhead are so united in the gospel of Jesus Christ, as to form one full and consistent representation of it.

1. There is a severity. There is a law that will not be trampled on, a lawgiver that will not be insulted. The face of God is unchangeably set against evil.

(1) We cannot light upon a single instance of God so falling back from the severity of His denunciations against sin, as at all to soften the expression of His hatred towards it: not at the Fall, not at the Flood, not at the promulgation of the law on Mount Sinai, not at the entrance of Israel into the Promised Land, not in the subsequent dealings of many centuries with His own perverse and stiff-necked children, and, lastly, not at that terrible period when the Jewish economy was swept away, and even the tears of a compassionate Saviour did not avert the approaching overthrow. In all this there is an admonition to us.

(2) There is an immense delusion on this subject. We estimate God by ourselves--His antipathy to sin by our own slight and careless imagination of Him. Now if we measure God by ourselves, we should have little fear indeed of severity from His hand; for, save when there is gross and monstrous delinquency, we can bear very well, both with our own transgressions and those of others. No man, e.g., would ever think of vehemently denouncing another just because he thought little of God. This is adverted to by the Psalmist, “Thou thoughtest I was altogether such an one as thyself,” etc. Not therefore to you who are disgraced by profligacy, but even to you who live in a state of total and practical unconcern about another world, would we ask, “Behold the severity of God.” I am perfectly aware of many who look upon such representations as these to be too strong. They can see, and be impressed by it, as a great moral delinquency, when an earthly parent is thus robbed of the love and loyalty of his own offspring; but how then can you miss the more emphatic application of the same principle, though far more intense in degree to our Father who is in heaven? You know how to feel for the wounded feelings of the parents; and is there no reply to the complaining voice of Him who saith to us from heaven, “Behold I stretch out My hand, but no man regardeth”?

2. But along with this severity there is a goodness, and they meet together in the fullest harmony. It is this, in fact, which constitutes the leading peculiarity of the gospel. When God is severe it is never because of His delight in the sufferings of His creatures, but always because of His justice, holiness, and truth. Could a way be devised by which these might be inscribed as legibly in a deed of amnesty, then we may be assured that He who hath no pleasure in the death of His children, but who hath sworn by Himself that He would rather that they should all live, cause it richly to flow over to the utmost limits of this sinful creation. Now it is precisely this which distinguishes the evangelical system. The gospel is a mercy in full and visible conjunction with righteousness. With the pardon which it deals out for sin it makes most impressive demonstration of the evil of it, the mercy of the gospel meets with the truth of the law, and God can at once be a just God and a Saviour. A Saviour has been born, on whom God did lay the iniquities of us all. The Holy One of Israel now sitteth upon a throne of grace, The uncompromising doctrine of Scripture is this, if you refuse the mercy of God upon this footing, you will receive it upon no other. “No man cometh unto the Father, but by the Son”: while all that enter into His presence by the open door of the Son’s mediatorship shall be saved. The mighty problem was resolved by God. You will meet with several expressions in Scripture on that subject: “God being just, and a Saviour”; “God being just, and the justifier of them that believed in Jesus”; “Mercy and truth meet each other; righteousness and peace kiss each other.”


1. Such is the goodness of God, now that this goodness has been harmonised with the other attributes of His nature, that it overpasses the guilt even of the most daring and stout-hearted offender among you.

2. In every proportion to this goodness will be the severity of God on those who have rejected Him.

3. None truly embrace Christ as their Saviour who do not submit to Him as their Master and Lord. (T. Chalmers, D.D.)

The goodness and severity of God

Goodness and severity are elements of a perfect character even among men.

1. Without goodness, the character repels instead of winning. There may be certain qualities which command our respect in a Draco, who ordains death as the penalty for every trifling violation of the law, or in a Brutus, who with tearless eye gives orders, in the way of duty, for the execution of his sons; but from such untempered austerity we recoil.

2. Without severity goodness degenerates into that moral pliancy which, under the name of good-nature, has often made men “consent” to the enticement of sinners, and has given them nothing in return, but the insipid reputation of having been enemies to none but themselves.

3. In a perfect character, if such existed among men, you would see the counterbalancing powers of goodness and severity held in exact equilibrium. And such, the Word of God assures us, is the character of Him with whom we have to do.

An illustration of this twofold element of the Divine character may be drawn from nature. “ God is light,” says the Scripture. Now light is compounded of seven different rays; but it has two main ingredients: the sombre rays (blue, indigo, violet); the bright rays (orange, red, yellow, green). Both are essential to the delicacy and purity of the substance. Without the sombre rays light would be a glare--the eyeball would ache beneath it; without the bright rays light would approximate to darkness, and lose the gay smile which lights up the face of nature, and twinkles on the sea. Similarly, the holiness, justice, and truth of God (attributes which wear an awful aspect to the sinner), are an element of His nature as essential to its perfectness, as mercy, love, and goodness. Suppose in Him, for a moment, no stern defiance against moral evil, but an allowance and admission of it, and you degrade Jehovah to the level of a pagan deity. Suppose in Him, on the other hand, an absence of love, and you supplant the very being of God, for “God is love.” But combine both righteousness and love, intensified to the highest conceivable degree, and you are then possessed of the Scriptural idea of the Most High.

It is this essential character of the Divine being which forms the basis of the great doctrine of the Atonement. God presents us in this with the highest illustration of both His attributes. He may be conceived as standing by the Cross and pointing to it, saying, “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God.” (Dean Goulburn.)

Severity and goodness

Two cases are here set before us. There are those who have fallen, and have consequently been broken off from the olive-tree. There are those too who continue in God’s goodness, and who still therefore partake of the root and fatness of the olive-tree. These are the present most opposite conditions of the two classes of persons described. It is added that, as the former may by God’s power and mercy be restored, so the latter must take heed lest they also be cut off. And, finally, as one great means of keeping themselves in their steadfastness, they are counselled to dwell earnestly upon the thought of the goodness of God, and of His severity, as displayed in the two examples brought to their recollection.

1. First, then, there are those who have fallen, and have consequently been broken off from God’s olive-tree. Who in our days are they? St. Paul, in his first Epistle to Timothy, makes a distinction which may assist us here. He says, “Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment: and some men they follow after.” There are some whose sins are so manifest, that they speak for themselves, and almost challenge the judgment which overtakes them. In our own days, amidst a very general toleration of some kinds of sin, there are others which even the world calls scandalous; which the common language of the least religious condemns; and which are visited even by them with a severity which, if not excessive in itself, is at least most inconsistent with their estimate of the criminality of other transgressions. Of this kind are acts of dishonesty and of meanness, of cowardice and open falsehood. One who has thus fallen meets with no tenderness. His sin goes before unto judgment. He has fallen; and even by the world’s sentence he is cut off from God’s olive-tree. Now what in such a case says the infallible Word of God? It does not palliate the grievousness of this man’s transgression. It echoes the judgment already pronounced upon him by the conscience of his fellow-men; and adds to it, in tones yet more alarming, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” But is this all? Has the gospel no word of encouragement for the fallen sinner, none of special warning to those who have cast him out? To him its language is, Thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. Thou hast lived as if there were no God, no Christ; no death, no judgment, no eternity. Because of unbelief therefore thou hast been broken off. God in His infinite mercy--because He desires not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live--has cut thee off for a while as it were from His olive-tree. He has brought thee to shame and suffering in this life, if perhaps thy soul may be saved in the day of the Lord. And know now that, if thou abide not still in unbelief: if thou refuse not still to hear the voice of Him who has afflicted thee; thy fall is not final: thou shalt be grafted in: thou shalt be restored to far more than thou hast ever yet known of the enjoyment of the grace of God. O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself: but in Me is thy help. And then of warning to all those who may be disposed to judge harshly of one who has thus openly fallen. To them, to all of us, the gospel says, Behold in every such example the severity of God. If for you this particular form of sin seems to have no attraction; if you cannot even conceive yourself to have been tempted to its commission; yet consider, to whom is this blessing due? Remember too that, if there be one class of sins which goes before to judgment, which outruns as it were by its open heinousness the adversary who is haling it to the judge, there is yet another kind which ends in the same result with the former, however much in this life it may seem to differ from it. Your sins may be more secret; you may fence them more carefully from the sight and the hearing of men: yet, if this be all, it amounts only to a postponement of the day of exposure; at last it will come and will not tarry. Or even if your sins be of such a kind that their disclosure in the world’s sight would bring with it no disgrace or punishment; yet a day is before each one of us, which will rectify these erring judgments, and in which even they whose only crime has been that they have forgotten God, that God has not been in all their thoughts, will awake from their sleep in the dust of the earth only to shame and everlasting contempt.

