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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Romans 5

Verse 1

Romans 5:1

Therefore being justified by faith.


We have here--

A state or condition--“justified.” This implies--

1. Previous dishonour. A truly righteous character needs no justification.

2. Complete satisfaction. A man who owes a debt can only be justified when that debt is paid; although it need not be paid by himself.

3. Perfect restoration--to all rights, privileges, position, etc. Justification does not mean righteousness. A man is justified although he is defiled in sin. The justification of man by God is His counting man as righteous.

A means or method--“faith.” Faith is that principle which unites a man with Christ, and so enables him to appropriate all the Saviour’s merits and righteousness. Substitution, to be effectual, not only requires its acceptance by the judge, but the acceptance of the Saviour by the sinner as his Substitute. Faith is that acceptance by the sinner. Notice--

1. That this act is difficult. It is contrary to human nature--men would rather trust themselves than God. Hence they add rites and ceremonies.

2. It includes acts as well as conviction and trust. “Faith without works is dead,” and a dead principle has no existence.

A result attained--peace with God. Peace is desirable with man, much more with God. True peace can be obtained in no other way but this. There is a state which is often mistaken for it, such as indifference, a numbed conscience. Gratuitous pardon without justification by atonement would not be able to give peace, but pardon through satisfied justice can. Nothing can satisfy the sense of justice but trust in the justice-satisfying Saviour. (Homilist.)


Its nature.

1. From the meaning of the word.

2. From the type (Leviticus 16:21).

(1) The two goats were necessary to set forth the perfect work of Christ: the first in atoning for sin, the other in bearing it away.

3. In its foundation (Romans 3:24-25; Romans 5:9).

(1) The foundation is solid.

(2) The grace is perfect.

Its condition. “By faith.” Consider--

1. The root meaning of the word.

2. The naturalness of the thing signified.

3. What is involved in unbelief.

Its fruits.

1. Peace (Romans 5:1).

(1) Its nature.

(2) With whom established.

(3) Through whom acquired.

2. Standing (Romans 5:2).

3. Joy (Romans 5:2).

(1) Its inspiration. “Hope of the glory of God.”

(2) Its strength. “In tribulations.”

(3) Its intellectual basis (Romans 5:4).

(4) Its internal evidence (Romans 5:5).

Its source. The love of God.

1. The manner in which it was procured (Romans 5:8).

(1) “Commendeth” should be rendered “giveth proof of.”

2. The character of those for whom Christ died.

(1) “Those without strength” (Romans 5:6).

(2) “Sinners” (Romans 5:8).

(3) Such an exhibition of love unparalleled (Romans 5:7).

3. The purpose for which God gave His Son (Romans 5:9-10).

Practical lessons.

1. The blessing of which this lesson treats is the greatest need of man.

2. The sacrifice which Christ made to procure this blessing the most wonderful fact in history.

3. The condition on which this blessing may be obtained the most reasonable and easy.

4. The benefits which this blessing confers on the believer in this life are the most precious God can bestow.

5. The glory to which the believer by it lays claim is ineffable and eternal. (D. C. Hughes, A. M.)

Justification more than forgiveness

A friend with whom you have been long doing business falls into a condition of insolvency, and you find that he is your debtor to a large amount. There is no prospect of his ever being able to pay you back, and you have reason to know that this condition of debt arises not merely from his misfortune, but from his fault. Under these circumstances it would be possible for you to liberate him from his debt by an act of forgiveness. Let us suppose that you adopt this course; the man would no longer be in fear of a debtor’s prison, and would no doubt feel himself under a great obligation to you. But would such a state of things be likely to bring you into closer personal relations with each other? Would it not necessarily produce on the contrary a certain distance and constraint? On the other hand, the forgiven debtor must needs, me thinks, feel ashamed to look his generous creditor in the face, must feel ill at ease in his presence, and would shrink from familiar social intercourse with the family of one on whom his conduct has inflicted such serious losses. On the other hand, the forgiving creditor could scarcely be expected to select such a person for his friend, and to treat his past conduct as if it were a thing easily to be forgotten. But to illustrate our position further, let us now present another case. Let us suppose that the creditor is so convinced of the sincerity of the regret which his debtor professes, and has reason to believe that the severe lesson has wrought in him so great a moral change that he feels himself free to make an experiment which most of us would certainly regard as a perilous one; let us suppose that, instead of remitting his debt, he introduces him into partnership with his own son, with whose business he is himself closely concerned. This his new connection with a solvent and flourishing firm places him, we may say, in a position of solvency, removes the stigma of bankruptcy, puts him in the way of making a full return to his benefactor, to whom at the same time it greatly enhances his obligation. Now it is easy to see how this man--not merely forgiven, but in a certain sense justified--will be brought by such an arrangement into the closest relations with his benefactor. Friendly social intercourse will exist without restraint, and he who under the former mode of treatment might have seemed little better than an escaped convict will now be a recognised and respected member of the social circle in which his creditor moves. (W. H. Aitken, M. A.)

Justification by faith

There is no one who has not asked the question to which these words give the true answer. “How shall man have peace with God?” Wherever man is found, whether savage or civilised, rich or poor, he is found attempting to solve this problem. For everywhere man is found beset with present miseries, and haunted with the dread of some angry power that inflicts them. And, therefore, everywhere man is found endeavouring to appease this displeasure by making peace with his God. Now to this question there are three answers possible: that man might restore himself, or that God alone might restore man, or that God and man together might effect this restoration. The first is the religion of the heathen: he seeks to appease God by his own acts; he will give even his first born for his transgressions. The second is the religion of the Pharisee: “God, I thank Thee, I am not as other men are.” The third is the religion of the publican. “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” Which is the true one?

Scripture everywhere asserts that God alone justifies (Micah 6:7; Psalms 49:7; Isaiah 45:21-22). Hear the word of the Lord! Here, then, is a simple and an unerring test, by which to try every system of religion.

1. To “justify” means to “pronounce guiltless.” It never signifies to make just, but always to declare or pronounce just (Proverbs 17:15). This justification is indispensable to peace with God, for guilt cannot be at peace with justice. Before God can be at peace with any man, He must first pronounce him to be righteous.

2. Here, then, arise two great questions: first, what righteousness is this? and, secondly, how does it become ours? St. Paul tells us that it is through Christ. But even, for the sake of His dear Son, God cannot say the thing that is not. Unless there be perfect righteousness seen by Him, He cannot say He sees it. How, then, does Christ procure us this perfect righteousness? (2 Corinthians 5:21). In it is laid down, that Christ procured our righteousness by being made sin for us. Clearly, then, if we know how He was made sin, we know how we are made righteous. Was He, then, made really and truly sinful? God forbid. He, the Holy One, was, for our sakes, reckoned or accounted sinful. In the same way, therefore, we sinners are, for His sake, reckoned righteous; our sins are reckoned as if they were His; His righteousness is reckoned as if it were ours. To be “justified through Christ,” therefore, is to have the righteousness of Christ so imputed to us, that God reckons us, or pronounces us, just. This righteousness is bestowed upon us by faith. Faith is the link that joins together the justice of God and the satisfaction of Christ in the person of the believer, so that God can be just, and the justifier of him that believes.

3. Is there, then, no real righteousness in the believer? does God pronounce him who is unholy, holy; and admit the unclean, in his uncleanness, into His presence? Assuredly not. God never pronounced any man holy whom He did not also make holy. There is a righteousness external and a righteousness internal: both are real--both shall one day be perfect; but that which is wrought for us is perfect from the first; that which is wrought in us is imperfect, and gradually arrives at perfection: the one at once and forever justifies; the other progressively sanctifies.

4. But how does this doctrine make God alone the Saviour without any cooperation on the part of man? Is not faith a work of the mind? and is not this, at least in part, the cause of the sinner’s justification? We answer, No! for we are not justified because of our faith, but by our faith. Faith is the hand which the sinner stretches forth to receive the “free gift” of God’s mercy; but it is not the stretching out of the hand which induces the bestowal of the alms. Nay, more, that very hand is palsied; we have no power of ourselves to put it forth. Faith, itself, is a free gift of God; it is not until He has said, Reach forth thine hand, that we can, by doing so, receive the alms of His free mercy, which, because of Christ’s satisfaction, He is able, and, because of His own infinite love, He is willing, to bestow upon us.

5. This doctrine, then, fully answers the test to which we agreed to submit it: it reveals a salvation, which is God’s work, and His alone; prompted by His love, designed by His wisdom, and accomplished by His power. This work of man’s salvation has upon it the impress of divinity; it displays that wonderful union of power and wisdom that is found in all God’s works, which makes them seem at once so simple and yet so mysterious. View it in its aspect towards man, how simple it seems--“Believe and live!” View it in its aspect as regards God, as His plan devised for the salvation of man, without the compromise of any one of His attributes, it is the great “mystery of godliness.” This plan of salvation befits the majesty and the wisdom of God, while it is adapted to the ignorance and the weakness of man, This river of life is unfathomable, in its mysterious depths, by the mightiest of created beings; and yet the little child may kneel by its brink and drink of its sweet waters that flow softly, clear as crystal, from beneath the throne of God.

6. It is an ancient doctrine this; older than Luther, who revived it, or Paul, who defended it, or Abraham, who exemplified it. It was revealed by God, at the gate of Eden, to the first sinner who, by faith, hoped for deliverance yet to be accomplished by the seed of the woman. The first man who believed was justified by faith. The last saint that enters heaven shall enter it praising God, who, justifying him by faith, gives peace to his soul forever and ever, through Jesus Christ.

Let us now contrast with it man’s plan of salvation, in which he seeks to mingle his righteousness with that of God. The error of the self-righteous (Romans 10:3) is that he seeks a righteousness of his own, because he will not submit to be saved by the righteousness of God; as man fell by seeking to be his own God, so he remains fallen by seeking to be his own saviour. As he once refused to be entirely ruled by God, so he now refuses to be entirely saved by God. This is a most subtle and dangerous error.

1. The statement of this doctrine we will take from the Church of Rome, because Romanism is a religion of human nature, reduced to a regular system, and because we believe this difference between her and us is generally misunderstood.

(1) Let us clearly state how Rome and we are agreed in this matter. We are agreed--

(a) That man is so utterly fallen that he has no power to help himself.

(b) That he cannot be saved unless God bestow on him a perfect righteousness.

(c) That God does bestow this righteousness for Christ’s sake.

(2) Where, then, do we differ?

(a) As to the nature of this righteousness. We say that it is a righteousness imputed; she, that it is a righteousness implanted. We say it is a righteousness wrought for us; she, it is righteousness wrought in us. We say, God, for Christ’s sake, reckons us as perfectly righteous, and then proceeds to make us holy; she says, God, for Christ’s sake, makes us perfectly holy, and then pronounces us, because of this inherent holiness, to be righteous. In other words, we hold that God justifies and also sanctifies; Rome holds that He only sanctifies.

(b) As to the manner in which this righteousness is applied to us: we say, by faith only; she says, in the sacraments: she holds that this righteousness is infused into every baptised man, so that he is made perfectly righteous, and this state of justification, she holds, further, may be endangered by venial sin, and lost by deadly sin, and that it progresses so that a man may be more or less justified at one time than another. Now observe the subtlety of this error. It might be said this doctrine of Rome answers our test, for it ascribes all the work of salvation to God; it declares that this inherent righteousness is God’s free gift, just as you say your imputed righteousness is. Surely there is no claim here made for man’s righteousness. Let us see how our Lord disposes of this answer. “Two men went up into the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee the other a publican, and the Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself--God, I thank Thee, I am not as other men are.” Where is self-righteousness here? The Pharisee claims no merit--he declares the righteousness which he presents to God, to be God’s work; God has made him to differ; he fasts, and prays, and gives alms, but the power to do these good works he acknowledges to have come from God; and yet it is said that he “trusted in himself that he was righteous.” Why? Because the righteousness he presented was a righteousness in him; it was not the righteousness of God, and it availed him nothing to say that it was God’s gift at first. It is self-righteous to present to God as a reason for pardon anything in man, whether that be said to be originally God’s gift or not; he who comes to Him must come as the publican, “God be merciful to me,”--not a justified or sanctified man, but “me a sinner!” Add to this, that even if the righteousness be God’s gift in the first instance, yet the preserving of it, the increase of it, by faith, and prayer, and penance, are the man’s own, upon this system, so that such an one must claim the reward of debt and not of grace.

2. Although we have gone to Rome for a definition of it, this doctrine is to be found among ourselves. How many are there who believe that God, for Christ’s sake, will accept them “if they do their best”--Christ’s merits making up for their deficiency! How many more are there who think that God, for Christ’s sake, will enable them to keep His holy law, and so accept them as righteous! And how many are there who imagine that God, for Christ’s sake, accepts their faith as something meritorious, justifying them because they hold the doctrine of justification by faith! In all these, from the open claim of heaven as a reward, to the more subtle claim of merit for having rejected all merit; and of righteousness for having renounced righteousness; in all these there is the same error--the presenting to God of something in us, instead of presenting the perfect righteousness of Christ. (Abp. Magee.)

Man saved

The words contain a golden chain of highest blessings bestowed by God upon all true Christians. Notice--

The Divine method of salvation.

1. Faith in Christ removes the condemnation. It means both a general trust in God’s revelations and grace, and a special trust in Christ as given by the Father’s love to be the Redeemer of His people. Understanding, will, affections, risking their all upon Him. Justification is not perfection. Not justified by the law of innocency, or of Moses, but by the law of Christ--“who died for our sins,” and “was raised again for our justification.”

2. Faith in Christ brings the believer into close communion with the Father. “By whom also we have access,” etc. They are reconciled, and in a State of love and friendship. Since man once sinned, God’s justice and man’s conscience tell us that we are unfit for God’s acceptance or communion immediately, but must have a suitable mediator. Blessed be God for a “daysman” appointed betwixt us and Himself! Without Him I dare not pray, I cannot hope, I fear to die; God would else frown me away to misery. All the hope and pardon that I have, come by this Author and Finisher of our faith:

(1) This is joyous intercourse--“Peace with God.”

(2) It opens up a bright future. “And rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”

3. Faith in Christ strengthens the child of God in tribulation. “Not only so, but,” etc. The glory revealed unto us is so transcendent, and tribulation so small and short, that an expectant of glory may well rejoice in spite of bodily sufferings. It is tribulation for Christ and righteousness’ sake that we are to glory in; tribulation for our sins must be patiently and penitently born.

(1) “Knowing that tribulation worketh patience.” That which worketh patience should be a matter of joy; for patience can do more good for us than tribulation can harm. Why then do I complain under suffering, and study so little the exercise of patience?

(2) “And patience experience, and experience hope.” What profitable experiences are to be derived from patient suffering! Of God’s providence, of our own dependence upon a higher power, of the fickleness of human friendship, etc.

(3) “And hope maketh not ashamed.” That is, true hope of what God hath promised shall never be disappointed. They that trust in deceitful creatures are disappointed and ashamed of their hope; but God is true and ever faithful. All this shows the superiority of a free spirit over carnal weapons.

The indwelling of the Holy Ghost is the source of all excellency in the Christian character.

1. By the “love of God shed abroad” is meant--

(1) The realisation of Divine life in the soul.

(2) The sweet experiences arising from the absence of doubts and fears.

(3) It leads God’s adopted children to love one another:

2. The Spirit within--

(1) Is helpful to overcome temptation. “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.”

(2) Mortifies the fleshly lusts that war against the soul. The desperately wicked heart is a hotbed of lusts and passions that require to be weeded, else they will choke the germs of the good seed. We cannot serve God and Mammon.

3. Points to a future life, and proves our title to it. There are some so blind as to think that man shall have no hereafter, because brutes have not. But it is enough for us to know that God hath promised it; and let it be our earnest prayer, “Shed more abroad upon my heart, by the Holy Spirit, that love of Thine which will draw up my longing soul to Thee, rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God.” (Richard Baxter.)

Justification by faith

The justification of which Paul speaks is--

1. Not that gracious constitution of God by which, for the sake of Christ, He so far delivers men from the guilt of Adam’s sin as to place them in a salvable state, and by virtue of which all infants dying in infancy are saved (see Romans 5:18); for justification is not common to the race, but is experienced by certain individuals.

2. Not the justification of those who lived under inferior dispensations, or who now live in countries where the gospel is not known. On this point there are two extremes.

(1) The unauthorised severity of those who hold that all heathens are doomed to damnation.

(2) The undistinguishing charity of those who insinuate that the heathen are perfectly safe, and need not be disturbed in their superstitions. Each of these is remote from the truth.

3. Not justification before men by the evidence of works (James 2:1-26), but the justification of penitent sinners before God, which is necessarily previous.

4. Not the justification of persevering believers at the last day. This will be pronounced on the evidence of works springing from faith, and evidencing its genuineness and continuance. Our business is with a present justification, “Being justified.” Let us look at:--

Its nature. We assume--

(1) That all men naturally are in a state of guilt and condemnation. Our hereditary depravity is odious to the God of Purity, while our consequent personal iniquity renders us liable to punishment.

(2) That the man of whose justification we are about to speak is convinced that this is his state.

2. What, then, is meant by justification in these circumstances? To justify a sinner is to consider him relatively righteous, and to deal with him as such, notwithstanding his past unrighteousness, by clearing and releasing him from various penal evils, especially from God’s wrath and the liability to eternal death. Hence justification and forgiveness are substantially the same (Acts 13:38-39; Romans 4:5; Romans 4:8). Note that justification--

(1) Does not in the least degree alter the evil nature and desert of sin. It is the holy Lord who justifieth. The penalty is still naturally due, though graciously remitted. Hence the duty of continuing to confess and lament even pardoned sin (Ezekiel 16:62-63).

(2) Is not, as Romish and some mystic divines contend, the being made righteous by the infusion of a sanctifying influence, which confounds justification with regeneration.

(3) Extends to all past sins (Acts 13:39). God does not justify us by degrees, but at once.

(4) However effectual to our release from past guilt, does not terminate our state of probation. As he who is now justified was once condemned, so he may again come into condemnation by relapsing into sin, as was the case with Adam.

(5) If lost, may be recovered (Psalms 32:1-5; cf. Romans 4:1; Romans 4:8).

Its immediate results.

1. The restoration of amity and intercourse between the pardoned sinner and the pardoning God. “We have peace with God,” and consequently access to Him. The ground of God’s controversy with us being removed, we become objects of His friendship (James 2:23). This reconciliation, however, does not mean deliverance from all the evils which sin has entailed, viz., suffering and death, but it entitles us to such supports and such promises of sanctifying influence as will “turn the curse into a blessing.”

2. Adoption and the consequent right to eternal life. God condescends to become not only our Friend, but our Father (Romans 8:17).

3. The habitual indwelling of the Holy Spirit. As sin induced the Spirit’s departure, so the pardon of sin is followed by deliverance from it, because it makes way for His return to our souls (Galatians 4:1; Galatians 4:1; Acts 2:38). Of this indwelling the immediate effects are--

(1) Tranquillity of conscience (Romans 5:5; Romans 8:15-16).

(2) Power over sin, a prevailing desire and ability to walk before God in holy obedience (Romans 8:1, etc.).

(3) A joyous hope of heaven (Romans 5:2, Romans 15:13; Galatians 5:5).

Its method.

1. The originating cause is the free, sovereign, undeserved, and spontaneous love of God towards fallen man (Titus 3:4-5; Titus 3:4-5; Romans 3:24).

2. The meritorious cause is Christ; for what He did in obedience to the precepts of the law, and what He suffered in satisfaction of its penalty, taken together, constitute that mediatorial righteousness, for the sake of which the Father is ever well pleased in Him. In this all who are justified have a saving interest. Not that it is imputed to them in its formal nature or distinct acts; for against any such imputation there lie insuperable objections from both reason and Scripture. But the collective merit and moral effects of all which the Mediator did and suffered are so reckoned to our account that, for the sake of Christ, we are released from guilt and accepted of God.

3. The instrumental cause is faith.

(1) Present faith. We are not justified by--

(a) Tomorrow’s faith foreseen, for that would lead to the Antinomian justification from eternity.

(b) By yesterday’s faith recorded or remembered, for that would imply that justification is irreversible. Justification is offered on believing. We are never savingly interested in it until we believe; and it continues in force only so long as we continue to believe.

(2) The acts of this faith are:--

(a) The assent of the understanding to the testimony of God in the gospel, and especially that part of it which concerns the design and efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice for sin.

(b) The consent of the will and affections to this plan of salvation, such an approbation and choice of it as imply the renunciation of every other refuge, and a steady, decided, and thankful acquiescence in God’s revealed method of forgiveness.

(3) Actual trust in the Saviour and personal apprehension of His merits.


1. That we are not justified by the merit of our works, inasmuch as no obedience we can render can come up to the requisitions of the Law of Innocence.

2. That repentance is neither the cause nor instrument of justification. Repentance makes no atonement, and therefore cannot supersede the blood of Jesus; nor does it secure any personal or justifying interest in it; this is the object of faith only.

3. That the Spirit’s work in regeneration and sanctification is not the previous condition of our justification, or the prerequisite qualification for it. For in that case we should be saved without a Saviour, which is a contradiction. The work of pardon for yon must precede the work of purification in you. In the cleansing of the leper, the blood was first to be used, then the oil (Leviticus 14:1-57). And in order to your salvation you must first bays “the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus,” and then you shall have “the renewing of the Holy Ghost.”

4. That our justification is not by the merit of faith itself a refined theory of justification by works.


1. How clear and urgent is the duty of seeking an experimental enjoyment of justifying grace.

2. How sacred are the obligations of the justified:

(1) Gratefully acknowledge it.

(2) Diligently improve it.

(3) Practically evidence your enjoyment of it. (Jabez Bunting, D. D.)

Justification by faith

Justification defined. Justification is the Divine judicial act which applies to the sinner believing in Christ the benefit of the atonement, delivering him from the condemnation of his sin, introducing him into a state of favour, and treating him as a righteous person. Though justifying faith is an operating principle which, through the Holy Spirit’s energy, attains to an interior and perfect conformity to the law, or internal righteousness, it is the imputed character of justification which regulates the New Testament use of the word. Inherent righteousness is connected more closely with the perfection of the regenerate and sanctified life. In this more limited sense justification is either the act of God or the state of man.

God the Justifier. The act of justifying is that of God as the Judge. Generally it is δικαίωσις, the word which pronounces the sinner absolved from the condemning sentence of the law, and it refers always and only to the sins that are past. Whether regarded as the first act of mercy, or as the permanent will of God’s grace towards the believer in Christ, or as the final sentence in the Judgment, it is the Divine declaration which discharges the sinner as such from the condemnation of his sin. “It is God that justifieth”--God in Christ, for all judgment is “committed to the Son,” who both now and ever pronounces as Mediator the absolving word, declaring it in this life to the conscience by His Spirit. It is the voice of God, the Judge in the mediatorial court, where the Redeemer is the Advocate, pleading His own propitiatory sacrifice and the promise of the gospel declared to the penitence and faith of the sinner whose cause He pleads. The simplest form in which the doctrine is stated is in Romans 8:33-34. Here the apostle has in view the past, present, and future of the believer; the death, resurrection, and intercession of Christ; and the one justifying sense against which there can be no appeal in time or in eternity. God is Θεὸς ὁ διακιῶν, in one continuous and ever-present act.

Man as justified. The state into which man is introduced is variously described, according to his various relations to God, to the Mediator, and the law. As an individual sinner he is forgiven: his justification is pardon, his punishment is remitted. As a person ungodly, he is regarded as righteous: “righteousness is imputed to him,” or his “transgression is not imputed to him.” As a believer in Jesus “his faith is counted for righteousness.” All these phrases describe, under its negative and its positive aspect, one and the selfsame blessing of the new covenant as constituting the state of grace into which the believer has entered and in which as a believer he abides. This is attested by passages running through the Gospels, the Acts, and the Epistles; passages which only confirm the promises of the Old Testament. Our Lord’s forerunner was fore-announced “to give knowledge of salvation by the remission of sins” (Luke 1:77). Our Saviour’s word was, “Man, thy sins are forgiven thee”; but he spoke of the publican as praying, “God be merciful to me a sinner,” and as going down to his house “justified”--these words being introduced for the first time, and both being reserved for abundant future service, especially in the writings of St. Paul. He left the commission that “remission of sins should be preached in His name.” St. Peter preached that “remission of sins,” and afterwards varied the expression, “that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19)--counterparts in meaning. But St. Paul takes up the Saviour’s words and unites them (Acts 13:38-39), and in this Epistle adds all the other terms and unites the whole in one charter of privileges (Romans 4:4-8). In this passage all the phrases are united without exception, and they are represented as the act of God and the state of man, the one and various blessing of habitual experience. To sum up: the state of διακιοσύνη is that of conformity to law, which, however, is always regarded as such only through the gracious imputation of God, who declares the believer to be justified negatively from the condemnation of his sin, and positively reckons to him the character, bestowing also the privileges of righteousness. The former or negative blessing is pardon distinctively, the latter or positive blessing is justification proper. (W. B. Pope, D. D.)

Justification by faith: an instance of

A minister of the gospel was once preaching in a public hospital. There was an aged woman present, who for several weeks had been aroused to attend to the concerns of her soul. When she heard the Word of God from the lips of His servant, she trembled like a criminal in the hands of the executioner. Formerly she had entertained hope of acceptance with God, but she had departed from her comforter, and now she was the prey of a guilty conscience. A short time after this the same minister was preaching in the same place, but during the first prayer his text and the whole arrangement of his discourse went completely from hint; he could not recollect a single sentence of either, but Romans 5:1 took possession of his whole soul: “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” He considered this a sufficient intimation of his duty, and descanted freely on justification by faith and a sinner’s peace with God through the atonement of Christ. It was the hour of mercy to this poor distracted woman. A ray of Divine consolation now penetrated her soul, and she said to the minister, when taking his leave, “I am a poor vile sinner, but I think, being justified by faith, I begin again to have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. I think Christ has now got the highest place in my heart; and oh! I pray God He would always keep Him there.”

Justification by faith: an instance of

Some years ago a clergyman was preaching on this text in the East End of London, and at the end of his sermon he invited any who were anxious to come and converse with him in the vestry. He was followed by an intelligent looking young man, who said, “I am going to leave England in two or three days, and perhaps this is the last opportunity I shall have of talking with a clergyman: My father and I have had a terrible quarrel, and it ended in his turning me out, telling me never to darken his door again. I wandered up to London, but knew not where to look for employment. At last I found a berth as sailor before the mast, and before I go I want to ask you, ‘What must I do to be saved?’” The clergyman endeavoured to make the way of salvation as clear as he could to him. They parted, however, without there being any apparent change in the young man’s spiritual condition, though he seemed awakened and much in earnest. Time wore on, and the incident had almost passed from the clergyman’s mind, when one day a sailor called at his residence. “Do you remember,” he said, “some months ago a young man coming to your vestry after the Sermon you had preached on the words, ‘Being justified by faith, we have peace with God?’” “Oh, yes; I remember it perfectly.” “Well, he went on board the London, and he and I became great friends, because I am a Christian, and I soon found out that he wanted to be a Christian too; so we used often to have long talks over our Bibles, and used to pray together; yet somehow or other I could never get him to see things quite clearly. I suppose he was looking to his feelings more than to Christ. Well, then came the terrible catastrophe, and that young man was told off by the captain, with myself and a few others, to man one of the boats. The boat was lowered, and soon was crowded; but by some means the poor fellow was left behind in the ship. We hardly knew what to do, for our boat was too full already. Besides, the ship was settling fast, and we were afraid of being dragged down with her. Yet we did not like to pull away. Then I heard him call me by name, as he clung to the rigging; and he shouted across the water, ‘Goodbye, mate! If you get ashore safe, inquire for the Rev. H. B--, of Limehouse Docks, London, and tell him that here in the presence of God I can say at last, “Being justified by faith, I have peace with God through my Lord Jesus Christ.”’ As he said the words, the ship gave her last lurch, and he disappeared in a watery grave.” (W. H. Aitken, M. A.)

Justification by faith: its effects

1. The effect of justification should be peace and holiness.

(1) A plan of deliverance which did not include both these would be a mockery. If it did not secure peace it would not meet our wants; if it did not secure holiness it would not meet God’s requirements.

(2) Accordingly we find that God describes His plan of salvation as effecting both. Christ has “made peace through the blood of His Cross” that He may “present us holy and unblamable and unreproachable in His sight.” It is “the very God of peace” who sanctifies us “wholly.”

2. The doctrine, therefore, which does not produce these effects is not the true one, and there can be no surer test by which to try the truth of any particular doctrine than this. The religion which really produces both had no man for its teacher, for these are the last things which men would ever think of joining together. All human teachers and lawgivers appeal to fear. All laws are accompanied by penalties. It certainly would never occur to any man to attempt to produce obedience by remitting all penalties; and therefore it is that the natural man always seeks to obtain one of these by the sacrifice of the other.

(1) Many try to forget God altogether, or they take refuge in some easy mode of appeasing Him--something said, done, or felt, which quiets conscience; and so they have peace--peace without holiness.

(2) But others are not so easily satisfied; their disposition is naturally anxious, or their consciences are scrupulous, and they cannot feel quite comfortable in their sins. Such seek to obtain peace by refraining from sin; but as their only motive is fear, they know of no other way of increasing their obedience than by quickening and strengthening this fear. In such religion takes a gloomy and terrible form. Here is an attempt after holiness, but it is holiness without peace.

3. And thus the mind of the natural man is ever oscillating between these two extremes of sinful peace or painful obedience, but never attaining to the union of these two; never imagining it possible for man to be at once fearless and obedient; and, accordingly, it is a remarkable fact that all false religions have two different aspects, one offering easy terms of salvation to the common crowd, who only desire a religion which shall allow them to sin without fear; the other providing austerities and penances for the few whose intellect or conscience cannot be so easily contented. All these religions, then, are but half religions; they attempt to satisfy man’s desire for peace or God’s demand for holiness; they never even profess to satisfy both. There is but one religion which does this; it is that which is proclaimed in our text.

Justification by faith gives peace.

1. He who believes that God, for Christ’s sake, reckons him holy, “not imputing his trespasses unto him,” has perfect peace, because he is trusting in a perfect work. The justice that demanded his condemnation now secures his forgiveness; the omnipotence once arrayed against him is now engaged in his defence. Here is the deep, abiding, perfect peace of him whose mind is stayed upon God.

2. On the other hand the doctrine of justification by inherent righteousness does not, and never can, give perfect peace; for it is a righteousness partly human and partly Divine, and therefore partakes of the uncertainty and imperfection of all things human. He who holds it believes, as Dr. Pusey says, that “he was once, in his baptism, placed in a state of justification; in which, having been placed, he has to work out his own salvation with fear and trembling through the indwelling Spirit of God working in him--a state which therefore admits of relapses and recoveries, but which is weakened by every relapse, injured by lesser, and destroyed for the time by grievous sin.” Now, if this be the nature of his justification, how can he be sure, at any given moment, that he is justified? All that such a man can say is this, that once in his life he had a perfect righteousness to present to God, and that, if it had pleased God then to take him to Himself he had been blessed, but that whether he has this righteousness still is a very doubtful matter; and yet that night that man’s soul may be required of him! What a miserable faith is this on which to bid a dying sinner rest his hopes for eternity! But this is not all the doubt and difficulty which this doctrine gives rise to, for the means by which justification is bestowed is said to be the sacrament of baptism. If so, perfect and complete justification can be had only once in each man’s life; therefore, if he ever entirely lose it by deadly sin, how can it be regained? To meet this, Rome has devised another sacrament by which the sinner may be again made perfectly righteous. But for those who are not Romanists “the Church has no second baptism to give, and therefore cannot pronounce the person who has sinned after baptism altogether free from his past sins. There are but two periods of absolute cleansing--baptism and the day of judgment.” Again, “if, after having been washed once for all in Christ’s blood we again sin, there is no more such complete absolution in this life, no restoration to the same state of undisturbed security in which God had, by baptism, placed us!” Mark this confession! We will not pause to contrast it with the teaching of him who told baptized men that if they confessed their sins “God was faithful and just to forgive them their sins.” We will not delay to inquire whether this way of salvation, which gives no “undisturbed security,” can be the same with that which He revealed who said, “Come unto Me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest;” or that which he taught, whose converts believing, “rejoiced with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” We only ask, how can they who preach such a gospel as this claim to be the messengers of peace? what peace have they to offer? Picture to yourselves a teacher of this “other gospel” proclaiming this way of salvation beside a death bed.

3. But it is said this uncertainty and anxiety is just what is needed to make men zealous and cautious, and the doctrine may make fewer happy death beds but it will produce holier lives. We deny this, and, on the contrary, maintain--

That justification by faith does effect not only peace, but holiness; and that sacramental justification no more produces holiness than it does peace.

1. Holiness is conformity to God’s image. The perfect likeness of God, to which we are to be assimilated, is seen in Christ, who “loved righteousness, and hated iniquity.” A holy man, therefore, is not one who merely refrains from sin, nor yet one who strives to obey all God’s commands; he may do all this, and yet be utterly without holiness. But he is one who has become partaker of that Divine nature which was in Christ, the instinct of which it is to hate what God hates, and to love what He loves.

2. Now what is that power which can produce such conformity to Christ? Love is the only passion which assimilates to its object. Fear obeys, envy rivals, but love imitates. That religion will therefore most tend to holiness which most tends to produce in us love to God. Now we know that the belief which most powerfully moves us to love God must be that which most fully manifests the love of God to us. Which, then, of these two doctrines of justification displays most of the love of God to sinners? This question has received its answer from our Lord Himself (Luke 7:41). The publican went down to his house with a more loving and grateful heart than the Pharisee. The prodigal had doubtless a deeper love for the father than had the elder brother who had never given him cause of offence. There is more of loving, fervent, grateful joy in the heart of one penitent sinner who believes that “being justified by faith he has peace with God,” than there is in the heart of the ninety-and-nine just persons, who, believing that they have kept their baptismal righteousness, deem that they need no repentance. But if he who thus believes cannot but love, he who thus loves cannot but obey; the love of Christ constraineth him, the mercies of God persuade him, to present himself a living sacrifice unto God.

3. But this doctrine further tends to produce holiness because it tends to produce humility. No man is really holy until he is really humble. But who best learns humility--he who presents to God a righteousness in part his own, or he who confesseth that “in him dwelleth no good thing”?

4. This doctrine tends to produce holiness because it alone enables us to realise the promises of God. It is by these that we escape the “corruption that is in the world through lust.” Now he who believes that God will assuredly save him for the sake of Jesus Christ claims all the promises at once as his forever, so that he can say, “I am confident; ‘I know in whom I have believed, and that He is able to keep that which I have entrusted to Him against that day.’ ‘Faithful is He that calleth me, who, also, will do it,’” and “everyone that hath this hope purifieth himself even as He is pure.” For think what must be the feelings of that man who, truly loving God, and desiring His presence, really believes that he shall spend an eternity with Him. “Where the treasure is, there will the heart be also.” On the other hand, we think it is equally clear that justification by inherent righteousness does not tend to holiness, because for love it substitutes fear; for humility, pride; for assurance, uncertainty. Such a doctrine may make ascetics, hermits, confessors, martyrs even--but never saints. (Abp. Magee.)

Faith alone the condition of justification

It is faith alone which justifies, and still the faith which justifies is not alone. Ears, feet, and hands are given to us at the same time that our eyes are, yet it is the office of the eye alone to see. In like manner repentance, love, obedience, are the invariable companions of faith; yet it is faith alone for which we claim the power and faculty of justifying. (J. Calvin.)

Justifying faith

Without works.

1. Faith is a condition of justification opposed to man’s own righteousness which is of the law.

(1) Faith acknowledges that the legal, proper, primitive sense of the term justify, as the pronouncing him to be righteous who is righteous, is forever out of the question.

(a) As to the law: it has been broken, and its condemnation is acknowledged; it demands an obedience that never has been rendered since the fall.

(b) Then as to man himself, faith renounces all trust in human ability. It utterly abjures the thought of a righteousness springing from self. It acknowledges past sin, present impotence, and the impossibility of any future obedience cancelling the past (Galatians 2:16). It disclaims all creaturely righteousness as such; the nullity of this is taught by conviction, felt in repentance, and confessed in faith.

(2) Hence the specific Evangelical phrase, “Faith is counted for righteousness.” This implies the absence of personal righteousness, and the reckoning of a principle, not righteousness, in its stead by a kind of substitution. In its stead: not as rendering good works needless, but displacing them forever as the ground of acceptance. Therefore faith does not justify as Containing the germ of all good works; as “fides formata charitate,” or faith informed and vivified by love. Not justifying through any merit in itself, it justifies as the condition on which is suspended the merciful application of the merits of Christ. Faith is not righteousness, as justifying; it is “put to the account” of a man in the mediatorial court as righteousness; not as a good work, but reckoned instead of the good works which it renounces. Lest the faith as itself a work should be regarded as righteousness the apostle varies the expression. He also says again and again inversely that righteousness--not, however, Christ’s--is imputed to the believer; not to faith itself, as if God regarded the goodness wrapped up in it (Romans 4:6; Romans 4:22; Romans 4:24). It is the man, in the naked simplicity of his self-renouncing, work-renouncing trust in God on whom the sentence of justification is pronounced.

(3) Imputation or reckoning has two meanings; the ascribing to one his own and what is not his own. The latter predominates in the three great theological imputations; that of the sin of Adam to the race, that of the race to Christ, and that of the benefit of Christ’s righteousness to the believer, as through the imputation of “one man’s disobedience many were made sinners” (verse 19), and as “the Lamb of God bore the sin of the world,” “being made sin for us” by imputation as a sin offering “who knew no sin,” so the ungodly who in penitence believes has the efficacy of Christ’s obedience reckoned to him.

(4) This faith as a negative condition is of the operation of the Holy Ghost. He enables the soul to renounce every other trust. He convinces the mind of guilt and impotence; awakens in the heart the feeling of emptiness and longing desire; and so moves the will to reject every other confidence than Christ. But, though the influence of the Spirit produces it, it is so far only negative--a preparation for good rather than itself good.

2. Faith is the active instrument as well as the passive condition of justification.

(1) It is its instrumental cause; the originating being God’s love; the meritorious, Christ’s atoning obedience; the efficient, the Holy Ghost.

(2) Its object is God in Christ. In this as in all, “I and My Father are one.” Yet the specific object is not God absolutely, nor Christ in His revelation generally, but Christ as the mediatorial representative of sinners, and God as accepting the atonement for man (Acts 16:31; Galatians 2:16). In two ways this Epistle describes God as the object. Romans 4:5 implies what had preceded (Romans 3:25-26); and in relation to His resurrection (Romans 4:24). But the God of our whole redemption in Christ is the object of faith (John 3:16; Romans 8:32; Romans 8:11). He is the One God of the One Christ.

(3) It is never said that we are justified “on account of” faith, but “through” faith. Faith as the act of the soul by which it unites itself with the Lord, makes the virtue of His merit its own. It apprehends Christ and His atonement; ascribing all to Him, it receives all from Him.

(4) Faith is not assurance; but assurance is its reflex act. The same Spirit who inspires faith--which is alone (and without assurance) the instrument of salvation--ordinarily and always, sooner or later, enables the believer to say, “He loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 1:13).

(5) Faith, whether receptive or active, is an exercise of the human heart under the influence of the Holy Spirit through His actual revelation of Christ to the soul, the eyes of which are at the same moment opened. The unveiling of the Saviour and the unveiling of the sight to behold the Lamb of God in one and the same critical moment is the sufficing definition of saving trust. And at the same moment the active energy and passive renunciation of saving faith are, brought to the perfection of their unity.

Faith and works.

1. The works of faith declare the life and reality of the faith which justifies. Those works did not declare its genuineness at first when forgiveness was received (Romans 4:6; Romans 4:13); but afterwards and to retain that justification its works must absolutely be produced (James 2:18; James 2:21; James 2:24). In the whole sequel after receiving Christ, a man is justified not by faith only--which in this connection is no faith at all--but by faith living in its works (James 2:26) Here is the origin of the term living or lively faith; it is remarkable, however, that the invigorating principle is not from the faith to the works, but from the works to the faith.

2. The expression “living faith” suggests the vital relation of this subject to union with Christ. When St. Paul says “that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21), he means more than the non-imputation of sin. “That we might become”; our forensic justification being included of necessity, our moral conformity to the Divine righteousness cannot be excluded. These closing words are a resumption of the preceding paragraph, which ended with, “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature.” “The righteousness of God in Him” is the full realisation of the new method of conforming us to His attribute of righteousness. It is impossible to establish the distinction between “in Christ” for external, and “Christ in us” for internal righteousness; still the distinction may be used for illustration. We are “accepted in the Beloved,” “in whom we have redemption through His blood,” in order that “Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith” (Ephesians 1:6-7; Ephesians 3:17), that His grace “may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” The vital union of faith secures both objects: our being reckoned as righteous because “found in Him,” and our being made righteous because He is in us as the Spirit of life and strength unto all obedience (Romans 8:2; Romans 8:4).

3. The justification of faith itself in and through its works, forms the Scriptural transition to internal and finished righteousness, which, however, is generally viewed as entire sanctification; improperly, however, if sanctification is regarded as finishing what righteousness leaves incomplete. To him who insists on bringing in the doctrine of sanctification to supplement as an inward work what in justification is only outward, St. James replies, “Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?” (James 2:22). Here is the finished result of “faith which worketh by love” (Galatians 5:6); that one and indivisible “work of faith” (1 Thessalonians 1:3), in the assertion of which at the outset of his teaching St. Paul, by anticipation, declared his agreement with St. James. Both show that justifying faith in a consummate religion is “made perfect” in its effects; and both with reference to the law, as again Antinomian renunciation of it (see also Romans 8:4). If “righteousness is fulfilled in us,” that must be by our being “made righteous” while reckoned such. But always, whether at the outset where works are excluded, or in the Christian life when they are required, whether on earth or in heaven, justification will ever be the imputation of righteousness to faith. Works only declare faith to be genuine and living. This alone can secure eternal life to those who, though as holy as their Lord Himself, will be apart from Him and in the record of the past, sinners still (Jude 1:21). (W. B. Pope, D. D.)

We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Peace with God

There is a peace which is not with God. A dull bovine contentment is the stagnancy of life, and not peace with God. Absence of conscience presenting lofty ideals and urging effort; and in place thereof a series of compromises with evil, making things easy all round, is not peace with God; it is the peace of the lowest organism. Peace with God is within the soul, the balmy, vital peace of the summer day, when the forces of Nature are working mightily with the repose of power, moving on without strain or care unto the harvest. Peace with God is:--

Peace with God’s retributive righteousness.

1. God’s laws are holy, just, and good. Disobedience ought, therefore, to be followed by punishment. And so the wrath of God, therefore, is revealed from heaven. Plainly is that wrath visible in the miseries of a dishonest and vicious society, in the life and doom of a Jezebel, a Caesar Borgia, or a Macbeth. But when the disobedience is manifested in a prudently selfish and godless life, the wrath is not so visible. Often such sinners, if they are clever, have little trouble. Most, however, who are not reconciled to God are uneasy and apprehensive. They feel at times as if some doom were on their track, now and again life feels like a prison, and in death they have no hope. The feeling of the fugitive and of the prisoner is the retributive providence of God, a foreshadowing of the judgment to come.

2. How, then, can transgressors be at peace with this retributive righteousness of God? Only by being justified through our Lord Jesus Christ, Now what is the right position for us to take up to God taking this gracious position to us? Plainly, to repent of the sin and to accept the forgiveness He thus offers. Taking this position, God justifies us--i.e., He acquits us from all penalty, and He declares us to be right with God. God is for us; who then can be against us? We are no longer as a fugitive pursued; we are at the feet of God, accepted as a child returned home; we are in right relations, and no soul can have peace till it is right.

Peace with God’s revealed truth; that is, that God is the Heavenly Father, that Jesus is His Christ and Son, who died for sin, and rose again.

1. How many in this day have not peace? Some are in honest doubt concerning it, but do not oppose it. Others, however, go to geology for stones to throw at it, to biology for theories to discredit it, to physical law as a great engine against it, and when fighting it forget their philosophic calm and their scientific modesty. Some raise a prejudice against it by holding up its professors to ridicule or by making merry with some of its facts. Accompanying this army is a motley crowd of camp followers, old sinners and thoughtless youths, the disappointed and the bitter, lacking courage for the fight, and caring not for the victory, but for the spoils--greater freedom for evil. Then, at a safe distance, is a great company of onlookers, not knowing which side to take. These are not to be envied. They who are definitely opposed have, it may be, a certain intellectual peace; they are not troubled with doubt, but their peace is not a peace with God. But they who doubtfully watch the fight are to be sympathised with. To be swung this way by this argument, then that way by that argument, and to feel, pendulum-like, no approach to the hour when the mind shall strike the truth, is a restless, painful state of mind. Being justified, we are delivered from such dispeace.

2. It is faith, and faith only, which can give certainty to our faith of the truth. Being justified, then, by faith, we have no doubt, no strife as to the truth of the truth. As our conscience has had peace with God by our being put right with God, so now our intellect has peace with God’s revealed truth by being assured of that truth.

Peace with God’s holy commandment. In commandment I include both God’s purpose and precept for our life.

1. There are works of fiction which have been written by two authors. Of course they must have decided the plot and its details between them, and each mast have worked in harmony. But suppose each had had a plot of his own, and had wrought each part according to his own particular plot! In the working or writing of our lives there are two--ourselves and our God. God’s purpose is, “Seek first the kingdom of God,” etc. But the purpose of many is at war with this. It is, “Seek first the other things, and then, if you can, add God and religion unto them.” Absorbed in their own selfish purpose, they forget the purpose of God. Consequently, in their lives there are strife, dispeace.

2. The whole question of keeping God’s commandment is simply a question of disposition, as the whole question of justification is simply a question of position with God. Love is good disposition, and love is the fulfilling of the law. Being justified by faith, we receive this disposition. Believing in this position of God toward us, we see His infinite love. Hence there is peace within--peace with the holy commandment; we want to fulfil it, we strive to fulfil it; it is no longer to us a task; it is a delight, and the burden is when we fail through weakness to fulfil it.

Peace with God’s disciplinary providence.

1. Even where the purpose of our life is at one with God’s and we love His precepts, there fall to us, or at least to most of us, many trials and troubles. The wicked spread themselves as a green bay tree, but the righteous are often as a root out of the dry ground. Then comes the temptation to be not at peace with God’s providence; to be angry with God.

2. But our justification is overwhelming proof that God is not against us. If God had forgotten us He would never have sent His Christ for us. But if God love us, it may be said, it cannot be that it is God who sends the trouble to us. No; in many cases it is through the fault of self or others. But God could have prevented them. Yes, but only by interfering with the natural order of things; and rather than He should do that He thinks it best that we should suffer. Then since He so loves us, let us in confidence say, “Even so, Father, for so it seemeth good in Thy sight.” Then the bitterness of trouble is past, the weight of the burden is gone. Moreover, God’s love for us is associated with infinite wisdom, and He will somehow cause the affliction to work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. As the fire which consumed the poor man’s vineyard cracked the earth revealing veins of silver, thus afflicting the vineyard into a silver mine, so shall the fire which withers and consumes so much that we prize give us in place thereof a mine of imperishable and inexhaustible treasure. “All things shall work together for good to them that love God.” Conclusion: Note that the apostle bases this peace on our being justified with God. Many of us seek this peace by endeavouring, first of all, to be at peace with God’s providence; or, first of all, to be at peace with God’s revealed truth, or to be at peace with God’s commandment. But, first of all, we must take our right position at the feet of our God. It is monstrous to attempt to invert the Divine order in the lower spheres of Nature. It is more monstrous to attempt to invert the Divine order in these the higher spheres of grace. (Albert Goodrich, D. D.)

Peace with God

We live in one great world of trouble and the unerring word of inspiration plainly says that the disturbing force is sin. Yet not everybody chooses to admit that. It will be asserted that traditions of anger in the Supreme Being, coupled with an industrious reiteration of foreboding by a few credulous alarmists, have done most of the mischief. It would soon quiet down, if men and women would just take comfort in what is given them and let presages alone. Across the fair plains of Sicily, with the rising of every new dawn, stretches one deep line of darkness, drawn by the pyramidal form of Mount Etna. It is the unvarying reminder of the ruin that may at any hour fall heavily from the volcano’s crater. And yet the inhabitants forbid you to speak of that giant phantom. Thus we live under the immediate shadow of Divine wrath. Men choose to think that there is nothing but incivility in a reminder of the coming day of final judgment. Still, it is better to believe that a few desire to be intelligent. What is it that breaks up the peace in this world? What will bring tranquillity and rest? “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked,” etc. (Isaiah 57:21; Isaiah 57:19-20). If it is in antagonism with God, then a deep seated source of irritation and uneasiness is lodged in the centre of its being.

No quiet can possibly be found until the soul comes to be at one with God, and adjusts all its purposes to meet His declared will (Isaiah 22:17, etc.). The question all turns, therefore, upon the possession of justification, i.e., righteousness.

1. It becomes us in the outset to understand that righteousness is a purely individual acquisition. The gospel deals with human beings one by one.

2. What, then, is this “justification by faith”? A sinner is conceived as condemned at the bar of God’s justice; the punishment for his sins is death. Now Jesus Christ, as a redeemer and surety, comes and assumes the sinner’s exposures and liabilities. In effect, He stands in the sinner’s place. This is the picture so often presented by Paul; he appears never to be tired of it (verses 6-8). Peace comes, therefore, when purity has come beforehand. “First pure, then peaceable.” Saved souls are pardoned for Christ’s sake. The story is told of Martin Luther, that once the evil one appeared to enter his room with a vast roll of parchment, a catalogue of all his former sins. With a hollow burst of derisive laughter the fiend threw it on the floor, still holding one end in his hand so that it might easily unroll its awful length. There the frightened man was compelled to read, hour after hour, the terrible list of all the wicked deeds he had done in all his life. And his heart failed him as he gazed. Suddenly the devil called him by name, and pointed to some words along the top of the roll. Luther looked up and read aloud, “All sin”; and then he understood that no one of the many acts, or even thoughts, was to be left out. Hell appeared opening at once under his feet. His agony was intense. But Satan kept screaming, “All sin! all sin!” And at last, in order to afflict him the more, exclaimed, “So says God, so says God, all sin, all sin!” Now the man’s study of Scripture stood him in excellent stead. For he asked, “Where speaks God that word?” “There, there!” answered the devil, pointing again to the parchment and putting his fiery finger on the two words, “all sin, all sin.” The reformer snatched the awful list away from his enemy, and unrolling it one turn more, in the other direction, discovered, as he hoped he would, the remainder of the inscription: “The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin!” So he learned that all his sins had been massed together upon that roll in order to announce that atonement had been made completely to cover them. And with a glad cry of exultant joy he awoke, while the devil disappeared with his parchment of woe. It is when a man knows his sins are all in the burden Jesus bore on the Calvary Cross, that he has no longer any fear about them. “The work of righteousness is peace, and the effect of righteousness is quietness and assurance forever.”

It is not possible to put into forms of speech the sources of enjoyment which a pardoned believer knows when he is once possessed of the peace which passes understanding; the soul like a bride rests in a love it cannot explain, when the sweet day of espousal to Christ has been reached.

1. The Christian cannot be alone, for a happy conscience, like a bird in his heart, keeps singing cheerily to give him company. He has no alarms, no suspicions. Nothing breaks up the calm, bright serenity of his trustful repose in Christ Jesus. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace,” etc.

2. Peace brings prosperity. God opens the door of His treasury of promise to the souls He has welcomed into the palace. He loves His Son, and they are His Son’s friends. If our feet are upon the Rock of Ages it does not matter at all where the danger threatens. “I have pain,” said Richard Baxter, on his dying bed, “I have pain; there is no arguing against sense; but then, I have peace, great peace!” To any true believer, there is no shock in the appearance of that messenger who announces his departure. He seems to himself even now sitting in the antechamber of the palace, waiting; and death is only the black-dressed servant who comes out to say the King is ready to see him in the throne room. Conclusion: Surely it is worth something, in a world like this, to find one antidote for wakefulness and unrest. This is the peace which the world can neither give nor take away (verse 10). Each Christian receives a testimony in his soul which settles all his fears for the future. He has put his case out of his own hands. So he waits tranquilly for the judgment, knowing he is prepared for it, and shall stand clear in the end. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

Peace with God

Why men have not peace.

1. One reason is a want of knowledge about ourselves. We do not see that peace is the thing we want. We sigh for it now and again, but we do not pursue it. Gold, pleasure, power, fame, we pursue with all our might; we do not covet peace except when we are weary, and want to sleep and dream.

(1) Look at yon solitary man watching the stream flow. He is saying, “I would this restless bosom were like yon tranquil river.” But he has not the courage to ask what is at the bottom of this discontent. He lets another sigh escape him, which goes to swell that great wind of unrest which goes moaning about the world, and hurries back to some scene of distraction, where he may get rid, for a time, of that burden of himself which he cannot bear. Men’s feeling about peace is often, then, no more than a fleeting sentiment, and where peace is actually enjoyed, men do not take pains to secure it.

(2) What a misery is a home without peace! How is it that it does not deeply impress itself, that any sacrifice of personal opinion and feeling is to be made rather than this blessing of peace should be forfeited?

(3) And so in the Church. Peace is its bond of union. We cannot worship in truth, we can neither edify nor be edified, with divided hearts. Yet here, again, there has been constant strife between the carnal and the spiritual. And again and again the carnal prevails. Christians do not guard and fence about the sacred enclosure of heaven’s peace, and yet they are dismayed when it is broken into and trampled upon!

(4) Look again at the case of nations. Is there anything more wicked than needless wars? And how few wars there are which are not needless! See what a weight of pure feeling there is in the scale against war. All the most intelligent and best members of society are against it. And yet war still goes on. Men love to listen to the hymn of the angels, “Peace on earth,” and go to raise the yell of demons on the battlefield.

2. The explanation is that which the gospel gives. Tracing the deep inconsistencies of human nature down to their root, it tells us the carnal mind is enmity against God. Here is the secret of our discords. Man has a spiritual part which would lead him to peaceable ways, and he has a passionate part which leads him to hate, and to the destruction of himself and of his brethren. While this strife goes on there cannot be peace. This is the secret of the deep unrest in men’s souls. Ever yearning and dreaming of a blissful quiet that is so foreign to their actual condition. This is why the calm of a starlight night softens us; why the sight of a sleeping babe sometimes moves us to tears; or a strain of soft music quells some angry mood; or the face of one we love sleeping placidly in death. These sights, these sounds, speak to us of a state where the unholy war of passion has ceased, of that peace which ought to be ours, and which would be ours, were it not for this terrible foe in our own bosom, in the mind at enmity with God. This is why thousands of persons love to listen to the gospel who are far from living evangelical lives.

The way of peace pointed out by the gospel. Evidently, if we are to come to peace, two things are necessary; first, the spiritual part of our nature must be strengthened, and, second, the carnal or passionate part of our nature must be reduced and mortified.

1. Now the law, as St. Paul shows, was unequal to this work. The law did much to strengthen and to educate the spiritual feeling of man. It taught as the first principle of all religion--love to God and to man. But when the law came to oppose the carnal nature of man, it was found to be weak. It set up a great frowning barrier against man’s unholy passions, and sin acquires greater energy when resisted, like pent-up waters behind a dam. The law, then, failed to bring us to peace with God, because it could not extinguish, though it could restrain, passion; because it could punish sin, but could not make the love of sin to cease.

2. But what the law could not do, God could do by a special act of His grace. He sent His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin.

(1) The life of our Lord was throughout an invitation to man to peace and rest in God. His own character was a revelation of the peacefulness of the Divine nature; and His teaching sets before us the gentle and unselfish life, we must live to be in harmony with the life of our father in heaven. But this is not enough. It is like telling a man in a fever to be cool by thinking of the frosty Caucasus, or a man at sea to be calm by thinking of a quiet harbour. It is mockery to tell a man in the midst of the commotions of his conscience that he can be at peace by looking at Jesus Christ, and following His example. It is like telling him to turn himself into a white marble statue. What the man needs is some influence that can quell the rebellion of his flesh, and allow his spirit free action.

(2) And therefore the gospel points to the death of Christ as the means of our reconciliation to God. Our Lord was put to death in an outbreak of Jewish passion which was typical of the sin of man. In the Cross the gospel teaches us to see the last most dreadful proof of what sin is, and whither it tends. And the point before us is that it produces a profound reaction upon the feelings of the sinner. When a man who has long given way to evil passions at last strikes down his friend, his passion dies with its victim. We cannot doubt that sin dies out of the heart of some men when its last fatal fruit has ripened and fallen. And something like this occurs with the man who is led to see in the death of the Lord Jesus the awful witness and fruit of his aim

(3) But is he not an object of God’s vengeance? No; the blood of Christ not only cleanses from sin, but it is the last language of God to the sinner, beseeching him to be reconciled to Him. It is the accepted compensation for sin. It does not cry cut for vengeance like that of Abel, but it has the pleading tongue of eternal mercy and love. Conclusion: It is for us to believe with all our hearts that this is the relation in which God stands to us and our sin through our Lord Jesus Christ. To have faith in this is the ground of our justification and the beginning of a peaceful and a holy life. (Prof. E. Johnson, M. A.)

Peace: a fact and a feeling

Wonderful is the power of faith. Hebrews 11:1-40 tells us of its marvellous exploits; but one of the most wonderful of its effects is that it brings us justification and consequent peace. It is not the creator of these things, but the channel through which these favours come to us.

Faith brings us into a state of peace. Naturally we have no peace. God is angry with us. “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” And we cannot agree with God, for “the carnal mind is enmity against God,” etc.

1. Before there can be peace between us and God we must with all our hearts plead “guilty.” To refuse to do so is contempt of court. There is mercy for a sinner, but there is no mercy for the man who will not own himself a sinner.

2. Then we must admit the justice of the Divine sentence. It would yield my heart no comfort to be told that God could wink at sin. Lasting peace must be founded upon everlasting truth.

3. And now comes in the abounding mercy of God, who, in order to our peace, finds a substitute to bear our penalty, and reveals to us this gracious fact. He puts His Son in the sinner’s place. Sin having been laid on Christ, He has borne it away. Faith accepts that substitution as a glorious boon of grace, and rests in it. The soul may well have peace when it has realised and received such a justification as this, for--

(1) It is a peace consistent with justice.

(2) No further demands can be made against us, “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin.”

(3) Our acquittal is certified beyond all question, and the certificate is always producible, viz., the risen Christ, who “died for our sins, and rose again for our justification.”

Faith gives us the sense of peace.

1. The sense of peace follows upon the state of peace. We do not get peace before we are justified, neither is peace a means of justification. God justifies the ungodly.

2. This sense comes “through Jesus Christ.” Many children of God lose their peace in a measure, because they deal with God absolutely, but there cannot be any point of contact between absolute Deity and fallen humanity except through Christ, the appointed Mediator. Have you attempted to approach the Eternal King without His chosen ambassador? How presumptuous is your attempt! The throne of Divine sovereignty is terrible apart from the redeeming blood.

3. Some Christians say, “I have no lasting peace.” But peace is the right of every believer. What is there now between him and God? Sin is forgiven; righteousness is imputed. God sees him in His Son, and loves him. Why should he not be at peace? “Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God,” said Jesus, “believe also in Me.” Why have you not peace, then? You have a claim to it, and you ought to enjoy it. What is the reason why you do not possess it?

(1) It is your unbelief. In proportion to your faith will your peace with God abide.

(2) Or you make a mistake as to what this peace is.

(a) You say, “I am so dreadfully tempted; the devil never lets me alone.” But did you ever read that you were to have peace with the devil? Never; on the contrary, you have the better promise that “the Lord shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.” Till then the enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman will continue.

(b) Another says, “It is not the devil; it is myself that I fear. I feel the flesh revolting and rebelling. When I would do good, evil is present with me. ‘Oh wretched man that I am!’” Hearken again. As the Lord hath war with Amalek forever and ever, so there is war between the spirit and the flesh so long as the two are in the same man. There is no promise of peace with the flesh, but only of peace with God.

(c) “Ah,” says another, “I am surrounded by those that vex me. When I serve the Lord they malign and misrepresent me with scoff and slander.” Yes, but did you ever dream of having peace in this world where your Lord was crucified--peace with those that hate you for His sake? Why, did He not say, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you.” “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” “And this is the victory which overcometh the world, even our faith.”

(d) “Still,” says one, “I find every day that I sin, and I hate myself for sinning.” Yes; and the Lord never said that you should have peace with sin. The more hatred of sin the better. If sin never distresses you, then God has never favoured you.

4. To come back then, “we have peace with God.” We enjoy peace with God because--

(1) We know He loves us. He would not have given His Son to die for us if He had not. Moreover, we feel a fervent love to Him in return.

(2) We are not afraid to go to our covenant God for all necessary things, and to seek His help in time of trouble. We have not always such settled peace with our fellow creatures, for at times we so much lack confidence in them that we could not divulge to them our troubles. Our habitude of prayer proves that we have peace with God; we should not think of praying to Him if we doubted His goodwill.

