What shall we say then?
Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
Grace and sin
1. This question was prompted by a sentence, the very cadence of which seemed to be still alive in the apostle’s memory (Romans 5:20). It is well to trace the continuity of Scripture--to read the letter of an inspired writer as you would read any other, as an entire composition, through which there possibly runs the drift of one prevailing conception.
2. The tenure upon which eternal life is given, and upon which it is held under the economy of the gospel, Paul makes abundantly manifest by such phrases as “grace,” and “free grace,” and “justification of faith and not of works,” and the “gift of righteousness” on the one hand, and the “receiving of the atonement” on the other. And yet the apostle, warm from the delivery of these intimations, and within a single breath of having uttered that where there was abundance of guilt there was a superabundance of grace in store for it--when met by the question of What then? shall we do more of this sin, that we may draw more of this grace? on his simple authority as a messenger from God he enters his solemn caveat against the continuance of sin. Lavish as the gospel is of its forgiveness for the past, it has no toleration either for the purposes or for the practices of Sin in the future. Couple these two verses, and learn from the simple change of tense two of the most important lessons of Christianity. With the first of these verses we feel ourselves warranted to offer the fullest indemnity to the worst and most worthless. Your sin has abounded; but the grace of God has much more abounded. No sin is beyond the reach of the atonement--no guilt of so deep a dye that the blood of a crucified Saviour cannot wash away. But the sinner should also look forward, and forget not that the same gospel which sheds an oblivion over all the sinfulness of the past, enters upon a war of extermination against future sinfulness.
3. The term “dead,” in the phrase “dead unto sin,” may be understood forensically. We are dead in law. The doom of death was upon us on account of sin. Conceive that just as under a civil government a criminal is often put to death for the vindication of its authority and for the removal of a nuisance from society, so, under the jurisprudence of Heaven, an utter extinction of being was laid upon the sinner. Imagine that the sentence is executed--that by an act of extermination the transgressor is expunged from God’s animated creation. There could be no misunderstanding of the phrase if you were to say that he was dead unto or dead for sin. But suppose God to have devised a way of reanimating the creature who had undergone this infliction, the phrase might still adhere to him, though now alive from the dead. And in these circumstances, is it for us to continue in sin--we who for sin were consigned to annihilation, and have only by the kindness of a Saviour been rescued from it? Now the argument retains its entireness, though the Mediator should interfere with His equivalent ere the penalty of death has been inflicted. We were as good as dead, for the sentence had gone forth, when Christ stepped between, and, suffering it to light upon Himself, carried it away. Does not the God who loved righteousness and hated iniquity six thousand years ago, bear the same love to righteousness and the same hatred to iniquity still? And well may not the sinner say--Shall I again attempt the incompatible alliance of an approving in God and a persevering sinner; or again try the Spirit of that Being who, the whole process of my condemnation and my rescue, has given such proof of most sensitive and unspotted holiness? Through Jesus Christ, we come again unto the heavenly Jerusalem; and it is as fresh as ever in the verdure of a perpetual holiness. How shall we who were found unfit for residence in this place because of sin, continue in sin after our readmittance therein?
4. But while we have thus insisted on the forensic interpretation of the phrase, yet let us not forbear to urge the personal sense of it, as implying such a deadness of affection to sin, such an extinction of the old sensibility to its allurements and its pleasures, as that it has ceased from its wonted power of ascendency over the heart and character of him who was formerly its slave. So the apostle (Romans 6:5-6) goes on to show that we are planted together in the likeness of His death. He is now that immortal Vine, who stands forever secure and beyond the reach of any devouring blight from the now appeased enemy; and we who by faith are united with Him as so many branches, share in this blessed exemption along with Him. And as we thus share in His death, so also shall we share in His resurrection. By what He hath done in our stead, He hath not only been highly exalted in His own person; but He hath made us partakers of His exaltation, to the rewards of which we shall be promoted as if we had rendered the obedience ourselves. This tallies with another part of the Bible, where it is said that Christ gave Himself up for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity and purify us unto Himself a peculiar people zealous of good works.
5. Now how comes it that because we are partakers in the crucifixion of Christ, so that the law has no further severity to discharge upon us, that this should have any effect in destroying the body of sin, or in emancipating us from the service of sin? How is it that the fact of our being acquitted leads to the fact of our being sanctified? There can be no doubt that the Spirit of God both originates and carries forward the whole of this process. He gives the faith which makes Christ’s death as available for our deliverance from guilt; and He causes the faith to germinate all those moral and spiritual influences which bring about the personal transformation that we are inquiring of. But these He does, in a way that is agreeable to the principles of our rational nature; and one way is through the expulsive power of a new affection to dispossess an old one from the heart. You cannot destroy your love of sin by a simple act of extermination. You cannot thus bid away from your bosom one of its dearest and oldest favourites. Our moral nature abhors the vacuum that would thus be formed. But let a man by faith look upon himself as crucified with Christ, and the world is disarmed of its power of sinful temptation. He no longer minds earthly things, just because better things are now within his reach, and “our conversation is in heaven--whence we also look for the Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ.” And this is in perfect analogy with familiar exhibitions of our nature in ordinary affairs. Let us just conceive a man embarked, with earnest ambition, on some retail business, whose mind is wholly taken up with the petty fluctuations that are taking place in prices and profits and customers; but who nevertheless is regaled by the annual examination of particulars at the end of it, with the view of some snug addition to his old accumulations. You must see how impossible it were to detach his affections from the objects and the interests of this his favourite course by a simple demonstration of their vanity. But suppose that either some splendid property or some sublime walk of high and hopeful adventure were placed within his attainment, and the visions of a far more glorious affluence were to pour a light into his mind, which greatly overpassed and so eclipsed all the fairness of those homelier prospects that he was wont to indulge in--is it not clear that the old affection which he could never get rid of by simple annihilation, will come to be annihilated, and that simply by giving Place to the new one. (T. Chalmers, D. D.)
Free grace and sin
1. The foregoing chapters are a proof and defence of the first fundamental truth of the gospel--that the only way in which we can be pardoned is through our trusting exclusively, not to what we have ourselves done, but to Christ and His atonement. Nay; we have the principle that the more sin has abounded, so much the more superabundant and triumphant is the free favour of God.
2. To many this has always appeared to be very perilous teaching. It seems to offer no security for practical virtue--if, indeed, it does not actually put a premium upon sin. What else is that but to say that we may sin the more in order to make God’s forgiving mercy the more illustrious? Of course, if anything approaching to this were a fair deduction from the doctrine of justification, then such a doctrine would be grossly immoral. But the same objection was taken in St. Paul’s day against St. Paul’s teaching; and he met it by a vigorous repudiation. Indeed his answer to it formed the second main section of his theological system, since in that answer he developed the whole theory of Christian holiness. And the charge of immoral tendency, which glanced harmlessly off St. Paul and the Church of his time, may very well prove equally harmless against the evangelical Churches of modern date. Remember, the free acquittal of a penitent believer is not the end of the gospel, but only the means. Now, if free justification turn out on trial not to save a man from his sin, but to encourage him in it; then it turns out to be a cheat, like all other gospels or recipes for working deliverance which men have ever concocted or experimented with before Christ and after Him! The question, therefore, is a vital one. It just means this: Is the gospel a success or a failure?
3. St. Paul’s instant reply is a blunt and staggering one. It amounts to this: such an abuse of free grace is unthinkable and out of the question. Christians are people who, in the mere fact of becoming Christians, passed through an experience which put a virtual end to their sinful life. Such a difficulty is purely intellectual, arising in the minds of men who try to comprehend the gospel from the outside without having first experienced it. But, then, when once this intellectual difficulty has been started by a non-Christian objector, the Christian craves to find an intellectual answer. That my Christian faith is inconsistent with persisting in sin, I feel. How it comes to be thus inconsistent with it, I want also to see.
4. It is under this view that St. Paul proceeds. “Are you ignorant of what every Christian is supposed to know--how as many of us as were baptised into Christ, were baptised into His death?” Well, then, it fellows that “we were buried along with Him by means of that baptism of ours into His death, for the express purpose, not that we should remain dead any more than He did, but that, just as He was raised from the dead, so we also should walk in a new life.” In the case of converts in the primitive Church, conversion was always publicly attested, and its inward character symbolised, by the initiatory rite of baptism. For them nothing could seem more natural than to look back upon their baptismal act whenever any question arose as to what their conversion really meant. Its most general meaning was this, that it put baptised believers into the closest possible relationship with Christ, their Second Adam, of whose “body” they were thenceforward to be “members,” whose fortunes they were thenceforward to share. But if baptism seal our incorporation into the Representative Man from heaven; who does not know that the special act of Jesus with which of all others we are brought most prominently into participation, is nothing else than His death and burial? That central thing about Christ on which my faith has to fasten itself is His expiatory death upon the Cross for sin. Am I to be justified through Him at all? Then it is “through faith in His blood” (Romans 3:25). Have I, an enemy, been “reconciled to God” by His Son at all? I was reconciled “by the death of His Son” (Romans 5:10). To that death upon the Cross of expiation which was attested by His three days’ burial the gospel directs the sinner’s eye, and on that builds his trust for pardon and peace with God. And the great rite which certified the world and me that I am Christ’s, was before all else a baptism into the death of Him who died for me!
5. All this St. Paul treats as a Christian commonplace. Its bearing on our continuing in sin is obvious. Conversion through faith in Christ’s propitiation is seen to be essentially a moral change, a dying to sin. The nerve of the old separate, selfish, sinful life of each man was cut when the man merged himself in his new Representative, and gave up his personal sins to be judged, condemned, and expiated in his Atoner’s Cross. Now, how can a man who has gone through an experience like that continue in sin? For him the old bad past is a thing dead and buried. Old things are passed away, everything has become new. Such a man can no more go back to be what he was before, feel as he felt, or act as he used to act, than Jesus Christ could rise out of His grave to be once more the Victim for unexpiated guilt and the Sin bearer for a guilty race.
6. The Christian dies to his old sin that he may begin to live to holiness and God. This is the express design God had when He put our sins to death in His dear Son’s Cross. Faith in Christ makes us morally incorporate with Him in spirit, as well as legally embraced under Him as our Representative. Christ is our Head in that He represents us before the law, so that in His death all who are His died to sin. Christ is no less our Head to quicken us as His members, and in His living again we all live anew. The will and the power to walk in new moral life are therefore guaranteed to us by our faith. Christian faith is very far from a superficial, or inoperative, or merely intellectual act, such as a man can do without his moral character being seriously affected by it. It is connected with the deep roots of our moral and religious nature. It changes the main current of our ethical life. Those who have been baptised into Christ and say they trust in His death as the ground of their peace with God, are bound to satisfy themselves that their faith is of a sort to kill sin, and to maintain the life of righteousness. (J. Oswald Dykes, D. D.)
The purity of the gospel dispensation
That the gospel dispensation, instead of relaxing the principles of moral obligation, strengthens and renders the sin committed under its light the most inexcusable, may be illustrated--
I. From the nature and perfections of God. He is a being of absolute purity. Being thus perfect in Himself, He must love every resemblance of His own perfection in any of His intelligent creatures; and the more nearly they resemble Him, the more must they be the objects of His favour.
II. From the character and offices of the Redeemer. The Redeemer is the beloved Son of God, one with the Father; and, therefore, the arguments drawn from the perfections of God, to illustrate the purity of the gospel dispensation, are equally conclusive with respect to the Redeemer. In His several offices, no less than in His personal character, Christ invariably promoted the cause of righteousness. For this He sustained the office of a prophet; for this He became our great High Priest, to restore that intercourse which sin had interrupted. For this end, too, He became our King, and gave us a system of laws suited to that state of reconciliation. Now, such being His character, such the offices which He sustained as our Redeemer, and such the end for which He did sustain them, it follows, by necessary consequence, that the dispensation of the gospel, so far from relaxing the obligations of moral duty, tends powerfully to confirm them.
III. From that perfect rule of moral conduct which the gospel prescribes. It is at once the most simple, the most pure and perfect that ever was delivered to the world; as superior to the much-famed systems of philosophers as its Divine author was superior to them. It lays the foundation of moral duty in the heart, the true spring of action; and by one simple principle of which every heart is susceptible, even the principle of love, it provides for the most perfect moral conduct, and for the proper discharge of the duties of life.
IV. From a consideration of the bright examples which are set before us in the gospel.
V. From the powerful aid which the gospel promises to enable us to observe its precepts and imitate the bright examples which it sets before us. The gracious Author of this Divine influence is the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of God, the third person in the ever blessed Trinity.
VI. From the ultimate end and design of the whole scheme. The great end of the gospel scheme undoubtedly is to bring us to a state of perfect felicity in the glorious kingdom of our God; to the full enjoyment of that immortality which our Saviour hath revealed. With the attainment of this glorious end, holiness, or moral purity, and inseparably connected, both in the nature of things and by the positive laws of God’s moral government.
1. In the nature of things, the unholy or immoral must be excluded from heavenly happiness. They are incapable of it. There is no conformity between the dispositions which they have cultivated and the joys of the celestial regions.
2. It is not only in the nature of things, but by the positive law of God’s moral government, that the unrighteous are excluded from heaven and happiness. (G. Goldie.)
Perversions of evangelical truth
1. What shall we say then? Say to what? To the great affirmation that man is justified freely by God’s grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Shall it be this: Let us persist in sin that grace may multiply? How sharply Paul turns upon the immoral suggestion! It is a corruption not to be endured.
2. But why did the apostle submit a conclusion like that to his readers? He knew that his doctrine did not contain it, but he knew that a corrupt human heart and a perverted understanding could put it in. That the conclusion, or its equivalent, has been asserted, and that often, where if submitted as a proposition it would be rejected with loathing, it is not without a subtle influence, is matter of observation.
I. There are those who think that it is possible to continue in sin and be saved.
1. How often one is forced to notice that men may combine a love of evangelical doctrine with love of money and a shrewdness that makes men who are not evangelical shrug their shoulders. We have known men, great wrestlers in prayer, whose lives, and the whisperings of whose doings, have made us ashamed. Moral confusion is at the bottom of these inconsistencies. Our evangelical doctrines are not to blame. The fault and the failure is in those who profess them while only half-perceiving them, and ignore their moral issues.
2. Paul shows us that grace comprises not only a gracious act of pardon done by God in the believer’s interest, but also an active principle of sanctification in the believer’s soul. The abounding of grace is only manifested in the breaking of sin’s power and the destruction of sin’s principle. Grace is the enemy of sin, not its covering. He who is saved by grace is not a leper clad in white raiment, but a leper healed. Grace is not beauty thrown over the deformity of some foul sickness; it is health. It is life counter-working death, and no man can continue in sin and yet be saved by grace.
3. But still, Is not grace a gift? Certainly. But God gives life. Yet life is not something external to the creature to whom it is given. It is not like a string of beads round the neck or a ring on the finger. The gift of life to a dead stick after that manner would leave it a dead stick still. Hear a parable. Early one summer morning I came upon an orchard. The trees were beautiful, and fruit was abundant. I wandered on until I came upon a tree having neither bloom nor fruit. I said, “You poor, lost tree, what can you be doing here? I marvel you are not removed.” Upon which this tree replied, tartly, “You are in a great mistake. I am neither poor nor lost.” “Well,” I said, “you have neither leaves nor fruit, and, I should judge, no sap.” “What has that to do with it?” it broke out. “You seem not to know that a great saviour of trees has been down here, and I have believed his gospel, and am saved by grace. I have accepted salvation as a free gift, and, though I have neither leaves nor fruit, I am saved all the same.” I looked at it with pity and said, “You are a poor deluded tree; you are not saved at all. You are dead and good-for-nothing, despite all your talk about grace and redemption. Life, that is salvation. When I see you laden with fruit, I shall say, ‘Ah! that poor tree is saved at last; it has received the gospel and is saved by grace.’” As I turned away, I heard it saying, “You are not sound; you do not understand the gospel.” And I thought, so it is, as with trees so with men.
II. Another form of this antinomianism of the heart connects itself immediately with the death of Christ. Men talk and act frequently as if in Christ’s shed blood there was a shelter from the consequence of their sins, even though they remain in their sins. They harbour covetousness, envy, hate, and pride; they stain their hands with dishonesty, and then, with their stained hands uplifted in the face of God, aver that they believe in the death of Christ for their sins, and are saved. This is not the gospel Paul preached. He asks, “How shall we who died to sin live any longer therein?” He who has by faith appropriated the expiatory death of Jesus, in and by that act died to sin. In the apostle’s day, baptism was the open signification of the death. It was as the burial of one who had died. It would be a new thing to see a dead man going on as if nothing had happened. So the saved man does not persevere in sin; how should he? He has died to it. Sin has no further claim. Who can claim anything of the dead? He is not sinless. Sin, alas! is not dead, but lie is dead to it. He has not got beyond its trouble, but he has got beyond its bondage. Faith in Christ’s death as our means of pardon, includes also His life as the principle of our sanctification. As one delightfully said, “The Cross condemns me to be holy.” (W. Hubbard.)
A man’s nose is a prominent feature in his face, but it is possible to make it so large that eyes and mouth and everything are thrown into insignificance, and the drawing is a caricature and not a portrait. So certain important doctrines of the gospel can be so proclaimed in excess as to throw the rest of the truth into the shade, and the preaching is no longer the gospel, but a caricature, and a caricature of which some people seem mightily fond. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. The conduct of many professed Christians indicates--
1. That they have some knowledge of grace.
2. That they do not heartily receive it because of sin.
3. That they rather use it as a shelter for sin.
II. Such conduct is abominable, because it--
1. Tempts God.
2. Is irrational.
3. Courts certain destruction.
4. Is impossible where grace is really active. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
The abuse of Divine mercy
A certain member of that parliament wherein a statute for the relief of the poor was passed was an ardent promoter of that Act. He asked his steward when he returned to the country, what the people said of that statute. The steward answered, that he heard a labouring man say, that whereas formerly he worked six days in the week, now he would work but four; which abuse of that good provision so affected the pious statesman that he could not refrain from weeping. Lord, Thou hast made many provisions in Thy Word for my support and comfort, and hast promised in my necessities Thy supply and protection; but let not my presumption of help from Thee cause my neglect of any of those means for my spiritual and temporal preservation which Thou hast enjoined. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein?--
Death to sin
Abounding sin is the occasion of abounding grace, but abounding grace is for the destruction of abounding sin. It is absurd to suppose that a medicine should aggravate the disease it cures.
I. Believers are dead to sin.
1. In their condition before God.
2. In their character in consequence of it.
3. Forensically in the eye of the law.
4. Experimentally; in point of fact.
5. In their affection for it.
6. In its power over them. Or, to put it another way, believers have died to sin legally in justification; personally in sanctification; professedly in baptism; and will die completely to it in glorification.
II. This is accomplished--
1. By participation in Christ’s death who died for it.
2. By communication of the power of Christ in killing it.
3. By profession made in baptism of renouncing it.
Death to sin is the necessary consequence of union with Christ, who delivers from its depraving, condemning, and reigning power. (T. Robinson.)
Converted men dislike sin
An Armenian arguing with a Calvinist remarked, “If I believed your doctrine, and was sure that I was a converted man, I would take my fill of sin.” “How much sin,” replied the godly Calvinist, “do you think it would take to fill a true Christian to his own satisfaction?” Here he hit the nail on the head. “How can we that are dead to sin live any longer therein?” A truly converted man hates sin with all his heart, and even if he could sin without suffering for it, it would be misery enough to him to sin at all. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Breaking with sin
The Christian’s breaking with sin is undoubtedly gradual in its realisation, but absolute and conclusive in its principle. As, in order to break really with an old friend whose evil influence is felt, half measures are insufficient, and the only efficacious means is a frank explanation followed by a complete rupture which remains like a barrier raised beforehand before every new solicitation; so to break with sin there is needed a decisive and radical act, a Divine deed taking possession of the soul and interposing henceforth between the will of the believer and sin (Galatians 6:14). This Divine deed necessarily works through the action of faith in Christ’s sacrifice. (Prof. Godet.)
The two lives
(text and Romans 6:11):--
I. The contrasted lives: “Life in sin,” and “being alive unto God.” The contrast is such that the unspiritual can perceive it, though unable to understand it. The ungodly may say,
“We neither know nor care whether a man is justified or not, but we do know whether he keeps the law of conscience, whether he acts up to his professed principles, whether he does that which, apart from his profession, we know to be right. But how is it that the world is able to form these judgments? Was the civilised world qualified to do this in the days of Cicero or of Pericles? Was there to be found then, or is there to be found now, where Christianity is not, anything approximating the same jealousy of conscience, etc., which those who now boast that they are men of the world often exhibit? Surely not. If worldly men are competent judges of Christian principle, it is because the atmosphere breathed by true Christians has stimulated its life and awakened its conscience. The world is indebted to the Christianity it is ready to revile for its power to call Christians to its bar. Note:
1. What is meant by “living in sin.” The term has been almost appropriated to describe certain forms of bold and unblushing transgression of moral law. If a man is a known drunkard, adulterer, or rogue, he is said to “live in sin”; and no one excuses or palliates his conduct. But the corruption of human nature goes down deeper, and the ravages of sin are far more extensive than this. That man is “living in sin”--
2. What is meant by being “alive unto God.” By being “alive to” anything is meant a vivid conception of its reality, a joy in its presence, a devotion to its interests. Thus one man is alive to business, another to his reputation, another to truth. One man is alive to beauty in nature or art, he is therefore quick to discern its presence, keen to criticise its counterfeits, filled with joy when surrounded with its exponents. Another man is alive to literature or science, his ear is sensitive to every message from the great world of letters and invention, and the world exists, so far as he is concerned, to sustain and furnish material for his favourite pursuit. One man is alive to the well-being of his own country, and another to the wider interests of man. With the help of these illustrations we may assume that a man is alive unto God--
II. The two lives have been described and contrasted, life in sin and life unto God. It would be difficult to conceive of two modes of life more obviously opposed to one another. They cannot coexist in the same spirit.
1. If sin is delighted in, God is dreaded. There is no tendency in human nature by means of which sin can be remedied or undone. The punishment of sin is death, i.e., moral alienation of heart from God, sinful habit and tendency. Consequently every sin carries in itself its own perpetuation and the germ of further transgression.
2. A life unto God supposes a spirit to whom the nearness, the perfections, the work of the Lord are unutterable delights; to whom the whole universe is a transparent medium, through and behind which is seen the face of the Eternal God.
III. How shall those that are living in sin even learn to be alive unto God?
1. The charge had been brought that that gospel looked leniently on sin, and the apostle boldly takes it up, admits its seeming plausibility, anticipates its possible force, and answers it by showing what was involved in that faith which justifies the soul. The life unto God can never supervene in a soul which has been living in sin, “except,” says he, “through a death unto sin.” Justification implies the removal of its penalty, its non-imputation, the exhaustion of its sting, the annihilation of its wages. Our new and holy life is not the ground of our justification, nor, strictly speaking, the consequence of our pardon and acceptance with God; but it is in one sense the pardon itself, the way in which the Holy Ghost slays that enmity within us which was the great curse of sin. “How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein?”
2. As far as his illustration is concerned, the apostle states a truism when he says that one who is dead to sin cannot live any longer therein. A man who is dead to sin may be carried away from his standing ground by some terrible and novel blast of temptation; but it is a contradiction in terms to assert that he can “live in sin.”
3. What, then, is meant by “death to sin”?
4. The way, then, in which this change is effected is by union with Christ--
Christ’s legislative glory to be preached
The following curious incident once happened to a clergyman. One day, after preaching, a gentleman followed him into the vestry, and, putting a £10 note into his hand, thanked him most energetically for the great comfort he had derived from his sermon. The clergyman was very much surprised at this, but still more so when shortly afterwards the same thing again took place; and he determined to sift the affair to the bottom, and find out who this man was that was so comforted by his discourse. He discovered that he was a person at that very time living in the most abominable wickedness and in the very depths of sin. “Certainly,” said he to himself, “there must be something essentially wrong in my preaching when it can afford comfort to such a profligate as this!” He accordingly examined into the matter closely, and he discovered that, whilst he had been preaching Christ’s sovereignty, he had quite forgotten his legislative glories. He immediately altered the style of his sermons, and he soon lost his munificent friend. I am told that, by preaching Christ’s legislative glory, I also have driven some from my chapel. Pray for me, my brethren, that I may still preach doctrine, and that Longacre may become too hot for error in principle or sin in practice; pray for me that with a giant’s arm I may lash both. (Howels, of Longacre.)
The atonement gives no encouragement to sin
There is no influence more mischievous on the morals of a people than to interpret the atonement in such a way as to make it independent of good works, if to the atonement you give any other than purely legal connection. If it includes state of nature and character in its connections, then must it stand forever associated with human endeavour and conditioned upon it. Else the sacrifice of Jesus becomes a harbour for thieves--a port into which sinners can at any moment steer with all their sins on board, the moment that the winds of conscience begin to blow a little too hard and threaten wreck to their peace. And this is what I call a plain accommodation of sinners, and hence a premium on sin. For sin is sweet to the natural man, sweet to his pride, his cruelty, his senses; and who would not sin and have the sweetness of it, if when he found it troublesome he could, by the saying of a prayer, or the utterance of a charmed word, be in an instant delivered from it forever? And yet I believe that in just this supposition multitudes in Christendom are living. Salvation is something to be visited upon them, independent of their conduct; nay, in spite of their conduct. Jesus is a cabalistic word which, no matter how they live, if they but whisper it with their dying gasp into the ear of death, he is bound to pass them up into heaven and not down into hell, where their deeds would consign them and which their characters fit. They cheat, they lie, they slander, they hate, they persecute, but then is not there mercy for all? Will not faith save a man; and have not they faith? And are they not told that God will do anything in answer to prayer; and did you ever see men pray as fast as these fellows can when they are sick? This is what I call making Christ a harbour for thieves and Christianity a premium on sin. This is what I call the most horrible perversion of the gospel plan of salvation conceivable! (H. W. Beecher.)
Death to sin, a difficulty
There is nothing so hard to die as sin. An atom may kill a giant, a word may break the peace of a nation, a spark burn up a city; but it requires earnest and protracted struggles to destroy sin in the soul. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
Know ye not that as many as were baptised into Jesus Christ were baptised into His death?
I. What it is--
1. A sign of grace.
2. A mystery of faith.
3. A seal of the covenant.
II. What it requires. The death of the old man.
III. What it is intended to secure.
spiritual and eternal life. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
I. Its significance and nature.--
1. It was no novelty. Pious lustrations had been practised for ages among the Hindoos, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. The Jews also, in addition to the legal ablutions, baptised proselytes. John practised the same ceremony. And when Christ adopted this ordinance, it must have been with the same general significance, viz., initiation into a new mode of life. The past was to be renounced and forgotten, and a new, higher and holier career entered upon. Hence baptism was regarded among the philosophers and Rabbis as a new birth: not that it produced any real change of heart, but was a solemn and public separation from a former course of life, and a new start on a more hallowed career. Now, this is exactly the idea of baptism in the New Testament. It is like a Rubicon crossed: or a river which divides two continents occupied by hostile nations.
2. Such being the general idea of baptism, what is its specific meaning in the Christian system? Christian baptism generally is baptism into Christ. Just as one may be baptised into Hindooism, Judaism, or Mahometanism, so may a man be baptised into Christianity, or Christ. But Paul describes it as baptism into “Christ’s death”: and here we shall see how essentially it differs from baptism into any other form of religion. To be baptised into Moses or Mahomet would not signify to be baptised into his death, but only the acknowledgment of their authority. Baptism into Christ’s death is expressed four times, and by as many different phrases, in this passage.
II. The subsequent state of the baptised as dead to sin. Now we are said to be dead to anything when we have ceased to be under its influence, and have become indifferent to it. Thus many a passion of human love or hate dies away, and the heart is perfectly unmoved by the presence of its once exciting object. Or a man utterly alters his studies and pursuits, and becomes callous to speculations or adventures which once had fired him with uncontrollable ambition. In like manner a converted man is dead to his former life of sin. He is a new creature in Christ Jesus. Old things have passed away, and all things have become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).
1. He is indifferent to its pleasures (Galatians 5:19-26).
2. He has renounced its principles and practices.
3. These things he has been enabled to do. “Dead to sin,” he is emancipated from its bondage. He is raised up from the death of sin, as Christ from the grave, by the glorious power of the Father, and so, filled with the Spirit, he is able to walk in newness of life.
I. The moral significance of our baptism into Christ--our baptism into His death.
1. The forms of expression are elliptical. For just as Christ gave commandment to “baptise into the name of the Father,” etc., the meaning was that they were to be baptised into the faith and for the service of the Triune God; so here, to be baptised into Christ and His death is to be baptised into the faith of Christ crucified.
2. Regarded from its human side baptism is an act by which a man makes open profession of faith in Christ as his Saviour and Lord; an act in which he makes full renunciation of self and sin, and unites himself to the Church (1 Corinthians 12:12, etc.). It does not, however, constitute its subject a really living member; it is but a material act which cannot possibly of itself have any moral effect. Thus, though Simon bad been baptised, he had neither part nor lot in the Christian salvation. But the faith of which baptism is the profession does bring its possessor into living fellowship with Christ.
3. This faith is in Christ’s death, and really brings its possessor into union with Christ. Hence by our baptism into Christ’s death, we were buried with Him. It is very commonly supposed that there is here a reference to immersion: but the apostle does not say that we were buried in baptism, but that we were “buried together with Christ by means of the baptism into His death.” That is to say, if we have that faith of which baptism is the open profession, then are we brought into such legal and effective union with Christ as that we are treated by God as though we had been crucified when Christ was crucified, and buried when He was buried.
4. But there is yet a further moral significance in this act of faith, viz., a confession that the believer himself, because of his sins, deserves to die; that but for the death of his Divine Substitute he must himself have died; that he hates and renounces those sins which thus imperilled his own soul and caused such agony to his Redeemer; and that he thankfully and with all his heart avails himself of this provision of salvation from sin. It is not consistent with our profession of faith that we should continue in sin. For “how shall we that died to sin, live any longer therein?”
II. Its purpose--that like as Christ was raised, so we, being quickened together with Him, should walk in newness of life.
1. Though Jesus died, He does not continue dead. He died unto sin once. By that one death He satisfied the demand of the law, and having satisfied that demand, He could legally claim a complete justification from sin (verse 7). But, being so justified, death had no further dominion over Him. He was therefore raised on account of our justification by the glory of the Father, i.e., by His power, working out His will and purpose, according to the demands of His glory.
2. For the glory of the Father demanded the resurrection of His Son on two accounts.
3. But we are baptised into Christ’s death, and by that baptism buried with Him, in order that we also might participate His restored and glorious life. For, as in our Representative, so also in us these things of necessity go together, namely--
4. Thus it comes to pass that, both by profession and by privilege, Christian men are bound to renounce a life of sin, and to live a life of holiness. That we may do this effectually, we have but to attend to two things; namely--
Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death.--
1. Paul does not say that all unbelievers and hypocrites, etc., who are baptized, are baptized into our Lord’s death. He intends such as come to it with their hearts in a right state.
2. Nor does he intend to say that those who were rightly baptized have all of them entered into the fulness of its spiritual meaning; for he asks, “Know ye not?” Some perhaps saw in it only a washing, but had never discerned the burial. I question if any of us yet know the fulness of the meaning of either of Christ’s ordinances. Baptism sets forth the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, and our participation therein. Its teaching is two fold. Consider--
I. Our representative union with Christ as a truth to be believed. Baptism as a burial with Christ signifies--
1. Acceptance of the death and burial of Christ as being for us. We are not baptized into His example, or His life, but into His death. We hereby confess that all our salvation lies in that which we accept as having been incurred on our account.
2. An acknowledgment of our own death in Christ. My burial with Christ means not only that He died for me, but that I died in Him, so that my death with Him needs a burial with Him. Suppose that a man has actually died for a certain crime, and now, by some wonderful work of God, he has been made to live again. Will he commit that crime again? But you reply, “We never did die so.” But that which Christ did for you comes to, and the Lord looks upon it as, the same thing. You have died in Christ’s death, and now by grace you are brought up again into newness of life. Can you, after that, turn back to the accursed thing which God hates?
3. Burial with a view to rising. If you are one with Christ at all, you must be one with Him all through. Since I am one with Christ I am what Christ is: as He is a living Christ, I am a living spirit. So far the doctrine: is it not a precious one? Shall the members of a generous, gracious Head be covetous and grasping? Shall the members of a glorious, pure, and perfect Head be defiled with the lusts of the flesh and the follies of a vain life? If believers are indeed so identified with Christ that they are His fulness, should they not be holiness itself?
II. Our realised union with Christ as a matter of experience. There is--
2. Burial. This is--
(a) Entirely new. We are to “walk in newness of life.”
(b) Active. The Lord does not allow us to sit down contented with the mere fact that we live, nor allow us to spend our time in examining whether we are alive or no; but He gives us His battle to fight, His house to build, His farm to till, His children to nurse, and His sheep to feed.
(c) Unending. “Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more.”
(d) Not under the law or under sin. Christ came under the law when He was here, and He had our sin laid on Him, and therefore died; but after He rose again there was no sin laid on Him. In His resurrection both the sinner and the Surety are free. What had Christ to do after His rising? To bear any more sin? No, but just to live unto God. That is where you and I are. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
(Psalms 31:12; Romans 8:6, and text):--The subject would perhaps suggest a terrible physical calamity, such as the closing of a coal pit upon toiling miners; or of an interment ere life was extinct. But there are other senses in which men are buried alive.
I. In an unfortunate sense. Men are often buried alive--
1. For the want of opportunities of mental development. How frequently we hear men say in certain spheres and conditions that they are buried alive! There is an amount of mental life in all men. But the development of that life requires certain external conditions and favourable opportunities. Sometimes, indeed, but rarely, we find men, through the force of genius, breaking through the most unfavourable circumstances; but the millions remain in the mental grave of thoughtlessness and ignorance. Englishmen have at last realised the magnitude of this calamity; the loss which it involves to commerce, literature, and moral influence.
2. Through the infirmities of age. Some, thirty or forty years ago, played prominent parts in the drama of public life; but where are they today? We are constantly reading of the death of an old Waterloo hero, or Trafalgar veteran, or distinguished statesman, or great scholar, who have not been heard of for years. This is a sad entombment, one that awaits us all if we live long enough.
3. Through the envy of their contemporaries. This was perhaps what David meant. Malice always wishes to murder, and to bury. Many a noble man in Church and State, who is too truthful to temporise, too independent to cringe, is kept in the background by envy. No invitation shall be given to him to take a prominent part in the movements of his party, no mention shall be made of his doings in the organs of their clique.
II. In a criminal sense (Romans 8:6). In the case of all unrenewed men, the soul, the conscience with all its Divine instincts and sympathies, is buried in the flesh, in the sense in which a slave is buried who has no liberty of action. Hence Paul speaks of it as “carnally sold under sin.” A man may be a merchant, artist, author; but, the inspiration of his business, the glow of his genius, the tinge and form of his thoughts, will be flesh rather than spirit. Nay, he may be a religionist, and that of the most orthodox stamp: but his creed and devotions will “be after the law of a carnal commandment,” and his Christ “known only after the flesh.”
III. In a virtuous sense. “We are buried with Him by baptism unto death.” Not the baptism of water, but of that holy fire that burns up all corrupt carnalties. What is buried here? Not the mental faculties, for these are quickened into action; not the conscience--no, this is brought out of its grave and put upon the throne. But the old man with its corruptions and lusts. Whilst this carnal “I” is buried, the moral “I” is quickened and raised. “Nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” Now, this is a virtuous burying alive. It means being dead indeed unto sin, and alive unto righteousness. As you must bury the seed in the earth before you can have the living plant, so you must bury the carnal nature before you have spiritual life. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
Dead and buried with Christ
In the fourth century, when the Christian faith was preached in its power in Egypt, a young brother sought out the great Macarius. “Father,” said he, “what is the meaning of being dead and buried with Christ?” “My son,” answered Macarius, “you remember our dear brother who died, and was buried a short time since? Go now to his grave, and tell him all the unkind things you ever heard of him, and that we are glad he is dead, and thankful to be rid of him, for he was such a worry to us, and caused so much discomfort in the Church. Go, my son, and say that, and hear what he will answer.” The young man was surprised, and doubted whether he really understood; but Macarius only said, “Do as I bid you, my son, and come and tell me what our departed brother says.” The young man did as he was commanded, and returned. “Well, and what did our brother say?” asked Macarius. “Say, father!” he exclaimed; “how could he say anything? He is dead.” “Go now again, my son, and repeat every kind and flattering thing you have ever heard of him; tell him how much we miss him; how great a saint he was; what noble work he did; how the whole Church depended upon him; and come again and tell me what he says.” The young man began to see the lesson Macarius would teach him. He went again to the grave, and addressed many flattering things to the dead man, and then returned to Macarius. “He answers nothing, father; he is dead and buried.” “You know now, my son,” said the old father, “what it is to be dead with Christ. Praise and blame equally are nothing to him who is really dead and buried with Christ.”
That like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.--
Christ’s resurrection and ours for the glory of God
It glorifies His omnipotence. For if creation required omnipotence, so does the new creation. It glorifies His wisdom; for what wisdom is required to “bring a clean thing out of an unclean”! To reconcile sinful man to a holy God. It glorifies His justice; for how could God have forgiven us, except at the expense of His justice, had He not received atonement in the person of Jesus; and how could He have given us any comfort in that atonement, if He had not raised Jesus from the dead, and thus show us that the price of our redemption was fully paid, and we were set free? It glorifies His truth; for God had said that it should be so, and we had to wait for the fulfilment of His promise, and in the fulness of time Jesus came, died, and rose again. (Bp. Montagu Villiers.)
1. The chapter connects the historical resurrection of Christ with the spiritual resurrection of the heart by the golden link of “baptism.”
2. We have to consider what is the “newness of life” in which we are to “walk,” or “walk about,” the metaphor referring to our ordinary “walk” in the beaten track of everyday life; for this is “the newness of life” which God loves--not the striking out of some novel path, but the old path trodden every day with “new” affections and “new” attainments. And may we not all say that there has been now quite enough of old, dull, religious duties, enough of worldly-mindedness, enough of things which have done nothing else but disappoint us, enough of things that die? And could there be a better season than this Easter for starting afresh upon the journey of life? Look at this life as “new”--
I. In the method of its formation.
1. There is a natural life which we all obtain from our father and mother. It carries an entail from Adam--a stream of corruption and a carnal-mindedness. But Jesus took manhood, and did His mediatorial work, that He might become, like another Adam, the root of another pedigree. Our entrance into the lineage takes place by an act of spiritual union to Christ.
2. Now see the processes of that “life.” When Christ died on the Cross our nature died in Him. And now Christ, being the Head, rising, draws up the body. First, in this present life, our souls begin to be drawn up to ascending desires, to nearer communion, to loftier enjoyments, to a more heavenly-mindedness. Afterwards, at the resurrection, by the same process, our bodies will be raised up.
II. In its own constitution. God’s way of making a “new” thing is not man’s way. God uses up the “old” materials; but, by His using and moulding them, makes them “new.” Thus, “the new heavens and the new earth” will only make another heaven and earth formed out of the old materials. Or, take that expression, “a new heart.” God does not annihilate a man’s original temperament--remove his old habits, and tempers, and feelings, and make another man with him; but He restrains, sanctifies, and elevates the man’s primary character. The characteristic of his unconverted state is the characteristic of his converted condition; but “new” feelings have given “new” directions to old things; and “new” principles have given another development; and “new” grace has given “new” power: and so, though he is the “new man,” he is “the old man” still!
III. The “new” element thrown in to make a “new man.” Love. Of this command we read that it is “old” and “new.” St. John in a breath calls it both. “Old,” in the letter; “new,” in the spirit. “Old,” as an universal obligation; “new,” in the standard. “Old,” in the fact; “new,” in the motive. “As I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Christ’s resurrection and our newness of life
I. The resurrection of our Lord was attended with glory. It was glorious--
1. In itself the most marvellous occurrence in history.
2. In contrast with Christ’s humiliation.
3. In its effects. He was raised--
4. As to its cause, for it was a display of the glory or power of the Father. But it was more than a miracle of power, for all the attributes of God united their glory in it, love, wisdom, justice, and mercy. The veil which concealed the sacred presence was rent from top to bottom; and the glory of the Lord was seen in the resurrection of Christ from the dead.
5. Because of its sequel in reference to our Lord. Once hath He suffered, but it is once for all. His victory is final. And now, therefore, to the child of God death furnishes a couch of rest, and is no longer a dark and noisome prison cell. The body is sown in corruption, but it is raised in incorruption and immortality.
II. The parallel in our experience is also full of glory. Partakers of His death, we are also partakers of His resurrection. This body of ours will have its share in it in due time. The spirit has its resurrection even now; but we are “waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.”
1. It is a blessed thing that we should be made alive in Christ.
2. This quickening is a needful part of sanctification. Sanctification, in its operation upon our character, consists of three things. First, Jesus strikes at the heart of evil. His death makes us die to sin. After this we are buried with Christ, and of this burial baptism is the type and token. To complete our actual sanctification we receive heavenly quickening, “for he that believeth in Him hath everlasting life.”
3. Being thus quickened you are partakers of a new life. You are not like Lazarus, who had the same life restored to him. True, you have that same life about you. But your true life has come to you by your being born again from above. In this there is a striking display of the glory of God. It is one of the highest displays of Divine power.
4. Thus we have a preeminent security for future perfection. If He raised us up when we were dead in sin, will He not keep us alive now that we live unto Him? This life springeth up unto eternal life. You shall surely behold His face whose life is already within your breast.
III. The life is emphatically new. I expect to read, “even so we also should be raised by the glory of the Father”; but it is not so. It is in Paul’s mind that we are raised together with Christ; but his thought has gone further, even to the activity which comes of life; and we read, “that we also should walk in newness of life.” As much as to say, “I need not tell you that you have been quickened as Christ was; but since you have been made alive, you must show it by your walk and conduct.” But he reminds us that this life has much newness about it. This new life is--
1. A life which we never before possessed--an exotic, a plant of another clime. It is not written, “You hath He fostered, who had the germs of dormant life”; but, “You hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” You had no life, you had nothing out of which life could come. Eternal life is the gift of God.
2. New in its principles. The old life at its very best only said, “I must do right that I may win a reward.” Now you are moved by gratitude, now you serve not as a servant, but as a child. It is your joy to obey out of love, and not from slavish fear.
3. Swayed by new motives. You live now to please God; aforetime you lived to please yourself, or to please your neighbours.
4. One which has new objects. You aim higher; yea, at the highest of all; for you live for God’s glory.
5. One of new emotions. Your fears, hopes, sorrows, and your joys are new.
6. One of new hopes; we have a hope of immortality; a hope so glorious, that it causes us to purify ourselves in preparation for its realisation.
7. One of new possessions. God has made us “rich in faith.” Instead of groaning that life is not worth having, we bless God for our being, because of our well-being in Christ. We have peace like a river, and a secret joy which no man taketh from us. We drink of a well which none can dry up; we have bread to eat that the world knows not of.
8. One by which we are brought into a new world. I often compare myself to a chick, which aforetime was imprisoned in the shell. In that condition I neither knew myself, nor aught that was about me, but was in a chaos, as one unborn. When the shell was broken, like a young bird I was weak and full of wonderment at the life into which I had come. That young life felt its wings and tried them a little. It moved with trembling footsteps, essaying a new walk. It saw things it never dreamed of.
IV. The walk which comes out of this life is new.
1. The new life that God gives us is exceedingly active. I have never read that we are to lie down and sleep in the newness of life. I greatly question whether you have new life if you do not walk.
2. This activity of life induces progress. If we are really quickened we shall march on, going from strength to strength.
3. This walk is to be in newness of life. I see a Christian man coming back from a place of question amusement. Did he go there in newness of life? The old man used to go in that direction. When a man has made a bargain which will not bear the light; is that done in newness of life? When an employer grinds down the workman; is that done in newness of life? Put off the old man. If Christ has quickened you, walk in newness of life.
4. This life should be one of joyful vivacity. A healthy Christian is one of the liveliest creatures on earth. Newness of life means a soul aglow with love to God, and therefore earnest, zealous, happy. Come, my soul, if Christ has raised thee from the dead, do not live after the fashion of the dark grave which thou hast quitted. Live a God-like life; let the divine in thee sit on the throne, and tread the animal beneath its feet. “It is easier said than done,” cries one. That depends upon the life within. Life is full of power. I have seen an iron bar bent by the growth of a tree. Have you never heard of great paving stones being lifted by fungi, which had pushed up beneath them? If you choose to contract your souls by a sort of spiritual tight lacing, or if you choose to bend yourselves down in a sorrow which never looks up, you may hinder your life and its walk; but give your life full scope, and what a walk you may have! Conclusion: I have seen boys bathing in a river in the morning. One of them has just dipped his toes in the water, and he cries out, as he shivers, “Oh, it’s so cold!” Another has gone in up to his ankles, and he also declares that it is fearfully chilly. But see! another runs to the bank and takes a header. He rises all in a glow. You Christian people are paddling about in the shallows of religion, and just dipping your toes into it. Oh, that you would plunge into the river of life! How it would brace you! What tone it would give you! In for it. Be a Christian, out and out. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Newness of life
When the gospel was first preached, its novelty must have impressed both Jew and Gentile. Not only was the Christian doctrine something fresh in the history of human thought; the Christian morality was something new in the sphere of the individual and social existence of mankind. The novelty may not strike us as it struck the men of the first century, but still Christianity summons all men to “newness of life.” The new life--
I. Commences with a new birth. Every human life has a beginning, so with the spiritual life; there is what is called regeneration, in which the birth of the body is followed by that of the soul.