2. But we must turn now, in conclusion, to the other class here spoken of; that of those who, continuing in God’s goodness, are partaking day by day of the root and fatness of the olive-tree. Who amongst us are these? What is it to continue in God’s goodness? It must be something more than merely keeping ourselves from gross transgression; something more than partaking week by week in the ordinances of Christian worship; something more than the merely being appended, as a dead or fruitless branch may be, to the stock of God’s Israel: there must be a vitality in our connection with the olive-tree--a communication ever kept up with its root, with the living centre of all its growth and vigour--to give us any place amongst those Who are truly continuing in God’s goodness. Are we daily applying to Christ Himself, as our living Saviour, for grace and spiritual life? Do we return to Him in hearty sorrow when we have sinned? Do we take refuge in Him when we feel the power of temptation? Do we ask strength from Him to resist sin? Do we day by day commit the keeping of our souls to God through Him as to a faithful Creator and most merciful Redeemer? This and this only is the life of one who continues in God’s goodness. (Dean Vaughan.)

God’s character

Erroneous views of God.

1. All goodness.

2. All severity.

the evil result of those views.

1. They are partial.

2. The one leads to presumption.

3. The other to despair.

His true character.

1. A Sovereign.

2. A Father. (W. W. Wythe.)

And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in.--

The restoration of the Jews

1. Is a matter of promise.

2. Will be effected by Divine power.

3. Is suspended on their reception of Christ. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The true hope of Israel

Wherein it consists--the prospect of restoration to the privileges of God’s people.

Whereon it depends.

1. The power of promise of God.

2. Suspended in faith.

How it is confirmed.

1. By the calling of the Gentiles.

(1) Once not a people.

(2) Now raised to loftier privileges than the Jews ever possessed.

2. How much more, etc. (verse 24).

What feelings this hope should awaken in us. Zeal and prayer for the Jew that he may--

1. Relinquish his false hopes.

2. Embrace Christ in faith,

3. Become united with the living Church of God. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Salvation barred by unbelief possible to faith

The chief bar to a man’s salvation is an unbelieving heart. Our Saviour told the Pharisees, who exceeded all men in morality, that publicans and harlots should go before them into the kingdom of heaven. Why? Because they believed not. Morality is good, but not good enough to save a man. Faith cannot be without it, but it may be without faith. Morality without faith is like a goodly picture, which is fair to look upon, but a man can have no society with because it wants life. Labour therefore for faith, which is the soul of obedience, and it will save thy soul.

Here is a singular comfort to consciences distressed for sins. It is a comfort to a sick man if the physician tell him his disease, though dangerous, is yet curable, if it be not driven too long before remedies be appointed. So God is able to save thee if thou deferrest not thy repentance. If we look only to ourselves there is nothing but desperation; but if we look up to see what God is ready to do (only staying for our believing and repenting), there is great hope. Even thou, Jew, which hast crucified Christ, if thou canst cease from unbelief, thou shalt be saved. For as all the promises in the world, so the threatnings are conditional (John 3:9).

despair not of the salvation of any, neither finally censure even though never so wicked, for God is able to turn the heart of a Jew. He that converted thee can convert thy neighbour also.

God is able to save, so He is able to destroy. Let His power make thee wary how thou livest. Art thou stronger than He that thou shouldst dare by thy sins daily to provoke Him? (Elnathan Parr, B.D.)

For if thou wert cut out of the olive which is wild by nature … how much more … the natural branches.

The Gentiles like a wild olive-tree

They are wild by nature.

1. Nations before Christ were without spiritual culture.

2. The Mosaic law was confined to Israel.

3. The times of this ignorance were winked at by God.

They were Christianised contrary to nature. Grafting from a different kind of tree not natural.

1. Gentilism was pervaded with idolatry.

2. Gentile notions and practices were all opposed to a Divine life.

3. It is contrary to every man’s nature to be a Christian.

4. This contrariety is increased by sin. (T. Robinson, D.D.)

God’s grace to the Gentile an argument for the recovery of the Jews

The past condition of the gentiles.

1. Not a people.

2. Strangers to the covenant of promise.

3. Given up to their heart’s lusts.

Their gospel privilege.

1. Brought nigh.

2. Accepted.

3. Made children of Abraham.

4. By faith.

The consequent hope of israel.

1. Still heirs of the covenant.

2. Beloved for their fathers’ sake.

3. How much more, etc., when they believe? (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The prospects of Jew and Gentile

It is probable the Jews shall be called (2 Samuel 7:24).

1. A tree is not dead because it buds not in winter. This is the Jews’ winter, there is yet hope of a summer wherein they may yield fruit. The Jew is oft compared to a fig-tree, which buds first, but whose fruit ripens last. The Jews budded before us, the time of their ripe fruit is at hand.

2. Speak honourably of a Jew, for whatsoever he is in regard of his unbelief, yet Paul calls it a natural branch.

3. The Church is called the Jews’ own olive, into whom we are grafted; but when they shall be called they shall not be grafted into us, but into their own flock.

The Gentile hath not so great (though so sure) a prerogative and right to the promise as the Jew (Acts 3:25; Romans 1:16; Romans 2:10).

1. Our natural condition is miserable. We should have been idolaters or savages if God had not given us His special grace. It is contrary to our nature to be in the right olive, to be worshippers of God, to please Him. We delight in good as a fish to be out of the water, we are out of our element.

2. By creation goodness was natural to us, as now evil, and goodness supernatural. We delight to possess the inheritance of our progenitors in us; let us then strive to recover that grace which our first parents spent in the subtilty of the devil.

3. Our conversion is contrary to our present nature. God will invert the nature and course of things for the salvation of His elect.

4. The state of nature and grace is easily discerned. He that despiseth the gospel and liveth wickedly is natural, but to believe and repent is gracious.

5. Contrary to nature, keep diligent watch over thine heart or else Nature will soon run after her Old course. Bend the bough of a tree downward, when thou lettest it go it will strive upward by and by. Waterfowls hatched under a land fowl will quickly to the water by nature. So, though by the warmth of the Spirit we be hatched under the Word, and become God’s chickens, as Christ compared us, yet we will be drawing to corruption if we daily mortify it not. By nature boats go down the stream, but by the force of wind and oars they be got up, and if such means cease they go faster downward than they were forced upward; so to proceed in grace is against the stream of nature. If God’s Spirit like a good wind blow not a prosperous gale upon us and we labour at the means, we are easily carried down the stream of our corruption. (Elnathan Parr, B.D.)

Verses 25-27

Romans 11:25-27

For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery.

The mystery of the conversion of the Jews

To what mystery does the apostle refer?

1. “That blindness has happened to Israel” This “blindness”--

(1) Is national blindness (1 Corinthians 3:14).

(2) Is in no wise a contradiction to God s dealings--for God foresaw it, and predicted it (Isaiah 29:10-14; cf. Romans 11:7-10).

(3) Is but partial (Romans 11:5).

2. This blindness is temporary.

(1) What led to it (see Romans 11:20; cf. Deuteronomy 28:29; Deuteronomy 28:29; John 8:24).

(2) What followed (Romans 11:11; Romans 11:15)? Blessings came from the fall of the Jew, but still greater blessings would come from his restoration.

(3) Now we readily gather from this, that God is not unfaithful (Romans 11:29).

(4) But furthermore. This blindness is only until the “fulness of the Gentile shall come in.”

In Luke 21:24. the same truth is laid down. Now to see exactly what this “time” is, refer to Acts 15:13, etc. The Lord is acting with the whole Gentile world in this manner: sending His gospel for a witness. Then men come out of the world and are a people elect--the true Church. And when this work shall have been accomplished, then the Lord will restore Israel. Therefore, from comparing these Scriptures together, we may draw this conclusion, that the time will come when the Jews shall be restored (verses 11, 23; Jeremiah 32:37, etc.). Nor is there anything improbable in this. At the present moment there are materials which have only to be put together to form cites which will hold ten, or twenty, or thirty thousand inhabitants. And moreover, the thorns and briars as protecting them from decay and injury.

What is said of “this mystery.” The day is gone by when it was considered absurd to speak of these things; but still there are numbers who think that this is an unnecessary or unimportant study. But the apostle, writing to the Gentiles, says, “I would not that ye should be ignorant of it.” Why?

1. Because he “would not, that you should be ignorant” of the Bible; for many passages of Scripture convey no idea whatever till we understand that Jerusalem means Jerusalem, and Israel Israel.

2. But independently of this. If God has mercy in store for these people, may not we also look forward to God’s mercy, backsliders and sinners as some of us are? And where do we find this warranted but in God’s own Word.

The ground of his anxiety. “Lest ye should be wise in your own conceits.” This Epistle was addressed to the Church of Rome? Now, note one or two of the leading features of this Church.

1. They keep the Scriptures back from the people. And what is the consequence of that? Many of them remain in perfect blindness as regards the truth. They keep the traditions of men, and therefore believe what is told them of Rome’s power, and of no one but those connected with Rome being safe for heaven; whereas, if they had only the Scriptures before them, they would see what a place Rome will hold in the last great day.

2. Rome upholds a formal religion. How many externals had the Jew! and what did the externals profit him?

3. Rome is completely eaten up, as it were, with its own conceit (Revelation 18:7). And therefore the apostle says, “‘I would not … lest ye should be wise in your own conceits’; for you may indeed speak of your greatness, but you shall fall, while Jerusalem shall stand in that day.” Conclusion:

1. Beware--

(1) Of trusting to external privileges.