(3) We delight in God. You do not always feel Him equally near, but when He is near it is the joy of your spirit.

(4) We acquiesce in all that He does in His rough providences. A hypocrite is like a strange dog that will follow a man as long as he casts him a bone; but a true believer is like a man’s own dog that will follow him when he gives him nothing. A true believer says, “Shall I receive good from the hand of the Lord, and shall I not also receive evil?”

(5) We look forward with confidence to the time of our departure out of this world and say, “I can die, if Thou, O Lord, be with me.” We are not afraid of the day of judgment because we have peace with God, and hence we are not afraid to die. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Peace with God

Peace with God not natural to us. It must be an attainment.

1. To be atheistic, seeming to ourselves to live in a headless universe, is not a condition in which to feel at peace.

2. To regard God as ruling in mere power and will, and as having no administration of righteousness, is to see ourselves under a sway in which it is impossible to confide.

3. To see God as holy and just, and ourselves as sinners against His holiness and justice, is to be filled with hopeless dread and enmity. Here it is that the gospel finds us.

To have peace with God we need--

1. To believe in His compassion; that while He is almighty and all holy, He is also gracious, and has provided for sinners a way of salvation.

2. To trust in and consent to this way of salvation, taking the Lord Jesus Christ as our Redeemer and our Master.

That this is a true way of peace with God is attested by the universal experience of believers.

1. There is no pretence of attaining such peace in any other way. Worldliness, philosophy, science, fail to give us peace with God.

2. In Jesus Christ, God, whom you have offended, and from whom you have become estranged, offers the hand of reconciliation. Will you extend the answering hand of faith and be at peace with Him? (C. W. Camp.)

Peace by believing

A moment’s contemplation would suffice to arouse any man to the terror of the position involved in being at war with God. For a subject to rebel against a powerful monarch is to incur forfeiture of life. But for a creature to be in arms against its Creator, this is an appalling thing indeed; but happy beyond all description the man who can say, “I have peace with God.”

The peace which the Christian enjoys.

1. Its basis.

(1) There is the widest possible difference between a man being just in his own eyes, and his being justified in the sight of God. Yet, perhaps no fallacy is more common than to mistake the one for the other. Then, as a natural consequence of building on a weak foundation, the structure, however fair to look upon, is insecure. The peace in which multitudes delight is merely peace with their own conscience, and not in any sense peace with God. I know of no greater contrast than there is between that peace which is a mere stagnation of thought, a lull of anxiety, or a blindness to danger, and that soul-satisfying peace which passes all understanding.

(a) “Are you living in peace with God, my friend?” “Yes,” says one, “I have enjoyed peace for years.” “How do you get it? Well, as I was walking one day in great distress, a feeling of comfort came over me, and it has remained with me ever since.” “Yes, but what is the ground of your confidence; what is the doctrinal proof?” “Well, do not press me,” says he, “only this I know--I do feel happy, and ever since, I have not had any doubt.” That man, if I be not mistaken, is under a delusion. Satan has said to him, “Peace, peace,” where there is no peace. The peace of a Christian is not such a lull of stupefaction as that. It has a reason.

(b) Here is another who says, “Some years ago I never went to a place of worship. I was doing my trade in a very bad way, and now and then I took too much drink; and I thought it was time for me to turn over a new leaf, and I have done so. Now, I am not like the man you brought up just now. I think I may say I have a good ground for saying that I am at peace with God.” Now, let this man be reminded that it is written, “By the works of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight.” All these moral things are good enough in themselves. They will be very excellent if they be placed at the top; but, if they be used as foundations, a builder might as well use tries, and slates, and chimney pots, as use these reformatory actions as a ground of dependence. All this is only peace with yourself.

(c) Some true Christians will say, “I hope I am at peace with God now, for my faith is in active exercise; my love is fervent; I have delightful seasons in prayer, etc., etc., therefore I feel that I have peace with God.” Oh, believer! art thou so foolish as, having begun in the Spirit by faith, to be made perfect in the flesh by your own doing? If thou puttest thy peace here upon thy graces, then there will come another day when all those graces will droop like withered flowers. To look to thy graces for peace is like going to the cistern instead of living by the fountain.

(d) I fear, too, that there are not a few who are tempted to found their confidence upon their enjoyments. If we do this, let us remember that we may have our times of agonising and fruitless prayer; we may be in the valley of despondency, or in the blacker valley of the shadow of death.

(2) The Christian’s conviction of his peace with God lies in this--that he is justified by faith. I was a sinner doomed to die; Christ took my place; He died for me. God says that he who believes in Christ shall be saved--I believe in Christ, therefore I am saved. He says, “He that believeth on Him is not condemned.” I believe on Him, therefore I am not condemned. Now this is reasoning which no logic can gainsay. There is a rebel--be is pardoned, he is at peace with his king, and a rebel no longer. There is the offending child--his father takes him, accepts him for his elder brother’s sake, and he is at peace with his father. This is the basis of the Christian’s peace--one on which he may sleep or wake, live or die, and live eternally, without condemnation or separation from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus the Lord.

2. Its channel--“through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

(1) Though justification by faith is in itself a well of comfort, yet, even from that well we cannot get it, except we use Christ, who digged the well, to be the bucket to draw the water up from its depths. I will suppose that I am in doubt and fear and want to get my peace restored--how shall I seek it? Through Christ, the surety and substitute. Christ tells me that He came to save sinners; I am a sinner, therefore He came to save me.

(a) He says He can save me. This looks reasonable. He is very God, He is perfect man, He has suffered and offered a complete atonement.

(b) He tells me He is willing to save me. This also appears reasonable, for why else should He die?

(c) Then He tells me if I will trust Him, He will save me. I trust Him, and I have not the shadow of a shade of a suspicion of doubt that He will be as good as His word.

(2) Some people say we teach that man is saved by mere believing. We do. There is a poor, starving man over there. I give him bread--his life is spared. Why do not these people say this man was saved by mere eating! And here is another person who is dying of thirst, and I give him water and the man is saved by mere drinking. Why do not we drop down dead in our pews? Just stop your breath a little while and see. Surely we all live by mere breathing. All these operations of nature may be sneered at as merely this or that; and in like manner to speak disparagingly of “mere believing” is nonsense. And if I would get my peace made more full and perfect, having come to Christ by faith, the more I go to Christ believingly, the deeper will my peace be. If I live near to Christ I shall not know fear. Who should know fear when he is covered with the Eternal wings, and underneath him are the Everlasting arms? As Christ was the first means of giving us peace, so He must still be the golden conduit through which all peace with God must flow to our believing hearts.

3. Its certainty. I like to read these rolling sentences of Paul, without an “if” or a “but” in them--“Therefore, being justified, we have peace with God.” How different is this from “I hope,” “I trust.” Now where this language is genuine it deserves sympathy, but I believe in many cases it is cant. Let those who are the subjects of these doubts be cheered, but let their doubts and fears be rooted out. It is not presumption to believe what God tells you. If He says, “You are justified,” do not say, “I hope I am.” If I should say to some poor man, “I will pay your rent for you,” and he should say, “Well, well, I hope you will,” I should not feel best pleased with him. If you should say to your child, “I shall buy you a new suit of clothes today,” and he should say, “Well, father, I sometimes hope you will, I humbly trust, I hope I may say, though I sometimes doubt and fear, yet I hope I may say I believe you,” you would not encourage such a child as that in his uncomely suspicions. Why should we talk thus to our dear Father who is in heaven?

4. Its effect.

(1) Joy. Who can be at peace with God and have Him for a Father, and yet be miserable?

(2) A calm resignation, nay, a delightful acquiescence in his Father’s will. What fear is there to the man that is at peace with God? Life?--God provides for it. Death?--Christ hath destroyed it. The Grave?--Christ hath rolled away the stone and broken the seal. Affliction, tribulation, famine, peril, or the sword? “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that hath loved us.”

Words of counsel to those who have not this peace, or have lost it.

1. There is a man who many years ago was a professor, and who has never been easy in his conscience since he forsook the ways of God. Backslider, do you remember the time when you did feel that Christ could save, and you did trust yourself with Him? Now then, do the same tonight, and the dew of thy youth is restored unto thee. “Oh! but I have forsaken Him.” Lay aside thy “buts” and “its.” He bids thee come. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”

2. There are those who are not backsliders exactly, but have lost their peace for a little time. Many young Christians are subject to little fits, in which their evidence gets dark and they lose their peace, Now learn from me. I find it very convenient to come every day to Christ as I came at first. “You are no saint,” says the devil. Well, if I am not, I am a sinner, and Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. Sink or swim, there I go--other hope I have none.

3. There are those who never had peace.

(1) Do not seek peace as the first object; for, it you want peace before you get grace, you want the flower before you get the root, like children who, when they have a piece of garden given them, pluck the flowers out of their father’s bed, and put them into their own ground, and then say, “What a nice garden I have got!” But to their dismay, on the morrow all is withered. Better put the roots in and wait till they sprout, and then the flowers will be living ones, not borrowed ones. Do not seek after peace first. Seek after Christ first. Peace will come next.

(2) And remember, that if you put your eye on anything but Christ, or anything with Christ, so as to disturb your whole thought and attention from being directed exclusively to Him, then peace will be an impossibility to you. Do not trust your repentance, faith, feelings, knowledge, sense of need, but come because you have nothing to recommend you; because you are vile, to be pardoned; because you are black, to be washed; come, because you are penniless, to be made rich; but look for nothing else save in Christ. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

False peace

Your peace, sinner, is that terribly prophetic calm which the traveller occasionally perceives upon the higher Alps. Everything is still. The birds suspend their notes, fly low, and cower down with fear. The hum of bees among the flowers is hushed. A horrible stillness rules the hour, as if death had silenced all things by stretching over them his awful sceptre, Perceive ye not what is surely at hand? The tempest is preparing, the lightning will soon cast abroad its flames of fire. Earth will rock with thunder blasts; granite peaks will be dissolved; all nature will tremble beneath the fury of the storm. Yours is that solemn calm today, sinner. Rejoice not in it, for the hurricane of wrath is coming, the whirlwind and the tribulation which shall sweep you away and utterly destroy you. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Peace of pardon, not a mere forgetfulness

I have spilled the ink over a bill, and so have blotted it till it can hardly be read; but this is quite another thing from having the debt blotted out, for that cannot be till payment is made. So a man may blot his sins from his memory and quiet his mind with false hopes, but the peace which this will bring him is widely different from that which arises from God’s forgiveness of sin through the satisfaction which Jesus made in His atonement. Our blotting is one thing; God’s blotting out is something far higher. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Peace desired

I once knew a young lady very rich in earthly gifts; she had youth, beauty, wealth; but she had not the best gifts, the “peace” that Jesus gives. She was not in the habit of visiting the poor, but one day she went with a friend to see an old woman who had been confined to bed for thirty years, suffering from a painful complaint, and was apparently near death. While the young lady stood pitying by, she was struck by hearing no word of repining or impatience. The aged Christian spoke of happiness and peace, the mercies she had experienced, the joys she was so soon to know. The contrast was great between these two--the one in the flush of youth, health, prosperity! the other so different. But the young lady turned to her friend, and said, “I would gladly change places with that poor creature to have her peace.” The saint went to her rest, but the lesson was not lost; the young lady sought for peace in Jesus, and found it. She is now a bright example of a consistent Christian, and treading in that path “which shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” (Teachers Treasury.)

Christian peace

One who professes to have no settled religious beliefs said to me a few days ago, “The best argument for religion I know is that it brings harmony into the lives of those who are truly religious”; and I believe many would give almost all they have for Christian peace.

Peace may exist in the absence of joy

God’s hand may be laid very heavily upon us, but faith interprets all as administered in love. Therefore, while joy may be absent, peace may reign supreme in the soul. We should not depreciate Christian joy. To “rejoice with joy unspeakable” is our blessed privilege. But peace is that which our Saviour especially bequeathed as the peculiar inheritance of His children while on earth.

Peace with God

God did not begin war against us; we began the war against Him, and it is high time that this farce of the finite struggling against the Infinite were ended. We are tired of the war. We want to back out. But how shall we get a cessation of this contest? By going up into the mount of God and plucking olive branches. What mount? Calvary. Modern travellers say it is only an insignificant hill; but I persist in calling it a mount, because, through the grandeur of its meaning, it overtops the very highest of all earthly elevations. The Alps and the Himalayas are less than ant hills compared with it. In the very excavation on Calvary where the Cross was once set, afterward the olive was planted, and it is green, and thrifty, and foliaged today, and I strip it off, and I wave it before this assemblage, crying, “Peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Oh, if there is any joyful thought enough to overthrow one’s equilibrium, that is the thought. It may be a matter of very little importance what President Grant, or Queen Victoria, or King William thinks of anyone; but to be brought into close, and intimate, and hearty, and glowing relations with the God of a round universe--that makes a hallelujah seem stupid. If we had continued this fight against God for ten thousand years, we could not have captured so much as a sword, or taken so much as a cavalry stirrup, or wrenched off so much as a chariot wheel of His omnipotence; but God and all heaven’s artillery come over on our side at the first swing of the olive branch. Peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and there is no peace in any other way. (T. De Witt Talmage.)

Peace through Christ alone

We could relate many heart-moving incidents, but will here only give one which happened to him in the Black Forest. We were driven by a fearful storm to take refuge in a small house, where we found a woman sitting at a table clad in deep mourning, and evidently in great sorrow. Although the Ave Maria was sounding from the neighbouring tower of the village church, she was not praying, but only kept on silently weeping to herself. In answer to our inquiries as to the cause of her sorrow, she told us that she had no rest, and did not know how things stood between her and God Under the guidance of her priest, she had done all that could be thought of to obtain ease of mind. She had placed great candles on the altar, had observed all the fasts and joined in all the processions “for the benefit of the Holy Father,” and done many other things of the same sort, but all had failed to give her peace of heart. Then came an awful trial in the death of her dear husband, who was killed while employed as a wood cutter, by the fall of a gigantic fir tree. The Jesuit Father R--told her that this was the expiation of her sin, and that now she could be at rest. “But I was not, and I am not,” sighed the poor deeply-troubled woman. We soon found that she knew nothing of Christ except that He was the son of the Virgin and a great saint, whom one ought to invoke alternately with the other intercessors. With what delight this poor soul now absorbed the good news of the Saviour of sinners, and how quickly she understood Him whom she had long loved without knowing it, they alone can form a conception who know what it is to have been blind, to have cried for the light, and to have had their eyes opened. (Pastor Funcke.)

Immediate results of justification

1. Here we come to a main turning point in the development of the apostle’s teaching. One chapter whose title might be, “An exposition and defence of justification by faith in Christ without the deeds of the Law,” is closed. Another is about to open whose title might be, “The results of justification in the experience of the believer.” To unfold these results; to show that, so far from the new teaching encouraging men in sin, it affords the only security for practical holiness; to trace the growth of a believer’s spiritual life from the moment of his justification till it ends in the glorious liberty of the children of God;--this continues to be his theme down to the end of the eighth chapter.

2. In the opening paragraph of this section St. Paul makes it plain that God’s gospel way of justifying a sinner on his believing affords the most ample ground to hope for the ultimate complete salvation of every believer. How that hope is to be realised the apostle does not as yet say. Into the connection between a justified state and a holy life, he does not as yet enter. Taking his stand simply on the bare fact of justification, he states that he who accepts it cannot help expecting triumphantly the fullest possible deliverance one day into the glory of God.

3. Hope is the keyword of this section, therefore; exultant hope of future glory.

Our hope reposes on this new relation, established betwixt us and God, that we are at peace with Him (verses 1, 2).

1. This “peace with” or “with respect to” God is probably neither our changed feelings toward God in Christ, nor our peace of conscience when we are sure of pardon, nor that deep peace of the spirit which is Christ’s bequest and which passes all understanding; but the relationship out of which all this springs. Friendly affections grow out of pacific relations.

2. The change from an armed to a peaceful attitude we owe in the first instance to the atoning work of the Son. Not that God could hate His sinful creature. But He does hate sin--the one thing which He hath not made. And our sin, so long as it was unexpiated, forced Him into an attitude of reluctant antagonism. Antagonism is not hatred, nor even dislike; it may co-exist with the most tender affection. After Absalom had assassinated his half-brother, the sorrowing king and father refused to receive the murderer at court, although all the while his heart longed to go forth to his favourite. So were we to God as that misguided fratricide was to David. Apart from the atonement He could not speak to us words of friendship; while we, on our part, were “enemies in our minds through wicked works”--disliking God and resenting His claims.

3. But see what a mighty revolution Christ’s death wrought! The obstacle which before had legally barred a sinful man’s admission into friendship, was taken out of the way. So soon as we are penitent believers, we have an access into this favour of our Father (verse 1); and standing in that grace, it is now possible for us to hope that we shall see and share the glory of our God (verse 2).

Our hope is not impaired but confirmed by our present tribulation. It is far off, that glory of God which we hope for. And the present is a life of trouble. Does not this then put our boastful hope in a coming glory to shame? No, life’s trouble confirms and increases our hope; because it works in us a steadfast endurance in the exercise of our faith--a holding on and holding out to the end. The Christian who thus perseveres under trouble is an approved or accredited believer. Having stood that test of trial, his faith is found genuine; and as the tested Christian finds his faith to prove itself thus genuine, must not his hope wax only so much the more confident? As the hope to be one day glorified with the glory of God is a theme for triumph, so the believer learns to transfer his exultant triumph even to those afflictions which in the long run minister to his future glory, and that strangest of all strange paradoxes on Christian lips comes true (verse 3).

This triumphant hope in which God is yet to do for, us, finds a still more sure foundation of fact in what God has already done to prove the greatness of His love. This is the argument which fills the remainder of the section (verses 5-11). It is introduced in the words of verse 5. This love of God for us which His Spirit pours out like a rich fruitful tide within the believer’s heart, is that quite unparalleled love evinced in Christ’s death for us while we were yet sinners (verses 6-8). And the force of the argument is, “If when we were hostile, God reconciled us by His Son’s death, how much now when we are His friends, will He save us by His Son’s life?” Paul regards all that still remains to be done for a believer in order to fit him for final glory as an inferior test of Divine kindness, costing less, and therefore less improbable, than what God already did in the sacrifice of Christ’s life. He argues from the greater thing to the less. It is a much higher effort of generosity to reconcile an enemy than to save a friend. Love was put then to its hardest task. It did not fail in that thing which was greatest; why should it fail in a less thing? The conquering, uplifted Christ, regnant in celestial bliss, with matchless resources at command, His omnipotent breath penetrating His Church--He will not withdraw His hand from the easy completion of a task of which the first part has been already performed ill tears and blood. Conclusion: Only seize the religious meaning of the death of Jesus Christ, and everything puts on a new face. It did so to St. Paul. This world was become a new world to him since Christ had died. Before that decease was accomplished at Jerusalem, the human race lay sunk in hopeless guilt, jailered by the inexpiable vengeance of heaven, with the blackness of death shrouding its hereafter. But now, what a change!

1. God is changed. Whereas there lay on our hearts only the intolerable sense of infinite disapproval and displeasure, now we have peace with Him. He is just, and yet He justifies us through His Son’s expiation.

2. This life is changed. Its troubles are still upon us, but before they seemed to be only presages of a vengeance to come. Now we are God’s friends, and afflictions can be nothing worse than experiments upon our confidence in Him; a well-meant discipline vindicating the sincerity of our attachment to Him, whom, though He slay us, we still can trust. When we have withstood such a test, we can even turn round and rejoice in it.

3. The future is changed. The leaden pall is lifted which overhung man’s existence. With God on his side, a man learns to have boundless anticipations. Who will say that anything is too much to hope for a creature for whom God was willing to die? (J. Oswald Dykes, D. D.)

Verse 2

Romans 5:2

By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand.

Access to God

There are many locks in my house and all with different keys, but I have one master key which opens all. So the Lord has many treasuries and secrets all shut up from carnal minds with locks which they cannot open; but he who walks in fellowship with Jesus possesses the master key which will admit him to all the blessings of the covenant--yea, to the very heart of God. Through the Well-beloved we have access to God, to heaven, to every secret of the Lord. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The state of grace

In this chapter St. Paul describes the riches of Divine grace--how free, full, and comprehensive is the gift of God. Now the grace of God is not merely nominal, it is operative and communicative. Sometimes God may show His almighty power, as when He creates a system of worlds; sometimes His wisdom, as when He furnishes and adorns a planet; sometimes His goodness in the abundant favours which he confers upon His creatures. But He displays His grace to the ruined family of mankind. Here the kindness of God has full play. “This grace wherein we stand” denotes a state in which we remain to dwell amidst its privileges. It is not a casual or evanescent feeling, but a settled condition wrought for us and in us by the abounding mercy of the Lord. This is a state of--

Peace and favour with God (Romans 5:1). When God justifies the ungodly, and withdraws the sentence of condemnation, the fear of wrath is removed, and heartfelt peace necessarily succeeds to gloomy apprehension. Peace is the first blessing promised by Christ to the returning sinner, and it is a great one. A soul at peace with the universe, above, around, and before it, is in an enviable state of existence!

Divine influence. “Grace” is often used to express the work of the Holy Spirit. When you first believed and entered the kingdom of grace, the Holy Ghost, with royal finger, touched your soul, and raised it from the death of sin to a life of righteousness. He continues His work of grace in the believer. He loves to form the soul anew, to beautify and adorn it with the image of the heavenly.

Communion with God (Ephesians 2:18). It is no mean privilege for a needy creature to have free and ready access to the Giver of all good; to have the liberty of ransacking the storehouse of grace. There is a temple of prayer in the land of grace. We know not if there be another such in the universe. There is none in the regions of sin. “God heareth not [wilful] sinners.” True, there is a porch of mercy to which the penitent may flee, and where the sighing of a broken heart will be heard by God; and this porch communicates with the temple of salvation through the door which is Christ Jesus. But until you reach the gate of repentance, you may stretch out your hands to heaven in vain. In the new Jerusalem, John “saw no temple.” Heaven is a place of praise, not of prayer. So we are permitted to pray upon earth. This is an amazing privilege which is too little appreciated, and can never be fully estimated.

Joyous anticipation. “We rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” This full assurance of hope is the privilege of the experienced Christian in whom grace has produced its ripe fruits. Hope is the daughter of faith. Faith is the victory over the world, hope over death. It is the Christian warrior’s privilege. When his spiritual hope is matured, it is a faculty of no little potency. The believer now feels the powers of the world to come--a Divine life which is ever aspiring towards its native heaven. (R. M. Macbriar, M. A.)

Further fruits of justification

Peace is only the first link of a golden chain which binds us to the throne of God. It is the first gem out of heaven’s cabinet, the first fruit of the tree of life, the first taste of the water of life. Peace comes to the forgiven sinner like a radiant angel from the skies; but she brings along with her a happy troop of young sisters, every one of whom is his constant companion from the wicket-gate to the crystal battlements. Note--

The believer’s permanent state of grace.

1. The privilege of being specially loved of God. This love is that of a father to his children (John 1:12; Galatians 4:4-5; James 1:18; Jeremiah 31:3). The end at which God aims in His treatment of His children is to bring them to glory (Hebrews 2:10). But first they have to be fitted for it (Colossians 1:12). And therefore it is God’s present business to purify them and make them perfect in holiness and love. Whom He justifies, them He also sanctifies. Into this grace we are introduced by faith. And it is by faith we stand in it.

2. The constant privilege of prayer. Those who are justified have at all times freedom of access to the throne of grace. They are encouraged to come to it boldly (Hebrews 4:16; Philippians 4:6); if rebuked at all, it is because they do not pray enough, or because they do not expect sufficiently large returns (John 4:24). Prayer opens the armoury of God; it is the key which unlocks the promises and makes them ours. It makes the weak worm, Jacob, omnipotent. By it we link our little skiff to the great ark of Jehovah’s purposes and promises, and thus are we borne triumphantly across life’s billowy sea to the heavenly Ararat of rest. It is by Christ that we have such access into this grace wherein we stand (Ephesians 2:18; Ephesians 3:12).

3. The privilege of being God’s instruments in fulfilling His great purposes in the world. We are the Church of the living God, endowed with a queenly authority and power. The Church is the Lamb’s bride. It is the heritage, the house, and the city of God. It is the pillar of the truth. It is the open mirror of Jehovah’s most glorious attributes (Ephesians 3:10). And yet it is into this grace that we obtain access through our Lord Jesus Christ, when we are justified by faith.

The believer’s joyful hope concerning the future.

1. Its object.

(1) Glory is a word which primarily denotes clearness and brightness. Hence, we speak of the glory of the sun, moon, and stars, while “one star differeth from another star in glory.” Here we read of the “Glory of God.” On earth this glory is dimmed and obscured; in hell it is never beheld; while heaven is a realm of perfect light, and in this God dwells (1 Timothy 6:15-16). For such glory to be revealed to us now, like Saul of Tarsus, we should afterwards be unable to see, unless, indeed, we were instantly destroyed by the brightness of His appearing. Now let us regard the Christian’s hope of glory under this aspect. There are creeping things which can only live in darkness; others, a little superior, thrive best in twilight; and others which can live in misty, northern climes, while they would speedily perish under a bright, southern sky. Man, the chief and head of terrene existences, can bask with delight in the most brilliant earthly sunshine. But angels, higher still, can live amid the unscreened splendours of the heavenly world. Now the prospect which we, as Christians, have is of one day joining their bright hosts, feeling at home in that most intense radiance. But how great a change must pass over us before we are fitted for that sphere I We must possess spiritual bodies (see Colossians 3:4; 1 John 3:2; Philippians 3:21).

(2) But God’s glory must be viewed in a moral aspect, as that of wisdom, holiness, rectitude, and truth, mingled with mercy and love. There is a glory in God’s character which, the more we discern, the more we must admire it; in His law, which is the exact counterpart and transcript of His character; in His government of all intelligent creatures, and brightest of all in Christ. This glory we hope to see and to share. Here we see it in part, and know it in part. But hereafter, we shall see it in its fullest splendour. Our moral faculties will be purified, quickened, and enlarged, while our acquaintance with the ways and works of God will be corrected and expanded. We shall be holy, even as He is holy, and do His will as angels do it now (Psalms 17:15).

(3) There is also a circumstantial glory--not the glory which belongs intrinsically to God, but the extraneous glory which He bestows upon His people. We cannot but prepare for some determinate place as the scene of our immortal life (John 14:2-3; 1 Corinthians 2:9). We cannot doubt, however, that heaven will be a domain of perfect happiness and beauty worthy of its Maker; it will contain everything which can minister to the enjoyment of holy and immortal creatures (Revelation 7:16-17).

2. Its nature. To hope for it is--

(1) To believe in its existence and certain attainment; and this we do, because it is expressly promised by Him who cannot lie.

(2) To desire it, and long for it (2 Corinthians 5:4).

3. This hope, accordingly, becomes a source of pleasure and joy to us. (T. G. Horton.)

And rejoice in hope of the glory of God.--

The glory of God

Is an eternal mystery which the heart of man cannot yet conceive, but of which Holy Scripture gives here and there short glimpses. Like the righteousness, the truth and the life of God (Ephesians 4:18), it has its hidden source in the Father, it is manifested in the Son, it is reflected in man (John 17:22). Of this glory man was from the first designed to partake (1 Corinthians 11:7), but by sin all men “come short” or suffer loss of it (Romans 3:23); its restoration is wrought by the Spirit revealing and imparting the glory of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). In presenting this glory as an object of the believer’s hope, the apostle points to its future perfection in the glorification of our whole nature, body, soul, and spirit. The glory in which man will be thus transfigured will be the glory of God, even as the sunshine resting upon earth is still the light of heaven; it will be an everlasting glory, just because man will dwell forever in the light of God’s countenance. (Archdn. Gifford.)

Hope of glory

What constitutes that glory in the hope of which the apostle rejoiced? The word “glory” applied to God sometimes denotes that splendour with which He often clothed Himself when He made His appearance to the ancient saints; sometimes that sublime display of God’s natural attributes, which He has made in the creation; sometimes a particular attribute of the Deity. It is in general used, however, to denote any signal or triumphant display of the Divine attributes as made towards men. In its primary and highest sense it is the full, cloudless, and combined display of the perfections of the Godhead, as in the text.

1. The display of this glory is reserved for the future world. But it is not to be imagined that any change is to pass upon the essential divinity of the Godhead. Jehovah is the perfection of beauty, yesterday, today, and forever; only interposing mediums will be removed, and the capacity of the creature elevated. This is accomplished for the soul at death; for the body at the resurrection. Think not, therefore, that God is to reveal His glory by descending to us. The revelation will be made by elevating us to Himself. If we are to behold this glory with a seraph’s ecstasy, we shall gaze upon it with a seraph’s eye.

2. It is to consist in the displays which God will make of Himself. The company of saints and angels may indeed increase immensely the bliss of heaven. But what are they without God? The glory in which they will shine is but a reflection from that embodied effulgence which emanates from the perfections of the Eternal Three. It is chiefly to be disclosed through the Church, and Jesus Christ is its Head and Redeemer. He has received this appointment; and, from the Father, glory has been given Him, which, in answer to His own prayer, His saints shall behold. But in what way will He execute it? The manifold wisdom of God is to be exhibited through the Church, unto principalities and powers in the heavenly places. The absolute riches of His glory He has determined to display through the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory. Where in the universe besides could He have found materials for erecting a monument so splendid, durable, and great, to His matchless love and mercy, as in these poor guilty beings which He thus redeems and exalts. Having gathered His saints into their everlasting rest, and secured a complete triumph over the last enemy, the Redeemer will now sit down in the midst of the throne, encircled with a bow of glory, in sight like unto an emerald. Then the sound of innumerable voices will break upon the ear of heaven, “Worthy is the Lamb to receive glory.”

What is the hope of glory and how does it become a foundation of joy to the believer? It is the hope of a sinner founded in the atonement of it, and it gives to the believer a prospective possession of the glory that is to be revealed.

1. There is, however, a hope that fastens upon the same blessed inheritance which yet is not the Christian’s. Of this kind the world is full. How are they to be distinguished from each other?

(1) Look at their origin. The rock of ages, Jesus Christ, is here placed as a broad and deep substratum on which the hope of glory is built. “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid,” and safely build upon it this animating hope. It is the immediate result of justification by faith. The impenitent sinner’s hope, on the contrary, is built upon the sand.

(2) But these hopes differ not less in their legitimate effects upon the heart. That of the Christian is, in its very nature, purifying (1 John 3:3). It is a hope, too, through which the love of God is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost. In this way it transforms the soul into the very image of its Maker, and thus prepares it for the inheritance of the saints in light. The hope of the sinner, however, is not only incompatible with the undisturbed repose of every sin, but it is the very aliment on which these plants of death are nourished.

(3) As to the different results of these hopes, I need only say the one is like the giving up of the ghost when God takes away the soul--while the other, on the same event, wilt be like the breaking of a summer’s morning. The one terminates in endless day, the other in eternal night; the one in heaven, the other in hell.

2. The hope renders the possession prospective. But what is intended by possession? The glory of God’s kingdom is to be ours in a sense vastly higher than anything we are said to possess in the present life. In the terrestrial sense nothing becomes completely ours till every foreign claim is extinguished. In the heavenly, everything becomes ours by extinguishing our own. In the present world our right to possession is founded in the sacrifice we have made or the equivalent we have rendered. In the other, the blood of the Cross will seal it to us entire, with no sacrifice of our own, no equivalent given. Here we struggle for possession that we may not be dependent. There we shall surrender all, that our dependence may be complete. Conclusion:

1. The saints have ample occasion to rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Are you at present the subjects of affliction? I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in you.

2. God forbid that in the animating prospect which the heavenly inheritance presents, any of you should be disposed at present to glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. (J. W. Adams, D. D.)

Hope of the glory of God a source of joy to His people

The glory of God. Glory signifies something splendid, dazzling, overwhelming. The term is misapplied to things mean and unworthy, but is always most rightly applied to anything pertaining to God. “The meanest labour of His hands” is more deserving of the term than the greatest works of men. “Even Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these.” The glory of God means--

1. God Himself. Moses prayed, “I beseech thee, show me Thy glory,” that is, “Reveal Thyself more fully to me.” It would have been well if God’s answer had repressed all similar curiosity. No man can see Him personally and live. We could not sustain the vision, even were we physically capable of it. But when we have laid aside all that is mortal, and “put on immortality,” “we shall see Him as He is.”

2. The glory of God which is beheld in His works. “The heavens declare the glory of God.” And what splendours do these heavens exhibit! The most capacious mind may well quail in its effort to comprehend the glory of the infinite Creator, which they both reveal and conceal. We require to be a God to comprehend all of God which His works contain. And if the works of God be so glorious, what must Himself be?

3. The glory which appears in God’s ways and dealings with us in providence. We may take three views of this and call it a natural providence, a judicial providence, and a gracious providence. By the first, He provides for all creatures, according to their capacities and necessities; by the second, He holds us accountable to Himself, and takes cognisance of our hearts and lives; and by the third, He is reconciling us to Himself, in Jesus Christ, and dispensing mercy and grace to all who ask them at His hands. And how gloriously does He act in all these respects!

4. The perfect purity and bliss which await the godly in heaven.

(1) Their state is glorious. What was the glory of Eden, of Sinai, of Zion, of Tabor, compared with this! No sin, disease, pain, death.

(2) Their society is glorious. If it was “good” to be present when Moses, Elijah, and Christ conversed, what must the intimacies of heaven afford?

(3) Their employments are glorious. Think of being forever engaged in contemplating, loving, adoring, and serving God! of ever receiving and performing reciprocations of level.

(4) Their prospects are glorious. The infinite and various excellences of God will be ever affording new discoveries; the river of their bliss will increase as it roils; that the sun of their heaven will still brighten as He shines; and that their state of glory will ever admit of “a far more exceeding and an eternal weight of glory.”

The joy which the hope of the glory of God affords.

1. They are to possess it. It is theirs, as Canaan was the inheritance of the descendants of the patriarchs. It is given to them by a covenant never to be broken. It is the chief part of the “eternal redemption” procured for them by the Redeemer. It is that to which they receive a title in their justification, to which they are “begotten again” by the Holy Spirit, for which they are sanctified, preserved, and fitted in this life.

2. Of this ultimate possession they have now a hope--“a good hope through grace.” And their “hope maketh not ashamed,” and is “an anchor of their souls, sure and steadfast, entering into the things within the veil.” We see the powerful influence of this hope. With what firmness and composure does many a good man endure calamity and meet death! Such a person may be likened to a mariner, who, while prosecuting his long and dangerous voyage, has the eye of his mind fixed on the desired haven: or he is like an heir of some vast estate, looking forward, during his minority, to the period when he shall receive his property.

3. This hope begets joy in the bosom of its possessors.

(1) The foundation of it is a cause of joy. It does not rest upon merits, sacraments, etc., but upon the foundation which God has laid in Zion, and “other foundation can no man lay.” Everything besides is as “shifting sand, fleeting air, or a bursting bubble.”

(2) Its attendant principles occasion joy. It is one of a class of graces which are the “fruits of the Spirit.”

(3) Its effects minister, joy. It is not an uninfluential grace, but is ever active, and all its influence is for holiness. A genuine hope and allowed sin cannot co-exist in the same person.

(4) Its certainty yields joy; other hopes may and do fail. We have seen the candidate for wealth, power, fame, pleasure, flushed with hope, only to become the victim of disappointment and mortification!

(5) Its object gives joy--the glory of God in heaven. In other things, the ultimate enjoyment may not equal our present hope of it; but here realisation will infinitely sustain our largest and most sanguine hope. We shall find that notwithstanding all that is written in the Scriptures of this glory, all the glimpses and tastes we may have of it now, the half has not been known. Conclusion:

1. How little we know at present of the glory of God! Who can find Him out to perfection? And a cloud rests upon His works. His providence, too, is all beyond our comprehension. The difficulties do not diminish if we think of Divine revelation; in which we have certain facts stated, but the circumstances of many of these facts are not explained. And then how dense is the veil which conceals the world of spirits from our view! And in all these things the mere philosopher has little advantage over the clown. But the Christian has the advantage of faith; “what he knows not now he shall know hereafter.”

2. Is our hope for eternity the hope of the gospel and the real Christian? Self-deception and vain pretensions are common in the world and in the Church. We can hardly meet with a person who does not hope to go to heaven when he dies. But, in thousands of instances, how vain is the hope! “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” Here is a sure test by which to ascertain the genuineness of our hope.

3. The subject is well fitted to relieve the present obscurity, and to mitigate the present sorrows of the people of God. We shall not always remain under a cloud and in trouble. A day of revelation is approaching when we shall “shine as the sun in the kingdom of our Father,” and when we shall no more “hang our harps upon the willows,” but retain them, ever strung and attuned to the songs of immortality. (James Davies.)

The hope of heaven

Shall we sink or falter by the way, when we know that we are journeying to a land of everlasting rest, and shall soon reach our eternal home? Shall the dark valley of death affright us, when we see beyond it the fields of immortality smiling in the verdure of eternal spring? Destined as we are for heaven, shall we grieve or murmur that the earth is not found to be a suitable resting place for immortal beings, and that God checks every tendency to rest here, by sharp afflictions and severe disappointment? God forbid! heaven, seen even in the distance, should allure us onwards, and its glorious light should cast a cheering ray over the darkest passages of life. Nay, not only should the hope of heaven prevent us from complaining of the afflictions of life, but the thought that these afflictions are even now preparing us for that blessed state, that they are ordained as necessary and useful means of discipline to promote our progress towards it; that they are the furnace by which the dross is to be purged away, and the pure ore fitted for the Master’s use in the upper sanctuary, should reconcile us to resigned submission, should make us grateful, that such discipline being needful, it has not been withheld, and to pray earnestly that it may be so blessed for our use as that we shall, in due time, be presented faultless and blameless before the presence of God’s glory, with exceeding joy. (James Buchanan.)

The future vision of God

This vision of God will constitute the blessedness or the misery of vision the future world, and since only like can know like, as Trench has said, “Every advance in a holy life is a polishing of the mirror that it may reflect distinctly the Divine image; a purging of the eye that it may see more clearly the Divine glory; an enlarging of the vessel that it may receive more amply of the Divine fulness.”

The glory of the Creator

Baron Von Canitz, a German nobleman, who lived in the latter half of the seventeenth century, was distinguished both for talent and intense religiousness of spirit. When the dawn broke into his sick chamber on the last morning of life he desired to be removed to the window, and once more behold the rising sun. After a time he broke forth in the following language, “Oh, if the appearance of this earthly and created thing is so beautiful and so quickening, how much more shall I be enraptured at the sight of the unspeakable glory of the Creator Himself!”

Verse 3

Romans 5:3

And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also.

The Christian process

Tribulation gives rise to patience, coming from a verb which signifies “to keep good under” (a burden, blows, etc.) , and might be rendered “endurance.”

Endurance, in its turn, worketh experience--the state of a force or virtue which has stood trials. This force, issuing victorious from the conflict, is undoubtedly the faith of the Christian, the worth of which he has now proved by experience. It is a weapon of which henceforth he knows the value. The word frequently denotes the proved Christian, the man who has shown what he is (cf. Romans 14:18)

, and the opposite (1 Corinthians 10:27).

When, finally, the believer has thus experienced the Divine force with which faith fills him in the midst of suffering, he feels his hope rise. Nothing which can happen to him in the future any longer affrights him. The prospect of glory opens up to him nearer and more brilliant. How many Christians have declared that they never knew the gladness of faith or lively hope till they gained it by tribulation! With this word the apostle has returned to the end of Romans 5:2; and as there are deceitful hopes, he adds that this, “the hope of glory,” runs no risk of being falsified by the event. (Prof. Godet.)

The Christian process

The text may be treated--


1. Sore was the tribulation which came upon the disciples as they thought upon Christ’s death and burial. But after a little patience and experience, their hope revived; for their Lord arose. After that hope had been begotten in them, the Holy Spirit’s Divine influence was shed abroad upon them. They were not ashamed of their hope, but fearlessly proclaimed Jesus, their hope of glory.

2. History repeats itself. The history of our Lord is the foreshadowing of the experience of all His people. First comes our tribulation, our cross-bearing. Out of our patience and experience there arises in due season a blessed hope: we are quickened by our Lord’s resurrection life, and come forth from our sorrow. Then we enjoy our Pentecost: “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost.” Consequent upon that visitation our hope becomes clear and assured, and we are led to make a full outspoken testimony.

Experimentally. Here is a little map of the inner life. This passage can only be fully understood by those who have had it written in capital letters on their own hearts.

1. “Tribulation worketh patience.” Naturally it worketh impatience, and impatience misses the fruit of experience, and sours into hopelessness. When the heart is renewed by the Holy Spirit, but not till then, tribulation worketh patience. Angels cannot exhibit patience, since they are not capable of suffering. Job did not learn it in prosperity, but when he sat among the ashes and his heart was heavy. Patience is a pearl which is only found in the deep seas of affliction; and only grace can find it, bring it to the surface, and adorn the neck of faith therewith.

2. This patience worketh in us experience: i.e., the more we endure, the more we test the faithfulness of God, the more we prove His love, and the more we perceive His wisdom. He that hath never endured may believe in the sustaining power of grace, but he has never had experience of it. You must put to sea to know the skill of the Divine Pilot, and be buffeted with tempest before you can know His power over winds and waves. What better wealth can a man have than to be rich in experience?

3. Experience works hops, How wonderfully does Divine alchemy fetch fine gold out of baser metal. The Lord in His grace spreads a couch for His own on the threshing floor of tribulation, and there we take our rest. He sets to music the roar of the water floods of trouble. Out of the foam of the sea of sorrow He causeth to arise the bright spirit of hope that maketh not ashamed.

Doctrinally. The text is none other than the house of God and the gate of heaven. “The love of God (the Father)

is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength … Christ died for the ungodly.” Behold the blessed Three in One! It needs the Trinity to make a Christian, to cheer a Christian, to complete a Christian, to create in a Christian the hope of glory. We have Divine love bestowed by the Father, made manifest in the death of the Son, and shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The Christian’s grounds for glorying in tribulation

To see a man rejoicing, notwithstanding his sufferings, in the good of his portion, were nothing remarkable; but his glorying even in the very evil itself, one would be disposed, in the ignorance of any other cause, to ascribe to mental derangement. Now, what is the light in which the gospel teaches us to regard the evils of life? When the apostle says, “We glory in tribulations,” are we to understand that the evils of life, in place of being regarded as indications of God’s displeasure, are really to be looked upon by all men as tokens of His love and favour? Not so, we conceive, by any means. Affliction, even when viewed in the light of the gospel by the unrepentant, though it may be looked upon by them as the doing of a God who still waits to be gracious, cannot, while their relation to God is unchanged, be regarded as so divested of its penal character that they can at all glory in it. The best fruits it can as yet yield to them is that sorrow which worketh repentance, and it is only when it operates thus that it operates aright. There is, then, manifestly just one class of men who on reasonable grounds can glory in their tribulations, and that is those who have already turned to God and found reconciliation--to them alone it is given to extract anything like the oil of gladness out of the bitter herbs of temporal suffering; and so it is that we here find glorying in tribulations ranked by the apostle among the privileges of the justified. And it is worthy of being remarked, too, that it is not the first in the enumeration--that first peace of conscience, and joyful hope of sharing the promised glory, must have resulted from justification before a man can bring himself to regard his tribulations as a ground of rejoicing. We would now call attention to the grounds of his so glorying, as here stated by him.

1. “Tribulation worketh patience.” That patience, which is a Christian grace, is not mere mental composure in the midst of outward troubles, and fixedness of purpose when excited passion threatens to bear the spirit away from its firmest resolves, but it is all this from right religious views and principles. It is because the mind of a Christian is stayed upon God that it is kept calm and steady in the day of trouble. He has such confidence in the character of God, and has taken such a hold upon His promises, and understands, moreover, so well the design of His fatherly correction, that when affliction does come, instead of loosening his hold of God, it tends, on the contrary, to lead him to cleave to Him still more closely. It being granted, then, that tribulation worketh patience, what ground, it may be asked, has a man for rejoicing in tribulation because it so operates? The Christian is taught to regard the improvement of character--the having his mind and will brought into perfect conformity to the mind and will of God--as that above all things else to be desired by him. Any advance he can make in this way he looks upon as the greatest gain, not only on account of its present advantage, but especially because of its eternal recompense. Show him, then, that he has gained in character, that he has brought his will more nearly to coincide with the will of God, and he will be satisfied that he has cause to rejoice in the acquisition, whatever may bare been the sacrifice or suffering through which it was obtained. Now, how are such acquisitions made? First, we answer, by endeavouring, in the strength of Divine grace sought and relied on, to do the will of God, as made known in His holy commandments; and secondly, by endeavouring, through the same Divine aid, patiently to submit to God’s will as made known in His providential dispensations.

2. But the patient enduring of tribulation not only tends to the improvement of a character, but it also serves to test the character and so to manifest its genuineness. And this is the meaning of the apostle when he says that patience worketh experience. When a man is put into the furnace of affliction and comes out unscathed, then he has the best evidence to conclude that they are genuine.

3. The value to the believer of this judgment of self-approval will fully appear when we consider that it worketh hope, even a hope that maketh not ashamed. The connection between a believer’s judgment of self-approval and his hope of glory is very evident. The fact of his being a believer implies that he has faith in the unseen realities of the future world. He may believe this, however, without having any assured hope of being himself a partaker of the inheritance. He knows that it is promised to men of a certain character only; so it is clearly only when he has been enabled to pronounce judgment on himself favourably and decidedly that his hope of future glory will be brightened up into full assurance. He need not mourn though this earth be made darkness around him, who has the hope of heaven’s glory to cheer him; and if it be in the dark night of sorrow that the light of heavenly hope is made to shine most brightly, he need not be impatient for the coming of the dawn. The apostle, to give confirmation to his argument and to show that the process by which this gladdening hope is extracted out of the believer’s tribulations, is not one that is carried on independently of the aid of Divine grace, adds, “Because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us.” The Divine Spirit, by infusing love towards God into the believer’s heart, gives him assured grounds to regard himself a child of God; and being assured of this, and knowing that on this point there is no delusion or self-deception, then he knows for certain that his hopes can never be disappointed--that be they ever so bright they shall be far more than realised. (A. Stewart.)

Glorying in tribulation

Let us--

Expound the text.

1. “We glory in tribulations,” i.e. (see Hebrews 10:33), refers specifically to persecutions. We know how Paul himself was exposed to these. It was no easy thing to be a Christian in those early times. Our English word means to thresh corn with flails. Methinks that if the same flails were used now upon the threshing floors of Christian profession, we should very speedily know how much chaff, and how little wheat, is now heaped up there. But we need not limit the term to tribulations of that class. Afflictions may overtake us in many other forms. We may lose our health, our wealth, our friends, our domestic comfort and peace. Yet in these tribulations, as Christians, we “glory,” for we believe them to be sent or permitted of God to promote our good (Hebrews 12:5-15).

2. “Tribulation worketh patience.” It does so, of course, only when received in submissiveness and faith. On the ungodly it generally produces the contrary effect.

(1) The simplest idea of patience is that of passive continuance, as when we read of patiently waiting for the object of hope.

(2) A higher degree of self-control, or a power to govern our tempers in provocation (Ecclesiastes 7:8-9).

(3) Another notion is that of fortitude, or strong resistance against a pressure of adversity (James 1:3).

(4) But its crowning excellence is that it can do more than resist; it can overbear opposition and go on its way rejoicing. It is the same thing as perseverance (Hebrews 12:1). blow as tribulation works patience, we may well glory in it, for it is a good thing to be patient. By patience we are kept from ignoble sloth, children are converted into noble heroes, we are roused to new life and energy, and grow up from puny infancy to the full stature of the perfect man in Christ. The forest trees grow stronger the more they are beat upon by the tempest; your stalwart rowers pull harder just as they feel the current bearing more steadily against them; and the exposed warrior gets most inured to the battle and the breeze.

3. “And patience, experience.” The radical idea is that of testing or trying metal, to ascertain its purity. Patience gives us proof of--

(1) Our own sincerity and genuineness. You may imagine yourself converted, and be the subject of joyful feeling; but is all this real? The answer is got by the experiment of tribulation (Mark 4:16-17).

(2) The limited power of our adversaries. The young Christian, like the young voyager, is soon frightened by the tempest, but the experienced saint, like the veteran sailor, has discovered that the waves are not so mighty as they seem, and that the winds only hurry the vessel faster on its course.

(3) Jehovah’s faithfulness (Psalms 18:29; Psalms 18:29; Habakkuk 3:17-19; 2 Corinthians 12:5-9).

4. “And experience, hope.” Hope was mentioned before as the result of faith; here it is the fruit of experience. Each is the same in its nature and object; but it is reached by two distinct processes. First, our hope is based simply and nakedly on the declaration and promise of God (verse 1; Psalms 119:49-50). But the hope of the text, while it rests upon the same word, also rests upon out experience of what the Lord has done for our souls. This has the double effect of satisfying us that we are the subjects of grace, and therefore those to whom the promise belongs; and also of convincing us, from what we have actually received, that God “is faithful who hath promised, who also will do it.”

5. This assured hope suffers us not to be ashamed, even in the midst of suffering and reproach.

Apply the text. It supplies--

1. A test of faithfulness. How do you deal with troubles? Do you meet them with fretfulness and impatience, or in a spirit of stoical pride or stolid indifference? If not, do you, as God’s children, bear them patiently and triumph in them? From experience, does hope spring? and does that hope make you bold in confessing Christ? Is the love of God shed abroad in your breast?

2. A lesson of wisdom. If our hearts are set on worldly things, then plainly we can have no delight in tribulations. Let us, then, study the nature and the worth of moral excellence and religious attainments. It were surely better for us to get the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, than to compass every object of earthly ambition.

3. A lesson of patience and trust. You know, as a child of God, that affliction is given you from above, that it is all ordered in wisdom, and superintended by infinite love. Therefore, be patient and hope unto the end. God will remove the crucible as soon as the liquid metal reflects His glorious image from its unsullied surface. Affliction is to God’s children what the shepherd’s dog is to the flock, which barks at the outsiders and drives the wanderers home again. Or it is the lapidary’s grindstone, whereby the most costly gems are rounded and polished.

4. Some solemn thoughts for the unconverted.

(1) Do you persecute the righteous? What you do against them will redound to their greater reward. It must, however, injure you.

(2) What effect has trouble upon you? You cannot avoid it, any more than can the godly.

(3) Whether in sickness or health, you have not the love of God in your heart. One wonders how you can live without it. And certainly you will find it hard to die without it. (T. G. Horton.)

Glorying in tribulation

It is joy, when between the millstones crushed like an olive, to yield nothing but the oil of thankfulness; when bruised beneath the flail of tribulation, still to lose nothing but the chaff, and to yield to God the precious grain of entire submissiveness. Why, this is a little heaven upon earth. To glory in tribulations also, this is a high degree of up-climbing towards the likeness of our Lord. Perhaps the usual communions which we have with our Beloved, though exceeding precious, will never equal those which we enjoy when we have to break through thorns and briars to be at Him; when we follow Him into the wilderness then we feel the love of our espousals to be doubly sweet. It is a joyous thing when in the midst of mournful circumstances, we yet feel that we cannot mourn, because the Bridegroom is with us. Blessed is the man who in the most terrible storm is driven in not from his God, but even rides upon the crest of the lofty billows nearer towards heaven. Such happiness is the Christian’s lot. I do not say that every Christian possesses it, but I am sure that every Christian ought to do so. There is a highway to heaven, and all in it are safe; but in the middle of that road there is a special way, an inner path, and all who walk therein are happy as well as safe. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Tribulation a ground of glorying

“Not only so.” The apostle has been speaking of the priceless advantages that flow from justification, peace, access into grace, rejoicing in hope of the glory of God. Surely there is sufficient here “to pay” a man for becoming a Christian. But, “not only so.” This “not only so” is the Christian’s peculiar privilege. Make the most copious enumeration you will, and there will be a “not only so.” “O the depth of the riches!” Note--

The strange fact of our text.

1. Though a modest man, Paul was greatly given to “glorying.” And in his grounds we can generally justify him. We are not surprised that he should boast of himself. And there is leave for any man to do so who has good reason, provided it be done in the spirit of the apostle. We are not surprised that he should boast of the churches. Above all we are not surprised at his boast in the Cross, that grand symbol of the world’s redemption. But that he should “glory in tribulations also” must seem somewhat strange to the generality of men who regard them as distressing. You could understand him if he were speaking of the halls of mirth, of the pomp of palaces. He might reasonably glory in such things.

2. But the explanation is to be found in no defective mental or moral organisation. These are not the words of a madman speaking at random; nor of some hare-brained youth who goes through life saying “I don’t care”; nor of a stoic whose false philosophy teaches him to despise alike the good and the ills of life. No, never was a nature more sensitive than Paul’s. He does not mean that he gloried in the midst of his tribulations, notwithstanding his tribulations, treating them as matters of no account and even of contempt. They were the very ground of his glorying. Nor was his glorying mistaken. Our tribulations are but the instruments of the Lord of the harvest for purifying our souls. The uses of our griefs are Divine, and this must not only reconcile us to them, but enable us to glory in them. You see the strength of the apostle’s argument, He has got God, Therefore he has got all and can glory in all. Can connect a thing with God, whatever guise it wear, is at once to make it an angel.

The explanation of this strange fact. He justifies his assertion by setting forth the gradations by which tribulation works the highest good.

1. Tribulation worketh patience, or “endurance.” The more a Christian suffers in a Christian spirit, the greater capacity does he discover for endurance. So that his very afflictions become their own anodyne.

2. “Patience worketh experience.” The word signifies--

(1) Proof; patient endurance of suffering proves a man’s spiritual mettle. The furnace must declare whether a man’s religion is gilt or gold. A parrot might be taught to say “Thy will be done.” How will the man behave when every earthly comfort is withdrawn?

(2) Approbation. God sends tribulation first that it may test, and then, that He may say to us, “Well done!”

3. “Experience, or approval, worketh hope.” These tribulations drive us to the anticipation of another world. While sunny skies are over our head we think only of the present, but an overcast heaven sends our thoughts into the future. And hope maketh not ashamed. We sometimes see men with rueful countenances coming away from the door of a quondam friend. “Ah! I did hope that man was my friend,” is the exclamation. “But he has put my hope to shame.” Men never come away like that from God’s door. There is nothing like experience to fortify faith.

4. “Because God’s love is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost.” God’s love, as the active principle in the heart, is the angel presence that banishes all impatience, all fear. The God I love sends my tribulations. Therefore will I glory even in tribulations. Only love can interpret the mysteries of God. I will close with a picture (Revelation 7:9-14). Thus tribulation is the gateway of heaven. (J. Halsey.)

Tribulation and after

The apostle sets before us a ladder like to that which Jacob saw, the foot whereof resteth upon the earth, but the top ascendeth to heaven. Tribulation is the foot, but we mount as we see that it worketh patience; and we climb again, for patience worketh experience; and we ascend yet once again, for experience sustaineth hope; and hope that maketh not ashamed climbs up to the very heart of God, and the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us. I might compare these verses to those songs of degrees which were sung by the people as they went up to the temple: as they halted at each stage of the pilgrimage, they sang a fresh psalm, and so David said, “They go from strength to strength; every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.” The pilgrim setteth out from the dull and desolate vale of tribulation, he journeys on to patience and lifts up his psalm under the shadow of the rock; he removes his tent and journeys on to experience beneath its wells and palm trees he refreshes himself; soon he marches on again from experience to hope, and never stayeth till the love of God is shed abroad in his heart, and he has reached the New Jerusalem, where he worships the ever blessed God and drinks full draughts of His eternal love. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Tribulations beautifying

It is rough work that polishes. Look at the pebbles on the shore. Far inland where some arm of the sea thrusts itself deep into the bosom of the land, and expanding into a salt loch, lies girdled by the mountains, sheltered from the storms that agitate the deep, the pebbles on the beach are rough, not beautiful; angular, not rounded. It is where long white lines of breakers roar, and the rattling shingle is rolled about the strand, that its pebbles are rounded and polished. As in nature, as in the arts, so in grace; it is the rough treatment that gives souls as well as stones their lustre. The more the diamond is cut the brighter it sparkles; and in what seems hard dealing, their Lord has no end in view but to perfect His people’s graces. He afflicts not willingly; He sends tribulation to work patience, so that patience may work experience and experience hope. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

Tribulations: how to meet them

We should brave trouble as the New England boy braves winter. The school is a mile away over the snowy hill, yet he lingers not by the fire; but with his books slung over his shoulder, and his cap tied closely under his chin, be sets out to face the storm. And when he reaches the topmost ridge, where the powdered snow lies in drifts, and the north wind comes keen and biting, does he shrink and cower down beneath the fences, or run into the nearest house to warm himself? No: he buttons up his coat, and rejoices to defy the blast, and tosses the snow wreaths with his foot; and so erect and fearless, with strong heart and ruddy cheek, he goes on to his place at school. (H. W. Beecher.)

Tribulations: sources of joy

Our afflictions are like weights, and have a tendency to bow us to the dust, but there is a way of arranging weights by means of wheels and pulleys, so that they will even lift us up. Grace, by its matchless art, has often turned the heaviest of our trials into occasions for heavenly joy. “We glory in tribulations also.” We gather honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The genealogy of Christian hope

1. It is no uncommon thing amongst us, for a man, sprung from the lowest grade of society, to rise, by the mere force of industry and intelligence, to a level with the high born and the noble; but he would show himself unworthy of his success and elevation, were he ashamed of his mean parentage. On the other hand, it has a very graceful look when he shows no wish to hide, but rather a desire to display, the meanness of his parentage; when, e.g., amidst the gorgeous decorations of his mansion he places conspicuously the picture of some cottage, or some weather-beaten rustic, and says to his admiring guests in a tone of honest satisfaction--“In that cottage was I born,” or, “That was my father.”

2. And we are assuming the fact that what is brilliant is only the more brilliant when traced to its lowly origin, when we think that our text is of more than common interest. For what so glorious as Christian hope? And our text traces it back through its immediate ancestry, and stops--where? At what is lofty, radiant, attractive? Nay, at tribulation. Nor is he ashamed of that ancestry; for he “glories in tribulation.” We shall find it profitable and interesting to trace the struggles of hope; for they are like the struggles of a family raising itself by successive steps, till it has exchanged a mean for a dignified position. Let us examine--

How the one is dependent on the other. Remember that St. Paul speaks only of those who bear tribulation as Christians, who receive it as appointed them by God. With them--

1. “Tribulation worketh patience!” There is nothing else which can work it. Whilst things are all going smoothly it is difficult for him to ascertain whether we have patience or not. We can only know ourselves as to any particular quality, as God shall put that quality to proof. Courage must be tested by danger, virtue by temptation, constancy by solicitation. And further, the trial is adapted to develop and strengthen it. Courage grows by exposure to danger, virtue is confirmed by every victory over temptation, and constancy acquires steadfastness as it resists a solicitation. And all this is particularly true in regard of patience. It is beautiful to observe how persons who, by nature, were fretful, have been disciplined into patience through affliction. It is not necessary that an individual should be patient as a man, in order to be patient as a Christian; on the contrary, grace works its choicest specimens out of the most unpromising material. But patience is wrought out, not by tribulation in itself, but by tribulation bringing the Christian to reflection and to prayer. Therefore does the Christian “glory in tribulation,” even if he had to stop here. He knows that patience is required as one of the chief fruits of the Spirit, a main evidence of meetness for the heavenly inheritance; shall he be ashamed of the adversity whence he hath acquired so choice a grace?

2. Patience worketh experience. The putting something to the proof; in this case the ascertaining the precise worth, verity and power of the consolations and promises of God. “Tribulation worketh patience,” in that suffering brings the Christian into an attitude of submission; but when he has been schooled into resignation, he is not left without heavenly visitations. God “allures him into the wilderness,” but only that He may “speak comfortably to him, giving him the valley of Achor for a door of hope.” Promises, whose beauty can be but faintly apprehended so long as there is no pressing need of their accomplishment, come home to the heart in an hour of trouble patiently endured, as if they were made on purpose for such emergencies. Here then, is already a noble elevation. From tribulation we have passed through patience and experience; the man has become his own evidence to the truth of Scripture, to the Divinity of Christianity, to the sufficiency of the gospel. No longer obliged to solicit external testimony, he has “tasted and seen that the Lord is gracious.” “Experience” is a vast advance upon “patience”; and we may look to find in the next generation all the honour and brightness of Christian nobility. Such, indeed, is the case, for “experience worketh hope.” How naturally does the one spring from the other! He in whom patience has wrought experience is one who, having put promises to the proof, has found them made good, and thereby proved to be of God. Surely now he who has tried the chart, and found it correct so far as he has had the power of trying it, has the best ground for relying on that chart with regard to ports which he has never yet entered. Accordingly you will find the righteous dwelling on their experience, and deriving from it their confidence. “Thou hast been my help”--there is the experience; “in the shadow of Thy wings will I rejoice”--there is the hope. It is the same with St. Paul. “I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.” Then what immediately follows? “The Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom.” The one assertion is that of experience--the next is that of hope. Experience is a book in which there should be daily entries, and to which there should be daily reference. If we do not register our mercies, or if we never recount them, they are not likely to throw light upon coming events. He must be grateful for the past, who would be hopeful for the future. Answers to prayer, what encouragements to prayer! Promises fulfilled, what arguments for expecting their fulfilment! Mercies bestowed, what grounds for confidence that mercies will not be withheld! And thus it is that hope, the splendid, the beautiful grace--hope, with the stately step and the soaring wing--hope, whose special province it is to people the future with a brightness which compensates for all that may be gloomy in the present--hope, which makes the smile of health play around the couch of sickness--lights up the prison with the flash of liberty, pours abundance into the lap of poverty, and crowds the very grave with the burning processions of immortality--hope traces itself back to tribulation, like the coronet of the noble, whose ancestry may be found among the poor and the despised.