II. Is quickened by a new power. Mysterious even to the present men of science is the secret of vitality. We can only account for the new and spiritual life of Christianity by accepting the doctrine that the Holy Spirit takes possession of the nature, vivifying it with a celestial vitality and energy.
III. Is inspired by a new principle. What is it which distinguishes the life of the Christian from that of the worldly, unspiritual man? It is the prevalence and power of Divine love in his nature.
IV. Is perfected in an ever new immortality. The life of the body perishes; but the life of the Christian is renewed day by day; age and infirmity have no power over it; even death fails to destroy it; in fact, its fairest blossom and its richest fruit appear only beneath celestial influences, and when the Omnipotent “makes all things new.” (Family Churchman.)
Newness of life
1. We are called upon this Easter morning to contemplate the master miracle of Divine love as set against and triumphing over the masterpiece of Satan’s malignity. As death must be regarded as the supreme development of evil, so resurrection must be regarded as the highest triumph of good. Now not only does God triumph over death, but He actually employs the enemy to produce this greater benefit.
2. The question of Nicodemus is a natural one. He might well conclude, “I must of necessity carry my old self along with me to the grave.” Not so, “Ye must be born again.” But what form of birth is there for the man grown old in habits of sin? The great discovery was not made until from the womb of death there arose the newborn man, “the first-begotten of the dead,” “the first born of many brethren!” and from that time forward it became possible for the sinner to be severed from the incubus of the past, and to rise into newness of life in virtue of his union with Christ.
3. Now, observe the difference between God’s way of dealing with fallen man, and ours. Nicodemus objects, “How can a man be born when he is old,” etc. A moment’s reflection will show us that the change in itself is exceedingly desirable. But all that we can suggest is to patch up the old creature; but a thing seldom looks well after it is mended, and it becomes less and less serviceable the more frequently it is mended; and the fact of its being patched indicates that it is nearly worn out, and will soon be laid aside. But a man with a new garment makes a fresh start. Now God does not mend--He recreates, and He presses death into the service, and through that we rise to newness of life, in which we are able to stand free from sin.
4. As we go into the country at this springtime, and gaze on the opening leaves and flowers, the newness of everything powerfully impresses us. God might have restored nature by a process of repair; but no! until the withered dead leaf is swept away into the tomb of corruption the new leaf does not unfold itself; but as soon as the old is dead and buried there arises a newness of life. How like the work of God! The most skilful artist who endeavours to imitate nature cannot reproduce nature’s freshness. So there are many imitations of religion, but they are all devoid of that virgin freshness which is only produced by the touch of the Life-giver.
5. As the Lord teaches us this lesson in nature, so He enforces it by the striking symbolism of one of the sacraments. Baptism is not a mere washing; it is a burial and a resurrection. Not that the mere outward observance of the ordinance can ever produce this; there must be faith in the operation of God. When I have this whether it takes place at the moment of baptism, or after, or before, makes no difference. The point is this, that when my faith lays hold on the operation of God, manifested in the resurrection of Christ, and which is symbolised in baptism, then that ordinance in itself is a pledge that the reality of the blessing which the ordinance typifies is actually mine.
6. With these thoughts in our minds, I want you to observe that Paul says that we are buried and raised up again with a definite object, viz., the walk in newness of life. You cannot walk inn place if you do not reach that place; and I cannot walk in newness of life without having first of all been introduced into a condition of newness of life. As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, even so walk in Him. And now what are the distinguishing characteristics of this newness of life?
I. The newness of relationship to God. In the old life we felt there was something wrong between God and us; we desired that that something should be set right, and we hoped gradually to win His approval by a life of consistency. Some of us laboured very hard, and yet the end was disappointment. How was all this to be changed, and every barrier to confidence and love swept away? Not by patching ourselves up. We saw ourselves, represented by Christ, as enduring the penalty of the law; and were content to reckon ourselves as crucified with Christ; but “he that is dead is justified from sin,” and so we found that there was now no further condemnation for us who are in Christ Jesus. From the grave we rose into newness of life, and our first experience was the discovery that God was a reconciled Father.
II. Newness of power. Faith introduced me into this blessed condition; faith is to be the law of my experience in it. There is a power now working within me; the power of God, whose mighty Spirit has taken possession of me, and is working out His purposes within me. Electricians tell us that our nervous system is so constituted that under the force of electricity we can perform prodigies of strength and endurance which would be impossible under ordinary circumstances. We will suppose this book to contain a weight of several pounds. I hold it out at arm’s length. Presently the sense of fatigue comes insupportable, and my arm must fall to my side; but turn on a current of electricity to the outstretched arm, and I am able to sustain the weight indefinitely, without any such sense of fatigue. Where does my part in the matter lie?--not in struggling to force my arm to do what it is too weak to do, but in yielding my member to the power which can enable it to accomplish what is otherwise impossible. I have to see to it that no non-conductor breaks the invisible stream of power; and that is just what I have to see to in my spiritual experience. Am I in full connection with Divine Omnipotence? “I can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth me.” Now do you not see the difference between going about the work of life flurried with anxiety and weighted with care, now straining every nerve in an agony of effort, and now, weary and discouraged, sinking into lethargy, and the quiet, happy confidence of him who is walking in newness of life, assured that, whatever may arise, the new life within him is equal to any and every emergency.
III. Newness of character. I meet with a great many who do not seem to expect this. How many of us are there who have so very much of the old self about us that even our fellow Christians cannot help being distressed and pained at it? “Are we walking in newness of life?” Are the old features passing away?--have they passed away? You who were naturally uncontrolled, are your natural passions well in hand?--not in your hand--in Christ’s hand? You who were ready to say a bitter word without thinking how much pain it might give, who rather plumed yourself on being blunt even to rudeness, is the beauty of the Lord our God beginning to rest upon you? You, whose gifts of conversation were apt to degenerate into idle gossip, have you learned to keep the little member in its place? Are you doing all to the glory of God? What manner of man are we? We are children of the resurrection. When we get down to the exchange, to the workshop, do we forget that? The glorious beauty of the Lord our God is for us; His freshness, purity, the very bloom of newness of life, is ours. Shake yourself loose of every encumbrance, turn your back on every defilement, give yourself over like clay to the hand of the Potter, that He may stamp upon you the fulness of His own resurrection glory, that we, beholding as in a mirror the glories of the Lord, may be changed from glory unto glory as by the Spirit of God. (W. Hay Aitken, M. A.)
Newness of life
I. Its connection with Christ’s resurrection. “Like as”--
1. Material things may be compared to material and spiritual to spiritual; but is not this comparison of a moral revelation to a physical transaction arbitrary and fanciful? The answer is that the source and motive power of the two are the same. The manner and proportion of the Divine action at the tomb of Christ, when they are addressed to sense, enable us to trace and measure them in the mystery of the soul’s life when they are addressed to spirit.
2. Something of the same kind may be observed in the case of the human mind. A mind capable of writing a great poem or history, and of governing at the same time a great country, is not to be met with every day. But when we do find the two things combined it is reasonable to compare the book with the policy of the king or statesman, on the ground that both are products of a single mind; and it is further reasonable to expect certain qualities common to the two forms of work. This is Paul’s position; Christ’s resurrection and the soul’s regeneration are works of one powerful, wise, and loving will.
3. Nature can no more give us newness of life than a corpse can raise itself. Prudence, advancing years, the tone of society, family influences, may remodel our habits, but Divine grace alone can raise us from the death of sin to the life of righteousness. Reflect on that terrible reality--spiritual death. The body is in the full flush of its powers, the mind is engaged with a thousand truths, but neither boisterous spirits nor intellectual fire can galvanize the spirit into life. The spiritual senses do not act--the eyes, ears, mouth, of the soul are closed. Its hands and feet are bandaged with the grave clothes of selfish habit. It cannot rise, and must lie on in its darkness, and the putrefaction of its spiritual tomb. And a great stone has been rolled to the door--the dead weight of corrupt and irreligious opinion which bars out the light and air of heaven and makes the prison house secure. How is such an encumbrance to be thrown off? Even if angels should roll away the stone, how can life be restored, unless He who is its Lord and Giver shall flash into this dead spirit His own quickening power?
II. The characteristics common to both.
(a) Some say only in the heart of His disciples. But supposing such a process of imagination to have taken place in the case of two or three, is it reasonable to suppose that it could have occurred simultaneously to many.
(b) Nor was it a phantom that rose. Had that been the case it would surely have been found out, by the women, by Peter, by the eleven to whom He said, “A spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see Me have,” and by Thomas. Undoubtedly His risen body had added qualities of subtlety and glory; but these did not destroy its reality. “It had been sown in dishonour; it was raised in glory,” etc.
(a) What avails it to be risen in imagination and in the good opinion of others, if having a name that we live while yet we are dead? Is it well for a dead soul to be periodically galvanised by unmerited flattery into awkward mimicries of the language and action of Christian life?
(b) What is the value of the mere ghost of a moral renewal; of prayers without heart, actions without religious principle, religious language in advance of conviction and feeling? Ah, the phantoms of a renewed life stalk through the world and the Church--picturesque in the distance, and like waxwork figures hard to distinguish from the living. There is the phantom life--
(i) Of imagination when a lively fancy has thrown around religion the charm of an intense interest without touching religious principle.
(ii) Of strong physical feeling where occasional bursts of religious passion are mistaken for discipline and surrender of the will.
(iii) Of sheer good nature, when however much is done, it is done without inward reference to God and His law.
(iv) Of good taste, where it is simply taken for granted that certain religious properties belong to a particular social position--phantoms each and all; for they melt into thin air under the harder stress of service or sorrow. They may not safely challenge the “Handle Me” of the risen Jesus. So then the first lesson is genuineness. Feel more deeply than you talk--act as you feel in your best moments.
The several degrees of personal religion
Progress in the new life, commenced at the time of the second birth, is more desirable than success in business, or growth from infancy to manhood. It is in this text urged as a duty, and proposed as a favour, in consideration of the resurrection of our Redeemer from the dead.
I. I explain the words of my text. The Apostle Paul, who experienced in his own progressive attainments the influence of Christ’s resurrection, holds it up to the view of the believing Romans as the reason and the means of their walking forward “in newness of life.” “Walking” indicates not only vital action, but also progress from one place to another. That “walking in newness of life” which is urged in the text, in consideration of the resurrection of our Lord, must of course signify both the exercise of the Christian life in all its parts and relations and our progressive improvement in piety.
II. I describe, from the Scriptures, the several distinct degrees of personal attainment in true religion.
1. The state of mind which exists in the earliest stage of true religion is characterised by anxiety to escape from evil and enjoy salvation. The anxiety of the young believer must be distinguished from that of unconverted minds. This is easy in theory, but difficult in practice. When we act, it is with imperfect instruments; with faculties corrupted by sin and disordered by our passions. It is the Spirit, however, that helps our infirmities. The Christian is anxious to be delivered from sin; the unrenewed man cares only for its consequences. The anxiety of the believer if from the Holy Spirit, is exercised with a spiritual discernment of the covenant of grace, and is influenced by an ardent desire to enjoy righteousness, and holiness, and happiness in Christ; the anxiety of the unconverted is a blind, unholy passion, pungent indeed, but indefinite, and equivocal in respect to all these objects.
2. The state of mind enjoyed by the Christian in the second grade of spiritual attainments is characterised by admiration of Jesus Christ and the salvation which He administers. Great power, magnanimity, and condescension are in their own nature admirable: infinite perfection is an object of the admiration of all intelligent creatures; and, in a certain sense, the Divine excellency is admired by the unregenerate. Christians, too, from the very commencement of their new life, and throughout every stage of their progress, feel an admiration for God in Christ: nor does it cease in heaven; but in this stage, after having ascertained their own interest in the grace of God, it becomes the most prominent part of their character. They admire the dignity of the mediatory Person, God manifested in the flesh: the attributes and, especially, the love of God in Him; the wisdom of the plan devised for our redemption through a covenant ordered in all things and sure; and His fitness in everything to our condition, in whom it pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell. They admire the tenderness of His compassion, the fortitude displayed in His sufferings, the gracious Spirit which rests upon Him, and which He liberally communicates, grace for grace, from His own fulness to our wants. They admire the place on high, where He is enthroned in light, and into which they have now themselves a sure hope of admission.
3. The third period of Christian progress is characterised by a thirst for religious knowledge. In every art or science, the period most favourable to the ardent pursuit of knowledge is immediately after the habits and the language peculiar to it, and at first strange, have become familiar and easy; after a high admiration of the objects of study is felt by the learner; and before the actual business of life demands his chief attention. There is a similar period in the religious life of man. The knowledge of Divine things, always desirable and useful, is pursued with peculiar ardour so soon as we have attained to that patient admiration of its glorious objects which accompanies the full assurance of hope. Then the speculative powers of the mind, enlightened by the Holy Ghost, search for knowledge, and procure it on account of its own intrinsic worth.
4. The fourth period of Christian progress is characterised by public spirit in promoting the interests of the Church. A benevolent disposition towards mankind, and a special regard for the godly, are coeval with the Christian life; and wheresoever these exist, there will also be some exertions for promoting the good of the house of the Lord: but it requires great progress in the new life before anyone is characterised by self-denial in the Church’s service similar to that of Moses, who chose affliction with the people of God; by an enlightened ardour in the work of righteousness, like Elijah the prophet; and by such disinterestedness as was practised by Paul the apostle. This is not a blind devotion to the interests of party, but a spirit of magnanimity and liberality, fostered and directed by the Word of God.
5. The fifth degree of progress in personal piety is characterised by heavenly-mindedness.
6. The highest rank in personal godliness on earth is attained by those who willingly suffer for Christ’s sake. Voluntary martyrdom for any cause is an evidence of personal resolution and sincerity--the highest which man can give of his attachment to the cause he has espoused. And it is easy to show that the disciple who willingly carries the cross, for which he is misrepresented and maligned by his contemporaries, rises far superior in heroism to the patriot soldier who, encouraged by the honours of a military life, and cheered by the voice of applause loudly raised by his country, exposes himself to danger and to death. Reason, as well as Divine revelation, of course, justifies the Christian in sacrificing cheerfully the honours and comforts of this life, and even life itself, when they come in competition with the honour which cometh from God and with the never-ending enjoyments of the heavenly life. The duty and the reward of such a sacrifice are sufficiently obvious: “Whosoever shall lose his life for My sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it”; but the disposition of mind to perform the duty in view of the high reward is a rare attainment in grace. The Lord Himself will, however, bestow it according to His good pleasure, in those extraordinary times of trial which call for it, upon them whom the King delighteth to honour. (A. McLeod, D. D.)
Freshness of being
1. In everything which is really of God there is a singular freshness; it is always like that “tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month”; there is a continual novelty. And yet some people speak of the sameness of a religious life.
2. Through a new spirit, endowed with a new heart, by a new and living way, in obedience to a new commandment, with mercies new to us every morning, carrying a new name, we travel to a new heaven and a new earth, where we shall sing a new song forever and ever. Well might Christ say, “Behold I make all things new.”
3. If there be a time when we ought specially to study “newness,” surely it is now in this springtime, when the resurrection of Christ is telling us of risen beings coming forth to new affections, and higher enterprises. Therefore let us study “newness.”
4. For who has not a great deal which he would get rid of? Old levels of thought, old appetites, clingings, selfishnesses, prejudices, sins! And may we not be thankful that we have to do with a religion which is always giving grace through new opportunities, for new actions, whose very essence is a daily renovation, and whose keynote all along is resurrection?
I. What is “newness”?
1. It is better than creation. Beautiful as must have been the Holy Child, as He lay a babe at Bethlehem, the same form, risen from the tomb, was lovelier. The heavens and the earth of innocence were fair. But “the new heavens and the new earth” which are to be, shall exceed the glories of Eden.
2. The good that comes out of evil is better than the good which has never been soiled. The old goes to make the new. The old passions, the old bias, the old elements of the natural man, go to make the strength, the elevation of the new creation, the same, yet not the same.
II. Let us trace where the “newness” lies.
1. There is set a “new” motive, “God loves me. How can I show Him that I do indeed love Him who has been so exceedingly kind to me?”
2. Bars and fetters have been falling off from that man’s soul, and he feels a “new” principle. He is emancipated from a long, dark bondage. And he goes forth into the old world, its scenes are just the same, but a “new” sunshine lies upon everything, it is the medium of his “newborn” peace, it is a smile of God. And oh! how changed that world looks to him.
3. And so his standard is always rising. He leaves the past attainments behind, as nothing to the heights which are opening before him. He has ever a new ambition, therefore he enterprises new works for God. And all the while, Christ reveals Himself to him with ever-increasing clearness. Some new view of some old truth, some yet untasted sense of his own pardon, is always breaking upon his wondering mind. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Christianity the renewal of the race
1. Christianity has become to us such an everyday and old thing, so different from the amazing, respiring miracle which once it was, that we fail to realise how Divine a revolution it was intended to effect. Yet Christ and His apostles tried to impress upon us that the gospel was not a slightly improved Judaism, not a mere scheme to produce the average morality of men, but a vast reversal of the past, a fresh beginning for the future. “May we know what this new teaching is?” cried the votaries of obsolete philosophics on Mars Hill. The writer to the Hebrews describes Christ as a new and living way to God. St. Paul describes conversion as putting off the old man, with his affections and lusts, and putting on the new man, and says: “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, behold they are come new.” And St. Peter speaks of “a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.” And St. John in the Apocalypse talks of “a new name “and “a new song,” and a “new Jerusalem descending out of heaven from God,” and He that sitteth on the throne said: “Behold, I make all things new.” Life from the dead--newness of life--that was the conception which the apostles and evangelists had formed of Christianity.
2. It was not that any ostensible change had taken place in the world around them. Men married, and gave in marriage, and sinned, and suffered, and lied, as before. Heathenism hardly deigned to cast one single glance upon Christianity, or, if so, simply scorned it as an insane enthusiasm or hated it as an execrable superstition. And that despised handful of artisans and fishermen was right, and the world, with all its powers, and splendours, was wrong. Not with the diadem, and the purple, the wisdom of Greece, the venerable institutions of Jerusalem, were the truth, and the force, and the glory of the future. With them was the ebbing, with these was the flowing tide. The peopled walls of the amphitheatre broke into yells of sanguinary exultation when the tiger sprang upon some aged martyr; but the hope and the meaning of all human life were with him, and not with them.
3. “Yes,” the cynic will coldly answer, “the world goes mad at times, and this was one of the world’s strange delusions; but we have changed all that.” Now we have come to the time when every little nobody can pose in the attitude of immense superiority to the ignorant superstition of Christians. First comes the materialist, who thinks himself great because he cannot believe in anything which he cannot grasp with both hands. “Why should I accept,” he asks, “anything which I cannot verify?” But he forgets to ask whether for the truths which he rejects there can be any verifying faculty but that spiritual faculty of which he denies the very existence. When we are assured by the materialist that man is but an animal, that he is a chance product of evolution; that what he takes for his thoughts are only a chemical change of the molecules in the grey substance of his brain--at everything of this kind Christians can only smile, not in anger, but in deep sorrow. If a man resolutely closes his eyes we cannot greatly respect his asseveration that there is no sun in heaven; if a man declares that there is no God, are we astonished if he has purposely atrophied within himself the faculty by which alone we are able to believe that God is? Christianity has less than nothing to dread from this dry and dusty system which supremely fails to account for the human consciousness and the moral nature, and which offers to men’s unquenchable spiritual yearnings nothing but a chaos of brute forces blindly evolving order out of mazy dream. But next we have the pessimist telling us, with a bitter sneer, that, after all, our Christianity has hopelessly failed. It is one of the notes of condemnation of these moral systems that they all, unlike Christianity, despair of man. Pessimism tells us by the voice of Schopenhauer that the human race always tends from bad to worse, and that there is no prospect for it but ever-deepening confusion and wretchedness. It asserts with Von Hartmann that existence is unspeakably wretched, and society will ever grow worse; and with Carlyle, “More dreary, barren, base, and ugly seem to me all the aspects of this poor, diminishing, quack world, doomed to a death which one can only wish to be speedy.”
4. To all such slanders and caricatures of humanity Faith gives her unwavering answer. To the materialist she opposes her unalterable conviction that the worlds were made by the Word of God, and that He is the Governor among the nations. To the pessimist she answers that though the road trodden by the long procession of humanity seems often to be rough and devious, and often even to sweep down into the valley of the shadow of death, it is yet a road which does not plunge into the abyss, but is ever leading us nearer to our God.
5. But Faith can appeal not only to intuition, but to reason, to experience, and to history. Admitting that change does not always or necessarily imply advance, she can yet show that even amid the most vehement moral earthquakes of history mankind has still ever found in Christianity the secret of rejuvenescence and of victory. Humanity may sometimes advance over ruins, but humanity advances still. The Church tamed the barbarians and silenced the scoffers; upon the disencumbered debris of past superstition she rebuilt the fairer and firmer fabric of her reformed faith; and now whatever ruins may ensue, we feel secure that God will once again, as ever heretofore, lay the stones of His Church with fair colours, and her foundations with sapphires, and that her walls should be salvation and her gates brass.
6. But after so many splendid victories, when it has undoubtedly blessed the world, how is it that men allow themselves so easily to speak slightingly and scornfully of Christianity as they do? I answer, it is our fault. A man must be ignorant indeed if he does not know how Christianity changed the life and character of the whole civilised pagan world. What need have I to tell you how it rescued the gladiator, how it emancipated the slave, how it elevated womanhood, how it flung over childhood the aegis of its protection, how it converted the wild, fierce tribes from the icy steppes and broad rivers of the North, how it built from the shattered fragments of the Roman empire a new created world, how it saved learning, how it baptized and recreated art, how it inspired music, how it placed the poor and the sick under the angel wings of mercy, and entrusted to the two great archangels of reason and conscience the guidance of the young? And is not Christianity exactly what it ever was? Is her force spent? Where is the Lord God of Elijah? Is His hand shortened that it cannot save, or His ears heavy that they cannot hear? God is where and what He was. It is not the “I am that I am” who has changed, but it is we who are dead, faithless, hollow and false. The new life of the gospel is as full of fire as it ever was; but because we have never truly felt and tested it we work no miracles, we cast out no devils, we subdue no kingdoms. God never does for man the work which He has assigned to man himself to do. It is of no use for us to say, “Well, God will mend all.” We must help Him. A handful of peasants, beaten, imprisoned, treated as the offscouring of all things, faced pagan Rome in the plenitude of her despotism, made whole armies drop their weapons before their defenceless feet. If they, with so little, did so much, how is it that we, with so much, do so little? Of what use is it for us to cry, “Awake, O arm of the Lord?” It is we who must awake. If Christianity does not prosper, it is only because the vast majority of us are Christians in name alone. We no longer feel that newness of life; we multiply organisations, but we enkindle no enthusiasm: we posture, and pray, and boast, and babble, and rail at one another, and Christ stands far away; we give a guinea to a missionary society, and think that we have discharged all our responsibilities to the heathen world. Thus our Christianity is smitten with vulgarity; it is commonplace, tamed out of its heroic faith and its splendid passion. If in one single congregation the fire of God burst forth again in every heart as in some of those congregations of the early Christians--yea, if there were but one man here and there capable of a God-like and absolute self-sacrifice--how would such a man flash the vivid thrill of nobleness into ten thousand hearts; how would life move again among the dry bones of the valley of vision! To very few in the long generations is it given to achieve a mighty work like this; but to every one of us it is given to help it forward and to carry it on. Every one of us can at least catch some faint and feeble and twinkling spark from that unemptiable fountain of eternal light. (Archdn. Farrar.)
The new life in the nation and the fatally
1. The prophets were interested not only in their own nation, but in the world around them. Christianity always suffers when it is dwarfed into individualism, or when it is made simply selfishness expanded to infinity. If Christianity was meant to be a new life in the world, it surely ought to exercise a profound influence upon every nation. But can we honestly say that in any lofty sense even those kingdoms which call themselves Christian have become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ?
2. The earliest of the prophets is Amos, and he begins his book by looking at the seven neighbouring nations, each of which he is compelled to condemn, and then turning to his own. The voice of prophecy has long dwindled down into smooth generalities; but suppose one true prophet were living, and were to turn his gaze upon the nations of Europe, would he be content to indulge in the song of “Peace on earth”? Strange peace, when there are in Europe upwards of thirteen millions of men under arms. Look at the relations of European nations. The Kaffir, the Hindu, the Australian, etc., have not the footsteps of our race among them been dyed in blood? Two crimes fling their lurid light over every land. There is the crime of the man stealer, which makes whole regions of Africa red with human blood; and the yet more ruinous crime of selling to the natives a filthy poison christened gin or rum. We, the Pharisees of the world, in the name of Free Trade, are inoculating the world with a virus of a deadly pestilence. It is greed which prevents Germany and England and America from combining at once as righteous and noble nations ought to do, to prevent this decimation of the Dark Continent.
3. If Amos were alive in these days would he not cry, “Thus saith the Lord, For three transgressions of Russia, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof, because her Church is torpid, and her upper classes unbelieving. For three transgressions of Germany, and for four, will I not turn away the punishment thereof, because she has the spirit of militarism, and is grasping and insolent. For three transgressions of France, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof, because, unwarned by the collapse and catastrophe of twenty years ago, she still suffers her sons to flood Europe with filthy literature, and has erased from her statute book the name of God”? Might not such a prophet also proceed to mention the names of Spain, Italy, and Turkey, and after looking around at these nations, what would he say of England? “Thus saith the Lord, For three transgressions of England, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof.” Are not men estimated for what they have far more than for what they are? Are there not spurious goods and lying advertisements? Are there no sweaters’ dens? Is not Christ sold for filthy lucre? Are not thousands ruined by gambling? Are there not in London alone a number equal to the whole population of Norwich of lost, degraded beings? Are there not streets as full as Sodom of youths who have poisoned their own blood and the blood of generations yet to come? Is it no crime that in spite of the warning of fifty years, drink should still continue to be the potent curse which has folded this nation round and round in its serpent coils?
4. Dare we say otherwise than that Christian nations are not walking in newness of life? Let none of you say, “It does not concern me.” It does concern you; and every one of us is guilty and responsible so far as we have suffered Christ in our lives to become nothing but a name, and Christianity in our examples to be dwarfed and dwindled into a sectarian squabble or a paltry form. Look at America sixty years ago. One boy--William Lloyd Garrison--confronts enraged statesmanship, and alone, with the dagger of the assassin flashing every day across his path, proclaimed to the slave States of America the duty of emancipation, and lived to carry the great plan which as a boy he had devised. Look at England fifty years ago--filled with sullen discontent, with starving poor; children in factories were made a holocaust to Mammon; women bent double; half-naked men dragging wagons of coal, like beasts of burden, in wet, black collieries; the streets were alive with ignorance and vices. Then arose Anthony Astley Shaftesbury. We cannot all be great heroes, but we may be humble soldiers in that great army when the Son of God goes forth to war.
5. For is there not one of us who does not belong to some family? And always the cornerstone of the commonwealth is the hearthstone. The chief hope for any country, the chief element for England’s safety, now lies in the purity of her homes. If you can do nothing more, every one of you may perform in your home the high duty of patriotism. If the Spartans were invincible, if the Romans carried into the world their majestic institutions, it was because Spartan and Roman mothers would tolerate no effeminate sons, no lackadaisical daughters. Let us each try so to illustrate the workings of the new life that by thus kindling throughout the length and breadth of England myriads of twinkling points of light there may be one broad glow of Christianity throughout the world. (Archdn. Farrar.)
The new life in the individual
1. As the family is the unit of the nation, so the individual is the unit of the family. We get at the inmost meaning of what the gospel was intended to achieve when we ask, “What should the new life effect for each separate soul?”
2. Look out into the world around you and see, as Ezekiel saw, the torn and wandering flock, sheep without a shepherd, scattered on the dark hills in the dark and cloudy day. Many simply shrug their shoulders at the sight in despair. They say all this curse is irretrievable. Some have nothing but scorn and contempt. Not so Christ. There is nothing irretrievable with God.
3. And how did the Lord of Mercy work? It was not in accordance with the laws of the Divine will to convert the whole world, as it were, by one lightning flash. Such compulsory conversion is no conversion. Christ’s word was, as ours ought to be, largely with the individual. He came to a land full of misery. He saw the blind, the halt, the leper, etc., and He cured the incurable who came to and believed on Him. But far Diviner was the miracle which He wrought upon the souls of all who received Him. The official religionism and ritual and priestliness had wholly failed to touch this mass of sin and misery. But He turned the wretched to his Father in heaven, and shed on the souls of the humble and the penitent the pure eternal ray of His transcendent love. Then each soul, however lost and fallen, revealed the beauty which was in it; and as when one uplifts a torch in a cavern full of gems, and they awaken into million-fold lustre, so at the touch of Christ’s heavenly sympathy each soul flashed back its inward gleam of peculiar light.
4. Herein lies the secret of our regeneration, and of the regeneration of the world. The publicans were hated, and naturally hated, as the greedy jackals of a distasteful oppression. Yet even of these wretches Christ did not despair. One loving word to Zaccheus, and lo! one half of his goods he gives to the poor; one loving word to Matthew, and lo! he springs up an evangelist and an apostle. And so it was with yet more miserable outcasts. The woman that was a sinner, lost to purity, to innocence, to womanhood--yet He suffered her to wash His feet with her tears and to wipe them with the hairs of her head. The dying malefactor, even he repented and heard the gracious words, “This day shalt thou be with Me in paradise.” And, as though to show us that these were not accidental cases, He, the Friend of publicans and sinners, embraced the degradation of all sinners alike in His pearl of parables--the parable of the prodigal son. It was the revelation of God as a loving Father; it was not any weak and beggarly observances, it was not any threats of a bodily hell which made multitudes holy in a world of paganism, where heretofore the very ideal of holiness had been unknown. And herein lies the essential and the irrevocable evidence of Christianity--the changed lives of multitudes of Christian men.
5. But here we come back to the momentous question--Christ has saved a multitude whom no man can number, but are we saved? The work of salvation is, and it must be personal; it must be not only Christ for us, but Christ in us. Alas, multitudes know nothing of personal salvation--because they love their sins better than their Saviour, or out of carelessness, defiance, or despair, and some because of the religiosity which they mistake for religion have been ossified into mere function and routine, and their souls are rotting asleep amid formula and rites; but the vast majority, I think, chiefly because they have not faith to believe that they can be healed and Christ can heal them. You know, many of you, that you are living in a state of sin--sloth, or dishonesty, or hatred, or falsehood, or impurity, or habitual discontent. You do not love your sin; it may be that you loathe it, and yet you have become a slave to it. You are like the leper, who thinks his leprosy is altogether incurable. I bid you shake off this despair; I bid you hope. Fly into the stronghold. You are the slaves of sin; but Christ came to ransom you from sin. You think that you can never be born again when you are old. So did Nicodemus; yet he became a servant of Christ. Christ is mighty to save.
6. He saves in many ways. Sometimes gently and gradually He wins the soul with cords of love; sometimes He rends from the destroyer; sometimes He breaks the hard soul with the blows of affliction; sometimes He makes it soft with the gracious rain of sorrow; but so long as there is one sign of hope He will not break the bruised reed nor quench the smouldering wick. (Archdn. Farrar.)
The new life in religion
1. Can we say Christianity still is a new life? Does it achieve one thousandth part of what it was intended to achieve; and if not, what is the reason? Why has the Church been smitten with the curse of a spiritual sterility? It is one of the sophisms of infidel argument to charge upon Christianity the crimes and faults of men who have acted in flagrant contradiction to its spirit. The representatives of the Church have in many an age condoned vice, leagued with tyranny. But to charge these crimes on Christianity is absurd and false; they are to be charged on anti-Christ. Satan is ten-fold Satan when he dons the cowl or the mitre, and would pass himself off as an angel of light. And a religion may retain the name and the semblance of a religion long after it is dead; and when a religion has lost its life how deep the death! “If the light that is within us is darkness, how great is that darkness!” Christianity was meant to be the salt of the earth, but “if the salt has lost its savour wherewith shall it be salted?” “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire”; but when men have ceased to believe that there is so much as a Holy Ghost, how shall spiritual miracles be wrought?
2. Now, the one peril of all religions is to lose their life, to lose their fire. We talk of false religions, but no religion worthy of the name can be wholly false. The value of religions may sometimes be more easily tested by their results than by their doctrines, by their fire than by their abstract truths. Confucianism, for instance, is now arid and empty enough, and yet Confucius once taught great truths. Buddhism is the religion of masses of the human race, and is rife with error; and yet Buddhism is still kept alive by its great demand for self-conquest and self-sacrifice. Mahomedanism, notwithstanding all its deadly degeneracies, saved Arabia from idolatry, and its demand for abstinence has been to many nations an inestimable boon. Each of these religions has sunk into inanition, because their priests have suffered their votaries to make a mere fetish of their formulae, and to violate their essential life. Judaism stood incomparably above other religions in its Divine origin, but it proved to be no exemption from this law of decay. Is it possible that Christianity could undergo a fate so terrible, and become no better than a phantom? Yes. Many a time has nominal Christendom been tamed out of its splendid passion, and sunk into Pharisaism, and lost its renovating power.
3. Now, when any faith has sunk into this condition, when it has got to rely mainly upon worthless symbols and pompous claims, it is for the time dead. It needs resurrection and a new Pentecost. And the Christian Church has had many such. The work of Benedict, Wycliffe, Huss, Savonarola, and Francis of Assisi, was but a successful rekindling of dead or dying claims. So, too, it was when Luther disinterred the true gospel from the heaped debris of priestly falsehoods. So, too, was it when George Fox made men believe once more in the living power of the Spirit of God with every human soul. So, too, was it when Wesley and Whitefield awoke the full-fed and torpid Church of England. And so it would be now if among the many echoes God would send us one voice--but one man with his soul so electric with the fire of God that he would make us feel that God is face to face with every one of us.
4. The real question to ask about any form of religious belief is, “Does it kindle the fire of love?” Does it make the life stronger, sweeter, more noble? Does it run through society like a cleansing flame? There is no error more fatal than the notion that correct belief or church membership are of any value whatever in comparison with righteousness of life. Just as a living dog is better than a dead lion, so a good heretic or a righteous schismatic may be immeasurably dearer to God and nearer to heaven than is, or can be, a bad Christian.
5. How necessary is it, then, that our religion, which is so Divinely great and true, should not degenerate in our hands into a pompous system or an outward formalism. And yet is there no danger of this? What is the state of things in Christian England, and what is predominantly occupying its attention? You know that of all the fifteen hundred millions now alive only one in three is even yet a nominal Christian; that in Europe at this moment thirty-six millions of men are in arms. You know the vice, the squalor, the misery of these great cities; you know how in this awful city there are tens of thousands of the unemployed, of paupers, of criminals, of drunkards, of prostitutes; and that there are at least two millions and a half who scarcely ever enter any house of God. And when you have gazed long enough on this weltering sea of shame and misery, you turn to the professors of religion and find two hundred and seventy rival sects, and the Church of the nation rent asunder by questions as to who can fail to ask, “Is this the outcome of nineteen centuries of Christianity?” Is it about such questions that the new life is concerned? Is Nero fiddling during the burning of Rome a sadder spectacle?
6. Oh, if Christianity as ever fully to be what it was meant to be, if it is to be something more than a clamour of contending sects and contending parties; if it is to be a new life and a new walk, then it must inspire once more such a sense of eternity, such a sense of the near, immediate presence of God, such a belief in the infinite love of Christ and the power of His resurrection, such a consciousness of the Spirit, as shall restore it once more to its olden glory, and make it adequate to fulfil the vast promise of its Lord, “He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also,” etc. (Archdn. Farrar.)
The present pledge of life to come
1. The argument of the text is that the hope of a new life, like Christ’s, beyond the grave ought to find its justification in a new life here; that on either side of the grave the life of the spirit is the same.
2. It is commonly supposed that the fact of immortality can only be established by some external evidence such as the resurrection of Christ; but the text refers us to the ultimate proof both of that and of the resurrection of all in whom a life like Christ’s dwells. And here the eyewitnesses of Christ’s resurrection have no advantage over us, and the unlearned man is on a level with the critic.
3. The peculiarity of man is the blending in him of two kinds of life. There is, first, that the lower animals possess; but in this there is for man no more than the lowest animals. It seeks nothing, sees nothing, and says there is nothing beyond. One who has not first come to the truth of immortality in a higher line of thought can never discover it by any process of physiological explanation. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.” From things that are merely temporal we can never attain to certainty of things eternal. The life of flesh and blood has here all its satisfactions, its goal and end. It is as perishable as the things on which it feeds.
4. But on the stock of this animal life is manifest a bud prophetic of an unfolding which is independent of the material world. What the apostle calls “newness of life” is not merely new, but radically distinct from all other life, and unfolds itself in an opposite way. Search its annals, and you will find them luminous with the names of those who, for the sake of living in a world of higher satisfaction, refused to live in a world of inferior content. From the Good Shepherd giving His life for the sheep to the martyr of Erromanga perishing in his mission to cannibals, we see a moral life developing in a way diametrically opposite to the animal life, declaring itself independent of the material things that are sought by a life which is for this world alone.
5. Will this life, then, survive? The answer must come from the life itself. Life is a conclusive witness to the nature of life, as Jesus said, “Though I bear record of Myself, yet My record is true, for I know whence I came, and whither I go.” We accept the witness which the animal life bears to its perishable nature, when we see it shrink instinctively from death as its destruction. We must equally accept the witness of the moral life to its imperishable nature, when we see it instinctively welcome death as its deliverer. What is it, then, that we see in the multitude who in the spirit of Christ have turned their backs on a transitory world in preference for that which they seek as eternal? Evidently a mighty, vital force overmastering the imperious dictates of a lower life. Now is this a delusion, a dream? Look at this newness of life, walking down the ages with the torch of truth and the gifts of love; look at the transcendent inspirations by which it transforms brutish into Christly natures! See now what would follow on the hypothesis of its termination at death, viz., that the self-preserving instinct of the lower life of selfish appetite is trustworthy, but that the self-preserving instinct of the moral life catches at a shadow; that the highest and holiest aspirations of Jesus, and of all who, like Jesus, have sought a higher world through the sacrifice of a lower, have only been a deceitful lure to an utter loss.
6. Our own personal certitude of immortality depends on the development which we give to this newness of life in ourselves. Long ago was this pointed out in Cicero’s remark that the presage of a future life takes the deepest root in the most exalted souls. To one, therefore, who seeks to be convinced of his immortality, I would say not “Hear or read this,” but “Be this.” He who lacks a working belief of his immortality cannot borrow it, but must cultivate it by creating the moral soil in which it grows. The actual resurrection of Christ is something, but that newness of life which is the earnest of the inheritance is better. But let the old life get uppermost, with its selfish desires and gratifications, and the inward witness which the new life bears to an eternal hope will grow faint and mute (Romans 8:13). (J. M. Whiton, Ph. D.)
Newness of life
“I understand,” said this chief to a congregation which he was called to address at Plymouth, in the year 1837, that many of you are disappointed because I have not brought my Indian dress with me. Perhaps if I had it on you would be afraid of me. Do you wish to know how I dressed when I was a pagan Indian? I will tell you. My face was covered with red paint, I stuck feathers in my hair, I wore a blanket and leggings, I had silver ornaments on my breast, a rifle on my shoulder, a tomahawk and scalping knife in my belt. That was my dress then. Now, do you wish to know why I wear it no longer? You will find the cause in 2 Corinthians 5:7, ‘Therefore, if any man,’ etc. When I became a Christian, feathers and paint were done away; I gave my silver ornaments to the mission cause; scalping knife done away, tomahawk done away--that my tomahawk now,” said he, holding up at the same time a copy of the Ten Commandments, in his native language. “Blanket done away. Behold!” he exclaimed, in a manner in which simplicity and dignity of character were combined, “Behold! all things are become new.”
For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death.
Planted together with Christ
The idea is not of two or three plants all put into the same ground, though that would to a certain extent express blessedness--to be near Him is blessed, to have walked the same earth is blessed, to have a similar nature is blessed; but the meaning here is far deeper. The idea is of one plant with various branches (John 15:1). The root is Christ; we, the branches, are grafted in by believing. The plant out of the dry ground had no form nor comeliness; He came down and emptied Himself of His glory, and went down into death that we might be planted in the same ground and in the same grave. You see the same thing in your gardens; the plant put down into the ground, no appearance of life, no buds, no fruit there: yet if it were not put into the ground there would never be buds or fruit. So, “except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit.” Here we have the planting of the Tree of Life, which, springing up in the Resurrection, “bears twelve manner of fruits, and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” We are planted in union with Him, in the likeness of His death; but when the spring comes, and the light, and dawn of God operate upon the plant, we know what the consequences are; it puts forth buds, and leaves, and fruit. And what a beautiful thing it is! The branches of the tree whose root was planted in winter, are the very branches which contain its fragrance and beauty in the summer time. It was winter time with Jesus when He was put down into the ground; but springtime and summer are coming, when the Tree of Life shall put forth its fruit, and we shall be in the likeness of His resurrection; even God Himself shall delight to rest under that shade, and eat His pleasant fruit. (M. Rainsford, B. A.)
A short time ago a gentleman was preaching in the open air; his subject was growth in grace. At the close of the meeting a man approached him and said, “Our minister has been preaching some excellent sermons on that subject, and I have been trying to grow in grace this long time, but I find I never can succeed.” The preacher, pointing to a tree, said, “Do you see that tree?” “Yes,” was the wondering reply. “Well, it had to be planted before it could grow. In like manner you must be rooted and grounded in Christ before you can begin to grow.” The man understood his meaning, and went away to find Christ; and soon he was rooted in Christ, and brought forth fruit to His praise.
Improving the root of virtue
I will mention a very striking illustration of the difference between men’s striving to improve one or another individual good quality, and the improving the common root of all of them, and thereby improving them all at once. The former is the way in which a human artificer works--a statuary, for instance, sometimes making a finger, sometimes a leg, and so on--while the latter, the workmanship of the Divine Artificer, is like the growth of a plant or a tree, in which all the various parts are swelling out and increasing, or, as we term it, growing at the same time. (William Wilberforce.)
The likeness of Christ’s resurrection
1. The resurrection of our Lord Jesus is apt to be considered mainly as a proof of the truth of the Christian faith, or in the light of the guidance, the support, the comfort it affords in our thoughts about the dead. But the apostle would have us consider it as the mould, the type, the model of our life and character. “The likeness of His resurrection.” How can we be anything like so preternatural an event?
2. Now, one answer may be, that at the general resurrection the bodies of Christians will rise just as Christ rose. This is undoubtedly true, but Paul is not here thinking of that. He is thinking of the soul and character, and he says that this resurrection is to be modelled on that of our Lord. The true Christian here is crucified with Christ; is buried with Christ; and rises with Christ. Call this mysticism if you will; it bears two certificates on its front--the certificate of apostolic authority and of Christian experience. St. Paul will have it that a Christian must die, be crucified with Christ, That mass of undisciplined desires and passions which is the governing body in the life of man in a state of nature, and which the apostle calls “the body of sin,” must not do what it would--its hands must be nailed to a cross; it must not go whither it would--its feet must be nailed to a cross; it must linger on that cross to which the Divine Will would fain attach it until it dies; and then it must be buried out of sight so as to have no further contact with the world in which it lived and worked its evil will in the days gone by.
3. Now, this death to sin must not be a fainting fit or a swoon. Jesus really died upon the Cross, and St. Paul insisted on a real death to sin in the convert to Christianity. The points of likeness between a true Christian’s life and the life of our risen Lord relate--
I. To the past.
1. Each has experienced a resurrection, and if the likeness be a true one, in each case the resurrection is real. When our Lord rose He took leave of death for good and all. “Christ, being raised from the dead, dieth no more,” etc. And a Christian life which is planted in the likeness of Christ’s resurrection, will resemble it in its freedom from relapses into the realm of death. Sin is the tomb of the soul, and if we have risen, let us be sure that we do not return into it. “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God.”
2. Not that St. Paul would have us believe that a baptized or a converted man cannot sin if he would. He knows nothing of any theory of indefectible grace. There is no absolute impossibility in the relapse of a regenerate Christian into spiritual death, but there should be the highest moral probability against anything of the kind. The strength which has been given the Christian warrants him in reckoning himself “dead indeed unto sin,” although he still may be “overtaken in a fault.”
3. Now, what is the case with a largo number of Christians nowadays? So far are some of us from dying no more, that we might almost seem to sink down into the tomb at regular intervals.
4. One predisposing cause of this is the empire of habit. Habit is a chain which attaches us with subtle power to the past, whether that past be good or evil. It is linked on to the action of the understanding, the affections, and the will. It was meant by our Creator to be a support of the life of grace; but when the soul has been enchained by sin habit is enlisted in the service of sin, and promotes a return to the grave of sin, even after the soul’s resurrection to the life of grace.
5. And do we not too often invite the reappearance of old habits by haunting the tombs from which we have risen, by playing with the apparatus of death, by visits to old haunts, by reading old books, by encouraging old imaginations that are fatally linked to the debasement of the past? “How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein?” Surely we cannot dally with the ancient enemy, we cannot risk the reassertion of that power of habit of which we had broken the chains, we cannot forget that at our moral resurrection the whole power of habit was to be transferred to the account of the life of grace.