(2) Of giving countenance to any unbelief whatever. It was unbelief which led to the fall of Israel.

2. Encourage yourselves with the remembrance that the time is very short for your sojourning in this world.

3. Help forward this blessed work. (Bishop Villiers.)

The Mystery of the calling of the Jews

The calling of the Jews is a mystery. Seek not further than is revealed, and believe that. If thou askest how, and when? I know not, because I find not revealed. God knows, which satisfies me. He that too earnestly looks upon the sun comes in the end to see nothing, and he that stands too near fire may burn himself instead of warming him. Secret things are for the Lord, but things revealed for us and our children for ever.

The end of the world shall not be till the Jews are called, and how long after that none yet can tell.

1. There are certain foolish prophecies dispersed that the world shall end within so many years. In Paul’s time there were such, and they would have fathered their brainless toys upon Paul (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2). So also from Paul’s time to this day--a note of great folly and rashness.

(1) Because there are no plain Scriptures for it but against it.

(2) Because the grounds of their conceit are uncertain, idle and frivolous: as from Peter’s saying, that a thousand years is but as a day, and from divers mystical numbers in Daniel and the Revelation.

(3) If the last day be unknown (as all acknowledge), then the day before the last, and so by consequence the last week, month, year, age.

(4) All the diviners about this point have been hitherto shamed. Such, therefore, that shall yet attempt it must expect the same as a just recompense of their madness.

2. It is not possible to know nor lawful to inquire. If it had been for the Church’s profit to have known it God would have revealed it.

3. Whensoever the time comes it shall come well for God’s children; prepare for it that it may be a joyful and not a dismal time unto thee. If God should now come to judgment, how ready art thou?

Till the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. There is an emptiness among the Gentiles, both in regard of number and of grace, which last is a great impediment to the calling of the Jews. The idolatry of some, and the profaneness of others are a stumbling-block unto them. Let us remove it that we may make a passage for their calling.

Come in. Whither? Into the Church. All they which believe are within; without are unbelievers. It is our Father’s house, where is bread enough; without is nothing but hog’s meat. Examine how thou art within, whether as Ham in the ark, as Judas among the apostles, as chaff in flour; for in respect of their bodies many are within, who in respect of faith and obedience are without. It is all one to be without and to deserve to be without.

Blindness or obstinacy is in part come to Israel, but in the end all Israel shall be saved. An obstinate man is not in the state of salvation. Who have this obstinate heart? The Jews; but we need not seek a Jew to find it. Concerning which note--

1. The misery of an obstinate heart. There are two estates of the heart most fearful: to feel sin too much; and to be past feeling. The soft repenting heart is a heavenly heart.

2. The means whereby we come to such a state.

(1) Custom in sinning. Even as a path is hardened by the continual trampling of the passengers, so by custom in evil is the conscience by little and little crushed and made insensible.

(2) Neglect of the means of grace offered. This shut up the Jews in obstinacy; and ordinarily for this is this judgment of God inflicted upon men.

3. Its effects.

(1) A. departing from the faith, broaching the doctrines of devils, denying manifest truth, and holding and seeming anything to obtain our own ends (1 Timothy 4:1-3; Ephesians 4:18). As when men will be Papists, Protestants, neuters, anything, nothing, as they see it best serve their politic plots.

(2) Committing and delighting in sin.

4. Its signs.

(1) When no judgment.

(2) When no mercy can move to remorse. When the word, which is a hammer, a sword, and water can neither by the thundering of judgment, bruise, or make any dent into our hearts, not by the pleasing sound of mercy, molify us and make us relent; there is hardness unspeakable. (Elnathan Parr, B.D.)

Why do we hope for the conversion of the Jews?

Because it is predicted--

1. By Paul (verse 25). Their blindness is partial and temporary.

2. By the Old Testament prophets (verses 26, 27). They shall acknowledge Christ and share in the promise of the new covenant.

Because the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.

1. Their exclusion is for a temporary purpose.

2. Their election permanent.

3. The purpose of God unalterable (verses 28, 29).

Because of God’s plan of procedure with the Gentiles.

1. Once excluded by their own unbelief.

2. Now accepted through the unbelief of Israel.

3. So they also shall obtain mercy.

4. That God may have mercy upon all. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Our duty to the Jew

How we should regard him.

1. Not with contempt, but with respect.

2. Not as cast away, but blinded.

What we should hope for him.

1. His restoration with the fulness of the Gentiles.

2. Not simply the conversion of a few, but of the nation.

How we should treat him. We should--

1. Hate his self-righteousness.

2. Love himself.

3. Seek his Salvation. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The fulness of the Gentiles.--

The fulness of the Gentiles and the conversion of the Jews

Take as an illustration the case of a river bed nearly dry from long-continued drought. What water there is flows languidly, and produces no effect on an islet in mid-stream. Rain comes and the volume of water is increased and the flow becomes stronger and more rapid. In proportion to the copiousness of the rain, and therefore to the power of the current the islet is affected. By little and little its banks are washed away, and more and more of its surface is covered by the victorious waters which gradually rise. The rain becomes a flood, and the river bed now full, and the river a mighty torrent, the islet, after long resistance, ultimately succumbs, and is covered or washed away. So the conversion of the Jews will be proportionate to the amount of missionary energy, fed by Divine grace, on the part of the Gentile Churches. And when the fulness of grace shall fill all Christian agencies with a fulness of enthusiasm we may expect Judaism to be submerged. Or to change the figure. A king returns from his journey into a far country and finds his whole kingdom in a state of revolt. He first appeals to that province with which he has the closest and tenderest ties. But his claims are ignored and his overtures treated with contempt. Collecting, however, a loyal few, he marches forth to subjugate his own provinces. The work is a long and arduous one, and the fortunes of the brave band are varied. Victory is followed by defeat. Here a subjugated territory maintains its allegiance, there another revolts as soon as the army is withdrawn, and has to be conquered again. But the army is ever increasing, and year by year there is less and less to conquer, and each conquered territory sends its contingent to reduce the rest. Eventually the work is done, and the whole kingdom brought to subjection with the exception of the province to which the king made his first appeal. All through the campaign individual citizens have come over, but there is now a stubborn residuum left. On this the whole of the now loyal empire concentrates its forces, and partly perhaps from a sense of helplessness, but, mostly from a sense of the rectitude of the conqueror’s claims, it yields, and the kingdom is once more united under one rightful head. So Christ, the King of man, made His first appeal to the Jews; but rejected by them, His kinsmen, He with His apostles turned to the Gentiles, and not in vain, as the history of the bye-gone centuries with all their vicissitudes for His cause has proved. Much yet remains to be done, but past successes are prophetic of future triumphs, and Jesus will yet have the heathen for His inheritance, etc. The power of Christian influence will then be irresistible and Israel will yield.

The fulness of the Gentiles will be the result of a full outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The gift of Pentecost was only the earnest of a larger blessing. That equipped the Church for her warfare, this will inaugurate her triumph. Special manifestations of the Spirit have been vouchsafed in every age, and these have been uniformly followed by an outburst of missionary zeal. It is not, then, incredible that God should literally pour out His Spirit on all flesh, and thus bring the fulness of the Gentiles in.

The fulness of the Gentiles will be the full Christianisation of the Gentiles.

1. As yet this is only partial. Vast tracts lie outside Christian influence, but these are being narrowed every year.

2. A great mass of Christianised Gentilism is only nominal. Multitudes have only the form without the power, and wear a name they only disgrace.

3. The time will come when both in name and reality all tribes and kingdoms and tongues will become Christians.

The fulness of the Gentiles will have an irresistible effect on the Jews. During the process of filling this effect has been more or less marked, and will, we may well believe, be more marked still as the Galilean goes on conquering and to conquer. But when the Jew looks back and sees religion after religion overthrown, and nation after nation brought into obedience to the faith of Christ and His religion, and his nation the only one left--the time will not be far distant when overwhelming external pressure will combine with overwhelming internal conviction to bring Israel to the feet of Christ. Conclusion:

1. What a glorious outlook! What an argument for Christian missions! (J. W. Burn.)

And so all Israel shall be saved.--

The salvation of Israel

Their present blindness.

1. Awful in its character.

2. Partial in extent.

3. Fixed in its period.

Its removal.

1. Complete.

2. General.

3. Certain.

Conclusion. Consider--

1. Its aspect on the Jews.

2. Its proper effect upon your own kinds. (C. Simeon, M.A.)

The restoration of Israel

The event.

1. All Israel, as a nation--

2. Shall be saved, delivered from the curse which has so long rested upon them.

The means by which it shall be accomplished.

1. The deliverer, Christ--

2. Shall come out of Zion--

3. And take away their sin (Isaiah 59:17-21).

The certainty of it.

1. The covenant--

2. Of salvation (Jeremiah 31:31). (J. Lyth, D.D.)

For this is My covenant with them.