The apostle’s encomium on hope.

1. Is not hope commonly spoken of as most delusive? Does not poetry love to liken it to some bright meteor, which beguiles the traveller, leading him into danger, and then leaving him in darkness? Gather the character of hope from men of the world, and she is but an enchantress, whose spells are so soothing, and whispers so soft, that having cheated us a hundred times, we are nevertheless willing to be cheated again.

2. But Christian “hope maketh not ashamed.” It paints no vision which shall not be more than realised; it points to no inheritance which shall not be reached. How should it make ashamed, when it altogether rests itself upon Christ, who is “not ashamed to call us brethren?” This is the secret of its difference from every other hope; Christ is the source and the centre of our hope--Christ, in whom all the promises of God are yea, and in Him amen; and if Christ can deceive us, then, but not otherwise, may hope make ashamed. Therefore is it that the apostle elsewhere speaks of hope, in one place as an anchor, in another a helmet. He gives it attributes which fit it for the storms or the battle. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

A common evil and an uncommon result

A common evil. “Tribulation.” Men’s tribulations are various.

1. Bodily.

2. Mental.

3. Social.

An uncommon result. In the case of most tribulation worketh irritation, hostility, conflicting passions. But in the case of the Christly man it worketh patience, which does not mean--

1. Insensibility. Some are praised for their patience who should be denounced for their stoicism.

2. Weakness. Some are praised for their patience who lack the capacity of strong feeling. Patience implies exquisite sensibility, and the highest power: the power of reflection and of self-control. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

Verse 4

Romans 5:4

And patience experience.

Patience working experience

The benefit of trials is lost when we either “despise the chastening of the Lord,” or “faint when we are rebuked of Him.” It is only when they are borne with Christian “patience” that “experience” is their happy fruit. The word signifies properly “proof”: and there are various things proved to us by our trials, endured with patience.

The love, care, faithfulness, and power of our father. He has assured us that “whom He loves He chastens.” He has encouraged us to “cast all our care upon Him,” by the declaration, and, in the gift of His Son, the convincing evidence, that “He careth for us.” He has promised “never to leave, never to forsake us.” He has reproved the fears of His people by reminding them that the “everlasting God, Jehovah, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not neither is weary,” and assuring them that “He giveth power to the weak.” When “patient in tribulation,” we learn, by sweet “experience,” that God is indeed to His people all that He declares Himself to be.

Our own weakness and emptiness, and the all-sufficiency of Jesus. We feel the repugnance of our nature to suffering; the difficulty of bowing to the Divine will, our proneness to doubt and to rebel. But when we are enabled to bear our trials with patience, they teach us, by “experience,” which imparts present delight, and encouragement for the future, that “His grace is sufficient for us”; “that we can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth us.”

The vanity of all earthly things, when sought after, and depended upon, as a portion. Sanctified trouble dissolves the delusive charm of prosperity. When the cup of worldly enjoyment is at our lips, the bitter that is infused prevents its deadly influence. The heart is brought back to the relish, which it was losing, of higher joys. And at the same time we feel the gladdening influence, and the inestimable preciousness of the truths of God, and of the good hope which the faith of them inspires. Thus the case of the prophet’s little book is reversed. The trial itself is bitter to the taste; but the experience resulting from it is sweet.

The Divine excellence and sufficiency of the Word of God. How precious has this volume of inspiration ever been felt by the children of God in their seasons of trial! How rich the treasures of its “exceeding great and precious promises,” when our worldly resources have “made themselves wings and flown away”--how sweet the celestial music of its devotion, when our “harp has been turned to mourning, and our organ to the voice of them that weep!”--how delightful the “still small voice” of a Saviour’s love, amidst all the harassing turmoils of a turbulent world! The believer now learns to clasp this Divine treasure to his heart, and to say, “The law of Thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver!”

The reality of our faith in Jesus and of our consequent interest in his salvation. We judge from the fruit of the soundness of the root and stem. The man whose professed faith allows him to fret and murmur under his trials has good cause to suspect that the gospel has come to him “in word only.” But when the faith of the truth inspires tranquil resignation, and “patience has her perfect work,” we have “the witness in ourselves” of our connection with Him who said, “The cup which My Father hath given Me shall I not drink it?” By “adding to our faith--patience,” we “make our calling and election sure.”

The value and certainty of the gospel hope. Whatever bears testimony to the truth of those doctrines which the Christian believes serves to establish the hope of which these doctrines are the foundation. His experience, therefore, confirms his faith; and the confirmation of his faith gives additional confidence to his hope. It settles and animates its exercise. He “abounds in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost.” (R. Wardlaw, D. D.)

Experience confirms men in the right

A man propounds the wonderful discovery that honey is not sweet. “But I had some for breakfast, and I found it very sweet,” say you, and your reply is conclusive. He tells you that salt is poisonous; but you point to your own health and declare that you have eaten salt these twenty years. He says that to eat bread is a mistake--a vulgar error, an antiquated absurdity; but at each meal you make his protest the subject for a merry laugh. If you are daily and habitually experienced in the truth of God’s Word, I am not afraid of your being shaken in mind in reference to it. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Experience expensive

Experience is an excellent schoolmaster; but he does charge such dreadful fees. (T. Carlyle.)

A dead experience

In my Bible at home I have in the Old Testament a folded sheet of paper, in which are tastefully arranged some flowers and leaves. I was looking at it this morning, and it was very beautiful. Every colour was fading; but I saw, by the help of imagination, what they had been. If, however, I had no other summer than that it would be poor indeed; but I have roses and daisies, and honeysuckles and asters, and various other flowers, all of which are fresh every year, and some of which are fresh almost every month of the year; and I am not obliged to make this herbarium leaf of dried flowers my only summer. But I have known Christians that had but three or four old leaves in their Bible which they would go and pull out and show you every time they alluded to their religious history. They would say, “I was converted so-and-so,” when they would exhibit these dry memorials, and then they would put them up again very carefully, and leave them; and the next time they talked with you they would show you these old experiences again--the same dry flowers and leaves--no more and no less. (H. W. Beecher.)

Experience and faith

Faith, in its reproductive power and progress of growth, may be compared to the great Oriental banyan tree. It springs up in God, rooted in God’s Word; and soon there are the great waving branches of experience. Then from these very branches the runners go down again into God’s Word; and thence spring up again new products of faith, and new trees of experience, till one and the same tree becomes in itself a grove, with pillared shades and echoing walks between. So experience first grows out of faith; and then greater faith grows out of experience, the Word of God being all the while the region of its roots; and, again, a still vaster, richer experience grows out of that faith, till every branch becomes not only a product, but a parent stock set in the same word, and all expanding into a various magnificent and enlarging forest. (G. B. Cheever, D. D.)

Experience, knowledge by

Practical sciences are not to be learned but in the way of action. It is experience that must give knowledge in the Christian profession, as well as in all others; and the knowledge drawn from experience is quite of another kind from that which flows from speculation or discourse. It is not the opinion, but the path, of the just, that the wisest of men tells us shines more and more unto a perfect day. The obedient, and the men of practice, are those sons of light that shall outgrow all their doubts and ignorances, that shall ride upon these clouds, and triumph over their present imperfections, till persuasion pass into knowledge, and know, ledge advance into assurance, and all come at length to be completed in the beatific vision, and a full fruition of those joys. Which God has in reserve for them whom by His grace He shall prepare for glory. (R. South, D. D.)

Experience, power of

Said a poor pious widow to a scoffing sceptic, when he asked, “How do you know your Bible is true? What proof have you of its truth?”--“Sir, my own experience--the experience of my heart.” “Oh,” said he, contemptuously, “your experience is nothing to me.” “That may be, sir; but it is everything to me.”

Experience, various

You are too apt to feel that your religious experience must be the same as others have; but where will you find analogies for this? Certainly not in nature. God’s works do not come from His hand like coin from the mint. It seems as if it were a necessity that each one should be, in some sort, distinct from every other. No two leaves on the same tree are precisely alike; no two buds on one bush have the same unfolding, nor do they seek to have. What if God should command the flowers to appear before Him, and the sunflower should come bending low with shame because it was not a violet; and the violet should come striving to lift itself up to be like a sunflower; and the lily should seek to gain the bloom of the rose; and the rose, the whiteness of the lily: and so each one, disdaining itself, should seek to grow into the likeness of the other? God would say, “Stop, foolish flowers! I gave you your own forms and hues and odours; and I wish you to bring what you have received. O sunflower! come as a sunflower; and you, sweet violet, come as a violet; and let the rose bring the rose’s bloom; and the lily the lily’s whiteness.” Perceiving their folly, and ceasing to long for what they had not, violet and rose, lily and geranium, mignonette and anemone, and all the floral train, would come, each in its own loveliness, to send up its fragrance as incense, and all wreathe themselves in a garland of beauty about the throne of God. Now, God speaks to you as to the flowers, and says, “Come with the form and nature that I gave you. If you are made a violet, come as a violet; if you are a rose, come as a rose; it you are a shrub, do not desire to be a tree; let everything abide in the nature which I gave it, and grow to the full excellence that is contained in that nature.” (H. W. Beecher.)

And experience hope.

The well-grounded hope

“Experience worketh hope.” Take that principle in its largest sense, apply it to the interests of this life and this world, and who is there that does not know that the apostle’s statement would be utterly wrong? The inexperienced man is all buoyant anticipation; he sees no difficulties in the way; he looks for brilliant success in life. How different with the man who has had some experience of the realities of life, how modest are his hopes of earthly happiness and success! But it was not of earthly experience that the apostle spake, nor of earthly hope. As regards our blessed Saviour, His grace and preciousness and love: as regards the solid peace and happiness to be found when we find a part in His great salvation: as regards the sanctifying and comforting influences of the Holy Spirit: as regards the power and prevalence of earnest prayer: as regards the rest and refreshment the weary soul may find in a Lord’s day duly sanctified: as regards the consolation which religion can impart amid earthly disappointments; as regards the peace that Christ can give in death: as regards such things as these, “experience worketh hope”; the more you know of Jesus, His promises and His grace, the more you will expect from Him; and instead of experience leading us to say, as it does lead us to say of most earthly things, “I have tried it, it cannot make me happy, I shall trust it no more,” experience of God leads us rather to say, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day”; “I love the Lord, because He hath heard my voice and my supplication; because He hath inclined His ear unto me, therefore will I call upon Him as long as I live”; “The Lord hath been mindful of us: He will bless us still!” And now, concerning St. Paul’s declaration that “experience worketh hope,” let me suggest to you two thoughts which are implied in the apostle’s principle, and which are the great reasons why the apostle’s principle is true.

First, then, in the great concern of religion you are sure, if you seek in the right way, to get what you seek. Now here at once we find a point in regard to which there is a total contrariety between worldly and spiritual things. Who is there that needs to be told that one great cause of human disappointment in worldly things lies in this, that however anxious you may be to get something on which you have set your heart, and however diligent you may be in using all the means which you think tend towards your getting it, you may yet entirely fail of getting it? But when we pray for spiritual blessings, for repentance towards God and faith in Christ and a sanctifying Spirit, we may pray with the absolute certainty that our prayer will be granted, because we pray with the absolute certainty that we are asking that which it will be for our good to get, and for God’s glory to give.

Another fact on which the principle in the text founds is, that in the matter of spiritual blessings you are sure, when you get what you seek, to find it equal your expectations. There never was the human being who said, I was earnestly desirous to gain the favour of God, to gain the good part in Christ, and now I have gained them, I find they are no such great matter after all, the prize is hardly worth the cost. God is indeed my Father, Christ is indeed my Saviour, the Holy Spirit dwells within my breast, and I know that heaven is my home; but these things leave me still unsatisfied and unhappy. No; experience never brought any human being to such a mind as that. That is the strain in which experience has taught men to speak of earthly ends after they were won. But the man never breathed who would say the like of the blessings of grace. (A. K. H. Boyd, D. D.)

The hope of faith and the hope of experience

The hope of the fourth verse is distinct from, and posterior to the hope of the second, and is derived from another source. The first hope is hope in believing; a hope which hangs direct on the testimony of God. The second hope is the fruit of experience, and is gathered, not from the word that is without, but from the feeling of what passes within. I make a two-fold promise to an acquaintance--the lesser part of which should be fulfilled tomorrow, and the latter on this day twelvemonth. If he believe me, then will there be a hope of the fulfilment of both, and, for a whole day at least, he may rejoice in this hope. Tomorrow comes, and if tomorrow’s promise is not fulfilled, the hope which emanated from faith is overthrown, and the man is ashamed of his rash and rejoicing expectations! But if instead of a failure there is a punctual fulfilment without shame or without suspicion, he will now look to the coming round of the year with more confident expectation than ever. It is quite true that there is a hope in believing, but it is just as true that experience worketh hope. Now in the gospel there are promises, the accomplishment of one of which is far off and the other of which is near. By faith we may rejoice in hope of the coming glory, and it will be the confirmation of our hope if we find in ourselves a present holiness. He who hath promised to translate us into a new heaven hereafter has also promised to confer on us a new heart here. Directly appended to our belief in God’s testimony may we hope for both these fulfillments; but should the earlier fulfilment not take place, this ought to convince us that we are not the subjects of the latter fulfilment. A true faith would ensure to us both, but as the one has not cast up at its proper time neither will the other cast up at its time--and, having no part nor lot in the present grace, we can have as little in the future inheritance. (T. Chalmers, D. D.)

Verse 5

Romans 5:5

And hope maketh not ashamed.

Christian, hope

There is no word more beautiful than “hope.” It is alight with the radiance of futurity; in it murmurs a prophetic music of good times coming. Its influence upon mankind it is impossible to over-estimate. As it has waxed or waned, society has risen or declined. The sinfulness of the first pair threatened life with a collapse; but in the first promise the day star of humanity arose. A watery deluge rolled around the world; and in the solitary ark, among the dearest objects which survived was the hope of the race. At the time of Jesus, upon the universal heart was settling the sickness of hope deferred. The virtues of force, courage, endurance, had failed. The intellectual hope of the world likewise had suffered; philosophy had sunken into sophistry. Religious hope, too, was dead; buried in the superstition and atheism of the times. It was now that Christ appeared the dawn of the world--material, intellectual, and spiritual. Among the many obligations the Divine Man imposed upon mankind was the redemption of the hope of the race.

The nature of Christian hope.

1. Hope is sometimes confounded with desire; but the yearning of the soul after unrealised good may not only not be hope, but the keenest form of despair. It is also confused with belief; but as the perceptive faculty, faith may reveal to us evils that will befall us. Taken separately these conceptions are inadequate and untrue; in combination they yield the wished result. Hope is made up of desire and faith--it is the confident expectation of coming good.

2. This world is the special scene of hope. Because of the perennial freshness of the great source of all things, every life has about it a vigour of unlimited hope. To the young the disappointments of the past go for nothing. As if no anticipations had perished, every heart comes into life like the recurring spring crowned with flowers of hope. Until the summit of life is reached, earthly hope guides man onward; but the time must come when the summit of earthly welfare is reached and life becomes a subdued decline--when, from the guardianship of Hope, man is handed over to the weird sister Memory.

3. But to the Christian there is a higher hope, which knows no decay, which can sustain the spirit in an unending course of dignity. Christianity renews the youth of men.

Its ground. The best earthly expectations are based upon innumerable contingencies which any moment may give way. The Christian hope is built upon a rock--the being and providence of a gracious God. There are some to whom the throne of the universe is vacant and man an orphan. Others have filled the supreme seat with a formless shadow of fate--without knowledge, without love. In distinction from all such theories the ground of the Christian hope is, first, the infinite perfections of God’s character. In the grand unity which pervades the whole material universe, which guides even those matters disturbed by the perverse will of man towards a purpose of good, we gather that the Divine nature is a unity. Then, again, from the works of nature we gather suggestions of a power that is omnipotent, a wisdom that is boundless, a goodness that is infinite. Here, then, we seem to touch the very granite of mortal confidence--a personal, loving Godhead. Give us this, and the only fatal sin among men is despair. According to his faith shall it be done unto man. To illuminate and supplement the manifestation already given, the Almighty spoke the truths contained in the Bible. Beyond all, in the person of Christ, the very heart of the Father was unfolded to men. And is there no warrant for hope here? “He that withheld not His own Son but freely gave Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things!”

Its characteristics.

1. Solidity. It is “a good hope.’’ This fact arises from the nature of its foundation and from the character of its securities. Here, however, we prefer to notice some of the testimonies of experience, In support of Christianity we can show an array of witnesses unapproached in the defence of any other system. Surely, to follow the religious footsteps of Bacon, Milton, and Newton is no slight comfort. Not only in the vigour of their life have great men attested to the truth of Christianity, but likewise in the hour of their dissolution. “The best of all,” said the dying father of Methodism: “The Lord is with us.” “Hast thou hope?” said the attendants upon the death bed of John Knox. He answered not, but merely pointed his finger upward.

2. It is a purifying hope.

(1) This is so from the nature of the objects which excite it. The soul is tinged by the phenomena amid which it moves. He who anticipates the impure becomes impure; he who aspires after the trivial only becomes frivolous. Before the Christian, on the contrary, are placed objects of standard worth. In this world he is called to holiness; in the world to come he is promised heaven.

(2) It is purifying in itself. Give a man hope, and though steeped to the lips in evil, he will, under the Divine grace, clarify himself. Give a man hope, and you place his foot on the first stair of heaven. This is the reason of the success of the gospel over every other religious system.

3. It is a living or lively hope. There is such a thing as a dead hope. Some have made shipwreck of faith and have cast away their confidence. Then there are some who have a kind of galvanised hope--while operated upon by outward excitement it seems to move, but the moment this is taken away it collapses. The Divine principle which animates the Christian heart beats a pulse of undying ardour. When the soul enters heaven it only begins a career of endless progress. Throughout that course hope will be the unfailing guide of man.

Its proper objects. These comprehend all that is good, i.e., all that is in accordance with the will of God. It only requires a moment’s reflection to see the necessity of such a condition. The mind of man is necessarily defective, and confounds shows with realities. As a child perplexed in an intricate path gladly resigns himself to the guidance of his father, so the Christian exclaims, in the presence of Divine love, “Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel.” Another reason for making hope contingent upon the Divine will is found in God’s infinite goodness. Assured of this, man realises his highest blessedness. Carry with you the thought of Divine rectitude, and you cannot anticipate too much from infinite compassion. The fact of God’s willingness to bless man being manifested in all the mercies received, should add zest to their enjoyment. “No good thing is withheld from them that walk uprightly.” But, in regard to religious benefits, the certainties of hope are still greater. They have regard--

1. To man individually, and begin with human life. “Of such is the kingdom of heaven.” “Their angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in heaven,” are passages which hang like a luminous cloud over the heads of little children. In them is opened a boundless field of hope in regard to incipient life. All who depart before the years of responsibility are safe in the protection of Christ. In the case of those who survive it is made possible to train them up in the way they should go. Still, so early does man become sinful that the prophet said, “We go astray from the womb, speaking lies.” Just as the prodigal left the house of his father, men go astray from the Divine rectitude, and then there is only a single voice which speaks of hope, that is the voice of the gospel. The promises of God suggest that there is no room for despondency on the part of the vilest, but every reason for hope.

2. To Christian attainments. The real life of man is that of progress. The objects which are held up to us in the Christian course are calculated to stir the pulse, to call forth the continued aspiration of the soul. Above all, there is a standard of Christian character placed before us we can never transcend--namely, that of Jesus Christ. “We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” Well was it added, “He that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself.”

3. To heaven. The life above will be of--

(1) An intenser character.

(2) Permanent blessedness.

(3) Improved circumstances. There the religious life instead of being hindered will be helped by the surroundings.

(4) Better society. (Stephen Clarke.)

The glorious hope


The confidence or our hope. We are not ashamed--

1. Of our hope. Some persons have no hope, or only one of which they might justly be ashamed. “I shall die like a dog,” says one. “When I am dead there’s an end of me.” The agnostic knows nothing, and therefore I suppose he hopes nothing. The Romanist’s best hope is that he may undergo the purging fires of purgatory. There is no great excellence in these hopes. But we are not ashamed of our hope who believe that those who are absent from the body are present with the Lord.

2. Of the object of our hope. We do not hope for gross carnal delights as making up our heaven, or we might very well be ashamed of it. Whatever imagery we may use, we intend thereby pure, holy, spiritual, and refined happiness. Our hope is that we shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of the Father; that we shall be like our perfect Lord, and where He is that we may behold His glory.

3. Of the ground of our hope. The solemn promises of God confirmed in the person and work of Christ. Inasmuch as Jesus died and rose, we that are one with Him are sure that we shall rise and live with Him.

4. Of our personal appropriation of this hope. Our expectation is not based upon any proud claim of personal deservings, but upon the promise of a faithful God. He hath said, “He that believeth in Him hath everlasting life.” We do believe in Him, and therefore we know that we have eternal life. Our hope is not based on mere feeling, but on the fact that God hath promised everlasting life to them that believe in His Son Jesus.

5. As to the absolute certainty that our hope will be realised. We do not expect to be deserted, for “He hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” “Who shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord?”

The reason of this confidence.

1. Our hope has for one of its main supports the love of God. I trust not to my love of God, but to God’s love for me. We are sure that He will fulfil our hope because He is too loving to fail us. If it were not for the Father’s love, there would have been no covenant of grace, no atoning sacrifice, no Holy Spirit to renew us, and all that is good in us would soon pass away.

2. This love has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost--like a rain cloud, black with exceeding blessing, which pours forth a shower of silver drops innumerable, fertilising every place whereon it falls, making the drooping herbs to lift up their heads and rejoice in the heaven-sent revival. After a while, from that spot where fell the rain, there rises a gentle steam, which ascends to heaven and forms fresh clouds. Thus is the love of God poured upon our heart, and shed abroad in our nature till our spirit drinks it in, and its new life is made to put forth its flowers of joy and fruits of holiness, and by and by grateful praise ascends like the incense which in the temple smoked upon Jehovah’s altar. Love is shed abroad in us, and it works upon our heart to love in return.

(1) The Holy Ghost imparts an intense appreciation and sense of that love. We have heard of it, believed in it, and meditated upon it, and at last we are overpowered by its greatness I

(2) Then there comes an appropriation of it. We cry, “He loved me, and gave Himself for me.”

(3) Then follows, as a matter of course, that return of love which the human heart must feel--we love Him because He first loved us.

3. But notice the special sweetness which struck our apostle as being so amazingly noteworthy.

(1) That God should give His Son for the ungodly. He loved us when we hated Him. Marvellous fact!

(2) That Christ died for us. That Christ should love us in heaven was a great thing; that He should then come down to earth was a greater; but that He should die, this is the climax of love’s sacrifice, the summit of the Alp of love.

(3) That the Lord must ever us now that we are reconciled.

(4) That “we have now received the atonement.” The hope of glory burns in the golden lamp of a heart reconciled to God by Jesus Christ. Grace is glory in the bud. Agreement with God is the seed corn of perfect holiness and perfect happiness.

4. Note the Divine Person by whom this has been done. Only by the Holy Ghost could this have been done. We can shed that love abroad by preaching, but we cannot shed it abroad in the heart. If the Holy Ghost dwells in you, He is the guarantee of everlasting joy. Where grace is given by His Divine indwelling, glory must follow it.

The result of this confident hope.

1. Inward joy.

2. Holy boldness in the avowal of our hope. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The hope that maketh not ashamed

Its glorious object.

Its signal triumphs.

Its unfailing support. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Hopes that make and the hope that maketh not ashamed

Hopes that make ashamed.

1. By the insufficiency of the object--that of the worldling.

2. By the weakness of the foundation--that of the Pharisee.

3. By the falsity of the warrant--that of the antinomian.

The hope that maketh not ashamed.

1. Its nature.

(1) Holy.

(2) Solid.

(3) Certain.

2. Its value. It can never disappoint and thus put to shame. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Believers not ashamed,

for they have--

1. A good Master.

2. A good cause.

3. A good hope. (M. Henry.)

Because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts.

The love of God shed abroad in the heart

The love of God is His love to us. The fact that we are the objects of a love which embraces all the creatures of God would not be ground of hope. But this love is--

1. Special. It stands opposed to wrath, and includes reconciliation and Divine favour, and secures to us all the benefits of redemption.

2. Infinitely great. It led to the gift of God’s Son.

3. Gratuitous. It is not founded on our character, but was exercised towards us when sinners.

4. Immutable. If founded on anything in us it would continue no longer than our attractiveness continued: but flowing from the mysterious fulness of the Divine nature it cannot change.

This love is shed abroad in our hearts: i.e., We have a full conviction and assurance that we are its objects. There might be a conviction that God is love, and that His love toward some men is infinitely great, and that it is gratuitous and unchangeable, and yet we might remain in the blackness of despair. It is only when we are assured that we are its objects that we have a hope which sustains and renders blessed.

We know that we are the objects of this love.

1. Not simply because God loves all men.

2. Nor because we see in ourselves effects of regeneration and the evidences of holiness; for--

(1) This love was prior to regeneration.

(2) Holiness is the fruit of the assurance of it.

3. But by the Holy Ghost. How we cannot tell, and it is unreasonable to ask. We might as well ask how He produces faith, peace, joy, or any other grace. It is enough to say negatively that it is not--

(1) By exciting our love to God, whence we infer His love to us: the order is the reverse. Nor--

(2) By simply opening our eyes to see what a wonderful display of love is made in redemption: for that we might see and yet suppose ourselves excluded.

The proof that we are not deluded is this matter is to be found in the effects of this conviction.

1. The effects of such a conviction when unfounded are seen in the Jews, Papists, and Antinomians, and are--

(1) Pride.

(2) Malignity.

(3) Immorality.

2. When produced by the Holy Ghost the effects are--

(1) Humility. Nothing so bows down the soul as a sense of undeserved love.

(2) The tenderest concern for those who are not thus favoured, and an earnest desire that they may share our blessedness.

(3) Love to God. Love begets love: and our love to God is mingled with admiration, wonder, gratitude, and zeal for His glory.

(4) Obedience. (C. Hodge, D. D.)

The love of God shed abroad in the heart

The love of God. If you would have this love shed abroad in your hearts you must consider carefully--

1. Who it is that loves you, namely, the most high God. To be loved is a sublime thought, but to be loved of Him is a right royal thing, A courtier will often think it quite enough if he hath the favour of his prince. It means riches, pleasure, honour. And what means the love of the King of kings to you? All that you ever can need.

2. What He is who so loves you. Very much of the value of affection depends upon whom it comes from. It would be a very small thing to have the complacency of some of our fellow creatures whose praise might almost be considered censure. To have the love of the good, the excellent, this is truest wealth; and so to enjoy the love of God is an utterly priceless thing!

3. The remarkable characteristics of that love,

(1) It is heaven born; it sprang from no source but itself, and is not caused by any excellence in the creature.

(2) It is self-sustaining. It borrows nothing from without. It lives, and shall live as long as God lives.

(3) Utterly unbounded and altogether unequalled. You cannot say of God’s love it has gone thereto, but it shall go no further. There is no love that can any more be compared with God’s than the faint gleam of a candle with the blaze of the sun at noonday. He loves His people so much that He gives them all that He hath.

(4) It is unvarying and unsleeping. He never loves us less, He cannot love us more. The multiplicity of the saints doth not diminish the infinite love which each one enjoys. Never for a single moment does He forget His Church.

(5) It is undying and unfailing.

The love of God is shed abroad. Here is an alabaster box of very precious ointment, it holds within the costly frankincense of the love of God; but we know nothing of it, it is closed up, a mystery, a secret. The Holy Spirit opens the box, and now the fragrance fills the chamber; every spiritual taste perceives it, heaven and earth are perfumed with it.

1. No one can shed abroad the love of God in the heart but the Holy Ghost. It is He that first puts it there.

2. Do you inquire in what way is the love of God shed abroad?

(1) The Holy Spirit enables the man to be assured that he is an object of the Divine love in the first place. The man comes to the Cross as a guilty sinner, looks up to the Cross, trusts in the living Saviour, and then cries, “I am saved, for I have God’s promise to that effect. Now, since I am saved, I must have been the object of the Lord’s love.”

(2) Next thing, the Spirit makes the man understand what kind of love this is, not all at once, but by degrees, until he apprehends Jehovah’s love in its length and breadth and height.

(3) But then comes the essence of the matter--the Holy Spirit enables the soul to meditate upon this love, casts out the cares of the world, and then the man, while he meditates, finds a fire begins to burn within his soul. Meditating yet more, he is lifted up from the things of earth. Meditating still, he is astonished, and then, filled with strong emotion, he cries, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.” Then while gratitude is still within his soul a Divine resignation to all the Master’s will keeps rule within him. Then follows a rapturous leaping over this devout calm, a joy unutterable, next akin to heaven, fills the heart.

This love becomes the confirmation of our hope. Hope rests itself mainly upon that which is not seen; the promise of God whom eye hath not beheld. Still it is exceedingly sweet to us if we receive some evidence and token of Divine love which we can positively enjoy even now. And there are some of us who do not want Butler’s “Analogy” or Paley’s “Evidences” to back our faith; we have our own analogy and our own evidences within, for the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, and we have tasted and seen that the Lord is gracious. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The love of God shed abroad in the heart

It does not descend upon us as dew in drops, but as a stream which spreads itself abroad through the whole soul, filling it with consciousness of His presence and favour. (Philippi.)

The love of God shed abroad by the Holy Ghost

Frequently at the great Roman games the emperors, in order to gratify the citizens of Rome, would cause sweet perfumes to be rained down upon them through the awning which covered the amphitheatre. Behold the vases, the huge vessels of perfume! Yes; but there is nought here to delight you so long as the jars are sealed; but let the vases be opened and the vessels be poured out, and let the drops of perfumed rain begin to descend, and everyone is refreshed and gratified thereby. Such is the love of God. There is a richness and a fulness in it, but it is not perceived till the Spirit of God pours it out like the rain of fragrance over the heads and hearts of all the living children of God. See, then, the need of having the love of God shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The love of God in the heart

This love--

Is not naturally revealed to man. It beams on all, like the sun which shines whether the clouds hide his heat or not. So God’s love always exists, although the clouds of sin may dim and obscure its rays. It existed in Paradise, in the fall, when man is most depraved and dark. It exists amid all the sin of the earth, in the wretched corners where crime and vice exist. It exists amid all the negligence with which God is treated.

Is not appreciated or responded to. If it were, the lives of men would be far different to what “they are. The reason is that clouds of sin and its effects intervene to prevent its influence. For the most part men keep in the shade when they might live in the warmth and brightness of the sunshine.

Must be felt and responded to. It is impossible to be a child of God without. For to realise the love of God is the only foundation on which we can build any substantial hope for the future. Nothing but love could consider guilty, fallen creatures, or have contrived a method of salvation. Nothing but love can guide us safely through life and through death.

Can be realised and appreciated.

1. The method--“shed abroad.” God does nothing with a niggardly hand. The love of God is not sent in a puny dribble; it comes like the waters of an incoming tide, mighty, resistless. His love fills the soul and surrounds it and permeates our nature.

2. The place--“in our hearts.” The heart is the spring of life, and metaphorically is the centre of spiritual life. It is the heart that is said to feel love. And so it is represented that the heart receives the love of God. Our hearts receive all the blood from the body, and then, after purifying it, sends it back to all parts of the body. So we are to receive the love of God in the heart to be distributed over all our life and actions.

3. The means--“by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” The great King always uses means. The Holy Spirit is the appointed channel through which all the graces are sent from heaven to earth.

(1) The value of the Holy Spirit is, it is always a present means. It is not “should” be given, but “is” given.

(2) The certainty of the blessing. Like the Holy Spirit, it is always present.

(3) The value of the gift--the love of God. What will not love accomplish? What will it not attain? The love of God is infinite. And if we appreciate it, if we share it, if we enjoy it, then is our lot the most blessed. (U. R. Thomas.)

Personal piety

Its source and seat.

1. Its source: “the love of God.” False religions spring from fear, but true religion springs from love. God’s love, as revealed in the gift of His Son, begets love in us, and just as the sun is the author of life in the natural world, so God is the Author of all life and light in the human soul.

2. Its seat: “in our hearts.” All life and growth must begin within, or they will prove to be nothing but fruitless fungus. Morality in the life may be the outcome of self-respect, or early culture, or fear of shame and sorrow. Personal piety has to do not only with the conduct, but the character; and the character is decided by the condition of the heart in the sight of God. Out of the heart are the issues of life, and if the love of God be there holiness will be stamped upon thought, word, and deed. The love of God diffuses itself in the heart like light, life, warmth, fragrance, and spreads through every avenue of the soul till the possessor of it becomes a temple of the Holy Ghost.

Its operation and outcome. Hope is the natural and inevitable outcome of love. We expect to derive joy and blessedness from the persons upon whom our affections become fixed, and who take possession of our hearts, and we are “not ashamed” of those we love, but are ready at any time to acknowledge them and identify ourselves with them. Courageous and confiding hope--

1. Sanctifies. If we love God, and hope one day to see Him and be with Him, we shall seek to please Him and become like Him.

2. Sustains. While we look at the things which are unseen and eternal, the sorrows and sufferings of the present seem very light and small.

3. Stimulates. Hope, springing from love in the heart, will quicken all the faculties of the mind and fire all the passions of the soul. Love will constrain to consecration, and hope stimulate to action.

Its generator and guardian. Whatever the means we use, or the channels through which Divine blessings come to us, they all proceed from the Holy Ghost which is given unto us; the rise, progress, and perfection of personal piety must be attributed to that source. Let us, then, be careful that we grieve not, quench not the Holy Spirit, nor dishonour God by trusting too much to outward forms and worldly noise and show. If we lose the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, if the love of God expire in our hearts, there will only remain within us the white ashes of a former fire, and “Ichabod” will be written upon our desolated and darkened brows. (F. W. Brown.)

By the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.--

The gift of the Holy Ghost is

The pledge of what is to come (Romans 8:23; 2 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Corinthians 5:5; Ephesians 1:14).

The witness of our sonship (Romans 8:16; Galatians 4:6).

The Author of all gracious fruits and experiences (Galatians 5:22-23).

The Revealer of all Divine truth (John 16:13-14; 1 Corinthians 2:10-12; 1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27). The seal and bond of our union with Christ and God (Ephesians 4:20; Romans 8:9-11). (T. Robinson, D. D.)

Verses 6-12

Romans 5:6-12

For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

Without strength

Utter condemnation and loss lies in that little word “not.” “Ungodly,” or not godly, is to be strengthless, condemned, and lost.

By nature all men are ungodly. Ungodliness takes a great many forms.

1. In some it is lawlessness. It is seen in the breach of every Divine commandment.

(1) Idolatry is the sin of hundreds of thousands during every hour of time.

(2) Swearing and impiety load every gale.

(3) Sabbath breaking is, wherever there is a Sabbath to break.

(4) Parents are disobeyed and neglected.

(5) Murder: does it not come to our very doors, and shock the city with its terrors?

(6) Adultery: is not that one of the sins which is fed by our wealth and the artificial state of society? and is it not preying on the very vitals of the nation’s life?

(7) Dishonesty: Diogenes would still need his lantern in some places of the city and the world if he would find an honest man.

(8) False witness, slander: what society is free from these? What man or woman is safe from them?

(9) Covetousness: no man has anything which is not apt to be desired unlawfully by another. All these commandments are broken because men are ungodly. If men were godly they would see the excellency and the beauty of them. They do see this when they become godly.

2. But ungodliness may exist in strength where there is little or no outward violation of the commandments. A man may keep them all in the letter, and not one of them in the spirit; he may still have the “carnal mind which is enmity against God.” Suppose a child of yours were to forget your name, or to show indifference about you when named, or coldness and dislike, although veiled under the form of politeness, could anyone persuade you that all that was consistent with loving you? And is not God forgotten? Disliked? Treated like a stranger, like an enemy? Ungodliness--that is the great sin.

The affecting concomitant of this state of things.

1. Ungodliness brings of necessity many evils in its train, condemnation, banishment from God, the wild passions and the miseries of life, gloomy, dismal prospects; but perhaps the most affecting thing of all is moral paralysis, “without strength.”

2. The meaning is this--that there is in ungodly human nature no recuperative power, no blessed gracious recoil in itself, back again to goodness. We may look up, but we cannot rise. A tree may be bent almost to breaking, but in a day it is erect again. There are some trees which do more than recover! The prevalent winds in Mexico which split the plantain’s leaves and warp the mango tree, give the cocoanut tree a permanent inclination towards the winds. This result arises from the rebound of the stems after being bent by the wind. Did you ever hear of any man having such a spring in his own nature, that the more he was pressed down by evil the higher he would rise in goodness? Is not the process rather “waxing worse and worse”--going away backwards? “Not liking,” and liking less and less, “to retain God in their knowledge.”

3. Without strength--

(1) Of reason, to find the lost God.

(2) Of wisdom, to discover the right plan of life.

(3) Of conscience, to see and testify for true morality.

(4) Of will, to do the duty that is apparent.

(5) Of affection, which has all been squandered and lost, to love God even when He reveals Himself!

4. This is a very sad condition. If you saw a man who, by his self-will and over-confidence, had brought on himself some terrible disaster, you would yet pity him, and help him out of his difficulty. And do you think that God will not pity a whole world of immortal creatures made in His own image? True, He condemns. But He also sorrows, over our fall, and yearns for our salvation.

Seasonable interposition. “In due time.” As “for everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven,” so there was a ripe and full time for the manifestation of God in the flesh.

1. This manifestation was not made too soon. Suppose it had been made very soon after the fall, men might have said, “We got more help than we needed--we were not fully proved--we had no chance to try our powers.” If Christ had come sooner--

(1) The Jewish priests might have said, “We are sent away from the altar too soon; perhaps the blood of bulls and of goats might take away sin in the end.”

(2) The heathen philosophers might have said, “We are superseded too soon. The World by wisdom might know God, if time were given.”

(3) The great conquerors, Nimrod, Cyrus, Alexander, etc., might have said, as representing kings and all civil governments, and the whole doctrine of force in this world, “The sceptre is wrested from us too soon; a few more battles and the world would have been one empire of far-stretching righteousness and peace.” But no such protest was raised. They were all silent, priest, and sage, and conqueror.

2. The Divine interposition did not come too late.

(1) Not after the world had grown so old in sin that it had lost in its wanderings the very faculty of hearing the recalling voice.

(2) Not when even the salt of the earth, the chosen people, had lost their savour, worn out their own beliefs, and lost, as they might have done, the knowledge of God.

(3) Not when all the continents and islands of the earth were full, and no fresh tracts remained to be claimed and peopled by races baptized into a nobler faith. Not too soon, and not too late, but when the world was weary of waiting, like a sufferer worn out with a long sickness, in this “due,” “full” time, the Saviour came.

He came to die.

1. The fountain and spring of our salvation is the death of Christ--

(1) One might have said when the angels sang, “Unto you is born this day a Saviour,”--that will be humiliation enough--will have virtue enough to save us. No; incarnation is the foundation fact, but something more must be built on it.

(2) Is life enough? Working, sleeping, passing up and down Nazareth for thirty years? No; this is not redemption. It brings us nearer to it, year by year. But life like this forever would not have saved us.

(3) Is teaching enough? No; that had great power, but was like God’s law: it made sin more exceeding sinful, but did not take it away.

(4) Would translations to heaven, then, have been enough? No; nothing will do but this.

2. “Christ died for us,” as our Ransom and Substitute, not merely for our benefit and advantage. All the explanations of this truth, with which we are familiar, have force in them, although they all come short of the great and blessed meaning. He died--

(1) To satisfy justice. Not only would it be impossible for God to save in any violation of that attribute, but men themselves could not (for their own moral nature would not allow it) accept a salvation that did not consist with the integrity and clearness of that attribute.

(2) To honour the Divine law, which is the visible strength and protection of the universe, the wall of heaven and earth.

(3) To procure for us a righteous forgiveness, a peace--calm, and deep, and pure--like the very peace of God.

(4) To cancel guilt, to cleanse us by His sacrificial blood.

(5) To express Divine grace and boundless favour.

3. And this great act is brought before us here, and everywhere, as the most wonderful proof that could be given of the love of God. In the whole course of human history there has been nothing like it (Romans 5:7). Who ever heard of anyone dying for a worthless man? But this is what God does. “He commendeth,” makes very conspicuous and great, His love to us, in sending Christ to die for us, “while we were yet sinners.” Take away the love; make the death only a great historical fact, necessary to the accomplishment of God’s purpose in the development of this world; make it a contrivance in moral government, and although it will still be an impressive fact, you have shorn it of its glory. It is no longer the loadstone that draws all hearts. The death without the love might still be the wonder of angels, and the political admiration of the universe, but would be no longer the joy and rest of humble souls. “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.” How? By the subtle, mysterious power of all-conquering love. Do you see it? Are you drawn by it? I long to lead you to the “large and wealthy place,” to which you have right and title. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)

Man’s impotency to help himself out of his misery

The condition wherein we are by nature “without strength.” This will appear if you consider man’s condition--

1. With respect to the law (Galatians 3:10). Consider--

(1) The duty it exacts; universal, perpetual, perfect obedience. If man fails in one point, he is gone (Ezekiel 18:4; Ezekiel 20:11). Now if God should call us to an account for the most inoffensive day that ever we passed over, what would become of us? (Psalms 130:3). So that we are “without strength” to conform to the law’s requirements (chap. 8:3).

(2) The penalty it inflicts: “Cursed is everyone.”

(a) In all he hath (Deuteronomy 28:15-18).

(b) In all he doeth (Proverbs 21:27).

(c) For evermore (Matthew 25:41). We are “without strength,” because we cannot satisfy the justice of God for one sin.

(3) Its operation. Consider how all this works.

(a) Sometimes it terrifies (Hebrews 2:15; Acts 24:25).

(b) Sometimes it stupefies the conscience so that men grow senseless of their misery (Ephesians 4:19).

(c) Sometimes it irritates inbred corruption (Romans 7:9). As a dam makes a stream the more violent or as a bullock at the first yoking becometh the more unruly.

(d) Sometimes it breeds a sottish despair (Jeremiah 18:12). It is the worst kind of despair, when a man is given up to his “own heart’s lust” (Psalms 81:12), and runs headlong in the way of destruction, without hope of returning. Thus as to the law man is helpless.

2. With respect to terms of grace offered in the gospel. This will appear--

(1) By those emphatic terms by which the case and cure of man are set forth.

(a) His case. He is born in sin (Psalms 51:5), and things natural are not easily altered. He is greedy of sin (Job 15:16). Thirst is the most implacable appetite. His heart is a heart of stone (Ezekiel 36:26), and deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9), and the New Testament is no more favourable than the Old. There you will find man represented as a “child of wrath by nature” (Ephesians 2:3), a “servant of sin” (Romans 6:17), “alienated from God” (Ephesians 4:18). An enemy to God (Romans 8:7), “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1-5). Certainly man contributeth little to his own conversion: he cannot “hunger and thirst” after Christ that “drinks in iniquity like water.” If the Scripture had only said that man had accustomed himself to sin, and was not “born in sin”; that man was somewhat prone to iniquity, and not “greedy” of it, and did often think evil, and not “continually”; that man was somewhat obstinate, and not a “stone,” an “adamant”; if the Scripture had only said that man was indifferent to God, and not a professed “enemy”; if a captive of sin, and not a “servant”; if only weak, and not “dead”; if only a neuter, and not a “rebel”;--then there might be something in man, and the work of conversion not so difficult. But the Scripture saith the quite contrary.

(b) The cure. To remedy so great an evil requires an almighty power, and the all-sufficiency of grace; see, therefore, how conversion is described in Scripture. By enlightening the mind (Ephesians 1:18). By opening the heart (Acts 16:14). God knocks many times by the outward means, and as one that would open a door--He tries key after key, but till He putteth His fingers upon the handles of the lock (Song of Solomon 5:4-5), the door is not opened to Him. If these words are not emphatic enough, you will find conversion expressed by regeneration (John 3:3), resurrection (Ephesians 2:5), creation (Eph 2:10; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Psalms 51:10), victory (1 John 4:4), the beating and binding of the “strong man” by one that is “stronger than he” (Luke 11:21-22).

(2) By those assertions whereby all power is denied to man to convert himself to God, or to do anything that is spiritually good. As when it is said he cannot know (1 Corinthians 2:14), believe (John 6:44), obey (Romans 8:7). Nay, to instance in single acts: he cannot think a good thought of himself (2 Corinthians 3:5), speak a good word (Matthew 12:34), do anything (John 15:5). Surely, then, man is “without strength,” to turn himself to God. But here are objections--

(a) How can it stand with the mercy, justice, and wisdom of God to require of man what he cannot pay? Answer first--God doth not lose His right, though man hath lost his power; their impotency doth not dissolve their obligation; a drunken servant is a servant, and it is against all reason that the master should lose his right to command by the servant’s default. A prodigal debtor, that hath nothing to pay, yet is liable to be sued for the debt without any injustice. And shall not God challenge the debt of obedience from a debtor that is both proud and prodigal? Answer second--Our natural impotency is voluntary. We must not consider man only as impotent to good, but as delighting in evil: he will not come to God (John 5:40). Our impotency lies in our obstinacy, and so man is left without excuse. We refuse the grace that is offered to us, and by continuing in sin increase our bondage, our inveterate customs turning to another nature.

(b) If man be so altogether without strength, why do ye press him to the use of means? Answer--Though man cannot change himself, yet he is to use the means. First, that we may practically see our own weakness. Men think the work of grace is easy, till they put themselves upon a trial: the lameness of the arm is found in exercise. Whosoever sets himself in good earnest to get any grace, will be forced to cry for it before he hath done. When a man goes to lift up a piece of timber heavy above his strength, he is forced to call in help. Second, the use of the means we owe to God as well as the change of the heart. God, that hath required faith and conversion, hath required prayer, hearing, reading, meditating; and we are bound to obey, though we know not what good will come of it (Hebrews 11:8; Luke 5:5). Our great rule is, we are to do what He commandeth, and let God do what He will. Third, to lessen our guilt. For when men do not use the means, they have no excuse (Acts 13:46; Matthew 25:26). Fourth, it may be God will meet with us. It is the ordinary practice of His free grace so to do; and it is good to make trial upon a common hope (Acts 8:22).

Some reasons God permits this weakness.

1. To exalt His grace.

(1) Its freeness; for God hath shut up all under the curse, that there may be no way of escape but by His mercy (Romans 11:32; Galatians 3:22).

(2) Its power (Ephesians 1:19). When we consider it, we may wonder at it that ever such a change should be wrought in us that are so carnal, so obstinate (1 Peter 2:9). It is indeed marvellous that ever we should get out of the prison of sin; more miraculous than Peter’s getting out of prison.

2. To humble the creature thoroughly by a sense of his own guilt, unworthiness, and nothingness (Romans 3:19).

Conclusion: The subject is of use--

1. To the unconverted--to be sensible of their condition, and mourn over it to God. Acknowledge the debt; confess your impotency; beg pardon and grace; and, in a humble sense of your misery, endeavour earnestly to come out of it. By such doctrines as these men are either “cut at heart” (Acts 7:54) or “pricked at heart” (Acts 2:37).

2. To press the converted to thankfulness. We were once in such a pitiful ease.

3. Let us compassionate others that are in this estate, and endeavour to rescue them. (T. Manton, D. D.)

A weak world made strong

The moral prostration of humanity. “When we were yet without,” not muscular or mental, but moral “strength.”

1. To effect the deliverance of self. The souls of all were “carnal, sold under sin.” Man, the world over, felt this profoundly for ages. His cry was--“O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?” etc. Philosophers, priests, poets, tried to deliver the soul, but failed.

2. To render acceptable service to the Creator. “Wherewithal shall we come before the Lord, and how shall we bow before the Most High God?”

3. To face the future with calmness. Deep in the hearts of all men was the belief in a future life, but that future rose before them in aspects so terrible that they recoiled from it. No weakness so distressing as this; moral powerlessness is not only a curse, but a crime. Yet all unregenerate men are the subjects of this lamentable prostration.

The reinvigorating power of Christ’s death. “In due time Christ died for the ungodly.” Christ’s death enables man--

1. To deliver himself. It generates within him a new spiritual life, by which he throws off its enthrallments as the winged chrysalis its crust. Christ’s death is the life of souls.

2. To render acceptable service to God. It presents to him--

(1) The right motive.

(2) The right method.

3. To calmly face the future. Christ’s death reveals a bright future, and furnishes the means for attaining it. Christ’s death is the moral power of the world. It inspires men with love--love is power; with faith--faith is power; with hope--hope is power; with courage--courage is power.

The seasonable period of the redeemer’s mission. “In due time,” i.e.

1. When the world was prepared to appreciate it. Mankind had tried every means they could invent to deliver themselves from the power of sin, to attain the approval of their Maker, and to win a bright future, but had failed. Four thousand years of earnest philosophisings and sacerdotal labour, legislative enactments, and moral teachings, had signally failed. “The world by wisdom knew not God.” The intellect of Judaea, Greece, Rome, all failed. The world was prostrate in hopelessness.

2. The time appointed by Heaven. The time had been designated by the prophets (Genesis 49:10; Daniel 9:27; John 17:1).

3. The time most favourable for the universal diffusion of the fact.

(1) There was a general expectation of a Great Deliverer.

(2) The world was at peace, and mainly under the control of one government--Rome.

(3) The Greek language was all but universally spoken.

(4) Communications were opened up between all the villages, towns, and cities of the world. “In due time Christ died.” (D. Thomas, D. D.)

For whom did Christ die

?--The human race is here described as a sick man in an advanced stage of disease; no power remains in his system to throw off his mortal malady, nor does he desire to do so. Your condition is not only your calamity, but your fault. Other diseases men grieve about, but you love this evil which is destroying you. While man is in this condition Jesus interposes for his salvation.

The fact. “Christ died for the ungodly,”

1. Christ means “Anointed One,” and indicates that He was commissioned by supreme authority. Jesus was both set apart to this work and qualified for it by the anointing of the Holy Ghost. He is no unauthorised, no amateur deliverer, but one with full credentials from the Father.

2. Christ died. He did a great deal besides dying, but the crowning act of His career of love, and that which rendered all the rest available, was His death. This death was--

(1) Real, as proved by the piercing of His side, and His burial.

(2) Acute. “My God, My God, why,” etc.

(3) Penal; inflicted upon Him by Divine justice; and rightly so, for on Him lay our iniquities, and therefore on Him must lie the suffering.

(4) Terrible. Condemned to a felon’s gibbet, He was crucified amid a mob of jesters.

3. Christ died, not for the righteous, but for the ungodly, or the godless, who, having cast off God, cast off with Him all love for that which is right. He did not please Himself with some rosy dream of a superior race yet to come, when civilisation would banish crime, and wisdom would conduct man back to God. Full well He knew that, left to itself, the world would grow worse and worse. This view was not only the true one, but the kindly one; because had Christ died for the better sort, then each troubled spirit would have inferred. “He died not for me.” Had the merit of His death been the perquisite of honesty, where would have been the dying thief? If of chastity, where the woman that loved much? If of courageous fidelity, how would it have fared with the apostles, who all forsook Him and fled? Then, again, in this condition lay the need of our race that Christ should die. To what end could Christ have died for the good? “The just for the unjust” I can understand; but the “just dying for the just” were a double injustice.

Plain inferences from this fact.

1. That you are in great danger. Jesus would not interpose His life if there were not solemn need and imminent peril. The Cross is the danger signal to you, it warns you that if God spared not His only Son, He will not spare you.

2. That out of this danger only Christ can deliver the ungodly, and He only through His death. If a less price than that of the life of the Son of God could have redeemed men, He would have been spared. If, then, “God spared not His Son, but freely delivered Him up for us all,” there must have been a dread necessity for it.

3. That Jesus died out of pure pity, because the character of those for whom He died could not have attracted Him. “God commendeth His love towards us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”

4. That the ungodly have no excuse if they do not come to Him, and believe in Him unto salvation. Had it been otherwise they might have pleaded, “We are not fit to come.” But you are ungodly, and Christ died for the ungodly, why not for you?

5. That the converted find no ground of boasting; for they were ungodly, and, as such, Christ died for them.

6. That saved ones must not think lightly of sin. If God had forgiven sinners without an atonement they might have done so, but now that pardon comes through the bitter griefs of their Redeemer they cannot but see it to be an exceeding great evil.

7. This fact is the grandest argument to make the ungodly love Christ when they are saved.

The proclamation of this fact.

1. In this the whole Church ought to take its share. Shout it, or whisper it; print it in capitals, or write it in a large hand. Speak it solemnly; it is not a thing for jest. Speak it joyfully; it is not a theme for sorrow. Speak it firmly; it is an indisputable fact. Speak it earnestly; for if there be any truth which ought to arouse all a man’s soul it is this. Speak it where the ungodly live, and that is at your Own house. Speak it also in the haunts of debauchery. Tell it in the gaol; and sit down at the dying bed and read in a tender whisper--“Christ died for the ungodly.”

2. And you that are not saved, take care that you receive this message. Believe it. Fling yourself right on to this as a man commits himself to his life belt amid the surging billows. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The sad plight and the sure relief

The condition of those for whom Christ died.

1. They were “without strength.”

(1) Legally. Before God’s bar man had a weak case.

(a) We could not deny the charge that we had broken the law.

(b) We could not set up an alibi.

(c) We could not make apologies, for we have sinned wilfully, repeatedly, without any necessity, with divers aggravations, deliberately and presumptuously, when we knew the penalty. So weak was our case that no advocate who understood it would have ventured to plead it, except that one glorious Advocate who pleaded it at the cost of His own life.

(2) Morally. We are so weak by nature that we are swayed by every influence which assails us. At one time man is driven by fashion; at another he is afraid of his fellow men. Then the evil spirit comes upon him, or if the devil should let him alone, his own heart suffices. The pomp of this world, the lust of the eye, the pride of life--any of these things will drive men about at random. Nothing seems to be too wicked, too insane, for mankind. Man is morally weak--a poor, crazy child. He has lost that strong hand of a well-trained perfect reason which God gave him at the first.

(3) Spiritually. When man disobeyed he died spiritually. The blessed Spirit left him. Man is dead in sin. He cannot rise to God any more than the dead in the grave can come out of their sepulchres of themselves and live.

2. They were “ungodly,” i.e., men without God. God is not--

(1) In their thoughts.

(2) In their hearts. If they do remember Him, they do not love Him.

(3) In their fears.

(4) In their hopes. Christ came to save the very vilest of the vile.

When Christ interposed to save us. In “due time,” i.e., at a proper period. There was no accident about it. Sin among mankind in general had reached a climax.

1. There never was a more debauched age. It is impossible to read chap. 1. without feeling sick at the depravity it records. Their own satirists said that there was no new vice that could be invented. Even Socrates and Solon practised vices which I dare not mention in any modest assembly. But it was when man had got to his worst that Christ was lifted up to be a standard of virtue--to be a brazen serpent for the cure of the multitudes who everywhere were dying of the serpent’s bites.

2. Christ came at a time when the wisdom of man had got to a great height. Philosophers were seeking to dazzle men with their teaching, but the bulk of their teaching was foolishness, couched in paradoxical terms to make it look like wisdom. “The world by wisdom knew not God.”

3. But, surely, man had a religion! He had; but the less we say about it the better. Holy rites were acts of flagrant sin. The temples were abominable, and the priests were abominable beyond description. And where the best part of man, his very religion, had become so foul, what could we expect of his ordinary life? But was there not a true religion in the world somewhere? Yes, but among the Jews tradition had made void the law of God, and ritualism had taken the place of spiritual worship. The Pharisee thanked God that he was not as other men were, when he had got in his pocket the deeds of a widow’s estate of which he had robbed her. The Sadducee was an infidel. The best men of the period in Christ’s days said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth!” Now, it was when men had got to this pitch that Christ came to die for them. If He had launched His thunderbolts at them, or swept the whole race away, none could have blamed Him. But, instead of that, the pure and Holy One came down to earth Himself to die, that these wretches--yea, that we ourselves--might live through Him.

What did he do for us?

1. He made the fullest degree of sacrifice that was possible. He made the heavens, and yet He lay in Bethlehem’s manger. He hung the stars in their places, and laid the beams of the universe, and yet became a carpenter’s son; and then when He grew up He consented to be the servant of servants. When at last He gave His life, “It is finished,” said He; self-sacrifice had reached its climax; but He could not have saved us if He had stopped short of that.

2. In the fact that Christ’s self-sacrifice went so far I see evidence of the extreme degree of our need. Would He, who is “God over all, blessed forever,” have come from the height of heaven and have humbled Himself even to the death, to save us, if it had not been a most terrible ruin to which we were subject?

3. This death of Christ was the surest way of our deliverance. The just dies for the unjust, the offended Judge Himself suffers for the offence against His own law.

What then?

1. Then sin cannot shut any man out from the grace of God if he believes. The man says, “I am without strength.” Christ died for us when we were without strength. The man says, “I am ungodly.” Christ died for the ungodly.

2. Then Jesus will never cast away a believer for his after sins, for if when we were without strength He died for us, if, when we were ungodly, He interposed on our behalf, will He leave us now that He has made us godly (Romans 1:10)?

3. Then every blessing any child of God can want he can have. He that spared not His own Son when we were without strength and ungodly, cannot deny us inferior blessings now that we are His own dear children.

4. Then how grateful we ought to be! (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Glorying in God

God’s love to us. Note--

1. The condition in which it found us. We were--

(1) Without strength. Let this be viewed as--

(a) Moral impotence; and is it not true that we were unable to do that which is good? When we wished to do it, we could not will it. We felt ourselves captives of the devil, sold and bound under sin.

(b) Helplessness in the time of danger; and is it not true that we were without strength to defend ourselves against the condemnation of the law, and the righteous anger of Jehovah?

(2) Ungodly, that is, destitute of true righteousness. We were not only weak, but unwilling to do good.

(3) Sinners; transgressors of God’s law in act and deed. Being corrupt trees, we brought forth evil fruit.

(4) Enemies to God. We did not love Him, or care for Him. Nay, we insulted Him, fought against Him, silently or violently, and so lived as to counteract and oppose all His purposes, so far as we had the power.

2. What that love has done for us. When we were in this state of helplessness and rebellion against God, He gave His Son to die for us. By that death believers are justified and reconciled to God.

3. The comparison of this love with the behaviour of men to each other (Romans 1:7-8). The righteous man is a man of correct and irreproachable behaviour; but the good man is a man of generosity and kindness, who wins the hearts of his friends, and for whom friends have been willing to die. But for a merely just man, you would scarcely find any willing to lay down his life; while certainly for the base and mean of mankind, or for his personal enemies, no man has been found willing to die. “But God commendeth His love toward us in that, while we were wickedly His enemies, He gave His Son to die for us.”

4. That this love was manifested in due time (Mark 1:15; Galatians 4:4; and Ephesians 1:10). This time seems to have been determined by the stage arrived at in history when man’s utter helplessness was fully demonstrated. Many centuries were allowed for the world to exhaust every device, to accomplish its own moral renovation. War and peace had been tried, together with every possible form of civil government. Philosophy and science, civilisation and religion, literature and art, had been carried sufficiently far to prove how utterly powerless they all were to accomplish the end designed. It was impossible for anyone to say, If He had waited a little longer, we should have found out some other plan, and been able to do without Him. How this enhances our conception of God’s love! He patiently tarried to see what mankind could achieve for themselves; and He beheld them at length entirely helpless, hopeless of self-restoration, and callously indifferent to the interposition of Heaven, Then it was that God sent His Son to die for the ungodly.

Our hope in God. Look at--

1. The salvation of which we are so sure. It is a salvation from wrath; and it is a salvation to heaven (Romans 1:9).

2. The grounds of this confidence. The apostle argues from the greater difficulty to the less. For--

(1) We were reconciled when enemies; how much more, being now the friends of God, shall we enjoy the full blessings of His grace?

(2) We were saved from guilt by His death; how much more shall we be sanctified and prepared for heaven by Him living for us.

Our glorying in God. If such be our apprehension of God’s love to us, and such the confidence of our hope and trust in Him for the future, it is not hard to see how we must “joy,” or rather make our boast in Him through Jesus Christ, by whom this blessedness of reconciliation with God has been secured. Think of--

1. The greatness of our heavenly Friend. In nature how noble! In attributes how august!

2. His goodness. Many rejoice in the friendship of the great and powerful, while they cannot boast of the goodness and integrity of their patrons. But here it is permitted us to glory in the perfect rectitude and moral loveliness of Him in whose name we make our boast.