II. To the present.
1. The greater part of our Lord’s resurrection life was hidden from the eyes of men.
2. Another note of our Lord’s risen life was that when He did appear to His apostles He had a lesson to teach, a warning or a blessing to convey, as the reason for each separate act of contact with those around Him. Consider the account of His interviews; each does a separate work which had to be done, and does it with a point and a thoroughness which we cannot mistake. And here must we not admit that we modern Christians are unlike Him? Our life too often resembles those story books whose aim is to excite continuous amusement in the reader, and yet not to have any discoverable moral whatever attached to them. We shrink from speaking the word in season; we shrink from giving a reason for the hope that is within us. Can we wholly escape responsibility for the consequences of our silence, for the moral downward career, for the darkened or dying faith of those with whom we may have been brought into contact? “You may have forgotten an interview which we had,” so said a stranger to an older friend, “twenty years ago. At the time I did not thank you for what you said; I was angry with you; but I must tell you now that under God I owe you my soul.”
III. To the future. Our Lord’s risen life was passed in anticipation of the event which was close to it--forgetting the sepulchre which was behind, and reaching forward to the ascension which was before. And so it should be with us. Here we have no continuing city; we seek one to come; we look not for the things that are seen and temporal, but for the things that are not seen and eternal, Earthly greatness, as a rule, ends with the grave; the greatness of Jesus on earth begins with it. Why should it not be so in the life of the spirit? We should have done with the tomb of sin for good and all. When this new life is planted in the soul old things indeed have passed away; behold all things have become new! (Canon Liddon.)
Assimilation through faith
1. The text is an effort to convey by a curious and vigorous figure the close spiritual assimilation which faith produces between the Christian and Christ. What St. Paul says literally is, that believers have “grown together into one” with Christ, so as to become of like nature with Him in the matter of His death.
2. But how can any inward change, passing in the mind of a man today, be said to bear a likeness to what happened when Christ bare our sin? Easily enough. Consider the moral significance of Christ’s death for sin. Was it not, to begin with, the first full recognition ever made on this earth of the guilt of sin, and of the integrity of the law? The Son, being of one mind with the Father, owned that sin was hateful, and the Divine law holy, and its sentence just. Now, whenever I with my whole heart accept of that death as reconciling me to God by satisfying His law on my behalf, do I not enter into sympathy with God’s point of view, just as His own Son did? Can we call such an experience anything but spiritual incorporation into the likeness of Christ’s death? The man who has got such a view of his own sin does in a very real sense die in his heart to sin. Seek to know the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings; become conformed to His death; then the old evil self must die within the bosom, killed by the Cross that killed our Saviour.
3. If faith in the Cross of Christ prove thus effectual to cut the nerve of a sinful life, surely we shall also “grow together with Him in the likeness of His resurrection.” The very object for which Christ and our old sinful self died, is that the believer, once set free from sin, should be point by point conformed to the likeness of the risen Jesus. It may appear to some as though this thing which we call faith were too feeble or uncertain for a work so great. What! may one say, shall a man reverse his tastes, break his habits, and change his life into the likeness of One so unlike him as Jesus Christ, merely because he puts faith in Christ to save him? What is there in this “faith” to work so astounding a revolution?
4. The answer to that, in part at least, is tiffs: that we have really no deeper or more powerful agent for working any such change than just this same faith. It combines the strongest motives and most sustaining elements in character; such as confidence, loyalty, affection, reverence, authority, and moral attractiveness. You constantly find that large bodies of men, parties in the State, armies in the field, schools of opinion, whole nations even at critical moments, are swayed simply by the transcendent influence of one outstanding trusted leader. Still more absorbing is the influence which an individual may acquire over one other soul that entirely believes in him. Take a single element in “faith”--the mere persuasion of one man that another is able and willing to aid him in his enterprises. Let it be a fixed idea with a poor individual that some influential friend will back him up in his business, and that in such backing lies his best chance of success. What is there he will not do rather than forfeit assistance from that quarter on which all his hopes are built? Add to such a selfish expectation of help the far deeper bond of personal reverence or of proud admiring love. Let the relation become like that of some tried and faithful lieutenant to a gallant leader, or like that of a maiden to the lover whom she both believes in and dents upon. Can bounds be set to the power of faith like theirs? Let the object of such devotion be really noble and wise, who shall say how far baseness and selfishness may be burnt out of the heart that cleaves to the idol it has chosen for itself? Let that idol be itself erring or misguided, who will wonder if the soul that worships it be dragged down the same devious and unhappy path to share the same fall? If to all this you could add in a rare instance some overwhelming obligation of a strictly moral kind, like a bond of gratitude deep as life for a benefit never to be forgotten, or a claim of supreme authority no less sacred than a father’s, more subduing than a king’s--who does not see that in such a faith as that you would have the mightiest of all forces within human experience?
5. This is our faith in Christ--this, but beyond analogy greater and more masterful, because human parallels are infinitely too weak to express it. The Christian trusts in Jesus, but not as a man trusts in his fellow’s support, for our Saviour is the mighty God. The Christian is tied to Jesus with a heart devotion based on reverence and warming into love; but not as women cling to their lovers, or partisans to their hero-chieftain, for our Saviour commands a reverence which is worship, and wins an affection which is supreme. The Christian owes to Jesus obedience for the service He has rendered, and for the right He possesses to command; but not under such limitations as always environ human authorities, even the highest, since our Saviour is Lord of the conscience as well as of the heart, and His moral mastery is absolute, as His judgment shall be final. Does it seem, then, any longer a thing futile or unreasonable to say, that through such faith as that a man may come to grow together into one with the Divine Object of his devotion, until the man’s life is penetrated with Christ’s spirit and conformed in everything to His matchless likeness?
6. Still, the tie which links a believer to His Saviour offers points of contrast quite as striking. Men do get assimilated no doubt to the objects of their earthly devotion. Still no union wrought by any such faith on earth can adequately represent the unique life junction which, through a special act of God’s Holy Spirit, makes these twain one--the living Head of God’s new family and each lowly, trusting sinner who cleaves to Jesus as his spiritual life. For one thing, the union of a believing soul to Jesus has its roots in a certain mysterious oneness which God’s gracious will has established between the heirs of salvation and their new representative and Second Adam, the Lord from heaven. For another thing, this relationship involves not a portion only of the man’s experience, not some transient, or secular, or subordinate interest, but the believer’s very self--his true and deepest being. It is the old man which is crucified with Christ, that moral personality which has hitherto been the very centre and source of all my words and actions. The believer’s very self hangs thenceforward on Christ’s self. His spiritual being is new made, for it is informed by another Spirit as its inspiring and ruling influence, even by the Holy Spirit whom Jesus gives. Such a change as this is effected, indeed, by faith. But such faith comes of the operation of God. When the old man dies and the new man lives in a human being there is an evident re-birth; and for that we must postulate an immediate operation of the Divine Giver of life. (J. Oswald Dykes, D. D.)
Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him.
The old man
Why is original sin called the “old man”? Because--
I. It is derived from the eldest or first Adam.
II. It is first in everyone (1 Corinthians 15:46).
III. It is to be done away (Hebrews 8:13; 2 Corinthians 5:17).
IV. Of its cunning and craft.
As old men, by reason of their abundant experience, are more wise and subtle than others; this “old man” is cunning to deceive. Oh, what excuses does it bring for sin, what pretences! It hath much of Adam; but it hath somewhat of the wise and old serpent too, for it was begot betwixt them both. Conclusion: Observe that when the apostle calls original sin “our old man,” he distinguishes it from ourselves. It is ours, too, nearly cleaving to us; but it is not ourselves. Whence we must learn to put a difference betwixt the corruption of nature, and nature itself. Man’s nature is from God; but the corruption of man’s nature is from himself. (P. Vinke, B. D.)
The crucifixion of the old man
I. The old man.
1. Old as Adam, in nature, habit, spirit.
2. His features.
3. His vigour.
II. His crucifixion.
1. Effected with Christ.
2. The process.
III. The necessity of it.
1. That the body of sin may be destroyed.
2. That we may be emancipated from its service. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
The old man crucified
1. Every new man is two men; he is what he was and not what he was: the old nature and the new exist in each regenerate individual. That old nature the apostle calls a man, because it is a complete manhood after the image of fallen Adam. He calls it the “old man,” because it is as old as Eden’s first transgression.
2. Every Christian has a new nature which was implanted in him through the Spirit’s working. That new nature utterly hates and loathes evil; so that finding itself brought into contact with the old nature, it cries, “O wretched man that I am,” etc.
3. Hence a warfare is set up within the believer’s bosom; the new life struggles against the old death, as the house of David against the house of Saul, or as Israel against the Canaanites. Neither nature can make peace with the other. Either the earthy water must quench the heavenly fire, or the Divine fire, like that which Elijah saw, must lick up all the water in the trenches of the heart. It is war to the knife, exterminating war.
I. The old man is to die in the likeness of Christ’s death by crucifixion. Our Lord died--
1. A true and real death. The Roman officer would not have given up the body if he had not made sure that He was dead, and made assurance doubly sure by piercing our Lord’s side. There was no make believe; it was no phantom which bled, and the death was no syncope or swoon. Even thus it must be with our old propensities; they must not be mewed up by temporary austerities, or laid in a trance by fleeting reveries, or ostentatiously buried alive by religious resolves and professions; they must actually die. Sometimes persons who are really alive appear as dead, because death reigns over a part of their bodies; their hands are powerless, their eyes closed, every member palsied; yet they are not dead. So have I known some that have given up a part of their sins. But no man shall enter heaven while one propensity to sin lies in him, for heaven admits nothing that pollutes. “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” Sin must be slain.
2. A voluntary death. Christ said, “I lay down My life for the sheep … no man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.” Jesus need not have died. Such must be the death of sin within us. Some men part with their sins with the intention of coming back again to them if they can; like Lot’s wife they set out to leave Sodom, but their eyes show where their hearts would be. They fight sin as stage-players; it is mimic conflict, they do not hate sin in reality. Ah! but we must have our whole hearts burning with an intensity of desire to get rid of our sins; and such we shall feel if there be a work of grace in our soul. The execution of sin, then, must be undertaken with a willing mind.
3. A violent death. By wicked men Christ was taken, and by violent hands put to death. Sin struggles awfully in the best of men, especially besetting and constitutional sins. One man is proud, and what prayers and tears it costs him to bring the neck of old pride to the block! Another man is grasping, and how he has to lament because his gold will corrode within his soul Some are of a murmuring spirit, and to conquer a spirit of contention is no easy task. Yet, cost us what it may, these sins must die. Violent may be the death and stern the struggle, but we must nail that right hand, ay, and drive home the nail.
4. A painful death. The suffering of crucifixion was extreme. So the death of sin is painful in all, and in some terribly so. Read Bunyan’s “Grace Abounding,” and see how year after year that wonderful mind of his had red-hot harrows dragged across all its fields. Some are brought unto salvation much more easily, but even they find that the death of sin is painful.
5. An ignominious death. It was the death which the Roman law accorded only to felons, serfs, and Jews. So our sins must be put to death with every circumstance of self-humiliation. I am shocked with some people who glibly rehearse their past lives up to the time of their supposed conversion, and talk of their sins which they hope have been forgiven them, with a sort of smack of the lips, as if there was something fine in having been so atrocious an offender. If you ever do tell anybody about your wrong-doing, let it be with shame and confusion of face. Never let the devil pat you on the back and say, “You did me a good turn in those days.” “The old man is crucified with him.” Who boasts of being related to a crucified felon?
6. A lingering death. A man crucified often lived for days, and even for a week. Our old man will linger on his cross. Each one of our sins has a horrible vitality about it. Expect to have to fight with sin, till you sheathe your sword and put on your crown.
7. A visible death. If there is no visible difference between you and the world, depend upon it there is no invisible difference. If a man’s outward life is not right, I shall not feel bound to believe that his inward life is acceptable to God. “Ah, sir,” said one in Rowland Hill’s time, “he is not exactly what I should like, but he has a good heart at bottom.” The shrewd old preacher replied, “When you go to market and buy fruit, and there are none but rotten apples on the top of the basket, you say to the market woman, ‘These are a very bad lot.’”
II. This crucifixion is with Christ. There is no death for sin except in the death of Christ. Your killing of your sin is not in your power. If yon go to the commandments of God, or to the fear and dread of hell, you will find such motives as they suggest to be as powerless in you for real action as they have proved themselves to be on the general world. You must get to Christ, nearer to Christ, and you will overcome sin. Conclusion:
1. Fight with your sins. Hack them in pieces, as Samuel did Agag, let not one of them escape. Revenge the death of Christ upon your sins, but keep to Christ’s Cross for power to do it.
2. If you will not have death unto sin, you shall have sin unto death. There is no alternative, if you do not die to sin you shall die for sin; and if you do not slay sin, sin will slay you. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The old man crucified
I. what does the apostle mean by our old man? Simply our natural self, with all its principles and motives, its outgoings, actions, corruptions, and belongings; not as God made it, but as sin, and Satan, and self have marred it. The old Adam never changes; no medicine can heal the disease, no ointment can mollify the corruption; it can only be got rid of by death. In Psalms 14:1-3 we have God’s view of our sad ease. In chap. 3. the apostle quotes this passage to prove the universal depravity of human nature, and the necessity for the gospel which it was his privilege to proclaim.
II. What does it means to be “crucified with Him”?
1. This expression implies that we have suffered in Christ--
2. See, then, the importance of the statement “crucified with Christ.” It is--
III. The object of this crucifixion. “The body of sin” is another form of expression for the “old man.” It is not the human nature defiled by sin, nor the human body burdened by sin, that is to be destroyed (Philippians 3:21), but it is the sin that defiled and possessed it. Because sin has so poisoned the whole body, it is called the body of sin. The word “destroyed” is the strongest possible. It is the same as that used in 1 Corinthians 15:26, and translated “bring to nought” (1 Corinthians 1:28), “put down” (1 Corinthians 15:24), “abolished” (2 Timothy 1:10), “made of none effect” (Galatians 3:17), “done away” (2 Corinthians 3:14).
IV. Its effect--“that henceforth we should not serve sin,” or “be slaves to sin.” How can we be slaves to a thing that is extinct? to a power that is abolished? to a principle that is set at nought, made nothing of, put down? See, then, what inconsistent and infatuated creatures we are when we minister in anywise to sin. (M. Rainsford, B. A.)
The two-fold function of personal Christianity
I. Its crucifying function. It crucifies--
1. Not any of his nature’s faculties or sensibilities. It energises, refines, and develops these.
2. Not any of the ties of his moral obligations. On the contrary, it gives a stronger revelation of duty, and mightier motives to obey. Christianity crucifies the corrupt character, called “the old man,” not because it is the original character of humanity, which was holy, but because it is the first character of individual men. This crucifixion is--
II. Its resurrection function. “We shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection.” The spiritual life of a Christian is--
1. A revived life. It was not a new life that Jesus had when He came forth from His grave:--it was the old revived. The spiritual life of a Christian is that life of supreme love to God which Adam had, which belongs to our nature, but which sin has destroyed, and buried under evil passions and corrupt habits.
2. A Divinely produced life. “None but God can raise the dead,” etc.
3. An interminable life. “I am He that liveth,” said Christ, “and was dead, and am alive for evermore.” Once the true spiritual life of the soul is raised from its grave, it will die no more. It is an “everlasting life.”
4. A glorious life. How glorious was the resurrection body of Christ (Revelation 1:13-18). “We shall be like Him,” etc. The subject teaches us--
1. The value of evangelical religion: which is to destroy in man the bad, and the bad only, and to revive the good.
2. The test of evangelical religion, which is dying unto sin, and living unto holiness. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
That the body of sin might be destroyed.--
The body of sin weakened
The whole body of sin, indeed, is weakened in every believer, and a deadly wound given by the grace of God to his corrupt nature; yet, as a dying tree may bear some fruit, though not so much, nor that so full and ripe, as before; and as a dying man may move his limbs, though not so strongly as when he was in health, so original corruption in a saint will be stirring, though but feebly; and thou hast no cause to be discouraged because it stirs, but to be comforted that it can but stir.
The body of sin
Sin, in Scripture, in called “a body,” because made up of several members; or as the body of an army, consisting of many troops and regiments. It is one thing to beat a troop, or put a wing of an army to flight, and another thing to rout and break the whole army. Something hath been done by moral principles, like the former; they have got some petty victory, and had the chase of some gross and external sins; but then they were fearfully beaten by some other of sin’s troops. As the sea, which loses as much in one part of the land as it gains in another; so what they got in a seeming victory over one sin, they lost again by being in bondage to another, and that a worse, because more spiritual. But faith is uniform, and routs the whole body of sin, so that not one single lust stands in its unbroken strength (verse 14). (W. Gurnall.)
The body of sin
Original corruption is a body of sin.
1. In that a body though it seems never so beautiful and fair, yet it is in itself but made of base matter, so sin, though it may seem specious and alluring, yet it is but an abomination.
2. As a body, being material, is visible; so original sin discovers itself to everyone that without prejudice will look to find it. It is discernible in its effects daily.
3. As the body hath divers members, so sin.
4. As a body is beloved and provided for, so is sin (Romans 13:12). Who would willingly part with the least member of his body? But if something of this body must be parted with, it is but hair and nails. And thus, till that day in which God puts forth His almighty power to make us willing, we are loath to leave any sin.
5. Sin, as a body, hath strength in it, and tyranny is exercised by it.
6. It is called here especially “a body” by the apostle, to answer to the metaphor of “crucifying.” Only bodies can be crucified, and this sin is “crucified with Christ.” (P. Vinke, B. D.)
Destruction of the body of sin
Five persons were studying what were the best means to mortify sin. One said, to meditate on death; the second, to meditate on judgment; the third, to meditate on the torments of hell; the fourth, to meditate on the joys of heaven; the fifth, to meditate on the blood and sufferings of Christ: and certainly the last is the choicest and strongest motive of all. If ever we would cast off our despairing thoughts, we must dwell much upon and apply this precious blood to our own souls. (S. Brooks.)
Destruction of the body of sin
Destroyed, not merely subdued, but annihilated--stripped of its dominion, deprived of its life, annulled as to authority and energy, and finally as to existence. Our sinful nature not to be improved but destroyed. Its place to be taken by a holy and Divine nature. As the old man dies the new man lives. Either grace must destroy sin or sin the soul. Four things observed in the destruction of the body of sin.
I. The meritorious cause. The crucifixion of Christ.
II. The efficient cause. The Holy Spirit (Romans 8:13).
III. The instrumental cause. The gospel of God’s grace (1 Peter 1:22).
IV. The more. The infusion of new principles and affections (Galatians 5:16; 2 Corinthians 5:14). (T. Robinson, D. D.)
That henceforth we should not serve sin.--
The Christian should not serve sin
I. It has cost him enough already. Sin never yields--
1. Real pleasure.
2. Solid satisfaction.
II. It is contrary to the designs of eternal love.
III. Its punishment is very great. It--
1. Destroys peace of mind.
2. Obscures fellowship with Jesus.
3. Hinders prayer.
4. Brings darkness over the soul.
IV. It crucifies the Lord afresh and puts him to an open shame. Can you bear that thought? (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Slaves to sin
When the morning sun is bright, and the summer breezes are gently blowing from the shore, the little riverboat is enticed from the harbour to start on her trip of pleasure on the clear, calm sea. All Nature seems to enlist in her service. The fair wind fills her sails, the favourable tide rolls onward in her course, the parted sea makes way for her to glide swiftly and merrily on her happy voyage; but having thus been her servants, and carried her whither she would, these soon become her masters, and carry her whither she would not. The breeze that swelled her sails has become a storm, and rends them; the waves that quietly rippled for her pleasure now rise in fury, and dash over her for her destruction; and the vessel, which rode in the morning as a queen upon the waters, sinks before night comes on, the slave of those very winds and waves which had beguiled her to use them as her servants. So it is with sin. (Canon Morse.)
For he that is dead is freed from sin.--
Freed from sin
To arrive at the meaning of these words, we must consider that law regards all punishment in the light of satisfaction. By a crime, the law has been aggrieved; and by the punishment, the law is satisfied. When, therefore, the guilty person has undergone sentence, the law has no further claim upon that man.
I. Christ died and underwent the extreme punishment of the law.
1. He was the One, only, sinless being that ever walked the earth. But He “was made sin.” The sins of the world gathered upon that spotless One, and He was treated as if He was one concentrated essence of sin.
2. When He died, it was death indeed. No other death was like that.
3. But the death passed, and it could never be repeated. It was not compatible with the justice of God that Jesus should die again.
II. See how this bears upon ourselves.
1. It is God’s plan always to deal with man as seen in some federal head. The whole of our race fell in the first Adam, and became involved in his condemnation. Is it arbitrary? See the balance. Christ came to be a federal Head. As the natural members of our body gather up into the natural head, so spiritual believers gather up into Christ.
2. Observe the consequence of this representative system. As soon as ever you are really united to the Lord Jesus Christ, you have died in your covenant Head. There was a sentence of death against you which must be executed--but in Christ you have undergone it. What is the result? You can never be required to pay the forfeit which has been paid, or to die the death which has been died--it is done in Christ, and you are dead--and “he that is dead is freed from sin.” And as impossible as it would be that God should take His risen Son, and nail Him to that Cross again, so impossible is it that God should ever demand satisfaction at your hand for any of those sins, which being once laid on Christ, have already received satisfaction in the death of your Redeemer.
3. This was the only conceivable way in which it was possible that any man should be “freed from sin.” God’s government of this world is a moral government, and it is essential to moral government that every sin should have its retribution. Therefore, God laid it down at the first, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” But He vindicated His truth, and upheld the law, when, gathering the sins of all, and laying them upon one great Substitute, He crucified all in One, saw all dead that He might acknowledge all alive--and simply carried out the one grand principle, “He that is dead is freed from sin.”
4. Look at the condition of a man who is “freed from sin.” Had sin never entered into our world--or, having entered, had it been simply forgiven by a word--we should have been, I suppose, just as Adam was. We should have lived in a beautiful garden, where we should have eaten sweet fruit, and done gentle labour, and at times we should have enjoyed the presence of God, and had some measure of communion with Him. Conclusion: It is a certain fact that no other process, except the grace of Christ--no fear of punishment, no hope of reward, no self-respect, no consideration for human affection, have ever proved sufficient in this world to make men really good. But let a man be once brought under a real feeling that through the grace of Christ he is free from condemnation--let him begin to look at that Saviour as his own Friend, and live, day by day, in converse with that love, and contemplation of that example, and we know what is the consequence. We know how the mind of Christ enters into that man’s spirit, and how the pattern of Christ becomes reflected upon his conduct. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Dead with Christ
What is it to be dead? We all know what it is to turn away from the grave side, in which we have laid to its last rest the cold body of a friend. All is done and over now. Something has been in the world which will never be again. A story, a presence with its good and evil, with its joys and sorrows is wiped out. Everything is ended. The great silence closes over it, as the waters close over a sunken ship, and leaves no sign. It is all dead and over! We have said the last word; we have taken the last look. Now, let it go! Come away! Leave it to lie hidden! For you must go your way without it. That is death, and we are dead if we are in Christ. We have buried our old manhood. That old natural self of ours--the man in us that is born and lives its little day and dies--the self, as is by human laws, as a creature of this earth--that is with us no longer. It has had its day. It has done its business. We have wrapped it in its white shroud. We have carried it out to its burial; down in the dark grave we have laid it; it is buried, with Christ’s burial. All that old past, so onerous, so tangled, so burdened, so sick--it is all gone and over, as completely as a life that is dead. Never, never can it be again, The blood of Christ’s death lies between us and it; and it cannot touch us. Its sorrows, its sins, are remote and alien, as the voice of a torrent that we have crossed in the night, whose dull and smothered roar comes to our ears only in faint gusts of wind. The old is dead and buried. (H. S. Holland.)
Freedom from sin
The original means justified or acquitted from sin--absolution from its guilt and merited penalty. Law has received its rightful claim in the Person of the Surety. Freed from sin’s penalty, we are also freed from its power. We are dead to sin, because in Christ we have died for sin. Consequently we are also freed from its practice (Job 3:19; Romans 7:24; 1 John 3:6-9). (T. Robinson, D. D.)
Now if we be dead with Christ … we shall also live with Him.
Death and life with Christ
To be dead with Christ is to hate and turn from sin; and to live with Him is to have our hearts and minds turned towards God and heaven. To be dead with sin is to feel a disgust at it. We know what is meant by disgust. Take the case of a sick man, when food of a certain kind is presented to him; consider how certain scents, or tastes, affect certain persons, and you will be at no loss to determine what is meant by disgust at, or deadness to, sin. On the other hand, consider how pleasant a meal is to the hungry, or some enlivening odour to the faint; how refreshing the air is to the languid, or the brook to the weary and thirsty; and you will understand what is implied ill being alive with Christ. Our animal powers cannot exist in all atmospheres; certain airs are poisonous, others life giving. So is it with spirits and souls: an unrenewed spirit could not live in heaven, he would die; an angel could not live in hell. The natural man cannot live in heavenly company, and the angelic soul would pine and waste away in the company of sinners, unless God’s presence were continued to it. To be dead to sin is to be so minded that the atmosphere of sin oppresses, distresses, and stifles us--that it is painful and unnatural to us to remain in it. To be alive with Christ is to be so minded that the atmosphere of heaven refreshes, enlivens, stimulates, invigorates us. To be alive is not merely to bear the thought of religion, to assent to its truth, to wish to be religious; but to be drawn towards it, to love it, to delight in it, to obey it. (J. H. Newman, D. D.)
Death and life with Christ
“Skin for skin,” said Satan, “all that a man hath will he give for his life.” He was wrong, however, as the event proved. There is one thing a man will not give for his life if he has got it; and that is, the favour of God. And vet let us do justice to the maxim, for there is great truth in it: What is life? “In Thy favour is life”; so that if a man holds this favour at all costs--if he will be content to part with anything and everything in the universe before he will part with God’s favour, it is but carrying out Satan’s maxim thoroughly. My text develops to us the great secret of life.
I. “If we be dead with Christ.” It does not say, if we are dead in Christ; but dead with Christ. It is not a case of conformity, but of identity; not of imitation, but of participation. But the question is, In what sense did Christ die, or to what purpose? “He died unto sin.” Now, when you say that we die unto sin, and that Christ died unto sin, do you mean the same thing? In the common way of expression, when a man says that a Christian dies unto sin, he means that he dies unto its influence. Now, sin never had any influence over Christ, and therefore how could He die unto sin in that sense? What did Christ die unto?
1. He died under the condemnation of sin. “The Lord laid upon Him the iniquity of us all.” He died “under the law,” met its demands, bore its penalty; then what followed? The condemnation was completely averted. But if that is true you must adopt that interpretation exclusively in regard to ourselves, i.e., we die unto the condemnation of sin. “Therefore there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ.” That is a blessed truth; and does not the whole history of Christian experience depend upon the recognition of it? All the experience of sorrow and suffering, of bondage and of a servile spirit, result from not entering into that truth. You cannot have a stronger term than the word death.
2. Prior to Christ’s dying to sin He died under the condemnation of sin. The law did its full work upon Him; He was never emancipated from its condemnation until He thoroughly realised it. The believer experimentally passes through something of that kind before he dies with Christ to the condemnation of sin. Who ever comes to Christ to escape condemnation, but the man over whom that condemnation is pressing? Here is the great distinction between real and nominal conversion. One man has gone through a process of self-condemnation, and the other has not. The one man apprehends the value of salvation; the other does not. The one man has learnt the curse of sin; the other has not. Death is the necessary consequence of sin. If I sin, it must somehow or other pass on me. I must die, or I must be connected with One who has died. In some way or other God’s righteous sentence must be executed.
II. “We shall also live with him.” As sure as life followed in Christ’s case, so surely will it follow in our case. The life spoken of in the text is the resurrection life; it is the life that follows death. Mark, concerning that life, that it is--
1. An endless life. He died unto sin once. Death hath no more dominion over Him: He dieth no more. Then there is no more death to you. We have done with death if we are believers. “If a man believe on Me, he hath eternal life, and he shall never die.” “He is passed from death unto life.” You may say, “There go the mourners in the street, and the man of God is in the hearse.” No, he is not. Death was a laying aside of the body of sin and death, that life might be emancipated. Life is locked up here. To open the door, and let the man free, is that death?
2. A life unto God. But did not Christ “live unto God before He died”? Certainly; but He lived under the law, and died under it. It was a kind of bondage that He was under. Hence He says, “I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!” From the moment of His death, what followed? Complete emancipation; the law was no longer over Him; the curse was no longer on Him. Now, till we die with Christ, we are under the law, cursed by the law; the spirit of bondage is in our hearts. Our consciences must be “purged from dead works to serve the living God.” It is only when a man is emancipated, and knows it, that he leads a life of liberty; it is then he feels, “Condemnation is gone; God is my Father; we are reconciled”; and then he runs in the way of God’s commandments.
3. A life in heaven. At His ascension Christ went to heaven; and there He is at the right hand of God. And so we are risen with Christ; we are seated with Christ in heavenly places; our conversation is in heaven. The way is laid open--that new and living way through the body of Christ. So that we do not wait for the final glory to know something of the blessedness of heavenly experience.
4. The life of an acknowledged Son of God with power. It is true that during Christ’s ministry a voice from heaven said before the disciples, “This is My beloved Son”; but there was no declaration of that with power. Christ walked about as “a Man of sorrows.” At the resurrection there was indeed a proclamation of the Son with power. And how is it in our case? “To as many as receive Him” to them does He “give power to become the sons of God.” The power of Christ becomes theirs. “We can do all things by the power of Christ, which dwelleth in us.” “When I am weak then am I strong.” “My strength is perfect in weakness.”
5. A life which involved the full reception of the Holy Ghost. Christ never had that to dispose of till “He ascended up on high.” Now, from the moment we are dead with Christ we receive, and are temples of, the Holy Ghost.
6. A life of glorious anticipation. His experience is not perfect; He is still waiting. Christ has not got His Church; and do we wait for our body? When we die, as it is called, we are separated from the body, and we wait to be united to it. Is not that like the intermediate state of Christ, who is waiting above for His body? (Capel Motineux, B. A.)
Death and life in Christ
The apostles never travelled far from the simple facts of Christ’s life, death, resurrection, ascension, exaltation, and second advent. What a rebuke this should be to those who are ever straining after novelties. Our business is the old labour of apostolic tongues, to declare that Jesus, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
I. The facts referred to constitute the glorious gospel which we preach.
1. That Jesus died. He who was Divine, and therefore immortal, bowed His head to death. This is the second note in the gospel scale. The first note is incarnation. Christ died as--
There was a great gulf fixed, so that if we would pass to God we could not, neither could He pass to us. There was no way of filling up this gulf, unless there should be found one who, like the old Roman, Curtius, would leap into it. Jesus comes. Into the grave Christ plunged, the gulf is bridged, and God can have communion with man!
2. But Jesus rises. Can ye imprison immortality in the tomb! Death is overcome, and thus, having delivered Himself, He is able also to deliver others. Sin, too, was manifestly forgiven. Christ was in prison as a hostage; now that He is suffered to go free, it is a declaration on God’s behalf that He has nothing against us; our substitute is discharged; we are discharged. “He rose again for our justification.” Nay more, inasmuch as He rises from the dead, He gives us a pledge that hell is conquered.
3. Jesus is now living. He does not, after forty days, return to the grave: He departs from earth from the top of Olivet, and now at His Father’s right hand He sits, the Lord of Providence, expecting the hour when His enemies shall be made His footstool; and the all-prevalent Intercessor. 4, Jesus lives forever.
II. The glorious work which every believer feels within him. The apostle only mentions death, resurrection, life, and life eternal to show our share in them.
1. As Christ was, so we also are dead. We are dead to sin because--
2. If we be thus dead with Christ, let us see that we live with Him. It is a poor thing to be dead to the world unless we are alive unto God. Death is a negative, and a negative in the world is of no great use by itself. Just as Jesus had a new life after death, so have we a new life after death. But we must prove it, as Jesus did, by infallible signs.
3. Christ lives forever, and so do we. Sin made us die once in Adam, but we are not to be slain by it again.
4. Like Jesus, we live unto God.
III. The facts are pledges of the glory which is to be revealed in us. Christ died. We shall die. Christ rose, and so shall we. I do not think we get enough joy out of our resurrection. Resurrection will be our marriage day. Body and soul have been separated, and they shall meet again no more to be divorced. Anticipate that happy day. No sin, no sorrow, no care, no decay, no approaching dissolution! He lives forever in God: so shall you and I! (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Dead and alive with Christ
I. Dead with Christ. Crucified with Him--
1. Judicially, as to sin’s penalty.
2. Spiritually, as to sin itself.
II. Life with Christ.
1. Judicially, absolved from sin by God’s own sentence.
2. Spiritually, through His own nature communicated to us.
3. Experimentally, in the enjoyment of God with Him forever. (T. Robinson.)
Dead indeed, but living
I. The basis of the apostle’s sentiment.
1. Is laid in the past.
2. There is also a basis of prophecy. Respecting Christ and His people. Paul saw a grand future for Christ and the Church. Paul’s earliest inspiration was as a prophetic author. The glowing hope which the apostle cherished was of Christ’s coming again, and of the resurrection and the glorification of His people at the last day! The wonderful prophecy is sketched in Romans 8:18-24.
II. The bearing of the past and the future upon the present. History is not good for much if it be not connected with the present, and those who indulge in speculations as to prophecy without connecting them with the present, are not doing much that will be of avail for themselves or others. When we look at history and prophecy in the Bible we have not two islands separated from one another, but two continents Joined by an isthmus--the present. We stand, then, at the meeting point of the past and future; and the past and future have both to do with us, and our whole spiritual life is based upon the history of the past and the prophecies of the future.
1. Paul fixes upon the historical fact that Christ died for our sins, and he will not let that for an instant go. But without turning Christ’s death into a myth, he gives it a spiritual meaning, and teaches that between us and Christ there comes an identification and sympathy, through which we feel like Him and act like Him and become one with Him, imitating His example and becoming conformed to His image.
2. With regard to Christ’s resurrection, Paul spiritualises it and indicates its relation to our Christian holiness: “That we also should walk in newness of life.” Without turning Christ’s resurrection into a myth, he makes it a moral power working in us, so that we rise from the death of sin to the life of righteousness.
3. As it regards future and present, Paul says, “We shall live together with Him.” Without losing sight of Christ’s glorious reign, and of our resurrection through His power at the last day, the connection shows that he had in his mind the thought of a risen life, now enjoyed by the believer, of which the words just cited are the irresistible proofs. Thus he thinks of Christ’s resurrection as repeated in the believer’s life, and the believer’s resurrection as antedated and as rehearsed in his present holy life.
4. Note the wonderful effect upon our morality and our religion of these ideas.
Conclusion: As we think of all this--
1. The first conviction that is produced in our minds is that of tremendous deficiency.
2. But we have at hand an immeasurable power of improvement in the truths and promises of the gospel, and in the promise of the Holy Spirit. Our aims as Christians should be very high, very noble. We shall never realise those ends and objects in our own strength, but God will help us. (John Stoughton, D. D.)
The new life
I. Owes its existence to the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. No doctrine of the New Testament can be clearer than this (John 1:12; James 1:18; Pe 1:23; John 3:6). These developments of our religious history are not natural, but supernatural. No kind of education, no original endowment of genius, no acquired treasures of wisdom and knowledge, can adequately account for the phenomena in question. To receive that life at all is to obtain it from God. The Spirit, once received, must remain in the heart. What the soul is to the body, to give it vitality, so must the Holy Ghost be to the soul, to give it eternal life.
II. Is maintained by faith in Christ and communion with him (Romans 8:11).
III. Is a devotion of the whole being to Christ (1 Corinthians 6:20). Here we see an entire change in the aims and purposes of a man’s life: such a change as must influence and control all his activity and behaviour. Men, naturally, “seek their own,” or else they devote themselves to some fellow creature, or to the good of their country, or the service of their sovereign: but the peculiarity of the Christian’s life is that it is consecrated to Christ. This means--
1. That he seeks in every possible way to promote the glory of the Saviour, by acknowledging His name, by declaring His goodness, by enforcing His claims.
2. That he is always anxious to further the great work of Christ, which is to save sinners, and to set up the kingdom of God.
3. That he is careful at all times to consult the will of Christ and to do it. This devotedness will follow Christ through good and ill report.
IV. Assimilates the character to that of Christ. We would be in the world as He was in the world. It is the height of our ambition to be like Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18).
V. Derives its happiness from the love of Christ. Happiness is the very life of life; and the soul of happiness is love. And what love can satisfy the heart of the believer except the love of Christ? To love Jesus, and to be loved by Him, are the two perennial sources of the believer’s joy; the two poles of his moral life. It is his consolation in every trial, his compensation in every loss, and his everlasting reward. (T. G. Horton.)
Living with Christ
Believers live with Christ.
I. Judicially--absolved from death by God’s own sentence (2 Corinthians 5:15).
II. Spiritually--through His own nature communicated to us (Galatians 2:20).
III. Experimentally--in the enjoyment of God with Him forever (Psalms 21:6). (T. Robinson, D. D.)
Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more.
Of the resurrection
The two principal words of the passage are “knowing” (Romans 8:9), and “counting” (Romans 8:11). Knowing and calling ourselves to account for our knowledge: two points needing ever to be conjoined. Oft we hear, but small reckoning we make of it. What Christ did at Easter we know; but to what then we are to do we give no great regard, Now this Scripture teaches us that Christian knowledge is not a knowledge without all manner of account, but that we are accountants for it, especially in the matter of Christ’s resurrection.
I. Our knowing.
1. The means of it. Not by actual vision, as in the case of the apostles, but by their testimony which is--
(a) Were not credulous, but otherwise (Mark 16:11; Luke 24:11; Luk_24:13; Luk_24:41; Matthew 28:17; John 20:25). That is ever best known that is most doubted of; and as Augustine says, “All this doubting was by them made, that we might be out of doubt, and know that Christ is risen.”
(b) Lost their living and their life by their testimony.
2. The particulars.
3. The reasons. The Romans loved to see the grounds of what they received and not the bare articles. Indeed it might trouble them why Christ should need to rise since they saw no reason why He should die. The truth is we cannot speak of His rising well without mention of what He rose from. The two are never separated by the apostle, and their union serves many good purposes. It shows His human nature and weakness in dying, and His Divine nature and power in rising; His two offices--His priesthood and sacrifice in His death, and His kingdom in the glory of His resurrection; His two main benefits--the death of death in His death, and the reviving of life in His resurrection; the two moulds wherein our lives are to be cast. Of them both, then, briefly--
II. Our account.
1. Of our comings in. An account there is growing to us by Christ’s rising of much benefit. The hope of gaining a better life is our comfort against the fear of losing this (1 Peter 1:3); and through this we comfort ourselves in bereavement (1 Thessalonians 4:18; John 11:23), and in regard to the issue of our work (1 Corinthians 15:58).
2. Of our goings out.
(a) Like Him in His dying: for He died not only to offer a sacrifice for us but to leave an example to us. Like Him, too, in His rising: for He arose not only that we might be begotten to a lively hope, but also that we might be planted in the likeness of His resurrection.
(b) Like Him in His living to God.
The undying one
I. The reality of the resurrection: “Christ being raised from the dead.”
1. The resurrection asserts a truth not always learnt from Nature, viz., that the spiritual is higher than the material. There are no doubt abstract arguments which go to prove this; but the resurrection assures us that the laws of animal existence may be set aside in obedience to a higher spiritual interest.
2. The resurrection is not merely an article of the Creed; like Christ’s eternal sonship, which belongs to another sphere, and is believed on account of the trustworthiness of Him who has taught it. But that Christ rose is a fact which depends on the same sort of testimony as any event in the life of Caesar; with this difference, that no one ever died to maintain that Caesar defeated Vercingetorix or Pompey. Our Lord was seen five times on the day that He rose, and six separate appearances are afterwards recorded; while it is implied that they were only a few of those which actually occurred. And when He was gone, His apostles went forth especially as “witnesses of His resurrection,” and were prepared to attest its truth with their blood.
3. If this testimony concerned a political occurrence, or a fact of natural history, nobody would think of denying its cogency; and those who reject the resurrection quarrel, for the most part, not with the proof, but with the supposition that such a thing could ever happen. Look, they say, at the fixed order of nature; year after year it is what, within our memories, it always has been. When man dies his body mingles with the dust for good and all; he does not, so far as we can see, break the bonds of death. The fixed order of nature!
(a) But the universe is something more than a machine; since it contains not merely matter, but free spirits, able consciously to yield or to refuse obedience to the true law of their being. A God is much greater than a supreme engineer. He is a moral governor, a father. His first care is for His intelligent offspring; and the universe was framed for them. If man had not been created, miracle might have been superfluous. But if the education and redemption of a rational soul be God’s noblest purpose in creation, then we shall expect Him to make the world of matter instruct and improve us, by deviating, if need be, from its accustomed order, as well as by observing it.
(b) We may go further. The order of nature, no doubt, teaches the believer the precious lesson that order is a law of the Divine Mind. But for thousands upon thousands that order paralyses the spiritual sense. If we could watch a fellow creature continuing undeviatingly a single movement for twenty years, we should come to look at him also as a machine, instead of as a free agent. And so many, marking how undeviating God’s work is, presume that it must always be what it has hitherto been; and such men gradually come to think of this visible scene as the whole universe of being. They drop out of mind that more wonderful world beyond it; they forget Him who is the King of this world as well as of that. Nay, there are times when the physical world lies like a weight, or like a nightmare, upon our thoughts; when we long for some higher promise of blessedness and perfection than any which a fixed order of Nature can give.
(c) Christ’s resurrection breaks down the iron wall of uniformity which goes so far to shut out God. It tells us that matter is controlled by mind; that there is a Being who is not bound by the laws of the universe; that He is their Master. God had said this before, but never so clearly as in the resurrection of our Lord. If ever interference with the order of the world was required it was here. When Jesus died the purest of lives seemed to have ceased to be. The holiest of doctrines appeared to have died away amid blasphemies. Apart from the question who the Sufferer was, there was the question whether a righteous God did really reign: and the resurrection was the answer. It was the finger of God visibly thrust down amid the things of sense; disturbing their usual order; bidding men know and feel that the truths which Christ has taught us about God and the soul are higher and deeper than any which are written on the face of Nature.
II. The perpetuity of Christ’s risen life.
1. The resurrection was not an isolated miracle, done and over, leaving things as they had been before. The Risen Christ is not like Lazarus, destined again to be a tenant of the grave. Christ rises for eternity: “He dieth no more.” His risen body is made up of flesh, bones, etc., but it has superadded qualities. It is so spiritual that it can pass through closed doors. It is beyond the reach of those causes which bring down our bodies to the dust. Throned in the heavens now, It is endowed with the beauty and glory of an eternal youth--“Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more.”
2. Nor is this, in itself, a new miracle. The real miracle was that the sinless Christ should have died at all. Death was an innovation upon the true conditions of His existence; and the resurrection was but a return to His rightful and normal immortality. Adam died because he sinned. If Adam had not sinned he would not have died. But when the Second Head of our race appeared, cut off from the entail of corruption by His supernatural birth, and exhibiting in His life absolute conformity to eternal moral law, He was, by the terms of His nature, exempt from the law of death. In His case, death was a momentary innovation upon the true law of being. And therefore when He had paid the mighty debt which the human family owed to the deeply-wronged righteousness of God, life resumed its suspended sway in Him as in its Prince and Fountain (See Revelation 1:18; Acts 2:24).
3. Now observe how the perpetuity of the life of the Risen Jesus is the guarantee of the perpetuity of the Church.
III. The secret and model of perseverance in the life of Godliness.
1. Christ risen from death, who dieth no more, is the model of our new life in grace. Just as He left His tomb on Easter morning, once for all, so should the soul, once risen, be dead indeed unto sin. There must be no hovering about the sepulchre, no treasuring the grave clothes, no secret hankering after the scent and atmosphere of the guilty past. You have great need to persistently set your affections on things above; that you desire passionately to live as those who are alive from the dead.
2. Not that God, having by His grace raised us from death, forces us whether we will or no to live on continuously. The Church has indeed received from the King of kings a charter of perpetuity. But to no mere section of the universal body, and much more to no single soul on this side the grave, is it said that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against” it. The examples of Judas, Demas, the Galatians, and Paul himself trembling lest he himself should be a castaway, are conclusive of this. No force is put upon us; no man is carried up to heaven mechanically if he prefers to go downwards, or even does not sincerely desire to ascend.
3. But how can we rejoice in our risen Lord if we are so capable, in our weakness, of being untrue to His example? I answer, because that life is the strength as well as the model of our own (Romans 8:11). The Risen Christ in us is “the hope of glory.” (Canon Liddon.)
Christ’s resurrection not a return to the former life
No one who has studied St. Paul’s Epistles can have failed to observe the distinction which they draw between the result of Christ’s death and the effect of His resurrection. The death destroys death, the resurrection gives life. The effect of His death on human nature was instantaneous, once and forever, as death itself is, the fleeting of a breath in a moment, and a passing out of this world forever. But in His resurrection is the gift of life, eternal life, always to be enjoyed, and of infinite extension; not the mere extinction of darkness by a sudden gleam, but the dispersion of an equable, serene, and constant light. Christ’s resurrection imparts a new life. Why? This I will try to answer.