The new covenant

Unto whom sent.

1. To all who believe.

2. Not only Jews but Gentile.

What does it include.

1. The promise of the Spirit (Isaiah 59:21; Jeremiah 31:31).

2. Of eternal salvation (Isaiah 55:3).

How it is sealed. In the pardon of sin. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Verses 28-29

Romans 11:28-29

As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes.

Enemies may be unconscious helpers

During the siege of Sebastopol a Russian shell buried itself in the side of a hill without the city, and opened a spring. A little fountain bubbled forth where the cannon shot had fallen, and during the remainder of the siege afforded to the thirsty troops who were stationed in that vicinity an abundant supply of pure, cold water. Thus the missile of death from an enemy, under the direction of an overruling Providence, proved an almoner of mercy to the parched and weary soldiery of the allies. So often the efforts of men against God’s kingdom have been overruled to its furtherance. Every great attack upon the Bible has opened a new fountain of its truth to supply the wants of God’s people.

The relation of the Jewish nation to the Gentiles

Prior to the promulgation of the gospel. It was the relation of--

1. Sole depositories of the Word of God (Psalms 76:1-12.; Amos 3:2). They had a revelation of Jehovah, while the others were in that ignorance at which the apostle declares God “winked.”

2. The channels for the transmission of the promised seed, in which all the nations of the earth were to be blessed. The tribe of Judah contained within it a sacred deposit, the God-man, the Saviour of the world. In this sense, “salvation is of the Jews,” the world was preserved for their sake. 3 The main spring of the politics of the world. Kings and empires were set up and cast down for their sakes.

Since the gospel. This must be regarded--

1. As it respects the remnant of the Jewish people converted to the Christian faith, according to the election of grace. These formed the stem of the Christian Church, Jesus Christ Himself, the founder of the Christian system, being a Jew according to the flesh. They were the first to be taken into union with Him; the first branches from Him the living stem; the first members of the body of which He is the head. They were not taken into fellowship with Gentiles, but Gentile converts were taken into fellowship with them (Ephesians 2:12-22; Ephesians 3:10). The relation, therefore, is that of brethen in Christ Jesus. And the relation which the Church, thus formed, bears to the world around is of the same nature as that which the Jews once bare to the Gentiles. The Christian Church--

(1) Is the sole depository of the truth. In this Church alone is Christ to be found; and in the Church alone, therefore, can God be known.

(2) Has deposited within her the true seed which is to become a blessing to all the earth.

(3) Is the main spring of the politics of the world. Can any man think on this subject with the Bible before him, and then deny that such men as Decius, Julian, Charlemagne, Napoleon, and others, were raised up for the promotion, in one way or other, of the interests of the Church.

2. As it respects the Jews as a nation. “As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes”; not the remnant--they are converted--but the nation. But though thus cast off for our sakes, they are not cast off beyond the reach of God; the same hand which put them off will protect and preserve them, for “the gift and calling of God are without repentance.” But they are “enemies for our sakes”: they bear the relation to us of poor outcasts--outcasts to make room for us; as if the tree could have but a certain number of branches, as if the body could have but a certain number of members, and God had cast off some of the branches, and removed some of the members, that we might become branches in Him who is the true Vine, and members united to Him who is the only head!

After the restoration.

1. Metropolitan pre-eminence (Isaiah 60:1-22; Micah 4:1-13.).

2. Spiritual blessing (Psalms 67:1-7.). (H. M. McNeile, D.D.)

The mystery of God in relation to His ancient people

Its nature.

1. Enemies for your sakes.

2. Beloved for the fathers’ sakes.

Its immutable character

1. Depends on the immutable character of God.

2. And His unchangeable purpose. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Beloved for the fathers’ sakes.

God loves when compelled to punish, and His affection for His ancient people should teach us to love them too. “For the fathers’ sakes” is God’s own reason for His love (Deuteronomy 7:7-8). There was nothing in Israel to attract it, for they were obstinate transgressors from the womb (Isaiah 48:4; Isaiah 48:8), and a disobedient and gainsaying people (Romans 10:21). So God loves sinners in Christ for His Son’s sake. God’s love to the fathers remembered in behalf of the children (Leviticus 26:42). Blessing of godly ancestors. Children loved for their parents’ sakes. How privileged are the offspring of a godly stock; how great their responsibility; how deep should be their gratitude! (T. Robinson, D.D.)

For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.--Without change of mind on God’s part; subject to no regret or change of purpose (2 Corinthians 7:10; Hebrews 12:17). God gives without variableness or shadow of turning (James 1:17). His gift to Israel only suspended or withdrawn for a season. He has not repented of calling Abraham and his seed as His people, nor regretted the promises made to the fathers. Man’s conduct may change God’s manner but not His mind. God’s dealings may vary, but not His determinings; His providence may alter, but not His purposes. The Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent (1 Samuel 15:29). God’s unchangeableness the ground of Israel’s safety (Malachi 3:6). God will not cast away His people (Deuteronomy 4:31; 1 Samuel 12:22). Israel is not to be permanently deprived of what God has promised them. (T. Robinson, D. D.)

The gifts and calling of God without repentance

They are so in respect to God the giver; He never repents that He hath called His people into the fellowship of His Son; and they are so on the believer’s part, who is never sorry, whatever afterwards he meets with, that he is brought to Christ. (J. Flavel.)

The immutability of God: a source of comfort

It is a source of comfort to the believer to reflect that that on which he puts his trust is established and immovable. Changes take place above and around the fortress, but its massive buttresses still stand unmoved, and its battlements frown defiance at the strength of the foe. The clouds above are fleeting past, it may be in silvery brightness, or it may be in pall-like gloom; the leaves are budding or fading, according to their seasons upon the earth but there stands the fortress, established and unchanged. (P. B. Power, M.A.)

The constancy of God

It has been supposed that the doctrine of God’s decrees would repel men, and drive them into infidelity. On the contrary, it draws men. God’s decrees may be taught so as to make men feel that they are oppressive; but the thought that the decrees of God run through time and eternity, and that He is true to them, so far from being repulsive, is exceedingly attractive. You might as well say that the laws of nature are repulsive as to say that God’s decrees are so. It is constancy that is the foundation of hope, and civilisation, and everything that is blessed in the world. Men are glad that light is always light, that electricity is always electricity, that all forces of nature are always true to their laws. Men are thankful that the stars revolve perpetually in their appointed courses. Men rejoice in the fact that there is fixity in all those methods by which the material universe is controlled. And the immutableness of God in the great elements of His character--truth, justice, goodness, and love--is subject-matter for profound gratulation. (H. W. Beecher.)

God’s purpose uninfluenced by difficulties

A man undertakes mining operations in such-and-such a place, he says, “I shall dig for iron.” Well, he meets with great difficulties, hard rocks to bore through, and so on. He comes to this conclusion, “If I had known of this labour, and of the expense, I should not have sought for the metal here.” But suppose the man to be well aware of everything, and that he meets with nothing but what he foresaw, then you may depend upon it that the man means business, and having commenced operations, he will continue working till he obtains that which he seeks after.

Verses 30-32

Romans 11:30-32

For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy.

The memory of the past should

1. Promote humility.

2. Awaken gratitude.

3. Soften our censures.

4. Strengthen our hopes of others. (T. Robinson, D.D.)

Mercy for the Jew

We have received mercy--

1. Unmerited.

2. Free.

3. Through the unbelief of Israel.

We must show mercy--

1. As an expression of gratitude.

2. A debt of justice.

3. A Christian duty. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The gospel given to us as a deposit for the Jews


The mysterious way is which God has dispensed His blessings to mankind--first the Jew, then the Gentile; all Israel, then the fulness of the Gentiles. The mysteriousness of this plan--delay, partial bestowment, transfer, final restoration.

The design of it.

1. To provoke the Jews to jealousy.

2. To provoke the Christian world to love. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The last argument to prove the conversion and general calling of the Jews

The argument is taken from the like dealing of God with the Gentiles. The impiety of the Gentiles was no impediment to their mercy, neither shall the infidelity of the Jews to theirs.

The Gentiles were Infidels (Ephesians 2:12), but by the unbelief of the Jews they are received to mercy.

1. Forget not what thou wert, for we have all fun the race of the prodigal son. It is God’s grace if it be otherwise with thee now. Be thankful. How if God had taken thee away in thy sins? Let this bind thee to thy good behaviour for ever (1 Timothy 1:15; cf. Titus 3:8).

2. Faith is a sweet mercy, so is the Word of God, the means of that faith. Alas for them which, having the means of faith, yet contemn the same!

3. Sin breeds sorrow, and many times sorrow kills the sin which bred it, as a worm breeding in timber consumes it. So the sin of the Jews works to the good of the Gentiles by the goodness of God. Gregory the Great calls the sin of Adam happy, because it was the occasion of salvation; so in some sort may we say of the unbelief of the Jews.

4. God forbid that we should lightly esteem the grace God offers us, it coming unto us at so dear a rate as is the casting off of His people.