3. His riches. We might have a kind and good friend, whose ability to help us might fall far short of his disposition. But it is not so with God.

4. His love. The great ones of the earth bestow their friendship on inferiors in a cold and meagre manner. But God gives us and shows us all His heart.

5. His purposes concerning us. It is impossible to exaggerate the value of the good things which He hath prepared for them that love Him.


1. How happy should believers be, rejoicing, as they are privileged to do, “with a joy unspeakable and full of glory.”

2. How humble, when they remember their unworthiness, and their inability to render back any sufficient return to God.

3. How holy and diligent in their endeavour to walk worthily of so high a calling, and so great a Friend.

4. How thankful, when they consider what they owe unto God.

5. How ready to praise Him for all His goodness toward them.

6. How willing to trust Him with all the issues of their salvation in the time to come.

The certainty of the believer’s final redemption

The apostle establishes this point by means of two reasons--

The great love which God has already bestowed on man. This is seen in--

1. The unworthiness of the object.

(1) “Without strength.” In this expression the apostle is probably accommodating himself to the natural disposition of the Romans. Rome was a mighty empire, and its motto was “power.” Their highest notion of goodness, as the word “virtue” indicates, was strength. Hence Paul represents the gospel as “the power of God.” Nothing was so detestable in their eyes as weakness. And what a helpless man was in the estimation of the Roman, that--universal man--was in the sight of God. There was nothing to evoke the Divine complacency, but everything to repel.

(2) “Ungodly.” There was not only the destitution of what was holy, but also the absence of desire for any good.

(3) “Sinners.” When God is banished from the thought, as suggested by the word “ungodly,” His place is usurped by unworthy rivals. The higher principles of the soul are made subordinate to the lower. Disorder prevails; and to God, who in the beginning commanded the chaotic earth to wear its present aspect of beauty, nothing could be more repelling than the huge disorder reigning in the human soul bent on fulfilling the desires of the flesh.

(4) “Enemies.” Here the apostle reaches the climax of his reasoning. All the unworthiness of man must be attributed to his enmity against God. In this man is a sad exception to everything else Which God has made. In nature, God’s will and power are coextensive. But man disobeys and resists his Maker. The very power which was given him to hate sin is so perverted that it is used against God Himself.

2. The greatness of Christ’s sacrifice. With reverence we would say, that to redeem man was not easy even to God. It required an infinite sacrifice to remove the curse connected with sin. And for this purpose “God spared not His own Son.” Now, if God bestowed such an incomparable love upon man when he was “without strength,” “ungodly,” sinful, and inimical towards Him, surely He will not withhold any blessing from man when he is reconciled to Him, and adopted to His family again.

What Christ’s life in heaven is doing, contrasted with what His death has done.

1. However important we may regard the death of our Lord, we must not consider His life in heaven of secondary moment. Apart from this life His death would not avail us. But the apostle asserts that the death of Christ effected our reconciliation to God. And shall we doubt the power of His life? Nay; the good work which He hath begun on our behalf will be fully consummated.

2. Besides, the nature of Christ’s work in heaven is a pledge for the final safety of the believer, “He liveth to make intercession for us.” His intercession is the completion of His sacrifice, and perpetuates the efficacy of His atonement. (H. Hughes.)

Christ’s vicarious death

One of the most hopeless cases ever brought into the Moyamensing Prison in Philadelphia, U.S., was a negress, who was convicted of a crime of violence. She was a huge, fierce animal, who had been born and had lived in the slums of Alaska Street. She was a drunkard and dissolute from childhood. The chaplain, after she had been under his charge for six months, shook his head hopelessly and passed by her cell without a word. One day the matron, taking a bunch of scarlet flowers from her hat, threw them to “Deb” carelessly, with a pleasant word or two. The woman started in astonishment, and then thanked her earnestly. The next day the matron saw the flowers, each leaf straightened and smoothed, pinned up on the wall of the cell. Deb, in a gentle voice, called attention to them, praised their beauty, and tried, in her clumsy way, to show the pleasure they had given her. “That woman,” said the matron to the chaplain, “has the rarest of all good qualities. She is grateful. There is one square inch of good ground in which to plant your seed.” The matron herself planted the seed. Every day she showed some little kindness to the poor, untamed creature, who was gradually softened and subdued simply by affection for this, her first friend, whom she followed like a faithful dog: By and by, the matron took her as a helper in the ward, a favour given only to the convicts whose conduct deserved reward. The matron’s hold upon the woman grew stronger each day. At last she told her the story of the Saviour’s love and sacrifice. Deb listened with wide, eager eyes. “He died for me--me!” she said. The matron gave up her position, but when Deb was discharged she took her into her house as a servant, trained, taught her, cared for her body and soul, always planting her seeds in that “one inch of good ground.” Deb is now a humble Christian. “He died for me,” was the thought which lightened her darkened soul. (American Youths Companion.)

Verses 7-8

Romans 5:7-8

For scarcely for a righteous man will one die … but God commendeth His love.

Human and Divine love contrasted

The love of man to his fellow creatures (Romans 5:7). You may find in history generosity and gratitude manifested by the greatest of all sacrifices--that of life. But such instances are rare. We read of dangers encountered, sufferings endured, for the purpose of rescuing others from destruction; but seldom of devotion to death, in order to deliver a fellow mortal from the heaviest calamity, or to procure for him the most precious privilege. When such an instance has occurred it has been uniformly a tribute paid to distinguished excellence, or an acknowledgment of obligations too strong and sacred to be fulfilled by a less noble or costly recompense.

1. Suppose an individual distinguished for honour and integrity, who had exerted himself on all occasions to maintain the rights, and redress the wrongs of others, whose righteous deportment, fidelity, and defence of truth had rendered him the object of profound and universal veneration; suppose that such a person, by the decree of despotism, were doomed to expiate an imaginary crime on an ignominious scaffold, would you step forward to save his life by the sacrifice of your own? No; nor can we imagine anyone doing it.

2. But, supposing that to righteousness we add benevolence--all that is melting in tenderness, winning in compassion, god-like in beneficence, would there be any among those to whom such characters are dearest, or any, even of those who had shared his kindness, that would agree to be his substitute? Yes; you may conceive such cases to occur. Still, however, the apostle speaks correctly; it is only “some” who would thus die for a good man--that, even for this act of chivalry “daring” would be required--and that after all, the fact must be qualified with a “peradventure.” To the statement of the apostle we may add that of our Lord, that “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends:” This is the utmost limit to which human affection can go. And this may be still more readily admitted, if we consider friendship as comprehending those relationships which, binding husband and wife, parent and child, brother and sister, by a thousand endearments, instinctively prompt to efforts and endurances, from whose ample range even the terrors of death are not excluded.

3. But supposing a person iniquitous and hostile, condemned to die for his iniquity and rebellion, and under his sentence, cherished as bitter an enmity against his benefactor as he had ever done before, would that benefactor consent to suffer his judicial fate, in order to send him back again to the life and liberty he had so justly forfeited? Ah! no; that is a height of love which humanity has never reached, and of which humanity is utterly incapable. And were it ever to occur, we should be compelled to rank it amongst the greatest miracles.

The love of God to man is illustrated by two circumstances.

1. “Christ died for us.” The apostle could not speak of God dying for us, for death cannot possibly be predicted of Him who “alone hath immortality.” We must remember, therefore, who Christ was, as well as what He did. But in viewing His death as a manifestation of Divine love, we must recollect the connection which God had with it. The scheme, of which it formed the leading feature and the essential principle, was altogether of His appointment (John 3:16). And while God was thus so gracious, it becomes us to think of the relation in which Christ stood to Him. Christ was not the creature, nor the mere servant of God, but “His only begotten and well beloved Son, the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person.” Yet God did “not spare Him.”

2. But the principal evidence of God’s love is that Christ died for us, “while we were yet sinners.” Had man been such as that the eye of God could have looked on him with complacency, or having fallen, had the feelings of penitence pervaded his heart, and made him willing to return, we should not have been amazed at God’s condescending love. But the marvel lies in this, that there was no good whatever to attract the regards of a holy being, and to invite a willing interposition of His benevolence. On the contrary, there was worthlessness and guilt to such a degree as to provoke a just indignation, to warrant an utter exclusion from happiness and hope. We were “yet sinners” when Christ died for us. There are resources in the eternal mind which are equally beyond our reach and our comprehension. There is a power, a magnitude, and a richness in the love of God towards those upon whom it is set which, to the experience of the creature, presents a theme of wondering gratitude and praise. Man loves his fellows; but he never did, and never can love them like God. Had He only loved us as man loves, there would have been no salvation, no heaven, no glad tidings to cheer our hearts. But behold! God is love itself. Guilt, which forbids and represses man’s love, awakens, and kindles, and secures God’s. Death for the guilty is too wide a gulf for man’s love to pass over. God’s love to the guilty is infinitely “stronger than death.” God forgives, where man would condemn and punish. God saves, where man would destroy. “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways.” “Herein is love,” etc. (A. Thomson, D. D.)

Christ and the martyrs

It was a principle in the breast of every Roman that he owed his life to his country. This being the spirit of the people, gave birth to many illustrious and heroic actions. The spirit of patriotism glowed among the people for many ages of the republic; one hero sprung from the ashes of another, and great men arose from age to age who devoted themselves to death for the public good. These being the most celebrated actions in the history of mankind, the apostle here compares them with the death of Jesus Christ.

Those who devoted themselves to death for their friends or their country, submitted to a fate which they must one day have suffered; but Jesus Christ, who is the true God, and possesseth eternal life, submitted to death for our redemption.

Those among the sons of men who devoted themselves to death for the good of others, made the sacrifice for their friends, for those by whom they were beloved; but Jesus died for his enemies.

He who dies a martyr for the public good, departs with honour; but Jesus made His departure with ignominy and shame. (J. Logan.)

The love of God the motive to man’s salvation

The supreme dignity of Him who undertook the work of our salvation.

The state of humiliation to which He consented to be degraded in order to accomplish our redemption.

The relation borne to Him by those for whom this amazing testimony of loving kindness was enterprised and perfected. Inasmuch as we are by nature sinners, we are also by nature enemies of God. If it be the act of an enemy to slight, resist, and renounce the authority of our lawful sovereign; if it be the act of an enemy to range ourselves under the banners of a potentate in open hostility to our own; we who are “by nature the children of disobedience,” in subjection to “the powers of darkness,” “alienated from the life of God,” and the ministers and slaves of sin, are by an obvious inference the natural enemies of God. And standing in this relation to God, as rebels, it evidently appears how inefficacious anything in us could have been towards meriting our redemption and influencing Him to redeem us. There was in us, indeed, that which well deserved the wrath of God, and might well have left us exposed to the severity of His displeasure.


1. The contemplation of this surprising love of God towards us ought to warm and expand our hearts and fill them with the most earnest love towards Him in return, and with the most zealous determination to obey Him.

2. The contemplation of the love of God, as having already interposed to save us by the sending of His Son, should fill us with a devout confidence in Him; persuaded that He who has conferred upon us of His free grace the greatest of all blessings will not withhold from us others which He may know to be for our good.

3. A third inference to be drawn from a contemplation of the love of God exemplified in the work of our salvation, is a further “confidence” that He will not leave it imperfect; but that if we love Him and keep His commandments, “He which hath begun a good work in us will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

4. The contemplation of the love of God employed for our redemption, and the persuasion that our salvation is “the gift of God,” connected with the belief that “we all had sinned and come short of His glory,” etc.

5. But, then, whilst we renounce all hopes of salvation as merited by our works, we must be cautious not to disregard them as if they were not necessary to our salvation. (Bp. Mant.)

Unparalleled love

The grand doctrine of the Bible is that God loves apostate man. Nowhere else do we learn this. Nature teaches that God loves His creatures, but the volume of nature was written before the Fall, and it says nothing as to His affection towards man as a sinner. In every conceivable form the Bible impresses us with the fact that God loves man though a sinner. Note--

That man has, constitutionally, a kind affection for his species. The apostle is speaking here of men generally, and he says that in some cases the generous instincts of human nature would prompt to the utmost self-sacrifice. That man has this social kindness I maintain in the face of all the oppression and cruelty that make up a large portion of history. Notwithstanding the Pharaohs, Herods, Neros, Napoleons, there is a spring of kindness in human nature.

1. The tendency of sin is to destroy this element. Had sin not entered into the world, this element would have united all races in the bonds of a loving brotherhood.

2. The tendency of Christianity is to develop this element. Christianity recognises it, appeals to it, strengthens it. Blessed be God, bad as the world is, there is a fountain of love in its heart.

That some characters have a greater power to excite this affection than others.

1. The righteous man is not likely to excite it. “Scarcely.” Who is a righteous man? He is one who conforms rigorously to the outward forms of morality: he pays all that is demanded of him, and he will be paid to the utmost fraction of his due. He is what the cold mercantile world would call a “respectable” man. He has no generous impulses, no heart, and therefore cannot awaken love in others. The just man is not a very popular character.

2. The “good” man has power to excite it--the kind man--the man of warm sympathies, who can weep with those who weep. Such a man evokes the sympathies of others. He has often done so. Job opening, by his kindness, the heart of his age; Pythias enduring the punishment for Damon; and Jonathan and David, are cases in point.

That the sacrifice of life is the highest expression of affection. There is nothing man values so much as life. Friends, property, health, reputation, all are held cheap in comparison with life. To give life, therefore, is to give that which he feels to be of all the dearest things most dear. A man may express his affection by language, toil, gifts, but such expressions are weak compared with the sacrifice of life, which demonstrates powerfully both the intensity and the sincerity of that affection.

That Christ’s death is the mightiest demonstration of affection. This will appear if you consider--

1. The characters for whom He died--“sinners.”

2. The circumstances under which He died. Not amid the gratitude of those He loved, but amid their imprecations.

3. The freedom with which He died. He was not compelled.

4. The preciousness of the life He sacrificed.

Conclusion: Learn--

1. The moral grandeur of Christianity. There is no such manifestation of love in the universe.

2. The moral power of Christianity. The motive it employs to break the heart of the world is this wonderful love. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

Self-sacrificing love for friends

Damon was sentenced to die on a certain day, and sought permission of Dionysius of Syracuse to visit his family in the interim. It was granted on condition of securing a hostage for himself. Pythias heard of it, and volunteered to stand in his friend’s place. The king visited him in prison, and conversed with him about the motive of his conduct; affirming his disbelief in the influence of friendship. Pythias expressed his wish to die that his friend’s honour might be vindicated. He prayed the gods to delay the return of Damon till after his own execution in his stead. The fatal day arrived. Dionysius sat on a moving throne drawn by six white horses, Pythias mounted the scaffold, and calmly addressed the spectators: “My prayer is heard; the gods are propitious, for the winds have been contrary till yesterday. Damon could not come; he could not conquer impossibilities; he will be here tomorrow, and the blood which is shed today shall have ransomed the life of my friend. Oh! could I erase from your bosoms every mean suspicion of the honour of Damon, I should go to my death as I would to my bridal. My friend will be found noble, his truth unimpeachable; he will speedily prove it; he is now on his way, accusing himself, the adverse elements, and the gods; but I haste to prevent his speed. Executioner, do your office.” As he closed, a voice in the distance cried, “Stop the execution!” which was repeated by the whole assembly. A man rode up at full speed, mounted the scaffold, and embraced Pythias, crying, “You are safe, my beloved friend! I now have nothing but death to suffer, and am delivered from reproaches for having endangered a life so much dearer than my own.” Damon replied, “Fatal haste, cruel impatience! What envious powers have wrought impossibilities in your favour? But I will not be wholly disappointed. Since I cannot die to save, I will not survive you.” The king heard, and was moved to tears. Ascending the scaffold, he cried, “Live, live, ye incomparable pair! Ye have borne unquestionable testimony to the existence of virtue; and that virtue equally evinces the existence of a God to reward it. Live happy, live renowned, and oh! form me by your precepts, as ye have invited me by your example, to be worthy of the participation of so sacred a friendship.”

Self- sacrificing love for a father

While Octavius was at Samos, after the battle of Actium, which made him master of the universe, he held a council to examine the prisoners who had been engaged in Antony’s party. Among the rest there was brought before him an old man, Metellus, oppressed with years and infirmities, disfigured with a long beard, a neglected head of hair, and tattered clothes. The son of this Metellus was one of the judges; but it was with great difficulty he knew his father in the deplorable condition in which he saw him. At last, however, having recollected his features, instead of being ashamed to own him, he ran to embrace him. Then turning towards the tribunal, he said, “Caesar, my father has been your enemy, and I your officer; he deserved to be punished, and I to be rewarded. One favour I desire of you; it is, either to save him on my account, or order me to be put to death with him.” All the judges were touched with compassion at this affecting scene; Octavius himself relented, and granted to old Metellus his life and liberty.

Divine love

There are three gradations in which the love of God is here exhibited--

The love of infinite compassion. Contemplate--

1. The aspect under which man appeared to the most holy God. Paul tells us that men were--

(1) Sinners.

(2) Ungodly, i.e., living without God.

(3) Enemies.

(4) Objects of the Divine wrath.

2. The aspect under which the blessed God ought to be viewed by sinful man. Shall any hard thought of God be allowed a dwelling place in your hearts? Will you call in question His clemency? Is it possible for you to imagine that He takes delight in the death of a sinner? “Herein is love,” etc.

The love displayed in the exercise of that mercy which secures from the danger of future condemnation (verse 9). Consider--

1. The extent of privilege actually attained by every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is justified by the blood of Christ--that is, God, in the capacity of a righteous lawgiver and judge, pronounces him righteous.

2. The security from final condemnation arising out of the state already attained. “Much more … we shall be saved from wrath through Him.”

The love displayed in complacency toward those who are in a state of reconciliation (verse 10). The life of Christ in heaven secures to the believer all needful resources during his progress towards the enjoyment of consummated salvation if you consider--

1. That His presence in heaven secures His continual and prevailing intercession on behalf of His people.

2. The perpetual communications of His grace as secured to us by His life in glory. “All things are delivered unto Him by the Father”--that is, for the use of His people. “It hath pleased the Father that in Him shall all fulness dwell”; therefore it pleased the Father that from His fulness should every needy disciple receive an abundant supply; so that of His fulness we, who have believed, do receive even grace for grace.

3. The interposition promised and pledged for the coming hour of our greatest emergency. The death and the life of Christ gives to the believer indeed no security against death, but full security in death and after death. (H. F. Burder, D. D.)

Divine love for sinners

We infer--

That God has love. He is not sheer intellect: He has a heart, and that heart is not malign but benevolent. He has love, not merely as an attribute, but in essence. Love is not a mere element in His nature; it is His nature. The moral code by which He governs the universe is but love speaking in the imperative mood. His wrath is but love uprooting and consuming whatever obstructs the happiness of His creation.

That God has love for sinners. Then--

1. This is not a love that is revealed in nature. It is exclusively the doctrine of the Bible.

2. This is not the love of moral esteem. The Holy One cannot love the corrupt character; it is the love of compassion--compassion deep, tender, boundless.

That God’s love for sinners is demonstrated in the death of Christ. This demonstration is--

1. The mightiest. The strength of love is proved by the sacrifice it makes. “God gave His only begotten Son.”

2. The most indispensable. The only way to consume enmity is to carry conviction that he whom I have hated loves me. This conviction will turn my enmity into love. God knows the human soul, knows how to break its corrupt heart; hence He has given the demonstration of His love in the death of Christ. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

God’s unparalleled love

1. Sacrifice is the true test of love.

2. Life is the greatest sacrifice man can make.

3. Such a sacrifice is possible, but exceedingly rare.

4. Supposes strong inducements.

5. But Christ died for His enemies.

6. He thus commends the love of God--because He is God--and is the gift of God. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The love of God commended

By its objects--without strength--ungodly--sinners--enemies.

By its display--Christ died--for us.

By its purpose--our justification--reconciliation with God--final salvation.

By its effect--joy in God. (Ibid.)

Self-sacrificing love

That young sailor who, when the last place in the lifeboat was offered him, drew back, saying, “Save my mate here, for he has a wife and children,” and went down himself with the sinking ship; that brave soldier who, in the moment of deadly peril, threw himself in front of his old master’s son and fell dead with a smile upon his lips, the fatal bullet in his heart; that poor outcast woman, out in the wild winter night, who wrapped her baby in her own scanty dress and shawl, and patiently lay down in the snow to die, saving her child’s life at the cost of her own; the pilot dying at his post on the burning steamer; the Russian servant casting himself among the wolves to save his master; the poor child dying in a New York garret with the pathetic words, “I’m glad I am going to die, because now my brothers and sisters will have enough to eat”--these, and hundreds of true hearts like these, proclaim with the clearness of a voice from heaven, “‘The hand that made us is Divine’; and in our Father’s heart are higher heights of love, deeper depths of pity and self-sacrifice.” (Ellen Wonnacott.)

Disinterested friendship

Edwin, one of the best and greatest of the Anglo-Saxon kings, flourished in the beginning of the seventh century. He was in imminent danger of perishing by the hand of an assassin, who had gained access to him under the guise of an ambassador. In the midst of his address the villain pulled out a dagger and aimed a violent blow at the king. But Edwin was preserved from danger by the generous and heroic conduct of Tilla, one of his courtiers, who intercepted the blow with his own body, and fell down dead on the spot. Thus did he cheerfully resign his own life to preserve that of his sovereign, whom he loved. But this instance of disinterested friendship loses all its charms, and sinks into insignificance when contrasted with the love wherewith Christ hath loved us. For “God commendeth His love to us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”

Nature does not reveal God’s love

Nature does not reveal God’s love. We find His power there, undeviating cause and effect, irresistible force, iron law. But no love. The ocean, grand as it is, and beautiful even, will crush the egg shell you call your ship; the lightning kills; the torrent engulfs; the beautiful twilight air chills you; the lovely flower conceals poison under its gorgeous petals; a weak spot in a girder of iron precipitates a hundred people to an awful death; the sun strikes with deadly sickness; and who can stand before God’s cold? Careless or ignorant of her laws, man is a leaf underfoot, or a bubble on the wave. You may search ocean, air, and desert; you may traverse the whole universe of matter, and know all the secrets of science, and you can find no Christ. There is no hint of mercy, or love, or pardon, in the whole realm of nature. God’s might and majesty are there; but the “love of God was manifested in this, that He sent His Son into the world that we might live through Him.”

The love of God’s unspeakable gift

A crew of explorers penetrate far within the Arctic circles in search of other expeditions that had gone before them--gone and never returned. Failing to find the missing men, and yet unwilling to abandon hope, they leave supplies of food, carefully covered with stones, on some prominent headlands, with the necessary intimations graven for safety on plates of brass. If the original adventurers survive, and, on their homeward journey, faint yet pursuing, fall in with these treasures, at once hidden and revealed, the food, when found, will seem to those famished men the smaller blessing. The proof which the food supplies that their country cares for them is sweeter than the food. So the proof that God cares for us is placed beyond a doubt; the “unspeakable gift” of His Son to be our Saviour should melt any dark suspicion to the contrary from our hearts. (W. Arnot.)

The love of God commended

The manifestations of God’s love are many and various. If I look forth upon our glorious world I cannot but feel that God displays His love in the dwelling place which He hath given to the children of men. If I contemplate the succession of seasons, and observe how the sunbeam and the shower unite in the production of sustenance, I recognise love in the workings of God’s providence. Thus also, if I think upon man, the creature of mighty capacity, but of mightier destiny, I am necessarily conscious that infinite love presided originally over his formation. And, if I yet further remember that man, whose creation had thus been dictated by love, returned despite for benevolence, I might marvel, if I did not know that love rose superior to outrage, and, in place of forsaking the alien, suggested redemption. Note:--

How Christ’s sufferings were aggravated by the sinfulness of those amongst whom He suffered.

1. He possessed infinite perceptions of the nature of sin. He saw it without any of the varnish which it draws from human passion or sophistry; and He discerned that the least acting of impurity struck so vehemently against the bosses of the Almighty’s attributes, that it rebounded in vengeance, which must eternally crush the transgressor.

2. Now to this capacity of estimating sin, add

(1) The love which He bore to the Father. It would have accorded well with the longings of His heart, that He should succeed in bringing back the earth into obedience, so that the Almighty might draw His full revenue of honour. But when, from the contradiction of sinners against Himself, it became palpable that generations would yet do despite to His heavenly Father, this must inexpressibly have lacerated His soul.

(2) But vast also was His love to mankind; and here again His apprehensions of sin come into the account. It would be idle to enlarge on the greatness of that benevolence which had prompted the Mediator to undertake our rescue. The simple exhibition of Christ appearing as the surety of mankind remains ever the overwhelming and immeasurable prodigy. Yet when He beheld the beings, for every one of whom He was content to endure ignominy and death, pursuing obstinately the courses of unrighteousness, throwing from them the proffered boon of deliverance, it must have entered like a poisoned arrow into His pure and affectionate heart, and lacerating and cauterising wherever it touched, have made an inlet for sorrow where there never could be found admission for sin.

3. If an artist study to set forth the Christ’s sufferings, he has recourse to the outward paraphernalia of woe. Yet there is more in the simple expression that Christ died for us “whilst we were yet sinners,” than in all that the crayon ever produced, when the genius of a Raphael guided its strokes. We look in at the soul of the Redeemer--we are admitted as spectators of the solemn and tremendous workings of His spirit.

4. We attempt not to examine too nicely into the awful matter of the Mediator’s sufferings, suffice it that there is not one amongst us who was not a direct contributor to that weight of sorrow which seemed for a time to confound Him and to crush Him.

How completely these sufferings were irrespective of all claim on the part of those for whom they were endured. In the commencement of His dealings with our race, God had proceeded according to the strictest benevolence. He had appointed that Adam should stand as a federal head or representative of all men; had Adam obeyed, all men would have obeyed in him--just as when Adam disobeyed, all men disobeyed in him. We were not, in the strictest sense, parties to this transaction, but I hold that if we had had the power of electing we should have elected Adam, and that there would have been a wisdom in such procedure, which is vainly looked for in any other. And if this appointment cannot be arraigned, then it must be idle to speak of any claims which the fallen have upon the Creator; and whatsoever is done on their behalf must be in the largest sense gratuitous. If the arrangement were one into which the love which prompted the creation of man gathered and condensed its fulness, and its tenderness, then we lay it down that the compassions of the Most High towards our race might have closed themselves up, and, nevertheless, the inscription, “God is love” would have been graven upon our archives, and the lying tongue of blasphemy alone would have dared to throw doubt on its accuracy. But the love of God was a love which could not be content with having just done enough--it was a love which must commend itself--which must triumph over everything which could quench love. We were sinners, but, nevertheless, God loved us in our degradation, in our ruin. We were unworthy the least mercy, we had no claim to it--the minutest benefit, we had no right to it--but God commended His love towards us (H. Melvill, B. D.)

The love of God commended

Several considerations tend to enhance the greatness of the love of God towards us--

The dignity of the Saviour. He was no other than the eternal Son of God, coequal with the Father, infinitely endeared to Him by an ineffable union, and a full participation in all the attributes of the Divine nature. Hence when the death of Christ is mentioned great stress is laid on the dignity of His character, as that which gives worth and efficacy to His sufferings (Heb 1:3; 1 Peter 1:19; 1 John 1:7).

The Divine agency employed in Christ’s death. God did not spare His own Son, but freely delivered Him up as a victim in our stead, and called upon justice to make Him a sacrifice for us. Nor was the Divine agency employed merely in this part of our Saviour’s sufferings; it was also engaged in their actual infliction. Men crucified His body, but it was the Lord who “made His soul an offering for sin”; or it pleased “the Lord to bruise Him, and put Him to grief”; and herein is expressed the most astonishing wrath, and the most astonishing love.

The character of those for whom Christ died. While as yet no change was wrought in us, no good performed by us; while inveterate enemies to God, then it was that Christ died for us. It was also “while we were yet without strength,” either to do the will of God, or to deliver ourselves out of the hands of infinite justice. The patriot dies for his country; but Christ died for His enemies.

The voluntary nature of Christ’s sufferings. His death was foreordained, and He had received a commandment of the Father that He should lay down His life for the sheep; yet He had power to lay down His life, and power to take it up again, and no one could take it from Him.

If we compare this manifestation with every other we shall here find its highest commendation. The blessings of Providence are incessant and innumerable; but of all His gifts, none is to be compared with the gift of Christ. This is the unspeakable gift.

The constant efficacy of the death of Christ affords additional evidence of the magnitude of the gift and of the love of God in its bestowment. His righteousness forever avails for our justification; His sacrifice retains its cleansing virtue for our sanctification; and in the discharge of all His mediatorial offices He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hence He is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by Him, and to do for us exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think. The gift of Christ includes every other gift; for He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things. Improvement:

1. This subject affords encouragement to serious inquirers. The gospel is the religion of sinners, the only one that can afford relief to the troubled conscience.

2. The gospel, notwithstanding, affords no ground of hope or encouragement to those who continue to live in sin. Though Christ died for sinners, it was that they might repent, believe, and be saved.

3. To all true believers, the gospel becomes a source of abundant joy. (B. Beddome, M. A.)

The love of God commended

God’s manifestations of Himself invariably carry with them the commendation of some distinguishing perfection. He is manifested--

1. In the universe, and “the heavens declare the glory” of His wisdom and power.

2. In conscience, which commends His righteousness.

3. In the Bible, which commends His truth.

4. In history, which commends His sovereignty.

5. In Christ, who by His life and death, but especially in the latter, commends His love. It is the glory of Christianity to give love to this commendation. Other religions profess to reveal God in this or that aspect of His character, but none as “love.” Note--

The time when this commendation was made (verse 6). “In due time.” The time was most appropriate. No other period would have done so well. This will be seen if we consider that then--

1. The world most needed it. Read chap. 1, and what contemporary writers said about the sinfulness, misery, and hopelessness of mankind.

2. The world had exhausted all its resources in the vain hope of working out its own salvation. Philosophers had taught, priests had sacrificed, governors had ruled with a view to this; but the world’s wisdom, religion, and policy had all failed.

3. The world was now as it had never been before prepared for the wide diffusion of this commendation. The dispersion of the Jews who carried their Messianic hopes with them; the conquests of Alexander which disseminated a language in which this commendation might be couched; the universal supremacy of Roman power and civilisation, which provided ample means for the widespread commendation of the gospel, combined to prepare “a way for the Lord.”

The persons to whom it was made. “Sinners.” That God should commend His love to angels, to unfallen Adam, or to conspicuous saints, would be but natural, and that that love in a general way should be displayed in nature is not to be wondered at, for the fountain of love must overflow; but that God should commend His love to sinners as such is wonderful indeed. The wonder heightens as we follow the apostle’s analysis. Men were--

1. Without strength. Once they were strong, but lured by the devil they fell from the breezy heights of righteousness, and were maimed and paralysed by the fall. None could have complained if God had left them in that condition, but pitying their inability to rise He “laid help on One who was mighty,” who was able to restore them to moral soundness and a righteous status.

2. Ungodly. Men had severed their connection with the source of righteousness and bliss, and so were plunged in sin and misery. God did not withdraw from man, but man from God. No blame could have attached to God had He made the separation eternal. But He commends His love in the gift of the Mediator, God-man, who could lay His hand on both and bring both together again.

3. Sinners. Men who had missed the mark. “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Man’s blessedness is to aim at this, and in reaching it to find his true rest. But men failed to even aim at this. Their aspirations were after inferior objects, and they missed even them. So the earth is strewn with moral wrecks. God commendeth His love in that He gave His Son to save these wrecks, and to enable man to aspire after and to reach the true end of life.

4. Enemies. In one sense men were moral failures to be pitied; in another moral antagonists to God and goodness, hence the objects of God’s wrath. But instead of commending His anger He commends His love through Christ, who saves from wrath and reconciles to God.

The manner of this commendation.

1. “Christ died.” God commended His love, indeed, in Christ’s incarnation, life, teaching, deeds, example. For God to visit, abide in, and do good to the inhabitants of His revolted province, was a singular display of affection. Reason asks, why not come with legions of angels to destroy? But all this regard would have fallen short of what was needed; so love was displayed in an unstinted manner. “God spared not His own Son.” Spared Him nothing that was necessary to save a lost world; i.e., God gave all He could to commend His love. The riches of the Divine mercy were practically exhausted on the Cross (Romans 8:32).

2. “For us.”

(1) In our room and stead. He bore our sins with their curse and punishment on the tree.

(2) For our benefit. To remove our condemnation were much; but Christ’s death for us involves much more--justification, sonship, holiness, heaven. (J. W. Burn.)

God’s love commended

To our consideration.

To our admiration.

To our esteem.

To our gratitude.

To our imitation. (T. Robinson, D. D.)

The love of God commended

Some years ago a young English lady, moving in the highest circles of fashion in Paris, happened one day to be slightly indisposed and lying upon her bed, when her sisters came into the room in a state of great merriment, and said to her, “There is a mad fellow come over here from England--a revival preacher. They say it is the greatest joke in the world; he goes ranting away in English, and one of the French pastors does his best to interpret what he says into French. All the world is going, and we are going too,” and off they went. They had no sooner gone than this girl, as she lay in her bed, felt an indescribable desire to hear him too. She rang the bell for her maid, and said, “I want to hear this revival preacher; dress me and order a carriage.” Her servant expostulated with her: “You really should not think of it, ma’am; I am sure you are not fit to go.” But she would not be put off. So she went, and was shown to a seat in front of the platform and there sat directly in front of the preacher. By the time the hymn was sung and the prayer over I suppose she began to feel somewhat solemnised. Then came the sermon, and the preacher stepped right to the front of the platform, and looked her full in the face with a keen, searching glance, and said, “Poor sinner, God loves you!” “I do not know what other words he may have spoken,” she afterwards said. “I dare say he said a great deal, for he preached a long time; but all I know is that I sat there before him with my head buried in my hands, sobbing, sobbing as if my heart would break. My whole life passed in review before me. I thought how I had lost it and wasted it, and all my life had turned my back upon God, to live for sin, and worldliness, and folly. I had spurned His entreaty and rejected His call; and yet, O my God, is it true, is it true, that all the while Thou hast been loving me? These words kept re-echoing over and over again through my mind, Poor sinner, God loves thee! I do not know how I found my way home. The next thing I remember is that I was lying prostrate upon my face before God, the tears still streaming from my eyes, as I lifted up my heart to God, and said, ‘It is true, it is true. Thou hast been loving me all the time, and now Thy love hath triumphed. O mighty Love, Thou hast won my poor heart! Great God, from this moment forward I am Thine.’” (W. Hay Aitken, M. A.)

Love’s commendation

God’s commendation of His love is not in words, but in deeds. “God commendeth His love not in an eloquent oration,” but by an act. If thou wouldst commend thyself to thy fellows, go and do--not go and say; and if before God thou wouldst show that thy faith and love are real, remember, it is no fawning words, uttered either in prayer or praise, but it is the pious deed, the holy act, which is the justification of thy faith. Paul gives us a double commendation of God’s love.

Christ died for us. Note--

1. That it was Christ who died.

2. That Christ died for us. It was much love when Christ stripped Himself of the glories of His Godhead to become an infant in the manger of Bethlehem; when He lived a holy and a suffering life for us; when He gave us a perfect example by His spotless life; but the commendation of love lieth here--that Christ died for us. All that death could mean Christ endured. Consider the circumstances which attended His death. It was no common death; it was a death of ignominy; it was a death of unutterable pain; it was a tong protracted death.

Christ died for us while we were yet sinners.

1. Consider what sort of sinners many of us have been, and then we shall see the marvellous grace of Christ. Consider--

(1) I levy many of us have been continual sinners. Have not sinned once, but ten thousand times.

(2) That our sins were aggravated. When you sin you do not sin so cheap as others: when you sin against the convictions of your consciences, against the warnings of your friends, against the enlightenment of the times, and against the solemn monitions of your pastors, you sin more grossly than others do. The Hottentot sinneth not as the Briton doth.

(3) That we were sinners against the very Person who died for us. If a man should be injured in the street, if a punishment should be demanded of the person who attacked him, it would be passing strange if the injured man should for love’s sake bear the penalty, that the other might go free; but ‘twas even so with Christ.

(4) That we were sinners who for a long time heard this good news, and yet despised it.

2. Inasmuch as Christ died for sinners, it is a special commendation of His love for--

(1) God did not consider man’s merit when Christ died; in fact, no merit could have deserved the death of Jesus. Though we had been holy as Adam, we could never have deserved a sacrifice like that of Jesus. But inasmuch as it says, “He died for sinners,” we are thereby taught that God considered our sin, and not our righteousness.

(2) God had no interest to serve by sending His Son to die. If God had pleased, He might have crushed this nest of rebels, and have made another world all holy.

(3) Christ died for us unasked. If He had died for me as an awakened heir of heaven, then I could have prayed for Him to die; but Christ died for me when I had no power nor will to pray. Where did ye ever hear that man was first in mercy? Nay, rather, it is the other way: “Return unto Me, backsliding children, and I will have mercy upon you.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Love commended

How shall man be convinced of God’s love towards him?

1. He is indisposed to believe in it, and is disposed to doubt it. Many do not think of God’s love at all; and others cannot bring themselves to believe that it is a personal affection. But all are exposed to the fatal influence of that arch-deceiver who poisons our mind by suggesting that God’s commands are grievous, and His government unjust.

2. Then we have to consider the nature of our condition down here. God has been pleased to put us into a world where we do not see Him; we are not in a position to enter into direct communication with Him.

3. Perhaps it will suggest itself that God has only to reveal Himself to us, leaving us no longer in any degree of uncertainty about His relations with us. But in order to make such a revelation of Himself, God would first of all have to contravene the fundamental principles of His government. From that time forth we should be walking by sight, no longer by faith, and thus our probation would be ended.

4. But it may be replied that we see that God loves us in that He supplies our outward wants, and those pleasures which make life tolerable. This at first sounds plausible, but--

(1) These effects appear to come to us in the ordinary course of nature, and it is only natural to conclude that, if there be a God at all, His laws will be wise, and such as to render the condition of those creatures whom He has called into existence not wholly intolerable. If God were to create beings without a supply for their natural wants, it would be such an exhibition of folly as would cast a reflection upon His own character and glory.

(2) On the other hand, there are circumstances of sorrow which sometimes produce an opposite impression.

5. Perhaps it may be asked, Is it necessary that man should be convinced of God’s love? If God really loves him, is not that enough? By no means. The love of God, if it be real love, should have a certain practical effect. Many a man may prate about the value of love, and yet be a total stranger to anything like the real affection. It is necessary that God’s love should be made so manifest to me as to produce in me a similar moral attitude towards Him. True love always yearns for reciprocity.

In the fulness of time God gives an answer to this question; and it is such an answer as no imagination or genius of man could ever have suggested. It might have been emblazoned upon the starry skies so that all might read it, “God is love!” These wondrous words might have been uttered by prophet or philosopher, wherever they went, they might have been the watchword of humanity, the battle cry of man in his conflict with all the powers of evil, and yet I apprehend that so strong is the latent suspicion sown in the heart of man by the great enemy, that we should still have remained indisposed to yield it full credence. God is not content to commit this truth to mere testimony; it is true St. John wrote these words, but he would never have written them if Christ had not first of all written them in His own life, and sealed the record by His wondrous death. The truth that God is love was only known to Him, can only be known to us, because Christ has demonstrated it in His own person upon the Cross.

1. Here is God’s own confutation of that ancient doubt of the Divine character and purpose, sowed by the father of lies in the human heart. It is no longer possible that God can be careless of our well-being or indifferent to our happiness, when to secure these He gave His own Son to die.

2. By this we are able to form some conception of the extent and intensity of God’s love. So far as it can be measured, the Cross of Christ is the measure of the love of God.

(1) What sacrifice is there that you would not willingly make for the benefit of your fellow man rather than such a sacrifice as we have here? If the inhabitants of this town were to be saved by some act of heroic self-sacrifice on your part, what is there--you that are a mother--that you would not propose to give up before your own dearly loved child? Yet such a sacrifice did God willingly make for us, and by such a sacrifice does He commend His love to us.

(2) But even this is not all. Why should God require a satisfaction before He lets is goodness take its course? It may well be replied, How much easier would it have been for God to act as His critics would have desired Him! How vast a sacrifice might He have escaped, what sorrow and suffering might the Son of His love have been spared, if He had contented Himself with the exercise of His prerogative of mercy! Was it a sign of greater or of less love that He adopted a more costly means of bringing the desired result about? There is a distinction between love and mercy. Mercy may be exercised without love. The Queen may extend mercy to a condemned felon, but would you say that this proved her love for the felon? You give a copper to a beggar and thereby show mercy, but this is no sign that you love him, perhaps the reverse. But if you put yourself to much trouble in order to make your mercy a real benefit, you are showing yourself to be animated by true feelings of philanthropy. Would the mere exercise of mercy, that costs God nothing, have impressed my mind with such a sense of Divine love as does the Cross of Calvary? Here I see that love has provided not merely for my pardon--mercy might have done that; but for my regeneration--for a change so complete and radical as to constitute me a new creature.

(3) But even this is not all. What if it should be found that in one sense all this amazing self-sacrifice was not absolutely necessary? Might not an Almighty God have guarded against any such necessity, by modifying the conditions of human existence, and placing man, as angels would seem to be placed, beyond the reach of temptation? Probably; but by so doing He would have rendered it impossible for man to rise to that special destiny of glory which is to be his. Was man to lose his true glory, or was the Son of God to die?

(4) But we shall not feel the full force of these considerations until we turn from the race to the individual. He loved me, and gave Himself for me. It is quite true that God’s love is as wide as the world for “God so loved the world”; but it is equally true that it is as narrow as the individual. What art thou that He should love thee so? How hast thou dealt with Him? (W. Hay Aitken, M. A.)

The Cross, the witness of love

1. A right knowledge of the true God lies at the root of true religion (John 17:3). On the other hand, either belief in a false God, or a false view of the true God, is the source of all superstition. Of this we have an illustration in Romans 1:21-23. Men needed a new revelation to recall them from the worship of the works of their own hands. The tendency to invent a god, where the knowledge of the true God is blotted out, reappears under a modified form amongst those who have the light of Divine revelation. Human hopes and fears have led the intellect into two opposite extremes concerning the moral character of God. In the one case, God is regarded as a Being whose only attribute is benevolence: in the other, God is invested with the character of implacability. By the first, the sanctity of God is obscured; by the second, He is viewed as “an almighty Tyrant,” whom it must be our only endeavour to propitiate.

2. The Cross was a manifestation to meet false views of God as to His sanctity and love. Whilst on the one hand it was the measure of sin marking God’s hatred of evil; on the other it was the witness of love. It harmonised Divine mercy and justice--attributes which seemed before to pursue opposite roads. Let us regard the Cross as witnessing to--

The love of God. Our happiness depends on knowing and realising this Love. There are three ways of contemplating God.

1. You may regard Him only as a Being, and occupy your thoughts with the conditions of the Divine life--its infinity, immensity, immutability, and eternity.

2. You may dwell on His absolute perfections without respect to creatures--His power, wisdom, sanctity, perfection, form an august object of contemplation, but do not inflame the affections. To know God only as the great “I Am” will prevent me from falling down to an idol; but the revelation of the bush must be followed by that of Sinai, and that of Calvary must complete both.

3. Concerning God, the great anxiety is to know His relative perfections. The great necessity in a fallen world is that His love may shine in upon it, and that the creatures who feared His holiness may be convinced of His benignity. Love begets love.

The pre-existent love of God. It is necessary to notice this, because language is sometimes used which would seem to imply that the Cross was creative of Divine love. But the conditions and perfections of the Divine life are not varying moods such as creatures are capable of feeling, but fixtures (Malachi 3:6). For God to view the human race with wrath until Calvary, with love after Calvary--would be for God to change. For God to love once is for God to love always (Jeremiah 31:3). Ancientness clothes love with a peculiar tenderness. Early friendships and associations cling to us in after life, and have something in them which new ties cannot supply. Love is heightened by the thought that it was poured upon us when we were unconscious, and entirely dependent upon its unrequited lavishness. Oh, wondrous love of the Parent of my soul, “the God of my life,” bending over the thought of my being! (Psalms 139:16). The Cross then witnessed to this pre-existent love. It revealed it anew when the blight upon creation and the heavy penalties of sin had darkened human life. God’s thoughts had been “thoughts of peace and not of evil” all along, but they needed to be shown in acts. Angels needed no such witness. Creation sufficed when the first estate was preserved. But with the world as we know it--who is there who has not at some time felt the need of a foundation for his tottering faith. When the tempter suggests the thought, “whence this suffering? is thy God a God of love?” there is but one vision that can sustain the soul--it is the Cross of Christ, for that Cross dispels all doubt as to the goodness of God.

The father’s love. All are accustomed to see in the Cross the love of our blessed Lord, yet many fail to discover the Father’s love. The secrecy of the person of the Father, unbegotten and unsent, may tend to produce forgetfulness of the first spring of redeeming love; and cause us to stop short at the love of Jesus. A defect in recognising love is a little evil compared with the sin of substituting anger in its stead. A certain system of theology has this latter error at its base: it portrays the Father as Wrath, the Son as Mercy; and the Son as striving to appease the anger of the enraged and implacable Parent. Hence “the love of the Father” becomes impossible. The question is--“how is the First Person of the Blessed Trinity described in reference to man’s salvation? How is He portrayed by our Lord?” Does not His description of Him correspond with His name--a name ever associated with tender love? (Luke 6:36; Matthew 5:44). In the parables how does the love of the Father Himself shine forth in the patience of the householder with the wicked husbandmen; in the repeated invitations of the king who made a marriage for his son; in the yearnings of the father over the returning prodigal; in the mission to the most unworthy, that they may share in the blessings of the gospel! Then note how He is spoken of by the apostles (2 Corinthians 1:3; Col 1:12; 1 Peter 1:3; Romans 15:5; Ephesians 1:17; 1 John 3:1; Titus 3:4). If we trace redemption to its source, it is the love of the Father which is reached through the Cross. Of Him it is written, that He “so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son” to save it.

The greatness of Divine love. Love is estimated by sacrifice, and heightened by the unworthiness of those for whom the outlay is made. Conclusion: We have regarded the Cross as the witness of the love of God; let us see now what should be the effect of this love on the beholder. This love of God, when realised, has a transforming power on the soul. Love begets love. Love drew God down from heaven to the manger, to the Cross; but it also draws man up to God (Hosea 11:4). (W. H. Hatchings, M. A.)

The Cross a revelation

There have been many momentous events in history which have revolutionised society, and opened new paths of effort. But the death of Christ holds a unique position, and has an importance more vital to the well-being of the world than all these events put together. Its value and power lie in the appeal it makes to the higher thoughts of men, in the conception of life it sets before men, in the vision it gives men of loftier hopes, purer sources of satisfaction, grander objects of ambition. For the Cross is a revelation of the things that are highest and best for mankind. It reveals--

The place we have in the heart of God. There are times when we feel the want of a perfect love. The heart yearns for something more than things--aches for another heart that can beat in unison with itself. Yes; and that other heart must not be limited in its affection. We all prize human love, but we spoil our enjoyment of it by exacting more than it can give us. This is the immortal spirit within crying out for God. There are influences abroad which seem to baffle this deep yearning. The discoveries of science have brought to view the overwhelming vastness of the material creation; and in presence of it all we are apt to be overpowered by a feeling of our insignificance. Our little lives seem but as motes dancing in the sunbeam. On what ground can we hope that the infinite Ruler of all will have towards us any special interest or affection? The grand corrective to this is the sacrifice of Christ. For that sacrifice makes us feel that we are not so insignificant as we thought; there is an Infinite One who cares for us, and in the Cross is the measure of His care. There is one heart beating for us with tireless love, and that is the heart of God.

The importance God attaches to our rescue. From sin. It has always been difficult to get people’s minds rightly aroused to the danger and evil of sin. Not a few settle themselves down to the impression that evil tendencies are inevitable, and must be submitted to in the best way possible, without being allowed too much to disquiet the mind. The shallowness of such ideas is seen in the light which the sacrifice of Christ flashes upon them. It is impossible for anyone to see the Great Sufferer without being touched with a sense of the infinite peril of all things evil. The Cross was the Divine testimony against the balefulness of sin. But more, it displayed the solemn fact that God was willing to make great sacrifice to win men from sin. It is impossible now to doubt the Divine purpose to free the soul from the thraldom of evil.

The explanation of many of the things that baffle us in the providences of life. When the infirmities of our character bring us into trouble, when our selfishness defeats itself, when our ambitious successes leave us unsatisfied or load us with heavier cares, it is God seeking to wean us from the pride that constitutes the bane of life. He is striving to effect this grand work of deliverance now. For the Cross makes it clear that God wants an immediate deliverance. He knows--what we only find out by bitter experience--that every wrong thing limits our capacity for present enjoyment, lowers and spoils the quality of our enjoyment, and breeds more evil. He therefore seeks to win men from sin at once, that the corruption of evil may not have time or opportunity to weave itself into their nature, and so poison and degrade them ere they enter into eternity. Some people imagine that they shall undergo a magical transformation the moment they pass into eternity. If anyone is to begin eternity as a spiritual prince, he must have the princely elements of character in him ere he closes his life on earth. And if anyone closes his life on earth as a spiritual beggar, then as a spiritual beggar must he start on his eternal career. Now that is a consideration of tremendous solemnity; and when we ponder it we can surely see the force of that appeal which God made to us in the Cross, to wake up with instant decision to battle against evil, that our character may be rescued while there is time yet to get it purged and sanctified and trained in the elements of goodness by those hallowing influences which the Divine Spirit brings to bear upon us.

The vastness of the benefit which God has in store for us. We may take what God has actually done as the standard of the love He will always show towards us. When you get the keynote you know the strain that must follow. So in the sacrifice of Christ we have the exact pitch of all God’s dealings with us. We can be certain that no act of God’s towards us shall ever fall below the note struck in the sacrifice of Calvary. Everything will harmonise with that. Thus the sublimest note emanates from the Cross. We see there the scale on which God means to bless us.

The height of spiritual nobleness to which God seers to raise our character--that spirit of self-sacrifice which the death of Christ exhibits so completely. This, alas! is just the offence of the Cross; but if we stumble at it, our life can never be crowned with the imperishable glory. The crowning joys of life are the outcome of deeds of unselfishness. Your heart throbbed in unison with the heart of Christ then. And it is in that spirit of unselfishness that God is seeking to train us all. It is the greatest blessing He can confer upon us. (G. McHardy, M. A.)

The best thing

The best thing commended. Not God’s wisdom, power, holiness, or wealth, but His love, unsolicited, unmerited, free, unparalleled, towards us, the most undeserving of His creatures.

The best thing commended by the best Judge. “God.” “God only knows the love of God.” A man may know the love of man, an angel may know the love of an angel, but only the Infinite can gauge the Infinite.

The best thing commended by the best Judge in the best possible way. “In that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” While we were at the worst He did the best for us.

The best thing commended by the best Judge in the best possible way for the best purpose. That we might be “justified by His blood”; “saved from wrath”; “reconciled to God by the death of His Son,” and “saved by His life”; yea, “joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ”; in a word, have everlasting life. (D. Brotchie.)

Christ died for us.--

The death of Christ

Its character.

1. Real.

2. Violent.

3. Cruel.

4. The same death that was due to us.

Its design. It was--

1. The punishment of our sin.

2. The price of our redemption.

3. A sacrifice for sin.

Its effects.

1. Our sins by it are expiated and atoned for.

2. The wrath of God is averted from us.

3. We are freed from all guilt.

Application. For Christ’s great love to us in dying for us, we should love Him--

1. Ardently.

2. Transcendently.

3. Effectually. (D. Clarkson, B. D.)

The death of Christ is

The pledge of God’s love to us--He died for us--while yet enemies.

The pledge of salvation--it justifies and reconciles us to God. Much more shall we be saved from final wrath and share in the blessedness of life.

The pledge of unspeakable happiness in God. Joy in God is the only true happiness--is secured in the reconciliation effected by the atonement. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The death of Christ, substitutionary

The original meaning is over or above (Lat. super). As if a bird, hovering over her young, warded off a blow from them and bare it herself; if by this act she rescued them from destruction at the sacrifice of her own life, we see how the thought of dying over them is merged in the greater, of dying instead of them. Thus a shield suggests the thought of being over that which it protects, and of receiving the blow instead of that which it defends. The sacrificial relation of Christ to His people involves the fall notion of deliverance and satisfaction by substitution (2 Corinthians 5:15). (Webster and Wilkinson.)

Verse 10

Romans 5:10

For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

Enemies of God

In what respect unregenerate men are such. In--

1. Their esteem of Him.

2. The natural relish of their souls.

3. Their will.

4. Their affections.

5. Their practice.

To how great a degree.

1. They have no love.

2. Their every faculty is subject to this enmity.

3. It is insuperable to any finite power.

4. They are greater enemies to God than to any other being.

The reasons for this.

1. God is opposed to their idolatries.

2. They are threatened with damnation because of them. (Jonathan Edwards, A. M.)

God’s hatred of sin

It is no figure but a deep essential truth that God hates sin; and since sin is necessarily personal, the sinner as such, i.e., so far as he wilfully identifies himself with his sin, is hated of God, His enemy (Romans 11:28). But God loves everything that He has made. He cannot love man as a sinner, but He loves him as man, even when he is a sinner. In like manner the Jews are described as being, at the same time, enemies in one relation and beloved in another (Romans 11:28). Human love here offers a true analogy: the more a father loves his son, the more he hates in him the drunkard, the liar, or the traitor. Thus God, loving as His creatures those whom He hates as self-made sinners, devises means whereby they may be brought back to Him. (Archdeacon Gifford.)

Reconciliation with God

The believer’s reconciliation.

1. The previous character of the partakers of this benefit; they “were enemies to God.” But it is no easy thing to induce men to acknowledge this. They may indeed acknowledge that they have some imperfections and infirmities; but they cannot be persuaded that they are “enemies to God.”

2. This inestimable boon itself. There are but few who do not know the value of reconciliation. Who has not tasted the bitterness of estrangement? Who has not enjoyed the deliciousness of renewed friendship? How delicious is national peace, domestic peace, ecclesiastical peace. But the blessing of reconciliation must be judged of by the Being whom we have offended and provoked. Who knoweth the power of His anger? And oh, to know that we are one with God again! Why, then, trials have no curse, death no sting, and all things work together for good.

3. The reconciliation is perfect and perpetual. A breach may be so far made up as to exclude hostility. Absalom was allowed to live three years in Jerusalem without seeing the king’s face. There may be an admission of civilities and even general intercourse, where there may be no admission of cordialness. But how is it here? (Romans 8:35-39).

4. The medium of it. “The death of His Son.” We escape, but He suffered. There are some who deny the vicariousness of the sufferings of Christ. But upon their principles it seems hard to account for His sufferings at all. According to these, He died not for others’ sins, and we know He could not for His own; so upon this ground He suffered in every respect as innocent; and if this were true, we may well ask, Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. Why is He thus making Him to be sin for us who knew no sin? Why, if our tears, or repentance, or alms could have made reconciliation with God, He never would have been pleased to bruise His only begotten Son; and if in His sacrifice God did nothing needlessly or in vain, then there must have been a propriety, a necessity in the great transaction. So the apostle affirms, “It became Him to make the Captain of our salvation perfect through sufferings.” Thus your reconciliation is made in a way that is as honourable to God as it is safe to us. The just God appears a Saviour. Now, this blood of sprinkling, which speaketh better things than the blood of Abel, having spoken to the justice of God, and satisfied it, speaks to the conscience of the sinner, and gives it quiet and peace. Thus have we boldness to enter into the holiest of all by the blood of Christ.

The believer’s salvation.

1. We are “saved by His life.” But are we not saved when reconciled? No. The one regards God, the other regards ourselves. But did not He exclaim when He expired, “It is finished”? Yes; but what was finished? The work of redemption, or the procuring of the thing; not the work of salvation, or the applying of the thing. The case is this. We were guilty, and by the death of God’s Son expiation was made for our offences. He put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, and thus removed every hindrance on God’s side to our return to Him. Yet we are not actually saved till we receive Christ, and are found in Him. Indeed, as to the commencement of the work, and the certainty of the issue, Christians are said to be saved already. “By grace are ye saved through faith.” But as to the actual consummation, they are not saved till death is swallowed up in victory. This work of salvation is a gradual work carried on through the whole of the Christian’s life on earth. We go from strength to strength, and in the Divine image we are “renewed day by day.”

2. How this salvation is achieved. By His life; His mediatorial life; that life in which He is now living in our nature in heaven. This is what He referred to when He said, “Because I live ye shall live also.” Had He not risen, our hopes would have perished in the same grave. “But we are begotten again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Everything that concerns our salvation is now to be viewed in connection with His life. He is now making intercession for us. He is a living Saviour, and as such He received the whole dispensation of the Spirit for men (Ephesians 4:8, etc.; Acts 2:33). It is as a living Saviour, “it hath pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell, and out of His fulness have all we received grace for grace.”

3. From hence you should learn to dwell more upon the present life of Christ. Christians love to hear of Christ’s death. But it would be in vain to view Him as the crucified One, unless we could view Him as the glorified One. Here is the ground of our highest triumph (Romans 8:34).

Their confirmation; derived from an inference drawn from one to the other. “For if … much more.” Observe the conclusiveness of the inference. What can be more natural than for us to argue from the past to the future; from what has been done to what may be; to feel the remembrance of one favour encouraging our hope of another, especially when we argue from the greater to the less; as Romans 8:32 does? It was wonderful that God should have provided an ark for the saving of Noah and his house; but it was not wonderful, after He had provided it, that He should not suffer him to sink and go to the bottom. It is wonderful that God should have given us exceeding great and precious promises; but it is not wonderful, after He had given them, that He should fulfil the same. It is wonderful, Christians, that He should have begun a good work in you; but having begun it, it is not wonderful that He should perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. (W. Jay.)

Reconciliation with God an earnest of complete salvation

More immediately in reference to God. Reconciliation is the restoring to a state of friendship parties Who had been at variance with each other. The parties presented by the apostle in the passage before us being God and man--God being necessarily the justly-offended party, it belonged to guilty, rebellious man to reconcile himself to God. But wherewithal could man thus come before God? What man, however, could never have solved, God hath both unravelled and removed. “He was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself; not imputing to men their trespasses.” He so far reconciled Himself to man, when He devised the plan whereby He could continue the just God, whilst the justifier of the ungodly who believe on Jesus. And He so far reconciled Himself to man, when He gave and continues with man, the ministry of reconciliation. Now the reasoning of the apostle, as bearing on this view of the case, is shortly this--hath God out of absolutely spontaneous loving kindness thought compassionately on man in his low and lost estate--hath He exerted His infinite wisdom in devising a scheme whereby “in the riches of His grace through Christ, He hath even abounded towards man in all wisdom and prudence”--hath the character of the Divine holiness been signally vindicated, and the claims of infinite justice and unimpeachable truth satisfied--hath the almighty power of God been put forth in raising up Christ from the dead--hath the Divine machinery, the pattern of things in the heavens, not only been constructed and perfected, but ready at the bidding of the great Artificer to begin the work of mercy and of love--when lo! the hand of the Divine Artificer, ready to touch the life-giving apparatus is suspended--producing the silence of ungratified desire in heaven, of disappointment on earth, of joy in hell. And, would such a part be worthy of the great God to act? Would it be consistent with the all-perfect character of Jehovah? Could the wisdom which devised and consummated the scheme, rest satisfied till its excellence was developed in its glorious effects?

The contrast implied between the efficacy and power of the life and the death of Christ. “Much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Now, although the death of Christ is not here specifically mentioned, yet it is directly referred to, and a contrast stated, though tacitly, between His death and His life. How was it that God was reconciled to man, and man to God? It was by the death of His Son. Now, if such effects are ascribed to, and naturally flow from the death of Christ, much more may we look for, and naturally expect consequences, even if possible surpassing these, springing from His life. It is not so much His mediatorial life, as affording opportunities for the fruits of His death to appear, and hereby manifesting its incalculable efficacy; as by the transference, as it were, of what gave worth and efficacy in the death, to the activity and energy in the life. And what was it which rendered the death or sacrifice of Christ infinitely meritorious? It was not that He was a man, or even a perfect man, but that He was the God-man. Oh, what encouragement, and what a firm ground of confidence does the apostle’s reasoning in this view of the case afford to the genuine believer in the name of Christ! Transfer the infinite worth of character, as giving value and efficacy to the death of Christ--transfuse all this into His mediatorial life, and what vitality and power concentrate not only here; but how are all these pledged as a guarantee that the foundation which was laid in the death will be reared into a glorious edifice by the life of Christ. If His death effected so much, much more rather will His life more than perfect all.

The third step in the process of the apostle’s reasoning refers more immediately to man, and carries with it into the bosom of the genuine believer the most irresistible evidence of its truth and power. Having become the subject of this reconciliation, he is conscious to himself that a thorough change hath passed upon his state and character as in the sight of God. Lately he was dead whilst he lived; but now “hath he been quickened to newness of life,” and “is alive unto God, through Jesus Christ.” Originally his inner man was a spiritual chaos, without form and void; but now he is created anew in Christ Jesus. “A new heart has been given him, and a new spirit put within him.” Lately his mind, being carnal, was enmity against God, but this enmity is now transfused into friendship. Once he loved sin, and derived his chief enjoyment from the ways of it; but now he is a lover of God, and God’s law is his delight. Now, observe how forcibly to the experienced Christian the conclusion is which the apostle draws in the text--“much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by Christ’s life.” What hath been already wrought in the heart of the believer is an earnest and a pledge of what God will continue to do, and delight in doing. Hath He changed rebellion into loyalty, He will never fail to reward with the smiles of His approval the acts of loyalty cheerfully and submissively rendered. Hath He changed enmity into affection, He will never cease to draw forth renewed and more ardent expressions of this heaven-born love. In short, if our heavenly Father came graciously near when we were repulsive, He will never leave us now that He hath rendered us attractive. (D. Logan.)

Reconciled and saved

1. Among the ten thousand plants that clothe the naked world, none are found where the execution falls short of the design. Nor among the countless tribes of animals does God, in any case, appear to have begun a work and stopped in the middle. He never made an unfinished flower or insect; and it were strange if He should make an unfinished saint.

2. “Wherefore hast Thou made all men in vain?” “I saw the prosperity of the wicked … Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. For all day long have I been plagued.” These plaints prove that Providence is not so easily read as nature. But that is because Providence is not, like creation, a finished work. Take a man to a house when the architect is in the middle of his plan, what is perfect order to the architect, to the other will be confusion; and so stands man amid that vast scheme of Providence which God began six thousand years ago, and may not finish for as many thousand years to come. Raised to the throne of Egypt, Joseph saw why God had permitted him to be sold into slavery and cast into prison. And raised to heaven, the saint, now that God’s works of Providence stand before him in all their completeness, shall take his harp, and sing, “Just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of Saints.”

3. Now, God’s work in grace forms no exception to His works in nature and in Providence. A man designs a great literary work, and he dies; or throwing it aside for something else, he leaves the world but a fragment of it. The studio of the painter has unfinished pictures; our streets have unfinished houses; and man has many a plan lodged in his busy brain that he never or but partly executes. But where God begins a good work He carries it on to the day of the Lord Jesus. Consider--

Our state by nature--We are the enemies of God.

1. Some things we are to believe on the simple authority of God’s Word. There are others, again, in which, “as face answereth to face in water,” so the state of our hearts answereth to the statements of God’s Word; and such is the case with Paul’s saying, “The carnal mind is enmity against God.” For was there ever a saved man who did not feel when he was converted that he was conquered? This enmity does not lie in bad habits, education, or other such circumstances. It is not like a cold which anyone may take, but a consumption which is constitutional and hereditary; and what are all these sins and crimes which the apostle describes as works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19); but, like the flushed cheek, languid eye, and bounding pulse of fever, the symptoms of an enmity that lies lurking in every heart? The temptations that call out the enmity no more create it than the showers and sunshine create the deadly hemlock which has its seed in the soil.

2. Nor is this all. Consumption, fell and deadly as it is, usually attacks but one organ. The constitution may be otherwise sound. The best things, indeed, have their defects--there are spots in the sun; there is more or less of alloy in all gold; and weeds deform the fairest gardens. But whenever circumstances occur to call it out, this enmity affects the whole man; so that he is as much under its influence as every sail, yard, mast, and timber of a ship are under the government of her helm. True, that does not always appear; but no more does the fire that sleeps in the cold flint, until there be a collision with steel. The carnal mind not only has, but is, enmity against God. Enmity is of its very nature, as it is of the nature of grass to be green, or sugar to be sweet, or vinegar to be sour. If it were not so, man would not need to be born again to get a new heart; like a watch that had but started a jewel, or lost the tooth of a wheel, it were enough to be repaired without being renewed.

3. What a proof of this we have in the treatment of Christ by man. Fancy a drowning man putting forth his dying strength to wound the hand stretched out to save him! I would hold any man my enemy that would kill my son; and if men by nature were not God’s enemies, why did they kill His Son? why do they still reject Him?

The reconciliation. The time has come when Jacob must face an angry brother. He had taken cruel advantage of Esau’s necessities and ungodliness, to possess himself of the birthright and the blessing. He had to settle the account with his brother now; and the prospect, as well it might, filled him with alarm. Busy, guilty, fancy conjures up a dreadful retribution. What shall he do? Fight? It is vain to think of that. Flee? Encumbered with wives and little ones, it is vain to think of fleeing. One refuge is still open to him! He betakes himself to prayer; wrestling with God till the break of day. I have seen the sun set on a troubled sea where the billows burst in white foam on rocky headlands, and roared in thunders on the beach; and tomorrow the same sun set on the same sea, smooth as a glassy mirror. A change as great, and in as short a time, has passed on the soul of Jacob. Yesternight was spent in an agony of prayer; and this night he lays his head in sweet peace on its pillow. The long estranged brothers have embraced and buried in one grave Esau’s wrongs and Jacob’s crimes--being enemies, they were reconciled. Blessed change to Jacob; and yet but a faint image of our reconciliation to God! What is that? what does it imply? what blessings does it bring? We shall never know fully till we get to heaven; “for eye hath not seen,” etc. But this, meanwhile, we know, reconciliation is sin pardoned; death discrowned; peace of conscience; a sense of Divine love; a sight of coming glory.

The means of reconciliation. A man lying under sentence of death has sent off a petition for mercy, and waits the answer in anxious suspense. One day his ear catches rapid steps approach his door--they stop there. The chain is dropped; the bolts are drawn; a messenger enters with his fate; the sovereign pities the criminal, but cannot pardon the crime. His hopes dashed to the ground, he gives himself up for lost. And now the messenger draws near, and tells him that if the king’s son would change places with him and die in his room, that would satisfy justice, and set him free. Drowning men will catch at straws; not he at that. The king give up his son! If there is no hope but that, there is no hope at all! Now fancy, if you can, his astonishment, sinking to incredulity, and then rising into a paroxysm of joy, when the messenger says, I am the king’s son; it is my own wish, and my father’s will that I should die for you; take you the pardon, and give me the fetters. In me shall the crime be punished; in you shall the criminal be saved. Such love never was shown by man; only by God. Did David, when he considered the heavens the work of God’s fingers, exclaim, What is man that Thou art mindful of him? How much more may God’s people break out into expressions of adoring wonder, when they stand beneath the Cross.

Reconciled by the death of Christ, His people are saved by His life. Suppose that our Lord, having satisfied Divine justice, had left in the grave a body which He needs no more, and returned to the bosom of His Father, still the Son of God, but no longer also the Son of Man, His death had been in vain. There was the medicine, but where was the physician to administer it? When we die our work is done. Not so with Christ. He had a great work to do after His death--a work foreshadowed on the day of atonement in the temple. The high priest, having sacrificed a lamb, carries its blood into the holy of holies; offering it before the mercy seat. By and by, returning with the blood, he takes a bunch of hyssop, and sprinkles it in red showers on the people. Now are they ceremonially clean before the Lord; and so David, with his eyes no doubt on better blood, prays, Sprinkle me with hyssop and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than the snow. Even so, Jesus rises from yonder grave and ascends to yonder throne, that He may apply to His people the benefits of His redemption. He lives to provide for our wants and to advocate our cause; so that our life is as much dependent on His as that of the branches on the tree, or the body’s various members on the life of their heart and head. Because He liveth we live also. We attach little value to what costs us little. Of all men they are the most careful of their money who have earned it by the hardest labour; they guard their liberties most jealously Who have bought them at the greatest price. The great price at which Christ purchased His people is the great security for their safety. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

Double assurance

How anxious the apostle was in all his letters to convince believers in Christ that their position was absolutely secure. The text suggests the following train of thought.

The sad state into which sin has degraded man. “We were enemies.” Not simply godless and careless, but rebels against God. Hence the heinousness of sin. The carnal mind is enmity against the holiest and best of Beings, and implies alienation, guilt, condemnation, and if persisted in--death.

The happy condition into which grace elevates man. “Reconciled to God.”

1. The exhibition of Divine love, in the sacrifice of Calvary, draws men to God, because there is proclaimed how deep, sincere, and pitiful He is, against whom sinners have revolted; how ready He is to forgive and save.

2. To be reconciled to God is not only to be pardoned, but to be admitted into fellowship with Him; to be in harmony with His will and purposes; to acquiesce in the dispensations of Providence.

3. What honour in such a state of oneness with the Almighty. Reconciled to Him we--

(1) Walk with Him.

(2) Talk to Him and He to us.

(3) Work with and for Him.

(4) Become like Him.

(5) Become prepared to be forever with Him.

The Divine means by which that great change is effected. “By the death of His Son.” The voices of nature call us to grateful acknowledgment of the great and good Creator; but the loudest and sweetest tones come from Calvary. By the death of God’s dear Son, we see--

1. The exceeding sinfulness of sin.

2. The ineffable love of God. Not that He loved His friends, but His foes.

3. The substitutionary character of the Redeemer’s offering.

The immovable basis upon which we may rest our hope of complete salvation. “Much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” The death of Christ was not merely to save us from the consequences of sin, but from the love and practice of it. The love of Christ was seen in His life as well as in His death; and we are saved from sin by--

1. His exemplary earthly life. We may attain to the highest life by imitating Him, and in proportion as we become like Him do we please God.

2. His exalted heavenly life. He lives to see the purposes of redemption fulfilled, to dispense the gifts His atoning death procured. No wonder the apostle staked all on the resurrection of Christ. If we cannot look up to a risen and reigning Redeemer, then our preaching and faith are vain, we are yet in our sins. (F. W. Brown.)

A double contrast, and an argument drawn therefrom

Contrasted conditions in the history of those who were now Christians.

1. “We were enemies.” Some had answered to the description given in chap. 1, others had doubtless been more virtuous heathen, or, like Paul, blameless as touching the righteousness of the Jewish law; but the description “enemies,” is applied to all (Romans 8:7). “We were reconciled to God.” Reconciliation may be mutual, or only one party may need to be influenced by its power. The latter is the case here; we are the only parties needing to be reconciled (see 2 Corinthians 5:18). This is effected by Christ’s death, as the manifestation of the love of God.

Contrasted conditions in the history of Christ.

1. His death. Death is a time of captivity, therefore of weakness. Christ’s death was surrounded by circumstances of sorrow and shame.

2. His life. The life which followed His death, when He led captivity captive, when sorrow was exchanged for the “joy set before Him,” and the Cross for the throne.

The argument drawn from this double contrast. If God’s Son by death could reconcile His enemies, how much more by His life will He complete and perfect their salvation, now that they are His friends. If in weakness He could accomplish the greater, how much more in strength can He insure the less. If by imprisonment in the tomb He could give us the liberty of the sons of God, how much more can and will He now sustain us in that freedom. (W. Harris.)

Converting mercy a pledge of preserving grace

The position here assumed. Note--

1. The change which Christians have undergone. This change has been effected. Let us separately advert to these two particulars.

(1) They were enemies to God. This, indeed, is naturally the state of all men. “Being by nature born in sin, they are children of wrath.” It is not, however, by imputation only, but also by wicked works. They dislike His holiness, His law, His service. To dislike God, who is goodness; to hate His service, which is happiness; to have lost His favour, which is better than life; to be exposed to His wrath, which is a consuming fire; who can conceive the real wretchedness of such a state!

(2) Such was once the state of those who are now real Christians. But it is their state no longer.

(a) They are now “reconciled to God.” His wrath is turned away from them. They are brought into a state of peace and friendship with God.

(b) Their nature has undergone a most wonderful alteration. They are become new creatures in principle and practice. They now love God and find pleasure in His ways. From enemies they have been made friends; from rebels, children; from vessels of wrath, monuments of grace and mercy.

2. The astonishing way in which this change has been effected.

(1) By what means? “By the death of His Son.” It is plain that the whole benefit of this reconciliation rests with man. God cannot be profited by it; but it was God who brought it about. In His infinite mercy He projected so great a blessing to mankind. In His infinite wisdom He devised a plan for effecting it. And when, according to this plan, it was expedient that His only-begotten Son should suffer for sinners, He “spared Him not, but delivered Him up for us all.” He delivered Him up as a sacrifice to justice.

(2) Under what circumstances? “When they were enemies.” Previously to any disposition on their part, to any sorrow felt, any contrition expressed, any desire of forgiveness manifested, any petition for mercy offered, God planned their return to Him, and provided the way.

The inference drawn from it. “Much more being reconciled, they shall be saved by His life.” True Christians in their reconciliation with God have, indeed, undergone a great and a glorious change. But the work is not yet complete. The great obstacle is removed. Their sins are pardoned and their souls are renewed. But they are as yet renewed only in part. The carnal mind, though weakened, is not utterly subdued. Their great adversary constantly harasses them; while the world assails them with all its formidable weapons. Now the natural tendency of all these united obstacles is to oppose their progress; nay, to drive them back, and to leave them at last to perish in sin and wrath. Effectual provision is made for their security. He who died to reconcile them by His blood, now liveth to preserve them by His power. Observe, then, the whole force of the inference in the text. Hath God done so much for His people, and will He do no more? Certainly not. On the contrary, if He has done the greater work for them, much more will He do the less. If He pitied them when enemies, much more will He love them when friends. (E. Cooper.)

The Christian encouraged to expect final salvation

Mankind, in all ages, have been prone to extremes. If we reject the doctrine of infallible perseverance, which has no foundation in Scripture, and has a tendency to lull asleep in carnal security, there is danger lest we conceive that the continuance and final salvation of God’s people is a matter of uncertainty. The consequence is, that some, who might otherwise go on comfortably in the ways of God, are enervated and cast down, while their dejection and sorrow is very discouraging to others. To offer a preventative I have chosen this passage, from which I would observe--

Of whom the apostle here speaks. The context shows he does not speak of mankind in general--or of mere nominal Christians--but of those who have obtained peace with God through Christ.

The state such were in when the grace of God found them.

1. They were “without strength” (verse 6), and without ability to recover themselves; ignorant, and without ability to enlighten themselves; guilty, depraved, and wretched, and without strength to expiate their guilt, change their depraved nature, or remove their miseries.

2. But did they not deserve that God should help and save them? No; for they were “ungodly” (verse 6), devoid of the knowledge, fear, love, favour, image, and enjoyment of God (Romans 3:10-11).

3. They not only had no merit, but they had demerit, for they were “sinners” (verse 8).

4. Nay, they were “enemies” (verse 10), to God’s nature and attributes, to His will, word, and ways, manifested by the carnal mind, their disobedience to, or rebellion against His laws, their fretfulness and murmuring against His dispensations.

What God has already done for them. He has given His Son (see verses 6-8). And consider--

1. His dignity (John 1:1; Colossians 1:13-17; Hebrews 1:2), and His dearness to His Father, whom the Father gave to die.

2. The unworthiness of the persons for whom He suffered; how this demonstrates God’s love, as they were enemies, etc. He has justified them by Christ’s death, reconciled them to Himself, and united their hearts in love to Him. And this He has done on the most easy condition, viz., repentance and faith.

The ground hereby laid for hoping that He will do all that remains to be done. “We shall be saved by His life”--that is, sanctified and glorified. The solidity of our hope in this respect will appear from three particulars.

1. From what He has done already. The incarnation, life, sufferings, death, resurrection, etc., of God’s Son, have afforded much greater displays of Divine wisdom, power, and love, than any other that can possibly be made. To save the lost, to reconcile the enemy, to heal the sick, to raise the dead, were greater and more difficult than to guard the found, to preserve the friendly, to keep in health the restored, to sustain the life of the quickened and revived, and to save to the uttermost.

2. From the situation of the person from whom this remaining good is to be done. If not less weak, unworthy, and guilty than they were before, yet they are better disposed, and less opposed to the work to be done in them and for them. Therefore there is less obstruction in the way.

3. From the nature of the means employed to do it. If, when enemies, we were reconciled by the death of God’s Son, much easier is it that when made His friends we should be preserved and saved to the uttermost by His life. For life is more powerful than death; especially life after death; life for evermore. (Joseph Benson.)

Conflict prolonged unnecessarily

The battle of New Orleans was fought after the treaty of peace had been signed at Ghent, the news of which arrived soon after. And this is what conflict with God means--warfare continued when there is no longer any occasion for it. (W. Baxendale.)

Salvation by Christ’s life

1. The resurrection and life of Jesus are the sure pledge of the resurrection and life of all His people.

2. Christ in His present life at God’s right hand, is invested with “power to give eternal life to as many as the Father hath given Him.”

3. Jesus is employed in interceding for His people: and the evidence of God’s full satisfaction in the finished work of His Son, afforded by His rising to life from the grave, gives us the most assured confidence that He never pleads in vain, that the Father heareth Him always.

4. All the arrangements of providence are in His hands. He not only exercises a general superintendence of the affairs of the world for the advancement and final triumph of His spiritual kingdom; there is a minuter care--a care which extends to each particular individual of His subjects in his passage through life.

5. By the power which is committed to Him in His mediatorial life, He will perfect the salvation of His people, by raising them at last from the grave. He is “Lord of the dead.” Their spirits are with Him. Their bodies, though for a time left under the power of the last enemy, are still His. He will “redeem them from death, He will ransom them from the power of the grave.” He ransomed them by price on earth: He will redeem them by power in heaven. (R. Wardlaw, D. D.)

The salvation of believers carried on by the life of Christ in heaven

The life of Christ.

1. Its present sphere--

(1) In the glory which He had with the Father before the world was.

(2) At the Father’s right hand of power.

2. Its present occupation.

(1) He ever liveth to make intercession.

(2) All power in heaven and earth which has been given Him He employs.

(a) To serve His friends.

(b) To extend His dominion.

How we are saved by this life. He--

1. Perpetuates the justification, and liberty of access to God, procured by Him for us, when we first believed on Him.

2. Frustrates the attempts of our adversaries to injure us.

3. Replenishes us with grace for the furtherance of our sanctification in the use of the appointed means.

4. Revives us with Divine support and consolation in seasons of extremity. (J. Leifchild, D. D.)

The genuine Christian

Is the subject of a great moral change in his relation to God. All were once “enemies to God.” The language presents to us two facts--

1. The most terrible condition in which it is possible to conceive a moral creature. “Enemies to God.” The fact that men are not conscious of this is no proof that it does not exist. Emotion often settles down into a principle of action too regular to become a matter of consciousness. The father’s love, which in its first stage was a warm emotion, in the course of years becomes a principle of action, that rules the life and explains the conduct; and thought concentrated on the object, can at any time bring up this emotion.

1. There are facts which indicate a man’s state of mind towards another. If, e.g., I find a man--

(1) Habitually acting contrary to my well-known wishes.

(2) Habitually ignoring and shunning those who are my avowed friends.

(3) Associating with my determined opponents, he proves himself my enemy in each case. In such ways as these, sinful men demonstrate their enmity to God, whatever they may say.

2. But what a state is this to be in!

(1) How ungrounded! “They hated Me without a cause.”

(2) How guilty! hating the infinitely Righteous and the infinitely Good.

(3) How mad! a worm raising its head against the thunders of the universe. “Hast thou an arm like God?” etc.

2. A suggestion which serves to correct a theological error--that God was an enemy whose love had to be purchased, whereas it is quite the other way.

Has been thus changed by means of the death of Christ. We were “reconciled to God by the death of His Son.” How is enmity to be destroyed? There is only one way in which from the constitution of mind it is possible--by love. This God does by the death of Christ, which is--

1. The grandest effect of God’s love. The universe is an effect of His love, but this is the grandest.

2. The mightiest demonstration of God’s love. It is impossible for the human mind to conceive of anything more convincing. All arguments and facts bearing on this subject seem to concentrate in this. This is the great focal and ultimate exhaustive argument.

3. The special organ of God’s love. The Cross is the great instrument of His Spirit, in convincing, converting, justifying, and sanctifying sinners. It is that by “which the world is crucified unto us,” etc.

That he has been thus changed by Christ’s death is an invincible argument that his salvation will be completed. “Much more.” The following thoughts may develop the force of Paul’s a fortiori reasoning.

1. The most difficult part of the work has already been accomplished. Any power may destroy an enemy, but it requires the highest power to destroy enmity. The reconciler or peacemaker is the divinest character in the universe. This work has been done; what remains to be done is the development of this new affection.

2. This most difficult part of the work has been accomplished--

(1) When you were in the most repulsive condition. Enemies repel us from acts of kindness. “Vengeance for enemies,” says corrupt human nature. “Scarcely for a righteous man will one,” etc.

(2) By a dying Saviour; the remaining and easier part of the work, now we are in a more pleasing position, is accomplished by a living Saviour. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

Verse 11

Romans 5:11

And not only so, but we Joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom we have received the atonement.

Joy in God

Joy in God is the climax of Christian privilege.

1. In the whole passage from Romans 5:1 we have an account of the new feelings that are introduced by faith into the heart of a believer.

(1) Peace with God, of whom we could never think formerly, if we thought of Him aright, but with disquietude.

(2) Exultation in the hope of glory.

(3) Exultation, even in tribulations, the process which manifests a work of grace here, and so serves to confirm all our expectations of a harvest of glory and blessedness hereafter.

2. And indeed how can it be otherwise, the apostle reasons. He hath already given us His Son, will He not with Him freely give us all things? And now that He has done so much in circumstances so unlikely, will He not carry on the work of deliverance to its final accomplishment when circumstances have changed? It is thus that the believer persuades himself into a still more settled assurance of the love of God to him than before; and whereas (Romans 5:2) he only rejoiced in the hope, he now rejoices in possession.

3. To feel as if you were in the company of God--to have delight in this feeling and find that the minutes spent in communion are far the sweetest intervals of your earthly pilgrimage--to have a sense of God all the day long, and that sense of Him in every way so delicious as to make the creature seem vain and tasteless in the comparison is certainly not a common attainment; yet no true saint can be altogether a stranger to it. “Rejoice evermore,” says the apostle, “the Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice,” says the patriarch. It is easy to walk in the rounds of a mechanical observation. It is easy to compel the head to obedience against the grain of the heart. It is very easy to bear towards God the homage of respect, or fearfulness, or solemn emotion. To serve Him as a master to whom you are bound in the way of obligation is more the tendency of nature than to serve Him as a friend to whom you are bound by the heart. But is not the latter the far more enviable habit?--to have the spirit of adoption and cry out Abba, Father, rather than to drivel before Him among the restraints and the reluctances of a slave?--to do His will, not as if by the force of a compulsory law, or as if under the stipulation to discharge the articles of a bond, or as if pursued by an unrelenting taskmaster? This is the way in which God’s will is apt to be done on earth; but it is not the way in heaven--where the doing of His pleasure is not a drudgery for which they get their meat and drink, but where their meat and drink is to do the will of God, where the presence of God ever enlivens them, and their own pleasure is just His pleasure reflected back again. To carry onward the soul to this were to work upon it a greater transformation than to recall it from profligacy to mere external reformation.

Many are strangers to this joy.

1. There are those who care little about the matters of the soul and eternity, who live as if the visible theatre which surrounds them were their all; all they mind is earthly things, and of joy in God they have no comprehension. Give them a warm habitation, stock it well with this world’s comforts, and surround them with a thriving circle of companionship, and they would have no objection to he done with God and eternity forever. When the preacher speaks of the woefulness of their spiritual condition, their response is, “We pay our debts; we can lift an unabashed visage in society; we compassionate the necessitous,” etc., etc. We do not deny this, but we charge you with joying in the creature, and not at all in the Creator; and, to verify your woefulness, you have only to read the future history of this world. That scene, on which you have fastened your affections so closely that you cannot tear them away from it, will soon be torn away from you. It is then that God will step in. And had your joy been in Him, then heaven would have been your fit habitation. But as the tree falleth so it lies; and you rise from the grave with the taste, the character, the feelings which you had when you breathed your last; and so all that is in your heart, carrying upon it a recoil from Him, will meet with nothing but that which must give dread and disturbance to your carnal affections; and these affections will wander in vain for the objects which solaced them upon earth. It is thus that he who soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption.

2. There are others who make the interest of their soul a topic of great care and thought; who have recourse to active measures in the prosecution of this great interest, and are all alive to the great object of being right with God. It is indeed a most natural forth-setting of the whole man on such an occasion, to proceed on the principle of “work and win,” just as an ordinary workman does. It is not his work or his master that gives him pleasure, but only the receipt of his wages. There is many a seeker after life eternal, toiling with all his might, who has no joy in God--satisfied if he can escape hell and reach heaven; but who does not reflect that it is altogether essential to this blessedness to have such a taste for the Divine character as to be glad in the contemplation of it--to have such a liking for the Divine life as that the life itself shall be reward enough for him. Without this, all he can do is but the bodily exercise that profiteth little; and that, instead of heightening his affection for God, may only exasperate the impatience, and aggravate the weariness and distaste that he feels in His service.

How is this privilege to be obtained. There is a high ground of spiritual affection and of joy in God, to which you would like to be elevated. But you see nothing between you and that lofty region, saving a range of precipice that you cannot scale, and against which you vainly wreak all the native energies that belong to you. Let one door, hitherto unobserved, be pointed out, open to all who knock at it, and through which an easy and before unseen ascent conducts you to the light and purity and enjoyment of those upper regions after which you aspire; and what other practical effect should all the obstacles and impossibilities you have before encountered have upon you, than just to guide your footsteps to the alone way of access that is at all practicable? This is just the open door of Christ’s mediatorship.

1. It has been objected to the gospel--

(1) That it exacts an unnatural and unattainable elevation of character; and this is a most likely objection to proceed from him who looks at this economy with half an eye.

(2) The very same people may also, on looking at another side of this dispensation, be heard to object to the freeness of the gospel.

2. Now these two parts are those which give support and stability to each other. It is just by faith that you enter upon peace and hope and love and joy; through Jesus Christ, not by working for the atonement, but simply by receiving the atonement, that you are translated into this desirable habit of the soul. (T. Chalmers, D. D.)

Joy in God through Christ

There is a remarkable peculiarity in Paul’s disposition. Thwarted in his movements, yet he is not despondent. Exposed to persecution, yet he is not embittered in his feelings, he ever rejoices in the hope of the glory of God; and not only so, but joy and triumph pervade the very heart of his trials. Singular, and aside from revelation, inexplicable circumstance, that a man so sorely tried, should have derived his only joy from an invisible, incomprehensible source! Not so does human nature joy in God. Yet it is strange that man should not seek his chief happiness in the Author of his being. If it were not now essentially deranged, the world of mankind would be advancing in its cycles of holy happiness around the throne of unsullied blessedness with the harmony and celerity with which the planets move on in their majestic orbits around the source of material light. Until man, then, shall be led to seek his happiness in God, not only must he be in pursuit of shadows, but be defeating the true and ultimate purpose of his being. But how shall he be brought to joy in God? I need not ask whether it would have been possible, had we been left to the dim light of nature, to look up to God as the source of joy. The great spirit of natural religion comes not within the definite purview of a finite mind. He is too retired and silent to influence our habitual emotions. Let us think of God as the omnipotent Creator, the beneficent Father of the universe. Man may not fail to be wrapt in admiration as he casts his eye over the beauty and brightness of creation; but when the thunders utter their voices, and the cloud surcharged with the element of death approaches nearer and yet nearer, shall not fear and trembling take hold on him? The wiser heathen thought that God was good; but “how can man be just with God?” was their natural inquiry. What is the Divine goodness but that all-pervading feeling of God’s mighty heart, which leads Him to promote the highest happiness of His moral universe by at once rewarding the righteous and punishing the wicked? It is in vain to say that your conviction of God’s goodness fortifies your heart against all prognostications of evil. If you feel that you have sinned, you must know that you enjoy no harmonious alliance with your Maker and Judge. Lave you no fear of Him when you think that He may be strict to mark iniquity? Can you commit yourself with conscious and joyous safety to His supreme disposal. I contend that it is impossible to joy in God, unless He be revealed to man’s distinct and intimate knowledge; unless we have been made to feel that He takes a deep and deathless interest in our welfare; has no pleasure in our death; yea, that He may glorify His own name, and illustrate the stability of His throne, in our salvation. Now, where can be gathered any satisfactory knowledge of God, except from the Word of God Himself? As the sun reveals to us the beauties and sublimities of God’s works, so does Jesus Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, unveil the glories of the eternal throne. Through Him all the attributes of Deity shine forth with vindicated and resplendent lustre, yet sweetly attempered to human vision. God, the great, the unsearchable One: is brought down to us in such an attitude that we cannot fail to comprehend. God, the infinite Spirit, is brought near to our hearts. Let us appeal to the true Christian, and I ask him whether it be not solely through Christ that he is enabled to joy in God as the Ruler of the universe, and to rejoice in the contemplation of His perfections? Whether a sense of God’s favour in Christ be not more to him than the riches and honours and pleasures of the world. “The joy of the Lord is their strength.” Or let us summon in testimony the newborn soul. “You were transfixed with the arrows of remorse and dread. You wandered about vainly seeking peace for your soul. God shined into your mind to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of Himself in the face of Jesus Christ”; and then it was that the tear was wiped away and that your heart leaped for joy. Or, we might transport you to the bed of death. See there the dying Christian! Why does he not flinch from the king of terrors? Oh, it is the remembrance that God is in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself; it is the deathless conviction of his soul that God, even his own God in Christ, will never leave, and never forsake him. (R. W. Dickenson, D. D.)

Joy in a reconciled God

“And not only so.” It is the second time in which these words occur, and a similar expression is used (Romans 5:2). The apostle had been mentioning great privileges, and had gone to yet greater; from silver to gold, and from gold to the priceless crystal; and when he had reached conceivably the highest point, he adds, “And not only so.” There is always in Christian privilege a yet beyond. The ancient mariners spoke of Ultima Thule, the end of the universe; but more venturous prows forced their way to a new world, so we concluded in the early days of Christian experience that we never could enjoy greater privileges, but we have pushed far beyond, and at the end of all there will be written, “And not only so.” The text seems to me to describe the progress of a soul towards God.

The first step is rather implied than expressed. There was a time when we had not received the reconciliation and were made sensible that we needed it.

1. We were led to see that from necessity of His nature God must be angry with us. A being who has no anger against evil has no love towards goodness. This is a painful discovery, but a very simple one. One would think that every man ought to see this, but no man does see it till the Spirit of God convinces him of sin, and even then the natural heart endeavours to shut its eyes to it.

2. Another degree of this same step is a consciousness that we are at enmity with God. “Why,” says one, “I pay respect to God, and go to a place of worship, and therefore I am not at enmity with Him.” Yet listen; I am certain that if I could assure you that there was no God, and consequently no need of repentance, and no fear of punishment, and consequently no need of pardon, it would be a relief to many.

3. A further portion of this step is the perception that, in order to perfect reconciliation with God, there must be something done Godward, by which the insult and injury done to His law shall be recompensed; and, next, a thorough change in us before we can walk with God in perfect communion. In order to reconciliation it is not enough that one party should be forgiving, the other must yield too.

5. The last degree of this step is the desire to be reconciled to God. This is the dawn of grace, and a blessed dawn it is.

The next step is receiving the reconciliation. Observe how we are reconciled.

1. It is not by working out a reconciliation; although this is the first instinct of a man who finds himself at enmity with God. The heart suggests a multitude of expedients--ceremonialism, amendment, future carefulness, etc., etc. But the text does not say that we have made any atonement. We do not make it, or buy it, or complete it, we receive it. It is a free gift. We receive it perfect.

2. The process of receiving reconciliation.

(1) The man being already on the first step, knowing that he wants reconciliation, believes the truth about the gospel. Now, the gospel is that reconciliation, which is made for every soul that believes in Jesus. God is not reconciled to anybody who will not believe in Christ, but He is reconciled to every soul that does.

(2) The next step is to become a believer, because reconciled.

(3) Then peace flows into the soul as the result of the reconciliation.

(4) Then the heart drops her former enmity to God.

The third step is joy in God.

1. No man ever rejoices in God except he who receives the atonement. Suppose a man should say, “I do not want an atonement; I am a goodman, and always have been; I have not broken the law.” Well, he will rejoice in himself, but if we have nothing of our own, and have simply to receive salvation as a matter of the free grace, then we joy in God.

2. The moment a man is reconciled to God his view of God alters entirely. A neighbour has done you a displeasure, perhaps he is a very excellent man, but you read everything he does in the evil light of suspicion. If, however, by a discovery of his kindness you escape from prejudice, his whole conduct wears another aspect. So the soul when reconciled to God from that moment reads Him aright.

3. He delights in God.

(1) In His very existence and person. That there is a God is to the Christian supreme bliss. The infidel may say there is no God, but if that were true I should have lost my father, my friend, my all. The Christian feels that his hope of prevailing over injustice and wrong lies in the fact that there is a reigning God who will set all things right at last. And since we believe there is to be a fuller revelation of Himself in heaven, is not that our main reason for longing to be there? As loyal subjects rejoice that they have a king, as affectionate children rejoice that they have a father, as a loving spouse rejoiceth that she hath a husband; so do we, but infinitely beyond all this, rejoice that we have a God.

(2) In His character. All the attributes of God are themes of joy: His power; His mercy; His immutability; His faithfulness to His promises, etc., etc.

(3) In His sovereignty. Before our reconciliation we cavil at the Divine will, and set up our own. But, the moment we are reconciled we consent that Jehovah should do as He wills. What better rule could be than the absolute empire of love? What can be better as a government for mankind than the absolute authority of one so good, so true, so holy, and so just?

(4) Under all His dispensations. Of course we joy in God under comfortable dispensations. Query, whether we do not then very much divide our joy between the comforts and the God; but in dark times, when the comforts all go, we can joy in God if reconciled.

4. Joy in God is--

(1) The happiest of all joys.

(2) The most elevating. Those who joy in wealth grow avaricious; in their friends, too often lose nobility of spirit; but he who boasts in God grows like God.

(3) Solid; there are good reasons for it.

(4) Abiding. If I rejoice in the sun, it sets; if in the earth, it shall be burnt up; if in myself, I shall die; but to triumph in One who never fails or changes, this is lasting joy. Conclusion: The only sad reflection is, that there are so many who know nothing about joy in God. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The joy of salvation

There are various kinds of joy--

1. Maternal: such as was expressed by Eve at the birth of Cain, or Hannah at the birth of Samuel.

2. The mariner’s: when, after a long and dreary absence, he again beholds his native land.

3. The warrior’s: such as David experienced when the women went out to greet their youthful champion with their songs.

4. That of the emancipated: such as that of the slaves on that memorable morning when their liberty was proclaimed.

5. The nation’s: at the coronation of a king. These are instances of legitimate joy; but what are these when compared with the “joy of salvation”?

In the nature of salvation are contained all the elements of the highest joy. Suppose yourself to be a prisoner driven away to an inhospitable clime--as the Poles were--there to toil in gloomy mines; and suppose yourself suddenly restored to liberty and home. Suppose you were sick, nigh unto death, and a skilful hand should restore you. Or suppose yourself condemned to die as a criminal, and the royal clemency should send you a full and free pardon, when you had mounted the scaffold and were expecting death. Salvation is all this, and more (Isaiah 61:3)

Many mistakes have been made on this subject. The joy we contend for arises out of a sense of pardon, peace, reconciliation with God. (Psalms 32:2; Isaiah 52:7; Isaiah 52:9; Romans 8:1; Romans 8:3.) This reconciliation is complete (Romans 8:33; Romans 8:39), honourable and abiding; we therefore assert every Christian has reason for being joyful. To prevent mistake--note--

1. That we do not assert this joy to be perfect. Some imagine there can be no joy if it be not of the highest kind, without alloy or interruption. Persons entertaining such extravagant notions are sure to be disappointed. We are imperfect creatures in an enemy’s country, and surrounded by temptations. Is it always midday? Is there no dawn, and no evening? Is it always midsummer? Is there no spring, and no autumn? And why, then, expect joy in perfection, or not at all?

2. We must not, therefore, be surprised if the Christian is sometimes depressed.

3. There is often more joy experienced than we are inclined to believe, and than others give us credit for. Suppose you were to be deprived of your Christian privileges, then you would value your present enjoyments. We only know the real value of our mercies when we have lost them.

Let us view this as a matter of fact.

1. Christians might, and ought to be happy, for there is every provision and reason for it (James 1:5; Luke 11:13). Perhaps some Christian will reply, “I am not as happy as I expected, or as I was wont to be.” Very possibly. But perhaps--

1. You have grieved, quenched, and so expelled the Holy Spirit. Business may have been encroaching more than is legitimate.

(2) You have given way to a petulant and angry spirit.

(3) You have been regarding religion as a privilege, and not as a duty. Idle Christians never can, and never ought to be happy. If, then, the Christian is not joyful in God, it is his own fault. There is guilt as well as folly in such a state of mind.

2. Now let us look at those who have illustrated the joy of salvation. See it exemplified--

(1) In the conduct of Christians during the time of trial (Habakkuk 3:17; Acts 20:24; 2 Corinthians 7:4). Think of the apostles and martyrs.

(2) In the peace which pervades the various holy communities of Christians (Isaiah 26:1; Isaiah 26:4).

(3) In the peace which has always been the result of real religious revivals.

(4) But the fullest examples of it yet remain to be seen. This is clear from the prophecies. The golden age of the Church and the world is yet future.

Let us now inquire whether salvation will warrant such feelings of delight.

1. What is the object in which the Christian rejoices? Certainly not himself, his attainments, or his merits (Galatians 6:12). But--

(1) In God the Father.

(2) The Son.

(3) The Holy Ghost.

(4) In the prospect of eternal glory.

2. Do not these objects then justify us in cultivating the highest joy? At present, however, the Christian’s joy is only in the bud, “it doth not yet appear what it shall be.”

3. If you submit to this salvation, you will fill all heaven with joy; for “there is joy in heaven among the angels of God,” etc.

4. Compare the Christian’s with the worldling’s joy (Proverbs 14:13; Ecclesiastes 2:2; Ecclesiastes 7:3; Ecclesiastes 7:6). (C. Dukes, M. A.)

Christian joy

1. The desire of happiness is the most powerful and influential principle of human nature. It is common to man in every circumstance of life--the prince in his palace, and the peasant in his cottage, etc. It is that which governs our feelings, forms Our plans, and directs our pursuits.

2. This desire is lawful and beneficial; it corresponds with the design of man’s creation, and is in harmony with the will of his Creator. The glory of God is connected with the happiness of His creatures. To promote these, the commands and promises were given, and the plan of redemption executed.

3. Why, then, is there so much misery in the world? The cause is the influence of sin in the heart and on the conduct. Sin is the greatest enemy to the welfare of man. Consider:--

The source from which the joy of the Christian is derived. It does not proceed from himself, or the objects around him--it is not the false joy produced by self-complacency, or by the possessions and amusements of the world. The believer rejoices in God--in Him who is perfectly blessed in Himself, and who is the only source of real happiness to His creatures. The Christian’s joy arises from--

1. Reconciliation with God (Isaiah 61:10). He views God, not as an enemy, but as a friend.

2. Communion with God. Reconciliation will promote confidence, and this will lead to intercourse. The Christian “dwells in the secret place of the Most High,” holds delightful fellowship with the Father of spirits, and gets nearer heaven in devout meditation, ardent desire, and warm affections.

3. A participation in the blessedness of God. The Lord is his portion: all the perfections of Jehovah are engaged for his welfare, and all the promises of His Word are designed for his comfort and encouragement. He enjoys God in everything; in the bounties of Providence, as well as in the ordinances of religion. He has many blessings now in possession--peace of mind, etc., but he has the fulness of joy reserved for him, of which he has now the foretaste.

The medium through which this joy is communicated. Christ is the medium of--

1. Reconciliation with God. This arises from that satisfaction which He made to Divine Justice by His voluntary death on the Cross. Those “who were enemies, are reconciled to God by the death of His Son.”

2. Communion with God. “No man cometh to the Father but by Him.”

3. All spiritual blessings. In Him there is treasured up a fulness of grace, to pardon, to sanctify, to comfort, to direct, to support under all the trials and duties of life, and to prepare for eternal glory; and of His fulness all true believers have “received grace for grace.”

The properties by which the Christian’s joy is distinguished. “The joy of the hypocrite is but for a moment”; “the pleasures of sin are but for a season”; “the triumphing of the wicked is short.” This joy is distinguished from these, as it is--

1. Spiritual in its nature. It is not that which depends on external circumstances. It is deeply rooted in the heart, the proper seat of happiness. It is there that the desire of happiness dwells; and till the heart is filled the desire will not be gratified.

2. Holy in its influence. Carnal mirth has a tendency to dissipate the mind and to corrupt the heart; for its source is polluted. But Christian joy purifies the mind, by bringing it into close contact with all that is worthy of its noblest powers.

3. Permanent. The fountain from which it flows is inexhaustible; and as the Christian pilgrim advances in his journey heavenward he arrives nearer its source.


1. Learn the value of true religion. It is friendly to the best interests of man.

2. Let those who are destitute of this joy seek it by immediate application to the Saviour of sinners.

3. Let the Christian seek an increase of spiritual joy.

True happiness

Whence it proceeds--from God.

What is its nature--we joy in God as.

1. The God of all grace.

2. Our covenant God and Father.

3. Our everlasting portion.

How it is derived--through Christ, etc. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The atonement

What is meant by the atonement. At-one-ment, i.e. reconciliation. This--

1. Supposes that there must have been some disagreement; not so now. Mark the aggravating circumstances with which man’s rebellion is characterised. It is--

(1) Most unnatural rebellion; it is the rebellion of children against the parent of their existence.

(2) Most ungrateful; it is the rebellion of children that have been nourished and have been brought up.

(3) Most hopeless. Rebel man could not reconcile himself; he could furnish no consideration sufficiently valuable; his fellow man could not help him; an angel’s arm could not rescue him from impending ruin.

2. Divine in its appointment.

(1) To the Divine Father it belonged to say what should be done on this awful emergency. It was His sovereign will and pleasure that Jehovah Jesus should assume our nature, and that in our nature He should live, and die, and that His death should be a proper atonement for the sins of our guilty race. “It became Him, for whom are all things,” etc. Did it so? Why, there are many so-called Christians who will not hesitate to affirm that it became the Divine Being to do no such thing. But “let God be true, though every man be a liar.” Jehovah alone was competent to say what it became Him to do. And He who alone was competent to say what ought to be done, and what became Him to do, had alone the right. What! had man at the bar the right? Would this be allowed in any well-regulated government?

3. Complete in its nature.

(1) Those typical atonements, which shadowed forth this great sacrifice, were imperfect--

(a) In their nature, because in the mere blood of an animal there was no real intrinsic worth.

(b) In their very design. They were only intended to be shadows of better things to come.

(c) In the fact of their repetition; because if one had been complete why then repeat the sacrifice?

(2) But we are told that Christ was offered “once for all,” and once offered, it was complete; eternal redemption was procured. The sufferings of our Saviour were intense; but yet without the dignity of Christ as a Divine person, they could have been of no avail. That is the point that stamped His sufferings with infinite value. Hereby justice receives its demands; the holiness of God is preserved untarnished; the wisdom of God is testified in devising such an expedient; the inviolable truth of God is preserved; the Divine penalty of the law is inflicted; sin becomes remissible; the greatest hatred to sin is expressed, while the greatest compassion to the sinner is manifested.

4. Unchanging in its efficacy. There are some remedies that are efficacious for a time only; but this sovereign remedy has not lost its power through the revolution of years.

What is it to receive the atonement?

1. It must be received by an act of the mind, on conviction that it is the truth.

2. But it may be admitted by the understanding, where it is not cordially and experimentally received. And no man will ever experimentally receive the atonement till he has received another great truth antecedent to this--the universal depravity and guilt of man. These two things are connected together. If I am not a sinner, or if sin be a very trivial thing, where is the necessity of atonement? But if I am a sinner, and if the demerit of sin be beyond all that I can conceive, why, then, there must be an atonement, or I am undone.

3. It must be practically received. That man does not truly and really glory in the Cross of Christ who is not, by the Cross of Christ, crucified to the world, and the world crucified unto Him.

Where the atonement is thus received, great will be the joy.

1. We have joy. Before you received the atonement you had sorrow. At last you were directed to the atonement, and you ventured on it; you received the reconciliation, sorrow fled away, and joy sprung up in your heart.

2. We “joy in God.” We do not merely joy in justification, nor in this reconciliation, nor in introduction to the throne, nor in the prospect of glory that awaits us yonder, nor tribulation, and (verses 1-4) although there may be grounds of joy. No; if any man joy or glory let him “glory in the Lord.”

(1) “We joy in God Himself.” He that has received the atonement “dwells in God, and God in him.” And where he dwells he joys. “He joys in God,” in all He has--in His wisdom to guide and direct, in His power to guide and defend, in His grace to renew and save.

(2) But how can we thus joy in God? “Through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Fallen man, even from the first moment of his apostacy to this hour, has never approached his Creator with success, but through the intervention of blood. “I am the way,” etc.

3. How rational is this joy. Not like the joy of the wicked, for which no reason can be given.

4. How pure. Those who dwell here dwell in a sacred and holy atmosphere; there is nothing to defile. Not like the polluting joys of sin.

5. How lasting. Not like the short-lived joys of the wicked, which are “like the crackling of thorns under a pot.”

Conclusion: Learn--

1. How vital to evangelical, saving religion, is this great doctrine of the atonement.

2. That this life-giving religion is a joy-producing religion. Religion is the life of all our delights, and the soul of all our joys.

3. That this life-giving, joy-producing religion may be ours even now. “We have now received the atonement.”

4. That we who have realised this religion will not wish to monopolise it ourselves. Monopoly in religion is the worst monopoly of all. (R. Newton, D. D.)

The atonement a subjective fact

The word “atonement” means reconciliation, and this is the old English meaning--at-one-ment. Thus Shakespeare, “He seeks to make atonement between the Duke of Glo’ster and our brothers.” Learn that the atonement is--

A conscious possession of the soul. “We have now received.” He does not speak of it as a fact accomplished years ago, nor as a speculative doctrine, but as something of which he and his readers were at that moment conscious. It is one thing for man to have an atonement in his theology, discuss it with ability and defend it with enthusiasm, and another thing for him to have it as a blessed experience. As a mere doctrine--

1. It often makes a man an arrogant bigot; but as a feeling always an humble saint.

2. It may light men to hell, and may there aggravate their misery. As a feeling it will conduct them to heaven, and encircle them with the light of immortality.

A conscious possession of the soul imparted by Christ. “By whom.” Christ is the Great, the only, Reconciler of the soul to God. “God is in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.” How? In the only way in which reconciliation could be affected. By affording the strongest possible demonstration of Divine love. “God so loved the world,” etc. Legislation, philosophy, ethics, religion, civilisation, poetry--none, nor all of these, can bring this at-one-ment into the soul. This is the exclusive work of Christ.

A conscious possession of the soul, inspiring it with joy in the eternal. “We joy in God.” The joy springs from the assurance that the Almighty is once more our friend. This joy may include--

1. Thanksgiving, which inspires the songs of immortality; the reconciled soul traces its atonement to the free, tender, boundless love of God through Jesus Christ.

2. Security. If God is our friend, His love is unchangeable, His power almighty, His resources illimitable. And what a sense of security must His friendship inspire!

3. Adoration. Had we a friend that bestowed upon us the highest favours, inspiring our gratitude, and whose promises and capacities assured us of our security, if he were imperfect in moral character, we could not heartily rejoice in his friendship. Moral admiration is the highest element of joy: and this requires moral excellence in the object. God has this in an infinite degree. Thus, if He is our friend, we may well rejoice in Him, with the most ecstatic rapture and triumphant delight.

Conclusion: Learn--

1. The paramount necessity of human nature--atonement with God.

2. To appreciate the intervention of Christ, by whom alone it can be affected. No system of belief, no code of morality can accomplish it. To the gospel men must look.

3. The test of genuine religion--joy “in God.” The world has joy in creatures and in worthless things--the joy of the truly good is joy in God Himself. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

Christ’s vicarious suffering

A physician testifies: I have been chargeable with forgetfulness of God, and with disobedience to His commands; so that I am numbered among those whom He has threatened with punishment. How, then, can I escape? Such is the constitution of my mind; such has been my education as a man of honour; such is my regard to the inviolability of my own word, and such my contempt for whatever has the semblance of falsehood; that, were God to allow His threatening to remain unfulfilled, in consequence of forgiving me, “simply, Immediately, and unconditionally,” I could not esteem or pay homage to His character, even though constrained to acknowledge Him as the governor of the world. But, said he, I have read of atonement on the principle of vicarious suffering. It was exhibited, under the Mosaic dispensation, in the erection of the brazen serpent, in the sacrifice of the paschal lamb, and in the ceremony of the scapegoat. This principle is, in fact, a law of Providence, which is traceable throughout society, in every age, and in every state of advancement. It forms the link of connection between the Old Testament and the New; and now that, in seriousness, I am led to ask, How can a sinner be washed from his guilt? reason, feeling, and observation, unite with the authority of Scripture in disposing me to rest on the expiatory efficiency of Christ’s vicarious suffering. To me has been given faith in Jesus Christ: and, I now perceive, that pardon conferred, in consideration of what my Saviour has endured, sheds a lustre both over the milder and more awful attributes of the Divine character. My soul is satisfied; my heart is enlarged; my eye is fixed in admiration of the glory of God, as it appears “in the face of Jesus Christ.” (Wilsons Dissertation on the Reasonableness of Christianity.)

Verses 12-21

Romans 5:12-21

By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men.

The entrance of sin into the world

Sin entered as a foe into a city, a wolf into a fold, a plague into a house; as an enemy to destroy, a thief to rob, a poison to infect. (T. Robinson, D. D.)

Introduction of sin into the world

The word “entered” indicates the introduction of a principle till then external to the world, and the word “by” throws back the responsibility of the event on him who, as it were, pierced the dyke through which the irruption took place. Paul evidently holds, with Scripture, the previous existence of evil in a superhuman sphere. Assuredly no subsequent transgression is comparable to this. It created, here below, a state of things which subsequent sins only served to confirm. If the question is asked, how a being created good could perpetrate such an act, we answer that a decision like this does not necessarily suppose evil in its author. There is in moral life not only a conflict between good and evil, but also between good and good, lower good and higher good. The act of eating the fruit of the tree on which the prohibition rested, was not illegitimate in itself. It became guilty only through the prohibition. Man, therefore, found himself placed--and such was the necessary condition of the moral development through which he had to pass--between the inclination to eat--an inclination innocent in itself, but intended to be sacrificed--and the positively good Divine order. At the instigation of an already existent power of revolt, man drew from the depths of his liberty a decision whereby he adhered to the inclination rather than to the Divine Will, and thus created in his whole race, still identified with his person, the permanent proclivity to prefer inclination to obligation. (Prof. Godet, D. D.)

Sin and death

The Origin And Diffusion Of Sin.

1. As to the origin of sin. “By one man sin entered into the world.”

(1) Sin is “the transgression of the law, and the one man by whom it entered into the world was Adam. He was created after the image of the Almighty, and placed in Eden, where we behold a test of obedience, “the tree of knowledge of good and evil,” with regard to which, “the Lord God commanded the man, saying … thou shalt not eat of it.” Here, then, was the law, showing the right of God to command, the obligation of man to obey, and the responsibility and the final account which man must render to the Almighty for his conduct. Satan, animated by malignant hatred to God and holiness, became the tempter, that he might introduce sin. Our first parents yielded, an event which changed the path of nature, and whose mighty consequences will be felt throughout eternity.

(2) The transgression of our first parents was of vast and heinous amount. There are some who have been inclined to treat it with levity, and have sometimes inquired, “What mighty offence could there be in the eating of an apple?” In answer, note the sins connected with this transgression. There was--

(a) Unbelief, because they denied the right to command and the penalty that existed.

(b) Ambition, because they aspired to be as gods, distinguishing between good and evil.

(c) Sensuality, because they wished to gratify mere animal appetite.

(d) Ingratitude, because they turned against that God who had spread around them every enjoyment.

2. As to its diffusion, “all have sinned.”

(1) As it is impossible that an evil tree should bring forth good fruit, so it was impossible, when the nature of our first parent had become corrupted, that one of his descendants could enter into the world except as being a partaker of corruption also. Each, then, enters the world possessing what we term original sin.

(2) This important doctrine is indicated in Genesis 5:3, where Adam is said to have begotten a son “in his own likeness, after his own image,” apparently in contrast to the fact that he was formed “after the likeness of God.” The same doctrine is affirmed in the inquiries of Job and Bildad, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one.” “How can he be clean that is born of a woman?” There is the confession of David, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity.” There is the statement of Christ, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.” There is the asseveration of the apostle, “The old man is corrupt, according to the deceitful lusts.”

(3) Now, that original sin always produces actual transgression. Hence it is that the children of the first man exemplify in themselves unbelief, ambition, sensuality, and ingratitude. Whatever modification may have been formed by education, example, or interest, this one fact remains, that man everywhere is a sinner. The charges of Scripture are without exception or limit: “All flesh has corrupted his way upon the earth.” “There is none that doeth good, no not one.” “The heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.”

The origin and diffusion of death.

1. The origin of death “by sin.” Man was formed with a susceptibility of being affected by the prospect of reward, and by the fear of punishment. Obedience was connected with the one, and disobedience with the other; and thus the most powerful of motives was put in action to aspire to good, and to avoid evil. Now, death was a penalty presented as the result of transgression (Genesis 2:16-17; Genesis 3:17; Genesis 3:19). “The wages of sin is death.” Corporeal death was included, but much more, viz., spiritual and eternal death; i.e., the debasement of human nature consequent upon its alienation from God, the withdrawment of the Divine friendship, the terrors of the conscience at the prospect beyond the grave, the consummation of all this by the entrance of the soul into a state of retribution forever.

2. The diffusion of death. “Death passed upon all men.” In Adam all die; all men are sinners, and therefore against all men the penalty is still standing.

(1) Corporeal death is a penalty which is exacted from all the sons and daughters of Adam.

(2) The ages at which the allotment is suffered vary. There is the child at the mother’s breast, the youth in the springtide of gaiety and buoyant spirits, the man in the maturity of wisdom and of power, the aged bending under the decrepitude of years.

(3) The method in which the allotment is suffered varies. The convulsions of nature; war; famine; accident; disease, slow and sudden. And yet, amid the variety of modes, seasons, the path is the same. All these things are but so many avenues leading down to the one narrow house, which has been appointed for all living.

3. Spiritual death constitutes the state of every man by nature. Every man in consequence of that state of spiritual death, is also in peril of proceeding to receive the recompense of it in the agonies of death eternal.

Those reflections by which our views of the combined origin and the diffusion of sin and death may be duly sanctified.

1. It becomes us to perceive and to lament over the exceeding sinfulness of sin.

2. We are called upon also to admire the riches of that Divine mercy which has provided a remedy against an evil which is so dreadful. (J. Parsons.)

Death by sin, and sin by man

The great curse of the world.

1. In its physical application. All the pains that our body has to endure are but the efforts of death to master it; and those pains are rendered worse because they awaken the fear of death. It is because accidents and disease are so often fatal that they are so greatly dreaded, and their pains so bitterly endured.

2. In its social results. Friendships shattered, homes broken up, hearts bleeding, does not the mere mention of these daily facts remind us what a curse death is. The graves of good men, and of beloved ones bear witness to more terrible things about death than can be expressed.

3. Spiritual death, all that is the opposite of purity, peace, love, joy, i.e., of eternal life is meant in Scripture by death. This death, which is insensibility, corruption, helplessness, ruin, is widespread. Every soul is either a temple or a tomb, a sanctuary or a sepulchre. Let the life of God be wanting, and the soul is dead. Over such death good men lament, angels may wail, and the Spirit of God grieves.

The original cause of death. “Sin.” Death is not here naturally. It invaded the world and is here because sin is here. Some find a difficulty in admitting that physical death is the result of sin; our bodies must die, they say, altogether apart from it. In answer may we not ask--

1. May not our physical nature be so injured by sin, that we cannot tell from our present knowledge what it might primarily have been? May not sin have introduced some mortal element that makes death now a necessity, or have expelled some immortal element that would have made death impossible?

2. Can we not see that the God who translated Enoch and Elijah could have so translated all the human race, supposing it were necessary that they should go? or--

3. Can we not see that but for sin death might have been without pain or fear? Even now to the Christian death resembles sleep. To the sinless the analogy might have been still more true. But explain it how we may, the teaching of the Scripture is that death is the penalty of sin. Shall not we count sin, then, our deadliest enemy, and contend with it as such?

The vast influence of man. “By one man.” It was the hand of man that opened the world’s gates to sin and to death. What the force of no foe from without could accomplish, happened through the compliance of a traitor within. But the text says that “by one man sin entered,” etc. Oh, the stupendous power, the momentous responsibility of that one man! Had that “one man” resisted temptation all might have been otherwise. We should have inherited stronger natures, nobler habits, and holy tendencies. But the “one man” who stood in the very forefront of the battle used the will he had (and without which will he could not have had any virtue), and chose to sin. And today our ancestors’ sins, even back to the sin of the first sinner, have exercised their share of influence in making us what we are. Our yielding to temptation is none the less guilty than Adam’s. For if our nature is weaker and our tendencies more debased, we have in the sufferings and deaths of generations a warning such as he could not have known. So without charging home on our “first father” more than his due proportion of guilt, we summon him here as an unanswerable witness to the vast influence of individual men. Our sins should ever be discouraged, our virtues excited by the remembrance that “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin.” Conclusion: Let us thank God for the gospel that so gloriously meets at every point the sad suggestions of our text.

1. Is death in the world? Its conqueror, He who has taken its sting and crushed its power, is the ever living, ever present Christ.

2. Is sin in the world, working its fearful ravages as the precursor of death? The Saviour from sin is even more intimately one with this same human race. As “one man” sinned, “one man” has redeemed the world. And where sin abounded, grace doth much more abound. (U. R. Thomas.)

On the fallen state of man

The sinfulness of our fallen state.

1. What it is, or wherein the sinfulness of our fallen state doth consist.

2. Not only particular expressions and passages, but the whole of Divine revelation, concerning Christ’s coming into the world to save His people from their sins, proceeds upon a supposition of this truth, that sin has entered into the world, and that all have sinned.

3. Sin has in it an unlikeness, or contrariety and opposition, to the very nature of God. Sin is a transgression of the Divine law, and betrays want of loyalty to our supreme Lord--rebellion, and a contempt or denial of His authority and right of sovereignty over us. Sin is also dishonouring to God, and robs Him of that glory, honour, and service we owe to Him. Sin likewise carries in it the baseness of ingratitude to God, our kind Benefactor. Further, sin brings confusion into our frame, turning our affections from God to the creatures, and exalting the passions and appetites to reign over reason, and counteract the dictates of conscience. Again, sin brings deformity, pollution and defilement on our souls; effacing that likeness to God, and conformity to His law, which is their beauty and glory; stamping them with the likeness of the prince of darkness, and making them vile and filthy.

The misery of our fallen state. “Death by sin, and so death passed upon all men.”

1. Let us consider what this misery is, or what is implied in that death which entered into the world by sin. They are exposed to manifold miseries in this life--to internal miseries in the soul--the distress that flows from vile affections and disorderly appetites. Further, the death which is here said to have entered into the world by sin, no doubt includes natural death, or the separation of soul and body. The second, or eternal death, is by far the worst and most dreadful part of the misery to which we are exposed by sin.

2. Sad experience, in all ages and in all nations, witnesseth that troubles of various kinds are incident to the children of men while they live and that death is the common lot of all mankind. Death or misery is the punishment which sin deserves; its just reward. Death or misery is the fruit of sin connected with it and allotted to it by the law of God; God having expressly threatened to Adam, “In the day thou eatest, thou shalt surely die.” The honour of the Divine veracity requires that sin be punished. The connection established betwixt sin and punishment is not a mere arbitrary constitution, but founded upon the infinite purity, rectitude, and goodness of God. The same thing may be argued from the Divine justice and righteousness. Of this He has given a most awful and striking display in the sufferings and death which Christ, as our substitute, endured when He His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree. Nay, this the very goodness of God, and the end of His government, as the kind and merciful Ruler of the world, require. When the Lord caused His goodness to pass before Moses, He proclaimed, as one part of it, “That He will by no means clear the guilty”; intimating that even His punishing the guilty is an act of His goodness and love.

3. The greatness of that misery to which we are, by sin, become liable. (T. Fernie, M. A.)

The introduction and consequences of sin

1. The question of the origin of evil has exercised and perplexed the understandings of men in every age. The theories of most of the ancient philosophers on this point involved far greater difficulties than that which they were introduced to account for. And how could it be otherwise? for the principles of the subject lie beyond the range of the human faculties.

2. Even the Christian revelation does not profess to give a full explanation; for it does not countenance the presumptuous attempts of men to be “wise above what is written.” It is a religion of faith; and God expects that all His rational creatures should be willing to receive with humility, and thankfulness, the measure of knowledge with respect to Himself and His ways which He is pleased to communicate. It is also a religion of practice. It was never intended to furnish materials for mere intellectual exercise.

3. In conformity, then, with these leading characteristics of our religion, the gospel revelation, although it does not profess to give a full explanation of the origin of evil, does yet give us some information which calls for the exercise of humble faith and is intended to promote the purposes of practical godliness. The substance of the information is given in the text.

“By one man sin entered into the world.” From this we learn that God was not the author of sin, it formed no part of our constitution as it came from the hand of its Creator. But although man was able to stand, he was also liable to fall; and he did fall through the temptation of the devil. The introduction, then, of sin into the world was the joint work of Satan and of man.

In what way did this first sin of our first parent bear upon the character and condition of his posterity?

1. Does the text mean merely that the first man was the first that sinned, and that all his descendants have also sinned in like manner, following his bad example? There is a great deal more in the matter than this.

(1) The Scriptures, and especially the whole subsequent part of the chapter, represent all Adam’s posterity as implicated both in the guilt and in the punishment of his first transgression. The trial of Adam, under the covenant of works, was substantially the trial of the human race. Adam was a fair specimen of human nature, and his conduct was a fair test of what human nature could do, and would do, when placed in certain circumstances, and subjected to certain influences.

(2) But Adam was not only a fair specimen of human nature, he was also the federal head and representative of all his posterity. In consequence of this, all men sinned in him, and fell with him, and are justly subjected to all the penal consequences of Adam’s first sin.

2. Adam lost communion with God. It was no longer consistent with the holiness of the Divine character to hold fellowship with a being who had rebelled against His authority. Adam, accordingly, was expelled from Eden, where he was wont to hold personal intercourse with the Father of his spirit. So all his posterity are born where they cannot in the ordinary course of things expect to be visited with any intimations of a Father’s care and love.

3. From this all the other consequences of Adam’s sin upon his posterity are derived. These are all comprehended under the word “death.” The sanction attached to the covenant of works was, that “in the day he broke it he should surely die.”

(1) That the word “death” here means more than the separation of the soul and the body is evident, for the denunciation was not literally fulfilled. At the same time, we are expressly informed that temporal death was a consequence of Adam’s transgression. We are too much in the habit of looking upon death just as the natural consequence of our bodily constitution, and of the physical influences to which we are subjected. But had man not fallen, he had never died, nor been subjected to those influences which now are the proximate causes of death; but he would have flourished forever in undecaying health.

(2) Death, then, involves something more than dissolution. Men are naturally “dead in trespasses and sins”; kept in a state of distance and alienation from God, the truth of which fact rests upon grounds independent of the truth that man’s moral nature is derived from Adam. This might be proved in many cases by an appeal to a man’s consciousness, and by an impartial examination of the state of the world, and the moral aspect of human society. This condition is not only one of sinfulness, but one of misery. The true happiness of a rational and immortal creature can consist only in the favour of God. Everything else, although it may afford pleasure for a time, is in reality only a vain show of happiness, and can afford no permanent enjoyment.

(3) But there is a more alarming sense still in which the word “death” is used. The apostle tells us that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord,” where, from the contrast between the two parts of the statement, it follows necessarily that the death which is the wages of sin must be eternal death, that is, the endurance of everlasting misery in hell.

4. The reason of man has often alleged that it is inconsistent with justice to involve men in the penal consequences of an offence which they did not commit. To which the full and adequate answer is--“Nay, but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God?” At the same time, before anyone can show that he is treated unjustly, the objector must show that, if he had been placed in Adam’s circumstances, he would not have fallen as Adam did, but would have held fast his integrity. And this is a position which few individuals will be presumptuous enough to maintain. Besides, our actual transgressions are independent of the particular manner in which they originated. It is our duty to state plainly and openly all the doctrines revealed to us in Scripture; and if wicked men will pervert the doctrines of Scripture their blood be upon their own head.

5. But, remember that God did not abandon all intercourse with the human race when He drove Adam from paradise. Immediately after the fall, He held out an intimation of a Deliverer, and by a series of wonderful dispensations He made preparations for the manifestation of Him who was to destroy the works of the devil. Accordingly, in the fulness of time, God sent into the world His only-begotten Son for the purpose of delivering men. On the ground of what Jesus Christ did and suffered, every man is warranted to come to Christ that he may receive salvation. The offers of the gospel are addressed to you, and if you do not accept of them, you remain, of course, in your sins; but the guilt is entirely your own, you have rejected the counsel of God against yourselves and judged yourselves unworthy of eternal life. (W. Cunningham, D. D.)

Original sin

This doctrine may be regarded as it respects the disposition to sin, and as it respects the guilt of it. These two particulars are distinct. The corruption of human nature means its tendency to sin. The guilt of them who wear that nature means their evil desert on account of sin.

The fact of the sinful disposition--

1. Can only be gathered from man’s sinful doings or desires. We do not need to dig into a spring to ascertain the quality of its water, but to examine the quality of the stream which flows from it. We have no access to the hearts of the inferior animals, and yet we can pronounce from their doings on their disposition. We speak of original ferocity in the tiger. This means that, as the fountain on the hillside is formed and filled up before it sends forth the rills which proceed from it, so a ferocious quality of nature exists in the tiger before it vents itself forth in deeds of ferocity; and it is a quality not due to education, provocation, climate, accident, or to anything posterior to the formation of the animal itself; it is seen, both from the universality and unconquerable strength of this attribute, that it belongs essentially to the creature. There is no difficulty in understanding here the difference between original and actual. Could the cruelties of a tiger be denominated sins, then all the cruelties inflicted by it during the course of its whole life--then would these be its actual sins. These might vary in number and in circumstances with different individuals, yet each would have the same cruel disposition. It is thus that we verify the doctrine of original sin by experience. Should it be found true of every man, that he is actually a sinner, then he sins, not because of the mere perversity of his education, the peculiar excitements to evil that have crossed his path, the noxious atmosphere he breathes, or the vitiating example that is on every side of him; but purely in virtue of his being a man. And to talk of the original sin of our species, thereby intending to signify the existence of a prior and universal disposition to sin, is just as warrantable as to affirm the most certain laws, or the soundest classifications in natural history.

2. There is not enough, it may be thought, of evidence for this fact, in those glaring enormities which give to history so broad an aspect of wicked violence. For the actors in the great drama are few, and though satisfied that many would just feel and do alike in the same circumstances--there is yet room for affirming that, in the unseen privacies of social and domestic life, some are to be found who pass a guileless and a perfect life in this world. Now it is quite impossible to meet this affirmation by passing all the individuals of our race before you, and pointing out the actual iniquity of the heart or life, which proves them corrupt members of a corrupt family. You cannot make all men manifest to each man; but you may make each man manifest to himself. You may appeal to his conscience, and in defect of evidence in his outward history you may accompany him to that place where the emanating fountain of sin is situated. You may enter along with him into the recesses of his heart, and there detect the preference to its own will, the slight hold that the authority of God has over it. We dispute not the power of many amiable principles in the heart of man, but which work without the recognition of God. It is this ungodliness which can be fastened on every child of Adam. From such a fountain innumerable are the streams of disobedience which will issue; and though many of them may not be so deeply tinged, yet still in the fountain itself there is independence of God. Put out our planet by the side of another, where all felt the same delight in God that angels feel, and are you to say of such a difference that it has no cause? Must there not be a something in the original make and a constitution of the two families to account for such a diversity?

3. We are quite aware that this principle is but faintly recognised by many expounders of human virtue. And therefore it is that we hold it indeed a most valid testimony in behalf of our doctrine, when they are rendered heartless by disappointment; and take revenge upon their disciples by pouring forth the bitterest misanthropy against them. Even on their own ground, original sin might find enough of argument to make it respectable.

4. The existence of man’s corruption, then, is proved from experience; how it entered into the world is altogether a matter of testimony. “By one man,” says our text, “sin entered into the world.” He came out pure and righteous from the hand of God; but Adam, after he had yielded to temptation, was a changed man, and that change was permanent, and while God made man after His own image, the very first person who was born into the world, came to it in the image of his parent. This is the simple statement, and we are not able to give the explanation. The first tree of a particular species may be conceived to have come from the Creator’s hand with the most exquisite flavour. A pestilential gust may have passed over it, and so changed its nature, that all its fruit afterwards should be sour. After this change it may be conceived to have dropt its seeds, and all the future trees rise in the transformed likeness of the tree from which they sprung. If this were credibly attested, we are not prepared to resist it; and as little are we entitled to set ourselves in opposition to the Bible statement that a moral blight came over the character of our great progenitor; and that a race proceeded from him with that very taint of degeneracy that he had taken on.

5. Another fact announced in this passage is the connection between the corruption of our nature and its mortality. This brings out in another way the distinction between actual and original sin. All have not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, i.e., by a positive deed of disobedience; infants e.g. The death that they undergo is not the fruit of any actual iniquity, but of that moral virus which has descended from the common fountain. And what is this but the original and constitutional aptitude that there is to sinning, a disposition that only yet exists in embryo, but which will come out into deed so soon as powers and opportunities are expanded. The infant tiger has not yet performed one act of ferocity, but we are sure that all the rudiments of ferocity exist in its native constitution. The tender sapling of the crab tree has not yet yielded one sour apple, but we know that there is an organic necessity for its producing this kind of fruit. And whether or not we should put to the account of this the boisterous outcry of an infant, the constant exactions it makes, and its spurning impatience of all resistance and control, so as to be the little tyrant to whose brief but most effective authority the entire circle of relationship must bend, still the disease is radically there. Original sin, then, as it respects the inborn depravity of our race, is at one with the actual experience of mankind.

We should further proceed to show in how far original sin, as it respects the imputation of guilt to all who are under it, is at one with the moral sense of mankind. Experience takes cognisance of whether such a thing is, and so is applicable to the question whether a depraved tendency to moral evil is or is not in the human constitution. The moral sense of man takes cognisance of whether such a thing ought to be, and whether man ought to be dealt with as a criminal on account of a tendency which came unbidden by him into the world.

1. To determine the question we should inquire how much man requires to have within his view, ere his moral sense be able to pronounce conclusively. One may see a dagger projected from a curtain, grasped by a human hand, directed against the bosom of an unconscious sleeper; and, seeing no more, he would infer that the individual was an assassin. Had he seen all he might have seen that he was in fact an overpowered victim, an unwilling instrument of the deed. The moral sense would then instantly reverse the former decision and transfer the charge to those who were behind.

2. Now, the mind of man, in order to be made up as to the moral character of any act, needs to know only what the intention was that originated the act. An act against the will indicates no demerit on the part of him who performed it. But an act with the will gives us the full impression of demerit. How the disposition got there is not the question which the moral sense of man, when he is unvitiated by a taste for speculation, takes any concern in. Give us two individuals--one of whom is revengeful and profligate, and the other kind and godly, and our moral sense leads us to regard the one as blameable and the other as praiseworthy. And in so doing it does not look so far back as to the originating cause of the distinction.

3. What stumbles the speculative inquirer is this, he thinks that a man born with a sinful disposition is born with the necessity of sinning, which exempts him from all imputation of guiltiness. But he confounds two things which are distinct, viz., the necessity that is against the will with the necessity that is with the will. The man who struggled against the external force that compelled him to thrust a dagger into the bosom of his friend, was operated upon by a necessity that was against his will; and you exempt him from all charge of criminality. But the man who does the same thing at the spontaneous bidding of his own heart, this you irresistibly condemn. The only necessity which excuses a man for doing evil, is a necessity that forces him by an external violence to do it, against the bent of his will struggling most honestly and determinedly to resist it. But if the necessity be that his will is bent upon the doing of it, then such a necessity just aggravates the man’s guiltiness.

4. It is enough, then, that a disposition to moral evil exists; and however it originated, it calls forth, by the law of our moral nature, a sentiment of blame or reprobation. If it be asked how this can be, we reply that we do not know. It is not the only fact of which we can offer no other explanation than that simply such is the case. We can no more account for our physical than for our moral sensations. When we eat the fruit of the orange tree we feel the bitterness; but we do not know how this sensation upon our palate stands connected with a constitutional property in the tree, which has descended to it through a long line of ancestry. And when we look to the bitter fruit of transgression, and feel upon our moral sense a nauseating revolt, we do not know how this impression stands connected with a tendency which has been derived through many centuries. But certain it is that the origin of our depravity has nothing to do with the sense and feeling of its loathesomeness wherewith we regard it.

5. There is an effectual way of bringing this to the test. Let a neighbour inflict moral wrong or injury; will not the feeling of resentment rise immediately? Will you stop to inquire whence he derived the malice, or selfishness, under which you suffer? Is it not simply enough that he wilfully tramples upon your rights? If it be under some necessity which operates against his disposition, this may soften your resentment. But if it be under that kind of necessity which arises from the strength of his disposition to do you harm, this will only stimulate your resentment. And thinkest thou, O man, who judgest another for his returns of unworthiness to you, that thou wilt escape the judgment of God?

6. These remarks may prepare the way for all that man by his moral sense can understand in the imputation of Adam’s sin. We confess that no man is responsible for the doings of another whom he never saw, and who departed this life many centuries before him. But if the doings of a distant ancestor have in point of fact corrupted his moral nature, and if this corruption has been transmitted to his descendants, then we can see how these become responsible, not for what their forefathers did, but for what they themselves do under the corrupt disposition that they have received from their forefather. According to this explanation, every man still reapeth not what another soweth, but what he soweth himself. Every man eateth the fruit of his own doings.

In attempting to vindicate the dealings of God with the species, let us begin with the portion now within hearing. What have you to complain of? You say that, without your consent, a corrupt nature has been given you, and that so sin is unavoidable, and yet there is a law which denounces upon this sin the torments of eternity. Well, is this an honest complaint? Do you really feel your corrupt nature, and are you accordingly most desirous to be rid of it? Well, God is at this moment holding out to you in offer the very relief which you now tell us that your heart is set upon. Does not God wipe His hands of the foul charge that His sinful creatures would prefer against Him, when He says, “Turn unto Me and I will pour out My Spirit upon you”? Who does not see that every possible objection which can be raised against the Creator is most fully and fairly disarmed by what He offers to man in the gospel? And if man will persist in charging upon God a depravity that He both asks and enables us to give up, did not we firmly retain it by the wilful grasp of our own inclinations, is it not plain that on the day of reckoning it will be clear that the complaints of man, because of his corruption, have been those of a hypocrite, who secretly loved the very thing he so openly complained of. We may conceive a man murmuring at being upon a territory over which there is spread a foul atmosphere charged with all the elements of discomfort and disease, and at length to be wrapped in some devouring flame which would burn up every creature within its vortex. But let God point his way to another country, where freshness was in every breeze, and the whole air shed health and fertility and joy over the land that it encompassed--let Him offer all the facilities of conveyance so as to make it turn simply upon the man’s will, whether he should continue in the accursed region or be transported to another. And will not the worthless choice to abide rather than to move, acquit God of the severity wherewith He has been charged, and unmask the hypocrisy of all the reproaches which man has uttered against Him? What is true of the original corruption is also true of the original guilt. Do you complain of that debt under the weight and oppression of which you came into the world? What ground, we ask, is there for complaining, when the offer is fairly put within your reach, of a most free and ample discharge, and that not merely for the guilt of original, but also for the whole guilt of your proper and personal sinfulness. (T. Chalmers, D. D.)

Original sin, a scientific fact

Now he who would deny original sin must contradict all experience in the transmission of qualities. The very hound transmits his peculiarities, learnt by education, and the Spanish horse his paces, taught by art, to his offspring, as a part of their nature. If it were not so in man, there could be no history of man as a species; no tracing out the tendencies of a race or nation; nothing but the unconnected repetitions of isolated individuals, and their lives. It is plain that the first man must have exerted on his race an influence quite peculiar; that his acts must have biassed their acts. And this bias or tendency is what we call original sin. (F. W. Robertson.)

Original sin

Probably no one will seriously deny the fact which is asserted throughout the Bible that “all are under sin,” that “in many things we offend all.” The universality of sin, apart from all theories as to its origin, or the cause of its universality, is a fact of experience as incontestable as any universal statement about the human race can be. This is different from the doctrine of original sin; it is an assertion that, as a matter of fact, all human beings whom we know, all of whom any record exists have, so far as we can judge, shown in one point or another a weakness and corruption of nature, a faultiness--to use the lowest term--which in most cases rises to occasional wickedness, in some to the most extreme and continuous depravity. But it has been pointed out by a great theologian of our own time, that when such a fact as this can be affirmed of every representative of a race composed of such various sorts, under such various conditions of time and place, as the human race, the fact points to a law. No fact can be universal unless some law, some general cause, lies behind it. We may not always know what it is, but we believe that it is there though we have not yet discovered it. It is simply impossible for us to think that the universal phenomenon of sin is due to chance; that men, differently constituted and differently placed as they are, should all have fallen into sin by accident. There must be, then, some law corresponding to the fact and explaining it. Such a law is that which we assert in asserting the doctrine of original sin. For this doctrine does not simply declare that all men sin--that would be merely a re-statement of the universal fact, a summary, not a law; but it asserts that this is the result of inheritance depending upon the physical relation of one generation to another, and that each human being brings with him into the world a tendency to sin, which is due to no act or wish of his own, but is the working out of far off causes among the dim origins of the human race. That is the law which, according to the Bible and the Church, lies behind and explains the universal fact of sin. There might be another explanation, another law. It might be maintained that every soul was freshly created by God, that it came into the world unaffected by the previous conditions of the race, untainted by any stain of will or deed of its human ancestry, and that by the direct act of its Creator every such soul has been made to fall into sin; so that the phenomenon of universal sinfulness is simply a repetition in millions and millions of cases of an act of God’s controlling power by which men are allowed--nay, impelled--to become evil. This is a conceivable theory; but the conscience of every Christian must revolt from such a travesty of God’s love and human free will. Whatever the mystery of sin may be--and I am not, of course, attempting (the Church has never attempted) to explain its origin, its first appearance in God’s universe--we must at least bring it into harmony with what we know of God’s will and of His methods in other parts of His action. And it is surely more consistent with our knowledge of the universe to say that sin is due to one great cause acting uniformly throughout the human race than to ascribe it to so many repeated separate acts of God’s will. We dare not believe that God directly wills that any soul should sin, but we can see that indirectly, and in consequence of one of the great general laws of His action, He may allow men to reap the fruit of human sin even if the harvest should be their own continuance in sin. That, apart from the question of redemption, is the Christian doctrine of original sin. It depends upon a general law, the law of the intimate relation of human beings one to another--the solidarity, as it is called, of the human race. Indeed, but for this relation, it is difficult to see how Christianity could be an intelligible system at all. If we do not share in the sinfulness of our forefathers, neither do we share in the redemption won for us by Christ, the spiritual Head of our race. For “as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” If men are simply separate atoms, unrelated to each other save by the similarity of outward form and nature, how can they be Christ’s brethren? If they do not constitute a body, how is Christ the Head? (Hon. and Rev. A. T. Lyttelton.)

Original sin: why God did not arrest its consequences

Was it compatible with Divine perfection to let this succession of generations, stained with original vice, come into the world? God certainly might have annihilated the perverted race in its head, and replaced it by a new one; but this would have been to confess Himself vanquished by the adversary. He might, on the contrary, accept it such as sin had made it, and leave it to develop in the natural way, holding it in His power to recover it; and this would be to gain a victory on the field of battle where He seemed to have been conquered. Conscience says to which of these two courses God must give the preference, and Scripture teaches us which He has preferred. (Prof. Godet.)

Original sin

Sin is born in a child as surely as fire is in the flint--it only waits to be brought out and manifested. (W. F. Hook, D. D.)

Original sin

acted as an extinguisher; and therefore the soul is born in darkness and cannot see until enlightened by the Holy Spirit. (A. Toplady, M. A.)

Original sin

Our father Adam had a great estate enough at first, but he soon lost it. He violated the trust on which he held his property, and he was cast out of the inheritance, and turned adrift into the world to earn his bread as a day labourer by tilling the ground whence he was taken. His eldest son was a vagabond; the first born of our race was a convict upon ticket of leave. If any suppose that we have inherited some good thing by natural descent, they go very contrary to what David tells us, when he declares, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Our first parents were utter bankrupts. They left us nothing but a heritage of old debts, and a propensity to accumulate yet more personal obligations. Well may we be poor who come into this world “heirs of wrath,” with a decayed estate and tainted blood. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Original sin, a root

A pious minister, having preached on the doctrine of original sin, was afterwards waited on by some persons, who stated their objections to what he had advanced. After hearing them, he said, “I hope you do not deny actual sin too?” “No,” they replied. The good man expressed his satisfaction at their acknowledgment; but, to show the folly of their opinions in denying a doctrine so plainly taught in Scripture, he asked them, “Did you ever see a tree growing without a root?” (J. G. Wilson.)

The misery of man’s sinful state


That all mankind are made miserable. This needs no proof. Sad experience in all ages confirms the truth of this assertion.

That this misery came upon men by the fall. Man came not out of God’s hand with the tear in his eye, or sorrow in his heart, or a burden on his back. Death never could enter the gates of the world till sin set them wide (Genesis 3:1-24). And then one sin let in the flood, and many sins followed and increased it. The first pilot dashed the ship on a rock, and then all that were in it were cast into a sea of misery.

What that misery is. Note--

1. Man’s loss by the fall. He has lost communion with God.

(1) A saving interest in God as his God. Man could then call God his own God, his Friend, his Portion, being in covenant with Him.

(2) Sweet and comfortable society and fellowship with God (Genesis 3:8). Thus man lost God (Ephesians 2:12), the greatest and the fountain of all other losses. Had the sun been forever darkened, it had been no such loss as this. Man is a mere nothing without God; a nothing in nature without His common presence, and a nothing in happiness without His gracious presence (Psalms 30:5; Psalms 63:3).

2. What man is brought under by the fall.

(1) God’s wrath (Ephesians 2:3).

(2) His curse (Galatians 3:10).

3. What man is liable to in consequence.

(1) In this world.

(a) To all the miseries of this life. First, outward miseries, as, God’s curse upon the creature for our sake (Genesis 3:17); calamities, such as sword, famine, and pestilence; miseries on men’s bodies, sickness, pains, etc.; on our estates, as losses, wrongs, and oppressions; on our names, by reproach, disgrace, etc.; on our employments; on our relations. Secondly, inward spiritual miseries, as “blindness of mind” (Ephesians 4:13; 1 Corinthians 4:4), “a reprobate sense” (Romans 1:28), “strong delusions” (2 Thessalonians 2:11), “hardness of heart” (Romans 2:5), “vile affections” (Romans 1:26), fear, sorrow, and horror of conscience (Isaiah 33:14).

(b) At the end of this life, man is liable to death (chap. 6:23).

(2) In the world to come.

(a) The punishment of loss--of all the good things of this life; of all the good things which they are enjoyed here; the favourable presence and enjoyment of God and Christ (Matthew 25:41); of all the glory and blessedness above.

(b) The punishment of sense. Conclusion:

1. See here the great evil of sin.

2. Woeful is the case of all who are in a state of nature. (T. Boston, D. D.)

Man’s fall

Let us consider--

That sin which by one man entered into the world.

1. What this sin was, and how it came to be committed. The sin itself, as to the outward act, was the eating of the tree of knowledge contrary to the command of God. The manner of doing it may be collected from Genesis

3. compared with other Scriptures.

2. Its heinousness.

(1) It contained many sins.

(a) Direct disobedience and rebellion against God.

(b) Unbelief.

(c) Inordinate indulgence to the sensual appetite.

(d) Pride and covetousness.

(e) An envious discontent with God.

(f) Sacrilege; for God was robbed.

(g) Idolatry; because the trust due to God only was transferred to the devil, and because they made a tree a god to themselves, and expected from it greater benefits than their Maker would bestow.

(h) Ingratitude.

(i) Injustice and cruelty against all their posterity.

(2) It had special aggravations.

(a) It was committed in a direct manner against God, and struck at all His perfections at once. His Majesty was treated by it with irreverence, His truth was arraigned, as though He had spoken what was equivocal or false. His Omnipotence was impeached, by the hope of escaping an evil certainly threatened; His goodness was contemned by ingratitude. Finally, His omnipresence, wisdom, justice, and holiness all shared in the affront.

(b) It was perfectly voluntary, being done against the clearest light.

(c) The broken command was an easy one, for it required nothing to be done, but only somewhat to be foreborne.

(d) The sin was committed in paradise, a delightful spot, honoured with the special presence of God and friendly communion with Him.

(e) This sin was the first in our world, which gave birth to the innumerable sins and calamities.

The concern which all men have in the first sin.

1. All men suffer and die through it (verses 14-17).

2. It belongs in the guilt of it to all men. “All have sinned.” How? Why, in Adam, their common father and head. (See also verses 18, 19.)

The dreadful consequences of the first sin to all the posterity of Adam.

1. Natural death, with a long train of miseries in life preceding it.

2. The punishments of another world.

3. One which commences in every man on the first union of soul and body--the want of habitual rectitude, or of effectual principles to incline and enable him to do what is pleasing to God, together with the inherency of an evil habit and bias prompting and disposing him to sinful actions.


1. Let us learn from the first sin growing into such an enormous size, though conversant about a matter in itself inconsiderable, never to account the doing of anything which God forbids a slight trespass, and never to venture on it under such a pretence (1 Corinthians 5:6; James 3:5).

2. Let us be deeply humbled before God, for original sin without us, even that of our first parents, which, though not done by us is yet upon us by a just imputation, and for original sin within us.

3. Let us see that we abuse not this doctrine by charging all our sins so to the score of original corruption, as by the presence of a necessity, either to take an unbounded liberty in sinning or to extenuate the guilt of what we do knowingly with free and full consent of will. On the contrary, it is incumbent on us to watch, strive, and pray the more carefully and earnestly against sin as it easily besets us.

4. Let us take occasion from the view of our fall in the first Adam, with its sad consequences, to admire and thankfully use the way of our recovery in the second, which is in exact opposition to the former, only with superior efficacy and advantage. (Hubbard-Puritan.)

Human depravity

It is--

Total in its influences over the mind. Even--

1. The understanding.

2. The conscience.

3. The will.

4. The affections.

Universal in its prurience among mankind. It exists in all--

1. Ages.

2. Countries.

3. Communities.

4. Families.

5. Individuals.

Inherent in our nature in consequence of the fall.

1. The origin of sin is in the creature, not in the Creator.

2. Accordingly, man was created pure and holy.

3. But almost the first thing recorded of him is his fall.

4. The results of the fall--its degradation and misery of man--pass from one generation to another. (T. Raffles, D. D.)

The need of healing

1. “The traits of greatness and of misery in man are so clear,” says Pascal, “that it is absolutely necessary that the true religion should teach us that there is in him some great principle of greatness, and at the same time some great principle of misery.”

2. In Genesis 3:1-24 we see the beginning of all that dreary, mean, disfiguring misery that rudely clashes with the honour of humanity, as the heir of a great house entering upon his envied heritage is saddened for life as he is told the secret of some shameful cloud upon the name he boasts, some taint of dishonour or wretchedness that is in his veins--so we learn the great blot on our scutcheon: how it is that we can be so noble and so base--it is because “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin.”

Let us try to see how naturally faith may link the record of the fall with the facts of our present state.

1. There is a clear and familiar analogy between our childhood and the childhood of our race. We look back, and in both cases the utmost effort of our thought fails long before it draws near to the first dawn of life and consciousness; in both eases there is much that we most take on trust, here relying upon the words of earthly parents, there upon the Word of God. And we then come to find, in both cases, that life itself is a verification of that which we have thus received by faith.

(1) For as we try to recall the first years of our own lives, the lines which we can retrace through our school days grow faint and uncertain as they enter the furthest past, till in the far distance of childhood only a few points of quivering light appear, like the scattered lamps of a straggling suburb, and then the tracks of consciousness are utterly lost in impenetrable haze. It is from others that we learn the story of those earliest days. It is faith in others, the evidence of things not seen, which links our present and our past. But then, as we go on living by this faith, accepting the manifold conditions of the state assigned to us, the witness of experience day by day confirms our trust.

(2) Now, is it not even exactly thus with the dim childhood of mankind? We travel back along the centuries towards the beginning of our race; presently the guidance of history falters and then stops; then tradition fails us long before we get to the boyhood of humanity; at last even science is irresolute, and only offers us hypothesis. Natural reason tells us as little of the childhood of humanity as memory can tell us of our own. But then, from behind the veil, there comes the voice of the Father of Spirits, whose eyes did see our substance yet being imperfect, and He alone tells us how man first became a living soul, and what were the conditions of his dawning thought; from Him we learn how our new life was lifted up by the inward strength of His own holiness, by the unchecked fulness of His grace; He teaches us what was the trial of those early years, and what choice first called our freedom into exercise. And then He shows us the beginning of our sin and all its devastating work. All that wondrous vision of man’s infancy He offers to our faith. But here again Faith is not left to stand alone. By experience we find ourselves to be just what that strange revelation would lead us to expect: confused, uncertain of our proper place, bewildered between our ideal and our caricature, contented neither with virtue nor with vice; we have forces striving in us which are and are not ourselves, we have desires from which we recoil, and aversions for which we long, so that sometimes it almost seems as though man might have called himself fallen, even if God had never told him how he fell.

Yes, it is true indeed that, as Pascal says, “The mystery of the fall and of the transmission of original sin is a mystery at once most remote from our knowledge and most essential to all knowledge of ourselves.” “It is, indeed, itself incomprehensible, but without it we are incomprehensible.”

1. The facts of life force our thoughts to the recognition of the fall, just as the attractions and repulsions of the heavenly bodies guide the astronomer to believe in the existence of an undiscovered star. And so it has come to pass that the doctrine of the fall has been at once the most scornfully rejected and the most generally acknowledged truth in all the Christian faith. Surely it is both true and strange that a belief which seems at first so hard to realise, which is often thrust away with a confident impatience, can yet appeal to a vast army of witnesses, often unconscious, sometimes incredulous, of that which they have attested.

2. Plato compares the soul in its present plight to the form of the god Glaueus, immortal and miserable, crippled and battered by the waves, disfigured by the clinging growth of shells and seaweed, so that the fishermen as they catch sight of him can hardly recognise his ancient nature. However it may be misnamed, however the moral sense may be crushed down to die under fatalism and despair, still there is the witness to a corruption, a perversion of humanity, wide as the world and deep as life. The witness of all our experience, of all current language, all common expectations, about the ways of man; the witness of daily life, of our journals with their columns full of ceaseless news about the fruits of sin; the witness, interpreting all else, of our own hearts, all converge upon the truth of a worldwide disfigurement of human life, a pervading taint through all our history, a sense of something wrong in the ethical basis of our nature, thrust into every movement of the will.

3. And then, it may be, our minds will stagger and our hearts begin to sink at the dreary vision of that vast desolating gloom: “there is none good, then, no, not one.” There be many that say, “Who will show us any good?” The lies of the cynic and the pessimist claim kindred with our thoughts. “Yes,” they say, “all this is true, and we had better simply acquiesce in it. What have we to do with those vague ideals which have made so many restless and miserable? When will men frankly recognise their proper level, and live there, and renounce those fruitless, wasteful hopes.”

Oh, then, if that worst of all infidelity, the disbelief in goodness, the despair of holiness, begins to creep about your souls, then turn and gaze, where through the rent cloud the pure white light of God Himself has broken through. One break there is in that uniform tenor of our history, even the surpassing miracle of a sinless life.

We can afford to realise and face the sin of the world, the sinfulness of our own hearts; we can bear to know the worst because we know the best, because the darkness is past, and the true Light now shineth, because we can turn from the gloom of sinful history to the perfect glory of the holiness of Christ. “In Him is no sin,” “the Life was manifested, and we have seen it, and shew unto you that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us.” “The Word was God,” “and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father.” (F. Paget, D. D.)

What is chance


1. All death is a solemn and fearful thing. When it comes to an old person one cannot help feeling it often a release; but when death comes suddenly to people in the prime of life we cannot help asking, “What is this death? this horrible thing which takes husbands from their wives, and children from their parents, and those who love from those who love them? What right has it here, under the bright sun, among the pleasant fields, destroying God’s handiwork, just as it is growing to its prime of beauty and usefulness?” And there, by the bedside of the young at least, we do feel that death must be the enemy of a loving, life-giving God, as much as it is hated by poor mortal man. And then we feel there must be something between man and God. What right has death in the world if man has not sinned? And then we cannot help saying further, “This cruel death! it may come to me, young and healthy as I am. It may come tomorrow, this minute, by a hundred diseases or accidents which I cannot foresee or escape, and carry me off tomorrow. And where would it take me to?”

2. But perhaps you young people are saying to yourselves, “You are trying to frighten us, but you shall not. We know very well that it is not a common thing for a young person to die, and therefore the chances are that we shall not die young, and it will be time enough to think of death when death draws near.” Well, what do you mean by chance? What are these wonderful “chances” which are to keep you alive for forty or fifty years more? Did you ever hear a chance? Did anyone ever see a great angel called Chance flying about keeping people from dying? What is chance, which you fancy so much stronger than God?

3. Perhaps you will say, “All we meant was that God’s will was against our dying.” Then why put the thought of God away by foolish words about chance? For it is God only who keeps you alive, and He who makes you live can also let you not live.

4. Then again, it is not as you fancy, that when God leaves you alone you live, and when He visits you you die--but the very opposite. Our bodies carry in them from the very cradle the seeds of death. We live because God does not leave us alone, but keeps down those seeds of disease and death by His Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life.

5. God’s Spirit of Life is fighting against death in our bodies from the moment we are born. And, as Moses says, when He withdraws His Spirit then we are turned again to our dust. So that our living a long time or a short time does not depend on chance, or on our own health or constitution, but entirely on how long God may choose to keep down the death which is ready to kill us at any moment, and certain to kill us sooner or later,

6. And therefore I ask you, “For what does God keep you alive?” Will a man keep plants in his garden which bear neither fruit nor flowers; or stock on his farm which will only eat and never make profit; or a servant in his house who will not work? Much more, will a man keep a servant who will not only be idle himself, but quarrel with his fellow servants, and teach them to disobey their master? And yet God keeps thousands in His garden, and in His house, for years and years, while they are doing no good to Him, and doing harm to those around them.

7. Then why does not God rid Himself of them at once and let them die, instead of cumbering the ground? I know but one reason. If they were only God’s plants, or His stock, or His servants, He might do so. But they are His children, redeemed by the blood of Christ. God preserves you from death because He loves you. Oh, do not make that truth an excuse for forgetting and disobeying your heavenly Father! Why does any good father help and protect his children? Not as beasts take care of their young, and then as soon as they are grown up cast them off and forget them; but because he wishes them to grow up like himself, to be a comfort, help, and pride to him. And God takes care of you and keeps you from death for the very same reason. God desires that you should grow up like Himself.

8. But if you turn God’s grace in keeping you alive into an excuse for sinning--if, when God keeps you alive that you may lead good lives, you take advantage of His fatherly love to lead bad lives, and basely presume on His patience, what must you expect? God loves you, and you make that an excuse for not loving Him; God does everything for you, and you make that an excuse for doing nothing for God; God gives you health and strength, and you make that an excuse for using your health and strength just in the way He has forbidden. What can be more ungrateful? What can be more foolish? Oh, if one of our children behaved to us a hundredth part as shamefully as most of us behave to God, what should we think of them? Oh, beware! God is patient; but “if a man will not turn, He will whet His sword.” And then, woe to the careless and ungrateful sinner. God will take from him his health, or his blind peace, and by affliction, shame, and disappointment, teach him that his youth, health, money, and all that he has, are his Father’s gifts, and that his Father will take them away from him till he cries, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before Thee. Father, take me back, for I have sinned, and am not worthy to be called Thy child.” (C. Kingsley, M. A.)

A historical parallel

The apostle’s argument turns entirely upon a parallel between the effects of Adam’s sin and those of Christ’s righteousness.

He is accordingly obliged to glance back upon the results which followed upon tire first man’s transgression of law.

1. The point to be proved is this: Sin and death spread to all mankind “through one man.” The proof is this: All men betwixt Adam and Moses died. Why? Not, argues St. Paul, for any transgression of their own, but for Adam’s. At first one may object, sin was in the world. Why should they not have died for their own sin?

(1) But remember that Paul has already taught us to discriminate betwixt sin committed against, and sin committed without law. Without a law sin may be present as a defect of nature or fault of will, but sin as a violation of statute can enter only where the statute is known. “Where no law is there can be no transgression” (Romans 4:15). This he now supplements by “sin is not imputed where there is no law” (verse 13), axioms which carry with them all the stronger assurance of truth, that they not only echo, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” but are in accord with all that our Lord taught us concerning Him who is perfect love.

(2) Turning next to the bearing of these legal maxims upon the position of men betwixt Adam and Moses, one cannot fail to see that it applies to them roundly, yet with qualifications. That they sinned “without law,” and therefore “not after the fashion of Adam’s transgression” (verse 14), is true in the main, but only partially true of some of them. St. Paul himself implies as much by, “even over them that had not sinned” as Adam did. For although the ages before Moses, like the vast heathen world ever since, possessed no statute recognised to have come from heaven which denounced death as the penalty of transgression, such as Adam or the Jews had, and therefore could not break the statute with their eyes open in the same degree; yet they still retained (chap. 1) the relics of natural conscience, testifying to the eternal rules of right and wrong, and testifying quite clearly enough to render some of them at least inexcusable. But in many of them conscience was undeveloped, false judgments; in all, it was defective, prescribing only certain rules of duty, and very feebly declaring, if at all, the penalty for disobedience. Besides, this inadequacy of the moral sense, being a portion of that subjection of human nature to the consequences of transgression for which we are seeking to account, needs itself to be accounted for.

2. After all fair deductions have been allowed for, let the question be put broadly: Were the sins committed without revealed law such that, had there been no antecedent transgression, they would have been in the bulk of cases punishable with eternal death? I think St. Paul’s reasoning compels us to reply that they were not. Suppose it conceivable for a new-created moral agent to be left in that condition of imperfect knowledge of the Divine will, and to sin, his fall would not entail such a penalty as actually followed the transgression of Adam. Here, then, were men dying for thousands of years under a penalty which was originally attached to the express violation of a known law, but not attached to such sins as they themselves could commit. Before Adam there had been placed a clear command with precise warnings. Deliberately breaking it, he died. But his posterity could not so sin. Before them no such positive law had been set. To them no such consequences had been foretold. They made no such deliberate choice. Yet on all of them alike falls that same penalty. There is the fact. Is there any other explanation of it except St. Paul’s, viz., that they died because Adam sinned; because the sentence passed on the first man for his transgression included his posterity in its sweep, be their personal offences what they might; and from this point of view it does supply an explanation for what must otherwise appear inexplicable. Moreover, if it be once admitted, it materially alters the complexion of all the subsequent sins of mankind. Those later sins of the “men without law” might not be such “transgressions” as of themselves to entail “death.” Yet it is impossible to cut them off from their guilty origin in the “one transgression” which went before. If the race be one, and its whole sin be the fruit of one culpable and deliberate act of original rebellion, then it is clear that the total mass of moral evil must continue to be stained throughout with the dark hue of its origin.

3. It need hardly be added that in the case of adults under Christianity, sin has to a great extent recovered the type of Adam’s first transgression. The law has long since been republished with plain spoken promises and penalties. Most of us have chosen evil with the clearest knowledge. Still, even we can be proved to underlie the penalty, not of our own, but of Adam’s sin. For time was when we, too, had “no law.” As children we knew nothing of sin or duty, of the Lawgiver or the penalty. Yet we were subject then to death.

4. All this, however, is not preliminary merely, but parenthetic. Now that the sweeping lapse of a race into death through the single act of a representative man has been proved, he is prepared at the close of verse 14 to resume his interrupted sentence begun in verse 12. He does not resume it, and the reason is very notable. He has caught sight of differences betwixt the two cases which make the parallel in some points a contrast. The cases are similar, but not equal. Is there any shortcoming? On the contrary, there is a glorious excess. The apostle, therefore, forbears to conclude his parallel, but abruptly exclaims--

“But not as the trespass, so also is the free gift!” (verse 15).

1. One point of superiority is developed in verse 15, “If by the trespass of the one,” etc. Here are two similar procedures on the part of God, by which a vast multitude of human beings is involved in each case in the fate of one man. The one application of the principle turns out to be a terrific disaster which overwhelms countless millions of unhappy beings in the judgment and ruin that overtake their transgressing representative. The other is a blessed provision of Divine kindness brought in to remedy the sad efforts of the former through the action of a better and abler Representative. This argument bears upon us in two ways.

1. Do we feel the fact of universal condemnation for a single man’s sin to be baffling? Then learn the best use to be made of this hard fact. If anything can relieve the difficulty it must be when grace pledges itself to save on the same principle. It is at least something to discover that it is a principle of the Divine administration and not an isolated occurrence. There comes out (to say no more) a certain noble consistency in God’s treatment of us. When the very principle which, on its first application, in Adam worked disaster, turns its hand, so to say, in the gospel, to work a remedy for its own ruin, is there not a certain poetical justice, or dramatic completeness, in the two-fold scheme? May not the one be intended to be read in the light of the other? Is it not conceivable that both applications of the one rule to the Two Heads of Humanity may be requisite to make up that plan of Omniscience, of which each were but a broken part? At all events one thing is plain. The more keenly anyone feels the hardship of being involved without his will in the condemnation of another, with so much the more joyous eagerness ought he to embrace the parallel way of escape which has been brought nigh by the obedience of Another.

2. Are you one who stumbles, not at the fall in Adam, but at the doctrine of a free pardon in Christ apart from merits of your own? Have you never considered to whom you are indebted for your sin and condemnation? Surely, if you must take death at another man’s hand, you may as well take life too! Is it not idle to quarrel with the way in which God would set us right, since it is in this very way that we have got wrong.

3. Another point of superiority arises: one of fact no less than of logic. “blot as through one that sinned, so is the gift,” etc. (verse 16, R.V). In order to men’s condemnation there needed but the one trespass of Adam. In order to our being declared righteous, there need “many trespasses” to be wiped out in blood. The Restorer’s work might perhaps have followed close on the fall by an instant purging of the “first transgression,” and an instant replacing of the lapsed race in recovered purity again. There would in that event have been no room for the superiority St. Paul seems here to have in his eye. But it pleased the Most High to suffer sin to make its way through the world till it had grown to be a burden intolerable to the earth. Then at length came the “free gift” of an atonement which covered all. It is the same with individual experience. Is it not alter a man has for years abused his freedom to choose the wrong, adding to the inherited fault under which he is condemned a crowd of illegal acts, that the “free gift which justifies” is usually revealed to the soul? Then when it comes to a mature and experienced offender, grown penitent at last, how widely must it abound!

4. Another point of superiority remains: “If by the trespass of the One,” etc. (verse 17, R.V). The results to be expected from redemption are grander than the results of the fall were disastrous. This sounds fabulous, for the disaster entailed on mankind by the fall of “the One” might well appear too fearful ever to be overtopped by any subsequent advantage; that disaster Paul does not attempt to soften. “Death reigned”; it not only “entered” and “passed through unto all” (verse 12), it is man’s king. A triple crown it wears: over body, soul, and spirit. Over against this last extremity of ill, what can Jesus bring us of excelling good? Why, merely to undo that curse calls for the abolishing of death. To discrown our tyrant--no more; and set them free who are all their lifetime subject to his bondage; is not this as much as man’s highest hope dare look for? But superabounding grace conceives a higher triumph. The Deliverer turns a rescue into a conquest. The curse is reversed till it becomes a blessing. Having brought back life, Christ raises life to glory. Death is discrowned, but only to set a crown upon the head of the redeemed. Not “death reigns” any more, but we “reign in life.” (J. Oswald Dykes, D. D.)

The great parallels

The universal diffusion of death by the deed of one man (verses 12-14).

The superiority of the factors acting in Christ’s work over the corresponding factor in the work of Adam (verses 15-17).

The certainty of equality in respect of extension and effect between the second work and the first (verses 18-19).

The indication of the true part played by the law between these two universals of death and righteousness (verses 20-21).

Adam and Christ

Adam. Through Him we are all--

1. Subject to suffering, sorrow, and death.

2. Debarred from entrance into Paradise.

3. Kept from eternal happiness.

Christ. By Him--

1. Our sins are atoned for.

2. We are entirely freed from guilt.

3. Eternal life is granted to us.

4. Immortal happiness is our portion. (J. H. Tarson.)

Adam and Christ

The parallel.

1. Both stand in a federal relation to mankind.

2. In both cases the effect of individual action is transferred.

3. The effect in both cases is coextensive.

The contrast.

1. The effects in the one case are--sin, condemnation, death; in the other--grace, justification, life.

2. In the one they follow by just consequence, in the other by grace.

3. In the one are suffered involuntarily; in the other are enjoyed by faith.

4. In the one they proceed from one sin; in the other cover many offences.

5. In the one they terminate in death; in the other in everlasting life.

The conclusion.

1. If sin has destroyed all, grace can save all.

2. If sin has abounded, grace doth much more abound.

3. If sin has reigned unto death, grace reigns unto eternal life. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Adam and Christ

Where frost and snow have abounded in winter, there spring, sunshine, and gladness will abound still more. Where, at Passion tide, Herod’s cunning, Pilate’s cowardice, the Pharisees’ envy, Judas’s treachery, and the blind “Crucify, Crucify!” of the mob have risen high, there, on Easter morn, the hallelujah of angels and the Church around the triumphant Saviour will rise still higher. Here are contrasted--

The one transgression and the one obedience.

1. What, I hear it objected, is it not arbitrary, and unjust that the fall of the first man should involve all succeeding generations, and scatter them, as children of misery, upon fields of thorn, as children of death upon churchyards? But, is it not simple matter of fact that some fate--explain it as we may--does, again and again, strew us, as children of misery and death, upon the earth?

2. And if further it be objected that, as Abraham was once nerved for endurance by the vision of his posterity, so Adam must needs have been deterred if the thought of the ruin hanging over the sons of men had been granted him in time. But was such prevision wanting? In the blessing, “Replenish the earth, and subdue it,” Adam sees himself set at the head of an entire economy; his lot is to be the lot of his heirs and posterity. By the image of God born with him, by his covenant fellowship with God, by the paternal warnings of the hostile powers against which the Garden of Eden was to be fenced and guarded, by the highest aim of eternal life, were not the fullest means of security imparted to the first man?

3. And when the fall took place, think you that God should have annihilated the human race? Annihilation is no redemption, and to yield the game to Satan is no victory. Then only is evil overcome by good when Divine love makes itself a sacrifice. Who will doubt, when over against the one Adam stands the one Christ, who with, “It is written,” wields a victorious sword, and becomes the dispenser of every heavenly blessing.

The dominion of one death and the dominion of one life.

1. You are familiar with the doubt of the unity of the race, which appeals to the various shapes of the skull, different complexions, divers tongues, etc. But Paul believes in the unity of the race, and knows one family of Adam, when, in Athens, he speaks of one blood, of which the nations are made; and when he says, “Is God the God of the Jews only?--is He not the God of the Gentiles also?”

2. And what sombre witnesses to this unity Paul summons! First sin itself, which shows itself far as humanity extends. But at the same time he points to death, which is the lot of all men, not merely of those struggling with poverty, but of those nursed in luxury; not merely of those feeble through age, but of children with their morning and May tide freshness; not merely of those branded with vice, but to the truly good, comes the stern creditor who demands of all the payment of the debt of life!

3. Nothing is more unnatural than for God’s image, instead of declining gently, and then being quietly transplanted; instead of entering into glory by a transfiguration, to fall a prey to violent dissolution, and be devoured by corruption. In outer death an inner death is imaged; the sting of death is sin, the wages of sin is death. Sin is absence from the source of all life--from God--and is therefore deadly in nature. The one separation is punished by the other; separation between the soul and God by separation between soul and body; yea, by a separation which rends in twain the soul itself. But if a house be divided against itself, how can it stand?

The condemnation on all and the abounding grace for all. “What is man, that Thou art mindful of him?” Nothing more wretched than man in his sin, in his death--a lost son, a dethroned king. “What is man, that Thou visitest him?” Nothing higher in dignity than man; far above angels; since the Son of God assumes human nature, and by His incarnation, passion, resurrection, outpouring of His Spirit, makes fallen humanity partaker of the Divine nature. Four dispensations of God with mankind are here to be described. The original one in Paradise; the second in the fall, where, without intermission, death is preaching repentance, and to every life history affixes the black seal bearing the inscription, “And he died”; the third dispensation under the law, which came between the fall and the rising again, that sin might abound, that is, become more and more perceptible; the fourth in the fulness of time. Now that you have been driven from the first, you will not deny. Are you living in the second, in utter indifference, a man utterly without conscience, not even alarmed by a command of God? Or are you living under the law, pursued by sin, not merely as sin but also as a punishment? Or do you know, in addition to the weakness and guilt of the first Adam, the power, the riches, and the grace of the second? Have you, under the Cross, come under the shelter of the strong arm, mightier than a Samson who, in his death, embracing the pillars of the idol temple, buried four thousand of the worshippers? Have you felt the arm which, stretched out in Golgotha, overturned the idol temple of sin and the gloomy prison house of death? And as David once cut off the giant’s head with the giant’s sword, have you learnt under the Cross that death is conquered by death; death as the wages of sin by death as a sacrificial offering? (R. Koegel, D. D.)

The analogy between the manner of man’s condemnation in Adam and justification in Christ

The fact on which the analogy proceeds.

1. Stated (verse 12).

2. Proved (verses 13, 14).

The points in which it does not hold.

1. The free gift transcends the offence, it reaches not only as far, but in those who receive it effects much more good than the offence did evil (verse 15); for the free gift neutralises the effect not only of one offence but of many (verse 16); not only destroys death but brings abundance of life (verse 17).

The points in which it does hold.

1. One offence (marg) occasioned the condemnation of all; one righteousness (marg.) provides for the justification of all (verse 18).

2. In one man many sinned, in one shall many be made righteous (verse 19).

The summing up of the whole.

1. Grace abounds over sin (verse 20).

2. Death is swallowed up of life. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The principle on which justification proceeds: that of mediation

Mediation is the principle on which human society is based and constituted. Ever since the creation of the first pair, all have been born and preserved by it. The dominion conferred on the man in Eden (Genesis 1:28) was not to be achieved singly, but in society. Even here our blessings come through mediation. Yet not our blessings only. The fact that men have it in their power to do us good involves also that of doing us mischief. This constitution of society is precisely that which made it possible for the first man to involve himself and all his posterity in sin and ruin, and for the “Second Man” to provide salvation and glory (verse 18).

Both Adam and Christ were Divinely appointed and responsible representatives of the whole human race.

1. Adam was its natural head; but he was much more. All men are affected by the conduct of Adam, in a wider sense than that in which children are affected by the conduct of their parents. All children born into the world to the end of time will be affected by the one offence of Adam just in the same sense and to the same extent as his own children were affected by it. And this is not simply because he was the natural head. Noah was also the natural head of all the men who have existed since the deluge; but it is never intimated that he, by his one recorded sin, entailed a curse upon all his posterity. But it is plainly affirmed that Adam, by his one offence, has done so. For he was also the federal head of the race. God dealt with the entire race in and through him. To him were entrusted the interests of all his descendants. Had he proved faithful these would have been born into the world holy and happy, and would each have commenced his probation on terms as favourable as Adam’s. But he failed us, and thus induced our ruin.

2. Now Adam is a type of Christ in that he was a Divinely constituted representative of the race. Adam was created in the “image” of God. But Christ, the beloved Son, “is the image of the invisible God.” The race, therefore, in its very creation, sustained special relationship to Him. And it was fitting that He, whose image in man had been marred by the fall of the first man, should Himself become man in order to its restoration. For we are predestinated to be conformed to His “image.” Adam, as our first head and representative, failed in his fidelity, and thereby betrayed and ruined our interests; Christ, our Second, has gloriously succeeded.

The likeness between Adam and Christ is one of essential opposition, because that Adam has affected us for evil, Christ for good.

1. The judgment to condemnation on account of Adam’s sin involved the penalty of moral death for all his posterity. Not that any positive evil principle was infused into our nature, but rather that the Holy Spirit, in fellowship with whom all spiritual life is sustained, was then penally withdrawn, and that being so men became “dead in trespasses and sins.” “In Adam all died.”

2. The judgment to condemnation on account of Adam’s sin was a judgment to bodily death (Genesis 3:17-19). And this in all probability resulted from the penal withdrawment of the Spirit of life. Naturally liable to death man must have been; i.e., regarded as a creature whose animal life is an organic successional growth, sustained by material food. So long as he remained innocent he had the pledge and sacrament provided against this liability in “the tree of life.” But as soon as he had sinned, he was subjected to the vanity which was the lot of the lower creatures, denied access to the tree of life, and surrendered to the dissolution which had already been the natural termination of the existence of the inferior orders. But “as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22; John 5:28-29). And though the restoration of immortal life to the bodies of His people is deferred, the quickening Spirit is a pledge and earnest that He who raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken their mortal bodies (Romans 8:11).

3. The judgment to death, on account of sin, was a judgment to everlasting death. As “grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord,” even so (unobstructed) sin reigns in death, by offending Adam, unto everlasting death. In the very nature of things it cannot be otherwise. For to doom a man to death at all is to doom him to endless death. No one ever thinks of a criminal being sentenced to death for so many years. The dead have no power to recover life. And this is as true of spiritual as of physical death. The fact is that sin reigns in death, and by death is its dread dominion sustained.

The grace of redemption, which is by Jesus Christ, not only meets, and avails to counteract, the curse entailed from Adam at every point, but abounds far beyond even that.

1. Adam entailed upon us the curse of one offence only. He doubtless committed other sins; but they have involved us in no disadvantages. If, therefore, Christ had made provision for nothing beyond the cancelling of the judgment on account of that, the parallel between the first and Second Man would have been at that point complete. But He has done much more (verse 16). And not only so, but being justified, there is provision made to secure our continued acceptance. Nor does even a lapse cut off the offender from hope: but, because God has just ground on which to “multiply to pardon,” a fallen David and a backsliding Peter may be restored. Therefore the word of exhortation (Galatians 6:1), and the word of compassionate love (1 John 2:1-2). Thus richly does the grace of Christ super-abound over the curse from Adam.

2. The apostle’s position clearly implies that the number of the saved through Christ will far exceed that of the finally lost through Adam. It is not intended to intimate, however, that any are really lost on account of Adam’s sin alone. The apostle clearly assumes that there are none such (verses 15, 18). And have we not an assurance here that all infants, incapables, etc., shall through Christ inherit everlasting life? But those who resist grace and refuse salvation thereby make the sin of Adam their own, and in that sin they shall perish. But--

3. The apostle further intimates that those who avail themselves of the redemption which is by Jesus Christ shall be elevated to a far higher state of glory and blessedness than could have been inherited by unfallen man (verses 17, 20, 21). Conclusion:

1. This review of the Divine administration calls for ardent and adoring gratitude.

2. We must learn to regard sin with ever-increasing hatred:

3. Let all avail themselves with glad alacrity of the gift of grace through Christ. (W. Tyson.)

Verses 13-14

Romans 5:13-14

For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed where there is no law.

Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses.

The sin of those who died before the law

1. Sin supposes law.

2. But sin was in the world before the law.

3. Hence there is a law in the conscience to which all men are amenable. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The reign of death


Perpetuated by sin.

Universal. Because all have sinned either against--

1. Positive commands, as Adam.

2. Or the moral law written in the heart.

3. Or in the Word of God.

Absolute. He strikes where and when he pleases--the young and old, etc.

Irresistible. All must bow to his sceptre.

Would be eternal, but for the interposition of Christ. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

In Adam all die

1. Some say that there can be no criminality where there is not wilful transgression of the law: and therefore God could not impute guilt from birth to every child of Adam. To this we answer, that there is no other way of explaining the certain facts. All men suffer the penalty of sin and death. Now, why? Our explanation is that they are primarily held guilty before God. To deny this is to involve the question in yet greater darkness. It is to charge God with inflicting suffering upon our whole race without a reasonable cause.

2. Paul argues in the text that death had reigned from Adam to Moses, and therefore could not have resulted merely from the violation of the Mosaic law. It took effect on myriads who had no law to guide them but the dictates of conscience or of tradition, and on children who died in unintelligent infancy. But death is the practical imputation of sin: and such imputation implies the existence of a broken law. What law, then, can it be, but God’s command to Adam? And what breach of its but his transgression? And therefore, it was because they were regarded as having been implicated in Adam’s sin, that they were surrendered to the tyranny of death. Yet their criminality was very different from his. Theirs was indirect and accredited, while his was direct and real. Theirs was unconscious and involuntary, his deliberate and intentional. Theirs was through the crime of another, his through his own. His was the root, and in its damage the branches equally suffered. He was the fountain, and in its defilement all the stream of human existence was polluted.

3. Nor does this contravene our natural sense of justice. We ascribe blameworthiness to wrong states and tendencies of disposition, without staying to inquire how these were originated. A commoner may be elevated to the peerage, and thus confer titles and dignity on all future generations. Or a nobleman, convicted of treason, may involve his posterity in poverty and ignominy.

4. Now, this procedure on the part of God may strike you at first as unjust. And so it would be, if it stood alone. But--

We must consider it in connection with God’s great scheme of redemption. Paul invariably links the two together. Here he shows that Adam’s headship is a type of Christ’s: and if in one all men have been made sinners, so in the other all have, at least conditionally, been restored to righteousness. Similarly in 1 Corinthians 15:1-58 he affirms that “as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”

Our ruin by the fall does not entail on us the doom of final perdition. The life to come is always set forth as the retributive consequence of the present. And no principle is more clear or more frequently stated than that each man must give an account of himself before God, and receive the reward of his own doings. We are here treated as sinners for Adam’s sake: but hereafter, if so treated, it will be for our own sake. The necessary loss which we have sustained by the fault of another is limited and temporal; it will be our own fault if we make it absolute and eternal. This arrangement, then, has simply altered the conditions of our probationary life. There are two distinct courses which such probation may take.

1. Men might be created holy, and be left to obey or disobey. In the former case their righteousness would be sealed to them forever; but in the latter they must forfeit it forever. In this way the probation of angels was accomplished: and that of Adam and Eve.

2. The other mode is that of souls originally depraved, but furnished with adequate means of self-recovery through grace. And this is the method adopted in regard to all the posterity of Adam and Eve; and it is with reference to it that they are all born under the imputation of the first great transgression.

Compare these two alternatives, that you may see how much more desirable that one is, in which we find ourselves concerned. We see what our probation now is, and how easy it is for us, through God’s grace in Christ, to escape perdition, to triumph over our native depravity, and to lay hold on eternal life. But suppose the opposite method had been adopted, do you think that your eternal safety would have been more likely or certain than it is now? Is it not probable that the great majority of mankind would act as Adam and Eve did?

The immense preponderance of good which accrues to the saved, through the economy of grace in Christ. There is a mighty superiority in the Saviour’s headship above that of Adam. The ultimate benefits of our salvation will infinitely exceed the little temporary sufferings of our loss and ruin through the fall. Conclusion:

1. Let us tremble at the thought of sin, when we survey its terrible results in the ravages of death.

2. Be convinced of sin, and stirred up to seek salvation from it.

3. Let us confidently accept and embrace the salvation of the gospel.

4. Here is an argument for submission and patience under the ills of life. Our subjection to affliction and sorrow is not meant to be our permanent and everlasting state. (T. G. Horton.)

The educating power of mortality

Dr. Bushnell, in his “Moral Uses of Dark Things,” shows how man can never be at his best without the influences of alarm and threatening, for these enable him to appreciate critical situations, and develop in him the grand qualities of caution and prudence. Surely God knew what was needed to bring the royal elements of our nature to full account when He put death into the world, hiding a mercy under a curse. It is a schoolmaster we should be thankful for, since without it we should lack expression for most that is finest and tenderest in ourselves. We cannot afford to miss the educating power of mortality and its sorrows--the suggestions of the burial scene and the last farewell, the lessons of sick room duty, the privilege of dying bed consolation and grace. We need the discipline of suffering and decay, the culture of fear and danger, the wakenings of latent virtue in fatal emergency and accident. Something must reveal to us the fittest ways of pity and kindness, the dearest facilities of affection, the noblest means of philanthropy, the purest offices of patience, the holiest opportunities of sympathy, the sweetest uses of hope, and the highest service of piety. And in a world where death is we have them all.

Who is the figure of Him that was to come.--

The figure of Him that was to come

If we see great streams of people journeying from every direction towards one common destination, we infer that this spot must be the centre of some unusual attraction. It is a pretty sight to stand some summer Sabbath morning upon a rising ground, and see the lanes dotted with pilgrims wending their way towards the church of God. Suppose a wayfarer encounters groups of travellers, and the nearer he draws to the adjacent town, finds the crowds increasing, and the interest heightening on every face. He asks the object of this unusual excitement, and learns that the foundation stone of a great temple is to be laid by a great man; that there is to be a procession and a gala day of banners, music, and rejoicing. So does a survey of the landscape of past history disclose the lives of many men tending towards one point; and, standing as we do upon our gospel vantage ground, we can see a long procession of lives tending in their acts and history to one point; we can hear the music of many a deed celebrating beforehand one greater deed than all. There was a divinity shaping the ends of many of the lives of the Old Testament worthies, to the purpose that they might be typical of that life which is our life, and by which our stifled souls might breathe again with their destined immortality. A mark had been impressed upon the lives of men in earlier times, and a map had been sketched upon the page of history, whose lines converged towards the one great central fact, that Jesus Christ should come into the world. If we look amongst the men whose lives were eminently typical of the Redeemer, we shall not find one in whose case it will be a more easy task to trace the parallel than that of Adam. But just in proportion as the similarity is striking, so will the points of difference be prominent.

Points of correspondence.

1. Both were formed by and came directly from God. Here, of course, we speak of Jesus in His humanity. In the method of his birth the first man differed from all the rest of his posterity, and the only parallel we find to it is in the miraculous conception of the Child of Bethlehem. Of course, even in this, the points of difference are greater than those of likeness. But it was the breath of the Lord which breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life; it was the Spirit of the Lord which overshadowed the Virgin.

2. Both were formed in the same glorious likeness, designed as the mirrors to reflect the life and image of the Author of all life. And as in Adam, ere he fell, the unblushing cheek, where shame had been “ashamed to sit,” formed the mirror which reflected the likeness of the Father, so was that same likeness printed on the form and feature of the spiritual life of Jesus Christ, so that He could claim His heavenly pedigree, and declare, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.”

3. The fatherhood of both over a numerous race.

(1) The tawny slave who hoes the rice field in the burning sun; the dark-eyed denizens of China and of India; the fiery Afghan; the tall Circassian; the dwarfish Hottentot; the fur-clad dweller amidst northern ice; and the naked panter in the tropic heat; the homeless Jew and clannish Gentile; the readers of the Koran, of the Shasters, of the Bible; the worshipper of the sun, of Juggernaut, and of Jesus; each creature who bears the form and likeness of a man, dates his paternity to Adam.

(2) The seed of the Second Adam shall be also numerous. All souls are His, purchased by Him, that they may be born again through Him. And though the work of regeneration by no means keeps pace with the increase of the race, He shall yet “see His seed,” and that seed shall outnumber sand or stars for multitude, and be gathered out of all lands. And they shall bear the family feature clear in life and lineament. As by nature they once “bore the image of the earthly,” so by the redundant grace of this new birth shall they bear impressed upon them the “image of the heavenly.”

4. The lordship and dominion with which each was invested.

(1) Man was made only “a little lower than the angels,” and has been “crowned with glory and honour.” He holds dominion over the very work of God’s own hand; he wounds the earth that it may give him food. All things are put beneath his feet; the beasts range plain and mountainside, but they cannot range so widely as the thought of man; the birds soar high, but they cannot cleave their way to such fair altitudes as man’s ambition may attain; the fishes dive down into the ocean gorge, but they cannot pierce to such a deep profound as that intelligence which marks mankind and sets the human over the brute creation.

(2) And if a man is thus large in lordship and dominion, how much more the Son of Man, who came to reassert the creature’s claim after it had been flung away, by sharing His own dominion with that creature. The dominion of Jesus is illimitable. While man is made a little lower, He is made “so much better than the angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.” For when the power of Omnipotence showed forth its mightiest sinew, it was when it “wrought in Christ, and raised Him from the dead,” etc. (Ephesians 1:20-23).

5. The conjugal union ordained by God respecting them. Paradise was inadequate to appease the need of the first man, and bring him to rest, till woman was created. And so the Maker hushed him into a deep sleep, and from his side He took the comrade meet for him, and made his happiness complete. Now this is one of the most striking types of Christ’s union with His Church. He is the Bridegroom, and that Church is “the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” Adam and Eve were not more intimately and emphatically one flesh than Christ and the Christian are one spirit. “This is a great mystery; but I speak concerning Christ and the Church.”

Points of contrast.

1. “The first Adam was of the earth, earthy; the Second Adam was the Lord from heaven.”

2. The first Adam possessed the Divine image, and effaced it; the Second Adam put on the human image, that He might restore in us the Divine. The serpent hissed its evil breath, and filmed the brightness which God had spread over His creature’s brow; and, just as the foul vapour on a looking glass blurs the reflections on its disc, so did the image stamped by the Creator there become distorted and disturbed. But Christ rubbed off the taint of the tempter’s breath, and wrote the name of God upon the creature in His own blood.

3. The spirit of apostate Adam was proud, unbelieving, discontented, and rebellious; that of the Second Adam was humble, submissive, obedient, and faithful.

4. The first Adam was the medium of death, while the Second brought salvation and life.

5. By the first Adam paradise was lost; by the Second that paradise is regained. (A. Mursell.)

Adam a type of Christ

As the federal head of mankind.

As the source of life--natural--redeemed.

As the cause of universal but widely opposite experiences--sin, death--life, righteousness.

As the prototype of human nature--earthly--heavenly.

As the ruler of the world--natural--Divine. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Adam a type of Christ

This is the earliest and deepest of all the types; God the Spirit grasps the first fact of man’s history, and therewith prints the lesson of man’s redemption. Note--

The agreement between the type and the Antitype.

1. Adam and Christ were the true sources or heads of their respective families.

(1) There are two conceivable methods of constituting humanity; one, to make each man independent of all; the other, to make the first man the head and source of humanity. This latter method our Maker has adopted, and it is useless to question whether the other would have been better. When the bird is shut up in a cage, it is better that it should not dash itself against the bars. It was in an attempt to be as God that our first parents fell. If we would escape their fate, we should abandon speculations and address ourselves to facts. In point of fact we all come into the world with darkened minds and wayward hearts, which the Scriptures explain by the fall. Some complain of the difficulties they find there on this subject; but the difficulty lies, not in the Scriptures, but in the fact. Creatures manifestly the head of creation, under the government of an omnipotent and beneficent Being, lie in sin and suffering, and have done so from age to age, without intermission or mitigation. This is the difficulty; all Bible difficulties are small when compared with this.

(2) The first man stood as head and representative of the race. His fall brought all down. At the head he stands, and at first the line of march is narrow: on the apex one; and behind him two or three walk abreast: broader and broader grows the stream, until, in our day, the file of march is a million of millions deep. On the other side stands He that was to come. Alone He stands at the head; already a multitude, which no man can number, tread the pilgrim’s path; and now we look forward to that time when the stream of the Second Adam’s children shall be co-extensive and coincident with that of the first.

2. These two representatives stood side by side from the first, and redemption began to flow from Christ as soon as sin was brought in by Adam. The promise sprang at the gate of Eden, an echo of the curse. Christ began to act as the Head of the redeemed the moment that the first man became the head of a fallen race. Under the earlier economies many felt the drawing of the unseen Christ, and in the days of His personal ministry, although He manifested Himself only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, He had compassion on the surrounding heathen, and hastened forward to the day of their redemption.

3. On both sides it is by birth that the members are united to their head and his destiny. We have been born to this inheritance of sin and suffering; we cannot shake it off. But be of good cheer, prisoner of hope: if by a corresponding new birth you are one with the Second Adam, you have no cause to weep. You cannot, indeed, escape from being a man; but if you are a new creature in Christ Jesus, the second birthright is as irrevocable as the first. It is a fixed principle of natural science that species do not change. But that which is impossible with man is possible with God. He has undertaken in the gospel to make a new creature.

The difference. The chief point lies in this, that whereas Adam’s seed derive from their head sin and death, Christ’s seed derive from their Head righteousness and life. One of the strangest facts in history is that multitudes are proud of their first birth, and do not give themselves any concern about a second. Under this, however, there are many specific points of difference.

1. While Adam’s seed possess the moral nature of their head complete, Christ’s possess His moral nature only in part. When we derive a sinful nature from the first man, we have previously no better nature, that may mingle with it and mitigate its evil. In me, that is in my flesh--in all that I derive from man my father--there dwelleth no good thing. But on the other hand, the regeneration is the getting of a new nature, indeed, through union in spirit with Christ; but it is gotten by one who previously possessed an evil nature, and that evil nature is cast down from the throne, but not cast forth from the territory. The two contend against each other; and there is not peace, but a sword (see Romans 7:1-25). The union with Christ in the regeneration is likened to the grafting of a fruit tree. The tree at the first, which springs from seed, is wholly evil. When it is grafted it is made good; but not so completely as it was originally made evil. In some way, however, the remnants of the old will be filtered out; and nothing shall enter heaven that would defile its golden streets or be a jar in its new song.

2. The two bands are not equally numerous. Adam’s company includes absolutely the whole of the human race; Christ’s company is contained within it, and is therefore necessarily smaller. Adam’s company consists of all the born, and Christ’s of all the born again. God’s creatures of the old and new creation seem to envelop each other, after the manner of a sphere within a sphere, the most precious being embedded in the heart. Humanity, comparatively small in bulk, is surrounded by the mightier mass of beasts that perish. In the heart of humanity lie the regenerate--the true, vital seed of the kingdom; and the crust that surrounds them will crumble and be cast away. When the earth and all that it contained have passed away, Christ and Christians will remain, inheritors together and alone of the eternal life.

3. Although we inherit this corruption from the first man, we personally have no relation to him; we received it from the last that stood before us in the line. But from Christ our life flows as its fountain, and each generation of believing men continue to draw their spiritual life and justifying righteousness immediately from Him. The new creature does not propagate its kind. If the first Adam were annihilated, man would still be born in sin; but if Christ were no more Christ, there could be no more for any man a new, a holy life. The difference is somewhat like that between a tree propagating its kind by seed and one sustaining its branches. When once the seed is ripened and cast, the progenitor tree may be burned. But even when the branch has been put forth by the tree, the branch is ever directly dependent on the tree. If the tree should die, all the branches would die too. Adam might say, I was the tree, and ye grew from the seed which I shed; but Christ says, “I am the vine, ye are the branches.” And as Christians hold directly of Christ, Christ holds individually by Christians. The Head endures pain when the members are injured. How safe is that life which is hid with Christ in God?

4. The gain by the second Adam is greater than the loss by the first (verse 15). He pays our debt, and makes us rich besides. He sets free the slave, and makes him a son. “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” (W. Arnot, D. D.)

Verse 15

Romans 5:15

But not as the offence, so also is the free gift.

The offence and the free gift

1. The offence originated with man, the free gift in the grace of God.

2. The offence operated necessarily by a just law, the gift is free through Jesus Christ.

3. The offence results in death, the free gift abounds unto everlasting life. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The offence and the free gift

If from the offense of one--so insignificant in its way--there could go forth an action which spread over the whole multitude of mankind, will not the conclusion hold a fortiori that from the grace of God, and the gift through this grace of one man, acting on the opposite side, so powerful and rich as they are, there must result an action, the extension of which shall not be less than that of the offence, and shall, consequently, reach the whole of that multitude? If a very weak spring could inundate a whole meadow, would it not be safe to conclude that a much more abundant spring, if spread over the same space of ground, would not fail to submerge it entirely? (Prof. Godet.)

The first and second Adam compared in reference

To the universality of their influence. The first Adam destroyed all, the second has obtained grace for all--with this difference, that in the former case the ruin came inevitably, but the reception of the grace is suspended upon man’s free choice.

To the intensity of their influence. The first Adam has by one sin given occasion to all sin; the second has by one act of grace expiated all sin--with this difference, that Adam’s sin in itself was not greater than any other sin, but the grace of Christ outweighs the aggregate guilt of all sin.

To the final results of their influence. The first Adam has subjected mankind to the bondage of death, the second confers upon all, who will receive it, dominion in life--with this difference, that the fulness of grace in Christ not only meets the curse in Adam, but far surpasses the grace originally conferred upon man. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Life in Christ contrasted with death in Adam


The intrinsic nature of the things here contrasted; and we shall see that if the one arrangement could be adopted by God, much more likely is it that the other would be also, as being more strictly congenial with all that we know of His glorious character. God might permit us to sin and suffer in Adam, with reference to some future good to come out of it: He might permit it in harmony with His wisdom, holiness, and love; but still He could have no delight in it for its own sake. Yet we find that He has seen it right to permit these things to transpire: how much more, then, may we believe in the arrangement of grace, by which salvation is brought to our ruined race! But how do we know the feelings of the Most High in reference to this matter? What reason have we for supposing that it pleases Him more to give us life in Christ than to see us die in Adam? We take our views from His own word (Exodus 34:6-7; Psalms 86:5; Psalms 86:15; Psalms 145:8-9; Ezekiel 18:23; Ezekiel 18:31-32; Ezekiel 33:11; John 3:16; John 4:16). Say not, then, complainingly that God has permitted you to die in Adam, but rather believe that He delights to give you life in Christ.

That grace relates to a larger number of transgressions than did the first condemnation (Romans 5:16). The gift by one is quite unlike the sin by one, inasmuch as in the sin there was but one offence committed, and instantly judgment upon it; whereas, in the matter of the gift by grace, there is forgiveness ensured for many offences. Hitherto, we have been regarding the sin of mankind as one, and in that one sin all men became guilty before God. Let us, then, look at the nature and the number of our offences, all of which need to and can be forgiven through the atoning work of Christ. There are the sins of our ungodly life; there are also our sins since we entered on a godly career. We are daily guilty of omissions of duty, or grievous shortcomings in the mode of fulfilling our obligations. But beyond all this, there are positive faults and evils in the best of us. Yet--blessed be God!--these sins, however numerous, may be all pardoned through the blood of Christ; for the free gift is of many offences unto justification.

That grace is essentially a stronger principle than sin (Romans 5:17). Life is more mighty than death. The range of death is limited; it can only ravage that which already exists. But life is a creative power to whose possible achievements we can assign no limits. Death is a negative principle, life a positive one. Death is a condition of the creature, life has its source and fulness in the infinite Creator. Under the domination of death we are made its groaning and unwilling victims; but under the reign of life we are caught up to the throne, and share with gladness in the monarch’s might and joy. (T. G. Horton.)

The grace of God

Transcends sin.

1. In its origin. Sin proceeds from the offence of one man and destroys many; grace proceeds from God through one man, Jesus Christ, and therefore not only reaches many, but abounds.

2. In its operation. One offence brought condemnation, but grace not only counteracts the effects of that one offence but of many others.

3. In its results. One offence brought death, but grace wherever received not only gives back life, but gives it more abundantly.

Is coextensive with sin.

1. It cannot reach further because it presupposes sin.

2. It does reach as far, because the free gift unto justification of life is unto all men, because the many made sinners might also be made righteous.

3. If grace anywhere fails it is not through any limitation of its action, but through the wilful impenitency of man. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Honey from a lion

This text affords many openings for controversy. It can be made to bristle with difficulties. It would be easy to set up a thorn hedge and keep the sheep out of the pasture, or to so pelt each other with the stones as to leave the fruit untasted. I feel more inclined to chime in with that ancient father against whom a clamorous disputant shouted, “Hear me! Hear me!” “No,” said the father, “I will not hear you, nor shall you hear me, but we will both be quiet and hear what Christ has to say.” Note--

The appointed way of our salvation is by the free gift of God. Salvation is bestowed--

1. Without regard to any merit, supposed or real. Grace is not a fit gift for the righteous, but for the undeserving. It is according to the nature of God to pity the miserable and forgive the guilty, “for He is good, and His mercy endureth forever.”

2. Irrespective of any merit which God foresees will be in man. Foresight of the existence of grace cannot be the cause of grace. God Himself does not foresee that there will be any good thing in any man, except what He foresees that He will put there.

3. Without reference to conditions which imply any desert. But I hear one murmur, “God will not give grace to men who do not repent and believe.” I answer, “God gives men grace to repent and believe, and no man does so till first grace is given him.” Repentance and faith may be conditions of receiving, but they are not conditions of purchasing, for salvation is without money and without price.

4. Over the head of sin and in the teeth of rebellion, “God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners,” etc. Many of us have been saved by grace of the most abounding and extraordinary sort.

5. Through the one man Jesus Christ. People talk about a “one man ministry.” I was lost by a one man ministry when father Adam fell in Eden, but I was saved by a one man ministry when Jesus bore my sin in His own body on the tree.

It is certain that great evils have come to us by the fall.

1. We have lost the Garden of Eden and all its delights, privileges, and immunities, its communion with God, and its freedom from death.

2. We have been born to a heritage of sorrow.

3. We came into the world with a bias towards evil.

4. We are made liable to death, and are sure to bow our heads beneath the fatal stroke.

5. While we live we know that the sweat of our brow must pay the price of our bread.

6. Our children must be born with pangs and travail.

From the fall we infer the more abundant certainty that salvation by grace through Christ Jesus shall come to believers. For--

1. This appears to be more delightful to the heart of God. I can understand that God, having so arranged it that the human race should be regarded as one, should allow the consequences of sin to fall upon succeeding generations of men; but yet I know that He takes no pleasure in the death of any, and finds no delight in afflicting mankind. If God has so arranged it that in the Second Adam men rise and live, it seems to me most gloriously consistent with His gracious nature and infinite love that all who believe in Jesus should be saved through Him.

2. It seems more inevitable that men should be saved by the death of Christ than that men should be lost by the sin of Adam. It might seem possible that, after Adam had sinned, God might have said, “Notwithstanding this covenant of works, I will not lay this burden upon the children of Adam”; but it is not possible that after the eternal Son of God has become man, and has bowed His head to death, God should say, “Yet after all I will not save men for Christ’s sake.”

3. Look at the difference as to the causes of the two effects. Look at the occasion of our ruin--“the offence of one”--a finite being, who therefore cannot be compared in power with the grace of the infinite God; the sin of a moment, and therefore cannot be compared for force and energy with the everlasting purpose of Divine love. The grace of God is like His nature, omnipotent and unlimited. God is not only gracious to this degree or to that, but He is gracious beyond measure; we read of “the exceeding riches of His grace.” He is “the God of all grace.”

4. The difference of the channels by which the evil and the good were severally communicated to us. In each case it was “by one,” but what a difference in the persons!

(1) Let us not think too little of the head of the human family. Yet what is the first Adam as compared with the Second? He is but of the earth, earthy, but the Second Man is the Lord from heaven. Surely, then, if Adam with that puny hand of his could pull down the house of our humanity, that greater Man, who is also the Son of God, can fully restore us.

(2) Adam commits one fault and spoils us, but Christ’s achievements are many as the stars of heaven.

(3) Adam did but eat of the forbidden fruit, but Christ died. Is there any comparison between the one act of rebellion in the garden and the matchless deed of superlative obedience upon the Cross of Calvary which crowned a life of service?

5. From the text you may derive a great deal of comfort.

(1) A babe is born into the world amid great anxiety because of its mother’s pains; but while these prove how the consequences of the fall are with us (“in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children”), they also assure us that the Second Adam can abundantly bring us bliss through a second birth.

(2) Inasmuch as we have seen the thorn and the thistle because of one Adam, we may expect to see a blessing on the earth because of the Second Adam. Therefore with unbounded confidence do I believe the promise: “Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the briar shall come up the myrtle tree,” etc.

(3) Did not the Lord say, “In the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat bread”? Ought not your labour to be an argument by which your faith shall prove that in Christ Jesus there remaineth a rest for the people of God.

(4) Did the first Adam through his disobedience lift the latch for death? It is surely so. Therefore I believe with the greater assurance that the Second Adam can give life to these dry bones, can awake all these sleepers, and raise them in newness of life.

If from the fall of Adam such great results flow, greater results must flow from the grace of God and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ. Suppose that Adam bad never sinned, and we were unfallen beings, yet our standing would have remained in jeopardy. We have now lost everything in Adam, and so the uncertain tenure has come to an end; but we that have believed have obtained an inheritance which we hold by a title which Satan himself cannot dispute: “All things are yours, and ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” By the great transgression of Adam we lost our life in him; but in Christ we live again with a higher and nobler life. The Lord Jesus has also brought us into a nearer relationship to God than we could have possessed by any other means. We were God’s creatures, but now we are His sons. We have lost paradise, but we shall possess that of which the earthly garden was but a lowly type: we might have eaten of the luscious fruits of Eden, but now we eat of the bread which came down from heaven; we might have heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, but now, like Enoch, we may walk with God after a nobler and closer fashion. We are now capable of a joy which unfallen spirits could not have known--the bliss of pardoned sin. The bonds which bind redeemed ones to their God are the strongest which exist. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The love of God

is a love which gives another love; it is the grace of a Father giving the love of a Brother. (Prof. Godet.)

The advantages accruing to the race from the fall

How common and bitter is the outcry against our first parent for the mischief he entailed on his posterity; and it were well if the complaint ended there, but it glances from Adam to his Creator. “Did not God foresee that he would abuse his liberty, and know all the baneful consequences of the act? Why, then, did He permit it?” Because He knew that “not as the offence, so is the free gift”; that the evil resulting from the former was not as the good resulting from the latter, not worthy to be compared with it. If Adam had not fallen--

Christ had not died and the world had missed the most amazing display of God’s love. So--

1. There could have been no such thing as faith in God thus loving the world; nor faith in Christ as “loving us, and giving Himself for us”; nor faith in the Spirit as renewing the image of God in our hearts.

2. The same blank could have been left in our love. We might have loved God as our Creator and Preserver, but we could not have loved Him under the nearest and dearest relation. We might have loved the Son of God as being “the brightness of His Father’s glory,” but not as having borne our sins. We could not have loved the Spirit as revealing to us the Father and the Son, as opening our eyes and turning us from darkness to light, etc.

3. Nor could we have loved our neighbour to the same extent: “If God so loved us we ought to love one another.”

We had missed the innumerable benefits which flow through our sufferings. Had there been no suffering, a considerable part of religion, and in some respects the most excellent part, could have had no place.

1. Upon this foundation our passive graces are built; yea, the noblest of them--the love which endureth all things. Here is the ground for resignation, for confidence in God, for patience, meekness, gentleness, long suffering, etc.

2. These afford opportunities for doing good which could not otherwise have existed.

Heaven would have been less glorious.

1. We should have missed the fruit of those graces which could not have flourished but for our struggle with sin here. Superior nobleness on earth means superior happiness in heaven.

2. We should have missed the reward which will accrue to innumerable good works which could not otherwise have been wrought, such as relief of distress, etc.

3. We should have missed the “exceeding and eternal weight of glory” which is to be the recompense of our light affliction.

Our salvation would have been less secure. Unless in Adam all had died, every man must have personally answered for himself, and, as a consequence, if he had once sinned there would have been no possibility of his rising again. Now who would wish to hazard eternity on one stake? But under the economy of redemption if we fall we may rise again. Conclusion: See, then, how little reason there is to repine at the fall of our first parents, since here from we may derive such unspeakable advantages. If God had decreed that millions should suffer in hell because Adam sinned it would have been a different matter; but on the contrary, He has decreed that every man may be a gainer by it, and no man can be a loser but through his own choice. (J. Wesley, M. A.)

Verse 16

Romans 5:16

And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift.

The Adamic and Christian dispensations

The adamic.

1. One offence brought condemnation.

2. Upon all mankind.

3. By a just and inevitable law.

The Christian.

1. Grace is free.

2. Brings justification.

3. For all.

4. From many offences. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The one and the many

With the one sinner is contrasted the multitude of the justified. What a difference between the power of the spark which sets fire to the forest by lighting a withered branch, and the power of the instrument which extinguishes the conflagration at the moment when every tree is on fire, and makes them all live again. (Prof. Godet.)

Christ and the many

He gave His life a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28); His blood was shed for many (Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24); He bare the sins of many (Isaiah 53:11-12); by His knowledge He justifies many (Isaiah 53:11); He brings many sins to glory (Hebrews 2:10). The many are a multitude which no man can number (Revelation 7:9). (T. Robinson, D. D.)

Salvation a free gift

One excuse which awakened sinners are accustomed to allege in their own defence is, that they wish to love God with all their heart, but cannot. They do, indeed, wish to be saved, but they are not willing to be saved in God’s way; that is, they are not willing to accept salvation as a free gift. They would do anything to buy it, but will not take it without money and without price. Suppose that you were very sick, and were told by the physician that there was but one medicine in the world which could save your life, and this was exceedingly precious; that you were also told that there was but one person in the world who had any of this in his possession; and that, although he was willing to give it to those who asked, he would on no account sell any. Suppose this person to be one whom you had treated with great neglect and contempt, injured in every possible way. How exceedingly unwilling would you be to send to him for the medicine as a gift: you would rather purchase it at the expense of your whole fortune. You would defer sending as long as possible; and when you found you were daily growing worse, and nothing else could save you, you would be obliged, however reluctantly, to send and ask for some. Just so unwilling are sinners to apply to God for salvation, as a free gift; and they will not do it until they find themselves perishing, and that there is no other hope for them. (E. Payson.)

Sin the occasion of glorifying God

I do believe that sin in itself has the same aspect as affliction--that it makes room for the mercy of God. I hardly dare say what Augustine, when speaking of the fall and of the sin of Adam, and looking to all the display of grace that followed it, said. He said, “beata culpa--“happy fault,” as if he thought that by means of sin the grace of God is so magnified and displayed he might call it a “happy fault.” I will not go so far. I scarcely do more than repeat what that great master in Israel once said; but I do say this, that I cannot imagine an occasion for glorifying God equal to the fact that man has sinned. God so loved the world as to give Christ to die for sinners, and how could this have been if there had been no sin? The Cross is a constellation of glory that is brighter than creation itself. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Verse 17

Romans 5:17

For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one.

The reign of death and the reign in life

The reign of death

1. Established by one man’s sin.

2. Universal.

3. Irresistible.

The reign in life.

1. Effected through grace.

2. Glorious.

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

The reign of death and the reign in life

When the empty vessel of the human heart has once become filled with the fulness of grace and righteousness, the sinner is raised to the place of a “king in life”--an antithesis to “death reigned.” But the apostle has too lively a conviction of spiritual realities to say here “life shall reign.” Death reigns: it is a tyrant. But life does not reign; it makes kings. Instead of a sombre state of things which bears sway as a reign of death, it is here the individuals themselves who, having personally appropriated righteousness, reign personally in the luminous domain of life. Compare on this reign what Paul said (Romans 4:13), of the inheritance of this world; then the glorying (Romans 5:11); finally, Romans 8:17. “In life” does not denote a period--i.e., eternal life, but the mode or nature of the reign of believers. A new, holy, inexhaustible and victorious vitality will pervade those “receivers of righteousness,” and make them so many kings. If the collective condemnation could make each of them a subject of death, the conclusion therefrom should be that their individual justification will make each of them a king in life. (Prof. Godet.)

The reign of death and the reign in life

The evil introduced into the world by Adam. The reign of death. There was a time when Death was a stranger in the world. It was sin which brought him here. But the consequences did not end here. Sin gave to death a fearful dominion over the whole globe on which man dwelt. Hence he is represented as a monarch. Men love him not and are daily resisting his power, but he laughs to scorn their efforts, and the contest ends in their lying down in the dust. The wide world is his only kingdom. Into heaven he never entered, and in hell he cannot destroy. The soul, too, is brought under his dominion. There is not one of us who is not by nature “dead in trespasses and sins.”

The blessing introduced by Christ. A reign in life.

1. Life is here opposed to death, and expresses a state of spiritual existence. But they who have received this precious benefit not only live, they “reign in life.” This implies--

(1) Power. They have overcome their enemies, as well as escaped from them; not merely freed themselves from their tyranny, but attained a dominion over them.

(a) They were once the subjects of Satan, they now “bruise him underneath their feet.”

(b) The world once held them in thraldom, but the world also is overcome.

(c) Once, too, they were governed by lawless passions, but now they reign as lords over their own soul. They “mortify the deeds of the body,” they “crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts.” Not that their victory is complete. Their throne is secure, but it is surrounded by rebels who incessantly disturb its peace. Satan still assails, the world still tempts, sin still rages.

(2) Dignity. And what so truly great and noble as to be masters of ourselves? What so base as to be the slaves of sin?

(3) Heaven. There the Christian will indeed live and reign. He will have attained a complete triumph over all his enemies. “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me on My throne,” etc. He who once suffered with Christ, shall be “glorified together with Him.” What a glorious change is this, that the feeble mortals who were once the trembling victims of death, should thus “reign in life.”

2. And to whom are they indebted for this wondrous change? To themselves? The dead cannot raise themselves to life. To the father who ruined them? He made them the children of wretchedness, and then he went away and left them to their misery. To legions of angels? All their mighty hosts could not reanimate one lifeless body, much less quicken and glorify a ruined soul. One Being only was able to accomplish this glorious change, but He was the very Being who seemed the least likely to accomplish it, for it was His righteous vengeance which had sent death into the world, and His voice which proclaimed Him its king. By Him, however, was death dethroned; by Him to the utter exclusion of all others, to the utter rejection of all oar claims to any part of the honour of the work.

Who are the persons for whom this great blessing is designed? All the human race? Clearly not. The ungodly lives of thousands around us would at once disprove such an assertion. All men indeed, in consequence of the interference of Christ, are under a dispensation of mercy; a free and full salvation is offered them, and they are invited to accept it. But men will not accept it. Those who have received this salvation are the men for whom the kingdom is prepared. They are described as--

1. “Receiving abundance of grace.”

(1) “Grace” is that free favour which God has manifested towards His sinful children, providing a sacrifice for their iniquities, sending them the glad tidings of salvation, and making them actually partakers of its blessings.

(2) “Abundance of grace” signifies not only a sufficiency, but grace enough and to spare. And look at what part we may of the mystery of redemption, we discover at once the propriety of the term. The wisdom which planned and the power which executed this stupendous scheme, and the love which called this power and this wisdom into exercise, are all infinite. The glory of the salvation treasured up for sinners in Christ, the freedom with which it is communicated, the characters of those on whom it is bestowed, all bear witness to the boundless extent of the Divine mercy.

2. “The gift of righteousness.”

(1) This may possibly mean that renewal of the heart unto holiness, which the redeemed sinner receives from the free bounty of his Saviour. But the apostle seems rather to refer here to the same righteousness of which he speaks in the following verse, the obedience or righteousness of Christ. It is this which enables the Lord to pour out the abundance of His grace on His apostate children. He imputes to them the merits of His dear Son, and then He pardons, accepts, and rewards them, without weakening His authority or tarnishing His glory.

(2) The apostle calls it a gift, because it is by an act of mercy that it is transferred to us; he speaks of it as an abundant gift, because it completely satisfies the demands of God’s unalterable law. Its merit is infinite. It is a robe so pure, that he who wears it, stands before God without spot or blemish; so splendid, that it covers all his shame; so freely offered, that all the naked may array themselves in it, and all rejoice in it as the garment of salvation.

The certainty of their receiving it. The apostle may mean--

1. That the efficacy of the righteousness of Christ to procure life is greater than that of the offence of Adam to cause death; that the salvation of the Christian’s soul is even more certain than the death of his body, secured to him by more numerous and solemn declarations, and involving in it the honour of more of the Divine perfections. Justice and faithfulness demand his body for corruption, but mercy unites with faithfulness and justice in raising his soul to the kingdom of life.

2. That the righteousness of Christ is more than sufficient to repair the destructive consequences of Adam’s transgression. It does not place the believer in the state in which he would have been had Adam never fallen; it does more; it places him in a more secure and far more exalted state. In other words, we may gain more by Christ than we lost by Adam. The one made an honourable temple a mournful heap of ruins; the other can not only raise up the temple again out of its ruins, but can make the latter house far more glorious than the former. When man was first created God looked on him and pronounced him good; but when His beloved Son redeems him, He calls him His inheritance and portion; he comes and dwells in Him, and loves Him more than all the creatures of His hand. (C. Bradley, M. A.)

Believers receive in Christ more than they lost in Adam

Better righteousness.

Firmer standing.

Higher glory. (T. Robinson, D. D.)

Abundance of grace.

Overflowing kindness and blessing

All fulness of grace in Christ (Colossians 1:19; Ephesians 3:8). Justifying grace, sanctifying grace, glorifying grace (Romans 8:29-30). Grace for grace (John 1:16), or grace upon grace (Philippians 2:27). He gives more grace (James 4:6); and makes all grace to abound (2 Corinthians 9:8). He gives His sheep not only life, but life more abundantly (John 10:10). Ezekiel’s river realised (Ezekiel 47:1-5; cf. Ephesians 3:19). (T. Robinson, D. D.)

Individual influence

No warlike host delivered the children of Israel from the bondage of Egypt, but one man--Moses. No senate of statesmen raised Israel to a pitch of greatness that proclaimed to the world the glory and safety of a theocratic nation, but one man--David. No school of divines gave to England the Bible in the mother tongue, but one man--Wycliffe. No learned society discovered America, but one man--Columbus. No association of science revealed the clue to interpret the laws of the heavenly bodies, but one man--Galileo. No parliament saved English liberties, but one man--Pyre. No assembly of theologians wrote the book which, next to the Bible, has had the most potent influence on the English language and on English hearts, but one man--Bunyan. No confederate nations rescued Scotland from her political and ecclesiastical enemies, but one man--Knox. And the same might be said of almost every great step since in the progress of the race. Doubtless these men found their coadjutors; but all through the ages God has put immense honour upon individuals. (J. Guest.)

Verse 18

Romans 5:18

Therefore as by the offence of one Judgment came upon all men to condemnation.


Its cause. Sin.

Its miseries.

1. Physical.

2. Spiritual.

3. Eternal.

Its cure.

1. Justification.

2. Freely offered.

3. Through the righteousness of Christ. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The contrast between a state of condemnation and grace

In their origin.

1. The one originates in sin.

2. The other in the righteousness of Christ.

In their evidences.

1. The one is distinguished by disobedience.

2. The other by the obedience of faith.

In their relation to the law.

1. The law exposes sin, and increases condemnation.

2. Grace removes both yet magnifies the law.

In their results.

1. Condemnation brings death temporal, eternal.

2. Grace confers a new life on earth and a glorious and blissful life in the world to come. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The mediatorial system

1. One of the chief glories of Christianity is this--it is the religion of facts. These facts are few, extraordinary, and eternal and universal in their aspects.

2. In the context we have two classes of facts.

(1) Dark melancholy facts.

(a) Sin is in the world; it has quenched its lights, destroyed its liberties, embittered its enjoyments. History, observation and our own consciousness convince us of this.

(b) Death is in the world. It has reigned from Adam to this day. Individuals, families, nations, the world are dying. Every sepulchre, funeral, illness, pulse, reminds us that the dust is to be our home.

(c) Both sin and death have entered the world by the same man, Adam. The origin of evil is a deep mystery, but its introduction to our world is a historical fact clearly stated in the Bible. God made Adam the father, the priest of the world, but Adam ruined it and himself. Adam was the original sinner, and we his children sin and die.

(2) Bright and animating facts.

(a) Grace is in the world. “Grace hath abounded.” God was under no obligation to show or continue grace to this world. He might withdraw it; that would leave man a demon in character, who would soon kindle around himself the fires of an universal hell. Grace alone keeps the world from becoming the victim of its own transgression.

(b) There is a higher, nobler life than this. “Grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life.” Eternal life means freedom from sin, which is the destroyer of the innocence, happiness and utility of man; freedom from the penalties of violated law; and freedom from annihilation, It means an existence without sin, misery, or end.

(c) This grace and eternal life flow to man through the same channel, “Christ Jesus the Lord.”

3. The apostle states these great truths--

(1) To convince Jews and Gentiles that both were equally indebted to Christ for salvation. The Gentile had the law written on his conscience, and the Jew had the law outwardly written, and both transgressed, so that both needed a Saviour.

(2) To set forth the nature and number of benefits derived through the mediation of Christ.

The existence of the human race rests on the mediation of Jesus.

1. “The Lord commanded the man, saying,…of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” A phrase which must have meant either absolute annihilation or the dissolution of soul and body, and the consequent punishment of both in hell. But Adam did sin. Was his existence quenched? Was he driven to hell? No. Was he spared on the ground of rectitude? No; for if justice could have spared him for one hour, it could have spared him forever. But he was spared; and as he could not have been spared on the ground of justice, he must have been spared on the ground of grace, and if on the ground of grace, then it was through the mediation of Christ, for grace reigns only through Him.

2. A new system was introduced, and Adam’s forfeited being was spared, and his species was to be multiplied because the Second Adam had been appointed to be the Great Head and Saviour of the human kind. But if our very existence is an effect of the great mediatorial scheme, all the means, comforts, and hopes of our existence are also effects of the same scheme. In Him all things consist.

3. Under the government of the Son of Man the human race has already grown into extraordinary numerical greatness, and is to continue to augment in strength, moral and physical excellence, grandeur and happiness, for perhaps millions of years to come. It is natural to think so, if we consider the honour which God has already bestowed on our nature, by raising it to union with Himself; that four thousand years were occupied in preparations for the advent; the extensive provisions that have been made for the future accommodation of our race in another world; that the agency of the Church is in its infancy; that the sciences and arts, matter and mind, have hardly yet presented their first oblations to Christianity.

4. Christ is to be honoured here more than He has yet been. It was on earth He was born, died, first published His salvation, qualified Himself for His mediatorial crown. Here, also, He is to be acknowledged as the Lord of all. The mediation of Christ is the basis of human existence, and the means of restoration to light, purity and glory.

The mediatory agency of Jesus Christ procures immortality for man.

1. Man’s existence is not limited to this narrow, dark sphere. Our immortality and the knowledge of it are the gifts of Christ. His existence in the invisible world is the greatest proof we have of its reality. His resurrection and ascension are the most convincing arguments for a future world. He lives. We shall live.

2. It is true that an endless existence will be a curse to the wicked; but let not the author of immortality be blamed for that. Remember--

(1) Existence is a blessing; history and consciousness prove that.

(2) Nothing can render existence a curse but sin. It is not in the power of any creature. The Creator Himself will not render a perfectly holy being unhappy.

(3) Christ is now able and willing to take away sin from us. Yes, He is willing, and if you are so too, your existence is safe forever.

The mediation of Christ has furnished us with a system of means to prepare us for a happy immortality. “Grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” Here is the essence of the gospel. This is--

1. A system of grace. The doctrine of human merit is at once unphilosophical and unscriptural. Man’s salvation is all of grace. Its origination, discovery, application, and perfection in heaven is grace. Let us trust and triumph in gospel grace.

2. A system of righteousness also. It justifies man before God, and justifies God in doing so before His own intelligent universe. Here, then, is a scheme that is just to all. It injures none; it benefits the universe.

Conclusion: From the whole we may infer--

1. That Christianity is infinitely superior to natural religion. It reveals more, and its revelations are warm, loving, transforming.

2. Christ is the most extraordinary and interesting Being in the universe. How vast His sphere! How benevolent His agency! How Divine His character! In all things He has the preeminence.

3. Let us rejoice in Christianity while parting with friends in death. Christ lives, they live. We shall also live. (Caleb Morris.)

The two representatives of the race

The words “judgment came” and “the free gift came,” are not part of the original, but are introduced to complete the sense. In the margin you read, “by one offence,” instead of, “by one man’s offence,” and also “by one righteousness” (righteous act) instead of “by the righteousness of one.” Dean Alford translates the verse--“As through one trespass the issue was unto all men to condemnation; even so through one righteous act, the issue was unto all men to justification of life.” Note, then--

The loss to all men through Adam.

1. There is no principle more widely conceded than that of representation. Our national, municipal, and social arrangements, are all more or less representative. We honour the son of a good man, not merely for his own excellence, but also for the sake of his father. We suspect the son of a bad man, even although we know no evil of him personally. No one imagines that there is any injustice in this. Those who suffer by it are pitied, but their misfortune is recognised to be the natural consequence of their connection with those whom they represent. On the other hand we never grudge to others any advantage which they may gain by it.

2. Now this principle is everywhere recognised in the Bible. We read that the “Lord our God is a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children,” etc. We see the descendants of Canaan punished for their progenitors’ offence; the Edomites excluded from their birthright because their father Esau had despised it; how the wives and children of Achan and those of Dathan and Abiram were destroyed because of the sin of their relatives. We find Jesus Himself declaring that vengeance was about to descend upon the children of those who slew the prophets. And when we read the story of the siege of Jerusalem, that awful record seems to demand no less an explanation than that “all the righteous blood shed upon the earth” was exacted at the hands of that generation. “His blood be upon us and upon our children”; and in the story of the Jews through eighteen centuries, who can fail to perceive the cleaving of the curse?

3. The loss which has come to all men through the trespass of Adam is an instance of this great law of representation. Adam was the head of our race. He could neither stand nor fall alone. That which we see upon a small scale when the fortunes of a family depend upon the conduct of some member, or when the history of a nation is determined by some one statesman’s decision--that took place upon the vastest scale when Adam was placed upon his probation in Eden. What was the tragic issue we all know. The head of the family gambled away his fair inheritance, bequeathing only to us the bitter entail of his corruption and death. The forbidden fruit turned out to be a deadly poison, and the pale infection has spread through all the race. Adam had been created in the likeness of God. But when Adam begat a child (Genesis 5:3), it was in the image of a depraved and fallen man. The perversity which appears in early childhood, the proneness to error even of the wisest and most virtuous, the callous indifference to the will of Heaven which characterises the majority, the common selfishness and the black list of daily crimes are witnesses of the curse that broods over the nations. Moreover, there is in the conscience of every one of us the knowledge that we have our own sad share in the inheritance of the fall.

4. There is something painful in this view of life. To be born under the condemnation of God, who can bear to think of it? As Paul points out in this very chapter, death, the wages of sin, comes even upon those “who have not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression”; i.e., the sentence comes upon those who have not personally incurred it. Torturing pains and untimely death are allotted to our little babes, and to those who, by reason of disease or imperfection of brain, are at no period of their lives responsible. God forbid that because of this we should challenge the Divine justice. If I suffer wrong today because of the crime or folly of some ancestor, the wrong be upon the head of the offender, not upon the law! Yet if this were the whole truth we might, indeed, be perplexed and broken-hearted. But, thank God, there is a counterbalancing fact, viz.

The gain to all men through Jesus Christ. By His righteous act there is an issue unto all men towards acquittal resulting in life. We have in this new fact a new operation of the representative principle. It pleased God to make His Divine Son a Second Great Head of the human race, that “as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 11:3). As our Representative He paid the penalty of our sins. “He bare our sins in His own body on the tree.” As our Representative He fulfilled all righteousness, “that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” From the first Adam a poison passed into the lives of all men. From the Second an antidote passed into the lives of all men. The statements have respect not to a portion of the race, not to an elect few, but to all men.

1. We owe to Christ the very fact of our existence. The warning to Adam respecting the forbidden fruit was, “In the day thou cutest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Had the sentence been speedily executed, then, in the deepest of all senses, we should all have died in Adam, for we should never have been born. What was it that arrested the course of the law? Not justice, surely; but grace (John 1:17). It was because of the obedience of Christ, foreseen and mercifully taken into account, that Adam was spared, and that our birth into this world became possible.

2. All men owe much more than this. When we come to inspect human nature, we find there that which cannot be accounted for by our descent from the fallen Adam. Those who have had to deal with abandoned women declare that beneath all their degradation they have discovered something left of womanhood and modesty. Those who have moved freely among the vilest men of the land, have found in the deepest heart of the blackest reprobates something of good. In every man, side by side with a corruption whose issue is unto condemnation, there exists, also, a pure influence, whose issue, could it but prevail, is unto justification of life. Whence comes this influence? Is it a part of our heritage from the first Adam? We cannot believe it. Can a clean thing come out of an unclean? Do men gather grapes on thorns, or figs on thistles? Whatever of generosity, of purity, is found in any human heart; whatever gracious disposition, or kindly motive, or noble inspiration; whatever is sweet and child-like in the young; whatever is modest, and gentle, and winsome in woman; whatever is brave, and loyal, and faithful in man is some portion of that heritage of good which has come to us from Christ, the federal Head and redeeming Representative of our race. Conclusion: We are here today, losers and gainers by this principle of representation. The first Adam and the second are in every one of us. We have inherited from both. We have inherited a sinful and corrupt nature. We have inherited also a better nature. We stand now upon our own personal probation. We are summoned now to make our choice between the “natural man” that is in us, and the “Spiritual Man” that is in us. The issue is for eternity, and “why will ye die?” Choose not that forbidden fruit, whose bitter end is death, or at the last the just God must needs ratify your choice, and you will perish in the second death. Choose rather to live. Let that life which was bestowed for Christ’s sake be used in Christ’s service. (W. J. Woods, B. A.)

Our loss through Adam and our gain through Christ

1. Some points of importance are lost in the authorised rendering. “The offence of one” is, in the original, “one offence,” or “one trespass,” as in Matthew 6:14. The word properly expresses a fall by the side of the path of duty. “The righteousness of one” is, in the same way, in the original, “one act of righteousness.” The whole redeeming work of Christ is here, then, summed up into a single act of righteousness. The next verse explains the expression by introducing the equivalent word obedience, and if further explanation were needed, St. Paul himself gives it in Philippians 2:8. “Obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the Cross”; not a death by itself as a single isolated deed, but as a crown of life--the self-sacrifice begun in incarnation, continued through the earthly life, and consummated on Calvary. Through this one act of righteousness the free gift through the grace of Jesus (verse 15), “bringeth all men unto the justification of life,” i.e., bringing with it the absolution which has life in it, the free forgiveness which gives that unity with God which is the eternal life of the soul. This is the first change of rendering.

2. The next is perhaps yet more important. The fourfold omission in verse 19 (A.V) of the definite article is a very serious loss. St. Paul did not write Greek at random. In verse 16 he omits the article, for there his purpose was to contrast the singleness of the sin which brought condemnation to the multitudes with the sins which elicited and evoked compassion; but in verses 15, 17 and 19 the particular one man who brought sin and death is designedly set in contrast with the particular one man who brought in grace and life. The other pair of omissions in this verse is equally serious. Many were made sinners, many were made righteous, is a culpable gloss upon St. Paul’s language. St. Paul was not afraid to say judgment came upon all men; the free gift came upon all to justification of life; nor that the many were made sinners and the many were made righteous; the all in the one verse and the many in the other are equivalent terms. St. Paul’s object was to show the universality of redemption. Christ, by His one sacrifice made a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. Although they will not come, He yet speaks in that universal “whosoever will.” The gracious work of Christ in redeeming is co-extensive with the disastrous work of Adam in ruining--“As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” As through the disobedience of one man, the many--the universe of humanity--were made or placed on the footing of sinners, even so through the obedience of the One shall the many be constituted as righteous. (Dean Vaughan.)

Verse 19

Romans 5:19

For, by the obedience of one many were made sinners, and by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

One man’s disobedience and its consequence

Man was made in the image of God, which consisted partly--

1. In his power over all terrestrial creatures (Genesis 1:26; Psalms 8:5-6). Hence he gave names (Genesis 2:19-20).

2. In the perfection of his nature, endued with--

(1) Reason.

(2) Will.

(3) Knowledge (Colossians 3:9-10).

(4) True holiness (Ephesians 4:24).

Man fell from this high estate through disobedience (Genesis 3:1; Genesis 3:1, etc.)

1. How this was done.

(1) Through Satan’s temptation, which was managed with great cunning.

(a) He enters the serpent, the subtlest creature.

(b) Sets upon the woman, the weaker vessel (1 Peter 3:7).

(c) Propounds a doubtful question (Genesis 3:1).

(d) Denies the truth of God’s threatenings (Romans 5:4).

(e) Gives a contrary promise and uses the name of God to confirm it (Romans 5:5).

(2) Through the woman’s fault.

(a) In entering into a dispute with the devil.

(b) In doubting the truth of God’s command.

(c) In eating the fruit.

(3) Through the man’s fault. In taking the fruit at her hands.

2. What was involved.

(1) He broke the first command, by infidelity, ingratitude, contempt of God, and ambition to be like God (Genesis 3:5).

(2) Hearkened to the devil’s word before Gods.

(3) Pleased his wife rather than God.

(4) Murdered his whole posterity (John 8:44).

(5) Minded the lusts of the flesh more than the law of God.

(6) Stole God’s fruit.

(7) Coveted God’s attributes.

Through this disobedience all his posterity were made sinners.

1. By imputation.

(1) In that all sinned in him (Romans 5:16-18; Romans 5:16-18; Hebrews 7:9-10).

(2) In that all died in him (Romans 6:23; 1 Corinthians 15:22).

(3) All were then in his loins; so that he was the common father of all mankind; therefore called Adam, i.e., man in general (Genesis 5:1).

2. By inhesion. All, through Adam’s sin--

(1) Are born in sin (Psalms 51:5; Job 14:4; Ephesians 2:3; John 3:3). Hence only is it that children die.

(2) Do actually commit sin, which shows all mankind to be polluted with it and inclined to it (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Proverbs 20:9; 1 Kings 8:46; Galatians 3:22; 1 John 1:8-10).

3. The whole man is defiled with sin and continually subject to it.

(1) The understanding (1 Corinthians 1:19-20; 1 Corinthians 2:14).

(2) The mind and conscience (Titus 1:15). It is stupid (1 Timothy 4:2), or else troubled.

(3) The memory (2 Peter 1:21).

(4) The thoughts and the imagination (Genesis 6:5), which appears in their vanity and disorder.

(5) The will and affections (John 1:13; Colossians 3:2).

(6) The body (1 Thessalonians 5:23). It is not now serviceable to the soul, but a clog to it; yet it tempts it to sin.

4. Hence our original sin is the corrupt fountain from which all our actual sins flow (James 1:14). Some relics of it remain in the best saints (Galatians 5:17).


1. This should make us humble (Job 15:14-16).

2. Hence we should earnestly desire to be made new creatures; and go to Christ, the Second Adam, that we may be made righteous by Him, as we are sinners by the first. (Bp. Beveridge.)

One man’s obedience and its consequences

Who is this one spoken of? Note--

1. All mankind being contained in, and so fallen with Adam, God raised up another Adam, by whom they might rise (1 Corinthians 15:45). Who being promised, as soon as the first fell (Genesis 3:15) is called the Second Man (1 Corinthians 15:47).

2. This was no less a Person than the Son of God made Man (John 1:14; 1 Timothy 3:16). For He took the nature of man into His Divine Person (Hebrews 2:16).

3. Hence the whole nature of man was so fully and really contained in Him as in the first Adam (1 Corinthians 15:22).

4. This, the Second Man, had an advantage over the first, that whereas the other was but a man made in the likeness of God, this was God made in the likeness of man (Philippians 2:6-7).

What was the obedience of this One?

1. He did no sin, was not guilty in the least (Isaiah 53:9; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5; John 8:46).

2. He did whatsoever the law required, and so remained perfectly righteous in all things (Matthew 3:15; Hebrews 7:26-28; John 15:10; John 4:34).

3. He was obedient, even to death itself (Philippians 2:8); so He underwent that death which the first Adam had deserved for all mankind.

In what sense are many made righteous by one? In the same sense as they are sinners by one.

1. By having Christ’s righteousness as we had Adam’s sin imputed to us.

(1) No man can be pronounced righteous by God, unless he be really so (Proverbs 17:15; Isaiah 5:23).

(2) But no man is really righteous in himself (Ecclesiastes 7:20).

(3) Hence it is impossible we should be accepted as righteous before God, unless we have some other righteousness imputed to us (Romans 4:6; Romans 4:11).

(4) Hence Christ was pleased to be obedient even unto death for us; that so by His obedience imputed to us we might be accepted as righteous. For--

(a) Our righteousness is plainly asserted to be only in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). He was made sin for us. Our sins were laid on Him (Isaiah 53:6); so His righteousness on us (Philippians 3:8-9; Ephesians 1:6).

(b) He is expressly called “Our righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6; Jeremiah 33:16; 1 Corinthians 1:30).

(c) He is called our Surety (Hebrews 7:22), who, being bound for us, paid in our stead what the law required of us.

(d) Christ’s whole obedience was only upon our account, and for our sakes (Galatians 4:4-5); so that by His obedience the law is perfectly fulfilled in us (Romans 8:3-4).

2. We are made righteous by Christ as sinners by Adam, inherently. He--

(1) Mortifies our sins (1 John 3:8; Acts 3:26; 1 John 1:7-9).

(2) Gives repentance (Acts 5:31).

(3) Sanctifies our whole nature (1 Corinthians 6:11; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Ephesians 5:25-27).

(4) Enables us to do good works (John 15:4-5; Titus 2:14; Philippians 4:11-13).


1. Thank God for Christ.

2. Put your whole trust in Him only, for grace as well as pardon.

3. Let it be your great care to be in the number of those who are made righteous in Christ, in believing in Him.

4. Live as becometh righteous persons. (Bp. Beveridge.)

Man’s first sin

Is there a human being to be found who, after reflection, and speaking honestly, would affirm of himself, “I have never sinned”? We are aware of the existence of great ignorance concerning the extent of sin, and the evil of sin; and we know men are exceedingly reluctant to confess even those sins of which they are conscious; but we do not think there is a man who, after serious reflection, is entirely unconscious of guilt. Furthermore, is there a man who would say of a fellow human being, however dearly loved and highly prized, “I do not believe that person has ever sinned”? Verily, our consciousness and our observation confirm the Bible doctrine, “There is none that doeth good; no, not one!”

The fact and the circumstances of man’s first sin.

1. The first sin was Adam’s failure under trial as the representative of the human race. Say that this test was simple; then how adapted to inexperience, and how fitted to show whether, in filial dependence, man would serve God or not. Do you refuse to judge of the quarter whence the wind blows by the course of the thistle down, or by the path of the smoke; and would you wait for information until you could see the vane of some lofty tower? Do you not measure the heat of a summer’s day by the moistened brow, and judge of the cold of winter by the smarting skin, far more frequently than by the scale of the thermometer?

2. Man was specially tempted to the first sin.

3. Temptation was necessary in man’s probation. Could probation be conducted apart from this trying process? Is not the coin tested in the balance? Is not silver proved in the fining pot? Is not gold tried in the furnace? Are not the elements of a chemical compound made manifest by analysis? Is not the strength of metal or timber relied upon after proof? As in our law courts, no prisoner is recognised as guilty until his crime has been proved; so, in God’s moral government, no procedure is based on character until the character is made manifest by the light of conduct.

4. The first sin of man was (tested by any standard) a great transgression. Actions must be judged by the principle involved in them. In eating the forbidden fruit did not Adam transgress a law? In transgressing this law did not Adam reject the Divine authority and cast off his allegiance to God? In thus sinning did not Adam resist the power of the strongest motives on the side of obedience?--motives arising from his obligations to the kindness of God; motives connected with the full and flowing fountains of pleasure and of advantage by which he was encompassed; and from the fact that he was being proved, and that upon his conduct were suspended tremendous results? Moreover the image of God was within him--revelations of God surrounded him; and under the power of these multiplied motives and influences his attention was fixed on one defined, intelligible, and distinct requirement. It was not an easy thing for Adam to sin against God.

(1) Observe that human nature, at its best state, is not to be trusted; and that it universally fails where the failure is of most consequence.

(2) See the tremendous responsibility which our influence over each other involves.

(3) Learn the utility of experience in the trial of temptation.

(4) Look, by the aid of the facts we are considering, into the philosophy of sinning.

The results of man’s first sin. Trace them in the transgressors themselves. We know not what interval existed between the evil act and a sense of its iniquity. Delusion may have continued through some time. At length, however, an inward monitor gave notice of the fault; disapprobation and self-condemnation, with their keen smart, succeeded; and Adam tasted the bitterness of sin.

1. Learn hence the enormous evil of any one sin; and profit in this department of knowledge by the experience of others.

2. Know also the certainty of punishment where pardon is not vouchsafed.

3. Mark the limit of Divine interference with human conduct. (S. Martin.)

Man’s disobedience and Christ’s obedience

Man’s disobedience.

1. Its consequences.

2. Perpetration.

3. Extent.

Christ’s obedience.

1. Its nature.

2. Operation.

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

The condition of man a sinner and man made righteous cont


1. Unbelief and faith.

2. Enmity and love.

3. Banishment from God and acceptance with God.

4. Disobedience and righteousness.

5. Misery and bliss.

6. Curse and blessing.

7. Death and life.

8. Paradise lost and paradise regained. (D. MNicoll.)

Of our fall in Adam


1. Who that one man was. Adam (verse 14).

2. What his disobedience was. His first sin, the eating of the forbidden fruit, which opened the door to death (verse 12).

3. Whom it concerned; “many”; the “all” (verse 14). The alteration is not without reason, for there is an exception here of Christ. It reached many men, but not all simply; he, and he only, was excepted.

4. How it touched them; they were “made sinners” by it. There are two ways how men might be made sinners by the disobedience of Adam, viz., either by imputation or imitation. The last is not meant.

(1) Because some of those many who are made Sinners are not capable of imitation or actual sin, viz., infants.

(2) Because we are made righteous, not by the imitation, but imputation of Christ’s righteousness; but as we are made righteous by the one, so we are made sinners by the other.

What sin of Adam’s it was that they who sinned and fell with him sinned and fell in. His first sin, the eating of the forbidden fruit. This was the sin that broke the covenant of works. Other sins of Adam are not imputed to them, more than those of any other private persons. So then, Adam quickly betaking himself to the covenant of grace, and placing himself under another head as a private man, ceased to be the head in the covenant of works. Adam had all his children in one ship to carry them to Immanuel’s land; by his negligence he dashed the ship on a rock, and broke it all in pieces; and so he and his lay foundering in a sea of guilt. Jesus Christ lets out the second covenant as a rope to draw them to the shore. Adam for himself lays hold on it, while others hold by the broken beards of the ship, till they be by the power of grace enabled to quit them too, as he was.

Who were they that sinned and fell in Adam. All mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation. So--

1. Christ is excepted. Adam’s sin was not imputed to the man Christ. He was separated from sinners (Hebrews 7:26), and was not infected with the plague whereof He was to be the cleanser. And so Christ comes not in under Adam as head, but, as in the text, is opposed to Adam as another head. Christ was indeed a Son of Adam (Luke 3:1-38). And it was necessary He should be so, that He might be our near kinsman, and that the same nature that sinned might suffer. But He came not of him by ordinary generation--He was born of a virgin. And upon this account He came not in under Adam in the covenant of works; for Christ was not born by virtue of that blessing of marriage given before the fall (Genesis 1:28), but by virtue of a covenant-promise made after the fall (Genesis 3:15). So that Adam could represent none in that covenant, but such as were to spring from him by virtue of that blessing.

2. All mankind besides sinned and fell with Adam in that first transgression. His sin of eating the forbidden fruit is imputed to them. Consider--

(1) The Scripture plainly testifies that all sinned in him (verse 12). Hence it is plain that death has not come into the world but in pursuit of sin; all die, for all have sinned.

(2) All fell with him into misery by that sin. Now, a just God will not involve the innocent with the guilty in the same punishment.

(a) All fell under condemnation (verses 16, 18).

(b) All fell under the loss of God’s image, and the corruption of nature with him (Psalms 51:5).

(c) All the punishments inflicted on Adam and Eve, for that sin, as specified in Genesis 3:1-24, are common to mankind, their posterity; and therefore the sin must be so too.

How the first sin of Adam comes to be imputed to us. The great reason of this is, because we are all included in Adam’s covenant. The covenant was made with him, not only for himself, but for all his posterity.

1. Consider here--

(1) It was the covenant of works, the condition whereof was perfect obedience.

(2) It was made with Adam for himself. That was the way he himself was to attain perfect happiness; his own stock was in that ship.

(3) It was made not only for himself, but for all his posterity descending from him by ordinary generation. So that he was not here as a private, but as a public person, the moral head and representative of all mankind. Hence the Scripture holds forth Adam and Christ, as if there had never been any but these two men in the world (1 Corinthians 15:47). And this he does, because they were two public persons, each of them having under them persons represented by them (verses 14, 18).

2. But some may be ready to say, we made not choice of Adam for that purpose. Answer--

(1) God made the choice, who was as meet to make it for us as we for ourselves. And “who art thou that repliest against God?”

(2) Adam was our natural head, the common father of us all (Acts 17:26), and who was so meet to be trusted with the concerns of all mankind as he?

3. But to clear further the reasonableness of this imputation, consider--

(1) Adam’s sin is imputed to us, because it is ours. For God doth not reckon a thing ours, which is not so (Romans 2:2). If a person that has the plague infect others, and they die, they die, by their own plague, and not by that of another.

(2) It was free for God either to have annihilated all mankind, or to have given them no promise of eternal life. Was it not, then, an act of grace in God to make such a rich covenant as this? and would not men have consented to this representation gladly in this case?

(3) Adam being made after the image of God (Genesis 1:26) was as capable to stand as any afterwards could be for themselves; and this was a trial that would soon have been over, while the other would have been continually a-doing, had men been created independent of him.

(4) He had natural affection the strongest to engage him. He was our father, and all we the children that were in his loins, to whom we had as good ground to trust as to any other creature.

(5) His own stock was in the ship; his all lay at stake as well as ours. Forgetting our interest, he behoved to disregard his own, for he had no separate interest from ours. No man quarrels, that when a master sets his land in tack to a man and his heirs upon conditions, if the first possessor break the bargain, the heirs be denuded of it.

(6) All that quarrel with this dispensation must renounce their part in Christ; for we are made righteous by Him, as sinners are made guilty by Adam. If we fall in with the one, why not with the other? We chose Christ for our head in the second covenant no more than we did Adam in the first covenant.


1. See the dreadful nature of sin; one sin could destroy a world.

2. Let this be a lesson to parents to do nothing that may bring ruin on their children. Many times children are destroyed by their parents through their bad example and government.

3. This doctrine affords a lesson of humility to all. The rich have no cause to boast of their wealth, for they have as sad a heritage as the poor and needy.

4. View and wonder at the redemption purchased for sinners by Christ.

5. Quit your hold of the first Adam and his covenant, and come to and unite with Christ by faith, and lay hold on His covenant (1 Corinthians 15:22). (T. Boston, D. D.)

The fall and the atonement

These are the two main facts involved in the text. Round these there has gathered a vast cloud of theological formulas which render it difficult to discern them in their simplicity and integrity. I have a few suggestions to make, which are simple and hang well together.

1. We can hardly begin to reflect on the fall without asking, “Why did God permit it? why make man so that he not only could, but almost must, fall away from his original righteousness?” The very moment we begin to reflect on the fall we are confronted by the origin of evil. Why did God permit it to invade and stain His universe?

2. So, again, with that other fact, “How could the obedience, or sacrifice, of the one just Man avail for the salvation of the whole sinful race? How is it so to tell on those who have fallen from righteousness as to recover them to the love and service of righteousness? To tell us that these problems are insoluble is to contradict the inspired apostle. To warn us against intermeddling with them is to pour contempt on the labours of eighteen centuries. And, worse still, it is to bid us suppress an inbred and unconquerable tendency, viz., that when we believe certain facts we cannot but try to frame some reasonable conception of them, in which each shall hold its due place and form part of an intelligible and harmonious whole.

The fall.

1. We start from a point familiar and approved.

(1) If God were to surround Himself, not with mere automata that would mechanically obey the impulses of His will, but with creatures capable of love and obedience, He must give them wills of their own and leave them free. A mechanical or compelled goodness is not a goodness at all. If the angels are incapable of sin they are also incapable of righteousness. If they are not free to choose between good and evil, but are kept by the power and will of God, then their goodness is God’s goodness, and not their own. If the stars keep their courses only by an involuntary and unconscious obedience to natural laws, there is nothing noble, because there is nothing free, in their obedience. But if, as some of our poets have dreamed, each “heavenly body” is but the vesture of some great spirit, then the very stars become moral, because voluntary, agents, who render a willing and constant obedience to the laws imposed upon them.

2. Now, what the choice of God would be we may infer from our own preference. Just as we prefer to have even a dog about us to all the mechanical toys ever invented: or just as we love to have children about us whose love we can win, who are capable of a true because voluntary goodness, so we may reasonably believe God would choose to surround Himself with many orders of creatures, each capable of loving Him of its own will, and of rendering Him a free and glad obedience.

3. But this very capacity involves an alternative. Those who can freely lift their wills into accord with the will of God, can also deflect their wills from His. And was it not well-nigh inevitable that, in the infinite possibilities of existence, some of them should strike out a path for themselves, and take that rather than keep the path marked out for them by God? How else were they to prove to themselves that their wills were their own, and free?

4. This free will, if a great is also a most perilous endowment; for there is a certain charm in asserting it. It is not mere depravity which prompts a child to do that which he knows he ought not to do. The temptation, although he may be unconscious of it, is the charm of assuring himself and showing others that he is free, that he is not a mere link in the chain of necessity, not a mere pipe in the fingers of others to sound what stop they please. Who has not felt this fascination, and done that which he knew would yield him neither pleasure nor profit, simply in order that he might feel and assert his freedom? And who that has felt this charm can doubt that when myriads of creatures had been called into being gifted with free will, some of them would be sure to prove their freedom by trying whether or not their wills were their own?

5. Our argument leads us straight into that great mystery--the origin of evil. Evil is in the world, in the universe, by no Divine fiat or decree. It is not of God’s making, but of our own. And from this gift of a will free to select its own path and take its own course have sprung all the miseries of evil. What God intended for our good, as our special honour and distinction, we have turned to our own harm. But before any man complains that so perilous a gift has been conferred upon him, and that he is called to rule and control it, let him remember the alternative--incapability of conscious and voluntary choice of righteousness and love. If any man would prefer to sink so low as that, it certainly is hard to see what God made him a man for. But does any such man exist?

Its consequences. When men, in the exercise of their free will, have fallen into sin, they begin to make excuse. They say, “It is human to err. Sin is common to all; how, then, can I hope to escape it?” This is one of the saddest consequences.

2. Men condemn even while they excuse themselves. All the while they feel that sin has alienated them from the life of God; that He is displeased with them; that they are debased; and that God must be propitiated. And thus men are made both reckless and hopeless. On the one hand, sin seems so human, so inevitable, that it can hardly be very wrong; and, on the other hand, it is so alien to God that He can hardly be expected to pardon it.

From these consequences we get some of our best and simplest conceptions of redemption.

1. What is the answer of the Divine grace to the feeling of doubt and despair? It is this. While we are yet sinners, God, in the person of His Son, comes down and dwells among us. He virtually says to us, “See, much as I hate the sins which have degraded and enslaved you, fellowship with Me is not impossible. I am in your midst to bless you by turning every one of you away from your sins. So far from being separated from you, I have become one with you, that you may become one with Me, partaking your nature that you may partake Mine.”

2. Men say, “It is human to sin; so long as we are men we can hardly hope to avoid it.” “Nay,” replies Christ; “for, see, I, too, am a man; and which of you convicteth Me of sin? So far from sin being an essential part of manhood, or a necessary adjunct of it, you feel that I am a higher style of man, precisely because I never at any time transgressed My Father’s commandments, because I make it My will to do His will.” This, then, is a chief way in which the redemption of Christ comes to tell on men, in which they are atoned to the God against whom they have sinned. Our wills are ours, then; but they are ours that we may make them His. And not till we do make them His shall we be recovered from the fall, and know the power of His redemption. (S. Cox, D. D.)

The Lord our righteousness

The obedience of Christ.

1. Personally and privately, in regard to His own moral character. He fulfilled all righteousness. He alone, of all the human race, has maintained from first to last a perfectly spotless character before the tribunal of God.

2. Officially, Christ’s obedience was equally perfect. He came into the world to fulfil a public mission, as the Lord’s servant, and at the close it was not necessary for Him to bewail shortcomings or to avow Himself an unprofitable servant (John 17:4). Nor was His an easy task. He needed more meekness than Moses, more Wisdom than Solomon, more watchfulness than Isaiah, and more courage than Daniel. Yet never in all His public course did He betray an unworthy spirit or act unwisely. No doing or saying of His requires to be covered with the cloak of charity.

3. As a sacrificial victim for sin, we find Christ equally obedient. He received this commandment from the Father, that He should lay down His life for His sheep. This He was to do by surrendering Himself into the hands of wicked men. He might have refused and have consumed His enemies. He might have come down even from the Cross, and declined to shed His heart’s best blood for such a thankless race; but no, He submitted to it all without a murmur. His own language was, “The cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?” (cf. Isaiah 53:10; Isaiah 53:10; Philippians 2:8; Hebrews 2:10)


The way is which we are made righteous by this obedience.

1. By the eternal purpose of God Himself. He gave His Son to achieve such mighty results for us, and He accepts us in the Beloved, and imputes to us a righteousness, which is purely of grace, and through faith in Christ. “The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”

2. The ground of this imputation, undoubtedly, is the perfect obedience of Christ, our Head; and the principle of it is, that, because of our union with Christ, what belongs to Him comes to be regarded as belonging to us. He takes our sins, that we may take His righteousness.

3. Yet, in looking at Christ’s obedience as the ground of our righteousness, we must view it as a whole. We cannot say that one part of the blessing we derive from Christ is to be ascribed to His sinless life, and another to His vicarious suffering. We take a whole Christ as a whole Saviour.

4. Yet in this gift of righteousness we find these three blessings.

(1) Pardon. This we have in Christ’s obedience unto death. That death owes its merits to His preceding spotless life.

(2) Holiness. This relates to the present, as pardon to the past, and we owe it to Christ’s holy life, setting us an example; to His mediatorial labours, teaching us the law; and to His sacrificial death, constraining our love, and procuring for us the Spirit, by whose indwelling we are quickened, renewed, changed into the Divine likeness, and enabled to wall: as becometh saints.

(3) Heaven. This relates to the future. Even if we were pardoned, and made holy, we could by no means earn for ourselves a title to glory. It is God’s free gift: bestowed upon us only for the sake of the perfect obedience of Christ, who hath purchased this inheritance, and secured it for us. It is He who both washes us from our sins and makes us kings and priests unto God and His Father forever. Conclusion:

1. Behold, then, the Scripture doctrine of substitution, which ascribes our salvation, not to our own obedience, but to the obedience of Christ. This is--

(1) A conceivable arrangement: it is in harmony with equity and justice, provided only that the substituted victim of suffering be a voluntary one, and that he be not a permanent loser by what he endures.

(2) An arrangement, analogous to much that we see in nature and providence, and especially to the hereditary law of association, which obtains among all mankind.

(3) Necessity. For without it no member of our fallen race could ever have risen to holiness and happiness at all.

(4) An accomplished reality, for Christ hath actually suffered for our sins, once for all, and put them away by the sacrifice of Himself (Hebrews 9:26-28).

2. A few practical inferences.

(1) Christian believer, see your dependence on Jesus, and rejoice in it. Cultivate a simple and confiding faith in Him, and believe that if your salvation be the reward of His obedience, there is no limit to what God is able and willing to do for you.

(2) Penitent inquirer, behold the way of righteousness, and walk in it. Come, as a sinner, to the throne of grace; and ceasing from your own works, enter by faith into spiritual rest.

(3) Ye unconverted, we point you to the Cross. There see what sin has done. Reflect, repent, return unto the Lord, for He will have mercy upon you, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. (T. G. Horton.)

The mechanism of heredity

Why should children, born with tainted constitutions and damaged prospects, suffer blamelessly for their father’s iniquity? Precisely as, on the contrary, children benefit gratuitously through the goodness of their parent. For the marvellous mechanism of heredity does not merely transmit evil. It is also, and indeed preponderantly, the machinery by which the physical, mental, and spiritual acquisitions of bygone generations--the accumulated and stored wealth of the ages--are conveyed to the future and preserved for posterity. There is an inheritance of strength and intellect, grace and goodness, as well as of disease and vice and evil. Nay, this last is but a misuse and perversion of God’s beneficent and stupendous contrivance of heredity. To escape the entail of ill, you must snap the mechanism of transmission, and so forfeit the entail of blessing. It is as if you should propose that each generation’s acquisition of property, tools, inventions, arts, and appliances should be destroyed, and the next generation compelled to begin afresh on the bare, barren soil. Progress were impossible, civilisation but the rolling of a Sisyphus’ stone, the human race no longer an organic unity, without continuity, without history, without moral solidarity. Take from my life and actions this awful prerogative of the transmission of good and evil, and you rob it of all dignity and depth of perspective; you degrade it to the narrowest dimensions of self-centred insignificance; you divest my actions of all far-reaching influence and unselfish consequence; you isolate my being from all impersonal interests and ennobling sympathies. Cut asunder the fine meshes of heredity, and you dissolve the ties of affection that bind the generations together, and reduce humanity to a chaos of trivial atoms, without roots in the past, without part in futurity, devoid of large possibilities of achievement, and therefore destitute of strong moral motive. Heredity ordained by Heaven for blessing, through sin becomes a vehicle of evil. (Prof. Elmslie, D. D.)

Verses 20-21

Romans 5:20-21

The law entered that the offence might abound.

But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.

The offence abounding through the law

The wise physician often gives medicine to bring the disease from within to the surface, and make it abound, so to speak, with the view of driving away the disorder, and so enabling health to reign in the system of his patient. The skilful surgeon, by diet and hot water fomentations, develops the abscess in order that he may be able to effectually remove it. In like manner God in His infinite love and wisdom allowed the law to enter “that the offence might abound,” with the ultimate purpose “that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Law developing sin

1. The apostle begins the present argument in Romans 5:12, breaking off for the time; and instead of completing the comparison, turning aside to show the universal and lamentable effects of sin. St. Paul was sufficiently acquainted with the continent of Divine truth to be able to wander without losing sight of the cardinal points. To put a man unacquainted with a country half a mile from the main road would make his safe return somewhat doubtful. Many are in this state in respect of gospel truths. But Paul could venture to take a by-road to reach a by-purpose, and then return safely to the place whence he started.

2. At the close of Romans 5:14 he comes again in contact with his main purpose, that the reader might not lose sight of it, and to show that he knew exactly his whereabouts--“who is the figure of Him that was to come.” But instead of going on to prove their resemblance, he again digresses to show first their unlikeness.

3. In Romans 5:18 he again returns to his chief purpose, namely, to show that the first Adam and the second were in one respect similar. The “offence” stands alone. There was but “one” offence from Adam to Moses, for there was no law to be transgressed, i.e., no covenant. God made a covenant with Adam as the representative of mankind; but that covenant was broken. Man, therefore, had no covenant to break in the period indicated. God gave His law to the sea, to the birds, etc., without saying a word to them: they were too small for Him to enter into covenant with them. But man was created on so large a scale that God could not legislate for him without covenanting with him. The “offence,” in the apostle’s sense here, was not possible to man in the absence of a covenant. Mankind from Adam to Moses were daily adding to the mass of their corruption, but the offence continued to remain “one” and the same all through. However, in the time of Moses we find mankind again brought under a covenant--“the law entered that the offence might abound.”

The giving of the law occasioned the development of sin.

1. Sin always revives in the presence of law (Romans 7:9). The pure and fiery light of the commandment awakes it, excites it, and draws out its energies.

(1) Sin in Israel had been sleeping during the Egyptian bondage and deliverance; and the trials encountered during the journey to Sinai only made sin dream fitfully and say an occasional angry word between wakefulness and sleep, just enough to show that it only wanted opportunity to rouse itself. But when the nation arrived at Sinai they received the most marvellous exhibition of the Divine glory. It might have been thought that sin had received such a deep wound that it would never again be able to raise its head. But no; “they made a calf in those days.” Wonderful! But it was only the necessary consequence of the giving of the law.

(2) Sin is still the same. Man is not conscious of his enmity to God when the commandment does not shine upon his conscience. His enmity is like the match in his waistcoat pocket. There is fire in it, but it is asleep. It only needs to be brought into contact with something harder than itself to become a flame. So the young man’s guilty heart is full of the fire of enmity, but it is asleep. When he comes to rub against God’s law, sin “takes occasion by the commandment” to develop itself.

2. The entrance of the law occasioned the development of sin, because man cannot be developed without developing his sin. This principle manifests itself everywhere. When tares have been sown mixed with wheat, all the influences which promote the increase of the wheat promote the growth of the tares. Look at the young babe. Well, if the little one is to be developed, his sin must be developed with him. As true as he will be a three-feet man, he will be a three-feet sinner at the same time. The internal enemies of many a country would not be nearly as formidable were it not for the educational advantages they have enjoyed. The danger and the horribleness of their deeds increase in the same proportion as their knowledge. In the face of that, were it not better to keep all knowledge from them? No! that is not the method of the Divine government. The voices of nature, providence, and inspiration teach the contrary. Humanity must be developed, though that be impossible without developing its sin. And inasmuch as the law entered to develop man, it of necessity therefore occasioned the development of his sin likewise.

The law entered for the purpose of developing sin. It entered in order--

1. To develop sin in its heinousness and frightfulness, so that the evil of its nature as it strikes against God and militates against man might be made patent to all. There is deceitfulness in sin. It wears a garment so attractive that no creature is free from the danger of being bewitched by it. It deceived even the angels. It captivated our first parents. Sin was having fair weather before the law entered. The earth was sitting quietly under its heavy and torpid authority. But at last there dawned the day of its visitation. In the presence of God’s holy law the splendour of its raiment begins to fade; its horrible look makes many refuse it their loyalty any longer. The entrance of sin supposes the entrance of all the dispensation of the Old Testament, which terminated in the advent and death of Christ. And there, on the Cross, was finished the work of stripping sin of all its robes. Thenceforth it stood in all the nakedness of its shame before an astonished universe.

2. To develop its strength, and accomplish its destruction. God is not afraid of sin. By the time of the Incarnation sin had been completely developed. Corrupt religion could not before, and can never again, produce such a court as that of the high priest in Jerusalem. There is no hope that paganism will ever again produce such a faithful representative of itself as Pontius Pilate. Hell will never again see the day when it can steel and whet a tool so dangerous as Iscariot. All the hosts of sin are on the field in the memorable struggle with the Prince of Life, so that the foe can never complain that all his forces were not on the spot (Colossians 2:14-15). Sin still continues the war, but it only shoots like a coward; shoots and runs at the same time. Let us therefore take heart; let us arm ourselves with all the armour of God that we may pursue and help to drive it out of the world; There is a complete victory over sin to everyone that believeth in Christ. (Evan Phillips.)

Law and grace

The design of the law.

1. Not to occasion sin.

2. But to develop--

(1) Its extent.

(2) Its guilt.

(3) Its misery.

The relation of the law to grace.

1. It prepares the way for its manifestation.

2. It sets forth its transcendent excellency.

3. It disposes the sinner to receive it by making him conscious of his need.

The superabounding of grace.

1. It surpasses the extent of human guilt.

2. Relieves its misery.

3. Secures more happiness to man and more glory to God. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Law and grace

There is no point upon which men make greater mistakes than upon the relation between the law and the gospel. Some men put the law instead of the gospel; others put the gospel instead of the law; some modify both, and preach neither; and others entirely abrogate the law, by bringing in the gospel. Many think that the law is the gospel, and who teach that men by good works may be saved. On the other hand, many teach that the gospel is a law, by obedience to which men are meritoriously saved. A certain class maintain that the law and the gospel are mixed, and that partly by the law, and partly by grace, men are saved. Consider the text--

As concerning the world.

1. The object of God in sending the law was “that the offence might abound.” There was sin in the world long before; and where that law has never been heard, there is sin,--because, though men cannot sin against the law which they have never seen, yet they can all rebel against the light of nature, against the dictates of conscience, and against that traditional remembrance of right and wrong (Romans 1:20). The law makes offences “abound,” because--

(1) It tells us that many things are sins which we should never have thought to be so if it had not been for the additional light. What man by the light of conscience would keep holy the Sabbath day? Moreover, if in the term “law” we comprehend the ceremonial ritual, we can plainly see that many things, in appearance quite indifferent, were by it constituted sins--the eating of animals that do not chew the cud and divide the hoof, the wearing of linsey woolsey, and all seem to have no sin in them, but the law made them into sins, and so maple the offence to abound.

(2) Law has a tendency to make men rebel. Human nature rises against restraint. I had not known lust except the law had said,” Thou shalt not covet.” So evil are we, that we conceive at once the desire to commit an act, simply because it is forbidden (Romans 7:7-8; Romans 7:11). The law is not faulty, but sin uses it as an occasion of offence, and rebels when it ought to obey. Augustine says, “The law is not in fault, but our evil and wicked nature; even as a heap of lime is still and quiet, until water be poured thereon, but then it begins to smoke and burn, not from the fault of the water, but from the nature and kind of the lime which will not endure it.”

(3) The law increases the sinfulness of sin, by removing all excuse of ignorance. Until men know the law, their crimes have at least a palliation of partial ignorance, but when the code is spread before them, their offences become greater, since they are committed against light and knowledge. The more light the greater guilt--the law affords that light, and so causes us to become double offenders. But does it not seem very harsh that God should give us a law which will not justify, but indirectly cause our condemnation to be greater? But there is a gracious purpose even here. Natural men dream that by a strict performance of duty they shall obtain favour; but the law never came to save men. It came on purpose to make the evidence complete that salvation by works is impossible, and thus to drive the elect of God to rely wholly on the finished salvation of the gospel.

2. The superabundance of grace.

(1) Grace excels sin in the numbers it brings beneath its sway. It is written that in all things Jesus shall have the preeminence: and why is this to be left out? Can we think that Satan will have more followers than Jesus? Oh, no; for while it is written that the redeemed are a multitude that no man can number; it is not recorded that the lost are beyond numeration. Think for a moment of the army of infant souls who are now in heaven.

(2) Grace doth “much more abound,” because a time shall come when the world shall be all full of grace; whereas there has never been a period when it was wholly given up to sin.

(3) Hath the world lost its possessions by sin, it has gained far more by grace? True, we have been expelled from Eden, but we have through Jesus a fairer habitation. Did we lose natural life and subject ourselves to painful death by sin? Has not grace revealed an immortality for the sake of which we are too glad to die? Jesus has clothed us with a Divine righteousness, far exceeding the robes of created innocence.

As Concerning the human heart.

1. The law causes the offence to abound--

(1) By discovering sin to the soul. When once the Holy Ghost applies the law to the conscience, secret sins are dragged to light, little sins are magnified to their true size, and things apparently harmless become exceedingly sinful. John Bunyan says that “the Interpreter took Christian by the hand and led him into a very large parlour that was full of dust, because never swept; in which after he had reviewed it a little while, the Interpreter called for a man to sweep. Now, when he began to sweep, the dust began so abundantly to fly about, that Christian had almost therewith been choked. Then said the Interpreter to a damsel that stood by, ‘Bring hither water, and sprinkle the room’; the which when she had done, it was swept and cleansed with pleasure. Then said Christian, ‘What means this?’ The Interpreter answered, ‘This parlour is the heart of man. The dust is his original sin and inward corruptions. He that began to sweep at first, is the law; but she that brought the water, and did sprinkle it, is the gospel. Now whereas thou sawest, that as soon as the first began to sweep, the dust did so fly about, that the room could not by him be cleansed, but that thou wast almost choked therewith; this is to show thee that the law, instead of cleansing the heart (by its working) from sin, doth revive (Romans 7:9), put strength into (1 Corinthians 15:56) and increase it in the soul (verse 20), even as it doth discover and forbid it, for it doth not give power to subdue. Again, as thou sawest the damsel sprinkle the room with water, upon which it was cleansed with pleasure; this is to show thee that when the gospel comes in the sweet and precious influences thereof to the heart, so is sin vanquished, and the soul made clean, through the faith of it, and consequently fit for the King of glory to inhabit.’”

(2) By showing us how very black we are. Some of us know that we are sinners. It is very easy to say it, but it does not appear exceedingly sinful till the law comes. How many do we find who are saying, “There may be a little amiss at the top, but I am very good-hearted at bottom.” If you saw some fruit on the top of a basket that was not quite good, would you buy the basket because they told you, “Aye, but they are good at the bottom”? No; you would say, “They are sure to be the best at the top, and if they are bad there, they are sure to be rotten below.”

(3) By discovering to us the depravity of our nature. We are all prepared to charge the serpent with our guilt, or to insinuate that we go astray, from the force of ill example--but the Holy Spirit dissipates these dreams by bringing the law into the heart. Then the fountains of the great deep are broken up, the chambers of imagery are opened, the innate evil of the very essence of fallen man is discovered.

(4) By bringing home the sentence of condemnation. It mounts the judgment seat, puts on the black cap, and pronounces the sentence of death.

(5) By discovering the powerlessness occasioned by sin. It not only condemns but it actually kills. He who once thought that he could repent and believe at pleasure, finds in himself no power to do either the one or the other.

2. Grace excels sin--

(1) In its measure and efficacy. Though your sins are many, mercy hath many pardons.

(2) Sin shows us its parent, and tells us our heart is the father of it, but grace surpasseth sin there, and shows the Author of grace--the King of kings.

(3) Just as sin makes us sick, and downcast, and sad, so does grace make us far more joyful and free. Sin unfits us for heaven. Grace makes us fit companions for seraphs and the just made perfect. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The triumphs of sin and of grace

1. The triumphs of sin.

1. As they regard the material world. Sin has altered its character--defaced its beauty--tarnished its splendour. Disorder has been introduced, and various evils have been realised.

2. As they regard the moral nature of man. If the evil were merely external, it would be comparatively immaterial, but it is internal. The whole man is infected with the leprosy of sin. His members are not consecrated to God, but to iniquity. His understanding is enveloped in dense darkness. His reason is proud, and unyielding to God. His affections are perverted, cold, and sensual. His will is stubborn and intractable. All his powers, passions, capacities, and emotions, have been affected by sin.

3. As they regard death and the grave. What fearful desolations they effect! They dim the lustre of the eye, extinguish the light of genius, tarnish the bloom of beauty, wither the arm of vigour, and reduce the frame of man to dust.

4. As they regard the remote and awful consequences of iniquity. The loss of the soul, banishment from God, the utter withdrawal of His favour, the agony of conscience, the society of devils and wicked spirits, and the consciousness that this degradation, ruin, and misery, will endure unmitigated forever.

The superior and more. Splendid triumphs of Divine grace.

1. In the full and spontaneous forgiveness which it bestows. It removes the oppressive burden of sin--it speaks peace to the conscience; and whatever might have been his offences, it assures the justified individual that his sins have been all forgiven.

2. In the character of those operations which it secures. It not merely justifies the person, but renovates the nature, implants new principles, induces new feelings, inspires love to prayer, and communicates that strength and consolation which we require while residents in this world.

3. In the inheritance which it assigns. Rest from labour, tranquillity after agitation and alarm, freedom from temptation, advancement to ineffable dignity--the possession of a glorious and an enduring kingdom, and the promise of an unfading and immortal crown.

4. In the complete and glorious resurrection of the body for which it provides.

5. In the eventual number of the redeemed. They shall embrace every age, country, condition, class. A number, which no man can enumerate, shall be rescued from sin, delivered from the grave, and advanced to the bliss and glory of heaven.

Conclusion: This subject should--

1. Tend to correct many errors with regard to the doctrine of election: the fact of the fall, the extent of Divine mercy, the number of the saved.

2. Induce us to institute art inquiry whether we have ever realised the power of that grace which so gloriously triumphs.

3. Inspire us as regards the future, and induce us to make greater exertions to secure and extend the triumphs of Divine mercy. (J. Leifchild, D. D.)

Sin abounding, and grace superabounding

These glowing words fitly crown the parallel the apostle traces. From its triumphal climax he surveys the expanded triumphs of grace and sin in a reign, or conquered dominion, on which the common sun never sets, and which the Sun of Righteousness ever floods with glory; an empire which, like the mystic ladder, first establishes its footing on earth, and finally loses itself in the glories of heaven. We will range our exposition under the following heads:


1. The curtain is uplifted, and the background scenery represents visions of paradisial beauty. And now for the characters; for “all the world’s a stage.” First eaters primeval man, fresh from his Maker’s hand; and then woman, his ministering angel. Slinking stealthily from behind, next enters the serpent. The lights pale, and visions grow dark and dim, as the next actor, Sin, enters like a disastrous eclipse; and it entered not alone--it entered trailing its grim shadow after it, “Death entered by sin.” The plot thickens. “Moreover, the law entered,” that men might know their duty, and in the light of that their guilt, and in the light of both their doom, and in the light of all seek the remedy. As the result--Sin is seen to abound: it enters and re-enters, rolling its thunderous clouds across the stage; for in the fierce light of the law its magnitude and intensity are clearly seen, and sin takes occasion from that very law to riot and multiply itself the more. But by this time another actor has entered on the stage; the seed of the woman appears, with the ransom flowing from his side, the serpent squirming under his heel.

2. In the second long act, covering the Old Testament period, the shadows seem to deepen, and the confusion to become more confounded.

3. In the third brief, but grand act, the Deliverer steps on the stage, takes the room of the sinner, and sublimely dies, rises, ascends to glory, and sends forth His twelve champions for the spiritual conquest of the world.

4. During the next, or fourth act, the mingling elements of light and darkness, good and evil, life and death, have been in fierce, hot strife; life and light evermore rising triumphant over sin and death.

5. In the fifth, and last, grand act, Satan shall fall from his usurped dominion, and the “kingdoms of this world shall have become the kingdoms of our God,” etc.

Doctrinal. The text is the culminating point of a passage which, like all that precedes, has for its objects the vindication and illustration of justification by faith. If this Divine method of salvation can be shown to have primeval precedent in the Edenic Dispensation, and to root and ramify its fundamental principles in the Divine administration of our world and in the moral and social constitution of man, no stronger argument for the great doctrine could well be adduced. This is just what our apostle does. He traces a parallel between the First Adam and the Second. Both being representative, each is shown to stand out in his unity as “the one,” in relation to “the many.” The two Adams present strong points of parallelism. By one we fell, and by one we rise. The points of contrast are these: Adam’s sin brought temporal death; but Christ brings eternal life. Again, Adam had nothing directly to do with our actual sins, but Christ’s atonement, besides neutralising the effects of Adam’s sin, neutralises also the effects of our innumerable actual transgressions, in the cases of all who believe. Finally, those who do believe, not only rise to the position they would have had under a sinless Adam, but to one immeasurably higher, even to a very royalty of bliss.

Expositional. Taking the causes as they occur, consider:--

1. “Moreover the law entered,”--a term triply compound--means to enter in by, or alongside of, or immediately upon; and thus conveys the idea that if “sin entered,” if “death entered” here comes another entrance upon the back of these--that of immutable Moral Law. Adam, from the moment he sinned, ceased to be our representative; and at that same moment, therefore, the paradisial dispensation ceased. But not so Eternal Law. It therefore stepped prominently into view, after the special paradisial arrangements had passed away. And it was highly desirable that it should, that men might see their own portrait, and read their own ruin, and be thereby led, as by a schoolmaster, to seek for the remedy. Being now a broken law, it had to be arrayed in its terrors, as well as expanded in its intrinsic loveliness, Hence its successive promulgations, which culminated at Sinai, and ran on through the Mosaic Economy in parallel lines of wrath and love, till He came who has reconciled all these contrarieties, and “put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”

2. The result of this exhibition was that the “offence did abound.” In the pure mirror of the law sin was first seen to abound; and then, by kicking against the law’s restraints, sin rebelliously took occasion more and more to abound. With what fearful rapidity it did, may be read in the awful fact that human crime sprung to its climactic stage in the first generation. The first human birth in our world was that of a murderer, the second that of his victim. What then? Was the law to blame for that? Far be it! The law must be proclaimed; and in numberless instances it did put an arrest on sin, and guided primeval men into its “ways of pleasantness, and its paths of peace.” But those who would not be guided, wrested it to their ruin. Our apostle meets that objection in Romans 7:12-13.

3. Mark the sin-neutralising energy of Divine grace:--“Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”

(1) It is an undoubted fact, for Paul here declares it without qualification, limitation, or reserve.

(2) It is a continuous fact; for it belongs to the present as truly and fully as ever it did to the past.

(3) It is an evangelical fact; for it implies that the only cure for sin is grace. It is not the fear of hell that will make a bad man good.

(4) It is a worldwide fact. Confront me with a sinner. In agony he asks, Is there any mercy for me? I tell you yes, for does not Paul say, where sin abounds, grace superabounds?

4. Sin is said to “reign,” and that unto death. It not only “abounds,” it tyrannises. Was there ever despot like sin? Was there ever taskmaster like Satan, plying his drudges with a whip of scorpions, and ever saying to them, as Pharaoh did to the Hebrews, “get you to your burdens”? Was there ever bondage like that of the drunkard, like that of the sensualist? And “sin reigns unto death,”--or as in a previous verse, “death reigns.” The “fear of death,” we read, “keeps many all their life long subject to bondage.” Well is he described as “the king of terrors,” the most universal and relentless of all devastating conquerors. One stronger than he has grappled with him; “and the last enemy, death, shall be destroyed.”

5. In direct antagonism to sin’s usurped dominion, grace reigns; and “unto eternal life.” The antithesis is perfect. We may not say that grace tyrannises, for its reign is essential liberty; but it dominates and is destined to final triumph. Love shall be the conqueror, as sure as God is love.

6. Observe on what principle grace reigns: not through mere arbitrary choice, as if God could act in caprice; not through mere absolute sovereignty, as if God were personified despotism; not through mere blind indulgence, as if God were too facile to be firm, too fond to be inflexibly wise and good; but through righteousness; or on some wise, safe, and righteous ground on which mercy might flow freely, but not licentiously and destructively. And how is this secured?

7. “By Jesus Christ our Lord,” by His merits and world-embracing propitiation, on the ground of which “God can be just, while the justifier of the ungodly who believe in Jesus.”

Practical. Too many, alas, who need no proof that “sin abounds,” still urge. But has God any superabounding grace for me? Let Jesus reply: “Look unto Me and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth.” He “gave Himself a ransom for all”; then He is a ransom for thee. A “propitiation for the sins of the whole world,” He has expiated thine. “But I have sinned grievously.” What! too grievously for “the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, which cleanseth from all sin”? You never did a worse sin than to vent an insinuation like that. Do you still want more witness? Pray what sort do you desiderate? A voice from heaven? Here are voices without number. Turn to Revelation 22:17. Or is it earthly testimony you want? Think of the once scoffing and profligate Rochester, of the once God-defiant adventurer, John Newton, of the once profanely boisterous Bunyan. Or is it the testimony of the redeemed in heaven you want to hear? Open the Apocalypse at random, and thereby turn aside the heavenly veil, and your eyes will see them casting their crowns at the Deliverer’s feet, and your ear will catch the refrain--“Unto Him that loveth us!” “Worthy the Lamb!” etc. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

Abounding sin; overabounding grace

1. “The law entered that the offence might abound.” The sin was already there. Deep in the constitution of humanity the poison was already working, and God would have it developed in full manifestation. The driving of evil out to the surface, where all can see it in the broad daylight, is, as in some deadly forms of fever, the first step towards the cure. But Paul had not ventured to entertain the thought unless he had known, as no man, save perhaps Luther, has ever known, the superabounding, the overmastering power of grace.

2. The problem of problems is, how can a righteous and loving God endure and perpetuate a world like this while a breath would abolish its sin and misery forever. But it lives on. The life of a human spirit is an awful endowment. By no act of ours it comes to us. And the influences which mould it are but partially under our control. There is a man who was educated to be a jail bird from his infancy. He never had his eye upon the form of a nobler life. You cannot say that there are no seeds of great thoughts and virtues in him. He would be torn limb from limb before he would betray his comrade. But his chance in life has been a poor one. His whole life is a battle with society. Society masters him, chains him, and will infallibly crush him at last. And yet that man must drag on his burden; and passionately as he may long to die, it is God’s will that he shall bear the burden of that life through eternity. He may mend his life; God’s mercy puts that within his reach; but if he will not mend it, he shall bear it forever.

3. How many myriads are there who, were the choice offered to them, would answer, “Let me die and have done with it forever.” Annihilation has been the supreme hope of many a creed. And why? Because “Sin reigneth unto death” everywhere. Life is good: the world is fair. The storms, deserts, and earthquakes, would have no terror for man if there were not wilder storms and barer deserts within. But self haunts him as a spectre. “The things that I would, those I do not; the things that I would not, those I do”; and the doing these things is death. Here, then, are men by millions, living by no will of their own, fighting a losing battle through life; or refusing to fight it, and giving it up in despair, grovelling with the beasts, cursing with the fiends, filling the world with woe. Doubtless there are lights as well as shadows in the picture. But looking at the broad world, the shadow masters the sunlight. Take one day’s honest service with a city missionary, and judge for yourselves. There is the “struggle for life” everywhere; but Death, if want, disease, and misery are his lictors, everywhere wins. Death is the broad term which covers the whole work of sin. Death is but the culmination of a process. The sinner carries his torment with him--a life poisoned at the springs, a life which God will not suffer him to lay down.

4. And Paul has the daring sentence, “The law, sent of God, entered that the offence might abound.” Many, startled, try to soften the words. “God hath sent the law to correct, but its result was the increase of sin,” is the sense to which they would modify it. But the words will not bear it, and the argument refuses to adopt it. God sent the law that the offence might abound. Not sin--that is, the sinful thought and purpose--but the offence, the act and manifestation of sin. The poison there, it should not lurk there; it should be pressed into full development. “The Mosaic law,” say cautious commentators, “with all its minute regulations, difficult and impossible to fulfil, which made men despair of legal obedience, and prepared them to receive the righteousness which is by faith.” I think the larger view the true one. All law, in a sin-loving, God-hating world, has for its first fruit the insurrection of human passion and self-will. Every declaration of the character and the will of God to sinners seems at first but to madden the spirit and blacken the tone of their transgression. “Sin by the commandment becomes exceeding sinful.” It is true of all dispensations, even the highest. When men saw the Father in the Son they hated Him; and the hatred of the generation to which the revelation was made, broke out in the most damning crime in the history of the universe. The revelation reproved, and by reproving maddened the sinner. Only when the grace with which the revelation was charged penetrated the hard crust of their natures could men begin to understand the counsel developed in our text. Every manifestation of light at first seems but to reveal darkness. Every manifestation of God at first seems but to deepen and darken sin. The great revelation developed the great transgression, and through that, “grace has reigned, through righteousness, unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord.” Let us consider as follows:--

Grace. Grace is love in a certain relation--the love of a Redeemer working to its ends. It represents the whole sum of the forces by which the love that would redeem aims at the accomplishment of its hope. Its incarnation is Christ. Christ is the gift of grace. Grace is the manifestation and action of that fatherly love which could not rest in its native glory and blessedness, while one prodigal was wandering, while one tear was wept, one groan uttered in the universe, which its suffering and sacrifice might spare. “Ye know the grace of the Lord Jesus,” but the measure of it One only knows. That grace is the reigning conqueror of sin. That triumphs where law fails.

The relation between grace and sin.

1. Sin is the condition of its manifestation. No sin, no grace. Through a lost world Christ is to win His most glorious Crown. Grace and sin are the twin antagonists; opposed as light and darkness. If one reigns the other is destroyed; and God suffers sin to be born because He knows that grace can conquer it.

2. There is a glory which no fiat of Omnipotence even can create, which grace, by the conquest of sin, can win and wear through eternity. No sin, no grace, and, in the highest sense, no glory. The joy of the prodigal come home, the joy of the father in his return; these are the glorious joys of earth, of heaven.

The relation between grace and righteousness. Grace must reign through righteousness, if it reign at all. Imputed righteousness, some cry; inherent righteousness, others. Neither the one nor the other, I venture to think. The apostle has a broader meaning, which covers both. Inherent righteousness is a vain show, if it be not rooted in the perfect righteousness; while imputed righteousness is a mere fiction, if no image of itself be generated in the soul. The broad principle here may be thus expressed:--

1. The righteous soul alone is blessed. To some, grace may suggest a kindly remission of penalty. That were feasible enough if a man’s worse torment and curse were not himself. The problem to be solved is within; there the fountain of bitter waters has to be healed. And it is there that grace reigns through righteousness. An inward harmony, healing, quickening is its promise; it presents to him a righteousness which is a man’s righteousness, and yet is God’s; a righteousness not awfully, hopelessly above him; a righteousness which, while his sad worn heart drinks in, the love which streams from Calvary enters and enshrines itself in his heart.

2. The righteousness which is by grace has a glory and blessedness all its own. Grace reigns through righteousness; it is a joyous, glorious reign. The work of grace is to shrine righteousness in man’s heart of hearts; to teach him not to obey it only, not to honour it only, but to love it. Loving Christ, it is God’s own righteousness which man loves and holds. Through love, he has a joy in all righteous thoughts and righteous deeds, which is part of his joy in Christ his Saviour.

The complete and final end of God. “Unto eternal life.” Death is simply isolation. The cutting the body off from free communion with its world. And what is life? The opposite of isolation. It is the faculty of communion with all things. The soul’s death is the paralysis of its faculty to all that a soul was made to commune with, till it becomes without truth, righteousness, and holiness, without God and without hope, because without life. The soul’s quickening is the rekindling of the energy of its powers, the reoccupation of the glorious range of its faculty to commune with, to possess, and to enjoy all that God has made a soul to live for, all whereby a soul may live eternally. The work of grace is as the baptism of a new life for man. Conclusion: “Lord, are there few that be saved?” The Lord gives no answer but the text. This we know, that the end which God foresees shall repair all the waste, and repay all the sorrow with which sin has filled the world. How wide, how vast, how glorious this work of overabounding grace, which of us may dare to guess? “But strive thou to enter in at the straight gate.” The end for which the Redeemer is waiting, the issue for which heaven is hoping, depend in their measure upon you. You can frustrate, you can forward the great consummation. (J. Baldwin Brown, B. A.)

Abounding sin and superabounding grace

“Sin abounds.” This appears--

1. From its extensive prevalence. It is not a local evil, like many natural evils; but it is an universal mischief. This the apostle has shown in chaps, 1 and

2. However men may differ in their customs, wherever you go, sin reigns.

2. From the immense number of sins that are constantly committed. If we include, as we ought, our sins of omission, and our sins of thought, who can enumerate his errors (Genesis 6:5). From the first dawn of reason, through infancy, childhood, youth, and riper years, even to the end of human life, we are offending against God (Psalms 40:12).

3. From the eagerness with which men sin. How are our iniquities cultivated by art! they become, as it were, a trade. Men sin “as with a cart rope,” “with both hands earnestly,” and what plans are formed for the execution of it.

4. In some seasons and places iniquity unusually abounds; and persons arrive at a certain pitch of wickedness, beyond which God will not suffer them to go. Thus it was with Sodom and Gomorrah, etc.

5. Consider all the aboundings of sin in the aggravations of it. Thus, no doubt, Judas, with the knowledge he possessed, was far more criminal than Pilate. Religious education tends greatly to aggravate the sins of those who continue in them; and when sins are committed against the special goodness and mercy of God, they are also greatly aggravated.

6. Sin will appear to abound, if you advert to the calamitous effects which it has produced. God would not suffer His creatures to endure so much misery if He were not greatly displeased with their sins. The earth is cursed for man’s sake.

7. The prudence of man in framing human laws is another proof of the same truth. Why are bonds and oaths necessary in our affairs? Why must we have locks, and bolts, and bars, to our habitations? Why must we have judges and magistrates, prisons and gibbets? The reason is, that sin so much abounds.

8. Recollect also the numerous and painful diseases which invade the human frame.

Grace superabounds. Grace signifies “the free favour of God” towards sinful and undeserving creatures; and it stands opposed in Scripture to the merit or wages of works performed (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 6:23). Grace abounds--

1. In the whole business of salvation, from first to last. It originated in the heart of God, who, pitied us in our low estate; and devised a plan of salvation; to us perfectly easy, to Himself highly honourable. It was God who, unasked, presented to the world that “unspeakable gift.” Grace is admirably displayed in the glorious person and the perfect work of the Son of God. “Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, etc.”

2. In the gospel of Christ, which, on that account, is itself called “The grace of God” (Titus 2:11-12).

3. In the free and full justification of the sinner who believes (1 Timothy 1:14). But it is not only said that “grace abounds,” but that it “much more abounds.” We derive more from Christ than we lost in Adam.


1. Let us diligently study the doctrine Of grace.

2. Let us be concerned, above all things, to be partakers of this grace.

3. What a source is here of consolation, even for the chief of sinners.

4. What abundant cause is here for praise--ardent, constant praise!

5. This subject furnishes us with a mighty incentive to holiness. (G. Burder.)

Good triumphing over evil

In the widest sense sin always implies: law; opportunity of knowing law; capacity to obey or transgress law; and an actual deviation from law. The last is the idea to be attached to it here. “Grace” means the religion of Christ in the heart as the life of heavenly love; and the system of Christ in the world as a system of Divine mercy. I attach the latter idea to it here.

In this chapter there are several things stated about sin and grace.

1. That they are actually in our world. Sin is a dark fact everywhere seen--a force turning men in the wrong direction. Grace is here too, as a corrective and restoring force. Human actions here result from two opposite principles. You cannot trace all history to sin, nor can you trace all to grace. In both you find a solution of all its phenomena. It is a fact that sin is in this world--sin is not in heaven. It is a fact that grace is in this world--grace is not in hell.

2. That they come into our world through the agency of man. Sin came by Adam; grace by the “second Adam.” There was a time when sin was not. All was holy. There was a time when there was no grace--the world needed none.

3. That they exercise an immense influence upon the race.

(1) The sin of Adam made “many sinners,” the grace of Christ made “many righteous.”

(2) The sin of Adam brought condemnation upon the race; the grace of Christ has brought justification to many.

(3) The sin of Adam leads to death; the grace of Christ to “eternal life.”

(4) The influence of grace far transcends that of sin.

Where sin abounded, grace did and will much more abound.

1. In relation to the individual. Take the case of one of the most corrupt sons of Adam, a Manasseh, or a Saul; and if grace take possession of his mind, you may say grace will “much more abound” there.

(1) The influence of grace there will be of a higher kind.

(a) Life-giving. Anything can destroy.

(b) Justifying. One sin condemns.

(2) The influence of grace there will be of a mightier kind. Sin can never attain a mastery over every part of human nature. It can never carry with it the conscience. The conscience will be ever against it. But grace carries with it conscience. Take Paul as an illustration.

2. In relation to the aggregate race. It must be confessed that up to the present moment sin has had the sway. But consider--that it is highly probable that the generations of those that have appeared on earth, will be far outnumbered by those that are yet to come. The following things suggest this.

(1) The gradual method of God’s procedure--creation, civilisation, redemption, are all gradual.

(2) The state of past generations.

(3) The representations of Scripture.

(4) The omnipotency that is on the side of grace.

3. Throughout the universe of God.

(1) It will spread new and brighter views of God’s character through the universe.

(2) Enhance the moral force that binds to holiness in the universe. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

Grace abounding

During the Indian mutiny, a number of British soldiers with their wives and children were besieged in Lucknow by thirty thousand rebels under Nana Sabib. The food and ammunition were nearly exhausted. General Havelock was their only hope, but he had to march through fifty miles of the enemy’s country in order to reach them. Death stared upon them on every hand. Jessie Brown, the wife of a Scotch corporal, lay on the ground weak and famishing; but suddenly she sprang up, and cried, “Hark! there is the Scotch battle cry; thank God!” No one heard that cry but Jessie Brown, and many of the garrison thought she was suffering from brain fever. In a short time, she again cried, “Hear it now, then; the Campbells are coming!” They listened, and at last the shrill music of the bagpipes fell on their ears. The whole garrison fell on their faces before God, and never before was there such a thanksgiving service in Lucknow. Ere long, the plumes of the Scotchmen were seen playing in the breeze, Havelock and Outram reached the city gates, their gallant heroes marched in to rescue their countrymen, and in less than ten minutes Lucknow was a-ring with Hallelujahs. But, friends, what was the relief of Lucknow compared with the relief of humanity? Nothing, and less than nothing. We were rescued, not from Lucknow, but from the city of condemnation. We were rescued, not by Havelock, but by the only-begotten Son of God. We were rescued, not from the fangs of Nana Sahib and his monsters, but from the fangs of Satan and his black phalanx. We were rescued, not from physical bondage, but from the most terrible soul bondage. The ancient prophets, like the Scotchwoman in Lucknow, testified that they could hear the approaching footsteps of a Deliverer, but the world was slow to believe them. “These poor prophets have fevered brains--they are deceived by hallucinations,” said the silly world. But when every star of hope was about to die--Hark! the sound of music was heard from afar. Whence did the sound proceed? It was the music of angel choristers over the fair fields of Ephratah. And one night, the great Deliverer reached our world, He broke the iron band of the besiegers, He opened the massive gates, and He re-opened the way from the city of condemnation to the city of eternal glory. Let us fall on our faces, like the garrison of Lucknow before us, to thank God for His wondrous grace. “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” (J. Ossian Davies.)

The reign of grace

The righteous Lord sits upon that throne, but His face has no frown upon it--His voice has no terror in it. On whatever part of that throne you cast your eye, you see it inscribed with grace in all its variety of application to your circumstances. There is grace to blot out your trespasses, though they be “red like crimson.” There is grace to purify your hearts, though they be full of all uncleanness. There is grace to subdue your enemies, though they “come upon you as a flood.” There is grace to console you amidst all your sorrows, though they be great, and multiplied, and protracted. There is grace to guide you through life, to cheer you at death, and to carry you to heaven; and as surely as God sits upon that throne of grace, so surely will He listen to the prayers that you proffer at His footstool, and uphold the character which He Himself has enstamped upon it, by freely tendering and imparting to you whatsoever you ask in sincerity and faith. (A. Thomson, D. D.)

That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign.


How the apostle collects in one picture the subjects of his argument.

1. Sin.

2. Death.

3. Grace.

4. Righteousness.

5. Life.

How he groups them.

1. Grace exalted in the midst.

2. Sin and death hath conquered foes on the left.

3. Righteousness and life, the trophies of victory, on the right.

How the name of Adam is forgotten and buried, but the name of Jesus shall flourish forever. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The reign of sin and of grace

The reign of sin.

1. Its origin.

2. Extent.

3. Terror.

4. Consummation in death.

The reign of grace.

1. Its nature.

2. Means.

3. Consummation in eternal life. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The reign of sin and of grace

Sin’s reign is--

1. An usurpation--God is the only rightful ruler.

2. Rebellion--opposition to God and His authority.

3. Unnatural--contrary to men’s better judgment and sense of right.

4. Despotic--compelling men even unwillingly to obey it.

5. Tyrannical and oppressive--the source of present suffering.

6. Cruel and destructive--ends in eternal death.

7. Deceitful and seductive--promises ease and gratification.

8. Resistless--all human attempts to terminate it in vain.

9. Powerfully supported--justice and a broken law its strength (1 Corinthians 15:56).

The reign of grace.

1. Grace exercises a power corresponding with that of sin.

(1) Mighty.

(2) Extensive.

(3) Supported by law.

2. It not merely acts, but reigns.

(1) In the world, therefore, men are salvable.

(2) In each believer, therefore, a believer is actually saved. (T. Robinson, D. D.)

Reigning grace


Grace in its reigning acts.

1. Come with me to the valley of vision. See, strewn there, the dried bones of the house of Israel. O death! we come this day to see thee cast from thy throne. But who shall do it? Come forth, ye ministers of Christ, and see what ye can do. Here are souls spiritually dead. Behold, Chrysostom speaks, and now Whitfield, Esaias, Jeremy, Ezekiel, Daniel. Alas! eloquence, and wisdom, and zeal, cannot wake the soul of the spiritually dead. But hearken, the voice Divine exclaims, “Grace, arise and quicken these dead souls,” and behold, grace stands before you in the form of incarnate God, and I hear Him say, “Thus saith the Lord, ye dry bones live.” It is done, and in the place of a charnel house now stands a great host full of life, and who shall soon be clothed with glory. “Grace reigns unto eternal life.”

2. Behold another scene. The man is alive; but no sooner is he quickened than he feels the terrible bondage of sin. He has been a drunkard, a swearer, and all else that is vile; but now he feels that this mode of life will surely end in eternal death, and he therefore longs to escape. But see how he is bound with chains, and held in bondage by seven devils. Ye who understand how to reform mankind, come and ply your arts upon him and see what ye can do. But grace speaks the word, and says, “Get thee hence, Satan, let the man be free”; and free he is, no more to be a slave. Now he hates the things which once he loved. His nature is changed. Grace reigns unto eternal life.

3. Come with me to another scene. There in the prison house of conviction sits a miserable wretch. Ask him why, and his answer is, “I have sinned; within me there is an accusing conscience, the foretaste of the wrath to come.” Come, ye sons of mirth, and see what ye can do for this poor prisoner. Come, ye that are masters of the art of consolation, see what ye can do. In vain even the minister himself, knowing the blessings of the gospel, sets before the man the riches of Christ’s love. But now grace comes bearing in his hand the Cross, crying, “Look hither,” and when the prisoner lifts his eyes he sees a Saviour bleeding on the tree, and in a moment a smile takes the place of his sorrow. “Rise,” saith grace, “thou art free; shake thyself from the dust.” Oh! grace Divine, thou art indeed triumphant, where despair itself had triumphed.

4. And now the sinner, set free both from the chains of his old lusts and of his old despairings, journeys to the palace of justice, and there, enthroned on light, he beholds a glorious King. He trembles; when lo, reigning grace who sits smiling upon a throne of love, stretcheth out its sceptre and says, “Live, live.” At that sound the sinner revives; he looks up, and ere he has fully seen the wondrous vision, he hears another voice--“Thy sins which are many are all forgiven thee.” And now the sinner, bowing low before the throne of mercy, begins to kiss its feet with rapture, and mercy cries, “Go and rejoice, for thou art my son who was lost, but art found; who was dead, but is alive again.”

5. The man has now become a forgiven one--a saint; but grace has not ceased to reign, nor has he ceased to need its reign. ‘Tis after sin is forgiven that the battle begins. There has never such a fight been seen on earth as that man must wage who hopes to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Young Christian, dost thou tremble? Remember Elijah and his servant. “More are they that are for us than all they that be against us.” The soldier of Christ shalt stand, for underneath him are the everlasting arms; he shall tread upon his enemies and shall destroy them.

6. The man, being kept in temptation, has a work to do for his Lord, and there is no case where grace reigns more powerfully than in the use which God makes of such infirm creatures as His servants are. Do you see Peter afraid of a little maid? Wait awhile. Some six or seven weeks have passed, and there is a great crowd in the streets. Who is to preach to them? Grace--to thine honour let it be told--thou didst not select John who stood at the foot of the Cross, nor Zelotes--no, Peter who denied his Master, must come forth to own Him afresh. Perhaps his heart whispers to him, “Simon, son of Jonas, what doest thou here? “The cock crows, Simon; what doest thou here? But that day, three thousand baptisms tell how grace can reign in the feeblest instrumentality.

7. Come to another spot, and see how grace can reign where you little think it would ever live at all. The sea is agitated with a great storm, and Jonah has just been thrown into the sea. A fish has swallowed him; and yet he lives. Grace is there preserving his life; she speaks to Leviathan--he comes up upon the dry land, and vomits forth the prophet. Have you ever been in a strait and a trouble so difficult that you imagined there was no deliverance? If you ever have, I turn you to your own history as an illustration of how grace can reign in redeeming you out of the most terrible trials. I shall need to give you but one other picture, grace reigning in the hour of death, and triumphing in the moment of our entrance into heaven. When you come to die, grace shall bear you up in the midst of Jordan, and you shall say, “I feel the bottom, and it is good.” When the cold waters shall chill your blood, grace shall warm your heart. When the light of earth is being shut out from you forever, grace shall lift the curtains of heaven, and give you visions of eternity; and when at last the spirit leaps from time into eternal space, then grace shall be with you to conduct you to your Father’s house.

Grace sitting on its throne.

1. The throne is placed on the eternal hills of God’s immutable purpose and decree. The throne itself, standing upon those lofty hills, has for its pedestal Divine fidelity. The thrones of monarchs rock and reel, but this is settled and abideth forever. The throne of many a dynasty has been cemented by blood, and so is this, but with the precious blood of the Son of God. Nay, as if this did not suffice, this throne is settled by the eternal oath. God swears by Himself because He can swear by no greater, that by two immutable things wherein it was impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation who have fled for refuge to Christ.

2. And now look upward. The steps are the Divine openings of Providence as He gradually develops His mighty scheme. And see on either side two lions ready to guard and protect it. That very justice which once seemed to stand in the way of grace is one of the lions which guard the throne; and that very holiness which seemed once to put a barrier between thy soul and bliss, now stands there as a mighty one to guard the throne of sovereign grace.

3. Now look upward. I see upon that throne a Lamb that has been slain. The eyes of grace are the suns of the spiritual universe; the hands of grace scatter lavish bounties throughout all the Church of the firstborn.

4. See above the throne, and above Him that sits thereon, the crown. Was ever such a crown? Nay, ‘tis not one, ‘tis many; there are many crowns and many jewels in each of the many crowns. And whence came these crowns of grace? They have been won in fields of fight, and been given by grateful hearts. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Life instead of death

Sometimes the condition of a Church and community is like that of famine-stricken Leyden, when it was besieged by Philip’s popish army. Within the beleaguered town death reigned. Its brave defenders were starving by thousands. Succour was waiting for them in the Dutch fleet, which could not reach the city. But the heroic Hollanders sluiced the dykes and let in the sea, and as the rescuing fleet swept in, they flung the loaves of bread to the overjoyed crowds which thronged the canals of Leyden. Then pouring into the great Protestant cathedral, they made its arches ring with thanksgiving unto God, their Deliverer. Brethren, let us sluice the dykes of pride, and selfishness, and unbelief. The waters of salvation will flow in. Where death reigned life shall enter. (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)

Jesus Christ our Lord

Jesus. Hoshea is, in Hebrew, a “Saviour.” To this word the Jews added the first syllable of the name Jehovah, making the whole Kenosha, or Joshua, or, in its Greek form, Jesus; and by this addition the name came to mean a Saviour appointed, given, sent by God.

1. Now what does Jesus save us from?

(1) From hell. Now “hell” is chiefly the condition of those who have come to hate God. It is not merely a place--though, no doubt, all bad people meet together at last in one particular locality; but it is more especially a condition of heart and mind. “But,” you say, “who is it that hates God?” Let us consider. Christ is the representative and exact likeness of God. Now, when He was on earth, He went about doing good. But for all that did men, as a rule, like Him? No! and in hating Christ, they hated God. It is possible then to come into that most terrible condition of hating God. But the Lord Jesus Christ saves us from such a fate, for He wins our hearts for God, and makes us love what God loves, and hate what God hates.

(2) From sin. Picture to yourselves a boy who has broken one of his father’s commands, and is expecting to be severely punished. Suppose the boy to say, “All that I care about is to escape the punishment. I don’t mind grieving my father nor setting a bad example.” You would not have a very high opinion of such a boy. A good son would be grieved at having done wrong, and would desire to be kept from doing wrong again. And so it is with the Christian. He is chiefly anxious about being kept from sinning.

(3) From death. Though death triumphs for a time, Jesus at last wrests the prey from his grasp, by raising the dead out of their graves.

2. Consider what it cost Jesus to become the Saviour. I have heard of a soldier who saw that an arrow was being aimed at the heart of his friend, and that his friend could be saved only if he threw himself in the way. Well, he did throw himself in the way; he shielded his friend--but it was at the cost of his own life. It was necessary that Jesus, in order to become the Saviour of His people, should interpose Himself between them and their danger; should receive the shaft in His own breast; and die that they might live.

3. Jesus is “able to save to the uttermost.” You may have all the will to help your neighbour, and yet not have the power. A man once caught another who was falling over a precipice, and held him; but he was not strong enough to hold him long, so at last he was obliged to let go, and the other was dashed to pieces on the rocks below. He had the will; he had not the power. But Christ has both. He is “mighty to save”; and you may be sure that He can save you, if only you will let Him.

Christ. “Jesus” refers to the person, “Christ” to the office. Christ is the Greek word for “Messiah,” and means anointed. In the old days prophets, priests, and kings were anointed for the purpose of showing that they were set apart for a particular office, and that God would give them fitness for it.

1. Now, Jesus is our Prophet. A prophet is one who not merely foretells future things, but one who forth tells, i.e., explains to man what God and the will of God are. Jesus does this partly by His word, partly by Himself. Jesus is a perfect likeness of His Father. Have you ever stamped a seal upon hot wax? You know how the seal and the impression exactly correspond. So Jesus and God exactly correspond.

2. Priest. In Jewish times the High Priest stood in the place of the whole people. Now these priests were the types or shadows of the great High Priest who was coming; and when Jesus had accomplished His work and entered into heaven, there ever to make intercession for us, their office was done away with--they were no longer wanted. So now there is no one to stand between us and God, but Christ Himself. Nor do we want anyone else. He is sufficient.

3. King, not only of His people, but also of the whole world. And Jesus obtained His kingdom by His obedience unto death, even the death of the Cross. He had to carry the Cross before He received the crown. Time is given to people to obey, but if they persist in refusing to accept His authority, a terrible punishment is in store for them (Psalms 2:1-12).

Our Lord. The world says, “We will not have this man to reign over us”: but Christians say, “We are glad and thankful to obey His rule.” Now, why do Christians say this? Because--

1. He is what He is. Men are proud to serve a great monarch; the more so if he is a good man. But what must it be to serve the King of kings and Lord of lords? and not only to serve Him, but to be admitted to His friendship?

2. He has done so much for them, and they love Him. Some years ago a poor black woman was put up for auction at a slave market. She was very much afraid of being given over into the hands of some cruel master, when a good man who was passing by, and who hated slavery with all his heart, happened to hear her sad story, and purchased her himself. But as soon as he had purchased her he set her free. The woman had not expected this, and she was transported with joy, but she could not be persuaded to leave her benefactor. For she said, “He redeemed me! he redeemed me!” And after she had served him faithfully for many years, still, when she was spoken to about her loving service, she could only give as the explanation of it, “He redeemed me! he redeemed me!” Because Christ redeemed us with His blood, we are delighted to be allowed to enter His service, and work for Him. “We love Him, because He first loved us.”

3. The service of Christ is true happiness. I never yet found a truly happy man who was not a real Christian. Gay, jovial, laughing, joking people, who were not Christians, I have met with in abundance; but I have lived long enough to know that an uneasy and restless heart may lie under a bright face. (G. Calthrop, M. A.)


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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Romans 5". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.