I. When he rose from the dead, it was not to return to his former life. His nature entered into new relations with God and man; His body experienced a mighty change; it became a spiritual, glorified body. This thought of Christ’s onward passage to a new and more glorious life will add another sense to the words already so full of meaning, “Christ our Passover.” Israel, saved by grace, rescued from Egypt, was cut off from his enemies, passed over the Red Sea, and onward to the promised land, fulfilling the prophecy, “Out of Egypt have I called My son.” Had the Jews, on the other hand, passed over the Red Sea, and on seeing their enemies perish in its waters, returned in safety to Egypt, would that have been a fulfilment of the promise? No more would our Lord’s resurrection have satisfied God’s design of mercy, had He merely risen to return to His former state. It would have been, according to the homely but lively image of an old divine, “As when a prisoner escapes from prison with a chain still hanging from his wrist, by which death, that hath still dominion over him, shall draw him back into his own hands.”
II. Some reasons, founded on Scripture, why our blessed Saviour at his resurrection did not come back, but went onward to a new and glorified state. For instance, the scheme of redemption through Christ is this:--Man was created in a body free from pain, and not destined to die; but he sinned, and with sin came death; his body became liable to pain and death, as his soul to sin; and his condition of body and soul descended to his family. Christ Jesus came to restore man to his first estate; an estate in which originally death had no part. So He overcame death by giving up His life of His own will to it, instead of suffering it to be taken from Him by force; and while in the arms of death, of His own will He rose again; thence He became a new creature, the first of a new race, the second Adam, the spiritual forefather of another family, which He could not have been had He merely risen from death to come back to His former life. Death was instantaneous and for a moment, even while He drew His last breath and gave up the ghost. The resurrection is permanent, continuous, of infinite extension. Death is an interval in the economy of the world, as sin; life is eternal, as God. An army retreating before overwhelming numbers flies over a bridge, already mined: it is their means of rescue, their passage to a safe frontier: but they do not linger on it; their eyes are set upon the road beyond. Now it has saved them in their extremity, and they regard it forever with thankfulness and emotion; even its ruin and havoc is dear to their sight, for by it alone have they been saved--saved for victory and peace in the happy land, “where the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest.”
III. what practical effect has this doctrine of the resurrection upon ourselves? The same question may be, and by persons of a certain disposition is, often asked concerning every doctrine of the gospel. The great practical result of this teaching I believe to be, that Christians are made aware of the unspeakable blessings of their present communion with Christ. Their eyes are opened to the glory of the estate into which they have been translated. They cease to regard their religion as belonging to the past, and to the future, but learn to live upon its blessings in the present. Go to St. Paul: hear him, how he pours out of his abundant heart the utterance of his joy in the blessings shed by Christ upon His own. Do his words refer only to heaven to come? or are they not rather a description, for the most part, of the privileges of the Christian upon earth? Go to St. Peter, and mark the nobleness of his demeanour, the resolute will, the clear conviction, the happy assurance of his faith, as he appears in his later history, and in his own letters to the Church. How did this change of character arise? By his spiritual communion with Christ, and the sense of present enjoyment and power which the possession of such blessings ensures. Go to St, John: you see a Divine peace, a heavenly love that lies like moonlight upon the waves of a restless world. Is the expression of his face the look of one who merely lingers in the past, or looks to expected joy in a distant day to come? Is it not rather the peace of present joy, a reflection of the thought which his own pen has translated from the words of Christ, signifying the present sunshine of the Christian’s life--“He is passed from death unto life”? “Forward!” is the Christian motto, founded on the Master’s history. He went on through death to life, not backward, no, not even back to the life so pure and lovely as that which He lived on earth before He died; but forward to a more glorious estate, and in His glory we see the earnest of our inheritance. (Canon Furse.)
At the door of the grave lies a whole sheaf of sceptres. Death sits in the palace of the sepulchre, and the potentates of earth are his cup bearers; and, as the old blind monarch staggers around his palace, ever and anon he trips on some new fallen coronet. They set up Charlemagne in his grave, and put a crown on his pulseless temples, and a sceptre in his lifeless hand; yet that could not bring back his kingdom. Our King is immortal! (Te De Witt Talmage.)
For in that He died, He died unto sin once.--
Christ’s death and life
I. The Lord’s death. We arrive most easily at what the apostle intends by his phrase, “He died unto sin,” if we start from a familiar form of speech. Nothing is more impressive than the sudden and total stop which death puts to the relationships of life. Of him who died only an hour ago, we say that he is done with this world. Whatever interest he possessed in it is at an end. The ties which bound him to it are cut. From every obligation which it imposed on him he is discharged. Yesterday the man formed a busy unit in the complicated system of society, entangled by a thousand threads of family, trade, and public life. In the thick of it all, how has one swift scythe sweep cut him clear! Neither love, nor hate, nor desire, nor care, comes here to move him more. His world is elsewhere; his life is far away. When we apply this definition of the phrase to the case of Jesus, and inquire what is meant by affirming of Him, “The death that He died, He died unto sin (verse 10, R.V.), two thoughts emerge.”
1. The connection of the Lord Jesus with sin in His earthly life was the most complete possible for a sinless person to have. “He knew no sin” by that sad experimental knowledge which implies its entrance within the soul to stain and wreck it. When you have named this exception you have named all. What else have we to do with it which He had not? Ours, not His, is the doing of sin with the will’s consent; whatever follows on the doing of it was His as well as ours--e.g.,
2. The whole of this connection with sin is said to have terminated at death.
II. From such a death as this there could issue only life unto God.
1. Jesus having ceased to be under the power of the world’s sin could not but live anew. For to “die unto sin” must mean to die unto death. When the law’s sentence has been endured, and the power of sin as guilt has been exhausted, the royalty of death is over. It was “not possible” that Jesus should be holden of death.
2. The life which emerges when sin and death have been died to, is a life “unto God.” The new state of human existence is the negation of the old--its clear contrary. It is more; it is its counterpart. It is nothing which the old life was, as a life unto sin; it is everything which the former was not.
3. Thus, having seen how the earthly condition of Jesus involved a close contact with sin, we can readily trace the contrast which His risen life has to offer.
Christ dying for our sin, and living for our salvation
With the consciousness of past transgression must ever be associated in man’s mind the anticipation of future punishment. Conscience almost forestalls the declaration of Holy Writ, “that he which doeth wrong shall suffer for the wrong.” And reason, by itself, would tell us that as we cannot undo the error committed, so neither can we escape the penalty deserved. To be awakened, therefore, only under a dispensation of natural religion, would set before us judgment without mercy; but, happily for us, the awakening is under a dispensation of love that goes back to cancel the record of past sin, and goes forward to insure the constant communication of grace. Accordingly we have a Saviour who died once, and who ever lives.
I. The reasons of Christ’s death, stated in part.
1. There are two interpretations of the expression, “He died unto sin,” by reason of sin in Himself, or on account of sin in others. The former is utterly untenable, inasmuch as “He knew no sin.” Then He must have died on account of others; a view which there are abundance of Scriptures to confirm, as there were, in the former, abundance of Scriptures to contradict. It is on account of the sinless offering for sin that we charge him who rejects it with consummate folly, and that we cheer him who accepts it with unbounded solace. Has Christ died for you? is our demand of the former; then how can you answer it, that you do not live for Christ? Has Christ died for you? is our demand of the latter; then how can you doubt that you shall live with God forever?
2. Christ died--
II. The purposes for which he liveth?
1. To guide. “I am the way,” etc. He lives to act as a Captain in guiding many sons to glory.
2. To govern. “All power is given unto Me, in heaven and in earth.” He is silently, therefore, but effectually, working round all things to the establishment of His own will. All nature is subject to His will, nay, He works even by unwilling instruments; the evil passions and principles of men all are constrained by Him to compass the end designed. He is the Head over all things to the Church; we may, therefore, repair to Him in every difficulty, and commit to Him every consequence.
3. “To make intercession for us.”
III. The practical issue of the whole matter. You are placed here in the position of those for whom the Son of God once died unto sin, and for whom He now lives. Conviction of sin is thus placed before you with an alternative; to be condemned by Christ’s death, or to be saved by His life. It is no common responsibility which lies upon such as are now solemnly reminded that for them “Christ died unto sin once.” But neither is it a precarious comfort, or a dubious assurance, which arises to them from the consideration, “In that He liveth, He liveth unto God.” He lives for the glory of God, for the good of His Church, for the triumph of the gospel, for the salvation of the sinner, for the complete overcoming of death, and of him that has the power thereof, for every conceivable purpose of diffusing happiness and dispelling misery, and it may be for far higher purposes than have ever entered into the imagination of man. But, for whatever else He lives, He lives to guide, and to govern, and to intercede for you. (T. Dale, M. A.)
Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus.
Death a duty
The Bible speaks of three kinds of deaths.
1. That which is a necessary event--the death of the body.
2. That which is a moral crime--death in trespasses and sins.
3. That which is a righteous obligation--death unto sin.
This is a death which every man should die, though few men do so. It is a death which requires earnest individual effort, and involves the agonies of a self-crucifixion. What is meant by being “dead indeed unto sin”?
I. Negatively. It does not mean--
1. Being dead to the existence of sin. Every soul should realise this. Without a due regard to this we shall be incompetent to appreciate the history of Providence.
2. Being dead to the memory of our own sins. We can and ought never to forget the fact that we have sinned. The memory of the fact will serve to restrain from the wrong, to stimulate to the right; it will heighten our gratitude to pardoning mercy, and swell the joys of eternity.
3. Being dead to the effects of our sin upon our own history. The pardon of sin does not free us from all the effects of sin. The law of moral causation goes on. The sins that we have in youth committed against our constitution, intellect, interests, follow us to old age. It was so in the case of Job.
4. Being dead to the ruinous workings of sin around us. David beheld the way of transgressors and was grieved. So did Jeremiah. So did Paul at Athens. So did Christ, etc. So must all good men. We are to battle against it.
II. Positively. It may involve three things.
1. The death of all interest in its attractions. Sin in our world has wonderful attraction. The taste, the skill, the genius of ages, have been expended in investing it with all conceivable charms. But the holy soul sees through it, and is disgusted. To it, all its attractions are but as a spangled dress that robes an ugly theatrical.
2. The death of all desire for its pleasures. Sin has “pleasures for a season.” The holy soul has higher--the pleasures of a purified imagination, as exalted hope, a God-inspiring soul, an approving conscience, a smiling God.
3. The death of all fear about its penalties. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
The burial of the past
1. Life is a series of fresh beginnings. We cannot really undo the past, but still we have to do as much towards it as we can. Nothing is more natural than to say to ourselves, “Let me begin again; all this has been a very foolish mistake; I am very sorry that I took the turn I did.” The beginning again is made impossible by the indelible character of what we have done. Besides the reputation we have acquired, there is the memory of our past life. If we could but wipe out the past, and retain the experience that we have gained without the pain and sin through which we gained it, that would, as it seems, wholly satisfy our need, and we could really commence afresh. We do not quite ask to be put on the same level as we might have reached if we had been more careful, more in earnest. What we ask for is to be enabled to fight the next battle without the burden of the past on us. We want, in short, to bury a great deal of the past, and not have its presence haunt us any more.
2. To this need Easter Day is the answer. You are at full liberty to do all you ask. Let not the memory of sin haunt you with any such daunting terrors or shames. Bury the dead past with all its sins; on this one condition, that you are “alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” If you can learn from the past your weak points, your besetting sins; if you can gather out of it that which came from God, and that which you can use in the service of God, then, by all means, bury the rest, and defy its power; and live in the power of the Son of God.
3. It is true that every deed passes into the substance of our being, and we can never be after it what we were before. But for all that, the sins that we have committed must not be allowed to work upon us beyond the measure that God has assigned to them. You have sinned, and you cannot be what you were, nor what you might have been. But you still can be a servant of God, and even your past sins can become in His hands instruments of His will. The fall of David gave us the thirty-second Psalm; the fall of St. Peter fitted him to strengthen his brethren. The weakness of St. Paul taught us the lesson, “My grace is sufficient for thee; for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” There is even in evil a good element; and out of sin we may draw strength; and when we have drawn out all that may help us for the future, we need not fear to bury all the rest. Christ has expressly taken all that on Himself. We have, in the death and resurrection of Christ, the certain assurance that they who live unto Him need fear no condemnation.
4. Not with the past is our chief business, but with the present and the future. Let me then give a few cautions to those who really desire to reckon themselves to be dead unto past sins, but alive unto God. It is not at all uncommon to find that a high festival like Easter gives us a sense of recovered freedom, and a sort of confidence in our strength to win the battle. And then this excitement wears off, and we are not only back where we were before, but have the additional weakness caused by an additional defeat. Now--
I. Beware of confounding a slight repulse with a regular defeat, and of allowing your enemy to win, not because you are really beaten, but because you merely fancy you are. A temptation comes to you in the shape of an evil thought. Do not yield as if the evil thought were as bad as the evil word or deed. Cast out the foe, and let him not drive you to sinful actions. Or, again, if you have actually given way, do not say that this is complete defeat. Fight every inch of ground. However much you may be defeated, the mere fact of your having kept up the battle retains you on Christ’s side, and ensures you His help.
II. In recommencing the battle with sin, despise not the day of small things. Life to our foolish eyes seems not so earnest, not so solemn as we had thought it. We had been prepared for something extraordinary, and we find nothing that is not commonplace. We are like soldiers who have been drilled for a pitched battle, and then find nothing but a war of outposts, and so become discontented and careless. But the power of the Spirit of God is as much shown in small things as in great. The microscope proves that God’s hand will fashion the wing of an insect as carefully as the grandest and most complicated animal structure. So, too, is it in the spiritual world; and the Creator would have the slightest impulse of the will as perfect and as pure as the deliberate choice of the reason.
III. Be not content with negatives. Do not only resist temptation, but seek to serve God by diligent discharge of duties, by kindness, by turning your thoughts to your Father in heaven, to the Cross of your Redeemer. And I put the first of these first, though the last is the most important, because it is with the first, the outer duties, that we always have to begin. Begin with such duties, for those you are justified in even forcing yourself to do, and however much your inclination may lead you another way, still these duties are to be done. I cannot, in the same sense, bid you force yourself to love God and Christ; but God will most assuredly give you at last, if not at once, the power of loving Him if you are doing your best to obey Him, and when thoughts of Him and of Christ enter your heart, do not turn away. (Bp. Temple.)
Life in death
I. Paul here exhorts to the acceptance of an ideal scheme of life.
1. The facts of Christian experience are to be recognised. The moral antagonism of “flesh” and “spirit,” represented by the dispositions of the body and mind, is to be reckoned with (Romans 7:21; Rom_7:23).
2. They are to be interpreted in agreement with the facts of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.
II. The practical influence of this upon conduct.
1. This is not to be a merely abstract distinction; it is to be acknowledged as the law according to which we are to act, just as elsewhere the apostle exhorts Christians not to consider themselves dead to sin, but to become so (Galatians 5:24; Colossians 3:5).
2. Nor is this to be understood as a violation of our physical nature, as if the spirit were to be benefited at the expense of the body. Asceticism is not countenanced by Paul or his Master.
3. It is but an assertion of the true order of our nature, in which conscience and the spiritual impulses are de jure the ruling authority and power. Our appetites and affections are not evil in themselves, but become so when allowed to rule.
4. The spirit in which this service is to be rendered is one of--
5. All this is not to be regarded as a mere taking for granted or figurative supposition, but is an exercise--
III. The encouragement to this course.
1. A promise. “Sin shall not,” etc.
2. The nature of the Divine economy under which we elect to live. As we are incapable of obeying the law, and the law, when unfulfilled, tends to death, we can only rely upon God’s grace or favour, which abolishes not only the penalty of sin, but its influence, presence, and attraction. (St. J. A. Frere.)
Dead but alive
1. How intimately the believer’s duties are interwoven with his privileges! Because he is alive unto God he is to renounce sin, since that corrupt thing belongs to his estate of death.
2. How intimately both his duties and his privileges are bound up with Christ Jesus his Lord!
3. How thoughtful ought we to be upon these matters; reckoning what is right and fit; and carrying out that reckoning to its practical issues. We have in our text--
I. A great fact to be reckoned upon.
1. The nature of this fact.
2. This reckoning is based on truth, or we should not be exhorted to it.
II. A great lesson to be put in practice (verse 12).
1. Sin has great power; it is in you, and will strive to reign. It remains as--
2. Its field of battle is the body.
may become occasions of sin, by leading to murmuring, envy, covetousness, robbery, etc.
3. The body is mortal, and we shall be completely delivered from sin when set free from our present material frame, if indeed grace reigns within. Till then we shall find sin lurking in one member or another.
4. Meanwhile we must not let it reign.
Conclusion: Sin is within us, aiming at dominion; and this knowledge, together with the fact that we are nevertheless alive unto God, should--
1. Help our peace; for we perceive that men may be truly the Lord’s, even though sin struggles within them.
2. Aid our caution; for our Divine life is well worth preserving, and needs to be guarded with constant care.
3. Draw us to use the means of grace, since in these the Lord meets with us and refreshes our new life. Let us come to the table of communion and to all other ordinances, as alive unto God; and in that manner let us feed on Christ. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Dead to sin and alive unto God
The great object of this chapter is to establish the alliance between a sinner’s acceptance through Christ and his holiness. And here there is a practical direction given for carrying this alliance into effect.
1. Now, if these phrases be taken in their personal sense they would mean that we are mortified to the pleasures and temptations of sin, and alive to nothing but the excellencies of God’s character, and a sense of our obligations to Him; or in other words, we are to reckon ourselves holy in order that we may become holy. It were a strange receipt for curing a man of his dishonesty, to bid him reckon of himself that he is an honest man. How, by the simple act of counting myself what I really am not, can I be transferred to that which I choose to imagine of myself? How can I reckon that to be true which I know to be false? We have heard much of the power of imagination; but this is giving it an empire that exceeds all which was before known.
2. Now you free the passage of these difficulties by taking the phrases forensically. To be dead unto sin is to be in the condition of one on whom death, the sentence of sin, has already been inflicted--if not in his own person, in that of his representative. To be alive unto God is to live in the favour of God--to which we have been admitted through Christ. To reckon that Christ died for the one purpose, and that He brought in an everlasting righteousness for the other, is to reckon, not on a matter of fancy, but on a matter proposed on the evidence of God’s own testimony to faith. And when, instead of looking downwardly on the dark and ambiguous tablet of our own character, we look upwardly to the Saviour, we rest on the completeness of a finished expiation and perfect obedience, and transfer our reckoning from a ground where conscience gives us the lie, to a ground where God, who cannot lie, meets us with the assurances of His truth.
3. But it may be said, might not this be an untruth also? The apostle says to his converts, “Reckon yourselves dead unto sin”--but is it competent to address any one individual at random, to reckon himself in this blessed condition? Might not he, in so reckoning, be as deluded as in the other reckoning? I answer, It is nowhere said that Christ died so for me in particular, as that the benefits of His atonement are mine in possession; but it is everywhere said that He so died for me in particular, as that the benefits of His atonement are mine in offer. They are mine if I will. Such terms as “whosoever,” and “all,” and “any,” and “ho, everyone,” bring the gospel redemption specifically to my door; and there it stands for acceptance as mine in offer, and ready to become mine in possession on my giving credit to the word of the testimony. The terms of the gospel message are so constructed that I have just as good a warrant for reckoning myself dead unto sin, as if I had been singled out by name.
4. And what is more. You will not acquire a virtuous character by imagining that you have it. But there is another way in which it may be acquired. Not by any false reckoning about your actual character; but by a true reckoning about your actual condition. It is not by imagining I am a saint that I will become so; but by reflecting on the condemnation due to me as a sinner--on the way in which it has been averted from my person--on the passage by which, without suffering to myself, I have been borne across the region of vindictive justice, and conclusively placed on the fair and favoured shore of acceptance with God. The sense and the reckoning of all this may transform me from the sinner that I am into the saint that I am not. How shall I, now that I have been made alive again, continue in that hateful thing, of whose malignant tendencies in itself, and of whose utter irreconcilableness to the will and character of God, I have, in the death of my Representative and my Surety, obtained so striking a demonstration?
5. Mark, then, the apostle’s receipt for holiness. It is not that you reckon yourself pure, but that you reckon yourself pardoned. And how it should fall with the efficacy of a charm on a sinner’s ear, when told that the first stepping stone towards that character of heaven after which he has been so hopelessly labouring, is to assure himself that all the guilt of his past ungodliness is now done away--that the ransom of iniquity is paid, and that by Christ’s death the penalties of that law he so oft has broken shall never reach him. It is this which brings home to the believer’s heart the malignity of sin; it is this which opens to him the gate of heaven, and, disclosing to his view the glories of that upper region, teaches him that it is indeed a land of sacredness; it is this which inclines his footsteps along the path to immortality, which the death of Christ alone has rendered accessible; it is this which conforms his character to that of the celestial spirits who are there before him; for the will of Christ, whom he now loves, is that he should be like unto him; and the grateful wish and grateful endeavour of the disciple, draw forth from his labouring bosom that prayer of faith, which is sure to rise with acceptance, and is sure to be answered with power. (T. Chalmers, D. D.)
Dead to sin, alive to God
I. What it is we are to reckon ourselves as being.
1. Dead unto sin.
2. Alive unto God.
II. What right have we thus to reckon ourselves as dead unto sin and alive unto God? Because we are members of Him who died unto sin once, and who now forever liveth unto God.
1. Jesus our Head and Representative lived a life that was completely dead unto sin (John 14:30), and His final struggle with it was on the Cross, which was the completion of His death unto sin. “Which of you convinceth Me of sin?” is His own challenge to His enemies, and one by one they were forced to own His sinlessness. Judas, Pilate, the penitent thief, the Roman centurion.
2. He liveth unto God. Throughout His earthly ministry He did so. From the first He is “the Son of Man who is in heaven”; He is never alone, for His Father is with Him. But it is in His resurrection that He is visibly shown to be living unto God.
3. It is into Him that we are incorporated. Therefore as He died unto sin and liveth unto God, it is both our duty and our right that we should thus claim the privilege He has won for us.
III. The benefit which we gain by thus reckoning ourselves.
1. To believe that we can do a thing goes a long way in enabling us to do it. We may have the power, yet if we do not believe that we have it, we lose all its benefits. This belief does not make the power, but it makes it operative. In like manner, to reckon ourselves to be anything is a great help towards being it. No doubt if we reckon ourselves to be what we are not we are guilty of self-deceit and vanity. But in seeking to avoid this mistake we must not fall into its opposite by refusing to claim what it is our right and duty to claim.
2. As Christians we have a right to reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God, and the fact that we can claim it will go far to make the claim a reality. When we realise that our true position is that we are dead to sin we can face temptation with certainty of success. When we are assured that we are alive to God we can feel more confidence that He is living in us, and that His life will be perfected in us. Many a battle has been lost through fear which would have been won if the defeated army had only “reckoned themselves” equal to the conflict.
IV. How may we be sure that this reckoning is no mere feat of imagination or figure of speech, but a solid fact?
1. As a matter of fact we do not find ourselves to be dead to sin. If it does not now win us by its open allurements, it lies in wait for our own unguarded moments. Neither are we yet truly alive unto God. Our moods vary. We are keenly alive to Him at one hour, and cold and indifferent the next.
2. There is but one way by which our actual condition may be made to correspond with our ideal; “through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Dead to sin and alive unto God through Christ
I. What it is to be dead unto sin. Obviously the opposite of being dead in sin. As he who is dead has nothing more to do with earthly things, so he who is dead to sin has nothing to do any more with sin or its attractions.
II. What is it to be alive unto God? To be full of life for Him--to be altogether active and on the alert to do His will.
III. What is it to reckon ourselves dead indeed unto sin? To believe, esteem yourselves dead to it. Regard this as truly your relation to sin; it shall have no more dominion over you.
IV. What is meant by reckoning yourselves alive indeed unto God through Jesus Christ? That you are to expect to be saved by Christ and to calculate on this salvation as your own.
V. What is implied in the exhortation? That there is an adequate provision for realising these blessings in fact. A precept requiring us to account ourselves dead to sin and alive to God, would be utterly untenable if no provision were made for its accomplishment.
VI. What is implied by complying with this injunction?
1. Believing such a thing to be possible.
2. Ceasing from all expectation of attaining this state of ourselves.
3. A present willingness to be saved from sin, and the actual renunciation of all sin as such.
4. An entire committal of our whole case to Christ, not only for the present, but for all future salvation from sin.
5. The foreclosing of the mind against temptation, in such a sense that the mind truly expects to live a life purely devoted to God. Christians in this state of mind no more expect to commit small sins than great sins. Hating all sin for its own sake and for its hatefulness to Christ, any sin, however small, is to them as murder.
6. That the Christian knows where his great strength lies. He knows it does not lie in works, but only in Christ received by faith.
1. This text alone entirely justifies the expectation of living without sin through all-abounding grace.
2. To teach that such an expectation is a dangerous error is to teach unbelief. Dangerous to expect salvation from sin? If so, what is the gospel worth? Some expect to have to count themselves not dead indeed unto sin, but somewhat alive to it, and in part alive to God through all their mortal life. It follows as quite a thing of course that expecting no complete victory over sin they will use no appropriate means, since faith stands foremost among those means, and faith must include at least a confidence that the thing sought is possible to be attained. An elder I knew rose in a meeting and told the Lord he had been living in sin thus far, and expected to go on in sin as long as he lived; he had sinned today and should doubtless sin tomorrow, and so on--and he talked as calmly about it all as if it were foolish to make any ado, as well as impossible to attempt any change for the better. How horrible! Suppose a wife should say to her husband, “I love you some, but you know I love many other men too.” And yet this is not to be compared in shocking guilt and treason with the case of the Christian who says, “I expect to sin every day I live,” with unmoved carelessness. You expect to be a traitor to Jesus each day of your life; to crucify Him afresh each day; and yet you talk about having a good hope through grace! But tell me, does not every true Christian say, “Do not let me live at all if I cannot live without sin; for how can I bear to go on day by day sinning against Him I so much love!” (C. G. Finney, D. D.)
Dying to sin and living to God
Paul’s object in this chapter is to exhibit the inconsistency of sin with the Christian faith and position. We are, he says, planted together with Christ, and baptized into His death that we may pass with Him into a new life. There is only one kind of perfect human life, the life exemplified in Jesus Christ; and to this there is only one possible path, viz., death. The grub cannot pass to the higher life of the dragonfly without first sickening and becoming dead to all the life it has been familiar with, and we, in order to enter the true life of man, must die to the old.
I. What is it to be dead to sin?
1. To be beyond its power to inflict penalty upon us. If a servant has come to a settlement with his master there remains no longer any bond between them. Now the wages of sin is death, and our wages have been paid in the death of Christ. The law has no claim upon a man who has suffered its extreme penalty, and this the old legal phraseology of Scotland brought out when it spoke of criminals being justified in the Grassmarket, when they were hung there. By death they cleared scores with the law. Thus we have by the death of Christ the removal of our guilt.
2. To be irresponsive to the appeals of sin. How unmoved, how irresponsive the dead are! Let the master shout at his slave’s dead body; not one finger stirs to obey his orders. Was the dead man vain and fond of applause? the acclaims of a world bring no smile of pleasure to his face now. Was he mean and greedy? Fill the dead hand with gold; the fingers will not close upon it. The soldier who a few months before sprang forward at the sound of the bugle, now knows no difference between the charge and the retire. The most passionate kiss that love presses on the face of the dead wins no acknowledgment, no returning embrace. Such is the insensibility of the true Christian who avails himself of his position. The man who was led by his appetites, and could not walk the streets without sinning, sets the Cross of Christ before him, and finds he can as little sin as if he were a corpse.
3. Not only a complete but a final severance from sin. Death is a state from which no one returns to the old life. So it was with Paul himself, who realised his position in Christ.
II. What is meant by living to God? This aspect of our participation with Christ is more important.
1. To die to sin is but a necessary preliminary. By itself it is incomplete and ineffective. Death can never form a desirable state, but only life, and it is because death of this kind promises fuller life that we pass through it.
2. Some persons, however, are dead to sin, but they are dead to everything else. Religion, instead of enlivening and enlarging them, seems to benumb and deaden them. For all the active good they do they might as well be in the grave. The poor man who needs help would as soon think of knocking at a tombstone as of knocking at their door; active beneficence on their part would startle us as if the sheeted dead had come to our aid. Where there is fulness of life there is activity, joy, love, intensity; not coldness, selfish caution, parsimony, and seclusion from the woes, the joys, the interests of men.
3. And where there is life it will appear; burying the seed beneath the clod, the life that is in it will work its way through, and show what it is. The body of Christ could not be held under the power of death, and if the Spirit of life that was in Him be really in us, that life will break through all that overlies it. And if you do not fill your life with Christian activities, and your heart with Christian joys, they will soon be filled and flooded with the old life. Do not make it needful that men should feel your pulse, or hold a mirror to your mouth to see if you be really alive; but let it be seen by the brightness of your vision, by the activity of your step, by the force and helpfulness of your hand, that you have a more abundant life.
4. This life, like Christ’s resurrection life, is real. Our Lord took pains to prove that His risen body was not a phantom. Our risen life must be equally substantial. From the first some have had a name to live while really dead. Their appearance of newness does not bear scrutiny; they are airy nothings, pithless, pretentious, disappointing appearances; they imitate the conduct of those who have real life, or they are lifted up and carried along by the crowd around them, but when left to act in their own strength they are found to be powerless--dead. All about them is unreal; the religious expressions they use are borrowed, learned as a foreign tongue, so that you can readily detect the accent. Their prayers are forced; their whole religious life is a makeup; not an actual, constant, self-supporting, free life. Strive to be true, to stand upon your feet, to act upon convictions of your own, to speak as you feel, without being an echo of other persons. Be sure that in yourself there is a true, risen life. (Marcus Dods, D. D.)
Dying to sin and living unto God
The apostle exhorts us to reckon ourselves to be--
I. “Dead unto sin.”
1. This involves death.
(a) But these pleasures last but for a season.
(b) They are only pleasures when viewed in a false light. Let but the light of truth dawn in upon the soul, and we find that we have been embracing disappointment and vanity and pain (verse 21).
2. Here is the design of all religious ordinances, viz., that the root of bitterness may be destroyed in the soul. We are buried with Christ in baptism, in faith that our corruptions shall be drowned, even as the Egyptians were when they lay dead on the seashore. We approach the Lord’s table in faith that the food which we there receive spiritually into the soul shall operate as a poison to all those corruptions which yet reign within us. Every prayer we offer up is a blow at sin; every self-denial we practise is to starve out corruption from the soul. But, in order to the completeness of this death of sin within us, it is needful that we take away all the means of life. “Fire is as effectually put out by taking wood away as by throwing cold water upon it.” We must take care to blockade all the avenues of temptation; we must intercept those supplies which “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eye, and the pride of life,” are forever conveying into the soul.
II. “Alive unto God.” We are not to give a dead carcase to a living God; neither, on the other hand, when the members of the old man have been crucified, are they to remain idle. No; after they are buried, they are to rise again, and be laid as a free will offering on the altar of God. Being dead to sin we must henceforth be alive to God.
1. To the honour of God’s name.
2. To the interests of His kingdom.
3. To the glory of His grace in the entire sanctification of our souls.
1. All comes to us through Jesus Christ our Lord. If there be any subjugation of the power of sin in the soul, “His right hand hath got the victory”; if there be any quickening to a renewed existence, He it was who began, and who must complete the work.
2. Let shame prompt you to die to sin. If Christ died for sin, the least we can do is to die to sin.
3. Let gratitude prompt us to “live to God.” (D. Moore, M. A.)
Dying to sin and living unto God
I. The believer’s true position.
1. Dead to sin: to--
2. Alive unto God.
II. The means through which it is attained--Jesus Christ.
1. Faith in Him.
2. Identification with Him.
III. The duty of realising this.
IV. The motives by which it is enforced--“likewise.” (J. Lyth, D. D.)
Christians dead unto sin and alive unto God
We are reminded that Christians are--
I. “Dead indeed unto sin.”
1. This implies more than their avoiding sin. A man from fear of loss, hope of advantage, or from reference to his reputation, may be induced to avoid what he loves: and there are many who are ready to wish that it were lawful to indulge in sin. Lot’s wife left Sodom, but her heart was in it still, and if all those were to become pillars of salt who profess to forsake the world, while hankering after it, we should hardly be able to move about.
2. Christians are mortified to sin. The Christian’s aversion to sin is natural, and we know that all natural aversions operate universally. It is not to some particular vice to which he may have no constitutional propensity or little temptation. If it were lawful to say to a mother, “Why you may take your child and throw it out of the window,” she could not do it. And why? Has she not strength to open the window? Has she not arms to throw it out? Oh! but it would violate every feeling of her nature; it would be impossible and this would be a safer prevention than any argument or threatening against it. So the Christian “doth not commit sin”--that is, as others do, and as he once did--“for His seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin because he is born of God.”
3. You see how the apostle treats this matter: “How shall we, who are dead to sin,” by profession, by obligation, by inclination, “live any longer therein?” (verse 2). As no creature can live out of its own element, so it is impossible for the Christian, now that he is regenerated, to live in sin.
II. “Alive unto God.” If there were no instance of immorality in the world, I should want no other proof that man was a fallen creature than his insensibility and indifference towards God. That a subject should be dead to his sovereign, a child to his father, the creature to his Maker, a beneficiary to his benefactor; can you imagine that God made man with such a disposition as this? Now real religion must commence in the destruction of this insensibility. Christians are alive unto--
1. God’s favour. While many ask, “Who will show us any good?” he prays, “Lord, lift up the light of Thy countenance upon me.” He knows and feels now that “His favour is life,” and His “loving kindness better than life.” This makes him happy, whatever may be his outward condition.
2. His presence. Is the sanctuary now attractive to him? It is principally because it is “the place where His honour dwelleth.” Does he love the retirement of the closet? It is because there he holds communion with his God. He loves the company of the godly because they remind him of God, and considers heaven as the perfection of his happiness because he will be forever with the Lord.
3. His glory. It is this that led the apostle therefore to say, “Whether we eat or drink,” etc. Hence he sympathises with the cause of God in all its variations. If professors fall away, and bring a scandal upon it, he is sorrowful. On the other hand, if the Word of the Lord runs and is glorified, and if believers walk in the fear of the Lord, in this he rejoices.
III. “Through Jesus Christ our Lord.” As--
1. Their Example. In His principles, temper, practice, they see the character which we have described fully embodied. In Him there was no sin; He always did the things that pleased the Father: He was our religion incarnate.
2. Their Teacher. He has set before us those arguments and motives which have the greatest tendency to turn us from sin and to God, so that we may be dead to the one and alive to the other.
3. Their dying Friend. Is it possible for me to love and live in that which crucified the Lord of glory?
4. Their meritorious Saviour. When He died for their sins He at the same time obtained for them grace for trial, duty, and conflict.
IV. “Reckon yourselves” as such.
1. In order to maintain the conduct that is suitable to such; for your conduct should correspond with your character and your condition. The way to know what you ought to do is always to consider what you are.
2. In order to keep you from wondering at the treatment of such.
3. In order that ye may rejoice in the portion of such. If the world frowns on you, God smiles; if they condemn you, He is near to justify. You may be losers in His service, but you can never be losers by it. (W. Jay.)
Alive unto God
This means that a man--
I. Breathes God’s life. There was a man taken out of the water apparently dead. The physician came and breathed into the nostrils and mouth of the poor fellow, and then pressed the breast; breathed in again and pressed the breast. At last he had the joy of hearing a gasp, and then of seeing the opened eye. “Alive unto God” means that God has breathed into you His breath; the breath of life and of righteousness.
II. Puts forth effort. There is a picture in Brussels of a man thought dead of the plague. He was not dead. After a time, awaking, he felt he was nailed up in the coffin, and the picture shows him to be in the act of pushing up the lid. So it is with the man who is “alive unto God.” He puts forth efforts, and he repeats them till he is delivered.
III. Requires food, to sustain the new life.
IV. Desires the knowledge of God. What efforts some men make to acquire knowledge of earthly things. The Christian, whilst not despising that knowledge, desires especially to know God.
V. Resists sin. There is that fight going on. The unconverted man reasons--“Don’t sin, because you may be found out.” The devil strikes him down to the ground, and he says, “There is no life in him now.” But how is it with the Christian when Satan endeavours to overcome him? He has God’s armour on, and the sword of the Spirit, and he stands, because he is alive unto God.
VI. Bears the cross. Being “alive unto God,” and having Christ’s love in the soul, we can lift up and carry the heaviest burden with rejoicing of heart, for we have His life; the life that Christ had, that same life is in us. Conclusion:
1. Is it not being alive in faith to God? It is not alive unto creeds, but unto God. It is faith in the presence of God.
2. It also is alive in hope to God--that hope which is the anchor holding on amidst all earth’s tempests and all the wild sea’s roar.
3. It is alive in love to God. What will not the soul endure for those whom it loves! It imitates the example of those who have its affection. (W. Birch.)
The transfer of life to God
In the days of King John of England the dignity of the English crown was brought to its lowest. King John submitting to the Pope as a vassal, and before the Pope’s legate, taking off his crown, he handed it to the legate, who took it, put it down for a moment to show his possession of it, then handed it back to John to be held by him as a vassal of Rome. But this incident illustrates how we Christians can die to ourselves, yet be living for Christ. We take our life in our hands, and hand it over to God. But see, He lifts it again and holds it out towards us, saying, “Take this life and use it for Me, as My vassal, My servant.” (J. Hamilton.)
Holiness the Church’s life
Holiness is the life of the Church; it is this that makes the Church a living body, and consequently the means and agent of its own growth and happiness. A living thing grows from itself, and not by accession from without, as a house or a ship grows. A flower does not grow by adding a leaf to it, nor a tree by fastening a branch to it, nor a man by fixing a limb to his frame. Everything that has life grows by a converting process, which transforms the food into means of nourishment and of growth and enlargement. A holy Church lives, and its holiness converts all its ordinances and provisions into means of deep-rooted, solid, enlarged, and beautiful holiness. (T. W. Jenkyn, D. D.)
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body.
The reign of sin
“Let not sin reign” because it is--
I. A tyrannic reign.
1. Sin has usurped its sway over the heart. It forms no part in the original plan of our world.
2. It gains the ruling power gradually. If the criminal knew from his first sin the tremendous power it would have upon his life his downward course would have been arrested. The chain was drawn tighter by degrees.
3. As Britons we hate everything oppressive, the public sentiment is against all tyrants; still the greatest of all is tolerated in the hearts of thousands.
II. A dishonourable reign. Occasionally we are obliged to blush at the deeds done in the name of England. But as a rule we are proud of our country, not so much on account of its wealth and military strength as the position it has gained for uprightness. Sin is dishonourable to God and to man. It is the transgression of the best law, and the highest ingratitude.
III. A destructive reign. Peace, moral beauty, and strength are destroyed wherever sin has the ruling power. It is a cancer that eats its way gradually, yet effectually, to the very roots of our being. Conclusion: Subjects we must be; it is for us to decide under whose government. We cannot govern ourselves, we must serve either righteousness or sin. How thankful we ought to be that there is a higher, stronger, purer power ready to enter the heart and rule there. We are under no obligation to let sin have the throne. The Spirit is willing to govern if man will open his heart. (Jenkin Jones.)
The reign of sin
I. What is it for sin to reign over us.
1. All men are sinful (Romans 3:10-12).
2. There is no sin but all men by nature are prone to (Psalms 51:5).
3. But there is some sin that everyone is inclined to more than others (Psalms 18:23), by--
4. The sins we are most inclined to may have a prevalency over us, either--
5. When sin has a full prevalency in us it is said to reign over us. Because we--
II. Why should not sin reign over us. Because--
1. It has no right or title to this kingdom, but only God as--
2. We are buried with Christ by baptism into His death, and so are free from sin (Romans 6:1-3; Rom_6:7; Rom_6:10-11; Rom_6:14).
3. If it reign in us it will ruin us (Romans 6:23).
III. How shall we obtain the victory over it. By--
1. Faith in Christ.
2. Prayer (Psalms 119:133; Romans 7:24).
3. Watchfulness (Proverbs 4:23).
1. Of examination. That is a reigning sin--
2. Of exhortation. Consider--
(a) In this life--the torture of a guilty conscience--a curse on thy estate (Malachi 2:2)--the wrath of an offended God (Psalms 7:11).
(b) In the life to come--separation from God--imprisonment in hell (Romans 6:23). (Bishop Beveridge.)
The tyranny of sin
I. The tyranny of sin. It has--
1. Made the body mortal.
2. Developed its lusts.
3. Through it enslaved the soul.
II. The duty of resisting it.
1. We ought, because Christ has redeemed us.
2. We can, through grace.
3. We must if we would be saved. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
An indomitable will needed
If a man has a strong besetment, he must treat it as he would a savage dog. He must keep it kenneled and chained, and never suffer it to go beyond its tether, however it may bark or growl. He will have to say to it every now and then, “Down, sir.” He will sometimes require the stern resoluteness expressed in John Foster’s saying, “This soul shall either conquer this body or shall leave it.” Ruthless, bloodless, indomitable will is needed sometimes in order that a man may fight well the battle of his life.
Sin dwelling in but not reigning over the believer
1. Some would substitute here in place of “mortal,” as liable to death, the idea of actual death in Christ. Sin having been plucked of its sting, our Saviour having received it in His own body, therefore there is no more power in our adversary to inflict its mortal poison upon us; he is not only disarmed of his right to condemn us, but of all ability to tyrannise over us. In virtue of his defeat he will not obtain the dominion over our hearts unless we let him. Our resistance, backed as it is by the plea of a Saviour crucified, and by the power of a Saviour exalted, will be greatly too much for him. We who have been baptized into Christ are somewhat in the same circumstances that the children of Israel, after being baptized into Moses in the Red Sea, were in reference to the tyranny of Egypt. Their enemy was engulfed in that abyss over which they found a shielded way; and, placed beyond his dominion, it was now their part to exchange the mastery of Pharaoh for the mastery of God; but those who rebelled were cut off in the wilderness.
2. And this analogy does not fail us if we take “mortal” in the customary signification. While in these mortal bodies, we are only on a road through the wilderness of earth to the blessedness of heaven. All who are really partakers with Christ in His death have got over a mighty barrier. They have been carried through the strait gate of acceptance, and have now to travel along the narrow way of duty and discipline, “not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Let not sin reign over us on the passage that we have yet to traverse. Let us stifle every rising inclination for the carnalities of Egypt, and come not under the power of those lusts which war against the soul, till we reach the spiritual Canaan where every inclination to evil shall cease to exist and so cease to annoy us.
3. We cannot fail to perceive how widely diverse the injunction would have been, if instead of, “Let not sin reign,” Paul had said, “Let sin be rooted out”; or if, instead of saying,” Obey not its lusts,” he had bid us eradicate them. The more enviable state, of course, would be to have no inclination to evil, and could we attain that higher state, we would become on earth what angels are in heaven; but if doomed to the lower state during all our abode here, then we may understand that the life of a Christian is a struggle of two adverse elements, and the habitual prevalence of one of them, and that sin is not to be exterminated, but to be kept at bay. Let us try to banish it, and defeated in this effort, we may give up in heartless despair the cause of our sanctification; but trying to dethrone it, and succeeding in this effort, while we mourn its hateful company, we may both keep it under control and calmly look onward to the hour of release. We cannot obtain such a victory as that we shall never feel the motions of the flesh, but we may obtain such a victory as that we shall not walk after the flesh. The enemy is not so killed as that we are delivered from his presence; but, by an unremitting strenuousness on our part, we may keep him so chained as that we shall be delivered from his power.
4. The time is coming when, freed from every opposing tendency, we shall expatiate over the realms of ethereal purity and love--just as the time is coming when the chrysalis shall burst with unfettered wing from the prison in which it is now held; and where, we doubt not, that it is aspiring and growing into a meetness for traversing at large the field of light and air above it. This representation of indwelling sin--
I. Conduces to the peace of a believer. The very occurrence of a sinful desire, or feeling, harasses a delicate conscience, and he may be led to suspect therefrom his interest in the promises. But it will quiet him to be told that there is a distinction between the saint who is struggling below and the saint who is triumphing above.
II. Conduces to the believer’s progress, for it leads to a most wholesome self-distrust which, for one thing, will save him from needlessly thrusting himself into a scene of temptation. God will grant succour against the onsets which temptation maketh upon us, but He does not engage Himself to stand by us in the presumptuous onsets which we make upon temptation.
III. Leads us to such measures as may strengthen the gracious part of our constitution for every such encounter as cannot be shunned. Temptation will come, though we should never move a step towards it. What, then, is the best method of upholding the predominance of the good principle over the evil one? A fresh commitment of ourselves in faith and in prayer to Him who first put the good principle into our hearts--another act of recurrence to the fulness that is in Christ Jesus--a new application for strength from the Lord our Sanctifier to meet this new occasion for strength which He Himself has permitted to cross our path. (T. Chalmers, D. D.)
Follow after holiness
I. How must we do this?
1. By breaking the power of sin (verse 12).
2. By yielding ourselves to God (verse 13).
II. Is it possible? Grace destroys--
1. The dominion of sin (verse 14).
2. The love of sin (verse 15).
III. Why ought we to do it? It is required--
1. By the obedience of faith (verse 16).
2. By gratitude to God for His gracious help (verse 17).
3. By our merciful emancipation from the bondage of sin. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
The obligation of a holy life
I. Its elements.
1. Subjection of natural lusts.
2. Renunciation of the service of sin.
3. Consecration of all the powers to God.
II. Its possibility (verse 14). As Christians--
1. We are not under the law.
2. But under grace.
3. Consequently receive dominion over sin.
III. Its indispensable necessity. Because--
1. Grace requires it.
2. Practice determines to whom we belong.
3. Obedience is the perfection of righteousness. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
Neither yield ye yourselves as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God.