5. When we were infidels, God showed us mercy; much more will He be merciful to us now we believe.

The Jews are now in an estate of unbelief, but they shall be received to mercy (Isaiah 46:4; Jeremiah 24:6-7).

1. There is yet mercy for the Jews, by the example of the like mercy to the Gentiles. But it is now sixteen hundred years ago since they were cast off; is it likely that after so long time they should be called? Yes; for the Gentiles lay longer under their infidelities, yet at last received grace.

2. Faith is not in the power of man, nor can any means effect it without God’s blessing. One would think that this long affliction of the Jews might make them cry peccavi, beside other means God hath afforded them. In trouble, then, pray it may be sanctified to thy profit. Pray also for a blessing on the Word, else it will be unprofitable, though the preacher were a son of thunder.

3. Carry thyself meekly toward a Jew, and toward unbelievers among ourselves, considering thyself, who wert in the same condemnation. Judge not thy neighbour for damned; He that converted thee can in His good time convert him also. Play the physician to thy neighbour’s soul; show him of the mercy thou hast received, that he also may be stirred up to seek to Him who is merciful. God gave Paul consolation in distress, that he might comfort others; so if He give thee knowledge, faith, etc., use them in like manner.

4. Who, then, is the better for thy gifts? The Jew compasseth sea and land to make a proselyte. The Jesuits wind themselves like serpents into every place to make a papist. Drunkards and other ungodly persons seek to draw others to their practices.

5. Let the Jew follow the faith of the Gentile, so do thou the example of good Christians among whom thou livest. It is a great furtherance to godliness to have an example to the rule. It is a help to the scholar to have a copy to write by, but a greater furtherance to his profiting to see his master make the letters. (Elnathan Parr, B.D.)

For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all.--

All are shut up in unbelief

I. How?

1. By nature.

2. By providence--first the Gentile, then the Jew.

3. By the appointment of eternal justice.

II. Why?

1. That God’s mercy.

2. To all.

3. Might be more gloriously manifested.

In what way this Divine arrangement contributes to such a result.

1. By convincing man of his sinfulness and utter helplessness.

2. By preparing him for the reception of mercy. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Why God locked up (so to speak) Gentiles and Jews in the prison of unbelief

1. That their salvation might be manifestly seen to be by grace.

2. That self-righteous boasting might be excluded.

3. That men might duly appreciate the blessings of His redemptive love.

4. That scope might be afforded for the full display of His mercy. (C. Neil, M.A.)

Man’s unbelief and God’s mercy

Here is an elegant similitude. Men unconverted are prisoners--God the Judge, unbelief the prison, the devil the gaoler, the law the sergeant, and natural corruption the fetters.

God hath shut up all in unbelief. This is the common condition of all men (Romans 3:23; Romans 3:23; Galatians 3:22).

1. Paul hath in the passage of this business ten times told us of our miserable condition by nature. Here we are poor sinners; it is our part to take knowledge of our corrupt nature.

2. Great is the misery that accompanies imprisonment, restraint of liberty, hunger, cold, shame, chains, but no dungeon more loathsome than an unbelieving heart. Oh that we could be sensible of it, that we might sigh to God for deliverance, as did the Israelites in Egypt. When a man is arrested, what lamenting among his friends: but our very souls are imprisoned in the worst of prisons, under the worst of gaolers, and yet we are merry, as though it were but a trifle.

3. We may know whether we be yet in this prison by two things.

(1) By faith in God. Hast thou this? If not, there needs no jury to find thee guilty: thou art in the very bottom of the dungeon. But thou sayest there is a God. Thy life condemns thee, for thou actest as if there were no God.

(2) By faith in His Word. The Scripture threatens ungodly men with the plagues of God, and promiseth eternal life to the godly. Did men believe this, durst they run on in all profaneness?

That He might have mercy on all (Galatians 3:22).

1. Our salvation is of mere mercy, but it is a hard thing to be brought to acknowledge it. The Gentiles were 2,000 years before they could learn this lesson, and the Jews have been 1,600 about it, and yet have not learned it; yea, there are many amongst us that cannot say this lesson right. Most men hope to be saved by their prayers and good serving God; we are loth to lose the commendation of our own goodness.

2. Jews and Gentiles should live together, seeing they are both in one prison for one end, and set free by one and the same mercy.

3. If any be set free, it is by the mercy of God, who hath the key of our unbelieving hearts, doth open and shut them at His pleasure. As a man committed by the king can be set free by none but the king, so God committed us, and none can set us free but Himself. Cry, therefore, to the Lord for mercy.

4. There are two notes whereby we may discern whether we be released out of the prison or no.

(1) Our joy. A liberated prisoner leaps and dances, so as no ground will hold him; so birds and beasts escaping from their restraint scud about, as sensible of the sweetness of liberty.

(2) Our carefulness not to commit anything that may bring us into such bondage. So he that believeth the pardon of sin will for ever hate sin. For the most part, prisoners are of wicked behaviour; so if thy conversation be lewd, it is a manifest sign thou art not yet delivered. (Elnathan Parr, B.D.)

Verse 33

Romans 11:33

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!--Like a traveller who has reached the summit of an Alpine ascent, the apostle turns and contemplates.

Depths are at his feet; but waves of light illumine them, and then spreads all around an immense horizon which his eye commands. The plan of God in the government of mankind spreads out before him, and he expresses the feeling of admiration and gratitude with which the prospect fills his heart. (Prof. Godet.)

The depth of the divine wisdom

As a man wading into the sea, when he comes up to the neck and feels the water begin to heave him up and his feet to fail him, cries out, “O the depth!” and goes back, so it fares with Paul in this place, and it is as if he should have said thus: “O you Romans and my countrymen the Jews, I have writ unto you these things as far as I can; for the rest I am swallowed up, being more unable to pass farther into this bottomless, than to wade through the depth of the sea. Cease, therefore, to put more questions, and admire with me the depth of the wisdom of God.” (Elnathan Parr, B.D.)

The wisdom and knowledge of God

The true distinction between knowledge and wisdom is indicated by Theodoret. “He foreknew these things from the beginning, and, having foreknown them, He arranged them wisely.” Bishop Lightfoot says, “While gnosis is simply intuitive, sophia is ratiocinative also. While ‘gnosis’ applies chiefly to the apprehension of truths, ‘sophia’ superadds the power of reasoning about them and tracing their relations.” To complete the distinction, we must add that, while knowledge is theoretical, wisdom is practical; and while knowledge is purely intellectual, wisdom is also moral; and for that reason is both the most perfect of mental gifts (Aristotle, “Nic. Eth.” 6.10) and the queen of all the virtues (Cicero, “De Off.” 1.43). In the present context, “gnosis” seems to refer especially to God’s foreknowledge of the free determinations of man’s will, both in individuals and nations; while “sophia” denotes the admirable skill with which He includes man’s free actions in His plan, and transforms them into so many means for the accomplishment of His good purpose. (Archdeacon Gifford.)

The depths of the Godhead

How they stand revealed before us in His--

1. Nature.

2. Works.

3. Ways.

How we stand overwhelmed before them in--

1. Humility.

2. Faith.

3. Hope. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The depth and wealth of Divine grace

Wisdom conceived the purpose.

Knowledge devised the plan.

Judgments prepare the way.

Grace achieves the result. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The unfathomable depth of redeeming love

Wisdom in the plan.

1. In the gift of His Son.

2. In the communication of His righteousness.

3. In the glory of the issue.

Mystery is the procedure.

1. With the world at large.

2. With individual believers. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The depths of salvation

Christianity is a system of wonders.

1. The very proposal of salvation for sinners is a matter of wonder. God was not obliged to save. Man deserved to perish; and God could have filled his place instantly with better beings. Moreover, man is the solitary object of saving mercy. When sin broke out in heaven, God hurled the thunderbolt of a just vengeance. Certainly here is ground for amazement.

2. The incarnation of Christ was a miracle beyond any other miracle of God. Deity took upon Himself the form and nature of humanity. Among all God’s wonders, you can find no analogy for the person of Christ.

3. Our ordinary idea of the proceedings of justice is confounded by the sufferings of Christ. We connect suffering with sin; at least, we consider that an innocent being cannot justly be treated as a malefactor. Yet the sinless Son of God was a man of sorrows and died as a culprit, abandoned even by the Father whom He always pleased. Reason can only exclaim, “O the depth!” at this.

4. Amazement rises higher at the Bible representation that He suffered the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God. How could justice be satisfied by the sufferings of an innocent One? How can it be a just thing that they should be accepted as a propitiation for our sins? God has taught us the fact, and hence we believe it; but the fact is a wonder. These are only examples. Things of the same marvellous nature run all through the system of redemption. Infidelity is confounded by these depths. But what confounds an infidel comforts a Christian.

Those wonders are reasons for our accepting it and being comforted by it.

1. They constitute a feature of our religion which comports with our experience on all other subjects. The facts which we have mentioned are all plainly revealed facts. There is no darkness or depth in them. The depth and darkness meet us only as we proceed to philosophise. The further we investigate the things of God anywhere the more deep and wonderful they become.