Yielding is an image carried over from the world of matter into the world of mind. In every case of yielding you have pressure meeting with resistance and overcoming it. Note then--
I. The pressure. There are many kinds of pressure. When your shoe pinches you it presses upon one small point only, but the kindly pressure of the air is upon every part of your body. And such is Heaven’s gentle pressure upon your soul. God presses us through--
1. The experiences of life. These Romans before their yielding were great pleasure seekers, and Paul asks what they had gained by it all. The answer is, nothing but shame and death (verses 21, 23). They were like their own Caesar, who, when at the height of his glory, asked, “And is this all?” Chrysostom tells us that the pressure of disgust at heathen pleasures brought him to the yielding point, and that many young men in his day had the same experience. And life is the same in every age. At a Jewish wedding the priest places an empty wineglass on the floor, and the bridegroom, setting his heel open it, splinters it into fragments. The strange custom is meant to remind the newly married pair that their earthly happiness is just as fragile. If so, we must ask whether there is no cup for mortals that call never be broken. Thus life puts upon us a strong pressure which should make us yield unto God.
2. His law. This Epistle is full of this pressure. It says, You are under God’s law and you ought to obey it. But you are ever breaking it. What, then, are you to do? Escape from its terrors there is none but by yielding. The law drives the law breaker into the open arms of the Law fulfiller.
3. His love. Paul has very great faith in the power of this pressure. He states all the facts of Christ’s life and death, and shows how they all reveal God’s kindness to sinners. He does everything to win attention to Christ’s redeeming love, for he knows how it can bring the soul up to the bending temperature. Often the quietest and gentlest influences conquer resistance that defies all other pressure. Arctic explorers frozen in amid blocks of ice would fain set themselves free by main force, but in vain. But the sun at length smiles upon the stubborn snow mountain, and grim winter lets go his hold and quietly yields. Thus the resistance of our frozen hearts is melted away by Divine love.
4. In pressing a man towards Christ the Holy Spirit often unites these three and other kinds of pressure.
II. Man’s resistance.
1. There is a resistance called vis inertia, i.e., the power of doing nothing. That rock which came thundering down the hill, and now blocks the highway by its dead weight, overcomes all the pressure one hundred men can bring to bear upon it. And some offer a rock-like resistance to God. Their habits are all against God, and they won’t consider whether their habits should be changed. Habit is the Latin word habet; it has them. They are slaves with a wish to be free.
2. But others resist of set purpose. The murderers of Stephen were of this class. Some do this who are outwardly respectable; theirs is resistance without violence. Others do not care to hide their resistance. “I hated the gospel,” one confessed, “and my soul hissed against it as cold water hisses when it meets fire.” The resisting, defying power of man’s will is awful. Milton in “Paradise Lost” makes this the explanation of Satan’s character. I have read that the physician who attended a dying nobleman, famed for his genius and godlessness, one day overheard him saying, “Shall I yield? Shall I pray?” The physician held in his breath for the answer, as the dying man was not aware that anyone was within earshot. After a pause, the dying poet said, firmly, “No, no weakness!” Ah! there it is; yielding seems weakness to the unhumbled heart. Think of it--a weakness to yield to God and Christ, to eternal truth and mercy!
III. The yielding point. That point is reached when man’s resistance gives way under God’s pressure.
1. The Christian life begins with an act of yielding. The Christian does not yield as the defeated soldier yields to his foe who slays him, but with the consent of all that is within him, as one “alive from the dead.” Often a small thing, as it seems to us, makes the happy day that fixes the choice on the Saviour. The turning points of life are like the water partings of great rivers, where a raindrop’s destiny is often decided by a breath of wind. While the gentlest touch may make the pressure greater than the resistance, there must be a yielding in every case, and it must be a yielding of the whole man for the whole life. A rich Australian in his youth was a poor plough boy. A free passage was offered to him. By faith in that offer he left his native land, crossed the deep, began life anew, and so became a rich landowner. That offer was to him “a faithful saying and worthy of acceptation,” but his belief of it did him no good till he had yielded himself to it in every possible way.
2. The Christian life from beginning to end is a yielding. The Roman Christians had yielded in conversion, and Paul wishes them to rise to the highest life, and his message to them is still, “Yield.” They are the best Christians who are best at yielding and who are always, in the yielding mood.
3. The passage (verses 12-23) is full of military images. The last verse means, “The soldier’s wages--the rations--of sin is death,” it is not merely a punishment in the future. And the exact meaning of our text is, offer yourselves as volunteers unto God, and all your faculties of mind and body as soldiers’ weapons in the cause of holiness. When war breaks out many an officer who might enjoy every luxury at home, who is even an heir to a peerage, offers to serve his country on the battlefield. He offers himself by an act of the will, and the spirit of that act is carried into his whole service. His heart is stirred to its depths by soldierly ambition. Rome was a city of soldiers, and every Roman would thoroughly understand the apostle when he urged them to be the courageous and devoted soldiers of Christ. You see, then, that this yielding is not an abject, spiritless, lazy thing. It is the beginning of a life of great energy. “Yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead.” Have you ever spent an hour with the convalescent, “alive from the dead”? Did you ever see such zest in the work and enjoyments of life? Well, that should be the spirit of those who have devoted themselves to the service of their God. Almost every verse in this chapter testifies to the apostle’s anxiety that they would be whole-hearted in the service of Christ. When Moshesh, the chief of the Basutos, received the missionaries, he advised his chiefs to have one foot in the Church and the other out. But one chief became an earnest Christian, and said to Moshesh, “I put only one foot in the Church at first, as you advised me, but the love of Christ soon drew in my whole body.” The apostle counsels each Roman convert to give his whole soul and body. For he who does not yield everything really yields nothing. The true yielder moves together when he moves at all. Calvin chose for his seal and motto a hand holding a heart on fire, with the words, “I give thee all. I keep back nothing.” The apostle (verse 19) pleads with them to serve Christ now as they used to serve Satan. (J. Wells, M. A.)
Yield unto God
I. The duty itself.
1. In general it implies, that whatever we possess, all that we are, or have, or can do, should be consecrated to God, and devoted to His service and honour. The being which we have is derived from Him; every blessing which we enjoy is the fruit of His bounty; every talent with which we are distinguished was freely bestowed by Him. To Him, therefore, they ought to be entirely surrendered, and in the advancement of His glory at all times employed.
2. More particularly, we must yield to God our immortal souls, with all the intellectual powers which they possess.
3. All our possessions and enjoyments must be devoted to God.
II. For what purposes we are thus to yield ourselves unto God.
1. We are to yield ourselves to God, to do whatsoever He commands; in all instances of duty, to give a prompt and cheerful obedience to His authority.
2. We must yield ourselves to God not only to do but to suffer His will. We are already in the hand of God, by our essential dependence; let us likewise be so by our own consent and choice. This is the true balm of life. It is this that softens adversity, and alleviates the load of sorrow. In this we unite the noblest duty which we can perform, and the most precious benefit which we can reap.
3. We must yield ourselves to God, to be disposed of by His providence, as to our lot and condition in the world.
4. As we must be resigned to the will of God with respect to our outward lot, so we must be satisfied with His disposal, as to the measure of spiritual gifts which He is pleased to bestow on us. Should He make us but as the foot, we must be as well contented as if He had made us the hand or the head, and rejoice that we are found qualified for being even the least honourable member in Christ’s mystical body.
III. The manner in which we ought to perform this duty of yielding ourselves unto God.
1. Before we can perform this duty in an acceptable manner, it is necessary that we have just views both of God and of ourselves. We must yield ourselves to God like condemned rebels, who cast themselves on the mercy of their sovereign. Yet, while sensible of our miserable state, we must also have a view of those riches of mercy which are open to the chief of sinners.
2. We must yield ourselves unto God with serious, attentive, and awakened minds. We must remember that yielding ourselves to God will involve in it the renouncing of many favourite engagements, the performing of many difficult duties, and the mortifying of many desires, which hitherto, perhaps, it has been the whole plan of our lives to gratify.
3. In yielding ourselves unto God, our hearts must be humbled with deep repentance, for having so long gone astray from Him and His service.
4. We must yield ourselves unto God without any secret reserve or limitation, imploring that He may take the full possession of our hearts, and cast out of them whatever opposeth or exalteth itself against Him.
5. All this must be done with an explicit regard to the Lord Jesus Christ, through whom alone we have access to the Father.
IV. Enforce the exhortation by some motives and arguments.
1. Need I represent to you the necessity of this duty? Can you withdraw yourselves from being the property of God as His creatures? Can you evade the dispensations of His providence, or snatch from Him those issues of life and death which are, uncontrollably in His hands?
2. Consider the reasonableness of this duty. If there is reasonableness in acknowledging our debts, and in being thankful for our benefits; if there is reasonableness in submitting to be guided by unerring wisdom, and to be disposed of by infinite goodness; it is that we should yield ourselves to that God who made us, who preserves and hath redeemed us, and hath pledged His faithfulness to conduct all those to happiness who put their confidence in Him.
3. And this leads me to the last argument which I shall use for enforcing this exhortation, which is the advantage with which it will be attended. At the same time that we yield ourselves to God, He gives Himself to us in all the fulness of His grace. (R. Walker.)
Yielding the members as instruments
I. Yield. Present: allusion to entrance on military service.
II. Yield what? “Your members.” The whole man, more especially the bodily members, which are the organs of internal principles.
III. What as? “Instruments”--weapons, arms. The members are weapons used on one side or the other of the conflict between sin and righteousness; employed in the service of one or other of two masters or sovereigns. The body is an arsenal of arms or a warehouse of tools for good or evil. (T. Robinson, D. D.)
Yielding unto God
The word “yield” in Luke 2:22 means “present,” and so it does in Acts 23:23-24, and in Ephesians 5:27. “Yielding,” then, is to present ourselves to God as His servants, His property, wholly consecrated to Him. Consider--
I. The reasons why it is our duty to yield ourselves unto God. Because--
1. He is absolute sovereign, and we must do His will. It is obviously, therefore, the greatest folly and danger to have a will opposed to Him in any respect.
2. He is of infinite excellence. He not only must and will rule, but He ought to rule. Who should possess supreme power but that Being who is wise, generous, patient, faithful, true, and infinitely so beyond all His creatures?
3. He has absolute right to rule. For whom ought all our faculties and powers to be employed but for Him who is their Maker? To what can we trace our blessings but to His bounty? He made these faculties and the objects around us so exactly suited to our wants.
4. He has redeemed us. Far less benefit than this bestowed by a fellow creature would make us yield ourselves as debtors to him all our lives.
5. Our best interests in time and in eternity are involved in this step. To refuse to obey this command is to refuse to be enriched by His bounty, to be preserved by His care, to taste of His love, and to enjoy His glory.
II. The extent of this command. It does not mean that you are to submit your power, though you must do that. God will not suffer any of His creatures eventually to persevere in opposition to Him; and therefore we are now, before that moment of compulsion comes, called to submit.
1. It is His revealed will that each sinner who hears the gospel should believe on His Son, look for sanctification of his nature through the work of the Holy Spirit, depend on Him to bring him to everlasting happiness, and come to an unreserved obedience to the whole of His law who is our rightful Lord.
2. But this is not all. The passage obviously means, “Present yourselves a living sacrifice to God.” While it requires us to resign ourselves absolutely to the whole will of God, it calls upon us to give Him all our faculties, and to devote our affections to Him. He has planted in us the powers of fear, of hope, of desire, of delight, of love: it is His will that all these affections, especially the master affection, love, should be occupied chiefly with Him; we are to love Him supremely, and all the rest will follow. He who yields himself to God, yields all his property, his influence, his time, whatever he possesses, for it is God’s. (Baptist Noel, M. A.)
Yielding to God
I. The precept. To yield implies that two persons have been opposed one to the other, and that now one submits to the other. This submission may be a willing or unwilling, unreserved or reserved, permanent or temporary.
1. As between man and God, to yield implies that there is a great gulf which sin has caused to exist between man and God. There is no love to God in man’s natural heart. Hence the unrest and misery of so many men. They are not at peace with God.
2. Into the midst of this moral chaos God has descended, and in the person of His Son has opened a way by which the sinner may be received back to God. And hence the language of God to the sinner is, “Be ye reconciled.” “Yield yourselves unto God.”
3. This submission must be accompanied by heartfelt sorrow for, and a determination to forsake sin, and faith in Christ.
4. It must be a willing submission. There must be no reserve, no condition, no hanging back.
5. It must be a permanent submission, not only for the present, but for the future, for time and for eternity.
II. Why it should be obeyed. “Yield” because--
1. It is your duty. There is in the hearts of Englishmen a strong feeling of the principle of duty. That famous signal--“England expects every man to do his duty,” rings through the hearts of thousands when they hear it. And it is that which carries the Englishman wherever his country calls him. But, alas! there may be a sense of duty as regards man, and no such sense as regards God. But still remember that it is your duty.
2. It is our life.
3. It is your death if you refuse to yield (Matthew 25:30; Mat_25:41; Mat_25:46).
III. There are many ways in which it may be met.
1. By obedience. But you may ask, “How am I to do it?” Just as the Lord Jesus said to the man with the withered hand, “Stretch forth thy hand,” and the man stretched it forth and it was whole; so, in the same way, if a sinner present feels guilty and helpless, and hears the word of command, and makes the effort, praying for the Divine assistance, seeking to obey the precept, that man will find the needed help afforded him. Just as when Peter was sinking beneath the waves, and cried out, “Lord, save me,” and the Lord caught the sinking apostle, do you say, from the bottom of your heart, now, at this moment, “Lord, save me”; and in the effort you shall find that God does save you.
2. By a refusal, “We will not have this Man to reign over us.” “I love pleasure; I dislike self-denial and religious efforts.” Now, I would not deny that there are such things as the pleasures of sin; but remember they are for a season only. Afterwards, there is “the worm that dieth not,” etc. But I doubt whether you do find that those pleasures of sin satisfy you. “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” And though there may be the noisy laugh, and the outward appearance of indifference, yet I believe that no one can hear God’s word and remain in indifference, without some qualms of conscience, some dread of eternity. Oh, then, beware how you say, “I will not yield.” “See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh,” etc.
3. By attempting a compromise; by delay, for example. You wish for time. Now, there is no such thing as neutrality in religion. There may be neutrality as between states; between man and man; but there is no such thing as neutrality in the case of man’s service to God. “He that is not with Me, is against Me.” Besides, if you now despise the mercy of God, and use the promise of mercy as an excuse for continuance in sin, what right have you to expect that God will continue to show mercy? You may say, “Was there not mercy for that man who entered the vineyard at the eleventh hour, and for the thief upon the cross?” Their case was altogether different from yours. The instance of a delayed repentance is very different from the case of a late repentance. They had not had the invitation and warning before as you have. Besides, how do you know that at any future time you will be one whir more willing? The chances are, humanly speaking, that you will be less willing. It is told of one who gained his livelihood by searching the nests which were built in the cliff, that upon being let down from the summit, he gained a footing on a jutting crag beneath. He suddenly let go the rope by which he had descended. His position was most critical. The rope was swaying backwards and forwards in the air, and each time it came less near to him than before. He saw his danger; he saw the necessity of instant decision. He must either seek to grasp it by jumping from his crag, or it may be lost forever. There was no time; it must be done at once. He did it. He sprang from his crag; he seized upon the rope, and he was saved. And so, if you are conscious that at this moment you are an unsaved sinner, you have but one course open to you. It is that you now yield yourself to God. “Behold, now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.” (Emilius Bayley, B. D.)
Yielding to God
I. Yield. Free enlistment to God as our lawful sovereign. No forced service: a willing heart the best sacrifice (2 Corinthians 9:7). Willingness of spirit and weakness of flesh accepted (Mark 14:38). The work done not so much regarded as the will to do it.
II. Yourselves. Not merely your estate. The whole man (1 Thessalonians 5:23). The Macedonians first gave themselves, then their substance (2 Corinthians 8:5). Self surrender the fruit of love. Love’s language is Psalms 116:16. The heart is man’s citadel. That surrendered the whole man yields. All our offerings worthless without ourselves (Proverbs 23:26). Ananias gave his goods, not himself. To yield ourselves wholly to God is the conquest of His grace. Christ’s people a free will offering in the day of His power (Psalms 110:3). The means of effecting it, the constraining power of His love (2 Corinthians 5:14).
III. Unto God.
1. Your rightful sovereign.
2. The best of masters.
3. Your Father through Christ. Not to yield ourselves to God is to yield ourselves to sin. (T. Robinson, D. D.)
Yielding to God
In 1845 Hugh Miller, as he tells us in his “First Impressions of England,” visited Olney, the home of the poet Cowper. It was then a Babel of blackguards. He thought that all the bad-looking fellows in England had been drawn together there. Two prize fighters, named Bendigo and Caunt, were about to fight for the championship and three hundred guineas. After ninety-three rounds Bendigo beat. Hugh Miller saw him after the fight standing at the door of a whisky shop, with his face all bruised. What would Hugh have said if anyone had prophesied that that battered pugilist should be “born again” in his old age, and become an earnest student of the Bible, and worker for Christ? The idea of that man taking to the Bible! Not very likely. Like Sarah, he might have laughed at the prophecy. The scene changes. Thirty years have passed, and Bendigo is now about sixty years of age, and is in gaol for the twenty-seventh time. One Sabbath he hears in prison an address on David and Goliath. Bendigo listened, as the subject was just in his line. He understood it all: Goliath was just another Caunt. He forgot where he was, so interested was he; and at the close bawled out, “Bravo, I’m glad the little ‘un won.” He kept thinking about it in his cell, and decided that somebody must have helped the little one to kill the big giant. Next Sabbath the sermon was on Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He fancied that the name of the third was Bendigo and said to himself, “If one Bendigo may be saved, why not another?” The subject for the following day was “The Twelve Fishermen”; again he was thoroughly interested, as he was a keen fisher himself. The next sermon was about the seven hundred left-handed men in the twentieth chapter of Judges; once more he is all ear, being himself a left-handed man. The Bible seemed to him a very strange book; it was all written for himself! Upon getting out of gaol he found his old companions waiting for him; but he declared that he would never enter another public house. He went to a mission meeting; and that very night, on his way home, he fell on his knees in the snow, and yielded himself to the Saviour. He had been in twenty-one matched fights, and had not been beaten in one; “but,” said he, “when I came to the Cross of Christ, I was quite beat at the first round.” He was then doing his desperate utmost to master the A B C, that be might be able to read God’s blessed book; and he wound up, the reporter said, by declaring, “If God could save Bendy, He could save anybody.” (J. Wells, M. A.)
Surrender to God
The apostle has just warned his readers not to surrender their limbs and bodily organs to sin as the conquered surrender their weapons to the conqueror. Now he is pressing upon them to whom they should surrender, not only their limbs and organs, but their whole being, their very selves. We notice that such surrender--
I. Fulfils the supreme duty of life. It is surrender--
1. To the rightful Sovereign of the soul.
2. To the loving Father.
3. To the sacrificial Redeemer, and therefore--
4. To the absolute Proprietor of the soul. So that whatever, other duties a man discharges if this surrender is neglected, or defied, he is unloyal, unfilial, a moral felon.
II. Realises the highest satisfaction of life. A man may yield labour, time, money to God, and find no satisfaction; but if he yields his very self, the needle has found the magnet, the river has reached the ocean, and there is rest. Why? Because in that surrender--
1. The self contradictions of human hearts are harmonised. The harp of human nature is then in the hand of the Infinite Harpist.
2. The intellect becomes the docile scholar of the True Teacher. “Speak Lord, for Thy servant heareth.”
3. Conscience has accepted the Perfect Guide.
III. Ensures the noblest usefulness of life. It was this that made Paul what he was. All things answer their highest ends just as they are completely within the realm of law, i.e., just as they are most completely surrendered to God. Conclusion: To those who surrender themselves to God--
1. The enigma of duty is solved.
2. The secret of peace is found.
3. The way to usefulness is discovered. (U. R. Thomas.)
Surrender must be complete
It is related in Roman history, that when the people of Collatia stipulated about their surrender to the authority and protection of Rome the question was asked, “Do you deliver up yourselves, the Collatine people, your city, your fields, your water, your bounds, your temples, your utensils, all things that are yours, both human and Divine, into the hands of the people of Rome?” And on their replying, “We deliver up all,” they were received. (J. Harris.)
Surrender must be unconditional
At the battle of Fort Donelson, when ready for the final assault, General Buckner, the Confederate commander, proposed an armistice to settle terms of capitulation. Grant wanted no armistice. He knew his advantage, and replied, “No terms but unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon incomparably superior to their own, the Tusculans were threatened with vengeance by the marching of Camillus, at the head of a considerable army, towards their country. Conscious of their inability to cope with such an adversary, they adopted the following method of appeasing him:--They declined to make resistance, set open their gates, and applied themselves quietly to their proper business, resolving to submit since they found it impossible to contend. Camillus, on entering their city, was struck with their prudence, and spake as follows: “You only, of all people, have found out the true method of abating the Roman fury; and your submission has proved your best defence. Upon these terms we can no more find it in our hearts to injure you, than, upon other considerations, you could have found power to oppose us.” Thus the chief inducement for a sinner to submit to God is a persuasion that He is not inexorable, but that there is forgiveness with Him through Jesus Christ.
Self-devotion a Christian duty
I. The state of those here addressed.
1. As the apostle did not speak to disembodied spirits, or to persons literally raised he must refer to a spiritual resurrection. Nor does he speak of such as have escaped great dangers, or been recovered from great afflictions, although these may, in a sense, be said to be “alive from the dead.” But he speaks of a resurrection from a death of sin to a life of righteousness. This death is alluded to in Colossians 2:13; Ephesians 2:1.
2. To be alive from this death includes repentance unto life (Acts 11:18); living faith, whereby the just live (Hebrews 10:38); justification of life (Romans 5:18); regeneration; the being “risen with Christ,” even from temporal death, and to eternal life, as it respects a title to, meetness for, expectation, prospect, and anticipation of it.
II. The exhortation given to them.
1. “Yield yourselves,” exhibit, present, place as a sacrifice at the altar. That which we are to present is not merely our prayers, praises, alms, duties, but “ourselves,” our persons, souls and bodies, to God, who does not want “ours but us,” that we may belong to Him, may be appropriated to Him only. Thus St. Paul (Acts 27:23).
2. But how are we to present ourselves to God? As subjects to a king; as servants to a master (verse 16); as soldiers to their general--hence the word used for “instruments” denotes, properly, military weapons; as children to a father; as a wife to a husband; as a man’s field or house may be said to be at his disposal, to be cultivated or employed as he pleases.
3. Thus we are to yield or present, to God all our members, faculties, talents, time: we should consider they may be “instruments” and weapons “of unrighteousness,” employed in the service of sin, fighting for it, and for its master, Satan, against God; or they may be “instruments and weapons of righteousness,” employed in the promotion of piety and virtue for God’s service and glory, fighting His battles, and opposing the designs of our spiritual enemies.
III. Motives enforcing the exhortation.
1. Justice and reason; we are God’s by creation, preservation, redemption.
2. Gratitude to God for His inestimable mercies.
3. Love to man.
4. And even self-interest requires it. (J. Benson.)
Alternating between amendment and relapse
Lady Montagu, in one of her letters, describes in her own peculiar way a stormy passage which she had just made across the Bristol Channel. She tells of a lady on the steamer whose fears were divided between being lost herself and losing her smuggled headdress. She had bought a fine point-lace cap which she was contriving to conceal from the custom house officers. When the wind grew high and the little vessel creaked, she fell very heartily to her prayers, and thought wholly of her soul. When it seemed to abate she returned to the worldly care of her headdress. This easy transition from her soul to her headdress, and the alternate agonies that both gave her, made it hard to determine which she thought of greatest value. This, we fear, is a little picture of many lives as they cross the channel between the two eternities--alternating from amendment to relapse; driven now by some sudden calamity to think of the soul, but with every lull in the dark providence falling back to caress some smuggled habit from the land of sin.
Surrender of the soul to God
Horace Bushnell was a teacher in Yale College at a time of religious awakening there; and although not an atheist, not an infidel, was greatly disturbed by doctrinal unrest. He was settling his opinions; he was passing through that tumultuous period known in the experience of most diligent inquirers, in which he could raise more questions than he could answer. The pupils under him were profoundly affected by the religious movement in the college. His great manliness, his benevolence, his social feeling, caused him extreme pain in view of the fact that he seemed to stand in the way of the religious reformation of his own scholars. He paced up and down his room, meditating on his personal duty, and finally came to this proposition: “I have no doubt that there is a distinction between right and wrong. I feel sure on that one point; am I willing to act according to my belief? I have perfect confidence that there is a distinction between right and wrong; am I willing to throw myself over the line between the wrong and the right, towards the side of the right, and hereafter consecrate myself irrevocably, utterly, affectionately, to the following of the best religious light I possess?” He knelt down. He consecrated himself to the performance of all duty known to him. He rose with a forehead white, and the light of a star in his soul. Were all his doubts dissipated at an instant’s notice? Not at all. But they were like the mighty pines on the mountain tops after the lightning had smitten them. They do not fall, but they cease to grow. They are no longer trees; they are timber. He went on and on, until he came to be a prince with God, one of the leaders of religious discussion, one of the most spiritually-minded of theologians. I do not accept all his speculations; but the element in him that strikes all men who once fairly see it is his spirituality. It strikes even those of a faith opposed to his. I think that our friends in the Liberal school in theology revere the memory of Horace Bushnell for his sermons on the new life as well as for his philanthropic efforts. But the central thing in him, the pillar of fire which led him into the promised land, was surrender to God, or to what he knew to be duty, and to the whole of it. At the instant of irreversible, affectionate surrender, at the instant of that adjustment of the lenses of his soul, God flashed through him. (J. Cook.)
I. “As those who are alive from the dead.” This cuts up legalism by the roots. To work legally is to work for life; to work evangelically is to work from life. You are not here called upon to enter the service of God, as those who have life to win; but to enter the service of God, as those who are already alive--as those who can count upon heaven as their own. In this expression there are three distinct suggestions all regarding that new gospel service upon which we enter at the moment of our release from the sentence and state of death.
1. The hopefulness of such a service. The same work that, out of Christ, would have been vain for all the purposes of acceptance, is no longer vain in the Lord. The same labour that would have been fruitless may now be fruitful of such spiritual sacrifices as are acceptable to God through Christ. The same offerings which would have been rejected as an equivalent for the wages of a servant may now be rejoiced over and minister complacency to the spirit of our heavenly Father, when rendered as the attentions of His reconciled children.
2. The principle of such a service--gratitude to Him who had received us. “Ye are not your own, ye are bought with a price,” etc. It is just yielding up to Him in service that which He has conferred upon us by donation. It is turning to its bidden use the instrument He has put into our hands.
3. The power for the service. The faith which receives Christ receives power along with Him to become one of God’s children. The instant of our believing is the instant of our new birth. The same faith which reconciles is also the faith which regenerates; and you, in yielding yourselves to the service of God, will be upheld by the influences which descend on the prayer of faith.
II. “And your members as the instruments of righteousness unto God.” How naturally the apostle descends from the high principle to the plain work of obedience! To yield yourselves unto God is a brief expression of that act by which you submit your person and bind over all your performances to His will. To yield your members as the instruments of righteousness unto God is, in the language of the lawyers, like an extension of the brief. Did you at one time put forth your hand to depredation or violence--now let it be the instrument of service to your neighbour and honest labour for your families. Did your feet carry you to the haunts of profligacy--now let them carry you to the house of prayer and of holy companionship. Did your tongue utter forth evil speakings--let it now be the organ of charity and peace, and let the salt of grace season its various communications. Did your eyes go abroad in quest of foolishness--let the steadfast covenant now be made with them that they may be turned away from every intruding evil. Did you give your ears to the corrupting jest, or to the refined converse that is impregnated with every charm but that of Christianity--let them now be given up to the lessons of eternal wisdom, and to the accents of those who fear the Lord and talk often together of His name. In this way you turn your members into so many instruments of righteousness. (T. Chalmers, D. D.)
Christians serving God as those that are alive from the dead
As, then, Lazarus, or the son of the poor widow of Nain, or the saints which arose after the crucifixion of Christ, must have conceived, and felt, and acted, under impressions peculiarly their own; so those who are spiritually alive from the dead, who are quickened by the Divine Spirit, have conceptions, and feelings, and impressions, which distinguish them from the rest of mankind; we may observe, then--
I. Christians, as those that are alive from the dead, are to yield themselves unto God, with lively perceptions of the things which are not seen and eternal. Had the earthly house of your tabernacle been dissolved, and your spirits permitted to take their flight to an eternal world, and for a season to dwell there; with what vivid perceptions of Divine things should you afterwards have yielded yourselves unto God! Oh, how subduing would be the visions of heaven! And are not you Christians alive from the dead? Has not God quickened you? Has He not given you that faith which is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen? Is not your conversation in heaven? Have you not obtained affecting, realising views of an eternal world? Calculating everything by the standard of God manifest in the flesh, God in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, living, and dying, and rising, and ascending, and interceding for men, what impressions do you receive? What an overwhelming evil does sin appear, what an importance attaches to the soul, and to heaven, and eternity, and holiness, and everything connected with the inheritance of the saints in light! By enlightening your understandings, God has given you an impulse, a new nature, and has awakened your consciences, and engaged your affections, and made obedience, and zeal, and devotedness delightful. Then quench not the heavenly light, counteract not the heavenly impulse, resist not the Divine nature, but yield yourselves unto God, by dying unto sin, by living unto God, by glorifying God with your bodies, and with your spirits which are God’s.
II. Christians, as those that are alive from the dead, are to yield themselves unto God, under a sense of Divine favour and with sentiments of gratitude and joy. If you are alive from the dead, it is all gain and no loss. How much do you owe to God and Christ, and the riches of His grace! You were earthly, sensual, devilish; now you are pure, peaceable, without partiality, and without hypocrisy; full of mercy and of good fruits. You were children of the wicked one; now you are children of God. Once you were condemned; now there is no condemnation to you. You are now the children of God, and the inheritance is yours. You have nothing, however, in all this that you have not received. All is of grace, When you can determine what you owe to God, and to Christ, and His grace; then you have ascertained your obligations to God in being alive from the dead. Oh, what an impelling, absorbing gratitude, should influence your hearts, and souls, your thoughts, your words, and works.
III. Christians, as those that are alive from the dead, are to yield themselves unto God that they may be instrumental in convincing others of the reality of things not seen. You are designed to live a life so spiritual, so holy, so heavenly, a life which so marks your connection with eternity, that you may, by that, testify to your brethren, and save their souls alive; this will be no less efficacious than miracles, and signs, and wonders. Your own personal salvation is not the only thing connected with religion which you are to care about, and to promote. Higher aims are to be yours; for you are designed for higher and nobler purposes. You are to show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into the marvellous light of the gospel. You are to be to the Lord for a name; for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off. (M. Jackson.)
For sin shall not have dominion over you.
(a Lenten sermon):--There are different states of “sin.” There is sin latent, and fully manifest; there is sin you are striving to subdue, and sin dominant. It is concerning this last state that we have this promise--“Sin shall not lord it over you.” And there is a state beyond this when the sin is so conquered that it is actually changed into grace. A besetting sin, a characterising virtue; strong passions, ardent love; fear, humility; credulity, faith; weakness, leaning on the strong. Consider--
I. How the state of domineering sin is formed.
1. We must never forget that it is in sin’s nature to grow. Weeds very generally grow faster than flowers. And this is the process. First, an empty space; a life unfenced; no sense of danger; no watch; no self-distrust; no trust in God. Under such conditions “sin,” in some form or other, must come in and get stronger and stronger and stronger, till it over-crops and over-shadows the whole moral being of the man.
2. Sin has a strange power of hiding itself, partly because Satan can “turn himself into an angel of light,” and trace everything in forms of beautiful colours, and partly because “sin” warps the judgment and dims the eye. And still more it hardens the heart and sears the conscience.
II. How it is to be overcome. I will suppose the case of one who has been conscious of the growth of some “sin” in his own heart, and who is very desirous of getting rid of it. What should you do?
1. Thank God that you have this consciousness and desire. It is a proof that the Holy Spirit has not left you.
2. Claim this as the ground of your argument with God: “Lord, Thou hast showed me my sin, and made it hateful. Now, Lord, complete Thine own work.”
3. Having said this to God, attend to the little things. Listen for the still small voices, and act out at once every conviction and any better desire which God has given you.
4. Next, have some definite work in hand which is for God’s service and Christ’s sake. Impart what you feel and what you know. By warming another’s heart, you best warm your own. A work for Christ is a great antagonism to a domineering sin.
5. Then take care of the first signs of declension from what you now begin to do. Remember that in your heart there is a great danger of a reaction taking place.
6. Do not be discouraged by your feeling and the returning of besetting sins. A religious life is a campaign; and in that campaign some battles will be victories, and others defeats. The great principle is how to rally after defeat.
7. Be very careful to encourage the habit of silent prayer at the critical moment, when you know that you are getting into danger, when you feel the enemy is strong.
8. Remember that spiritual life is in Christ. He is the life, and nothing lives but as it is in union with Him. Then, as He says, “Because I live, ye shall live also.”
9. There must be the constant inward breathing of the Holy Spirit in you. He must prompt, guide, strengthen, give both the will and the power. The only way to get rid of any “sin” is to put God in His right place. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
I. The evil which we are encouraged to resist. The dominion of sin. St. Paul represents sin as a mighty usurper, exercising absolute dominion over the sinner, taking the heart for his throne, and the members for his slaves (Romans 5:20-21; Rom_6:12; Rom_6:20). By a successful stratagem sin obtained the supremacy over our first father; and his posterity, while they remain in their natural state, have never been able to break the yoke (1 John 5:19). This dreadful dominion of sin is promoted--
1. By ignorance of God’s will. In some countries this is almost total; in ours it is partial, and in a great measure wilful (Romans 1:28; John 3:19).
2. By our corrupt passions and sensual propensities, which will be gratified, though health, reputation, yea, life itself, are at stake (Job 15:16; Isaiah 5:18).
3. By the worldly interests of men, to which they readily give the decided preference, when they happen to clash with their duty to God. Thus, for the sake of the world, the guests invited to the gospel feast, with one consent, desired to be excused; and the rich man departed from Jesus full of sorrow.
4. By the powerful temptations of Satan.
5. By the countenance and example of the multitude. Sinners readily follow the multitude to do evil. The broad road that leads to destruction is thronged with travellers.
II. The means afforded for our encouragement in resisting sin: “for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”
1. Grace is here opposed to the law, and signifies the gospel (John 1:17; 2 Corinthians 6:1; Acts 14:3).
2. The law was a system of just, but awful severity, and God had wise and holy designs in the establishment of it (Romans 5:20). It was introduced among the Jews, not that they might be justified by it, but that, by discovering how far they fell short of the obedience it required, they might be more deeply impressed with a sense of their abounding sins; and thus it became a schoolmaster to lead them to Christ (Galatians 3:24), and that so, where sin had abounded, grace might much more abound (Romans 5:20).
3. Now, believers in Christ are “not under the law”; they are “dead to the law” (Romans 7:4); they are “delivered from the law” (Romans 7:6). By these expressions we are not to suppose that they are discharged from obedience (1 Corinthians 2:1); but they are no longer under the law considered as a covenant, the terms of which are, “the man that doeth them” (all and everyone perfectly) “shall live in them” (Galatians 3:12). Christ hath fulfilled all righteousness for His people (Romans 10:4). Being accounted righteous through faith in Christ, they are redeemed from the curse of the law (Romans 8:1-2).
4. Christians possess greater advantages for the destruction of sin than those under the law.
1. Who can behold the general dominion of sin over the world without the deepest concern (Jeremiah 9:1).
2. Having learned that no means are effectual to stop the progress of sin but those afforded by the gospel of grace, let this serve to render the gospel more precious.
3. This subject effectually refutes that vile slander which is so unjustly cast on the doctrines of grace, that they are conducive to sin and unfriendly to holiness. (G. Burder.)
Believers free from the dominion of sin
We have here--
I. A peculiar position. “Ye are not under the law.”
1. We no longer dread the curse of the law which those who are under the law may well do. The careless try to shake off the thought, but still more or less it disturbs them; but when once awakened the dread of punishment fills them with terror. Now believers have no such fear, for our sin was laid upon Jesus, who “hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.”
2. We no longer drudge in unwilling obedience, seeking to reach a certain point of merit. The man under the law who is awakened labours as men who tug at the oar to escape from a tempest. But, alas! he has no power to attain even to his own ideal. His servile works are ill done, and fail to yield him peace. Now Christ has fulfilled the law for us, and we rest in that finished work. We now obey out of love, and delight in the law after the inner man.
3. We are no longer uncertain as to the continuance of Divine love. Under the law no man’s standing can be secure, since by, a single sin he may forfeit his position. But the merit of Christ is always a constant and abiding quantity; if, therefore, we rest thereon, our foundation is always secure. “If, when we were enemies,” etc.
4. We are no longer afraid of the last great day. Judgment is a terrible word to those who are hoping to save themselves, for their doings are sure to be found wanting. But judgment has no terror in it to a believer, “Bold shall I stand in that great day,” etc.
5. We have no slavish dread of God. The soul under the law stands as the Israelites did, far off from the mountain, with a bound set between themselves and the glory of God. But we have access with boldness to the throne of grace, and we delight to avail ourselves of it. “Perfect love has cast out fear.” “Stand fast, therefore, in the liberty,” etc.
II. A special assurance. “Sin shall not have dominion over you.”
1. This is a very needful assurance.
2. This assurance secures us from the danger of being under the absolute sway of sin. What is meant by this?
3. This assurance is confirmed by the context--“Sin shall not have dominion over you,” because you are dead to it by virtue of your union to Christ. Besides, you live in Christ in newness of life by reason of His living in you. You are bound for victory and you shall have it.
III. A remarkable reason. “For ye are not under the law, but under grace.” Those who are under the law must always be under the dominion of sin, because--
1. The law condemns immediately upon transgression, and affords no hope and no encouragement. It is not so with those who are under grace, for they are freely forgiven. The amazing love of God when shed abroad in the heart creates a desire for better things, and what the law could not do grace accomplishes.
2. The law drives to despair, and because there is no hope the sinner will often plunge into iniquity. The child of God saith, “God, for Christ’s sake, hath cast my sins behind His back, and I am saved. Now, for the love I bear His name, I will serve Him with all my might.”
3. The law rouses the opposition of the heart. There are many things which people never think of doing till they are forbidden. Lock up a closet and say to your children, “Never enter that closet, nor even look into the keyhole,” and they who have never wanted to look into the dingy old corner before now pine to inspect it. Law, by reason of our unruly nature, creates sin. But when we are under grace we love God for His love to us, and labour to please Him in all things.
4. The law affords no actual help. All it does is to say, “Thou shalt,” and “Thou shalt not”; but grace brings the Holy Spirit into the soul to work in us holy affections and a hatred of sin, and hence what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, grace accomplishes for us by its own almighty power.
5. The law inspires no love, and love after all is the fulfilling of the law. Law is hard and cold, like the two tables of Moses. Look at the legalist; he is a bondslave, and nothing more. But grace fires a man with love to God and enthusiasm for holiness. The most pleasing service in the world is that which is done from motives of affection and not for wages. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The upper hand
I shall use the text as--
I. A test. Has sin dominion over you? If so; then you are not a believer. Try your own selves by this test. You may be under the dominion of sin, while successfully resisting some forms of it; but if there be but one sin that usurps authority, then sin has dominion over you. Satan does not send to all men the same temptations. The sin is adapted to the constitution.
1. Some are under the dominion of sin in the form of anger. Those who have a quick, hot temper, are like the small pot that quickly boils over and scalds terribly. There are others whose temper is rather slower in coming up, but when it has once risen it will last long, and make them sulky and unforgiving. Now if any man says, “My temper is so bad that I cannot curb it,” that temper has got dominion over him, and, according to my text, he is not a Christian. If the grace of God does not help us to bridle that lion that is within us, what has it done for us?
2. The propensity of others is to murmur. I know some who grumble at everything. Trade is always bad with them, and as for their meals--instead of being thankful to God they are perpetually finding fault. Their very garments are never to their minds. The weather never suits them. Now if any man murmurs, he may be a Christian needing to be purged of this defilement, but if you say, “I cannot help murmuring,” then it has got dominion over you. You must wage war against it, for if you are a child of God this sin shall not have dominion over you.
3. With others the reigning sin is covetousness. I do not say that they should be indifferent to business, but why so penurious? “Covetousness is idolatry.” Of course you may fall into fits of covetousness and yet be Christians, but if you are habitually covetous then your covetousness has got dominion over you, and according to the text you cannot be a child of God. Do then as the good man did who had resolved to give a pound to some good cause, and the devil tempted him not to do it. Said he, “I will give two now.” The devil said, “Nay, you will be ruining yourself.” Said he, “I will give four.” Another temptation came, and he said, “I will give eight; and if the devil does not leave off tempting me I do not know to what lengths I shall go, but I will he master of him somehow.” Do anything rather than let the golden call run over you.
4. Perhaps the sin of pride may be in the ascendant. Now, I do not say that you are no Christian because you occasionally forget the lowliness and modesty that become you, but I do say that if you tell me that you cannot help being proud, then pride is your master and Christ is not.
5. The dominant sin of many is sloth. Is there any reigning sin in your hearts? Never mind what it is. Then Christ cannot be in your soul, for “When He comes, He comes to reign.”
II. A promise. It does not say that sin shall not dwell in you. In the holiest there is enough sin to destroy if it were not for the grace of God, which restrains its deadly operation. Nor are you told that you shall never fall into sin. Need I mention such as David? The security is that “sin shall not have dominion over you.” The fair and lovely dove may fall into the mire, but the mire has not any dominion over it; but let the swine go there, and it rolls in it, for the mire has dominion over its nature. Notice--
1. A few of the general reasons for the promise. Sin cannot get confirmed dominion over the child of God because--
2. The reason given in the text--“For ye are not under the law, but under grace.” There are two principles in the world that are supposed to promote holiness--law and grace.
III. An encouragement.
1. There are not a few who are strangers to the holy jealousy which keeps a watch over the heart and a guard upon the lips, lest they should sin. Cultivate this jealousy; be very watchful, and let the text animate you.
2. There are some who are consciously very weak. Be encouraged. Sin shall no more get dominion over the weak than over the strong. The spark shall not be quenched, nor the bruised reed broken.
3. There are those who are fighting with some great sin. Put this cool water to your lips and be refreshed. You shall conquer yet; fight on!
4. There are those who have been lately converted. Your chains are broken, but there are some links that are left hanging, and sometimes they will catch hold of a nail, and you will think you are tied up again. But if you have given your heart to Christ you shall yet be helped.
5. Perhaps I address a backslider. Do you now hate your sin? Do you cry unto God for mercy, and rest in the work of Jesus? If so, be of good courage still, you shall be saved. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
For ye are not under the law, but under grace.--
Grace the deliverer from the bondage of sin
1. Man is constituted to obey! Thus constituted, his nature was provided for. Upon his first entrance on the stage of being he was placed under the dominion of holiness. But man severed himself from God. In the first act of disobedience, however, he was obedient to Satan, and at every step in his subsequent history we find him still under his dominion.
2. Man has never been able to free himself from this bondage. Philosophy has not helped him; and our text declares law has not. But we are to consider that which does. Notice--
I. The aspect of sin as a dominion.
1. The willing character of it. The consciousness of humanity ever charges itself with voluntary submission to such a dominion. Moreover, the Bible declares that man chooses it.
2. Its deceitful character. Having the “understanding darkened.” Satan promised our first parents to be as gods--he meant them to be the opposite.
3. Its gradual character, Like the conquest of a country, step by step new territory is won, and dominion gained in the heart of it,
4. Its cruel character. All its servants are slaves, and are led on to disaster and death. The cruelty of this dominion is seen in the increase of evil desires, and the diminution of pleasures to be derived from them; every desire ultimately ending in dissatisfaction and pain.
II. The inability of law to free from this dominion.
1. Law manifests sin. “By law comes knowledge of sin.” Think of the flame from the volcano revealing cities and plains in the far-off distance. So law enlightens conscience, casts its glare into the innermost recesses of the whited sepulchre, and discovers a dead soul.
2. Law causes disquietude about sin, showing its character and consequences.
3. Law revives the strength of sin (Romans 7:8).
III. The delivering power of grace.
1. The law which condemns sin is satisfied. We are delivered from sin as a curse. Christ bare our transgressions. This curse had dominion over us--made us fear death, judgment, etc.
2. “The law of the Spirit of Life” is imparted to us. “Nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” Sin may exist, but it cannot reign in the heart of a Christian. (See preceding context.) Christ has promised that this Spirit shall quicken life in us. Let us escape from the slavery of sin, and become the servants of righteousness, and “yield ourselves” unto Christ. (T. G. Horton.)
Believers not under the law but under grace
I. They are not under the law.
1. The law of which the apostle is speaking is not of man’s making, but is the law of God; and is unlike any human law. Note, e.g.--
2. The state of those for whom this law was made, This law is made for man. Is man then a fulfiller of this law? It is an awful truth that, so far from being frightened out of any evil practice by knowing that it is forbidden by the law of God, his knowing it to be forbidden makes him feel a greater relish for it, and so much the more desirous to commit it (Romans 7:8).
3. Believers are not under the law. They are not under--
II. The believer is under grace.
1. He is “under” the “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He is a man whom the free and undeserved love of his Redeemer has chosen unto life eternal. He is placed under a dispensation in which all he has, and all he hopes to have, are freely given him, “not for works of righteousness which he has done,” but as “the gift of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
2. He is under grace, because the grace of the Divine Spirit enters in and dwells in him. His soul is made the temple of the Holy Ghost. It is illuminated, sanctified, and comforted by that glorious inhabitant.
III. The consequence of being not under the law, but under grace. “Sin shall not have dominion over you,” because--
1. “The love of God is shed abroad in your heart by the Holy Ghost which is given unto you.” A sense of the unspeakable mercy which our Lord has shown us begets such lively feelings of gratitude and love that to delight in that which God abhors becomes a thing impossible. Our heart burns, on the other hand, with holy fervour to render our redeemed life unto the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:15).
2. You are a partaker of a new nature (2 Corinthians 5:17). Sin is not indeed utterly destroyed, but it has no longer the dominion. (A. Roberts, M. A.)
Grace, not law, the motive for holiness
Wherein lies the force of the reason advanced? What is there in the covenant of grace, as set in contrast with the covenant of works, on which to rest the above declaration? At first sight we might be apt to suppose (arguing from the tendencies and susceptibilities of the human constitution) that men would be more energetic after holiness if left to earn heaven for themselves than if invited to accept it as a gift. But on second thoughts this will not be found so. Look at--
I. The covenant of works.
1. As it requires perfect obedience without containing any provision for pardon, mediation, or escape, will it not produce despair and even recklessness to fallen beings in whom there is a tendency to sin, and a decay in all the powers of resistance, and who at the best can only give an imperfect obedience, which is of no avail?
2. Such is the constitution of our nature that the prospect of success is indispensable for vigour and exertion. Place me, therefore, under a covenant of works--shut out from me all notices of a Redeemer--read me that, by keeping them, I may insure myself a blessed immortality--and I shall either fold my arms in inactivity or resign myself to my sinfulness, Why mortify imperious desires, why deny craving appetites in the face of a moral certainty that I could not come up to what the law demanded, and that, if I failed, I was irretrievably condemned? No, there must be some provision in the case of failure, else will there never be any effort to obey. There must be room for second thoughts for repentance, otherwise will the law, with all its rewards, be set at nought as unadapted to the beings on whom it is imposed.
II. The covenant of grace.
1. There is an energy of motive of the most powerful character. There is more--immeasurably more--to lead to the hatred of sin and the striving after holiness in the fact that Christ died for me than in a thousand statute books with multiplied enactments and many rewards. Only let this fact seat itself in the soul, and it must excite such love to the Being who bought us with His blood--such abhorrence of the sin which caused that blood to be shed--as will urge a man to exert every power that he may not crucify the Son of God afresh. And as he gathers all his strength to the overcoming of evil, urged by the freeness of salvation as proffered to him--every blessing reminding him of Calvary, every promise being eloquent of the great propitiation--and thus the whole Christian system exciting, in all its workings, recollections which make him shun even the appearance of evil--oh, will he not furnish the strongest practical evidence that St. Paul advanced an argument which made good his proposition when he gave, “Ye are not under the law, but under grace” as his reason for saying, “Sin shall not have dominion over you”?
2. The words are also a promise or prophecy.
Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace?
The doctrines of grace do not lead to sin
1. Grace is the soul of the gospel: without it the gospel is dead. Grace is the music of the gospel; without it the gospel is silent as to all comfort. From the “A” to the “Z” in the heavenly alphabet everything in salvation is all of free favour, nothing of merit. “By grace are ye saved through faith,” etc.
2. No sooner is this doctrine set forth, however, than men begin to cavil at it; it is so humbling to human pride. God alone is exalted in the sovereignty of His mercy; this is not pleasant to the great minds of our philosophers and the broad phylacteries of our moralists. Straightway comes the objection that such doctrine must lead to licentiousness.
3. Now I admit that some turned the grace of God into lasciviousness; but cannot every truth be perverted? Is there not an almost infinite ingenuity in wicked men for making evil out of good? But let us act like rational men. We do not find fault with ropes because men have hanged themselves; nor do we destroy the wares of Sheffield because edged tools are the murderer’s instruments.
4. Looking back in history I see upon its pages a refutation of the oft-repeated calumny. Who were the men that held these doctrines most firmly? Men like Owen, Charnock, Manton, Howe, and Cromwell. What kind of men were these? Every historian will tell you that the greatest fault was that they were too precise for their generation, so that they were called Puritans. And if we are ever to see a godly England we must have a gospelised England. The gospel of the grace of God promotes real holiness.
I. The salvation which it beings is salvation from the power of sin. What we mean by salvation is deliverance from the love of habit and desire of sin. Now if that boon is the gift of Divine grace, in what way will it produce sin? The worse men are the more gladly would we see them embracing this truth, for they most need it.
II. Its principle of love has been found to possess very great power over men. In the infancy of history nations dream that crime can be put down by severity, but experience corrects the error. Our forefathers dreaded forgery, and made it a capital offence. Yet the constant use of the gallows was never sufficient to stamp out the crime. But some offences have almost ceased when the penalty has been lightened.
1. Love makes sin infamous. If one should rob another it would be sufficiently bad; but suppose a man robbed a friend who had helped him often when he was in need, everyone would say that his crime was most disgraceful.
2. Love has a great constraining power towards the highest form of virtue. Deeds to which a man could not be compelled on the ground of law, men have cheerfully done because of love. Would our brave seamen man the lifeboat to obey an Act of Parliament? Remember Romans 5:7-8. Goodness wins the heart, and one is ready to die for the kind and generous. Look how men have thrown away their lives for great leaders. The wounded French soldier, when the surgeon, searching for the bullet cut deeply, cried out, “A little lower and you will touch the Emperor.” Love to Jesus creates a heroism of which law knows nothing. All Church history is a proof of this.
3. Love, too, has often changed the most unworthy. We have often heard of the soldier who had been flogged and imprisoned, and yet would get drunk and misbehave himself. At last the commanding officer said, “I have tried almost everything, I will try one thing more. You seem incorrigible, but I will freely forgive you.” The man was greatly moved by this, and became a good soldier. A man woke up one morning from his drunken sleep and saw his only child getting his breakfast. Coming to his senses he said to her, “Millie, why do you stay with me?” She answered, “Because you are my father, and I love you.” He looked at himself, and saw what a ragged, good-for-nothing creature he was, and he answered her, “Millie, do you really love me?” The child cried, “Yes, father, and I will never leave you, because when mother died she said, ‘Millie, stick to your father, and always pray for him, and one of these days he will give up drink and be a good father to you’; so I will never leave you.” Is it wonderful that Millie’s father became a Christian? According to our moralists she should have said, “You are a horrible wretch f I have stuck to you long enough; I must now leave you, or else I shall be encouraging other fathers to get drunk.” Under such dealing I fear Millie’s father would have drank himself into perdition. But the power of love made a better man of him. Hear another story. There lived in Cheapside one who feared God and attended the secret meetings of the saints; and near him there dwelt a poor cobbler, whose wants were often relieved by the merchant; but the man, from hope of reward, laid an information against his kind friend on the score of religion. This accusation would have brought the merchant to death by burning if he had not found a means of escape. Returning, the injured man behaved more liberally than ever. The cobbler, however, avoided him, but one day was obliged to meet him, and the Christian man asked him gently, “Why do you shun me? I know all that you did to injure me, but I never had an angry thought against you. Let us be friends.” Do you marvel that they clasped hands and that ere long the poor man was found at the Lollards’ meeting? The Lord knows that bad as men are the key of their hearts hangs on the nail of love.
III. Its operations are connected with a special revelation of the evil of sin. Iniquity is made to be exceeding bitter before or when it is forgiven. A burnt child dreads the fire. By the operations of grace we are made weary of sin; we loathe both it and its imaginary pleasures. It is a thing accursed, even as Amalek was to Israel.
IV. It makes a man a new creature in Christ Jesus. His ignorance is removed, his affections are changed, his understanding is enlightened, his will is subdued, his desires are refined, his life is changed--in fact, he is as one newborn, to whom all things have become new. All beings live according to their nature, and the regenerated man works out the holy instincts of his renewed mind. A new heart makes all the difference. Given a new nature, and then all the propensities run in a different way.
V. It provides cleansing through atonement. The blood of Jesus sanctifies as well as pardons. The sinner learns that his free pardon cost the life of his best Friend. What! live in the sin which slew Jesus? Impossible! Thus you see that the gifts of free grace, when handed down by a pierced hand, are never likely to suggest self-indulgence in sin, but the very reverse.
VI. It secures daily helps from God’s Holy Spirit. Who deigns to dwell in every man whom God has saved by His grace.
1. He leads believers to be much in prayer, and what a power for holiness is found in this.
2. The renewed man is also quickened in conscience; so that things which heretofore did not strike him as sinful are seen in a clearer light, and are consequently condemned.
3. The good Spirit leads us into high and hallowed intercourse with God, and I defy a man to live upon the mount with God and then come down to transgress like men of the world. Thou art of another race; “thy speech betrayeth thee.” The perfume of the ivory palaces will be about thee, and men will know that thou hast been in other haunts than theirs.
VII. It elevates the entire man.
1. What do men most think about? Bread and butter, house rent, and clothes, and are as children playing with little sand heaps on the seashore; but the believer in free grace walks among hills and mountains, and his mental stature rises with his surroundings, and he becomes a thoughtful being, communing with sublimities. The man has now obtained a different view of himself. He says, “I am one of God’s chosen, joint heir with Jesus Christ, and as such I cannot be godless, nor live for the common objects of life.”
2. He rises in the object of his pursuit. He feels that he is born for Divine purposes, and he feels that God has loved him that His love may flow forth to others. God’s choice of any one man has a bearing upon all the rest. We are each one as a lamp kindled that we may shine in the dark and light up other lamps.
3. New hopes come crowding on him. His immortal spirit enjoys glimpses of the endless. As God has loved him in time he believes that the like love will bless him in eternity. Conclusion: A profligate son had been a grief to his father; he had robbed and disgraced him, and at last brought his grey hairs in sorrow to the grave. He attended his father’s funeral and stayed to hear the will read, having fully made up his mind that he was cut off with a shilling; and he meant to make it very unpleasant for the rest of the family. To his great astonishment the will ran something like this: “As for my son Richard, though he has wasted my substance and grieved my heart, I would have him know that I consider him still to be my own dear child, and, in token of my undying love, I leave him the same share as the rest of his brothers.” He left the room mastered by the surprising love of his father. Said he to the executor, “You surely did not read correctly?” “Yes, I did: there it stands.” “Then I feel ready to curse myself that I ever grieved my dear old father. Oh, that I could fetch him back again!” Love was born in that base heart by an unexpected display of love. May not your case be similar? Our Lord Jesus Christ is dead, but He has left it in His will that the chief of sinners are objects of His choicest mercy. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Know ye not that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey.
The service of sin and the service of righteousness
I. The criterion of both--obedience. A disobedient servant is a contradiction in terms. Disobedience vitiates service and ensures formal dismissal from it. By obedience to the behests of sin sinners are to be distinguished. Sin’s code is the ten commandments with the “nots” omitted; and the world swarms with men and women who yield the most constant and earnest obedience to each. From these the servants of righteousness are distinguished not by their profession, garb, postures, ritual, and shibboleth of righteousness, but by their obedience to the commands of righteousness. Many will present themselves before the Great Tribunal on other grounds, but the King of Righteousness will judge them exclusively by this criterion. “Not everyone that said unto the Lord, Lord,” etc.
II. The characteristics of the two services.
1. The service of sin is--
2. The service of righteousness is
III. The change from one service to the other.
1. All men are servants. Man was not made, and will never become independent. Servitude is the law of his nature, and of the two masters he must serve one.
2. All men have been the servants of sin. They are born in it and continue in it; some all their lives, others up to a certain point.
3. All men may become servants of righteousness.
Master or servant
One day a Mr. Charles was about to start from home to fulfil a preaching appointment, when rough weather set in, and he hesitated whether he ought to brave the storm. He consulted a Mr. John Evans on the point. “Tell Mr. Charles,” was the message returned, “that if he is a master he may stay at home, but if a servant he ought to keep his appointment.” (Christian Journal.)
Obedience to Christ
Come to Him. “I do not know what it is to come,” says one. Well, coming to Christ is simply the trusting Him. You are guilty, trust Him to save you. “But if I do that,” says one, “may I then go on and live as I did before?” No, that you cannot. If a ship at sea needed to be brought into harbour, and they took a pilot on board, he would say to the captain, “Captain, if you trust me I will get you into the harbour all right; let that sail be taken down.” But they do not reef it. “Here,” says he, “attend to the tiller and steer as I bid you.” But they did not attend. “Well,” says the pilot, “I thought you said you trusted me.” “Yes,” says the captain, “and you said that if we trusted you you would get into port and we are not into port.” “No, but I understood if you trusted me you would do as I bade you. It cannot be a true trust that is disobedient to my command.” If then you trust Christ you must do as He bid you, take up His cross and follow Him, and then that trust of yours shall surely have its reward. You shall be saved now, and saved forever.
The devil’s slaves
If a pirate, or, worse, the master of a slave ship, has made a good thing of his unlawful traffic, I do not see why he should reluctate about going into a lawful traffic on the ocean, because he does not know what the ocean will do to him. If a man is safe in sailing against God’s laws and everything that is good, how much more will God prosper him if he applies to legitimate commerce the same skill and enterprise and industry that he is now applying to that which is illegitimate. I have seen men work ten times as hard to be villains as they would have been obliged to work to be honest men. The greatest slaves I know anything about are those whom the devil has got the upper hand of, and whom he is compelling to dodge between the supreme law of God and their worldly prosperity. They may secure some sort of prosperity, but, you may depend upon it, they work hard for it. (H. W. Beecher.)
James II, on his death bed, thus addressed his son, “There is no slavery like sin and no liberty like God’s service.” Was not the dethroned monarch right? What think you of the fetters of bad habits? What think you of the chains of indulged lust? The drunkard who cannot resist the craving for the wine--know you a more thorough captive? The covetous man who toils night and day for wealth--what is he but a slave? The sensual man, the ambitious man, the worldly man, those who, in spite of the remonstrances of conscience, cannot break away from enthralment--what are they, if not the subjects of a tyranny than which there is none sterner, and none more degrading? (H. Melvill, B. D.)
Ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine.--
The apostolical form of doctrine
I. What is it?
II. How should it be received?
III. What is its effect?
IV. What feelings ought this result to inspire? (J. Lyth, D. D.)
Obedience to the form of doctrine
1. The question, Whose servants are ye? resolves itself into a matter of fact. The apostle, on looking to his disciples, pronounces them by the test of obedience to have become the servants of righteousness. And he not only affirms this change, but he assigns the cause of it. They obeyed from the heart. There might have been the form of a yielding; but some latent duplicity brought a flaw unto it by which it was invalidated, Now God be thanked, says the apostle, this is not the way with you. I look at your fruit, and I find it the fruit of holiness. I look at your life, and I find it to be the life of the servants of God.
2. But what is it that they are said here to obey from the heart? The term “doctrine” in the original may signify the thing taught, or the process of teaching--a process which may embrace many items, and consist of several distinct parts, to obey which from the heart is just to take them all in with the simplicity and good faith in which a child believingly reads its task book. This last view is very much confirmed by the import of the Greek equivalent for “form,” viz., a mould that impresses its own shape to the yielding substance whereunto it is applied. And it would be still more accordant with the original if we render the whole sentence. The mould or model of doctrine “into which ye have been delivered.” Christian truth, in its various parts and various prominences, is likened unto a mould, into which the heart or soul of man is cast that it may come out a precise transcript.
3. It should be obedient to every touch, and yield itself to every character that is graven thereupon. It should feel the impression, not from one of its truths only, but from all of them, else, like the cast which is in contact with the mould bat at a single point, it will shake and fluctuate, and be altogether wanting in settled conformity to that with the likeness of which it ought to be everywhere encompassed. You know how difficult it is to poise one body upon another when it has only got one narrow place to stand upon, and that, to secure a position of stability, there must at least be three points of support provided. There is something akin to this ere the mind of an inquirer is rightly grounded and settled on the basis of God’s revealed testimony. How it veers and fluctuates, when holding only by one article and fails of a sufficiently extended grasp on the truths of Christianity! How those who talk, e.g., of the bare fact of faith vacillate and give way in the hour of temptation. How those who admit both the righteousness of Christ and the regeneration of their own characters to be alike indispensable, have nevertheless been brought to shipwreck; and that just because, though adhering in words to these two generalities, they have never spread them abroad over their whole history in the living applications of prayer and watchfulness. They need the filling up of their lives and hearts with the whole transcript of revelation. One doctrine does not suffice for this, for God in His wisdom has thought fit that there shall be a form or scheme of doctrine. The obedience of the heart unto the faith is obedience unto all that God proposes for the belief and acceptance of those who have entered on the scholarship of eternity; and for this purpose there must be not a mere assent of the understanding to any given number of articles, but a broad coalescence of the mind with the whole expanse and magnitude of the book of God’s testimony.
4. A scheme of doctrine, then, implies more truths than one; and St. Paul has now gone beyond the announcement of his one individual item. He was very full on Christ as the propitiation for sin, and on the righteousness of Christ as the plea of acceptance for sinners; and then, when he came to the question, Shall they who are partakers of this benefit continue in sin that they may get still more of the benefit? he pronounces a negative. Here there was not one truth, but a compound of truths; a mould graven on both sides of it with certain various characters, and the softened metal that is poured therein yields to it all round and takes the varied impression from it. And so of him who obeys from the heart the form of doctrine into which he is delivered. He does not yield to one article and present a side of hardness and of resistance to another article. He is thoroughly softened and humbled under a sense of sinfulness, and most willingly takes the salvation of the gospel on the terms of the gospel. He does not, like the sturdy controversialist, cull out from the Word his own favourite position; but, like the little child, he follows on to know the Lord, just as the revealed things offer themselves to his docility and notice on that inscribed tablet which the Lord hath placed before him.
5. The way for you to make good the transition from sin to righteousness is to have the same obedience of faith. It is to spread out the tablet of your heart for the pressure thereupon of all the characters that are graven on the tablet of revelation; it is to incorporate in your creed the necessity of a holy life, in imitation and at the will of the Lord Jesus, along with a humble reliance on His merits as your alone meritorious plea for acceptance with the Father; it is to give up the narrow, intolerant, and restrictive system of theology which, by vesting a right of monopoly in a few of its favourite positions, acts like the corresponding system of trade in impeding the full circulation of its truths and of its treasure through that world within itself, which is made up of the powers and affections. Be your faith as broad and as long as is the record of all those communications that are addressed to it--and be very sure that it is only when you yield yourselves up in submission to all its truths that you can be made free from sin by sharing in the fulfilment of all its promises.
6. You often hear of the power of the truth. It is a just and expressive phrase, and is adverted to in the text. But this power of the truth is the power of the whole truth. Mutilate the truth and you cripple it. Pare it down and you paralyse its energies. And thus, as you hope to be rescued from the tyranny of sin by the power of Christian truth, you must foster the whole of it. Divide, and you darken. The whole of that light which one truth reflects upon another is extinguished when the inquirer, instead of looking fearlessly abroad over the rich and varied landscape of revelation, fastens his intent regards on one narrow portion of the territory and shuts out the rest from the eye of his contemplation. Yet let us not think that we, of our proper energy, can supply as it were the first condition on which our deliverance from sin is made to turn. The glory of this is due to grace, which has softened your hearts under the impression of the truth, which has moved you to an aspiring obedience thereto, which will lead you, I trust, to carry out the principle into practice, which will vent itself upward to the sanctuary in prayer, and bring down that returning force which can unchain you from the bondage of corruption and give you impulse and strength for all the services of righteousness. (T. Chalmers, D. D.)
The form of teaching
There is room for difference of opinion as to what Paul precisely means by “form” here. It signifies originally a mark made by pressure or impact; then a mould, pattern or example, then the copy of such an example or pattern, or the cast from such a mould. It also means the general outline which preserves the distinguishing characteristics of a thing. Now we may choose between these two meanings in our text. If the apostle means type in the latter sense of the word, then the rendering “form” is adequate, and he is thinking of the Christian teaching which had been given to the Roman Christians as possessing certain well-defined characteristics which distinguished it from other kinds of teaching--such, for instance, as Jewish or heathen. But if we take the other meaning, then he is, in true Pauline fashion, bringing in a vivid and picturesque metaphor to enforce his thought, and is thinking of the teaching which the Roman Christians had received as being a kind of mould into which they were thrown, a pattern to which they were to be conformed.
I. Paul’s gospel was a definite body of teaching. The gospel in its first form as it comes to men fresh from God is not a set of propositions, but a history of deeds that were done upon earth. And, therefore, is it fitted to be the mould of every character. Jesus Christ did not come and talk to men about God, and say to them what His apostles afterwards said, “God is love,” but He lived and died, and that mainly was His teaching about God. He did not come to men and lay down a theory of atonement or a doctrine of propitiation, or theology about sin and its relations to God, but He went to the Cross and gave Himself for us, and that was His teaching about sacrifice. He did not say to men, “There is a future life, and it is of such and such a sort,” but He came out of the grave and He said, “Touch Me, and handle Me. A spirit hath not flesh and bones,” and therefore He brought life and immortality to light, by no empty words but by the solid realities of facts. He did not lecture upon ethics, but He lived a perfect human life out of which all moral principles that will guide human conduct may be gathered. And so, instead of presenting us with a botanic collection of scientifically arranged and dead propositions, He led us into the meadow where the flowers grow, living and fair. His life and death, with all that they imply, are the teaching. Let us not forget, on the other hand, that the history of a fact is not the mere statement of the outward thing that has happened. Christian teaching is the facts plus their explanation; and it is that which differentiates it from the mere record which is of no avail to anybody. So Paul Himself in one of His other letters puts it. This is his gospel: Jesus of Nazareth “died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and He was buried, and rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures.” That is what turns the bald story of the facts into teaching, which is the mould for life.
II. This teaching is in Paul’s judgment a mould or pattern according to which men’s lives are to be conformed. There can be no question but that, in that teaching as set forth in Scripture, there does lie the mightiest formative power for shaping our lives, and emancipating us from our evil. Christ is the type, the mould into which men are to be cast. The gospel, as presented in Scripture, gives us three things. It gives us the perfect mould; it gives us the perfect motive; it gives us the perfect power. And in all three things appears its distinctive glory, apart from and above all other systems that have ever tried to affect the conduct or to mould the character of man. We have in the Christ the one type, the one mould and pattern for all striving, the “glass of form,” the perfect Man. And that likeness is not reproduced in us by pressure or by a blow, but by the slow and blessed process of gazing until we become like, beholding the glory until we are changed into the glory. It is no use having a mould and metal unless you have a fire. It is no use having a perfect Pattern unless you have motive to copy it. If we can say, “He loved me, and gave Himself for me,” then the sum of all morality, the old commandment that “ye love one another,” receives a new stringency, and a fresh motive as well as a deepened interpretation, when His love is our pattern. The one thing that will make men willing to be as Christ is their faith that Christ is their Sacrifice and their Saviour. Still further, the teaching is a power to fashion life, inasmuch as it brings with it a gift which secures the transformation of the believer into the likeness of his Lord. Part of “the teaching” is the fact of Pentecost; part of the teaching is the fact of the ascension; and the consequence of the ascension and the sure promise of the Pentecost is that all who love Him, and wait upon Him, shall receive into their hearts the “spirit of life in Christ Jesus,” which shall make them free from the law of sin and death.
III. This mould demands obedience. By the very nature of the teaching, assent drags after it submission. You can please yourself whether you let Jesus Christ into your minds or not, but if you do let Him in, He will be Master. There is no such thing as taking Him in and not obeying. And so the requirement of the gospel which we call faith has in it quite as much of the element of obedience as of the element of trust. And the presence of that element is just what makes the difference between a sham and a real faith. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Moulded by the truth
The gospel here is compared to a mould into which the soul is delivered. We take our character from the truth we receive. Our affections are moulded, formed, fashioned, directed by the gospel we obey. Sometimes it is compared to a mirror (2 Corinthians 3:8). The gospel reveals to us Jesus, and as we look into that glass the light falls upon our souls and assimilates us to Him. Here it is a mould. We are cast into the mould of the truth which from the heart we obey. The gospel is not only a directing power, but a transforming influence; you cannot believe it without being moulded by it. Any man who says he believes it, whose character is not moulded by it, is deceiving himself. How, then, can this be corrected? Not by poring over the thoughts and feelings of our own poor hearts, but by examining the testimony God has given us concerning Christ, by mixing faith with the promises given us, that by them we might be partakers of the Divine nature. The entrance of His Word will not only give light to our understandings, but it will transform us into His image; and as we receive the doctrine into our hearts, we shall be delivered into it as into a mould, and our tastes and character and desires and ways and aims, will be fashioned thereby. This is the constant teaching of Scripture (Ephesians 2:10; Luke 1:74; Titus 2:11). (M. Rainsford, B. A.)
Branded with the truth
It was the custom to impress a distinctive mark or brand on the slaves belonging to different masters. A slave might thus, by no uncommon metonymy, be spoken of as belonging to a certain mark, the mark being put for the master whose mark it was; and when a slave was transferred from one master to another, as being delivered over to a new mark or brand, that is, to a new proprietor or master, to whom, or, by the same figure, to whose mark he was then to consider his person attached and his service and obedience due. This is probably the true meaning, “Ye have obeyed from the heart that mark [or brand] of doctrine to which ye have been delivered over”; this translation giving every word its full and proper effect. They passed from one service to another, distinguished by a new mark, to which, as reminding them of their new master, and the appropriate symbol of his property in them and his power over them, they were thenceforward to render their obedient service. The “doctrine” of Christ is the distinguishing badge, or appropriate mark, of all His servants. They bear the profession and impress of His truth; and, under the influence of that truth, they serve Him as the Master who has stamped its impression upon them, in a spirit of reverential love. (R. Wardlaw, D. D.)
Transformation of grace
A short time ago the manufacturers of lighting gas were puzzled to know how to dispose of the coal tar left in the retorts. A more useless, nauseous substance was hardly known to exist. Chemistry came to the rescue, and today not less than thirty-six marketable articles are produced from this black, vile, sticky slime--solvents, oils, salts, colours, flavours. You eat a bit of delicious confectionery, happily unconscious that the exquisite taste which you enjoy so keenly comes from coal tar; you buy at the druggist’s a tiny phial of what is labelled “Otto of Roses,” little dreaming that the delicious perfume is wafted, not from “the fields of Araby,” but from the foul gas retort. Christianity is a moral chemistry. Well were it for nations if it held a higher place among their social economics. Tar saving is all well enough, but soul saving is better. Grace transforms a villain into an honest man, a harlot into a holy woman, a thief into a saint. Where foetid exhalations of vice alone ascended, prayer and praise are to be found; where moral miasmata had their lair, righteousness and temperance pitch their tent. Every sort of good thing is produced by godliness, and that too in hearts once reeking with all manner of foulness. Should not this stay every persecuting hand, hush every railing tongue, and incite every sanctified spirit to continued and increasing energy. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.--
Freedom from sin and subjection to righteousness
I. The bondage supposed. Those only can be made free who were the subjects of bondage. Many resent this charge and exclaim, as the Jews did, “We were never in bondage to any man.” And so long as men remain under the infatuation that they are free, they will never welcome the tidings of a deliverance. We are in bondage--
1. To a law which we have violated. A perfect nature was capable of performing the requirements of a perfect law; but an imperfect nature never can meet these requirements. Those, therefore, who are seeking acceptance with God by the works of the law, are under the curse--bound and sentenced by it.
2. To a God whom we have displeased. Perfectly sensible that “God is love,” we also believe that He is a God of justice. God’s character, regarded as a whole, demands that He should maintain the honour of His law; and therefore He is bound by every principle of His nature, and by every qualification of His office as the Ruler of the universe, to punish the sinner.
3. To corruptions which he has indulged.
4. To the world which we have idolised. There are some who would not for worlds rebel against the laws of fashion. They would rather commit an enormous sin against God than they would violate the etiquette of this world. The man who is devoted to the love of money is just as much bound as ever one who was fastened to the galleys for life. The man who loves the pleasures of this world, though he turns from them with disgust again and again, yet tomorrow it is just the same thing over and over again. And as to the ambitious, see what slaves they are--how servile when they have an object to accomplish; how insolent when that object is once attained; and how dissatisfied with the highest pinnacle to which human ambition can soar.
5. To a death which we cannot shun. Some “are all their lifetime subject to bondage through fear of death,” either the act itself or the consequences.
II. The freedom that is bestowed.
1. From the guilt of sin by virtue of the expiatory death and all-atoning sacrifice of the Divine Redeemer.
2. From the punishment of sin. The chain is broken--the debt is cancelled--the indictment is rebutted, and the justified believer can say, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?”
3. From the dominion of sin. How can I love that which crucified the Saviour?
4. Ultimately from the presence of sin. There shall in no wise enter into the heavenly Jerusalem anything that defileth or that worketh abomination.
III. The subsequent subjection or subordination. “Ye became the servants of righteousness!”
1. By faith in the doctrine of righteousness (verse 17). All the doctrines of the gospel are according to godliness. They fix salvation on the great principles of eternal rectitude; for God does not forgive merely by an act of clemency; but by an act of equity.
2. Love to the principle of righteousness.
3. Submission to the rule of righteousness--God’s will--not our opinion--not the laws of our fellow creatures.
4. Studious determination and constant aim towards the practice of universal righteousness. (C. Bradley, M. A.)
Our change of masters
1. Man was made to rule. He was intended for a king, who should have dominion over the beasts of the field, etc. Yet is it equally true that he was made to serve. He was placed in the garden to keep it, and to dress it, and to serve his Maker. Throwing off his allegiance to his rightful Master, he has become the slave of evil passions.
2. When God of His infinite mercy visits man by His Spirit, that Spirit does not come as a neutral power, but enters with full intent to reign. Man cannot serve two masters, but he must serve one. Alexander conquered the world, and yet he became the captive of drunkenness and his passionate temper. Rome had many slaves, but he who wore her purple was the most in bonds. High rank does not save a man from being under a mastery: neither does learning nor philosophy. Solomon, the most sagacious ruler of his age, became completely subject to his fleshly desires.
3. Who, then, shall be man’s master? Our text speaks of “being made free from sin,” and in the same breath it adds, “Ye became the servants of righteousness.” There is no interregnum. Man passes from one master to another, but he is always in subjection. Consider--
I. Our change of masters.
1. In describing this revolution we will begin with a word or two upon our old master “sin.” We were not all alike enslaved, but we were all under bondage.
2. Believers are made free from sin.
3. How came we to be free?
4. Ye became the servants of righteousness. A righteous God has made us die to sin; a new and righteous life has been infused into us, and now righteousness rules and reigns in us. The text says we are enslaved to righteousness, and so we wish to be.
II. The reasons for our change.
1. We changed our old master because we were illegally detained by him. Sin did not make us, does not feed us, has no right to us whatever. Besides, our old master was as bad as bad could be. We ran away from him Because we had never any profit at his hands. “What fruit had ye then?” Ask the drunkard, the spendthrift, any man that lives in sin, what he has gained by it, and we will find it is all loss. Beside that, our old master brought shame. “Those things whereof ye are now ashamed.” Moreover, its wages are death.
2. But why did we take up with our new Master? In the first place, we owe ourselves wholly to Him; and in the next place, if we did not, He is so altogether lovely, that if we had a free choice of masters we would choose Him a thousand times over. His service is perfect freedom and supreme delight. He gives us even now a payment in His service.
III. The consequences of this change.
1. That you belong wholly to your Lord. Numbers of professing Christians seem mostly to belong to themselves, for they never gave God anything that cost them a self-denial. But if you are really saved, not a hair of your heads belongs to yourselves; Christ’s blood has either bought you or it has not, and if it has, then you are altogether Christ’s. Just as a negro used to belong to the maw that bought him, every inch of him, so you are the slave of Christ; you bear in your body the brand of the Lord Jesus, and your glory and your freedom lie therein.
2. Because you are Christ’s His very name is dear to you. You are not so His slave that you would escape from His service if you could; you want to be more and more the Lord’s. Where there is anything of Christ there your love goes forth. Haydn one day turned into a music seller’s, and asked for some select and beautiful music, and was offered some of his own. “Oh,” said Haydn, “I’ll have nothing to do with that.” “Why, sir, what fault can you find with it?” “I can find a great deal of fault with it, but I will not argue with you, I do not want any of his music.” “Then,” said the shopkeeper, “I have other music, but it is not for such as you.” A thorough enthusiast grows impatient of those who do not appreciate what he so much admires. You can be no friend of mine if you are not a friend of Christ’s.
3. All your members are henceforth reserved for Christ. When Satan was your master you did not care about Christ, you went wholly in for evil. You did not require to be egged on to it. Now you ought not to want your ministers or Christian friends to stir you up to good works; you ought to be just as eager after holiness as you were after sin. As you have given the devil first-rate service, let Christ have the same. Some of you never stood at any expense--I wish we could serve Christ thus unstintedly. The poor slaves of sin not only do not stop at expense, but they are not frightened by any kind of loss. See how many lose their characters for the sake of one short hour of sin. They ruin their peace and think nothing of it. They will lose their health, too; nay, they will destroy their souls for the sake of sin’s brief delights. In the same way should we serve our Lord. Be willing to lose character, health, life, all, if by any means you may glorify Him whose servant you have become. Oh, who will be my Master’s servant? Do you not see Him? He wears upon His head no diadem but the crown of thorns; His feet are still rubied with their wounds, and His hands are still bejewelled with the marks of the nails. This is your Master, and these are the insignia of His love for you. What service will you render Him? That of a mere professor, who names His name but loves Him not? That of a cold religionist, who renders unwilling service out of fear? Do not so dishonour Him. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The strictness of the law of Christ
1. The apostle is not content with speaking half the truth; he does not merely say that we are set free from guilt and misery, but he adds, that we have become the slaves of Christ. He has not bought us, and then set us loose upon the world. He has given us that only liberty which is really such, bond service to Himself, lest if left to ourselves we should fall back again to the cruel bondage from which He redeemed us.
2. This needs insisting on; for a number of persons think that they are not bound to any real service at all, now that Christ has set them free. Men often speak as if the perfection of human happiness lay in our being free to choose and to reject. Now we are indeed free, if we do not choose to be Christ’s servants, to go back to the old bondage. We may choose our master, but God or mammon we must serve. We cannot possibly be in a neutral state. Yet a number of persons think their Christian liberty lies in being free from all law, even from the law of God. In opposition to this great mistake, St. Paul reminds his brethren in the text that when they were “made free from sin,” they “became the servants of righteousness.” He says the same in other Epistles (1 Corinthians 7:22-23; Colossians 3:22; Col_3:24; 1 Corinthians 9:21).
3. Religion, then, is a necessary service; of course it is a privilege too, but it becomes more and more of a privilege, the more we exercise ourselves in it. The perfect Christian state is that in which our duty and our pleasure are the same, it is the state in which the angels stand; but it is not so with us, except in part. Upon our regeneration indeed, we have a seed of truth and holiness planted within us, a new law introduced into our nature; but still we have that old nature to subdue, a work, a conflict all through life.
4. Now most Christians will allow in general terms that they are under a law, but they admit it with a reserve; they claim for themselves some dispensing power.
I. What is the sort of man whom the world accounts respectable and religious? At best he is such as this. He has a number of good points to his character, but some of these he has by nature, others he has acquired because outward circumstances compelled him to acquire them. He has acquired a certain self-command, because no one is respected without it. He has been forced into habits of diligence, punctuality, and honesty. He is courteous and obliging; and has learned not to say all he thinks and feels, or to do all he wishes to do on all occasions. The great mass of men, of course, are far from this; but I am supposing the best--viz., those who only now and then will feel inclinations or interest to run counter to duty. Such times constitute a man’s trial; they are just the times on which he is apt to consider that he has a leave to dispense with the law, when it is simply the law of God, without being also the law of self, and of the world. He does what is right, while the road of religion runs along the road of the world; when they part company awhile he chooses the world, and calls his choice an exception. For instance--
1. He generally comes to church, it is his practice; but some urgent business or scheme of pleasure tempts him--he omits his attendance; he knows this is wrong, and says so, but it is only once in a way.
2. He is strictly honest in his dealings; it is his rule to speak the truth, but if hard pressed, he allows himself now and then to say a slight falsehood. He knows he should not lie, he confesses it; but he thinks it cannot be helped.
3. He has learned to curb his temper and his tongue; but on some unusual provocation they get the better of him. But are not all men subject to be overtaken with ill temper? That is not the point; the point is this--that he does not feel compunction afterward, he does not feel he has done any thing which needs forgiveness.
4. He is in general temperate; but he joins a party of friends and is tempted to exceed. Next day he says that it is a long time since such a thing happened to him. He does not understand he has any sin to repent of, because it is but once in a way. Such men, being thus indulgent to themselves, are indulgent to each other. Conscious of what might be said against themselves they are cautious what they say against others. These are a few out of a multitude of traits which mark an easy religion--the religion of the world; which would cast in its lot with Christian truth, were not that truth so very strict, and quarrels with it--because it will not suit itself to emergencies, and to the tastes of individuals.
II. This is the kind of religion which St. Paul virtually warns us against, as often as he speaks of the gospel as being a law and a servitude.
1. He indeed glories in its being such; for, as the happiness of all creatures lies in their performing their parts well, where God has placed them, so man’s greatest good lies in obedience to God’s law and in imitation of God’s perfections. Therefore Paul insists on the necessity of Christians “fulfilling the righteousness of the law.” Hence James says, “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” And our Saviour assures us that, “Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments,” etc., and that “Except our righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees,” which was thus partial and circumscribed, “we shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” And when the young man came to Him, He pointed out the “one thing” wanting in him. Let us not then deceive ourselves; what God demands of us is to he content with nothing short of perfect obedience--to avail ourselves of the aids given us, and throw ourselves on God’s mercy for our shortcomings.
2. But the state of multitudes of men is this--their hearts are going the wrong way, and their real quarrel with religion is not that it is strict, but that it is religion. If I want to travel north, and all the roads are cut to the east, of course I shall complain of the roads. So men who try to reach Babylon by roads which run to Mount Sion necessarily meet with thwartings, crossings, disappointments, and failure. They go mile after mile, watching in vain for the turrets of the city of Vanity, because they are on the wrong road; and, unwilling to own what they are really seeking, they find fault with the road as circuitous and wearisome.
3. But religion is a bondage only to those who have not the heart to like it. Accordingly, in verse 17, St. Paul thanks God that his brethren had “obeyed from the heart that form of teaching, into which they had been delivered.” We Christians are cast into a certain mould. So far as we keep within it, we are not sensible that it is a mould. It is when our hearts would overflow in some evil direction, then we consider ourselves in prison. It is the law in our members warring against the law of the Spirit which brings us into a distressing bondage. Let us then see where we stand, and what we must do. Heaven cannot change; God is “without variableness or shadow of turning.” His law is from everlasting to everlasting. We must change. We must go over to the side of heaven. Never had a soul true happiness but in conformity to God. We must have the law of the Spirit of life in our hearts, “that the righteousness of the law may be fulfilled in us.”
4. Some men, instead of making excuses, such as I have been considering, and of professing to like religion, all but its service, boldly object that religion is unnatural, and therefore cannot be incumbent. Men are men, and the world is the world, and that life was not meant to be a burden, and that God sent us here for enjoyment, and that He will never punish us for following the law of our nature. I answer, doubtless this life was meant to be enjoyment; but why not a rejoicing in the Lord? We were meant to follow the law of our nature; but why of our old nature and not of our new? Now that God has opened the doors of our prison house, if men are still carnal, and the world sinful, and the life of angels a burden, and the law of our nature not the law of God, whose fault is it? We Christians are indeed under the law, but it is the new law, the law of the Spirit of Christ. We are under grace. That law, which to nature is a grievous bondage, is to those who live under the power of God’s presence, what it was meant to be, a rejoicing. (J. H. Newman, D. D.)
“Is it your opinion,” said Socrates, “that liberty is a fair and valuable possession?” “So valuable,” replied Euthydemus, “that I know of nothing more precious.” “But he who is so far overcome by sensual pleasure that he is not able to practise what is best, and consequently the most eligible--do you count this more free, Euthydemus?” “Far from it,” replied the other. “You think, then,” said Socrates, “that freedom consists in being able to do what is right, and slavery, in not being able; whatever may be the cause that deprives us of the power?” “I do, most certainly.” “The debauchee, then, you must suppose is in this state of slavery?” “I do, and with good reason.” (Xenophon.)
You think the charter would make you free--would to God it would. The charter is not bad if the men who use it are not bad. But will the charter make you free? Will it free you from slavery to ten-pound bribes? Slavery to gin and beer? Slavery to every spouter who flatters your self-conceit, and stirs up bitterness and headlong rage in you? That, I guess, is real slavery; to be a slave to one’s own stomach, one’s own pocket, one’s own temper. Will the charter cure that? Friends, you want more than Ac of Parliament can give. Englishmen! Saxons! Workers of the great cool-headed, strong-handed nation of England, the workshop of the world, the leader of freedom for seven hundred years; men, you say you have common sense! then do not humbug yourselves into meaning “license” when you cry for “liberty.” Who would dare refuse you freedom? for the Almighty God and Jesus Christ, the poor man who died for poor men, will bring it about for you, though all the mammonites of the earth were against you. A nobler day is dawning for England--a day of freedom, science, industry. But there will be no true freedom without virtue, no true science without religion, no true industry without the fear of God and love to your fellow citizens. Workers of England, be wise, and then you must be free, for you will be fit to be free. (C. Kingsley, M. A.)
The liberty of the believer
The liberty of the subject could never be preserved in a lawless state of society, but violence and tyranny would reduce to a slavish obedience the weak and the timid. The palladium of civil liberty is law; law well defined, excluding the fluctuations of caprice on one side, and of aggression on the other; law rigorously executed also, for the best code is a dead letter if it be not accompanied by a living and firm executive. So the liberty of the believer is secured by the law of God, when brought under its guidance and government. While living under the misrule of his fallen nature, he is the sport of every capricious imagination, and successively the slave of his predominant passions (verse 16.) But let Christ’s government be set up, and he becomes Christ’s freeman; “sin has no more dominion over him”; he is no longer its wretched captive, but is under gracious law, for “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (G. H. Salter.)
I speak after the manner of men.
I. Its method. “After the manner of men,” i.e., (Gr.) humanly--as men ordinarily speak, borrowing any illustrations from common life. Spiritual subjects are made plainer by familiar comparisons, and so preachers should use simple language and homely illustrations. This was exemplified in Christ, and inspired writers in general. The most useful preachers have ever been those who speak most humanly. The arrow too high flies over the head; too low falls short of the mark.
II. The reason for the method. “The infirmity of your flesh”--imperfect knowledge through the flesh--an apology for the use of the expression “slaves,” etc. Some believers are still babes and carnal (1 Corinthians 3:1-4; Hebrews 5:12-14); others are spiritual and of a full age. In God’s family are fathers, young men, little children (1 John 2:12-14). The flesh is an impediment to the apprehension of truth. Carnal nature views holiness not as liberty but as bondage. Arguments and modes of speaking to be adapted to the hearer’s state. Let not the mature and enlightened, then, cavil at methods adapted to reach the immature and ignorant and vice versa.
III. Its substance.
1. A reminiscence. “As ye have yielded your members” servants--
2. An enforcement of duty. “Even so now”--as heartily and thoroughly, and in consideration of the past “yield your members”--
Will ye be the servants of sin or the servants of God
?--To determine your choice consider--
I. The contrast.
1. Sin conducts you from iniquity to iniquity.
2. God will lead you in the path of holiness.
II. The immediate consequences.
1. The fruit of sin is shame.
2. Of faith is holiness.
III. The final result.
1. The wages of sin is death.
2. The gift of God eternal life. (J. Lyth, D. D.)
Forsake the service of sin; enter the service of righteousness
Then you escape--
1. Out of disgraceful impurity into true holiness (Romans 6:19-21).
2. Out of dishonourable servitude into true freedom (Romans 6:20-22).
3. Out of death and condemnation into eternal life (Romans 6:21-23). (W. Hauck.)
Two ways and two ends
I. The one was bitter servitude; the other sweet liberty.
II. The one has disgraceful notoriety; the other praiseworthy modesty.
III. The one has eternal death; the other eternal life. Note what Jesus says of these two ways and their ending (Matthew 7:13). (W. Ziethe.)