(1) The astronomer finds it so. His wonder grows as he passes the known suns and stars; and now, as he casts his keen eye out upon the illimitable space beyond him, he is compelled to feel that he has not yet passed the porch of the temple of God. All he can say is, “O the depth!”

(2) So in the ever-descending field of microscopic study.

(3) The providences of God, again, are full of wonders. What a marvel is human history!

2. There are many things of importance, but they are not all of equal value. Unorganised matter lies below the organisms of life. Brute life is of a lower rank than human. The mental kingdom, while superior to the vegetable and animal, is inferior to the moral. Now, we are limited creatures, and cannot have an equal understanding of all subjects, and must expect to meet with the highest wonders in the highest departments. An infidel tells us he meets with the most wonders in Christianity. For that reason he rejects it, and for that we glory in it. Consider two arguments here.

(1) God is glorious in everything, but not in everything of equal glory. His highest glory lies in His saving sinners. The angels knew this who sung over Bethlehem, “Glory to God in the highest.” Well, on that high field of wonders, where God is more glorious than anywhere else, shall we not expect Him to be more amazing than anywhere else?

(2) Consider the soul. It is immortal, and its capacities will expand for ever. It is to be saved or lost. When a soul is perilled, shall God for its salvation work no more wonders than He does about the petty interests of a world of matter and beasts, and threescore years and ten?

3. It is in these deep things of God only that we find provision for our deepest necessities. Reason cannot hope except before the amazing depths of God’s wisdom and mercy. As sinners, we need God to do for us just the wonders He has wrought. Had He not done them, we must have despaired. (I. S. Spencer, D.D.)

Our proper attitude towards the deep things of God

It remains for us dutifully and reverentially to adore that in the Divine counsels and ways which we do not, and, indeed, cannot, understand. There is no government that hath not its arcana; and it would be very foolish for us to imagine that there should be no secrets belonging to the Divine government. (John Howe.)

The contemplation of God’s redeeming purpose

should prompt--

Admiration of--

1. His wisdom.

2. His knowledge.

The confession of His unsearchableness in respect of--

1. His purpose and procedure.

2. His all-sufficiency.

The praise of His grace, which is--

1. Free.

2. Undeserved.

The increase of His glory.

1. He is the end of all things.

2. To Him be glory for ever. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

God’s conduct in the salvation of mankind

This is the conclusion of Paul’s argument on this subject. He seems to be overwhelmed with the sense of its unsearchableness. The depths of God’s wisdom and knowledge appear in--

The manifestation of His righteousness in the restoration of rebels. Human monarchs have shown their justice in crushing rebels, but God in restoring them.

The destruction of the spirit of rebellion in the restoration of rebels, Human monarchs may deliver rebels, but they cannot destroy the spirit of rebellion, God does this.

The augmentation of the force of moral government in the restoration of rebels. Human monarchs may weaken their government by saving rebels, but God strengthens the force of His moral administration by redeeming transgressors.

The promotion of all the rights of His subjects in the restoration of rebels. Human monarchs, by delivering rebels, endanger the rights of loyal citizens God, in the restoration of rebels, promotes the rights of all.

The election of earth instead of hell as the scene for the restoration of rebels. (D. Thomas, D.D.)

God’s praise

Its theme.

1. His wisdom.

2. His knowledge.

3. His judgments and procedure.

Its expression.

1. Wonder.

2. Submission.

3. Love. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Wisdom of God in redemption

No one can be said to meditate aright on redemption by Christ who does not behold God’s manifold wisdom, as well as His other perfections, displayed therein. As we conclude him a very unskilful observer of a curious picture or statue who only takes notice of its dimensions in general, or the matter of which it is composed, its colouring, or framework, without considering the symmetry and proportion of all its parts, the mind, the genius, and intelligence shown in its design--so it is unworthy and below a Christian to be able only to say that Christ is a Saviour, or to have a general idea of this scheme of mercy, without having his thoughts suitably affected with the wonders of love and grace which it contains, and the design of all, and the adaptation of every part, to set forth the glory of the triune Jehovah. (H. G. Salter.)

Incomplete presentations of the gospel

My best presentations of the gospel to you are so incomplete! Sometimes, when I am alone, I have such sweet and rapturous visions of the love of God and the truths of His Word, that I think if I could speak to you then I should move your hearts. I am like a child who, walking forth some sunny morning, sees grass and flowers all shining with drops of dew. “Oh,” he cries, “I’ll carry these beautiful things to my mother!” and, eagerly plucking them, the dew drops into his little palm, and all the charm is gone. There is but grass in his hand, and no longer pearls. (H. W. Beecher.)

Limitation of human views

There is a striking passage in which a great philosopher, the famous Bishop Berkeley, describes the thought which occurred to him of the inscrutable schemes of Providence, as he saw, in St. Paul’s Cathedral, a fly moving on one of the pillars. “It requires,” he says, “some comprehension in the eye of an intelligent spectator to take in at one view the various parts of the building, in order to observe their harmony and design. But to the fly, whose prospect was confined to a little part of one of the stones of a single pillar, the joint beauty of the whole, or the distinct use of its parts, was inconspicuous. To that limited view, the small irregularities on the surface of the hewn stone seemed to be so many deformed rocks and precipices.” That fly on the pillar, of which the philosopher spoke, is the likeness of each human being as he creeps along the vast pillars which support the universe. The sorrow which appears to us nothing but a yawning chasm or hideous precipice, may turn out to be but the joining or cement which binds together the fragments of our existence into a solid whole! That dark and crooked path, in which we have to grope our way in doubt and fear, may be but the curve which, in the full daylight of a brighter world, will appear to be the necessary finish of some choice ornament, the inevitable span of some majestic arch. (Dean Stanley.)

How unsearchable are His Judgments, and His ways past finding out!--

The unsearchableness of God

When we cannot understand His ways it is enough to be assured--

1. That He knows what He does.

2. That He needs no counsellor.

Therefore ought we to resign ourselves to His will, with--

1. Resignation.

2. Obedience. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The unsearchableness of God’s judgments

These words are the close of St. Paul s disputation concerning God s providence towards His ancient people, in rejecting the greatest part of them, on their refusal to embrace Christianity, and in admitting the Gentiles to favour on their compliance; in which proceeding the Jews could not discern God’s hand, nor allow such a dispensation to be worthy of Him. The apostle, after an able vindication of it, winds up the contest with the modest intimation that in this and all such eases, for entire satisfaction, we should have recourse to the incomprehensible wisdom of God, who frequently orders things in methods beyond our ability to trace. Note--

Some causes and reasons of that incomprehensibility.

1. As the dealings of very wise men sometimes are founded on maxims, and admit justifications not obvious to nor penetrable by vulgar conceit, so may God’s. As there are natural modes of being and operation--such as God’s necessary subsistence, His eternity without succession, etc.

so there may be prudential and moral rules far above our reach (Isaiah 55:9). Some of these we may be incapable of knowing on account of our finite nature; others on account of our meanness and low rank among created beings. In such cases the absolute will, sovereign authority, and pure liberality of God, supply the place of reasons.

2. As the standing rules of God’s acting, so the occasional grounds thereof are commonly placed beyond the sphere of our apprehension. God is obliged to prosecute His own immutable decrees; “working all things according to the counsel of His own will”: which how can we anywise come to discover? God also has a perfect foresight of contingent events. He observes in what relation and degrees of comparison things stand towards each other; whereas we cannot tell what things to compare.

3. We are also incapable thoroughly to discern the ways of Providence, from our moral defects, in some measure common to all men; our stupidity, sloth, temerity, impatience, impurity, of heart, etc.

4. Again, the nature of those instruments which Divine Providence uses in administration of human affairs, hinders us from discerning it. The footsteps of Divine wisdom are far more conspicuous in the works of nature than in the management of our affairs, and while the one has confirmed faith, the other has bred doubt.

5. As in nature the influence of heaven and of inferior causes, so in the production of special events among men Divine and human agency are so combined, that it is not easy to discriminate what God performs by natural instruments, and what by superior efficacy.

(1) Not seeing the first, we are prone to ascribe too much to the last, which are most obvious.

(2) And this we are the more apt to do because the manner of Divine agency is ever soft and gentle. God so fashions the hearts of men, so manages their hands, so guides their steps, that even they who are most acted on by Him cannot feel the touch.

6. God, in His progress towards the achievement of any design, is not wont to go in the most direct and compendious ways, but commonly takes a large compass, enfolding several other coincident purposes; which moves our impatience, etc.

7. Like every wise agent, He is wont to act variously, according to the state and circumstances of things, or to the dispositions and capacities of persons.

8. There are different ends which Providence pursues in various order and measure, which we, by reason of our dim insight and short prospect, cannot descry.

(1) God permits things, bad in their own nature, having regard to their instrumental use and tendency.

(2) Also the expediency of things to be permitted or crossed, frequently consists, not in themselves singly taken, as particular acts or events, but in their conjunction with or reference to others, with which they may become subservient to a common end.