The slavery of sin unlawful--a ground of hope to the sinner
Luther’s domestic, Elizabeth, in a fit of displeasure, left his service without notice. She subsequently fell into sin and became dangerously ill. Luther visited her, and, taking his seat by her bedside, she said, “I have given my soul to Satan.” “Why,” rejoined Luther, “that’s of no consequence. What else?” “I have,” continued she, “done many wicked things; but this is what most oppresses me, that I have deliberately sold my poor soul to the devil, and how can such a crime ever find mercy?” “Elizabeth, listen to me,” rejoined the man of God. “Suppose, while you lived in my house, you had sold and transferred all my children to a stranger, would the sale or transfer have been lawful and binding?” “Oh no,” said the deeply humbled girl, “for I had no right to do that.” “Very well, you had still less right to give your soul to the arch enemy; it no more belongs to you than my children do. It is the exclusive property of the Lord Jesus Christ; He made it, and when lost also redeemed it; it is His, with all its powers and faculties, and you can’t giveaway and sell what is not yours; if you have attempted it, the whole transaction was unlawful, and entirely void. Now, do you go to the Lord, confess your guilt with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and entreat Him to pardon you, and take back again what is wholly His own. And as for the sin of attempting to alienate His rightful properly, throw that back upon the devil, for that, and that alone is his.” The girl obeyed, was converted, and died full of hope.
Among the spoils taken when Alexander conquered and captured Darius was a richly jewelled cabinet or casket in which the Persian king kept his perfumes and sweet ointments. It was carried to Alexander, who at once turned it to another and nobler use, and added a syllable to its name. He placed in it his copy of the “Iliad,” saying, “This shall no longer be called myrrh box, but Homer box.” What the “myrrh box” became by passing under Alexander’s hands illustrates what the soul becomes by passing under the hands of its Divine Inspirer. By unseen influences (as certainly as by the miracle touch) God adds to the graces of “a chosen vessel” the gift of spiritual power and expression. He makes it empty that He may fill it with greater riches.
For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.
The servants of sin
1. There is no condition so sad as that of a slave; and no slavery so hard as that of sin. There was once a tyrant who ordered one of his subjects to make an iron chain of a certain length. The man brought the work, and the tyrant bade him make it longer still. And he continued to add link to link, till at length the cruel taskmaster ordered his servants to bind the worker with his own chain, and cast him into the fire. That hardest of tyrants, the devil, treats his slaves in like manner. At first the chain of sin is light, and could easily be cast off. But day by day Satan bids his victims add another link. The servant of sin grows more hardened, daring, reckless in his evil way. He adds sin to sin, and then the end comes.
2. Very often the slaves of sin do not know that they are slaves. They talk about their freedom from restraint, they tell us they are their own masters, that the godly are slaves. Once I visited a madhouse. Some had one delusion, some another. One thought he was a king, another the heir to a fortune. But one thing they all believed, that they were in their right minds.
3. The servants of sin bear about the marks of their master. I have seen gangs of convicts working on Dartmoor. You could not mistake them for anything else if they were dressed in the best of clothing. The word convict is stamped upon every grey face, as plainly as the Government mark is stamped upon their clothing. The servants of sin have their marks also. Look at the shifty eyes, and downward glance of the knave and the false man; the flushed brow and cruel eyes of the angry man; the weak lips and trembling hand of the drunkard.
4. The servants of sin have their so-called enjoyments, these are the baits with which the tyrant gets them into his power. For a time the way of transgressors is made easy and pleasant. The broad road is shaded, and edged with fair fruits and flowers. A saint of old once saw a man leading a herd of swine, which followed him willingly. When the saint marvelled, the man showed him that they followed him for the sake of the sweet food in his hand, and knew not whither they were going. So the servants of sin follow Satan for the sake of the sweet things which he offers, and know not that they are going to their death, even the living death of a lost soul. (J. H. W. Buxton, M. A.)
Freedom from righteousness
Standing altogether outside it, having no relation to it, destitute of it, entirely unaffected by it; strangers therefore to its happy and gainful service. Possessing a freedom which is a bane and a bondage. A planet’s freedom from the law which preserves it in its orbit; a child’s freedom from the restraints of a happy home. This freedom pleases the flesh, but ruins the man; it is not mercifully given, but madly taken; it is Satan’s miserable choice, “Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.” Note the latent irony of the text; “Ye were free”; but what kind of freedom? A freedom akin to that of hell. Freedom from righteousness a man’s greatest misery; freedom in righteousness his greatest mercy. (T. Robinson, D. D.)
Liberty and restraint
You hear every day greater numbers of foolish people speaking about liberty, as if it were such an honourable thing; so far from being that, it is, on the whole, and in the broadest sense, dishonourable, and an attribute of the lower creatures. No human being, however great or powerful, was ever so free as a fish. There is always something that he must or must not do; while the fish may do whatever he likes. All the kingdoms of the world put together are not half so large as the sea, and all the railroads and wheels that ever were or will be invented, are not so easy as fins. You will find, on fairly thinking of it, that it is his restraint which is honourable to man, not his liberty; and, what is more, it is restraint which is honourable even in the lower animals. A butterfly is more free than a bee, but you honour the bee more just because it is subject to certain laws which fit it for orderly function in bee society. And throughout the world, of the two abstract things, liberty and restraint, restraint is always the more honourable. It is true, indeed, that in these and all other matters you never can reason finally from the abstraction, for both liberty and restraint are good when they are nobly chosen, and both are bad when they are badly chosen; but of the two, I repeat, it is restraint which characterises the higher creature, and betters the lower creature; and from the ministering of the archangel to the labour of the insect, from the poising of the planets to the gravitation of a grain of dust--the power and glory of all creatures and all matter consist in their obedience, not in their freedom. The sun has no liberty, a dead leaf has much. The dust of which you are formed has no liberty. Its liberty will come--with its corruption. (J. Ruskin.)
What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed?
The characters of sin
Sin is here arraigned in all the periods of time.
I. For the past as unfruitful. “What fruit had ye?” Sin ought to produce something: for it costs much. Now, for a man to labour and give up all the advantages of religion for nothing is hard indeed! And is not this the case? Read the history of wicked nations, families, individuals. Does the sinner ever gain what deserves the name of “fruit”? It promises much, but how does it perform? (Job 20:11-14). Sinful gratifications continue no longer than the actions themselves; for then, consequences begin to be thought of; reason ascends the throne, and scourges; conscience awakes, and condemns. Suppose the swearer was to tell us what he has gained by his oaths, the drunkard by his cups, the sensualist by his uncleanness, the prodigal by his extravagance, the proud, the envious, the malicious, by indulging their vile tempers; suppose the sinner was to balance his accounts at the end of a year, of a week, of a day--surely he must find that his gains do not counterbalance his loss, his pleasures do not make him amends for his pains even in the lowest degree.
II. For the present as disgraceful. “Ye are now ashamed.” And well ye may, for there is nothing so scandalous as sin. It is not a shame to be poor and distressed--but it is shameful to be a fool, a base coward, a traitor to the best of kings, and to be ungrateful to the kindest of friends.
1. There is a natural shame which arises from the commission of sin. This it was that made our first parents hide themselves, so closely did shame tread on the heels of guilt. This class of emotions may be in a great measure subdued by continuance in sin; for some “glory in their shame.” But this is not general (Job 24:15-17). Hence they not only elude observation--which they would not do if there was anything that tended to their praise, but frame excuses. But why deny or palliate? Why plead mistake, ignorance, surprise, infirmity unless disparaging to character? The sinner is ashamed even to meet himself, and finally abandons the moral world, and mingles only with those of his own quality; for here mutual wickedness creates mutual confidence, and keeps them from reproaching one another.
2. There is also a gracious shame which accompanies “repentance unto life.”
3. There is also a penal shame. For God has so ordered things that if a man be not ashamed of his sins, he shall be put to shame by them.
III. For the future as destructive. “The end of these things is death.”
1. The death of the body was the produce of sin.
2. There are many instances recorded of God’s inflicting death immediately upon sinners in a way of judgment.
3. Death sometimes attends sin as a natural consequence of vice. How frequently do persons, by anger, intemperance, and such like courses, hasten on dissolution, and become self-murderers! A physician of great repute has given it as his opinion that scarcely one in a thousand dies a natural death.
4. But what the apostle principally intends is the “second death.”
The Christian’s review
I. What fruit had you in the works of sin?
1. They are not innocent. If we permit the noblest object God ever built to take the place of God in our esteem, and every unregenerate man does, God must feel Himself robbed and insulted.
2. They are not rational.
3. They are not satisfying. That which is neither innocent nor rational, we should not expect would be satisfying; we should promptly declare it impossible. God has made the brute creation, but not man, to be satisfied with the gratifications of appetite. Of them God has not required a higher aim, nor even this; He requires nothing. Of man He requires that we give Him our hearts, and man He has made capable of a higher enjoyment through the medium of the moral affections than through the gratifications of appetite. And He requires us to be happy through this higher medium. He will not be satisfied that our noblest powers lie dormant; and while He is not so, neither shall we be.
4. They are not calculated to elevate, but to depress their nature. They take pleasure in objects beneath the dignity of their being. I remember the disgust it gave me when I read of one of the emperors of antiquity that most of his time was spent in catching flies. Though a mere child when I met with this historical fact, I involuntarily inquired, why his crown, and throne, and sceptre? A beggar boy might succeed as well as he in his sordid occupation. But why did he appear meanly occupied, but as I compared his employment with some nobler business that might have occupied him?
5. They are not abiding. What joy they have, and it is far beneath what they might have, is fleeting and transitory. Every object on which their joy depends is perishing--is a dying and a transitory object. They were not created to be the permanent food of an immortal mind. To expect permanent bliss, and base the hope of it on that which worms can devour, and thieves break through and steal, is to expect grapes of thorns and figs of thistles; is to sow to the wind and reap the whirlwind; is to pierce ourselves through with many sorrows.
6. They are dangerous, being guilty and forbidden. That a nature capable of loving his Maker should fix his supreme attachment elsewhere is offering God a perpetual insult, and exposing the offender to the indignation and wrath of the holy and jealous Jehovah. Having noticed how entirely without any fruit or enjoyment was the good man in his unconverted state in those things which he once tried to enjoy we shall--
II. View him under the operation of that shame and regret to which his past conduct has subjected him. He is brought to see that God is worthy of his whole heart, and that he has withheld it, and has worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is over all, God blessed forever. He becomes conscious of a quarrel with his Maker, but for no reason that he dare now assign. Every attribute of His nature is glorious, and every act of His government holy, and just, and good. And still the sinner has placed the supreme love on some idol, and refused to love and worship his Maker and his Redeemer. “Then shalt thou be ashamed,” says the prophet in the name of the Lord, “and never open thy mouth any more, because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done.” And the Psalmist says, “Thou makest me to bear the iniquities of my youth.” His shame is greatly enhanced by the consideration that he must now be indebted, as he always has been, for all his benefits to one whom he has always expelled from his affections. He sees, too, that the ground of his preference for idols was a depraved heart, that would prefer anything to God would love a stock or a stone more than the infinitely adorable and kind Creator; and in the meantime would not be convinced that the course he took ruined him, that his misplaced affections polluted and belittled his mind, and that he was ensnared, and impoverished, and destroyed by the works of his own hands. Now it is that the man becomes filled with shame and confusion of face.
III. The end of these things would naturally have been, to the now regenerate man, and must be to all men who do not repent, death.
1. A course of sin leads to bad society. If men will be transgressors, they must of necessity associate with men of similar pursuit. Make the attempt to collect a company of sober, serious, thoughtful, ungodly men, and if you do not soon discover that no such society can be formed, then have we very much mistaken the true state of the world.
2. A course of sin absorbs precious time. Unregenerate men throw away very many years of their probation. All that time that the Christian must spend in his closet, in the study of the Bible, and in the duties of domestic worship, the ungodly have to spare. This shortens life, and begets the habit of not thinking--the habit of placing the mind in an attitude of listlessness and inattention, than which no habit can be more ruinous to one whose happiness in this life and in the life to come depends so much on prompt and vigorous action. If we are to reach heaven, and would be prepared for it, we must form soon the very opposite habit, and must learn to husband well every hour that lies between us and the grave.
3. A course of sin is death, as it leads to the adoption of bad sentiments, and engenders an erroneous creed. There is an whole system of infidelity taught and believed in the promiscuous associations of the ungodly. It may not be styled infidelity, and lectures may not be given in the formal didactic mode, but the result may be the same.
4. A course of sin benumbs the right affections. It tends to destroy filial confidence, and fraternal, and parental, and conjugal affection. Devotion to some idol easily becomes stronger than any of the natural relationships, and thus neutralises many a restraint, that the God of nature, as the infidel would name Jehovah, has imposed. But when we pass these and speak of the religious affections, it hardly need be said that all these are suppressed and quenched by a course of sin.
5. A course of sin ends in death as it nourishes the unhallowed passions. Men grow worse day by day while they remain in the gall of bitterness and under the bonds of iniquity. Their position is never stationary, but their course downward, downward, downward toward the blackness of darkness forever.
6. A course of sin tends to death as it offers constant provocation of the Spirit of God. On the operations of His Spirit we are dependent for life and salvation. There is no amount of means, or force of human eloquence, or impetus of natural resolution that can arrest the course of sin. Men will not try to stop themselves, nor allow themselves to be stayed in their course by any human power. Hence our only hope is that God will make them willing in the day of His power. But every act of sin is resistance made to the efforts of His mercy and the influence of His Spirit. (D. A. Clark.)
Apples of Sodom: or the fruits of sin
The son of Sirach prudently advised, “Judge none blessed before his death; for a man shall be known in his children.” This holds good concerning the family of sin: for it keeps a good house which is full of company and servants; it is served by the possessions of the world, courted by the unhappy, flattered by fools, and feasted all the way of its progress. But if we look to what are the children of this splendid family, and see what issue sin produces, it may help to untie the charm. Sin and concupiscence marry together and feast highly; but the children of their filthy union are ugly, foolish, and ill-matured--shame and death. These are the fruits of sin--apples of Sodom, fair on the outside, but within full of ashes and rottenness. And the tree with its fruits go together; if you will have the mother, you must take the daughters. In answer to the question of the text we are to consider--
I. What is the sum total of the pleasures of sin. Most of them will be found very punishments.
1. To pass over the miseries ensuing from envy, murder, and a whole catalogue of sins, every one of which is a disease, we may observe that nothing pretends to pleasure but the lusts of the flesh, ambition, and revenge. These alone cozen us with a fair outside; and yet on a survey of their fruits we shall see how miserably they deceive us.
2. For a man cannot take pleasure in the lusts of the flesh unless he be helped forward by inconsideration and folly. Grave and wise persons are extremely less affected by them than the hare-brained boy. It is a strange beauty that none but the blind or blear-eyed can see.
3. The pleasures of intemperance are nothing but the relics and images of pleasure, after nature has been feasted; for so long as she needs, and temperance waits, pleasure stands by: but as temperance begins to go away, having done the ministries of nature, every morsel and drop is less delicious and endurable, but as men force nature to stay longer than she would.
4. With these pretenders to pleasure there is so much trouble to bring them to act an enjoyment, that the appetite is above half tired before it comes. An ambitious man must be wonderfully patient; and no one buys death and damnation at so dear a rate as he who fights for it, enduring heat and cold and hunger; and who practises all the austerities of the hermit, with this difference that the one does it for heaven and the other for hell. And as for revenge, its pleasure is like that of eating chalk and coals, or like the feeding of a cancer or a wolf; the man is restless till it be done, and when it is everyone sees how infinitely removed he is from satisfaction.
5. These sins, when they are entertained with the greatest fondness from without, must have little pleasure, because there is a strong faction against them. Something within strives against the entertainment, and they sit uneasy on the spirit, when the man is vexed that they are not lawful. They are against a man’s conscience, i.e., against his reason and his rest.
6. The pleasure in those few sins that pretend to it is a little limited nothing, confined to a single faculty, to one sense; and that which is the instrument of sense is its torment. By the faculty through which it tastes it is afflicted, for so long as it can taste it is tormented with desire, and when it can desire no longer it cannot feel pleasure.
7. Sin hath little or no pleasure in its enjoyment because its very manner of entry and production is by a curse and a contradiction. Men love sin because it is forbidden, some out of the spirit of disobedience, some by wildness, some because they are reproved, many by importunity; and sins grow up with spite, peevishness, and wrath.
8. The pleasures in the enjoyment of sin are trifling because so transient; if they be in themselves little this makes them still less; but if they were great this would change the delight into torment. Add to this that it so passes away that nothing pleasant remains behind: it is like the path of an arrow; no man can tell what is become of the pleasures of last night’s sin.
9. Sin has in its best advantages but a trifling pleasure, because not only God, reason, conscience, honour, interest, and laws sour it, but the devil himself makes it troublesome; so that one sin contradicts another and vexes the man with a variety of evils. Does not envy punish flattery, and self-love torment the drunkard? Which is the greater, the pleasure of prodigalities or the pain of the consequent poverty?
10. Sin has so little relish that it is always greater in expectation than possession. If men could see this beforehand they would not pursue it so eagerly.
11. The fruits of its present possession, the pleasures of taste, are less pleasant, because no sober or intelligent man likes it long. He approves it in the height of passion and under the disguise of temptation, but at all other times he finds it ugly and unreasonable, and the remembrance abates its pleasures.
II. What fruits and relishes sin if leaves behind it by its natural efficiency.
1. Paul comprises them under the scornful appellation of “shame.” The natural fruits of sin are--
(a) Man was first tempted by the promise of knowledge; he fell into darkness by believing that the devil held forth to him a new light. It was not likely that good should come from so foul a beginning: the man and the woman knew good, and all that was offered them was the experience of evil. Now this was the introduction of ignorance. When the understanding suffered itself to be so baffled as to study evil, the will was so foolish as to fall in love with it, and they conspired to undo each other. For when the will began to love it, then the understanding was set on work to advance, approve, believe it, and to be factious on behalf of the new purchase. Not, however, that the understanding received any natural diminution, but received impediment by new propositions. It lost and willingly forgot what God taught, went from the fountain of truth, and gave trust to the father of lies.
(b) It is certain that if a man would be pleased with sin, or persuade others to be so, he must do it by false propositions. Who is a greater fool than an atheist who sees rare effects and denies their cause, an excellent government without a prince? But in persuading men to this the devil never prevailed very far, although he has prevailed in a thing almost as senseless, viz., idolatry, which not only makes God after man’s image, but in the likeness of a cat, etc. But he has succeeded yet farther in prevailing upon men to believe that evil is good and good evil, that fornication can make them happy and drunkenness wise, and that sin has pleasure and good enough in it to make amends for the pains of damnation. Sin has no better argument than a fly has to enter a candle. Such is the sinner’s philosophy, and no wiser are his hopes, viz., that he can in an instant make amends for the evils of years, or else that he shall be saved whether he will or no: or that heaven shall be had for a sigh; i.e., he hopes without a promise and believes that he shall have mercy for which he never had a revelation. If this be knowledge or wisdom then there is no such thing as folly or madness.
(c) There are some sins whose very formality is a lie. Superstition could not exist if men believed that God was good, wise, free, and merciful, and no man would do in private what he fears to do in public if he knew that God sees him there and will bring that work of darkness into the light. He who excuses a fault by telling a lie, believes it better to be guilty of two faults than one. The first natural fruit of sin then is to make a man a fool, and this is shame enough.
(a) He sins against his own interest. He knows that he will be ruined by it, but the evil custom remains.
(b) Custom prevails against experience. Though the man has been disgraced and undone it will not cure him.
2. Although these are the shameful effects of sin, yet there are some sins which are directly shameful in their nature, and every one of which has a venomous quality of its own. Thus the devil’s sin was the worst because it came from the greatest malice; Adam’s because it was most universal; Judas’ because against the most excellent Person. This is a strange poison in sin that of so many sorts every one of them should be the worst. Every sin has an evil spirit of its own to manage and embitter it, but to some sins shame is more appropriate, such as lying, lust, vow making, and inconstancy. And such is the fate of sin that the shame grows more and more; we lie to men and excuse it to God. And the shame will follow the sin beyond the grave.
III. What are its consequences by its demerit and the wrath of God which it has deserved.
1. The impossibility of concealment. No wicked man ever went off the scene of his unworthiness without a vile character. The intolerable apprehensions of sinners themselves, and the slightest circumstances often bring to light what was transacted behind the curtains of light.
2. Sin itself; and when God punishes in this way He is extremely angry, for then it is not medicinal but exterminating. One evil invites another, and when the Holy Spirit is quenched the man is left to the mercy of his merciless enemy.
3. Fearful plagues, and even when God forgives the sinner retribution is not wholly withheld. It is promised through Christ that we shall not die, but not that we shall not be smitten.
The fruits of sin
I. It is unprofitable. “What fruit had ye?”
1. Some sins are plainly mischievous to the temporal interest of men, as tending either to the disturbance of their minds, or the endangering of their health and lives, or to the prejudice of their estates, or the blasting of their good name.
2. There are other sins which, though they are not so visibly attended with mischievous consequences, bring no real advantage either in respect of gain or pleasure; such are the sins of profaneness and swearing.
3. Even those sins which make the fairest pretence to be of advantage to us, when all accounts are cast up will be found in no degree able to perform and make good what they so largely promise.
II. It is shameful. Most men when they commit a known fault are apt to be ashamed whenever they are put in mind of it. Some, indeed, have gone so far in sin as to be past all shame (Jeremiah 6:15). But yet even these, when they become sensible of their guilt so as to be brought to repentance, cannot then but be ashamed of what they have done. Sin contains in it whatsoever is justly accounted infamous, together with all the aggravations of shame and reproach that can be imagined. And this will appear by considering sin--
1. In relation to ourselves.
(a) Therefore the Scripture likens it to the meanest condition among men--slavery. So that to be a sinner is to be a slave to some vile passion or irregular desire; it is to part with one of the most valuable things in the world, our liberty, upon low and unworthy terms.
(b) There is no greater argument of a degenerate spirit than to do such things as a man would blush to be surprised in, and would be troubled to hear of afterwards, and which is more, after he hath been convinced of this, to have so little self-command as not to be able to free himself from this bondage.
(c) And that sin is of this shameful nature is evident, in that the greatest part of sinners take so much care to hide their vices (1 Thessalonians 5:7).
2. In respect of God.
III. It is fatal. No fruit then when ye did these things; shame now that you come to reflect upon them; and death at the last. The principal ingredients of this miserable state.
1. The anguish of a guilty conscience, “the worm that dies not.” Though God should inflict no positive punishment, yet this is a revenge which every man’s mind would take upon him.
2. Another ingredient. The lively apprehension of the invaluable happiness which they have lost by their own obstinacy and foolish choice.
3. A quick sense of intolerable pain aggravated by--
The fruits of sin
I know a man at the present moment--a man I said, but, alas I poor wretched mortal, he looks hardly like a man. I saw him in rags, shivering in the drenching rain but yesterday. He came of reputable parents; I knew his relatives well. He had some four hundred pounds or more left him a few years ago. As soon as ever he could get hold of it he came to London, and in about a month he spent it all in a hideous whirlwind of evil. He went back a beggar and in rags, full of horrible sickness, loathsome, and an outcast. Since that time he has been so often aided by his friends that they have entirely given him up, and now this poor wretch, with scarce enough rags to hide his nakedness, has no eye left to pity him, and no hand to help him. He has been helped again and again and again; but to help him appears to be useless, for at the very first opportunity he returns to his old sins. The workhouse, the hospital, the grave are his portion, for he seems unable to rise to the dignity of labour, and no one will harbour him. I could fairly cry at the sight of him, but what can be done for him if he will destroy himself by his sins? If you say to him, “Why do your friends not notice you?” he will tell you, “They cannot notice me.” He has brought his mother to the grave; he has wearied out everybody who has pitied him, for his life has been so thoroughly bad that it excites no pity, but disgusts his own relatives. For the love of the Lord Jesus I will try this unhappy man again, and intend tomorrow to see him washed, and clothed, and fed, and put in a way of livelihood, but I have very slender hope of being of any lasting service to him, for he has been tried so often. Yet I never saw a wretch in such misery. He is emaciated, ragged, and has known hunger, and cold, and nakedness month after month, and unless he mends his ways this will be his lot till he dies. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The fruits of sin
I remember once seeing a mob of revellers streaming out from a masked ball in a London theatre in the early morning sunlight, draggled and heavy-eyed, the rouge showing on the cheeks, and the shabby tawdriness of the foolish costumes pitilessly revealed by the pure light. So will many a life look when the day dawns and the wild riot ends in its unwelcome beams. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The fruits of sin
Evil premeditated is evil at its best--attractive, desirable, full of promises which the senses can understand and the passions love; but evil perpetrated is evil at its worst--hideous, hateful, stripped of its illusions and clothed in its native misery. In his anger at finding Jesus not to be the Christ he had hoped for and desired, Judas deserted and betrayed Him; in the terrible calm that succeeded indulgence he awoke to the realities within and about him, saw how blindly he had lived and hated, how far the Messianic ideal of Jesus transcended his own. (A. M. Fairbairn.)
The unfruitfulness of sin
It is recorded of himself by one who, in his unconverted state, was as remarkable for his gay and reckless disregard of religion as he afterwards, by the grace of God, became for his spirituality and devotedness, that when some of his dissolute companions were once congratulating him on his distinguished felicity, a dog happening at the time to come into the room, he could not forbear groaning inwardly and saying to himself, “Oh that I were that dog!”
The unfruitfulness and misery of sin
One of the surest means by which Satan keeps men under his power is by keeping them in ignorance of their state. Did they once see what sin really is, they would quickly leave it. Our text sets sin before us in its true colours, and shows us what it is when stripped of every covering.
I. Sin yields no present fruit, nothing which deserves the name of fruit. It may furnish some short gratification, but this is not fruit. Sin makes, indeed large promises, but it cannot fulfil them. Compare Eve in the Garden of Eden, Judas, the Prodigal Son.
II. Sin is followed by shame. Shame is that confusion of mind which arises from a consciousness of guilt. For a time men may sin without feeling shame, but a day is coming when every “hidden thing of darkness” will be brought to light. Look at Peter when he saw his guilt in having denied his Master.
III. Sin ends in death (James 1:15; Genesis 2:17). Death is the certain consequence of sin. Death, in this sense, means the separation of the soul from the favour, the presence, and the Spirit of God. Consider these things, forsake sin, and turn to God. (E. Cooper.)
The unprofitableness of sin
Walking in the country, I went into a barn where I found a thresher at his work. I addressed him in the words of Solomon: “In all labour there is profit.” Leaning upon his flail, with much energy he answered, “Sir, that is the truth, but there is one exception to it: I have long laboured in the service of sin, but I have got no profit by my labour.” “Then you know something of the apostle’s meaning when he asked, ‘What fruit’? etc.” “Thank God,” said he, “I do; and I also know that even ‘being made free from sin,’ etc.” How valuable this simple faith in the Word of God! and how true is the saying of a deceased writer that “piety found in a barn is better than the most splendid pleasure of a palace!” (W. Jay.)
The folly of sin
It is not only a crime that men commit when they do wrong, but it is a blunder. “The game is not worth the candle,” according to the French proverb. The thing that you buy is not worth the price you pay for it. Sin is like a great forest tree that we sometimes see standing up green in its leafy beauty and spreading a broad shadow over half a field; but when we get round on the other side there is a great dark hollow in the very heart of it, and corruption is at work there. It is like the poison tree in travellers’ stories, tempting weary men to rest beneath its thick foliage, and insinuating death into the limbs that relax in the fatal coolness of its shade. It is like the apples of Sodom, fair to look upon, but turning to acrid ashes on the unwary lips. It is like the magician’s rod that we read about in old books. There it lies; and if, tempted by its glitter or fascinated by the power that it proffers you, you take it in your hand, the thing starts into a serpent with erected crest and sparkling eye, and plunges its quick barb into the hand that holds it, and sends poison through all the veins. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Sin sadly recollected
I heard one of the best men I ever knew, seventy-five years of age, say, “Sir, God has forgiven all the sins of my lifetime, I know that; but there is one sin I committed at twenty years of age that I never will forgive myself for. It sometimes comes over me overwhelmingly, and it absolutely blots out my hope of heaven.” (T. De Witt Talmage.)
Terrible fruits of sin
The worldly spirit makes possession the object of life. Christ makes being, character, the object. The world asks, “What do you possess?” God asks, “What are you?” A gentleman once said to a wicked man, “You do not look as if you had prospered by your wickedness.” “I have not prospered at it,” cried the man. “With half the time and energy I have spent I might have been a man of property and character. But I am a homeless wretch; twice I have been in State prison. I have made acquaintance with all sorts of miseries; but I tell you, my worst punishment is in being what I am.” Without doubt it would be delightful to have the possessions of an angel, but it would be ten thousand times better to be an angel. Not what have I, but what am I? not what shall I gain, but what shall I be? is the true question of life.
The wages of sin in time
The author of evil has ever tempted with a lie, and offers what it is not in his power to give. “Ye shall be as gods,” was his first promise; “ye shall not surely die.” But mark its fulfilment: the image of God was shattered; “sin entered into the world, and death by sin.” And when the Second Adam was shown “all the kingdoms of the world,” the devil said, “All this power will I give Thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will, I give it” (Daniel 2:21; 1 Chronicles 29:11-12). It was false. It is always so. In answering the question, What are the wages of sin in time? my reply must be--
I. Sin does not pay what it promises. I do not deny that sin has its pleasures, nor that the worldly may obtain certain advantages not to be found in the way of religion; but I assert that those who have made the perilous trial have not received what they expected; sin has paid them in debased coin. Take, e.g.
1. The pleasures promised by the sensual appetites, painted in voluptuous day dreams, or as sung by poets who profane the gift of song; all is bright, exhilarating, delicious; but the palled profligate will tell you that the mad pleasure was disappointing as well as brief, and that there is a thirst left which it is sin to satisfy and agony to deny. While for those who have thrown themselves into the current of worldly dissipation, till the jaded soul has ceased to live for God, nothing is more common than the self-condemning excuse that they are weary of a life which they persuade themselves they are obliged to lead.
2. And so it is with wealth, the glittering bait which some pursue in despite of the laws of God, but many more by that respectable covetousness which hardens the heart to the love of God and man and the influence of His Spirit. And for what? It is idle to undervalue the comforts which wealth can command; but it would be as idle to deny that the pleasure of possession is alloyed by its cares, and fades quickly with its novelty; that the habits formed by acquiring frequently preclude from enjoying (Ecclesiastes 8:11).
3. Praise, honour, power, again, are among sin’s promises, but lose their worth precisely as far as they are obtained by sin. As the result of honest duty and self-sacrifice, especially when from holier motives, these have their value, but when attained by sinful compliances, or hypocritical pretence, in the unwilling judgment of the inner man, as honours undeserved they are worthless, and conscience contradicts the voice of praise; and the fruits of reputation, which are held out as an encouragement to persevering duty, when grasped by the hand of sin, become like apples of Sodom. Again sin has shuffled her wages; she has paid her servants with a lie.
II. But we are not to think that sin has no wages in this life. She has them, and for the most part they are duly paid. Note--
1. The effects of sin upon man’s outward fortunes and circumstances, which, although not uniform when they do follow, they follow as the effects of sin; when they do not follow, it is because they have been, in spite of sin, diverted or delayed. The ruined spendthrift, who has destroyed the means of gratification while strengthening the appetite for indulgence, and who has involved others, perhaps, in common misery; the palled voluptuary, who has overtaxed the powers of nature, and bears passions still unslaked in an effete and feeble body, suffering, weary, and querulous, unloving and unloved, the very wreck of what was once a man; the doting drunkard, alternating his miserable hours of mad mirth and maudlin penitence, enslaved by a habit which disgusts although it masters him, and sinking with weakened mind and trembling limbs to an early grave; the poor lost woman, whom folly led on to sire, and sin launched into the full current of passion, and her name became a reproach, and the door of return was shut, and excitement was a necessity, and there was remorse and loathing, but no penitence, till vice and disease had done their ghastly work, and death closed the short and fevered scene; the dishonoured man of business, who, under the cover of a high character, was tempted to gamble with his credit, then to retrieve his losses by dishonesty, till his astute schemes broke down by their own weight, the disguise fell off, and amidst the curses of those whom he has impoverished and betrayed he sinks into disgrace and ruin; or, most fearful retribution of all, the irreligious parent, heart-struck to see his children reproducing his own vices and pressing on deafly on the road to endless ruin to which he first had pointed them the path--these are witnesses which meet us everywhere, all testifying that the wages of sin are sorrow, disappointment, and misery, all replying with melancholy unanimity tot the apostle’s question. “The end of those things is death.”
2. But the outward course of retribution is crossed by many exceptions, and often, indeed, the heaviest judgment here may be prosperity. “Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.” There are, besides, many sins telling less sensibly upon the outward circumstances of those who commit them.
The evil effects of past sin on a believer
The apostle’s question is addressed to Christians, and he says not only that they had no fruit in their sins, whilst they were living in them, but that now, after they had abandoned them, they were still ashamed. See also Ezekiel 36:31; Eze_16:62. To the child of God, the penal consequences of guilt are forever remitted, and the dominion of the principle of evil is dethroned. Still in many ways does his past iniquity ever continue to molest him, and to the end of his days will not cease to mingle painfully in his otherwise joyous and blessed cup. How often, for example, are a Christian’s efforts at usefulness impeded by the recollection that others have of what he once was. It is said of one of the most eminent ministers in modern times, that at an early period of his life, deeply tinctured with infidelity, he made active efforts to instill its principles into others. With some he awfully succeeded, and these, at a later and a better period, he sought anxiously but fruitlessly to reclaim from the fearful sin into which he had himself been the means of seducing them. What, think you, would have been his answer to the apostle’s “What fruit had ye then in those things whereof you are now ashamed?” Would he not have said, truly then they were fruitless and unsatisfactory, but now they are, and ever will remain, sources of the bitterest shame and sorrow. Then, again, every exercise of a sinful principle contributes to the formation of an evil habit. The more and the longer it is acted on, the stronger the habit becomes; and the stronger the habit is, the more difficult, of course, will it afterwards be to subdue and eradicate it; the more constantly and readily will the mind yield to every little temptation that may arise to excite it, and the more naturally will the thoughts recur, when most unbidden and most distasteful, to the scenes of their former associations. Thus does the indulgence of sinful propensities heap up fuel for future difficulties and future pain. Every corrupt habit forms a barrier to what will then be our leading object in life, to grow in grace and purity--and increases the number and strength of the enemies we shall have to contend with; while ideas, easily and involuntarily arising within us, which our former courses have suggested, but which we now loathe and detest, will add to our pain and self-reproach and confusion of face. Oh, how can men talk lightly of sin? how can they go on from day to day in reckless and obstinate perseverance in ways that are ungodly and corrupt? Why is it that they will rather lay up for themselves, as it were, a pile that will consume themselves, and forget the end that must arrive at last? (J. Newland, A. M.)
Remorse of a wasted life
The following epitaph was written by Lord Byron to the memory of his thirty-third birthday, “Here lies in the eternity of the past, from whence there is no resurrection of the days, whatever there may be for the dust, the thirty-third year of an ill-spent life; which, after a lingering disease of many months, sunk into a lethargy and expired on January 22, 1821, leaving a successor inconsolable for the very loss which occasioned its existence.” (J. F. B. Tinling, B. A.)
The law of seed sowing and after harvest
The season of the year reminds us of that great and universal law of seed sowing and harvest. The name Autumn in its original signifies to increase. The law that fruitage follows seed sowing is as evident in the moral universe as in the physical. Conduct has its reward.
I. The sowing of vice has its legitimate and necessary harvest.
1. The habit of vice follows vice. The wisteria throws out its little tendrils. How very feeble are they at first. As they feel their way for support they seem to plead for help. You build for them a trellis, and, by and by, those tendrils have become so strong that they pull the posts aside, and on the walls they even move the solid brick. As I have watched and admired this vine with its cataract of bloom, I have thought of the growth and force of the habit of wrong-doing.
2. Conscience grows weaker.
3. The loneliness of vice is part of the harvest. Men say, “I do not believe that there are lost souls in God’s universe.” You can see many of them in this world. As they sink in vice they become isolated.
4. The evil propensities, passions, appetites, grow stronger by exercise.
5. Spirituality is crowded out by worldliness. The mental and spiritual vision is blinded. It is a silent progress of decadence--a silent, steady ripening of the sown seed. We stand upon one of the Alps and see the avalanche as it plunges thunderingly, irresistibly downward. At first it was but a bit of soft snow, little harder than the common snow, that began to move. So a lost soul begins its downward course in a seeming harmless thought or whim, but at last the final destruction is sudden, awful.
II. This law is true in the mental world.
III. It is also true of the spiritual world.
1. Right-doing also ends in habit, and habit in character. A man said of his father, and it was true, “He could not be dishonest if he tried.” Life-long honesty makes character, and that determines action.
2. Christian experience is enjoyed.
3. Christian motives crystallise in deeds, and these latter bring their reward.
4. A sweet communion with Christ.
5. A communion of spiritually developed, kindred souls.
6. A steadfast hope that adverse influence can no more move than can a child shake with its tiny finger the great pyramid.
7. A likeness to Christ.
8. Heaven is the final fruit, “the end everlasting life.”
Conclusion: in nature God does not arrest and change growth to something else. There is a different law applied in the moral universe. A man is growing wrong, the harvest is nearly ripened, when all is changed, and there is a new seed sowing and a new harvest. Here is then the test by which to measure ourselves. Is the fruitage within us one of humility, of desire for usefulness, for the spirit of Christ? (R. S. Storrs, D. D.)
The comparative desirableness of the service of sin and the service of God
I. As to present enjoyment. “What fruit had ye then?”
1. The “fruit” of particular principles is the conduct which they produce--the fruit of a particular course of conduct the consequences to which it leads. He appeals to themselves whether their new service was not even now happier, more honourable and more useful; whether its present fruit was not richer in its relish and more excellent in its nature. “What fruit!”--“Wild grapes,” “dusters that were bitter”; “grapes of gall.” Such were the fruits, if we understand the question as meaning what kind of fruit had ye?
2. But it may strongly convey, as such questions often do, their having had no fruit; in which case “fruit” signifies benefit. It is not a fair and just description of the service of sin to denominate it “the unfruitful works of darkness”? It is true, there are pleasures in sin. These are the allurements to its service. Yet, still, the question may be emphatically put--What fruit have they? Is there any real solid satisfaction worthy of a rational, immortal, accountable being?
II. As to subsequent reflection. Of service of sin all who ever come to see it aright are ashamed (Ezekiel 36:31-32; Eze_16:62-63), a feeling which can never have place as to the service of God--except indeed the shame of having so imperfectly fulfilled its duties. They are ashamed of--
1. Their folly. There is no infatuation like that which prefers the service of sin to the service of God! It is the preference of degradation to honour; of the most miserable of slaveries to the most blessed of liberties; of earth to heaven; of time to eternity; of Satan to God!
2. Their ingratitude. When they think of God as the Source of every joy, and who “has not spared His own Son,” and feel aright their obligations to Him, they look back with bitter self-reproach on the vileness of that ingratitude which their previous course involved. They blush for the baseness of having lived in rebellion against rich and unmerited kindness; and especially of having slighted His mercy.
III. In their ultimate consequences. “Death” is the end of one: “life” of the other. The one closes in eternal confirmation in sin, alienation from God, a sense of His wrath, and consequent misery; the other in eternal confirmation in perfected holiness, spotless likeness to God, communion with Him, the enjoyment of His love, unmarred and uninterrupted by sin, and consequent happiness; happiness without alloy, without abatement, and without cessation. But while such are the ends, respectively, of the two services, there is one marked difference between them. The one is wages--a merited reward; the other a gift--a gratuitous bestowment (verse 23). (R. Wardlaw, D. D.)
But now being made free from sin.
The freedom and dignity of the Christian
I. We are “free from sin.”
1. We are free from--
2. We are made free. There is some power exerted upon us distinctly Divine: we call it grace or the work of God. God calls us to come forth from our bondage; and we, hearing His voice, do come; but the power which gives us the ability to assert our freedom is His own. This freedom is ascribed--
3. The instruments employed.
II. We become “servants of God.” Our deliverance from sin is in order to this.
1. This name, “servant,” is a name of glory because it has been borne by Christ, and by the most distinguished men that ever lived. Moses, Job, David, Paul, James. These triumphed in nothing so much as rendering service in their free state to God. His service is perfect freedom.
2. How is it brought about? We first receive the truth; the blessings of the gospel, freeing us from sin, are brought by faith and knowledge into our nature. The natural effect of this is confidence and love towards God. We cease to be afraid; the spirit of bondage gives way; and the Spirit of adoption comes in its stead. This new view of God induces consecration. We yield ourselves unto God as those that are alive from death, and our members as the instruments of righteousness unto God.
3. What will the Master have us to do? It is required in a servant that there be--
III. Our fruit is unto holiness.
1. Beautiful fruit; “fruit meet for repentance.” “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering,” etc. “Holy fruits”: that is, fruits that are vital, fresh, blooming, luscious.
2. There never has been any fruit unto holiness separate from the principles of the gospel. There may be morals, dry and barren, but there is no holiness but as it arises out of faith and love towards Jesus.
3. In order to fruitfulness there must be cultivation. There must be a diligence and a care that we show forth in our tempers and practice the various points of that blessed light and beauty which is called in the text holiness.
IV. The end is everlasting life. The end is everything. If it were so that the course of religion in this world were a course of sorrow, if the end were everlasting life, it were worth the while to walk it. But it is not: the way is peace, the path is light, the progress is joy, and then the end is everlasting life. The more I see of this life, the more I feel that it is a poor, dissatisfied life. Irrespective of God, it is not worth having. And I am increasingly persuaded that the life to come is unbounded, and perpetual, and everlasting activity, conscious purity, splendid glory, and rest in His beatific vision. (J. Stratten.)
The redeemed soul
I. As gloriously emancipated.
1. It is “made free from sin”--from its power, its guilt, and its consequences.
2. This emancipation is the most real, valuable, and lasting of any.
II. As divinely consecrated. “Become servants to God.” His service is the most--
2. Free. It insures the free action of all the powers of the soul.
3. Honourable. What an honour to be employed by Him!
III. As prosperously employed. “Fruit unto holiness.” Holiness is the perfection of being. “Having the fruit to holiness” implies that every thought, word, and deed bears towards perfection.
IV. As everlastingly blessed. “The end everlasting life.” Life without end.
1. Free from all evil.
2. Possessed of all good. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
Right! left! right!
I. The first stage of the Christian journey is conversion, “now being made free from sin.” What, then, is this “freedom from sin”? What, then, this emancipation we get at the Cross? Sin is here. Sin is in us, sin is on us. Sin has flung on our soul the double coiled chain of penalty and power. We are prisoners bound by the two-twisted grapple of guilt, but it is all snapped and shivered in the surrender of the soul to the Lord. “He hath sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” Here’s the gospel for you. “The Lord hath laid upon Him the iniquity of us all.” “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” “Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree.” “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Every fraction of my awful debt Christ has rendered, and now I am pardoned, justified, “reconciled unto God by the death of His Son,” and God righteously bestows upon me the full remission of my sins, “that He might be just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.” I am, in conversion to Christ, free from sin, its penalty. Yet once more, conversion brings freedom from the power and presence of sin. Slaving in the rice fields of sin was I! hoeing along in the heat of the plain of hell was I! manacled was I! But, “happy day!” on the horizon a broad sail appeared, and a vessel bore down to the terrible shore, and lo, the blood-stained banner of the Cross of Christ waved its welcome to my weary soul, and I lifted myself from the swamps and fled, and plunged into the deep with a cry for help. “Lord, save me, I perish.” Help came, salvation came, the Lord walked on the wave and brought me on board, and “I fell down at His feet as if dead.”
II. The second station on the line to glory is what we call, for want of a better name, conduction, “become servants to God.” You know what conduction in physical science is. It is the communication of heat from one body to another by contact. There must be touch, or there will be no passing along of the caloric wave. Can’t you realise this “natural law in the spiritual world”? It is the secret of effective service to God. Examine the extremities and see that the touch is certain. Is your soul, Christian worker, in contact with God? Is your soul, Christian worker, in contact with man? Have you regeneration from God? Have you sympathy with man? A soul saved, and soul seeker. That is service. Bring the soul into living contact with the living God, and the Divine heat by the law of conduction will ripple its waves through the mass of humanity till all the earth shall acknowledge Him; “and they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord.” But where shall I work? How shall I serve? how labour for God on the earth? Where you are called, there preach. Serve God with your new life where He gave it you. Serve you your God by doing His will in “the trivial round, the common task.” “Who sweeps a room as for His laws makes that and the action fine.” Be a “servant to God.”
III. The third platform we reach on this royal route to heaven is consecration: “Ye have your fruit unto holiness.” Rowland Hill says truly, “he wouldn’t give a fig for a man’s religion if his very cat wasn’t the better of it!” Be a fruiter in the Christian life, not a florist. It was said of one of those perfection florists, “Ay, he’s perfect, he says, but ask his wife!” Many will pray that will never pay, and yet paying not praying is the “fruit unto holiness.” To one of those florists of holiness I once lent my last coin, and I’ve never seen it nor him, and it’s ten years now since he, with three or four hundred more of the coins of others to keep mine company, took his spring-heeled flitting in the bonnie moonlight! Many will talk that will never walk, and yet walk not talk is the “fruit unto holiness.” The world needs Christs, be you a Christ! Live holiness by living Christ, for the blessing is not an it, but a “He.” Christ in you, working through you, that “we should be to the praise of His glory.”
IV. And now, the terminus of this railway journey to “the regions beyond” is what we call, also for the want of a better name, and to keep to our “cons” for your memory’s sake, congregation, “the end, everlasting life.” Right has been, left has been, right again has been, it is now straight on! On screams the engine whistle, and the piston plunges, and the wheels move. Night! Thunders the iron steed on its ringing track, smoothly on, steadily on, into the darkness. (John Robertson.)