9. That Providence is sometimes obscure and intricate, may be attributed to the will of God, on many accounts designing it so. He will not glare forth in discoveries so bright as to dazzle or confound our weak sight.

(1) He meaneth thereby to improve and exalt our faith.

(2) It is fit also that He should thus in many things surpass our understanding, that He may appear to be God indeed.

(3) The obscurity of Providence conciliates an awful reverence towards it, as darkness raises a dread of invisible powers.

(4) It is also requisite that God should dispose many occurrences, cross to our notions, and offensive to our carnal sense, that we may thus be prompted to think of Him, and to seek Him.

(5) It is needful that the present course of Providence should not be perfectly clear and satisfactory, that we may be well assured concerning a future account, and forced in our thoughts to recur thither for a solution of our doubts and difficulties.

Some practical applications grounded on the foregoing reasons.

1. It should render us modest and sober in our judgment about providential occurrences, since it is plain arrogance or imposture to assume perfect skill in what passeth our capacity to learn.

2. It should make us cautious in passing judgment or censure on events, since it is temerity to give sentence on what is incapable of evidence.

3. It should repress wanton curiosity, which would only make us lose our time, etc.

4. It should keep us from conceit and confidence in our own wisdom.

5. It should preserve us from infidelity, and despair on account of any cross accidents.

6. It should prevent our taking offence at such.

7. It should guard us against security, or presuming on impunity for our miscarriages; for seeing that God does not always fully discover His mind, it is vain to suppose that, because He is now patient, He will always be so.

8. It should quicken our industry in observing and considering the works of Providence: the fainter our light is, the more attentive should we be in looking.

9. It should oblige us to be circumspect and wary in our conversation.

10. Also constantly to seek God, and to depend on Him for protection, and for the conduct of His grace, the only clue in this labyrinth.

11. In fine, it should cause us humbly to admire and adore that wisdom which governs the world in ways no less great and wonderful than just and holy. (L Barrow, D.D.)

Man’s inability to find out God’s judgments

1. That which first brought both a present guilt, and entailed a future curse upon mankind, was an inordinate desire of knowledge. And from the fall to this very day, this fatal itch has stuck so close to our nature, that every one is eager to know where he is called only to adore and obey.

2. The Scripture is in nothing more full and frequent than in representing the transcendency of God’s ways above all created intellectuals (Psalms 139:6; Psalms 36:6; Psalms 18:9; Psalms 77:19). If we consult its reports, or those of our own experience, about the amazing events of Providence, we shall find the result of our most exact inquiries in the text. I shall demonstrate that the most advanced wisdom of man is incompetent to judge of--

The reason or cause of God’s ways. The causes men assign of the passages of Providence are--

1. For the most part false, as e.g.,

(1) That the prosperous are the objects of God’s love; and the miserable of His hatred. And all this in defiance of the Spirit of God Himself who (Ecclesiastes 9:1) assures us that “no man knows either love or hatred by all that is before him”; nor consequently can conclude himself in or out of favour with God by anything befalling him in this life. Otherwise Lazarus would have been in flames, and the rich man in Abraham’s bosom. God sometimes curses men with prosperity, and casts His Jobs upon dunghills, and sells His beloved Josephs into slavery.

(2) That the good only must prosper and the bad suffer. A most absurd assertion, for how is it that the good suffer and the bad prosper?--a fact which staggered Asaph (Psalms 73:2), and so confounded Jeremiah (Jeremiah 12:1), that he could almost have offered to dispute the point with God Himself. And from the same topic it was that Job’s friends argued, until they were confounded by God’s verdict on the whole matter.

2. Always imperfect. Who would assign an adequate reason of anything which God does, must see as far into it as God sees. There is no action of God but there is a combination of impulsive causes concerned in it, one or two of which man may light upon, but the weakness of his discerning powers keeps him inevitably a stranger to far the greater part of them. God, by one and the same numerical lot of providence, may intend to punish one nation, to advance another; to plant the gospel in a third, and to let in trade into a fourth; likewise to make way for the happiness of one man’s prosperity, and for the extinction of another’s; to reward the virtues of sober and industrious people, and to revenge the crimes of a vicious and rebellious; and we are no more able to search into these than we are to govern the world.

The issue and event of actions. Men usually prognosticate--

1. According to the measure of the wisdom of second agents. And it must be confessed that it is the best rule were it not controlled by two better, viz., Scripture and experience. The former of which brings in God laughing at the wisdom of the wise; taking and circumventing the crafty in their own wiles (Job 5:12-13). And for the latter, history so abounds with instances of the most artificially-spun contrivances dashed in pieces by some sudden and unforeseen accidents, that to ascertain the event of the most promising undertaking, if we trust but our own eyes, we shall have little Cause to trust another’s wisdom.

2. From success formerly gained under the same or less probable circumstances. But remember

(1) That it is hard, and perhaps scarce possible to repeat any action under perfectly the same circumstances.

(2) That in most actions there are still some circumstances not observed, which may have a surer and more immediate influence upon the event than those which, coming more into view, are more depended upon.

(3) That the success of every action depends more upon the secret hand of God than upon any causes or instruments visibly engaged in it.

3. According to the preparations made for it, and the power employed in it. And yet we find that it is not always the bigger weight, but sometimes the artificial hand managing the balance which turns the scale. And in like manner, when we have raised armies and manned our fleets, we are still in the hand of that Providence which sometimes sets the crown of victory upon the weak and the few, and disappoints the hopes and breaks the force of the confident and numerous Could anything look more invincible than the Spanish Armada? But we find that there is no commanding the sea without being able to command the winds too. And what a painful defence is multitude on the one side, where Omnipotence takes the other!

The use and improvement. We may infer--

1. The vanity of making the future event, or presumed success of any enterprise, the rule of our present actings about the same.

2. The absolute necessity of an entire, total, unreserved dependence upon Providence in the most hopeful and promising condition of our affairs.

3. The impossibility of a rational dependence upon Providence with comfort, but in the way of lawful, honest, and religious courses. (R. South, D. D.)

Plans of God not fully known

I should like to hear any man attempt to interpret to a worm what it is going to be when it is a butterfly. Where is there a foreshadowing analogy, or anything to indicate to it what it is coming to in its fuller form? And how can any one disclose what is to be evolved when God’s work is completed in this life? For, although we may know something, our knowledge is fragmentary and limited. And it is a glorious consolation to believe that sufferings forgotten are not less causes of good than those thus are remembered, and that sufferings which apparently leave but little trace are working out in us great and blessed results in the kingdom to which we are hastening. (H. W. Beecher.)

God’s ways inscrutable, but in accordance with the highest reason

Natural instincts, and even moral sense, are no safe guide upon a subject which soars so infinitely above our limited capacity. We are children; and in considering the means by which our Heavenly Father will save us, it is wisdom to accept simply His own instructions, desperate folly and presumption to criticise those instructions by our puerile instincts. E.g., a father, inured to life upon the Alpine mountains, is under the necessity of crossing a very perilous glacier with his children. The children are of such an age that the direction, “Hold this, and keep at as great a distance from me as you possibly can,” can just be made intelligible to them, while the grounds of it, viz., that the weight of the party may be distributed, and not bear on one particular spot, which might thus give way, are, it may be, out of the reach of a child’s capacity. Let us suppose that the children, in fright, begin to reason about this counsel, and to judge of it by their natural instincts; conceive that one of them should think and say as follows: “Can our father, who loves to have us close around him, say, ‘Come not near me, child, at the peril of thy life’? Say it he may, but I will not believe such to be his meaning, for it conflicts with all my natural instincts, which are to cling round him in the moment of danger.” But shortly afterwards night falls, and the wearied children are irresistibly impelled to lie down without any covering, in which case death would overtake them. The father burrows in a snowdrift, and proposes that in the cavities so made the children shall lie, the cold snow piled over them, and only the smallest possible aperture allowed for the passage of the breath. Adults, of course, would be aware that this would be the only method of preserving the vital heat of the body; but not so the children. Snow, applied only to parts of the person, and not as a general wrapper, is bitterly cold; and the children, unable to understand, imagine cruelty in this arrangement. Now, the child who keeps at a distance from his father, and buries himself in the snow, is a wise child, because, renouncing the guidance of his instincts, he places faith in one manifestly his superior in capacity. The child who clings round his father’s neck upon the glacier and stretches his limbs beneath the open sky in distrust of his parent’s directions is a foolish child; for what is greater folly than to refuse to be guided by a recognised superior in wisdom? And it cannot be too strongly insisted upon, that one who, in investigating such a subject as the method of human salvation, follows the guidance of his natural instincts in preference to that of Revelation, is a weak person, not a man of bold and courageous thought. Simple dependence upon God, where God alone can teach, is the truest independence of mind. (Dean Goulburn.)

Secrets of God

Be not curious to search into the secrets of God; pick not the lock where He hath allowed no key. He that will be sifting every cloud may be smitten with a thunderbolt; and he that will be too familiar with God’s secrets may be overwhelmed in His judgments. Adam would curiously increase his knowledge; therefore Adam shamefully lost his goodness: the Bethshemites would needs pry into the ark of God; therefore the hand of God slew about fifty thousand of them. Therefore hover not about this flame, lest we scorch our wings. For my part, seeing God hath made me His secretary, I will carefully improve myself by what He has revealed, and not curiously inquire into or after what He hath reserved. (T. Adams.)

For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been His counsellor?--

God all in all

The challenge.

1. To human intellect.

2. To human merit.

The assertion. God is--

1. The source of all.

2. The agent in all.

3. The end of all.

The ascription.

1. To Him be glory.

2. On earth.

3. In heaven.

4. For ever. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

God’s counsels are


1. Teaching us the feebleness of our understanding.

2. Checking our daring speculations.

II. True.

1. Inviting our confidence.

2. Commanding our submission.


1. Soliciting our love.

2. Inspiring our hope. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

God’s independence

Philo, the Jew, compares the great God to a tree, and all creatures to the leaves and fruits, which are all in the tree; but the metaphor is not complete, because you may remove fruit from the tree, but there can be no creature out of the power and will of God by which alone it can exist at all. If you remove the fruits from the tree the tree has at least lost something; but if all creatures were destroyed, yet still the Lord would be as infinitely God as He is now; if the creatures were multiplied, God were no more--and if diminished, He were no less. The creatures, may be likened to the waves, and God to the great sea; the waves cannot exist apart from the sea, nor the creatures apart from God: but no earthly figure of the Divine can be complete, for the waves are a portion of the sea, but the creatures are not God, nor do they contribute to His essence or attributes. The sea would be diminished if the waves were gone, but if you could take all creatures away, God would be no less God, nor less infinite than He is now. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things.--

God all in all

This is perhaps the most comprehensive account of the Deity in His relation to His works that is anywhere to be met with. All things are--

Of Him. He is of none. They originate in His will, and but for Him they would never have been.

By Him. He creates and sustains all.

To Him. All things are intended to manifest forth His glory, and will ultimately serve His purpose. He has made all things for Himself, and it is obviously meet that it should be so, that His will should be the law, His glory the end of the universe of which He is the Creator, the Supporter, and Proprietor. (J. Brown, D.D.)

God all in all

Of Him all things are as their Original Author and Creator; through Him, as the Giver and Conveyer of them to us; to Him, to His honour, for His use, and in His disposal; and no further or longer ours than He is pleased in mercy, not in justice, as a free gift, and not as a debt, to dispense them to us. (Bp. Sanderson.)

God must be all in all

Him first.

Him last.

Him midst.

And without end. Amen. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

God the first cause and last end

The explication of the terms.

1. That God is the first cause, signifies--

(1) Negatively, that He had no cause, and is independent of every other being, and is eternally of Himself.

(2) Positively, that He is the cause and support of all things besides Himself (John 1:3).

2. The last end; i.e., that all things refer to Him; the aim of all things is the illustration of His glory, and the manifestation of His perfections.

The confirmation of the proposition.

1. By natural light.

(1) The notion of a God contains in it all possible perfection. Now the utmost perfection we can imagine is for a being to be always of itself, and to be the cause and support of all other things. From hence follows that all things must refer to Him as their last end. For every wise agent acts in order to an end. Now the end which is most worthy the attaining is the manifestation of God’s being and perfection, which is called God’s glory.

(2) These titles were discovered by the natural light of the heathens. Aristotle called God the first being, the first cause, and the first mover; and Plato calls God the author and parent of all things, the architect of the world, and of all creatures, the fountain and original of all things. Porphyry calls Him “the first,” from whence he reasons that He is the ultimate end, and that all things move towards God; that all motions centre in Him, because, saith he, it is most proper and natural for things to refer to their original, and to refer all to Him from whom they receive all. Antoninus, speaking of nature (which with the Stoics signifies God), had these words, “Of Thee are all things, in Thee are all things, to Thee are all things.”

2. From Scripture.

(1) Hither belong all those places where He declares Himself to be “the first and the last” (Isaiah 41:4; Isaiah 43:10; Isaiah 44:6; Isaiah 48:12-13; Revelation 1:8).

(2) But more expressly, see 1 Corinthians 8:6; Acts 17:24.

(3) Hither we may refer those texts which attribute the same to the Second Person in the Trinity {John 1:3; Joh 1:10; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:16-17; Hebrews 1:2-3).

The application of the doctrine.

1. If God be the first cause of all things, from hence let us learn--

(1) With humility and thankfulness to own, admire, and bless God as the author of our being and of all the blessings we enjoy (Revelation 4:11; Psalms 103:1-4). With patience and quietness to submit to all events that come upon us, as coming from Him (1 Samuel 3:18; Psalms 39:9).

2. If God be the last end of all, let us make Him our last end, and refer all our actions to His glory (Matthew 22:37; 1 Corinthians 10:31). (Abp. Tillotson.)

The Trinity

1. The Father’s love and purpose the origin of all things.

2. The Son’s mediation and rule their continuance and direction.

3. The Spirit’s agency conducts all things to the end designed. All things of the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit (T. Robinson, D.D.)

Laus Deo

My text consists of monosyllables, but it contains the loftiest sublimities. Our great God alone can expound this verse, for He only can worthily set forth His own perfections. May He do so now! Consider--

The doctrine. All things are of Him as their source, through Him as their means, to Him as their end. They are of Him in the plan, through Him in the working, and to Him in the glory which they produce. Taking this general principle, you will find it apply to all things.

1. To the whole range of God’s works in creation and providence.

(1) There was a period when God inhabited eternity in His self-contained and solitary greatness. All things must be of Him in design, for there was no one with whom He could take counsel. Before His works of old, eternal wisdom brought forth the perfect plan of future creations, and every line must have been of the Lord alone. He might have made a different universe, and that He has made it what it is was because He saw fit to do so.

(2) When the plan was all laid down this was not enough; mere arrangement would not create. “Through Him” must all things be. There was no raw material ready, and there was none to help. He speaks, and the heavens leap into existence. He speaks again, and worlds are begotten with all the varied forms of life so fraught with Divine wisdom and matchless skill. Through Him were all things, from the archangel down to the insect. The same finger paints the rainbow and the wing of the butterfly. He who dyes the garments of evening in all the colours of heaven has covered the kingcup with gold, and lit up the glowworm’s lamp. Nature is as it is through the energy of the present God. Out upon those men who think that God has wound up the world like a clock, and left it to work for itself. Wherever thou art, thou art in God’s workshop, where every wheel is turned by His hand.

(3) But the great glory of all is that everything is to Him. God must have the highest motive, and there can be no higher motive than His own glory. When there was no being but Himself God could not have taken as a motive a creature which did not exist. The good of His creatures He considereth carefully, but even that is but a means to the main end. And the day shall come when even the fall will be seen not to have marred the Divine glory. His enemies shall bow their necks, whilst His people shall cheerfully extol Him.

2. To the grand work of Divine grace.

(1) Here everything is of God. The plan of salvation is no concoction of priests, but the offspring of a wisdom no less than Divine. None but God could have imagined a plan so just to God, so safe to man. And as the great plan is of Him, so the fillings up of the minutiae are of Him. God ordained the time and circumstances of the first promise, and the hour when the great promise-keeper should come, etc. Every stitch in the noble tapestry of salvation is of the Lord.

(2) Through Him. Through Him the Son of God is born of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Spirit. In the great redemption God alone is exalted. And as through Him the atonement, so through Him the application of the atonement. By the power of the Spirit the gospel is daily preached, and through Him men are called and saved.

(3) All is to Him; we have not a note of praise to spare for another.

3. To the case of every individual believer.

(1) Of whom comes my salvation? That which is born of the flesh is flesh.

(2) Did it not also come through God; through faith, which was the operation of the Holy Spirit? And what didst thou believe in but in Jesus the Lord?

(3) Is it not also “to Him”?

4. To Christian work.

(1) The power comes from God.

(2) The success comes through God.

(3) The honour is to God.

Devotion. “To whom be glory for ever, Amen.” This should be--

1. The single desire of the Christian. He may desire prosperity or to attain more gifts and graces, etc., but it should only be that “to Him may be glory for ever.”

2. Our constant desire at our work behind the counter, or in the exchange, or walking in the fields, etc.

3. Our earnest desire. Do not speak of God’s glory with cold words, nor think of it with chilly heart.

4. Our growing desire. You blessed Him in your youth; do not be content with such praises as you gave Him then.

5. Make this desire practical. Praise God by your patience in pain, your perseverance in duty, your generosity in His cause, your boldness in testimony, your consecration to His work. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

To whom be glory for ever. Amen.--As the rivers return again to the place whence they came, they all come from the sea, and they all run into the sea again; so all our store as it issued at first from the fountain of God’s grace, so should it fall at last into the ocean of His glory. (Bp. Sanderson.)


Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Romans 11". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tbi/romans-11.html. 1905-1909. New York.
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