The blessedness of believers
I. Their freedom from sin. Consider--
1. Wherein this freedom consists. It does not mean that they are made free from the being of sin. This will be the case by and by, when they shall be like Christ as well as see Him as He is. But it does mean that they are free from--
2. But a deliverance supposes a Deliverer. Did they make themselves free? Did creatures, ministers, or angels? No, it was the work of God Himself.
II. Their consecration to God’s service. Negative religion is not enough. It is not enough that you cease to do evil; you must learn to do well. It is not enough that you are made free from sin; you must become the servants of God.
1. God has every claim. We are His absolutely. He made us. Were He to suspend His sustaining influence we should relapse into nothingness. And you are not your own in a much nobler sense; you are bought with a price, and therefore you are bound to glorify God, etc.
2. Notice the nature of this service.
III. Their present privileges. The fruit of a tree is something from which we derive pleasure and profit, and by which it is known and identified. “Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit.” What fruit?
1. True profit. In the days of Job, infidels asked, “What is the Almighty, that we should serve Him?” etc., and in the days of Malachi they were audacious enough to say, “It is vain to serve God,” etc. To all which the apostle returns a perfect answer: “Godliness is profitable to all things,” etc.
2. Safety. “If God be for us, who can be against us?”
3. Peace. “Great peace have they that love Thy law.” “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace,” etc.
4. Pleasure that deserves the name, pleasure that reaches the very soul, and produces sunshine and satisfaction there. “Blessed are the people that know the joyful sound,” etc.
5. Health, if it be good for you; sickness, if it be good for you; wealth, if it be good for you; reputation, if it be good for you; for “no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly.” Therefore the Saviour says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God,” etc.
IV. Their final blessedness. “The end everlasting life.” (W. Jay.)
The blessed state of believers
I. They are free from sin.
1. Its accumulated guilt.
2. Its tyranny.
3. Its love.
4. Its defilement.
II. They are the servants of God.
1. Governed by His will.
2. Supported by His grace.
3. Interested in His cause.
III. Their fruit is unto holiness. The fruit of their--
IV. Their end is everlasting life. A state of--
1. Uninterrupted and eternal union with Christ.
2. Active and delightful employment.
3. The highest enjoyment. (Biblical Museum.)
Servants to God.--
I. The ground of their service. They are God’s property (Titus 2:14; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 1 Peter 1:18).
II. Its dignity. It is a great thing to be a servant of an earthly monarch; but what a dignified and dignifying service is spoken of here! Contrast it with that out of which we are taken.
III. Its freedom. Observe the words “become servants.” Although the introduction to His service is an act of grace towards you, you are not forced into it contrary to your will (2 Corinthians 5:14). It is a service of love, the yoke is easy and the burden light. This service is perfect freedom.
IV. Its privileges. A good master--
1. Provides for his servants, thinks for his servants. Oh, how God’s servants are provided for! what angels’ food, what raiment, what protection!
2. Upholds his servants, and our Master will uphold His. His name is upon them, His honour is identified with them, their cause is His. If one of the servants of the Queen, representing us in a foreign land, be insulted, in a moment the whole country is in arms.
V. Its characteristics and duties.
1. A good servant is described to us in Scripture; he has--
2. There is a beautiful directory for servants of the Lord in 2 Timothy 1:1-18 and
2. A good servant must--
VI. Its future. How the Spirit loves to light up that future (Colossians 3:24; John 12:26; Revelation 22:1-21.; Luke 12:37)! (M. Rainsford.)
Ye have your fruit unto holiness.--
Fruit unto holiness
I. God’s glory requires it (John 15:8).
II. Christ’s fulness requires it. For what purpose has He this fulness, but that He may give it out to us as the root to the branches grafted into it. What we want is faith to draw upon that fulness. There is life, truth, strength, holiness enough in Jesus, to carry us triumphantly through every difficulty; but the stint and straitening is in our own faith.
III. The spirit’s inhabitation requires it. Will God put His Spirit into us, and be content that we should walk at the low rate at which men walk who have no such privileges? “The fruit of the Spirit is love,” etc.
IV. The saint’s peace requires it. How much unhappiness we bring upon ourselves by the devious ways we take, the dark paths we wander into, and by the neglect of the means God has provided for our being strengthened and helped, and for our having the joy of the Lord for our strength. (M. Rainsford.)
Fruit unto holiness
1. Two great principles pervade and rule the universe--sin and holiness. There are but these two. There will ever be these two. Now that the second has entered, it would seem neither can be wholly destroyed.
2. It is to one of these two principles we are directed in the text. As the dark ground on which it may best appear, look first at the other. Evil, wrong, sin--the first word betokening its nature, the second its opposition to right, the third its relation to law--what a curse it has been to creation! Gather in thought all the evils which now afflict humanity, add to them all those under which creation groans, add still all those which in another world will continue forever--and you see the elements of that evil thing which has mysteriously sprung up in God’s universe; which He hates, which angels deplore, and which we call sin. It is like emerging from a dark tunnel to sweet air and clear sunshine, to turn from this subject to the one before us.
I. What is holiness?
1. It has many counterfeits.
2. The simplest definition of holiness is conformity to God. So far as we can understand God’s holiness, it consists in infinite rectitude of thought, feeling, nature, and it is essential to Him, so that without it He could not be. He is the Holy One. This holiness regulates all He does. But who can stand in His holy place to gaze upon and imitate Him?
Though we cannot do this, however, recollect He has given us reflections of His holiness.
1. God’s Word is a reflection of Himself. In a book you get a man’s thoughts and spirit. All its injunctions and prohibitions are on the side of holiness. By common consent it is “the Holy Bible,” and we are like God, holy as He is holy, in proportion as we “look into the perfect law,” catch and reflect its image.
2. Not in a book only, but in a living person has God exhibited His holiness. How holy Christ was! If you cannot imitate the original, then look at the copy. Our holiness consists in being like Christ. As you look at Christ, too, you see what holiness is not, as well as what it is. It is not asceticism. Christ “was in the world”; yet He was holy. It is not absence from temptation. He was in “all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” It is not morbid sensibility, ever weighing experience and scrutinising motive. Christ was active, “went about doing good,” was healthy in His moral temperament. It was not unnaturalness, the assumption of anything peculiar, whether in dress, speech, or behaviour. Christ was perfectly natural; the light shone because it was there.
3. Though this is perhaps a sufficient definition, it is not a complete one, for there are elements which go to make up our holiness which could not exist in Christ. In order to holiness in us there must be contrition for sin, and this of course Jesus had not.
4. Still, the definition is not complete. Were it possible to express in a word the nature of absolute holiness, we could not do better than adopt the word “Love.” God is love, Christ was love, and the nearest approach we can make to perfect holiness is pure love.
II. Why should we be holy? Why should we not; what reason can be urged for sin? It is unreasonable. Holiness is the highest reason.
2. In thus gathering motives from the throne, the Cross, the work of the Spirit, forget not personal ones. The apostle urges these strongly.
3. Motives of a less personal kind yet remain. As believers formed into a collective fellowship, the object of the Church is two fold--its own culture, and the benefit of the world. Both these will be best secured by growing holiness.
III. How may holiness be best secured?
2. Positively. Holiness--
1. Holiness is within the reach of all. Many things are not so. Wealth, fame, honour, position may be coveted by many, who strive to obtain, but win not. The highest distinction to be won on earth is open to the meanest.
2. Holiness is not destroyed by occasional failures. Try, try again; the steps backward may help the spring forward; the wave receding becomes stronger in its rebound.
3. The conscious absence of perfect holiness should endear the atonement. “If any man sin”--and who does not daily?--“we have an Advocate with the Father,” etc.
4. In heaven holiness will be complete. (J. Viney.)
Fruitfulness a Christian’s glory
As the glory of a healthy apple tree is its fruit, so the glory of a genuine Christian is his usefulness. He does not merely blossom out with a good profession; he bears fruit with all his might and main. There is not a sapless twig or a barren bough on the whole tree which is planted by the rivers of grace but yieldeth its fruit every month. (T. L. Cuyler.)
Fruit unto holiness
It is remarkable that Paul speaks of holiness as the fruit, and not as the principle of our service to God--as the effect which that service has upon the character, and not as the impelling moral power which led to the service. And this accords with verse 19, where they who had yielded their members servants to iniquity are represented as having thereby reaped fruit unto iniquity--or, in other words, as having, by their own sinful work, aggravated and confirmed the sinfulness of their own characters. And, on the other hand, they who had yielded their members servants to righteousness, are represented as having reaped thereby fruit unto holiness--or, in other words, they, by doing that which was right, rectified their own moral frames; and a perseverance in holy conduct made them at length to be holy creatures. This is the very process laid down in the verse before us. In virtue of having become servants to God, they had their fruit unto holiness. No doubt there is a germ of holiness at the very outset of the new life, but still a coarser principle of it may predominate at the first; and the finer principles of it may grow into establishment afterwards. The good things may be done, somewhat doggedly as it were, at the will of another; but the assiduous doing of the hand may at length carry along with it the delight of the heart; and this certainly marks a stage of higher and more saintly advancement in personal Christianity. It evinces a growing assimilation to God--who does what is right, not in force of another’s authority, but in force of the free and original propensities of His own nature to all that is excellent. By such a blessed progress of sanctification as this do we at length cease to be servants and become sons; the Spirit of adoption is shed upon us, and we feel the glorious liberty of God’s own children. And when the transition is so made that the work of servitude becomes a work of felicity and freedom, then is it that a man becomes like unto God, and holy even as He is holy. One most important use to be drawn from this argument is, that you are not to suspend the work of literal obedience till you are prepared for rendering unto God a spiritual obedience. In every case it is right to be always doing what is agreeable to the will of God. There may be a mixture at first of the spirit of bondage, so that the apostle would say of these babes in Christ, “I speak unto you not as unto spiritual but as unto carnal”; yet still it is good to give yourselves over, amid all the crude and embryo and infant conceptions of a young disciple, to the direct service of God. Break loose from your iniquities at this moment. Turn you to all that is palpably on the side of God’s law. Do plainly what God bids, and on the direct impulse, too, of God’s authority; and the fruit of your thus entering upon His service will be the perfecting at length of your own holiness, purified from the flaw of legal bondage or of mercenary selfishness--a holiness that finds its enjoyment in the service itself, and not in the hope of the great reward which is to come after the keeping of the commandments; but a holiness upheld by the present experience, that in the keeping of the commandments there is a great reward. (T. Chalmers, D. D.)
And the end everlasting life.
The believer’s end
I. There is something very solemn in that word, “the end!” (Proverbs 23:18). What of our end? Look around you and see the speculations, the anxieties, the labours of the men of this world--they all will have an end; see men of pleasure, living for pleasure--the laughter, the songs, the entertainments and revellings will all have an end; and this world will have an end. Every day, every journey, every conflict, every life has an end. What of our end? It is sure; the end will come, and it may be very near. “Oh, that we were wise, that we did consider our latter end.” Yet death is not the end of you. The dust will return to the earth whence it came, but the spirit will have gone to God who gave it--whether clothed in the righteousness and washed in the blood of Christ, or not, is the solemn question.
II. But the text speaks of the believer’s end. The end of his pilgrimage, his conflict, his prayers, his faith; “receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls,” or as it is here expressed, “everlasting life.” Who can fully comprehend the subject? Life is the perfection of being, and everlasting life is the perfection of life. All that the love of God can bestow, all that the blood of Christ can procure, all that the indwelling Holy Ghost can enable us to enjoy, this is everlasting life--the fruition of the fruit of all the travail of Christ’s soul, the enjoyment of all the fulness of God, everlastingly to behold His glory, to be assimilated to Christ, to have mortality swallowed up of life--this is “everlasting life.” The consummation of all possible privileges, the fulfilment of all Divine promises, the issue of all God’s purposes, God’s rest of love. How small the world looks in contrast with such an end, and what a poor consolation will it be for any of us to have attained even the whole world, if we lose it. (M. Raisford.)
The life everlasting
More than 1200 years ago, when Bishop Paulinus came to Edwin, king of Deira, and asked permission to preach the good news to his people, that monarch gathered his nobles and wise men to take counsel together. Then one of the thanes arose and said, “Truly the life of a man in this world, compared with the life we wet not, is on this wise: It is as when thou, O king, art sitting at supper with thy aldermen and thanes in the time of winter, when the hearth is lighted in the midst and the hall is warm, but without the rains and the snow are falling, and the winds are howling; then cometh a sparrow and flieth through the house, she cometh in by one door and goeth out by another. While she is in the house, she feeleth not the storm of winter, but yet when a little moment of rest is past she flieth again into the storm and passeth from our eyes. So is it with the life of man; it is but for a moment; what goeth afore it, and what cometh after it, wot we not at all. Wherefore if these strangers can tell us aught, that we may know whence man cometh and whither he goeth, let us hearken to them and follow their law.” This beautiful parable is a witness to us both of the darkness of man without Christ, and also of the greatness of the gift which God has given us through His Son. God has not made us for Himself, redeemed us through Christ, given us His Spirit to dwell in and sanctify us, to cast us into the abyss of death. The whole revelation of the gospel, as admirably summed up in the Apostles’ Creed, is a pledge that our end is everlasting life. Note by way of introduction that this life will be--
1. A continuation of a present personal life.
2. A fully developed and perfected spiritual life, of which we have the pledge and foretaste here. Hence our Lord speaks of both in the same terms (Matthew 25:46; John 3:36; Joh_5:24; 1 John 3:14-15). From what we know, therefore, of the spiritual life here, we may gather what it will be by and by. Everlasting life will be--
I. The complete and final emancipation from sin. Here we have victory over its dominion, but it never ceases to harass us. Here we may go to the fountain for cleansing, but the defilement which necessitates this is a sore trial. But yonder there will be no tempter, no predisposition to evil, no bad examples, no world to allure, no flesh to weaken and ensnare.
II. The immediate knowledge of God. We have that here too (John 17:3), but how fragmentary is it! We know but in part, and see only through a glass darkly. We know Him, yet we know Him not. We hear but a whisper of God’s ways and see but the skirt of His robe. But we shall then see Him as He is, and know even as we are known--know His character, attributes, work, ways, and have in that knowledge fully, as we have it now in a measure, everlasting life.
III. A life of action. True, heaven is described as a perpetual Sabbath; and compared with this feverish state the life to come will be a life of rest--rest from sorrow, suffering, conflict, doubt, weariness, and, above all, from sin. But rest without action is monotonous, and more irksome than toil; and it cannot be that the whole condition of our existence will be changed, and our very nature unmade, when we enter the heavenly rest.
1. What is the rest of the heavenly host? They indeed cry “Holy, holy, holy,” as they veil their faces, but they have wings and feet as servants ever ready to do the will of Him that sitteth on the throne. And we read that they are “ministering spirits” (Hebrews 1:1-14), and surely if we are to be “like the angels” we shall be like them in this. As for the service, I do not imagine that the glorified will have reached such perfection as to need no instruction or aid. There will be no sin and no infirmities, but there will still be diversities of character and attainment. And then who knows what opportunities of service will be afforded in the distant provinces of God’s kingdom, and on what errands of mercy and hope we may be employed.
2. God “worketh hitherto.” His rest has been a rest of action. And if we are to be like Him our life will be one of ceaseless beneficence.
IV. A life in the immediate, unveiled presence of Christ. One element, of course, will be reunion with those we have loved on earth; but eternal communion with Christ will be its perfection, in that will be comprehended all that the heart can desire. Paul had dear friends, yet when he looked forward to his heavenly rest, everlasting union with Christ was the burden of his hope. Yet that was because to him to live was Christ. Here we enjoy Christ’s presence by faith; but our communion is interrupted, and He is unseen. But in the life to come we shall see Him as He is, behold His glory, inherit the kingdom He has prepared for us, and share His throne for evermore. (Bp. Perowne.)
Everlasting life, an education
Eternal life is not a gift as of something fixed, finished, accomplished, and passed over. It is a gift as education is. It is something wrought patiently and long in a man. Eternal life is a gift to us as the sunlight is to the flowers--an influence which enters into them and fashions them. Eternal life from the hand of God is a gift to mankind, as healing is a gift from the physician to the patient. It is that which is slowly wrought in them. Eternal life is wrought in us by the power of the Highest, by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. And the hope of the future is that God’s Spirit, entering into the soul, will give it eternal life. (H. W. Beecher.)
Everlasting life: its progressiveness
Eternity will be one glorious morning, with the sun ever climbing higher and higher; one blessed springtime, and yet richer summer--every plant in full flower, but every flower the bud of a lovelier. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life.
The wages of sin and the gift of God
I. The wages of sin is death. “Wages” here means “the rations” supplied as pay to a soldier. If sin is your commander, you will have “death” to eat as your pay. “Sin” is treated as a person, even as “God” is, and the more we treat it as a living enemy, the more we are likely to fight against it manfully. “Death” may be defined as separation. Spiritual death is a present separation from God. Physical death is a separation of body and soul, and the separation of both from this world. Eternal death is final, total separation of body and soul from heaven, and from God forever. Now we are prepared to unravel the sentence.
1. God treats “sin” as a master. “Whosoever committeth sin, is the servant of sin,” and “his servants ye are to whom ye obey.” Now sin is any violation of God’s will which a man does with his eyes open. We can make no scale of sin. The only measure of the sin is the light which it darkens, and the grace which it resists. Bad temper at home--pride and unkindness--want of truth--self-indulgence and sloth--lust and uncleanness--meanness--“covetousness, which is idolatry”--a cherished scepticism--and all the negatives--no prayer, no love to God, no usefulness--all, and many else, are equally “sin.”
2. Every “sin” has its “wage”; and the devil is the paymaster.
II. “the gift of God is eternal life.” Here, too, is service--real, severe, lifelong. And “wages”? Yes; certain wages--wages in a most just degree. But it would not be right to call them so. “Wages” do not precede the work. But here the “wages” do precede the work. You do not work to get your “wages,” but you work because you have them. But they are infinitely disproportioned to the work; rather, all the work is so bad, that it wants to be forgiven, and a part of the wages is that God does forgive. But were it “wages,” and deserved, it would not be half so happy as now--to be an unearned thing--a gift of the love of God! What would heaven be, were it not a gift? Nevertheless, it is “wages.” God is just to give it, because deserved by “Jesus Christ our Lord.” (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
The wages of sin and the gift of God
I. The first fact. St. Paul does not say, “The punishment of sin is death,” however true that may be. He uses the word “wages.” These we earn--
1. When we dishonour our bodies.
2. When we stifle the voice of conscience within us.
3. When we reject the offers of the gospel (Proverbs 1:24, etc.). There is no sin so awful in its character and so terrible in its results as unbelief. That sin some of you are committing every day, every hour; and its wages are death--death to that peace which a man can only know when he has been cleansed by the blood of Christ; death to that hope of a happy hereafter which a firm trust in his Saviour alone can bring to him, and the death which never dies. What I have as the consequence of my sin, either here or hereafter, I have earned, and must have. I may, by God’s grace, give up my sin, but the wages of sin are shown in my shattered health, and, it may be, by the sickliness of my children. And if the death of the body sees me unsaved, how my misery will be deepened when I am constrained to say, “I have earned damnation.”
II. The second fact. Poor, lost, unworthy sinners may have eternal life in Christ, and that as a gift from God, and not as something which is to be had in another world, but something which may be had in this. See you not what a grand, brave, and noble thing it is to live in this world knowing that we belong to God, that our bodies are His, our minds His, our souls His, and that, by His grace, we are using them to His glory? Then choose ye this day whom ye will serve. (J. Burbidge.)
The more important any matter is, the more need there is that we view it in a right light. A human face rich with expression, or a monument of architecture rich with grandeur, or a bit of landscape rich with beauty, cannot have all that is in them set forth in one picture. Even a picture cannot set forth the Christian life: it must be experienced to be known.
I. The wages system of human existence. In all departments work is a marketable article, of which wages is the price. The one balances the other. Wages, as distinguished from other modes of income, is something that stands due though the account is seldom presented: they are paid directly to the man after a period of work is finished. St. Paul says that sin is an employer of labour. It pays wages, is bound by strong law to do so. True it does not pay in full as work is done, but will in the end clear up the debt. This is one system under which men live. Not always is this a matter of definite purpose, but it is of prevailing disposition. Their trust in this system is not always strong--are they likely after all to earn much that is desirable? But things cannot drive them hard under a God who is good. Unhappily they are not apprehending what their decision means--that it is wages and the paymaster sin. Let us remove any ambiguity about the terms of this contract: the wages of sin is death. These wages are openly paid. The installments he pays hint the kind of final recompense to be paid in the end: he now pays in disorders, loss, calamity, disease, discontent, hatred, uneasy forebodings. He cannot hide the character of these payments. God has revealed this as the recompense. This system goes on unchecked because sin is what it is; it rests upon the nature of things, God is the one source of life; if He is forsaken death must be the result. Am I working for so sad a result?
II. The free gift system of human existence. We now pass into a different climate of things. It is as if we had been walking along the northern side of a mountain in the springtime, within the chill shadow of its peaks, where the lingering wind of winter is blowing across the slushy snow, the fields bare--and now had travelled round the mountains into the southerly sunshine. We have removed from the presence of a rigorous employer to that of a most munificent friend; from hard earned wages to generous gift; life instead of death. It seems very evident that the gift system of living is brighter than the wages system of living. There must be some powerful prejudice to make men choose the latter. In other matters between God and men in the world the gift system is actually at work and men do not quarrel with it. Providence not less than grace is pervaded by this system. What do we render for the sunlight; are weal of body or mind, safety, earned? A pure wages system in the world would mean death. Sin pays like sin; God gives like God. He will give life, real, unbounded, happy. It is too great to be earned. And this is a gift from Him whom we have greatly wronged. In Christ the wages system has been broken down. Christ has earned the gift for us. (J. A. Kerr Bath, M. A.)
Wages versus gift
I. Sin and its wages.
1. Sin a service.
2. These wages are “death,” and are invariably paid.
II. God and his gift. A gift--
2. That gift is eternal.
(a) From Christ, depending solely on His substitution.
(b) In Christ, ours only by appropriation.
(c) A part of Christ, continued to us only by indwelling.
(a) Begun when Christ began.
(b) Begun to us when we grasped it.
(c) Continuing till--eternity. (J. H. Rogers, M. A.)
Death and life: the wage and the gift
I. Death is the wages of sin.
1. Death is the natural result of all sin. When man acts according to God’s order he lives; but when he breaks his Maker’s laws he does that which causes death.
2. The killing power of some sins is manifest to all observers.
3. This tendency is in every case the same. Even the Christian cannot fall into sin without its being poison to him. If you sin it destroys your joy, your power in prayer, your confidence towards God. If you have spent evenings in frivolity with worldlings, you have felt the deadening influence of their society.
4. Death is sin’s due reward, and it must be paid. A master employs a man, and it is due to that man that he should receive his wages. Now, if sin did not entail death and misery, it would be an injustice. It is necessary for the very standing of the universe that sin should be punished. They that sow must reap. The sin which hires you must pay you.
5. This wage of sin is in part received by men now as soldiers receive their rations, day by day. “If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die”--such a life is a continued dying. “She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.” The wrath of God abideth on him that believeth not on the Son of God; it is there already.
6. But then a Roman soldier did not enlist merely for his rations; his chief pay often lay in the share of the booty which he received at the end of the war. Death is the ultimate wage of sin. Sin will perpetuate itself, and so forever kill the soul to God, and goodness, and joy and hope. Being under the ever-growing power of sin, it will become more and more a hopeless thing that you should escape from death which thus settles down upon you.
7. The misery of the misery of sin is that it is earned. If men in the world to come could say, “This misery has come upon us arbitrarily, quite apart from its just results,” then they would derive some comfort. But when they will be obliged to own that it was their own choice in choosing sin, this will scourge them indeed. Their sin is their bell.
8. It will be the folly of follies to go on working for such a wage. Hitherto they that have worked for sin have found no profit in it (Romans 6:21). Why, then, will you go further in sin?
9. It ought to be the grief of griefs to each of us that we have sinned. Oh, misery, to have wrought so long in a service which brings such terrible wages!
10. It must certainly be a miracle of miracles if any sinner here does not remain forever beneath the power of sin. Sin has this mischief about it, that it strikes a man with spiritual paralysis, and how can such a palsied one ward off a further blow? It makes the man dead; and to what purpose do we appeal to him that is dead? What a miracle, then, when the Divine life comes streaming down into the dead heart I What a blessedness when God interposes and finds a way by which the wage most justly due shall not be paid!
II. Eternal life is the gift of God.
1. Eternal life is imparted by grace through faith.
2. Observe what a wonderful gift this is, “the gift of God.”
3. It is life in Jesus. We are in everlasting union with the blessed person of the Son of God, and therefore we live.
1. Let us come and receive this Divine life as a gift in Christ Jesus. If any of you have been working for it, end the foolish labour. Believe and live. Receive it as freely as your lungs take in the air you breathe.
2. If we have accepted it let us abide in it. Let us never be tempted to try the law of merit.
3. If we are now abiding in it, then let us live to its glory. Let us show by our gratitude how greatly we prize this gift. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Death and life
The Word of God abounds with striking contrasts, which picture the opposite character and portion of the two great classes into which all mankind are divided before God. Poverty and riches, slavery and freedom, darkness and light; but no contrast is so forcible as that between death and life.
1. Its origin. It is the wages of sin. The apostle sets before us what fallen man loves, what he dreads, and the union between the two. Fallen man loves sin and dreads death. Yet the death he dreads is the inevitable consequence of the sin he loves. Sin is discovered under two distinct aspects. It is--
2. Its nature. Death is separation. We call it dissolution.
1. How is it procured?
2. In what does it consist? It is in all respects the opposite to the death. It is the antidote to spiritual death, for it brings us into union with God. It is the destruction of bodily death; for it secures to the glorified body and soul an everlasting home in God’s presence, where is fulness of joy and pleasure for evermore. ” (W. Conway, M. A.)
Hard work and bad pay; no work and rich reward
I. Hard work and bad pay.
1. Who are the servants who receive the pay?
2. The work they have to perform. To be Satan’s servant is no sinecure.
3. The wages paid them.
II. No work and rich reward.
1. The pivot word is “gift.” God absolutely refuses to sell salvation. He will give to any, but barter with none.
2. The blessing specified. “Eternal life”; and this the Lord permits His children to enjoy on earth; for as part of the wages of sin is paid on account in this life, so even in this life foretastes of the gift of God are enjoyed by the saints. Peace with God, quiet trustfulness as to the future, beside a thousand other joys, are some of the clusters of the grapes of Eschol, that refresh the wearied one on his journey to the land where the vine grows. And how about the end, when the gift is received in full?
3. Forget not the channel through whom it flows; it is a gift to thee, because thy Lord paid all. (A. G. Brown.)
The wages question
Men are born to serve. The majority are materially. All are morally. Only a choice of service open to us--the service of sin, or of righteousness. We are keen on “the wages question” in matters material; much more ought we to be in matters moral. Of these two services mark--
I. The contrast in their beginnings.
1. The service of sin is at first promising.
2. The service of righteousness is at first unpromising.
II. The contrast in their issues.
1. The service of sin ends badly.
2. The service of righteousness ends blessedly.
The wages of sin inevitable
Escape is contrary to the laws of God and of God’s universe. It is as impossible as that fire should not burn, or water run up hill. Your sins are killing you by inches; all day long they are sowing in you the seeds of disease and death. There are three parts of you--body, mind, and spirit; and every sin you commit helps to kill one of these three, and in many cases to kill all three together. The bad habits, bad passions, bad methods of thought, in which they have indulged in youth, remain more or less, and make them worse men, sillier men, less useful men, less happy men, sometimes to their lives’ end; and they, if they be true Christians, know it, and repent of their early sins, and not once for all only, but all their lives long, because they feel that they have weakened and worsened themselves thereby. It stands to reason that it should be so. If a man loses his way and finds it again, he is so much the less forward on his way, surely, by all the time he has spent in getting back into the road. If a child has a violent illness it stops growing, because the life and nourishment which ought to have gone towards its growth are spent in curing the disease. And so, if a man has indulged in bad habits in his youth, he is but too likely (let him do what he will) to be a less good man for it to his life’s end, because the Spirit of God, which ought to have been making him grow in grace, freely and healthily to the stature of a perfect man, to the fulness of the measure of Christ, is striving to conquer old habits and cure old diseases of character, and the man, even though he does enter into life, enters into life halt and maimed. (Canon Kingsley.)
Sin and its wages
We have to notice three words.
I. Sin. “Sin is the transgression of the law.” Its fundamental idea is deviation from the law, as a standard of excellence or as a rule of conduct. Now, the law supposes a lawgiver, and the possibility of God’s law being disobeyed, i.e., that it has to do with moral agents. Well, then, we have to think of them as failing from some cause or other to do God’s will, which is sin. Sin is set forth under three aspects.
1. As a principle or law (Romans 8:2).
(a) The basest ingratitude, for who can deny that we owe all our powers and happiness and our very being to God?
(b) An imputation upon God’s character, viz., that He is unworthy to govern us, that His will is unjust, His law unkind.
(c) Rebellion against Him.
(d) Usurpation of His place; and hence idolatry and self-deification.
2. As an act or acts. The law, though in principle always one, has nevertheless many particular precepts, and is outraged by the violation of any of those precepts. There are sins of deed, of speech, of deportment, of looks, of motive, desire, imagination, thought, of negation, and omission. All these are the outgrowth of that self-will and selfishness in which sin essentially consists.
3. As state. Hence, we read of men being “born in sin,” and remaining “dead in trespasses and sins.” Before we commit any acts of sin, and as the source of all we do commit, we have a sinful nature--a bias to go and to do wrong. The thoroughly sinful soul may be said to live in sin always. Sin is its element and vital air. It lives without God.
1. Spiritual death. The soul is dead when destitute of holiness and happiness; of the disposition to do well, and of the power to enjoy God. It admits of degrees; the more it prevails, the more it grows, and the commission of sin inevitably paves the way for the perpetration of many more; and the final stage is reached when the conscience is seared as with a hot iron, proof against every appeal, and resolutely bent on his own eternal destruction.
2. Eternal death. Let us suppose a man, whose soul is dead through sin, removed out of this world into the next, and what shall we behold concerning him? His case is a million-fold more terrible than before. For--
III. Wages. This word denotes a relation of equity between sin and death. The sinner earns death as his rightful recompense. This connection is--
1. Natural. You have only to study the human mind, its laws of association and of working, to be convinced that sin, when it is finished, must bring forth death.
2. Judicial. The wicked are turned into hell by a just and holy God; and the same reasons which send them there must avail to keep them there. They have no power to make themselves good, and being immortally evil they must be immortally shut out from heaven. Certainly God will not lay upon the wicked more of these terrible “wages” than they individually deserve. But who shall determine the full and adequate deserts of sin? Conclusion:
1. Christians should not live in sin, but utterly hate and discard it, and earnestly strive to perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord. They have done with it as a state; let them have done with it as a law, and in its individual acts.
2. Here is a message of warning to the ungodly. See for what wages you are working; part are being paid now, but immense arrears are being treasured up in the future. You think you are working for pleasure, for gold, for honour, but lo! it is for death. (T. G. Horton.)
Death the wages of sin
I. What sin is.
1. Original sin. Sin bears date with our very being, and indeed we were sinners before we were born (Ephesians 2:3). There are some who deny this to be properly sin at all, because nothing can be truly sin which is not voluntary. But original corruption in every infant is voluntary, not indeed in his own person, but in Adam his representative. Pelagians, indeed, tell us that the sons of Adam came to be sinners only by imitation. But, then, what are those first inclinations which dispose us to such bad imitations?
2. Actual sin may be considered--
(a) The sin of our words (Matthew 12:37).
(b) The sin of our external actions, theft, murder, uncleanness; and to prove which to be sins, no more is required but only to read over the law of God, and where the written letter of the law comes not, men are “a law to themselves.”
(c) The sin of our desires. Desires are sin, as it were, in its first formation. For as soon as the heart has once conceived this fatal seed, it first quickens and begins to stir in desire; so that the ground and the principal prohibition of the law is, “Thou shalt not covet.” Indeed, action is only a consummation of desire; and could we imagine an outward action performable without it, it would be rather the shell and outside of a sin than properly a Sin itself.
(a) As when a man is engaged in a sinful course by surprise and infirmity.
(b) When a man pursues a course of sin against the reluctancies of an awakened conscience; when salvation waits and knocks at the door of his heart, and he both bolts it out and drives it away; when he fights with the word, and struggles with the Spirit; and, as it were, resolves to perish in spite of mercy itself, and of the means of grace (Isaiah 1:5; John 9:41).
(c) When a man sins in defiance of conscience; so breaking all bonds, so trampling upon all convictions, that he becomes not only untractable, but finally incorrigible. And this is the ne plus ultra of impiety, which shuts the door of mercy and seals the decree of damnation, Now this differs from original sin thus, that that is properly the seed, this the harvest; that merits, this actually procures death. For although as soon as ever the seed be cast in there is a design to reap; yet, for the most part, God does not actually put in the sickle till continuance in sin has made the sinner ripe for destruction.
II. What is included in death which is here allotted for the sinner’s wages?
1. Death temporal. We must not take it as the separation of the soul from the body, for that is rather the consummation of death, the last blow given to the falling tree.
2. Death eternal, in comparison of which the other can scarce be called death, but only a transient change; easily borne, or at least quickly past.
III. In what respect death is properly called “the wages of sin.”
1. Because wages presuppose service. And undoubtedly the service of sin is of all others the most laborious. It will engross all a man’s industry, drink up all his time; it is a drudgery without intermission, a business without vacation. Such as are the commands of sin, such must be also the service. But the commands of sin are for their number continual, for their vehemence importunate, and for their burden tyrannical.
2. Because wages do always imply a merit in the work requiring such a compensation. It is but equitable that he who sows should also reap (Galatians 6:8).
(a) Sin is a direct stroke at God’s sovereignty. We read of the kingdom of Satan in contradistinction to the kingdom of God, into which sin translates God’s subjects. No wonder if God punishes sin, which is treason against the King of kings, with death; for it pots the question “Who shall reign?”
(b) Sin strikes at God’s very being (Psalms 14:1). Sin would step not only into God’s throne, but also into His room. Conclusion: Sin plays the bait of a little, contemptible, silly pleasure or profit; but it hides that fatal hook by which that great catcher of souls shall drag them down to his eternal execution. “Fools make a mock at sin.” Fools they are indeed for doing so. But is it possible for anything that wears the name of reason, to be so much a fool as to mock at death too? In every sin which a man deliberately commits, he takes down a draught of deadly poison. In every lust which he cherishes, he embraces a dagger and opens his bosom to destruction, he who likes the wages, let him go about the work. (R. South, D. D.)
I. Its nature. A life of--
1. Perfect immunity from all the sufferings and dangers to which we are here exposed.
2. Preeminent intellectual enjoyment--“Here we know in part,” etc.
3. Social happiness.
4. Unspotted holiness.
5. Incessant activity.
6. Endless improvement.
II. The freeness of its disposition.
1. It cannot be purchased.
2. It is not the reward of merit.
3. It is everything; leading to it is the gift of God.
The promises by which the believer is led to expect it--the great change by which he has become entitled to it and qualified for its enjoyment--the Lord Jesus, by whose merit eternal life was purchased--all these are gifts of God.
III. The medium through which it flows.
1. For this end--to put men in possession of eternal life--the Redeemer was given; for this purpose He laboured, suffered, instituted His gospel, and sent forth His ministers.
2. We should, however, do great injustice to this subject, were we not to observe that Christ died--
I. Is not wholly in the future world. This life begins here at the moment of conversion, when the soul passes from death into life. He that hath the Son hath life. The righteous do enter into life, become heirs of life, enjoy ante-pasts of the infinite fulness which is to be hereafter revealed. These foretastes involve freedom from condemnation, communion with God, and growing likeness to Him. The soul is divested of the fear of death, and Christ fills the believer with His joy, and that joy is full. Satisfaction comes from what we are, and not from what we get. I have seen homes of princely wealth which were but brilliantly garnished sepulchres, their luxury a solemn mockery; and I have seen homes of poverty full of the joy of God, the peace of the eternal life begun. It is false to conceive of the Christian life as a joyless way of self-denial trod by us to purchase a bliss beyond.
II. Is the same and is not the same to every saved soul.
1. Heaven is not a sea of bliss in which each of us is to float in equal content. In heaven, as here, there is an infinite variety. What a vast transition from an oyster to the leviathan! There is one glory of the sun, another of the moon, another of the stars. The penitent thief is saved as truly as Paul; but one has built on hay, wood, and stubble, and is “scarcely saved”; the other receives “an entrance abundantly”; one gives the tag-end of a godless life to Christ and is “saved so as by fire”; the other can say, “I have fought a good fight.” The riches, joys, and capabilities of the celestial life are measured by the service rendered; “to every man according to his works,” “five cities,” or “ten cities,” as the case may be. Secular papers often make merry about the statement that “scaffold penitents” are received to heaven. It is true that grace does save such. But their heaven is not Paul’s heaven.
2. In three respects heaven is the same to all.
3. It may be objected that if one is wholly happy, according to his capacity, what matters it if there be those of larger capacities than his? A snail is happy, I answer, so is a lark. Is there nothing to choose between them? There is a short radius to a child’s circumference of happiness. A man has a thousand-fold larger scope. Is there no preference? The ear of one is satisfied with a rude melody; another man is thrilled to the depths of his being by delicious harmonies. Is there no preference? There is no room for question. What a contrast between one who is a single remove from a laughing idiot, and an angel of God! We are to “seek for honour and glory,” even an entrance that shall be “administered abundantly.”
III. Is increasingly glorious forever. Memory shall lose nothing, the mind pervert nothing, and the heart shall repel nothing. All that God has shall be spread out and open to us forever in riches of grace inconceivable in their glory and infinitude. The possibilities of the soul are beyond conception. God reveals Himself to the righteous through the ages, their capacities ever enlarging and the reality forever increasing--joy, power, blessedness, beyond all thought! These all are the gift of God, bought, and given to believers, (Prof. Herrick Johnson.)
I. The gift.
1. Life. Life, eternal life, and life everlasting, are very frequent designations of the salvation of the gospel (John 17:1-2). This life consists of--
2. The epithet, “eternal.”
II. Its gratuitous character.
1. It is the gift of God, inasmuch as--
2. We are to receive it as such, in simplicity of spirit and with grateful joy. And let us learn not to look at anything in ourselves to justify our expectation of it: and let us not, when we find nothing but demerit in ourselves, be disheartened, but believe that when we were fit only for everlasting punishment, God stepped forward to grant unto us eternal life. This He has done from the impulse of His own amazing generosity and love.
III. The medium of its bestowment.
1. God gives it to us through Jesus Christ, not in an arbitrary manner, but on the ground of what He has done and suffered in our stead.
2. So, we accept it through Christ (1 John 5:11). Indeed, we may say that Jesus is our eternal life. It is by being found in Him that we have pardon and holiness, happiness and heaven. When we reach the celestial world, we shall find that there as well as here, Christ is “all in all.” (T. G. Horton.)
Eternal life a gift
1. Men are so accustomed to the exchange of equivalents, that any other course comes with an element of surprise. If the reward be not in the grosser form of money, or in that which money can purchase, still it is true that one earns his wages. These may be the wages that improved faculties would add--the reward of an approving conscience, of a sense of usefulness--perhaps a sense of increased influence for good, by reason of that which has been faithfully and unselfishly done; or in the very highest possible service of philosophic endeavour or Christian duty. In all these there is that feeling of reward expected, because it has been earned. The idea of a gift coming to one suddenly and undeserved he does not entertain, except as a fiction, such as may amuse him as a daydream. And more than all is one surprised to find that he is the recipient of such a gift from one unknown, or one to whom he has stood in the relation of neglect, perhaps of hostility.
2. At the same time it is true that men are receiving gifts from another, where they cannot make any return whatever. Everything that comes to us from the past is a gift. Individual minds have toiled and studied, and we reap the fruits of their patience, skill, and success. We make the lightning to run on our errands, and we take the vapour that lifts the lid of the kettle to propel the mammoth ship across the sea, or the car which carries us over mountains, or sets in motion thousands of factories all over our land. This we received from those to whom it came as an inspiration of Providence, and an operation of intelligent, unwearied power. The institution of society comes to us a grant from the past. We pay for our primary schooling; but for the great thoughts of men who have lived, what returns can we make? What to any of the great philosophers who brought us the laws and principles we possess? How shall we compensate the artist whose gifts quicken our minds to higher perceptions of beauty, or the poet who sings us into the Elysium of thought? There are still higher endowments that come to us from those whom we only know by those impressions made upon us by their chivalric career, and to whom we can make no more return than we by lighting matches can add to the splendour of the distant, brilliant sun. So, if a man should say, “I expect only that which I have earned, and demand only that which I have deserved and have properly acquired,” and should that prayer be answered, he would, today, be a beggared savage. Thus we see how many of the things which we enjoy have come to us as gifts. And it is the desire of every noble, unselfish mind to carry on to the future their beneficent influence that the coming generation may surpass the present,
3. Turn now to the things which come from God. For these many make no acknowledgments whatever; while He continues to shower His gifts upon them. He gives life through Christ. The life of the present is an undeserved gift. It is not the reward of our deserts. The faculties of mind, all opportunities for enjoyment, and all inspirations of thought and effort--these are not earned by us. No man can stand up and say, “I have done so and so, and God owes me that.” God gives the sunshine and the shower. They come, not because we deserve them. They come sometimes in the face of protest. He gives the great inspirations of thought to man, and great deliverance to nations from impending calamity. He gives to the individual soul all he possesses, and to society all it has. This argument as to the right of the race to eternal life lies at the basis of our thought this morning. The parallel in natural life is the same. No man has a right to exist in infancy. It is the gift of God; and no man has earned the right to happiness in the present, and to hops in the future. It is the gift of God. Eternal life, however, is the best gift of God. But it is a gift that comes only on certain conditions. Sunshine requires the open eye, but a man may refuse to open his eye; still it is God’s gift. So we do not receive inspiration from any great mind, except as we bring our mind into responsiveness to it. So we do not receive eternal life unless the conditions are accepted with which God invests His gift--humble penitence for sin and faith in Christ. Sin earns wages, but eternal life is the gift of God, as personal life is a bestowment: it crowns and glorifies all others. Here is--
I. A secret of the Christian’s unrest. Life is not something to be earned. The soul of the Christian who thus views it grows restless and troubled, like Galilee’s waves, till the feet of the Lord brought them to a level. It is dark, as was the mount, until the Lord rose, in the luminous majesty of His presence, above it.
II. The secret of peace, in simply accepting this Divine gift from the source of infinite compassion and grace. Sometimes this peace may come suddenly, filling the soul with glory; sometimes it may come after long, weary searching for it; sometimes at the end of life; when the light of life has almost gone out, as it flickers in the socket and speech falters, I say, “I can do nothing; I take the gift of God!” Then comes “the peace which passeth all understanding.”
III. The burden which rests on him who rejects eternal life. When one comes to us with a great thought or a rare opportunity, and we turn away to a trivial theme, we grieve him. Let us not thus treat God. Here is the gift of eternal life. Shall I put it aside as if it were the merest summer breeze which by my hand I could arrest and push back into the air? I may, as I may put aside sunshine itself, by shutting my eyes to it. The responsibility is mine.
IV. The impulse of Christian service. Freedom and gladness come from other gifts, but here is the supreme one of all. When received by us, what service is too hard, what sacrifice too vast, what worship too exultant! If this consciousness comes into our soul, then no sword or stake can fright us, for our life is interlocked with heaven. The realisation of it dispels our sorrows and forbids our tears.
V. The sweetness of heaven. Gratitude for God’s gift impels every touch of the heavenly harp. It gives the melody to every song, and joy to all the work of heaven. (R. S. Storrs, D. D.)
Life in Christ
A new convert said, “I could not sleep, thinking over that passage, ‘Whosoever believeth on the Son hath life;’ and so I got up, and lighted a candle, and found my Bible, and read it over, ‘Whosoever believeth on the Son hath life.’” “Why,” says someone, “didn’t you know that was in the Bible before?” “Oh, yes,” he replied, “I knew it was in the Bible, but I wanted to see it with my own eyes, and then I rested.” (T. De Witt Talmage.)
The gift of God
I was out on the Pacific coast, in California, two or three years ago, and I was the guest of a man that had a large vineyard and a large orchard. One day he said to me, “Moody, whilst you are my guest, I want you to make yourself perfectly happy, and if there is anything in the orchard or in the vineyard you would like, help yourself.” Well, when I wanted an orange, I did not go to an orange tree and pray the oranges to fall into my pocket, but I walked up to a tree, reached out my hand, and took the oranges. He said, “Take,” and I took. God says, “Take,” and you do it. God says, “There is My Son.” “The wages of sin is death; the gift of God is eternal life.” Who will take it now?
Eternal life the gift of God
A man may as well think of buying light from the sun, or air from the atmosphere, or water from the well spring, or minerals from the earth, or fish from the sea, etc., as think of buying salvation from God with any kind of price. The sun gives his light, the atmosphere its air, the well spring its water, the earth its minerals, the sea its fish; all man has to do is to take them and use them. So God has given salvation to man. All he has to do is to use it, in the use of means, and enjoy it. (J. Bate.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Romans 6". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany