(c) The blessed condition and assured hope of such as are in Christ Jesus. The summary of the contents of this chapter, which follows the Exposition, may be referred to in the first place by the student, so as to assist comprehension of the line of thought.
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. (The additional words of this verse in the Textus Receptus have but slight support, having probably been supplied from Romans 8:4. They are out of place here.) "Nunc venit ad liberationem et libertatem. Non autem ponit adversativam δὲ, autem, sed conclusivam a!ra, ergo; quia jam in fine capitis 7. confinia hujus status attigit. Nunc etiam plane ex diverticulo eximio in viam redit quae habetur cap. Romans 7:6" (Bengel).
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free (not hath made me; the aorist refers to the time when the Christian became possessed of the Spirit of life in Christ) from the law of sin and death. Here is a distinct contrast to the state described in Romans 8:14, Romans 8:23 of Romans 7:1-25., and a realization of what was yearned for in Romans 7:24, "the law of sin and of death" being evidently "the law of sin in the members" previously spoken of. The ἐγὼ, before in captivity to this law, is now freed from it. And how? Not by its becoming a different ἐγὼ; not by a change of the constituent elements of human nature; but by the introduction of a new law—the law of the Spirit of life—which has emancipated the ἐγὼ from its old unwelcome thraldom. In virtue of this new law, introduced into my being, I am now free to give my entire allegiance to the law of God. νόμος, be it observed, is here again used in a sense different from its usual one, and we thus have a still further νόμος, in addition to those defined in the note after Romans 7:25. The designation of this new law is in marked opposition to that in which the ἐγὼ was before said to be held; we have life in opposition to death, and the Spirit in opposition to the flesh, as well as freedom in opposition to captivity. The Spirit is, in fact, the Divine Spirit, taking possession of what is spiritual (now at length brought into view) in the inward man, making him partaker in the Divine life, and able to serve God freely. The expressions used bring out strikingly one essential distinction between Law and Gospel, viz. that the principle of the former is to control and discipline conduct by requirements and threats; but of the latter to introduce into man's inner being a new principle of life, whence right conduct may spontaneously flow. Coercion is the principle of the one; inspiration of the other. An illustration may be found in the treatment of disease—on the one hand by attempted repression of specific ailments, and on the other by imparting a new vitality to the system, which may of itself dispel disease. It is shown next how this new state of freedom has been brought about. First, by what God in Christ has done for us apart from ourselves; the subjective condition in ourselves being introduced at the end of Romans 7:4, τοῖς μὴ, etc.
For what the Law could not do (this is certainly what is meant by τὸ ἀδύνατον τοῦ νόμου), in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in likeness of flesh of sin, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh. The Law could not deliver from the domination of sin; it was weak for such a purpose (cf. Hebrews 7:18, Hebrews 7:19) but this not through any defect in itself but as having to work through our sinful flesh which refused obedience. And it was not the office of law to regenerate; it could only command and threaten. Hence the deliverance came, and could only come, from God himself (and this in accordance with the grand idea of the whole Epistle, expressed by the phrase, "the righteousness of God"); and so he sent his own Son (i.e. his Son essentially—in a sense in which none of us can be called sons, himself Divine. The whole drift of the passage, as well as ἑαυτοῦ, requires this conception); and he sent him into the very sphere of things that required redemption, that by actual participation in it he might personally redeem it; for he sent him in likeness of our "flesh of sin." It is not said in flesh of sin; for that might imply sin in Christ's individual humanity: but, on the other hand, "in likeness" ( ἐν ὁμοιώματι) does not imply docetism, as though Christ's humanity were not real; for stress is evidently laid on the fact that it was in our actual human flesh that he "condemned" sin. The phrase appears to mean the same as what is expressed in Hebrews 2:17 and Hebrews 4:15 : ὤφειλε κατὰ πάντα τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς ὁμοιωθῆναι, and πεπειραμένον κατὰ πὰντα κααθ ὁμοιότητα χαρὶς ἁμαρτίας. The addition of περὶ ἀμαρτίας "adds to the how the wherefore" (Meyer). Both this and the preceding expression are most naturally and intelligibly connected with τέμψας; not, as some say, with κατέκρινε. περὶ comes suitably after the former verb, as denoting the occasion and purpose of the sending (cf. προσένεγκε περὶ τοῦ καθαρισμοῦ, Luke 5:14). In Hebrews 10:8 (quoting from Psalms 40:7 in the LXX.) we find θυσίαν καὶ προσφορὰν καὶ ὁλοκαυτώματα καὶ περὶ ἁμαρτίας, where the expression signifies offerings for sin; and in Hebrews 10:18 we have προσφορὰ περὶ ἁμαρτίας. The correspondence of phrase here suggests decidedly the idea of the purpose of atonement being intended to be expressed by it, though it does not follow that περὶ ἁμαρτίας is used here substantively as it seems to be in Hebrews 10:8. But in what sense are we to understand condemned ( κατέκρινε) sin? We observe first that the verb appears to be suggested by κατάκριμα in Hebrews 10:1, the connection being that formerly sin condemned us, but now sin itself has been condemned; that is (as Meyer expresses it), deposed from its rule in the flesh—"jure sue dejectum" (Calvin). (Perhaps similarly, John 16:11, ὁ ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου τούτου κέκριται.) One view of the force of κατέκρινε (found in Origen, and taken by Erasmus and others), that it denotes the punishment of sin endured by Christ vicariously on the cross, is not only not obvious, but inconsistent also with τὸ ἀδύνετον τοῦ νόμου preceding; for what the Law could not do, was not to punish sin, but to deliver from it. Nor is there, further, anything in the language used to confine the condemnation of sin, in whatever sense intended, to the atonement made for it on the cross itself. It was in the whole mission of the Saviour (expressed by πέμψας) that sin was "condemned;" and the idea may include his triumph over it in his human life no less than the penalty paid for it on the cross in behalf of man. "In the flesh" (connected with condemned, not with sin) does not mean Christ's own flesh, but human nature generally. He represented man, having become for our sake the Soul of man; and we share his triumph over sin, made in our very human flesh, when we are baptized into his death, and become thereupon partakers of his resurrection. This idea, ever present to St. Paul's mind, is expressed in the next verse, where our own appropriation of the condemnation of sin in Christ is declared.
That the ordinance (or, righteous requirement, rather than righteousness, as in the Authorized Version. The word is δίκαιωμα, not δικαιοσύνη. It Occurs elsewhere in the New Testament, Luke 1:6; Romans 1:32; Romans 2:26; Hebrews 9:1; and in a like sense often in the LXX.; also, though with a difference of meaning, Romans 5:16, Romans 5:18) of the Law may be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. This, then, is the purpose of Christ's victory over sin—that the requirement of the Law in us too may be fulfilled; which evidently means more -than that his victory may be imputed to us, on the ground of our faith only, while we remain as we were. The expression, δὶκαιωμα πληρωθῆ, and also the condition appended at the end of the verse, imply that the "Spirit of life" must so dominate over the flesh in ourselves that the Law may forfeit its claims over us. The sinful propensions of the flesh remain in us still (as the verses that follow distinctly show); but the Spirit that is in us is strong enough to overcome them now (cf. Galatians 5:16-18). It does not follow from this that any Christians will actually avoid all sin, or that they can be accepted on the ground of their own performance: to say this would be to contradict other Scripture (cf. James 2:10; 1 John 1:8); and Paul confessed himself to be not already perfected (Philippians 3:12). But perfection, through Christ who lives in them, is put before us as, at any rate, the aim of the regenerate (cf. Matthew 5:48); and by actual and progressive holiness they are to show that their union with Christ is real. His Spirit within them must, at any rate, give a new direction and tone to their characters and lives.
For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For the mind of the flesh is death; but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace. Because the mind of the flesh is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the Law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. These verses are added for explanation and enforcement of the condition demanded at the end of Romans 8:4; pressing the fact that "the infection of our nature"—"the lust of the flesh, called in Greek phronema sarkos" (Art. 9.)—with its antagonism to the Law of God, and its deadly tendency, remains even in the regenerate, and that hence we are still in danger of succumbing to it; but that if we do—unless the Spirit within us prove in practice the stronger power—the condition required for our individual redemption is not fulfilled. οἱ ἐν σαρκὶ ὄντες, in Romans 8:7, evidently does not mean those who are still in the body, but the same essentially as οἱ κατὰ σάρκα ὄντες in Romans 8:5; ἐν denotes the element in which they live (see verse following). The δὲ which connects Romans 8:8 with the foregoing has its ecbatic, not its adversative sense. So then, in the Authorized Version, though not strictly equivalent, seems sufficiently to express the general idea.
But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you. But (not now, as in the Authorized Version) if any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. That is—Though I imply the possibility of even the baptized being still in the flesh, so as to be unable to please God, this is certainly not your condition; if, indeed (as is surely the case), your conversion was a reality, so that you have become really Christ's; for the Spirit of Christ (which is the Spirit of God) of necessity dwells (so as to be the ruling power) in all such as are really his (cf 1 Corinthians 3:16). We observe here how "the Spirit of Christ" is identified with "the Spirit of God," so as to imply the essential Deity of Christ, and also to lend support to the doctrine of the double procession of the Holy Ghost (cf. 1 Peter 1:11). Observe, too, how persistently and continually the apostle presses his protest against antinomian abuse of the doctrine of grace, with which he began this section of his Epistle, at Romans 6:1, He never loses sight of it; it pervades the whole. If St. Paul, especially in this Epistle, is, on the one hand, the great exponent of the doctrine of justification by faith only, he is, on the other, no less the persistent preacher of the necessity of works. Sanctification is continually pressed as the necessary result, as well as evidence, of justification. He only shuts out human works from the office of justifying.
Romans 8:10, Romans 8:11
But (or, and) if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; bat the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you, he that raised up Christ (the previous ἰησοῦν denotes the human person of our Lord; χριστὸν his office, fitly used here in connection with the thought of his resurrection ensuring ours. Some readings give τὸν before, and ἰησοῦν after, χριστὸν) from the dead shall quicken also your mortal bodies, through his Spirit that dwelleth in you. These verses have been variously understood. It has been supposed by some that Romans 8:10 continues the thought of Romans 8:9; "the body" ( τὸ σῶμα) meaning the same as "the flesh ( σάρξ),and dead ( νεκρὸν) meaning νενεκρωμένον, i.e. mortified, or lifeless with respect to the power of sin that was in it (cf. Romans 6:6, ἵνα καταργηθῇ τὸ σῶμα τῆς ἀμαρτίας). Thus the meaning of the first clause of Romans 8:10 would be, "If Christ be in you, the body of sin in you is dead; but you are alive in the Spirit." Decisive objections to this view are,
Romans 8:12, Romans 8:13
So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh; for if ye live after the flesh, ye must ( μέλλετε, expressing here a result that must; follow. The Authorized Version has "shall;' not distinguishing the force of the phrase from that of the simple future ζήσεσθε which follows), die; but if by the Spirit ye do mortify (rather, do to death, or make to die, so as to correspond to the die preceding) the deeds of the body, ye shall live. Here "the body" ( τοῦ σώματος) must be taken in the same sense as in Romans 8:10, Romans 8:11. True, the "deeds" spoken of are, in fact, those of the flesh; but the body is regarded as the organ of the lusts of the flesh, and it is fitly named here in connection with the thought of the preceding verses. The word translated. "deeds" is πράξεις, denoting, not single acts, but rather doings—the general outcome in action of fleshly lusts using the body as their organ. ΄έλλετε ἀποθήσκειν and ζήσεσθε, viewed in connection with ζωοποιήσει in Romans 8:11, seem to point ultimately to the result hereafter of the two courses of life denoted: but not, it would seem, exclusively; for our future state is constantly regarded by the apostle as the continuance and sequence of what is begun in us already—whether of life in Christ now unto life eternal, or of death in sin now unto death beyond the grave. The general idea may be stated thus: If ye live after the flesh, the power in you to which you give your allegiance and adhesion will involve you in its own doom, death; but if ye live after the Spirit, you identify yourselves with the Spirit of life that is in you, whereby you will be emancipated at last even from these your mortal bodies, whose doings you already slay.
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For ye received not the spirit of bondage again unto fear; but ye received the Spirit of adoption, wherein we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him. In Romans 8:14 is introduced a further ground for the assertion in Romans 8:13, ζήσεσθε; viz. the felt sonship to God of those who have so received his Spirit as to be led (i.e. practically actuated) by it. We say "felt" because, though in this verse the sonship is alleged as a fact, yet, in the following verses (15,16) the inward experience of true Christians is appealed to as evidence of such sonship. Then, in Romans 8:17, the thought is carried out, that sonship implies inheritance, and hence a share in the glorified eternal life of Christ. (This conclusion makes further evident what was meant to be implied above in the expression ζήσεσθε.) "When, after your conversion," the apostle would say, "ye received the Spirit, it did not inspire you with the fear of slaves, but with filial love and trust. And this you know also is the feeling that we give vent to in the congregation, when we cry out [ κράζομεν, denoting emotional utterance], Abba, Father." This last expression is given by St. Mark as our Lord's own in the garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:36). We may conclude that the Aramaic word ἀββᾶ was the one used by him, and heard by St. Peter, who is said to have been St. Mark's informant in the composition of his Gospel; the equivalent Greek word, ὁ πατήρ, having been added originally by the evangelist in explanation. Afterwards it may be further supposed that the Greek-speaking Christians came to use the whole phrase, as it had been delivered to them, in their own devotions, as representing our Lord's own mode of addressing the Father, and so as expressing peculiarly their union with Christ, and their filial relation to God in him. It is probable also, from the way St. Paul here introduces the expression ( κράζομεν, changing from the second to the first person plural), that it was in customary use, perhaps at some special parts of the service, in congregational worship. It occurs once more in a passage closely corresponding with the one before us, and which should be studied in connection with it (Galatians 4:6). It is to be observed how, in verse 17, the idea of our sonship now, and consequently of our being joint-heirs with Christ, leads up to a resumption of the now prevailing thought of our present condition in the mortal body being no bar to our final inheritance of life. It is our being as yet in these mortal bodies that is the cause of our present suffering; but he also was in the body, and he also so suffered; and our sharing in his sufferings really unites us the more to him, and the more ensures our final inheritance with him (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:5, 2 Corinthians 1:7; Philippians 3:10).
The apostle introduces next a deep and suggestive view, both in explanation of our now being subject to suffering, and in confirmation of our expectation of future glory notwithstanding. He points to nature generally, to God's whole creation, so far as it is under our view in this mundane sphere, as being at present "subject to vanity," and, as it were, groaning under some power of evil, which is at variance with our ideal of what it should be, and from which there is a general and instinctive yearning for deliverance. Our present sufferings—all those drawbacks to the full enjoyment of our spiritual life—are due to our being at present in the body, and so forming part of the present system of things. But that general yearning is in itself significant of a deliverance; and so the sympathetic witness of nature confirms the hope of our higher spiritual yearnings, and encourages us to endure and wait. Such is the general drift of the passage, continued to the end of verse 25. Particular thoughts and expressions will be noticed in the course of it.
Romans 8:18, Romans 8:19
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward. (So, as in the Revised Version, or upon us, as Tyndale and Cranmer, rather than in us, as in the Authorized Version. The expression is εἰς ἡμᾶς, and the idea is of Christ appearing in glory, and shedding his glory on us, cf. 1 John 3:2.) For the earnest expectation of the creature (or, creation) waiteth for the revelation of the sons of God. "Revelatur gloria: et tum revelantur etiam filii Dei" (Bengel). God's sons will be revealed as being such, and glorified (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:5; also 1 John 3:2). ἠ κτίσις, in this verse and afterwards, has been variously understood. The word properly means actus creationis, and is so used in Romans 1:20; but usually in the New Testament denotes what has been created, as, in English, creation. Sometimes, where the context limits its application, it denotes mankind, as Mark 16:15 and Colossians 1:23; or it may be used for an individual creature (cf. Romans 8:39; Hebrews 4:13). Where there is nothing to limit its meaning, it must be understood of the whole visible creation, at any rate in the world of man. Thus in Mark 10:6; Mark 13:19; 2 Peter 3:4. And so here, except so far as the context limits it; for see especially πᾶση ἡ κτίσις in verse 22. It is, indeed, apparently so limited to the part of creation of which we have cognizance at present; for see οἴδαμεν in verse 22, which denotes a known fact. But is there any further limitation, as many commentators contend? Putting aside as untenable, in view of the whole context (see especially verse 23), the view of those who understand the new spiritual creation of the regenerate to be meant, we may remark as follows:
Romans 8:20, Romans 8:21
For the creature (or, creation, as before) was subjected to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who subjected it in hope. Because (or, that; i.e. in hope that) the creature (or, creation) also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the sons of God. The aorist ὑπετάγη ("was subjected") seems to imply that the present "vanity" and "bondage of corruption" were not inherent in the original Creation, or of necessity to last for ever. Thus the assertions of Genesis 1:1-31 : and 31, stand unshaken, viz. that in the beginning God created all things, and that all at first was "very good." The ideas, resorted to in order to account for existing evil, of matter ( ὕλη) being essentially evil, and of a δημιουργός, other than the Supreme God, having made the world, are alike precluded. It might serve as an answer to the argument of Lucretius against a Divine origin of things-
"Nequaquam nobis divinius esse paratam
Naturam rerum, tanta star praedita culpa"
Why the "creature" was thus "subjected" is not here explained. No solution of the old insoluble problem of τοθὲν τὸ κακὸν is given. All that is, or could be, said is that it was διὰ τὸν ὑποτάξαντα, meaning God. It was his will that it should be so; this is all we know; except that we find the beginning of evil, so far as it affects man, attributed in Scripture to human sin. But he so subjected his creation in hope. This expression may refer to the protoevangelium of Genesis 3:15, or to the never-dying hope in the human heart; to either or to both. The latter idea is expressed in the myth of Pandora's box. Further, the creature is said to have been so subjected "not willingly" ( οὐχ ἑκοῦσα). No sentient beings acquiesce in suffering; they resent evil, and would fain flee from it. Man especially unwillingly submits to his present bondage. When in Genesis 3:21 the hope is expressed of the creature (or creation) itself being eventually freed from the present bondage of corruption, it may be that the human part of creation only is in the writer's eye; but it may be also (there being still no expressed limitation of the word κτίσις) that he conceives a final emancipation of the whole creation from evil (cf. Ephesians 1:10; 1 Corinthians 15:23-27; 2 Peter 3:13). But if so, it is not said that the peculiar glory of the sons of God will extend to all creation, but only that all will be freed into the freedom of their glory; which may mean that the day of the revelation of the sons of God in glory will bring with it a general emancipation of all creation from its present bondage. Such a great final hope finds expression in the verse—
"That God, which ever lives and loves,
One God, one law, one element,
And one far-off Divine event,
To which the whole creation moves."
The present condition of things is in Genesis 3:20 denoted by ματαιότης, and in Genesis 3:21 by τῆς δουλειάς τῆς φθορᾶς. The first of these words is the equivalent in the LXX. of the Hebrew לכֶהֶ, which means properly "breath," or "vapour," and is used metaphorically for anything frail, fruitless, evanescent, vain. It is often applied to idols, and it is the word in Ecclesiastes where it is said that "all is vanity" (cf. also Psalms 39:5, Psalms 39:6). It seems here to denote the frailty, incompleteness, transitoriness, to which all things are now subject. " ΄αταιότης sonat frustatio, quod creatura interim non assequatur quod utcunque contendit efficere" (Erasmus). φθορᾶς intimates corruption and decay.
Romans 8:22, Romans 8:23
For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only so, lout ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan Within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. The present unwilling subjection of the whole visible creation to evil is here still more forcibly expressed, and spoken of as being what is known—a subject of experience to all who observe and think; and it is added that this state of things continues still—it is "until now." The yearned-for deliverance has not yet come; and therefore we should not be surprised if we too, the regenerate, while in the body, are not yet exempt from our share in the universal groaning. For we have but the first fruits of the Spirit as yet, not its full triumph; cf. "the earnest of the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 1:22), and "the earnest of our inheritance " (Ephesians 1:14). Its being said that we still wait for our adoption as sons is not inconsistent with other statements (as in Ephesians 4:5-7, and above, Ephesians 4:14, etc.), to the effect that we are already adopted, and are already sons; for υἱοωεσία here denotes the final realization of our present sonship, when the sons of' God shall be revealed (Romans 8:19). Similarly, our redemption ( ἀπολύτρωσις) is here regarded as future. In one sense we are redeemed already; in another we await our redemption, i.e. the full accomplishment thereof. It is the consummation called by our Lord ἡ παλιγγενεσία (Matthew 19:28), and by St. Peter, ἀποκατάστασις πάντων (Acts 3:21). cf. 2 Peter 3:13, and Revelation generally. "Of our body" seems to be added with reference to what has been seen above as to our present "mortal bodies" being both the organs of the lust of the flesh and the hindrances to the proper development of our inward spiritual life.
Romans 8:24, Romans 8:25
For by (or, in) hope we were saved; not are saved, as in the Authorized Version. The aorist ἐσώθημεν, like ἐλάβετε in Romans 8:15, points to the time of conversion. The dative ἐλπίδι, which has no preposition before it, seems here, to have a modal rather than medial sense; for faith, not hope, is that whereby we are ever said to be saved. The meaning is that when the state of salvation was entered upon, hope was an essential element in its appropriation. A condition, not of attainment, but of hope, is therefore the normal condition of the regenerate now; and so, after shortly pointing out the very meaning of hope, the apostle enforces his previous conclusion, that they must be content at present to wait with patience. But hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.
Now comes in a further thought, and a very interesting one.
Romans 8:26, Romans 8:27
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for what we should pray for as we ought we know not: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because (or, that) he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. Here, then, is a further source of help and comfort to Christians under present trials. Of themselves they know not what relief to crave. St. Paul himself knew not what to pray for as he ought, when he asked for removal of his thorn in the flesh; if left to themselves, their long waiting and their manifold perplexities might damp their hope; but a Helper beyond themselves comes in to succour them, viz. the Holy Spirit himself, who intercedes ( ὑπερεντυγχάνει) for them. But how? Not as the Son intercedes for them, apart from themselves, at the mercy-seat; but within themselves, by inspiring them with these unutterable (or, unuttered) groanings; and they are conscious that such deep and intense yearnings are from the Divine Spirit moving them, and teaching them to pray. They may not still be able to put their requests of God into definite form, or even express them in words; but they know that God knows the meaning of what his own Spirit has inspired. This is a deep and pregnant thought. Even apart from the peculiar faith and inspiration of the gospel, the internal consciousness of the human soul, with its yearnings after something as yet unrealized, affords one of the most cogent evidences of a life to come to those who feel such yearnings. For ideals seem to postulate corresponding realities; instinctive longings seem to postulate fulfilment. Else were human nature a strange riddle indeed. But Christian faith vivifies the ideal, and intensifies the longing; and thus the prophecy of internal consciousness acquires a new force to the Christian believer; and this all the more from his being convinced that the quickening of spiritual life of which he is conscious is Divine. The psalmist of old, when he sang, "As the hart panteth after the waterbrooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God," felt in these ardent though inarticulate pantings a presage of fulfilment of his "hope in God." So the devout Christian; and all the more in proportion to the intenseness and definiteness of his yearnings, and his conviction that they are from God.
And we know that to them that love God all things work together for good, to them that are called according to his purpose. A still further reason for endurance. Not only do these inspired groanings strengthen our hope of deliverance; nay, also we know (whether from God's Word, or inspired conviction, or experience of their effects) that these very trials that seem to hinder us are so overruled as to further the consummation to them that love God (cf. above, Romans 5:3, etc.); and at the end of the verse there is added, as introducing a still further ground of assurance, τοῖς κατὰ πρόθεσιν κλητοῖς; the significance of which expression is shown in the following versos, which carry out the thought of it.
Romans 8:29, Romans 8:30
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. And whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. Thus is introduced the doctrine of predestination. This is indeed a principal passage on which theological theories with regard to it have been built. It, with the context, is the basis of the definition of predestination in Art. 17. It is, therefore, of great importance to consider carefully what the apostle here really says, and appears most obviously to mean; it being the duty of the expositor to pay regard to this only, in view of the language used, the way it is introduced, and any cognate passages that may throw light upon it. We may observe, in the first place, that it is plain that more is spoken of here than national election, or predestination to a state of privilege, which is the subject especially treated in Romans 9:1-33. Individual predestination is in view; and this not to gospel privileges only, but also carrying with it the result of glory. But it still remains to be seen whether such predestination is regarded as
(1) absolute, i.e. irrespective, with regard to its final result, of the condition of man's use of grace given; and, if so, whether
ἐδικαίωσε (4) means the participation in God's δικαιοσύνη, the passing into a "state of salvation" through faith in baptism. But what is meant by ἐδόξασε (5) has been a subject of discussion. Some, in view of the aorist, not future, tense of the verb, understand it of sanctification subsequent to justification, regarded as participation in the glory of the Divine holiness. Others, in view of the significance of the word itself, understand future glory, the aorist being accounted, for by the apostle's taking in one view the whole process of salvation with its final result, which is contemplated as accomplished. Perhaps both ideas are included, present sanctification being regarded as the commencement and earnest of the full glory to be revealed in "the sons of God" hereafter. In any case, we are not bound by what is here said to conclude that final glory of necessity follows the previous stages. For the apostle may be only setting forth the process and result when grace is not resisted. But certainly he implies that, when the result is glory, all is to be traced, not to man's initiation or deservings, but to Divine grace, and the Divine purpose of mercy from eternity.
In the remainder of this chapter the apostle rises into a strain of glowing eloquence, into a very song of triumph, in view of the assured hope of faithful Christians. Faithfulness, be it once more observed, is presupposed throughout the passage, which is quite wrongly understood as encouraging confidence in any on the ground of their conviction that they are certainly, even in spite of themselves, predestinated to glory: it only encourages perseverance in spite of trial on the ground of our feeling that, if we do persevere, we cannot fail, because God is on our side, and it is his eternal purpose to save us.
What shall we then say to these things? ( πρὸ ταῦτα, meaning "with respect to," not "against "). If God be for us, who can be against us? ( τίς, not τί, in opposition to ὁ θεὸς: who—what adverse power—can there possibly be, stronger than God?). He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all (evidently not for the elect only, but for all mankind; cf. on Romans 5:18), how shall he not with him also freely give us (i.e. grant us of his free grace) all things? ( πάντα, corresponding to ὑπὲρ πάντων). Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect! It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. A different punctuation of these two verses is preferred by some, and seems more natural and more forcible; thus: Who shall charge God's elect? God who justifieth? Who is he that condemneth? Christ who died? etc. A similar answering a question by asking another is found below in Romans 8:35. The further thought is thus implied that, if neither God charges, nor Christ, the Judge, condemns, who can do either? The apostle next goes on to say that, there being none to charge and condemn us at last, so also there is none that can remove us from our state of acceptance now. For who or what can possibly prove stronger than Christ's love, which has called us to it? The enumeration that follows of things that might possibly be supposed to remove us shows again that it is not our own sins, but external circumstances of trial, that are being viewed all along as powerless to hinder our salvation.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? (i.e. the love of Christ to us, and in the same sense "the love of God" below; cf. τοῦ ἀγαπήσαντος ἡμᾶς in Romans 8:37). Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors ( ὑπερνικῶμεν—we not only conquer in spite of them; we conquer all the more because of them; cf. Romans 5:3, etc., and Romans 8:28) through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall he able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. In these two concluding verses the thought is distinctly extended from circumstances of trial to all powers, human or superhuman, that may be conceived as assaulting us through them, or in any way opposing us. But it is still adverse powers and influences, not our own failure in perseverance, that are in view. It is not necessary to define what is exactly meant by each of the expressions in these verses. Enough to say that what is meant is, that nothing whatever, in heaven or earth, or under the earth, can thwart God's good purpose for us, or separate us from his love.
The following paraphrastic summary of this important chapter, free from the encumbrance of notes, may help to a clearer perception of its drift and sequence of thought:—
There is then no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.
For a new law—the law of the Spirit of life—is introduced into their being, by virtue of which they are freed from their old state of bondage to the law of sin and death.
And this because of what God himself did for mankind in his own Son, Christ, who, in our very flesh, and in behalf of mankind, did what man himself was powerless to do—triumphed over sin and condemned it.
And in us Leo (united to him by faith, and having spiritually died and risen again with him) the requirement of the Law is fulfilled, so that it forfeits its claim to condemn us now; but only on this condition in ourselves, that we walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
For there are two φρονήματα in us still, of the flesh as well as of the Spirit; the one tending to death and the other to life; and it is only those who give themselves to the latter that can share in the life to which it tends.
And you can give yourselves to this, if you are true Christians; if the Spirit of Christ dwells in you, without which you are not his.
So our condition is this: We have within us the Spirit, which is life; but we have the body clinging to us still, which is death-stricken because of sin.
But if the Spirit of him who raised up Christ from the dead be in us, he will quicken our mortal bodies too, delivering us at last, through the same vivifying Spirit, from all lingering power of death over us.
The conclusion is (as has been insisted on all along), that we are bound, as Christians, in our present lives, to live, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
If we do not, then (notwithstanding our redemption) we must needs die—yea, die the death beyond the grave, which is the doom of sin; but if we do, then we shall live—yea, live at last (as the sequel shows to be implied) in the eternal life of Christ with God.
For the Spirit you received when you became Christians was one of sonship; our habitual earnest cry of "Abba, Father," expresses our feeling of it; the Spirit still witnesses with our spirit that we are God's children; and sonship implies heirship—heirship with Christ, through our union with whom we feel ourselves to be sons; and, if we have to share in his sufferings now, this only unites us the more to him, and fits us the more for our inheritance of eternal life with him.
For what of all these present sufferings, these present drawbacks to the lull triumph of the πνεῦμα in you, these present evidences that the σῶμα νεκρὸν still clings to you? They are nothing to the destined glory; they are not worth consideration in comparison with it.
And, after all, these present drawbacks are but our inevitable share in the condition of imperfection under which all creation, as we see it now, is labouring. The whole world presents to us the picture of an ideal not realized, but ever yearned for. All we can say about it is that it has pleased God to subject it for a time to vanity and the bondage of corruption, but so as to leave hope alive.
And we too, while in this mortal body, must needs share in this universal groaning; but, having already the firstfruits of the Spirit—the earnest already of a diviner life—we especially yearn all the more for deliverance, and expect it hopefully.
Romans 8:24, Romans 8:25
When we entered on our state of salvation as Christians, it was in hope; our essential condition became then one of hope, which is incompatible with present attainment of our hope; we must, therefore, needs endure and waif, bearing these present trials.
Romans 8:26, Romans 8:27
And if our trials are great, and we know not ourselves what relief to pray for, we have the comfort of believing that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us within ourselves by inspiring all these unutterable yearnings, which he that searcheth the heart knows the meaning of, and will answer according to the mind of the Spirit who inspired them.
We know, too, that all things, even all these present trials, far from harming us, work together for good to them that love God, being called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:29, Romans 8:30
Yes, called according to his purpose; here is a further ground of hopeful assurance. For his having called us to be Christians at all, and justified us through faith, shows that it was his eternal purpose in so calling us, to conform us to the image of his Son, that he might be the Firstborn among many brethren; and that so we, being thus made his brethren, might inherit with him. In short, his having preordained us to our present state of salvation carries with it his preordaining us also to its end and purpose, which is glory.
If God be thus for us, who can be against us? He who has already given up his own Son for us all will surely grant us all. And, if God has chosen us, who shall arraign us? God himself, who already justifies us? No. Christ, who died, rose again, ascended to the right hand of God, and now intercedes for us? No. And against them what other power can possibly prevail?
Certainly not these present trials and calamities, however severe; though "we are killed all day long, and are appointed as sheep for the slaughter." Through Christ, who so loved us as to share them, we are conquerors all the more by means of them.
Romans 8:38, Romans 8:39
For I am persuaded that no powers or circumstances whatever, external to ourselves, will ever separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, or consequently bar our attainment of our final inheritance.
Additional Note on Romans 8:29, seq.
The view given above of St. Paul's intention and meaning is by no means meant as ignoring the essential mystery of predestination, however regarded. Divine omnipotence combined with omniscience on the one hand, and human free-will on the other, seem indeed to human reason to be incompatible ideas; yet we are compelled to entertain both—the one on the ground, not only of scriptural teaching, but also of our conception of the Divine Being; the other on the ground, not only of our conception of Divine justice, but also of our own irresistible consciousness, and of scriptural teaching too. Such difficulty of reconciliation between two apparently necessary ideas is not peculiar to theology; philosophy has it too; and there are necessitarians among philosophers, as well as predestinarians among theologians, equally contradicting man's irresistible consciousness of having the power of choice. We can only regard the conflicting conceptions as partial apprehensions of a great truth which as a whole is beyond us. The apparent contradiction between them may be due to the failure of finite beings to comprehend infinity. They have been compared to two parallel straight lines, which, according to geometrical definition, can never meet, and yet, according to the higher mathematical theory, meet in infinity; or we may take the illustration of an asymptote, which from a finite point of view can never possibly touch a curve, and yet, in analytical geometry, is found to cross it at an infinite distance. For the practical purposes of life both ideas may be entertained; and it is only human attempts to reconcile them in theory, or to escape the difficulty by denying free-will altogether, that have given rise to the endless controversies on the subject. It is important to observe how St. Paul, though he distinctly intimates both conceptions (as he must needs do as a preacher of God's truth in all its aspects), and though his allusions to predestination have been made a main support of Calvinistic views, never really propounds a theory. When he alludes to the subject, it is with a practical purpose; and when (as in this chapter) he speaks of God's predestination of believers to glory, his purpose is to encourage them to persevere in holiness on the ground of their assurance of God's eternal purpose concerning them, the essential human conditions being all along supposed to be fulfilled (see also note on Hebrews 6:16-20, in 'Pulpit Commentary').
In reading this chapter, it cannot but be felt that there was, in the mind of the apostle, a very vivid sense of the contrast between the character, the position, and the prospects of the true Christian, and those of unbelievers, whether Jews or Gentiles. This contrast is kept up, either verbally or implicitly, from the beginning to the close of what is felt to be one of the most encouraging and precious portions of the apostle's writings.
I. THE CHRISTIAN'S CONDITION AND CHARACTER. It is plain that, in the view of St. Paul, personal religion did not consist in external condition or relationships, in association with any family, or nation, or visible society. Christians are those who are "in Christ Jesus."
1. The language is instructive as to the Divine provision for man's spiritual welfare made in the incarnation, ministry, and sacrifice of the Son of God. To be accepted and approved by the great Ruler and Lord of all is a condition made dependent upon association with that Being in whom God at once revealed his character and purposes, and reconciled the world to himself.
2. A spiritual union is implied. To be "in Christ Jesus" is what he himself has enjoined: "Abide in me." And the New Testament represents Christ's people as "in him," "found in him," "standing in him," "walking in him;" and after this life as "sleeping in him," and "dead in him."
3. The purposes of union with Christ are involved in this description.
4. The power and principle of union with Christ are assumed. On the human side the union is effected by faith; on the Divine side it is rendered possible by the impartation of the grace of the Holy Spirit.
II. THE CHRISTIAN'S EXEMPTION AND IMMUNITY.
1. What is the condemnation from which those who are in Christ are relieved? Doubtless, the penal consequences of sin, the Divine displeasure and judicial anger, the present punishment of remorse and fear, the future punishment of destruction and death.
2. Who removes it? The Lord and Judge, whose prerogative it is to pass sentence of condemnation, retains in his own hands the right to remit the punishment of those sentenced, and to set guilty but repentant criminals free to enjoy a spiritual liberty.
3. On what grounds, and in virtue of what provision, does the righteous Lord remove the condemnation? For his own mercy's sake, and in virtue of the redemption which was wrought by Jesus Christ our Saviour, so fully stated and explained in this Epistle.
4. With what results? The conscience of the sinner is relieved; the favour of the holy God is vouchsafed; the privileges and pleasures of the Christian life are opened up, and final acquittal is definitely and certainly assured.
1. Let the Christian rest in no inferior view of his position; for this assurance of liberty is one which every believer in the Lord Jesus is invited and is warranted to take to himself.
2. Let those who are under condemnation by reason of sin remember that there is one way of escape and acquittal, and only one; and let this be sought and found without delay.
"The Spirit of life."
What interest we always feel in life! Among things earthly, the main distinction, to our minds, is that between the living and the lifeless. Among the snows of Alpine heights, the blue gentian flower is welcome to the eye of the mountaineer. Amid the hot wastes of the sandy deserts, sweet is the oasis of green shrubs and shady palm trees which spring up around the solitary fountain. The child loves to watch the butterfly fluttering from bush to bush, the lizard peeping out and darting in among the heather and the ling of the common, the dragon-fly weaving graceful dances over the sunny waters of the secluded peel. Who does not and a calm delight in marking the grayling leap from the silvery brook, the heron lift itself in slow flight from the reedy banks of the tidal river, the hawk circle in the blue sky, the antlered deer bound into the lake and fleet through the glades of the forest? Amidst the loneliness of the ocean, what a relief to the mariner to witness the gambol of the sea-monster, or even to hear the cry of the wild storm-bird! And, to the thoughtful mind, how far deeper the interest felt in the more complex, the more varied—the moral—life of men! Whether in the mountain or the plain, by the sea, in the well-tilled fields, or in the busy city where myriads throng and jostle, wherever human life meets the eye and ear, we feel ourselves in the presence of God's greatest works. Here is the spiritual realm; here the moral conflict; here the probation, the discipline, which regard eternity. For the interest of the life of man lies not in its picturesque or its pathetic aspect, but in the working of great principles, to issues dear to the very heart of God. The life of the body engrosses indeed much of men's energies and cares. Yet we all feel that it is the higher life. the soul-life—that is of supreme moment and deathless interest to man. There is a life of the spirit, which multitudes may disregard, but which to the Creator, and to all enlightened minds, seems the one great end for which worlds were made and man was fashioned. It is the office of religion to summon men's attention to this life, precious, beautiful, and immortal; to tell men that, unless they live this life, they live in vain; to assure them that the privileges and the probation of earth have a view to this higher conscious, spiritual existence and growth, And Christianity comes to men, telling them of a Divine Saviour, in whom "was life," and who came "that we might have life, and that we might have it more abundantly;" telling them of a spiritual agency provided by God to awaken them from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness; telling them of the presence and the power among men of "the Spirit of life." It is the spiritual life, enkindled and sustained by this Divine Spirit, which is the aim and the reward of a Father's pity and a Saviour's love. Contrasting with that death from which it is a deliverance, it is a preparation for that eternity which is the infinite scope for its development. Consisting in the exercise and growth of the highest and noblest powers with which the Creator has endowed mankind, amidst the circumstances which Providence has arranged for their manifestation, it brings the dependent being to share the Divine nature, and fits it to inherit the heavenly kingdom.
I. THE APOSTLE SPEAKS OF THE LIVING SPIRIT—the Spirit in whom is life. God is spoken of in the Scriptures as "the living God." The Holy Spirit is a living Agent; not merely conscious, but energetic. He has knowledge: "The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God." He works the work of God in the material world: "By his Spirit God hath garnished the heavens;" "Thou sendest forth thy Spirit; they are created." He is the Author of our conscious being: "The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life." He is the universal Presence of omniscient Deity: "Whither shall I go from thy Spirit?" He is the power that raised the Redeemer, who was "put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit." He is the Divine Force of life to Christ's followers: "He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies, by his Spirit that dwelleth in you." In so much of nature as is accessible to our observation, life springs from life. So is it in the spiritual realm. The Holy Ghost is spoken of as the Source and Importer of the new and holy life; because he himself possesses, in infinite fulness, that which we receive according to measure. We recognize the presence of the Spirit of God in all God's works and methods, in what are called nature and nature's laws. But not simply the lower life—the highest and the best also is his; his also is the life which is emphatically Divine. The Spirit of God is, accordingly, the Spirit of truth, the Spirit of holiness, the Spirit of wisdom, the Spirit of grace, the Spirit of life. Far from being merely contemplative, the Spirit of God is emphatically energetic. His omnipresence and universal activity bear witness to the justice and, the beauty of the designation applied to him—"the Spirit of life."
II. THE LIVING SPIRIT IS ALSO THE LIFE-IMPARTING SPIRIT. In the Nicene Creed, which has been in use in Christian Churches for fifteen hundred years, the Holy Ghost is termed "the Lord and Giver of life." Not only is life in him; it is from him. Wherever we observe the signs of spiritual life, we are justified in attributing them to the Divine influences. That life from the dead should result from the outpouring of the Spirit appears to have been constantly taught by the Hebrew prophets: "I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring: and they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water-courses;" and again, "The Spirit shall be poured upon us from on high. and the wilderness shall be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest." And when our Lord Jesus taught the great truths of his kingdom, he expressly referred to this same Divine agency the new life which was to be distinctive of his subjects. Using figurative language, drawn from the history of the bodily life, he said to Nicodemus, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God;" "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit." Examples of spiritual death are too common all around. A person may have abundance of life and health and strength of body, he may even be alive intellectually; yet he may be as dead in the sight of God. If there be in him no interest in the Divine presence, no reverence for the Divine Law, no submission to the Divine Word, no devotion to the Divine service, no faith in the Divine promises, the man is dead—"dead in trespasses and sins;" there is "no life in him." A most striking picture of the condition of dead souls is given by the prophet who records the vision of the valley of dry bones: "There was no life in them." On the other hand, what is meant by spiritual life ? A truly living Christian is alive to the presence and favour of God, is under the constraint of the love of Christ, delights in the Divine Word, and treasures up its precepts and its promises, is obedient to the commands of Jesus the Lord, and is devoted, gratefully and joyfully, to his service and glory. The things of earth, which are everything to the worldly, have comparatively little interest for such, except as they are connected with Christ's kingdom. They "have purified their souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit." That a great change has passed over those who were spiritually dead, but are now "alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord," cannot be questioned. No change in condition, from beggary to opulence, from a dunghill to a throne, can for a moment be compared with this change. This is indeed "the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;" the "new creation; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." No explanation of this change is reasonable and sufficient which does not refer it to the Spirit of God. To those spiritually awakened, brought to newness of life, the words of the apostle may be addressed: "Ye are washed, ye are sanctified, ye are justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." If we can say, "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren," we shall certainly be found forward to acknowledge, "God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ." It is by the grace and energy of the Holy Spirit that human souls are born anew, are born from above. That this scriptural teaching is most reasonable seems as plain as can be. If we believe in the existence of human spirits, we must acknowledge their influence over our nature and character. The uprightness and magnanimity of a father, the tenderness and unselfishness of a mother, the ennobling and inspiring influence of a true friend, have all "told" upon us, and helped to make us what we are that is good. Is it credible that we owe so much to human spirits, and yet owe nothing to him who is "the Father of the spirits of all flesh"—in whom is all moral excellence, and whose benevolence is equal to his holiness? Do we behold his handywork in the vaulted heavens and the verdant earth; and shall we not recognize his mighty working in the spiritual realm, and admire his grace and love in all that is pure in human character, true in human speech, and beautiful in human life? If it is the Spirit of God that "renews the face of the earth," that turns the winter into spring, calling forth life and beauty, fragrance and song, where sterility and death have reigned; surely it is not enthusiasm to attribute to "the Spirit of life" the transformation of the human soul, the enkindling of the spiritual vitality and energy, that mark the new creation! The Spirit of life does not act independently of means. The human soul is affected by power, in accordance with its own laws. In order to live unto God, a soul must have some knowledge of God and of God's purposes, must be awakened to a sense of sin and. need, must understand and accept the gospel of Divine grace, must receive in faith the promises of pardon, of help, of guidance, of salvation. Now, the Holy Spirit of God acts in connection with these means; for he is the Spirit of truth, as well as of power. He takes of the things of Christ, and reveals them unto us. This is why we are especially encouraged to seek the influences of the Holy Spirit when we are using the means which Divine wisdom has appointed for the conversion of sinners. The Spirit works with the Word, brings the gospel home with power to the heart of the hearer, at once gives energy to the truth itself and to the appeal of the heavenly message, and enlightenment and quickening grace to the nature of the hearer. The Word, alone, is lifeless; the soul, alone, is dead; but the Spirit imparts efficacy to the Word, and, so, vitality to the soul. Thus God accompanies the Word "with the demonstration of the Spirit and with power." There is a shaking among the dry bones; the Spirit is breathed into them, and they live, they stand upon their feet, an exceeding great army. What encouragement this doctrine should give to all who are labouring for the salvation of souls! They may be very ignorant and very weak, for they are but human. But the work is to be effected, not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord. We do but comply with the directions of him who alike reveals the truth and imparts the Spirit. Yes, we may be assured that he will honour his own agency, that he will not forsake his own servants, that he will prosper his own work, and so glorify his own Name, and hasten his own kingdom.
III. IT IS THE OFFICE OF THE SPIRIT OF LIFE, NOT ONLY TO AWAKEN, BUT TO SUSTAIN LIFE. Life is not a thing which is perfected at once. The blossom of the spring is fair and fragrant; yet months must pass, and all seasonable influences must have play, before the luscious fruit shall be found, where the bloom of promise cheered the eye and roused the hope. The child, in his helplessness and speechlessness, must be nurtured and taught through long years before the infantile nature shall develop into that of the philosopher or the statesman. Life is a thing of progress, a thing of growth; has its own divinely appointed order and processes and laws. So is it with the spiritual life. It is no dishonour to the Divine Spirit that the work of renewal is not an instantaneous and perfect work, leaving nothing further to be done. The new birth is, as a birth, complete; but it is only the commencement of a new life. To be "born again" is to begin to live anew, with higher principles and purer motives and nobler aims. Here, upon earth, the path of the Christian is one of progress; he is introduced to the right way in order that he may follow it—that he may make progress therein, year by year, and day by day. It is not the will, the plan, of God that there should be either pause or (far less) retrogression. Two things are needful—first, growth, always; and secondly, revival, sometimes. It were to be wished. that young Christians were more conscious of the requirement of growth in the Divine life. To be brought into a right relation with God is the first step in the spiritual life; but it remains to learn God's truth, to do God's will, to serve Christ's people, and to promote Christ's cause. It will take the whole of life to fulfil the "high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Character and usefulness,—these, to use ordinary language, are the great ends of life. They who fail here fail altogether. Coming to religious services, reading the Bible, prayer, fellowship,—these are means to an end; and that end is that men may be more like Christ. Aspire to this; be not satisfied unless you are making progress in this direction; let the fruit be seen, which is the effect and the evidence of life. It is by the Spirit of life that this result is to be effected—by the Spirit of life working in the heart, and changing the character into the likeness of the Lord, and assisting to conquer sin, to resist Satan, to acquire a character congenial and akin to Christ's. This is the Holy Spirit's choicest, holiest work; to foster and promote the spiritual life, that it may be growingly vigorous and fruitful, to the praise and glory of the ever-living God. And it is the office of the same Spirit to revive the life that is feeble and sluggish. If, by negligence and sloth, the Christian has become cold to spiritual realities, and is not living in constant communion with the Unseen, there is but one power that can reanimate the slumbering soul, that can again enkindle the dying flame of devotion, that can save from selfishness and worldliness, that can make a man truly live unto God. Revival presumes that life is already in existence, but is, as it were, in abeyance or in a dormant state. In the use of divinely appointed means this condition may be escaped, this mischief may be remedied; but the power that alone can accomplish this good work is the power of the Holy Spirit of God. It is the Spirit that awakens first to the sense of deadness, so to speak, and then leads to the employment of those means by which the soul can be reanimated and refreshed. A little reflection will show that only the same Spirit can perfect life in immortality. The life which is awakened by this Divine agency is a life which knows no death. The change which passes upon the body at its dissolution does not affect the spiritual life; for this, begun in time, is perfected in eternity. "The Spirit that raised up Jesus from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies." In the resurrection of the Lord Jesus we have the pledge and earnest of a blessed immortality. "We through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith;" "Ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the Earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory;" "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost."
Romans 8:15, Romans 8:16
The Spirit received by Christians.
The Holy Spirit is the gift of God to his people in Christ—"the promise of the Father;" the Comforter whose advent was foretold by Christ, accompanying Divine truth, and characterizing the new dispensation of God's mercy and love. In this passage the Spirit is mentioned, not so much as the Gift of God, as in the aspects he assumes in the conscious experience of God's people.
I. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS THE SPIRIT OF LIBERTY. Man in a state of sin is under bondage to the Law, to sin, to fear, and slavishness. But by the emancipating power of the Spirit, the disciple and friend of the Divine Saviour is set at liberty, is freed from the dominion of sin, from the trammels of the world, from the inner bondage of fear and distrust. He possesses "the glorious liberty of the sons of God."
II. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS THE SPIRIT OF ADOPTION. This is indeed a marvellous truth, a marvellous privilege. All mankind are the creatures of Divine power, and it is in this sense the poet affirmed, "We are all his offspring." The reflective man perceives that in a higher sense we are children of God, inasmuch as our reason and conscience are the reflection of the Divine nature. But it was reserved for Christianity, as the highest form of revelation, to introduce the conception of man's spiritual sonship in Jesus Christ. The establishment of this relation is a proof of God's condescending kindness. "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God!" Here is no question of a merely external relationship; a change of heart, of character, of life, is here implied. Where this relation is realized, the cry, "Abba, Father!" ascends from the affectionate and filial heart.
III. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS THE SPIRIT OF WITNESS. The personality of the Spirit is compatible with the personality of the human recipient of his blessed influences. There is a unity, and yet a diversity. God's Spirit. is in contact with the spirit of Christ's disciple, and witnesses with it, assures of Divine favour and fatherhood. The Word is revealed to the soul; the soul is enlightened to apprehend the Word; the truth is realized, the privilege appropriated; the response is rendered. The same Spirit gives power to the Word and receptiveness to the heart, and brings, the two into exquisite sympathy and harmony. And this witness is effected, not by a vision or a voice, not by fancy or enthusiasm, but by Divine, conclusive evidence. The Spirit of truth and holiness manifests his presence and his power, by calling into existence the fruits of the Spirit, whose quality and abundance leave no room for doubting the Divinity of the agency to which they owe their existence.
The twofold fellowship.
A person may be the heir to a title and to a great estate, and yet, in some circumstances, he may in his minority and even afterwards be exposed to some privations. He may even be a homeless wanderer, thrown into uncongenial society and unfamiliar scenes and undesirable occupations. If such be the case, it may well happen that his experience may be profitable and serviceable. He may taste "adversity's sweet milk, philosophy." He may learn many a lesson of self-control and self-denial, of forbearance, patience, and considerateness. His character may mature, his best qualities may be called out. He may learn to sympathize with the afflicted, and to make allowances for the tempted. And when the time comes for him to enter upon his inheritance, he may fulfil the duties of his exalted position all the more wisely and faithfully for the discipline he has passed through, stern and harsh though that experience may have been. In like manner, the Christian, who is a joint-heir with Christ, has appointed for him a period of probation, of humiliation, of spiritual conflict and suffering. This is the decree of infinite wisdom and love. Our Father would, by subjecting us to earth's discipline, fit us for the heavenly inheritance, the eternal glory. The Christian's exile is the preparation for his home, his inheritance, his crown.
I. CHRISTIANS HAVE FELLOWSHIP WITH CHRIST IN SUFFERING. They may suffer for Christ. Doubtless, to Paul and to the early Christians, this was a familiar thought and a not infrequent experience. The apostles, the martyrs, and confessors, all in the primitive Church who by their steadfastness in the faith incurred men's displeasure and hostility, were partakers of the sufferings of Christ. And in our own time, and amongst ourselves, there are those whose witness to the Saviour is borne amidst petty persecution and haft-concealed hostility from their unbelieving and scoffing companions. And, even amongst professing Christians, those who prefer fidelity to Christ and his gospel to compliance with current fashions and opinions must make up their minds to endure much for the Lord's sake. There are, however, other senses in which Christians may be justly said to share Christ's sufferings, to suffer with their Master.
1. There was anguish and distress peculiar to the Son of God. The burden of our sins he bore in his own Person; he "trod the wine-press alone;" he "bore our sins and carried our sorrows;" he "tasted death for every man." His sacrifice was his alone. But there was suffering which be endured because he lived in a sinful world, because he submitted to the buffetings of Satan and endured the contradiction of sinners. To Christ's people their necessary contact with a sinful world is painful, even as such contact was conspicuously painful to the holy Saviour himself, who in character and conduct was emphatically "separate from sinners." As he also sorrowed over this sinful race, could not look upon the multitudes without grief and commiseration, could not gaze upon the guilty Jerusalem without weeping over it; so true Christians are constrained to sigh and cry for the abominations that abound in the world, for they have learned to look upon humanity with the eyes of their Lord himself.
2. Yet again, we are called to share our Master's sufferings by reason of the temptations to which we are exposed. What Christ endured from the assaults of the tempter, the adversary, we can never know; yet the record of his temptation implies that it was the occasion to him of sore distress; "he suffered, being tempted." He only overcame through resistance and bitter strife. That this must be our experience is well known to every follower of the Lamb. "We wrestle not with," etc.
"He knows what sore temptations mean,
For he has felt the same."
In this matter all the Lord's servants must, in his own language, "deny themselves, take up the cross, and follow him." Their path is one not of compliance with the tempter, but of opposition to him. They die with their Lord unto sin; in this respect being crucified with him unto the world, knowing the fellowship of his sufferings, and being planted together in the likeness of his death.
3. There is a wider and more general sense in which we may be said to suffer with Christ. There are afflictions which are common to men as men, but which have to Christians a signification different from that which they have to others. All men have to endure, more or less, weakness and suffering of body, depression of mind, bereavements, changes in outward circumstances, and other afflictions providentially appointed or permitted. But to Christians these come as messages and monitions from the heavenly Father, and they have to be accepted in the spirit which the Lord Jesus has displayed and exemplified. When suffering and sorrow are borne in the spirit of him who said, "Not my will, O my Father, but thine be done," then there is evidence of fellowship with the Lord.
II. CHRISTIANS SHALL HAVE FELLOWSHIP WITH CHRIST IN GLORY. It is a sign of God's great condescension and fatherly kindness that he, in his Word, deigns to cheer and encourage his poor, suffering, struggling children, in their encounter with life's ills, by the assurance that in due time the shadows shall flee away, and the bright morning shall break upon their sight. He does not even say merely, "Your sufferings shall come to an end; your toil and conflict shall be followed by repose." This is said; but, with it, something more. Victory, triumph, glory, festive joy,—such is the prospect held out to us. To be told that we shall be glorified with Christ seems too much; it is only credible because it is the assurance of him who cannot lie. With regard to the glory of our Saviour, we have material for judging. Something of his proper outward glory appeared when he was transfigured; more when he was raised from the dead, and when he ascended on high. Yet his real glory was, and surely ever must be, spiritual. Exalted to the throne of heaven, our Saviours glory is to be discerned in the loyalty and affection with which he is regarded by human hearts, the joy with which his authority is practically acknowledged by the natures which have felt his love and holiness. Christ was, when here upon earth, in his humiliation, the same in character and in nature as now, but the hindrances to his recognition have been removed, and his glory is now apparent. Our Saviour himself intimated that his faithful people should participate in his approaching glory. They should sit on thrones of judgment. Having been with him in his tribulations, having drunk of his cup and received his baptism, they were appointed to reign with him and to see his glory. It was a lesson deeply impressed upon the minds of Christ's companions. "If we suffer with him," said. one, "we shall also reign with him." They spoke of a crown which they believed to be reserved for them. They looked for an inheritance incorruptible and unfading. And the chief element in future blessedness and glory they deemed to be union and association with their Lord. To be ever with him, to see him as he is,—this was all their desire and hope. There seems something so utterly alien to our poor, feeble, sinful humanity in the "glory" which is revealed as the future lot and life of the Christian, that it is not easy for a sober mind to take in the thought. Yet it is plainly taught that Christians shall appear with their Lord in glory, that they are called to eternal glory. This may be explained by two remarks. First, the chief glory is moral and spiritual; to be delivered from sin, and to be changed into the same image with Christ,—that is glory. Secondly, whatever glory may attend the Lord's people in the future life is simply that which he sheds. To be near Jesus is to receive from him something of that holy radiance which is native and proper to him, and ever streams from him.
1. Let those who have been bereaved of Christian kindred and friends learn to submit with resignation to the will of God. Concerning these who sleep in Jesus, we may well believe that their sufferings are over and their glory has begun.
2. Let those to whom the Christian life is a scene of trial and conflict cultivate patience and fortitude. Think not of your experience as something strange happening to you. It is the path which our Lord and all his followers have trodden before you.
3. Let those whose conflict has been protracted, and who must soon lay' down the weapons of the earthly warfare, cherish the hopes which are justified by God's Word, and look forward with lowly faith to the glory of the heavenly inheritance.
Suffering quenched in glory.
It is not easy to weigh the future against the present. To children, and to the unreflecting, the present seems so real, and the future so shadowy, that the least advantage or relief today seems immensely preferable to something in itself more desirable, but which is deferred to a distant date. As knowledge and thought advance, the power of realizing the future increases. Hence in worldly affairs the useful virtue of prudence emerges, and men deny themselves now in order to make provision for the coming years. The same principle is applicable in religion. Those who believe themselves destined to a future and immortal existence are capable of looking forward to the life to come, and of allowing that life to exercise upon their minds a mighty influence, so that their present attitude of spirit is largely governed and controlled by their expectations of the future. It is, indeed, far from being the highest of motives that influences men, if they do good to avoid future misery and secure future happiness. For religion consists in the love of truth and right for their own sake, as supremely desirable, in the love of God as supremely excellent. Yet, as the text shows, Christianity holds out the prospect of immortal happiness as fitted to cheer and encourage the pilgrims of the night amidst the difficulties and darkness of time.
I. THIS IS A CALCULATION WHICH IS NOT INTENDED TO DISPARAGE THE PRESENT SUFFERINGS OF CHRISTIANS. Paul does not mean to say the sufferings to be endured here are in themselves inconsiderable. For the fact is otherwise; every man, and much more every Christian, has much to bear. "They that will live godly must suffer persecution." In some cases, the amount of opposition and calumny and neglect involved in fidelity to the Saviour is far from trifling. But the apostle means to affirm that so vast is the recompense, so exceeding and eternal the weight of glory hereafter, that even the direst persecution, the fiercest conflict, the keenest self-denial, are all extinguished in the lustre, the blaze, of heavenly day.
II. THIS IS A CALCULATION BASED UPON THE REVELATIONS OF SCRIPTURE. Reason unaided could never have arrived at this result. For one of the members of the comparison is beyond the range of reason. We know by experience the sufferings of the present; but only Divine foresight can acquaint us with the glory of the future. It is granted that in the present condition of Christians is nothing which can justify an expectation so glowing. The star is in its station in the heavens, although hidden beneath a cloud; when the sky is cleared, the star shines out in its brilliancy. So, for the present, our life is "hid with Christ in God;" and "we know not what we shall be." Our capacities and circumstances do not allow of our comprehension of a state which only the glorified nature can take in. The coming glory is spiritual, consists in closer fellow, ship with the Saviour and in perfect harmony with God himself. "When Christ, who is our Life, shall appear, we also shall appear with him in glory." This is the prospect of the sons of God, the joint-heirs with Christ, the partakers of their Lord's character and spirit. It is the prospect of an endless blessedness; for its eternity is part of its Divine perfection. Nothing less than a glory which never wanes is worthy of the Giver, or satisfying to the recipient. The quality and the immortality of the glory of heaven, when taken together, manifestly outweigh all the privations the conflicts, the temptations, in a word, the "much tribulation" through which we must enter into the kingdom of heaven.
III. THIS IS A CALCULATION WHICH GOVERNED THE APOSTLE'S PERSONAL LIFE. Observe that he says, "I reckon." It was his own deliberately reached conclusion. He had adopted this opinion long ago, and he retained it still. Otherwise he would not have continued to lead the life of a Christian and an apostle. His choice had brought him much outward suffering and adversity. From the first, he had been exposed to persecution from Jews and Gentiles; he had endured many hardships and dangers in his missionary life; he had suffered the loss of all things. His choice had occasioned him much spiritual conflict. The strife between the old nature and the new, the anxiety he felt as to his own fidelity, the buffetings of Satan he encountered,—all these were sufferings strictly consequent upon his union with Christ. Yet it is clear that Paul did not repent his choice. Even to the end he "counted all things as loss, that he might win Christ, and be found in him for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord." He had present consolations, very precious and sustaining; for he was supported by the grace which ever proved sufficient for him, and, knowing whom he trusted, he was persuaded that he was able to keep that which was committed unto him against that day. And when the mercy and favour of the present were added to the glorious prospects of a heavenly inheritance, how could the sufferings of life be allowed to counterbalance privileges so precious and hopes so bright?
IV. THIS IS A CALCULATION WHICH HAS SUSTAINED THE FAITH AND COURAGE OF MULTITUDES OF BELIEVERS IN CHRIST IN EVERY AGE. This has been the case, not only with those who have been called upon to witness to their Saviour by public labours and by public sufferings, with those who have contended upon the high places of the field; but also with myriads of lowly, faithful, patient hearts, that have endured in silence the reproach of Christ, that have borne in silence the cross of Christ. The well-founded hope of glory has animated and sustained such amidst petty persecutions, amidst galling misrepresentations, amidst spiritual conflicts, fightings without and fears within. The hymns of the Church are a witness to this; in every land and in every age these hymns have expressed the longings of the universal heart of Christendom for the repose, the fellowship, the delights, of the heavenly Jerusalem. And they have been wont to make these longings centre in that Divine Redeemer who is the Sun of the eternal city, and whose presence makes it light and glorious.
V. THIS IS A CALCULATION WHICH MAY BE COMMENDED TO ALL CHRISTIANS WHO ARE CAST DOWN AND DISTRESSED BY THE DIFFICULTIES OF THE WAY. Some are tried by adversity, and are tempted to say of the circumstances surrounding them, "All these things are against me." Others are smitten by bereavement; their dear and trusted friends are taken from their side by death. Others are persecuted for righteousness' sake. Others endure great spiritual conflicts, and sometimes know not how to bear up against the assaults of the adversary. Others are weary, in body and in mind, under the pressure of cares and responsibilities. To all such it is lawful to say, "'The end of all things is at hand.' The period of probation is nearly over. Hold on a little longer. 'Be faithful unto death.' There awaits you rest after your pilgrimage, and triumph after your warfare, songs after your tears, and glory after your depression. The revelation of which the text speaks is not far off. And, in the glory it shall manifest, all your weariness and woes shall be forgotten. You shall see Jesus, and in his presence no darkness is."
Romans 8:24, Romans 8:25
"Saved by hope."
Hope is an emotion compounded of expectation and desire. We may expect what we dread, we may desire what we are sure is beyond our reach; in either case hope is impossible. Faith is in the unseen present; hope is of the unseen future. As a feeling, and consequently as a motive power, hope is taken up, heightened, and hallowed by religion. In the New Testament, great stress is laid upon, and great virtue is attributed to, hope; it ranks with faith and love.
I. THE OBJECTS OF THE CHRISTIAN'S HOPE.
1. God himself; his favour and fellowship. "Hope thou in God' is the admonition given, to which the suitable response is, "My hope is in thee." Hope in God is distinguished from hope in man, in being always secure.
2. Especially God in Christ, who is spoken of as the "Lord Jesus Christ, our Hope." We are enjoined to "hope in Christ;" and his character and promises justify compliance with such injunction.
3. To particularize, the object of hope is stated to be Christ's future appearance; the Christian looks for "the blessed hope, the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ." Has not our Lord expressly said, "I will come again"? Now, "he that hath this hope, purifieth himself."
4. The Christian's hope extends both to the future of this life and to immortal blessedness. This earthly existence is brightened by the prospects opened up to us of Divine aid and guidance, protection and comfort; and such hope is fitted to strengthen and to cheer. Whilst Christianity is especially distinct and emphatic in its revelation of the glories of the future state; telling of the "hope of eternal life," "the hope laid up in heaven," and imparting a "living hope of an inheritance."
II. THE GROUNDS OF THE CHRISTIAN'S HOPE.
1. The promise of God. Here is a sure and stable foundation which it would be folly and sin to distrust. "I hope," is the godly man's exclamation, "in thy Word." His is the "hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before the world began." In giving us his revelation, the design of infinite love was that we, "through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope."
2. The teaching of the Holy Spirit. He is the Inspirer of all good. affections and desires; one purpose of his bestowal upon Christians being that they "might abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost."
3. Our experience of the Lord's faithfulness. "Experience worketh hope." It is not a matter of conjecture on the part of Christ's people whether or not the promises of God will be fulfilled; they have already been fulfilled in such measure as to justify our hope concerning the future. Ours is a hope which "maketh not ashamed," which will not disappoint those who cleave to it.
III. THE FRUITS OF THE CHRISTIAN'S HOPE.
1. Calmness and confidence of disposition. In this, hope is as "an anchor unto the soul;" for whilst fear disturbs, hope pacifies.
2. Cheerfulness and joy. They are bright and glad who have something to which they can look forward, even when the present is cheerless and discouraging. Such is the case with Christians, who "rejoice in hope." "Happy is he whose hope is in the Lord his God."
3. Spirituality and purity of heart and life. The purifying power of hope is especially described by St. John; it is by its influence that Christians are meetened for their inheritance.
4. Patience and endurance. In this respect hope is as a helmet to the soul. "If we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it." The Thessalonians were commended by St. Paul for their "patience of hope."
5. Salvation. This is the ultimate aim, issue, and end. The hope of the Christian shall at last be realized, when he shall be delivered from the bondage of the body, the harassing of temptation, the wounds of sorrow, the pressure of sin.
Perplexity and mystery are part of the experience to be shared by all reflecting men. The world, and especially human life, furnish enigmas which the understanding cannot solve, which can only be dealt with by the higher principle of faith. The groans of creation mingle with the groans of men, and the discerning mind detects also the groaning of the Spirit. But, above all, is a harmony which overcomes and silences earth's discords. The apostle heard this harmony, and summoned his disciples to recognize the operations of that providence which constrains all things to work together for good.
I. THE PRINCIPLE PROPOUNDED.
1. There is purpose in all things. Modern teleology lays less stress upon the traces of intention and design in individual instances, in organs and organisms, than upon the striking evidence of purpose manifest upon the largest scale, in the vast arrangements and adaptations, in the wonderful chemical and mathematical laws which pervade the whole universe. The more the universe, as accessible to our observation, is studied, the more will it appear a system. Signs of order, of adaptation, of prearrangement, are obvious to every careful student. There is nothing too great, nothing too small, to illustrate the presence of mind. Human life is not exempt from the tokens of Divine foresight and adaptation.
"There's a Divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will."
It is a mistake to suppose that the establishment of the reign of law, of physical causation, conflicts with the operation of purpose; that evolution and design are in any way opposed.
2. The purpose which may be detected in all things is a good purpose. A moral aim is discoverable throughout the universe, and emphatically in human life. All things work together, not indeed for the promotion of pleasure, but for moral good—the highest and worthiest of all aims. This conviction is the key to many difficulties by which observant and reflecting minds have been distressed.
3. This moral purpose is secured so far as spiritual beings voluntarily conform to God's will. As a matter of fact, the order of things does not actually secure the good of all beings; many will not receive the benefits which nature and life are intended to convey. But Christians who love God, and who respond to his call in Christ's gospel, do really reap advantages to which others are strangers. These are the obedient, who are attentive to the Divine summons and accomplish the Divine purpose. For these all circumstances are ordained and overruled, that they may minister to the true well-being of God's people.
II. THE WORKING OF THE PRINCIPLE ILLUSTRATED.
1. Men's circumstances may contribute to their true well-being. Thus poverty may be as spiritually serviceable to those who experience it as competence or wealth; obscurity as honour, etc.
2. Men's own more personal experience is also overruled by God's providence for their highest good. Thus even doubts of intellect, and sorrows of heart—two of the most painful forms of moral discipline—are both, as a matter of fact, caused to subserve purposes of supreme value in the development of character and in the acquisition of influence.
III. PRACTICAL LESSONS DRAWN FROM A CONSIDERATION OF THIS PRINCIPLE.
1. The Christian may learn to avoid murmuring, when he remembers that even untoward circumstances are intended to work out his highest good. Such a conviction casts a new light upon daily experiences; and what otherwise might be regarded as annoyances, calling forth resentment, are now looked upon as ministrations of Divine love and mercy.
2. The Christian may seek to profit by all God's providential dealings. It is the spirit in which these are received which determines whether or not they shall be means of blessing; and the proper spirit is one of submission and teachableness.
3. The Christian will cherish the expectation that the day will come when, looking back upon the path by which he has been led, and the discipline through which he has passed, he shall be able gratefully to acknowledge that God "hath done all things well."
The Gift which implies all gifts.
One very desirable habit of Christian experience is the habit of connecting all spiritual privileges and all providential favours with the supreme Gift which God has conferred upon us in the bestowal of his own Son. It is this habit which the apostle encourages by the appeal of the text.
I. THE ONE GIFT GOD ONCE GAVE.
1. The Person given was his own Son—the Only Begotten, the Well-beloved.
2. The sacrifice on the part of the Giver involved in the Gift. The use of the word "spared" implies "withheld" not, which suggests that the Divine heart felt the sacrifice and surrender, yet that its pity devised it and consented to it as the greatest revelation of the nature of Deity.
3. The Gift was more than a gift; it was a delivering up, i.e. to earth, to the society of sinners, with the knowledge that he who was thus surrendered would meet with misunderstanding and misrepresentation, would be maligned and insulted, rejected and persecuted, cruelly abused, and unjustly slain.
4. The Gift was intended for all; not for a select few, but for Jews and Gentiles alike, for sinners of every grade, of every nation.
II. THE MANY GIFTS GOD IS ALWAYS GIVING.
1. Every possession and privilege is, in fact, the gift of God; all "come down from above." However we may forget that we are needy and dependent recipients, the truth is that we have nothing which we have not received.
2. Spiritual gifts are chiefly intended, such as are so fully enumerated and characterized in this chapter; spiritual life in all its stages, from deliverance from condemnation, on to eternal, inseparable fellowship with Christ.
3. Yet, without question, temporal gifts are included. Of these we sometimes say they come through natural law; and this is so. Yet we, in so speaking of them, only describe the process, whilst the origin is in God alone.
4. These gifts are bountifully and generously bestowed. God bestows munificently as a King, tenderly as a Father; and we receive without any possibility of rendering repayment or recompense.
III. THE INCLUSION OF THE MANY GIFTS IN THE ONE.
1. A doctrinal explanation of the inclusion here affirmed. The greater includes the less; and, as Christ is the unspeakable Gift, his bestowal involves all other evidences of Divine generosity. The power which can give one, can give all; the disposition which could plan the one, can bestow all; and the mediation and advocacy of Christ are such that they are to be regarded as the channels by which the bounty of the Eternal flows copiously into human hearts and lives.
2. A practical explanation. Dwell upon the wonderful, significant, and precious phrase here employed by the apostle, "with him!" "With him" God gives his people pardon for their sins, a perfect model of goodness, a higher conception of human virtue, a powerful motive of obedience, a holy bond of brotherhood, a bright hope of everlasting life. As a matter of practical experience, this is so in the history alike of individual Christians and of the world.
Spiritual victory. It is not every good cause which, as far as we can see upon earth, when opposed with human hostility, prospers and triumphs, at once, manifestly, and for ever. This only proves that Providence takes a wider view than is possible to us, and has purposes extending far beyond this world. But the one great cause of moral goodness, the cause of Christ, is always really victorious. The warfare is just, the weapons sound, the Captain skilful, and victory certain.
I. WHAT CONSTITUTES THE CHRISTIAN'S VICTORY. In the first age the conflict was to a large extent with open persecution. Jesus himself endured "the contradiction of sinners," and warned his apostles to expect the same. In our time there is indeed persecution for Christ's sake to be endured, both open and secret; but perhaps the dangers now to be dreaded are those of prosperity rather than of adversity. Pure Christianity has to combat scepticism, materialism, the self-indulgent habits of the age. Pure Christianity has to be upon its guard against superstitious views and habits, and mere outward compliance with public opinion. Such influences openly or insidiously threaten the religious life, especially of the young and the unwary. Hence the necessity of watchfulness, of preparation, of the Divine panoply, of courage and endurance. For the promise is to "him that overcometh," and the true soldier is ever the true conqueror.
II. WHAT ENHANCES THE CHRISTIAN'S VICTORY. Christians are assured that they shall be "more than conquerors"—exceeding or triumphant conquerors.
1. The severity of the conflict. This is evidenced by the admitted power of the enemy and the variety of his attacks, by the number who in the past have been defeated by the foe of Christ, by the defection of many faint-hearted or disloyal combatants, and by the protraction of the conflict.
2. In contrast with all this has to be considered the thoroughness of the conquest. This is evidenced by the magnificence of the reward to the victors, by the vast number of those who shall share the honours of the victory, and by the glory and perpetuity of the triumph which shall follow.
III. WHAT SECURES THE CHRISTIAN'S VICTORY. At first there may appear to be some incongruity in the expression, "more than conquerors through him that loved us." Yet upon reflection it will appear that he must indeed have loved us, to mingle in such a fray and to lead his soldiers and followers even unto his own death. And the teaching alike of Scripture and of individual experience assures us
HOMILIES BY C.H. IRWIN
The judgment-day, and how to prepare for it.
The apostle speaks much in the language of the Law. He himself was not only acquainted with the useful handicraft of tent-making or sail-making, but he was also trained in the profession of the Law—brought up at the feet of Gamaliel. He had a considerable acquaintance, too, with the practice of the law-courts. From the brief references in the Acts of the Apostles to his personal history before his conversion, it would appear as if previous to that time he had been engaged as a public prosecutor of the Christians. After he became a Christian, he was frequently called upon, for Christ's sake, to appear at the bar of Jewish and Roman courts of justice. On his first missionary visit to Europe he was dragged before the magistrates at Philippi, and again before Gallio at Corinth. Then, again, he stood before the Jewish council at Jerusalem; before Felix, Festus. and Agrippa at Caesarea; and, finally, before Nero himself at Rome. On the present occasion he is writing to residents at Rome. Rome at the time was the metropolis of the world, the centre of the world's legislation. To stand at Caesar's judgment-seat was to stand before the highest earthly authority then in existence, and to be tried by the greatest code of laws which, with the exception of British law, the world has ever known. The laws of the XII. Tables, as they were called, which were the basis of all the Roman laws, were engraved upon twelve tables of brass, and set up in the comitium, or public meeting-place, so that every one might be able to read them. Every educated Roman youth learned by heart these XII. Tables. It was to a people thus familiar with the ideas and the practice of courts of justice that Paul, himself a well-trained lawyer, was writing. He keeps before their minds and his own the thought that there is a higher than all human authority; that there is a judgment-seat more terrible than that of Caesar; and that the great concern of every human being is how he or she shall fare in that great day of reckoning—that day which bulks so largely in St. Paul's mind, which stands out so prominently before his mental vision, that he constantly speaks of it as "that day." It is an important subject, how to prepare for meeting God in the judgment.
I. THE PREPARATION OF THE CHRISTIAN. The apostle speaks of the Christian as being prepared for a judgment-day. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." That day needs a preparation. "For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." The thought of that judgment makes strong men tremble. Felix trembled as Paul the prisoner reasoned with him of righteousness, temperance, and the judgment to come. It is that dread of something after death that makes the murderer's sleep so restless, and that makes the dishonest man's gains like a weight of lead upon his mind. Conscience does, indeed, make cowards of us all. The Christian recognizes that there is a terror in the judgment, as Paul did when he spoke of "the terror of the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:11); but the judgment brings no terror to him. He knows that he too will be judged according to his deeds, that the fire will try every man's work of what sort it is, and, therefore, he will realize his responsibilities and privileges. But he knows that one thing is certain, and that is that he is safe from condemnation. He carries his pardon in his hand. The Christian's confidence comes from the very Judge himself who sits upon the throne. That Judge is Jesus Christ himself. But before he would sit to judge men, he came into the world to die for them as their Saviour. To every one who receives him and accepts his salvation he gives the white stone (Revelation 2:17), the token of acceptance and pardon. He becomes their High Priest, their Advocate with the Father. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." In Christ! What a sense of security that brings with it! In Christ! Not till we stand before the great white throne, and our names are found written in the Lamb's book of life, shall we fully realize what that means. In Christ! That was Paul's great wish for himself. "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him." In Christ! Yes. Jesus is the Ark, into which we may betake ourselves from the dangers of temptation and destruction. He is the City of Refuge, to which we may flee from death, the avenger of blood. He is the sure Foundation, on which we may build with perfect confidence all our hopes for eternity. He is the Rock, in the clefts of which we may hide ourselves, and feel that all that concerns us is safe. Your pledge of safety at the judgment-day is the character and promise of the Judge himself. "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day"' Let it not be said that this confidence leads to carelessness; that because we are delivered from condemnation, therefore it does not matter how we live. The verses which follow the declaration that there is no condemnation are the answer to this suggestion. "God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." (verses 3, 4). No true Christian ever thought or acted as if, because he was delivered from condemnation, he was thenceforth free to commit sin. If we are Christ's, we have no longer a guilty fear of death and condemnation, but we have a filial fear that shrinks from offending and grieving our heavenly Father. We are constrained by the love of Christ in our hearts to love what he loves, and to hate what he hates. We are constrained by a feeling of gratitude. We have been bought with a price; therefore we will strive to glorify God in our bodies and spirits, which are his. We have the hope of heaven in our hearts; and therefore we seek to walk worthy of our high calling, to purify ourselves, to keep ourselves unspotted from the world. So far from being a motive to carelessness, the Christian's safety in Christ is the grandest motive to holiness and usefulness of life.
II. THE PREPARATION OF THE CHRISTLESS. At the judgment-day there will be just two classes—those whose names are found written in the Lamb's book of life, and those whose names are not there; the Christian and the Christless; those who are "in Christ," and those who are not. Many are relying upon their moral life, though it may be utterly worldly and godless, as their hope for eternity. But whatever human expectations may be, God's Word makes it very plain how it will fare on the judgment-day with all who are out of Christ. It is not the fault of God the Father. He so loved the world that he gave his own Son for our salvation. It is not the fault of the Son. Christ says, "I am come that ye might have life." It is not the fault of the Spirit, who is constantly striving with us. If Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, surely it is clear that there is no salvation in any other. "He that believeth on him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the Name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18).—C.H.I.
The privileges and responsibilities of the children of God.
The apostle in these verses makes a high claim for believers—the claim of being children of God. In this eighth chapter he unfolds, as in a panoramic view, the whole plan of salvation. He begins with the idea that those who are in Christ Jesus are delivered from condemnation. But salvation is something more than that. It means sonship also. And step by step, verse by verse, the apostle advances, at each step unfolding some fresh view of the Christian's privileges, till at last, as he surveys the whole field of sin and sorrow, of joy and suffering, of trials and temptations, of time and eternity, he grows stronger in the confidence of his sonship, and exclaims, "For! am persuaded, that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
I. THE PRIVILEGES OF THE CHILDREN OF GOD.
1. God is their Father. They can say that in a special and spiritual sense. In one sense all human beings are the offspring of God. We are all the creatures of his hand, and are dependent continually upon his bountiful care. But sin has come in and separated us from him. It has made us prone to disobey rather than to fulfil our Father's commands. Jesus came into this world that he might bring us back again into the relationship of God's spiritual children. He became a child of humanity that we might become children of God. He became "sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." All who believe on him are born again. They are by creation God's children; now they are his by a spiritual birth. Now they receive "the Spirit of adoption, whereby they cry, Abba, Father" (Romans 8:15). Oh, the greatness of our heavenly Father's love! He has not cast us off. He has sent his own Son to bring us back, to restore his image in our hearts, and by-and-by to have us sit down with him in his everlasting kingdom.
2. Jesus Christ is their elder Brother. "If children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:17). The inheritance which Christ has we have, if by receiving him we become children of God. It is almost too great a privilege to conceive, but it is plainly revealed to us by God. If we are Christ's, all things are ours; for we are Christ's, and Christ is God's. Christ's own prayer was, "Father, I will that those whom thou hast given me be with me where I am." And then there is a family likeness between the children of God by adoption and their elder Brother. If children of some humble rank were adopted into a noble or royal family, there would be a great dissimilarity between them and the children of that family. There would not be community of feeling. It seems a wonderful thing that we, poor, weak, sinful creatures, should be adopted into the family of God, and made the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. How can there be any likeness between us and him? But God has provided for this. Those are remarkable words, "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the Firstborn among many brethren" (Romans 8:29). Thus God has provided that as we are to be the brethren of Christ, we shall be like him. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him: for we shall see him as he is." This likeness to Christ is a gradual growth. It is the development of the Christian character. It is not in the infant lying in the cradle that much likeness to its parent can be detected. But as the body matures, as the features become more marked, as the individuality of character begins to show itself, then we see the likeness, and we say, He is his father's son, She is her mother's daughter. Those beautiful statues of the Louvre or of Florence, which are the admiration of the world, did not spring by magic from the sculptor's hands. He had his ideal. He had his plan. With that ideal before him, he took the rough material, and on it he gradually worked out his plans. He first modelled his figure in clay, and then took the rough, shapeless mass of marble, in which no one could see any traces of the future statue's loveliness or symmetry of form. But the sculptor's love for his work, the skill of his hand, the patience and perseverance of his mind, the hammer and chisel which he wielded, slowly but surely accomplished his purpose, until at last the statue stood forth in all its beauty. So God has his ideal for the Christian—likeness to Christ, the image of his Son. He has his plan, the plan of redemption, of sanctification. With that ideal before him he takes our human nature, and, by the slow and sometimes painful discipline of Christian experience, he develops the Christian character, until at last the believer is found meet to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light.
3. The Spirit of God is their Helper. There are three ways mentioned by the apostle in which the Spirit helps us.
4. Heaven is their home. "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18). While enjoying the fellowship of our earthly homes, let us think of the better home on high, the only home that shall never be broken up.
II. THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE CHILDREN OF GOD. They are summed up in the apostle's brief words, "Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh" (Romans 8:12). "If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live" (Romans 8:13). We are to remember that we are debtors. We are to reflect how much we owe. We are to realize God's claims upon us. We are to think of the claims of that heavenly Father who has condescended to adopt us as his children, and who is constantly caring for us. We are to think of the claims of that loving Saviour who gave himself for us. We are to think of the claims of that Spirit who has quickened us from the dead, who has been enlightening our minds, and who is renewing us after the image of God.
"All that I am, e'en here on earth,
All that I hope to be
When Jesus comes, and glory dawns,
I owe it, Lord, to thee."
God's mingled providences.
"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God." This was a remarkable statement for the Apostle Paul to make, especially when we consider how much he had suffered because of his love to God and his truth. He had been imprisoned, he had been stoned, he had been beaten with stripes; and yet, after all this, he is able to say that "all things work together for good to them that love God." Some might be disposed to doubt such a statement with regard to the experience even of the Christian. Yet many others besides Paul have borne similar testimony. David said, "I have been young, and now am old; yet never have I seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread" (Psalms 37:25). And again, "Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now have I kept thy Word It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes" (Psalms 119:67, Psalms 119:71).
I. THERE IS GOOD IN ALL THE PROVIDENCES OF GOD. Many persons think there is good only in those things that give pleasure or delight to body or mind. They will admit that there is good in health and prosperity, But they find it hard to see what good there can be in sickness, in adversity, in poverty, or in sorrow. The apostle takes a wider view of life's experiences. He holds that "all things work together for good." He could appreciate the joys of life, but he felt that there was a wise purpose and blessing in life's sorrows and trials also. Our human nature is in itself unholy, alienated from God, easily absorbed by the influences of this present world, and easily led away by temptation and sin. What a proof of the ungodliness of man's nature is afforded by the fact that many are as little affected by the most certain and most important religious truths, which they profess to believe in, as if they did not believe them at all! There are no truths more universally admitted than the existence and moral government of God, the certainty of death and of a future state of rewards and punishments. Yet how many do we see around us whose character and conduct afford almost no evidence that they believe in these truths at all! How, then, are men to be roused from their indifference? How are they to be led to think seriously of their own souls and that eternity that awaits them? Some might be disposed to answer—By what we ordinarily call exhibitions of God's love and goodness. But we are having exhibitions of God's love and goodness supplied to us every day in our daily food, in health and strength, and all the other blessings and comforts which we enjoy. Yet these, instead of making men think of eternity, seem to make them think more of this present world. God's goodness, instead of leading them to repentance, hardens their hearts. The discipline and awakening of suffering and trial are needed. These trials, breaking in upon the routine of our daily business and enjoyments, help to withdraw our desires from the things of this perishing world, and to fix them upon a more enduring substance. They remind us that this is not our rest; that we are entirely dependent upon a power that is above us for all our happiness and comforts; and that there is indeed a God that judgeth in the earth. There is nothing more calculated to show a man his own weakness and his dependence upon a higher Power, and to lead him to reflect seriously upon his future prospects, than to find himself, in the midst of important and perhaps pressing duties, suddenly laid aside, stretched upon a bed of sickness, racked, it may be, with pain, and unable to do anything for himself. In such circumstances we must feel that "it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." There are many Christians everywhere who, with feelings of deep humility and gratitude, are ready to acknowledge that they never had any serious thought of eternity, that they never knew the power of the love of Christ, and that they were never led to seek him as their Saviour, until the day of adversity made them consider; until they were stripped of their dearest possessions; until they were warned by the sudden death of some one who was dear to them; or until they themselves were laid upon a bed of sickness, and brought nigh unto the gates of death. "Lo, all these things worketh God oftentimes with men, to bring back his soul from the pit, to be enlightened with the light of the living" (Job 33:29, Job 33:30). And through all the Christian life, how many times we have to thank God for the discipline of trial! Our trials have often proved to be our greatest blessings (see also on Romans 5:3-6).
II. WHO ARE THOSE THAT EXPERIENCE THIS GOOD IN ALL GOD'S PROVIDENCES? "All things work together for good to them that love God." It is not all men, therefore, who are entitled to such a happy way of looking at the events of life. There are many in whose case everything that God gives them seems to be turned into evil. Not merely the trials which harden their hearts, but also his blessings which they abuse and are ungrateful for, and the life he gives them, which they misspend. The more they have prospered, the more they have forgotten God. Those things that might be a blessing if rightly used, become their greatest curse. Love to God is the quality that makes all life happy and blessed. Love to God sweetens every bitter cup, and lightens every heavy burden. For if we love him, we must know him, we must trust him. That is the threefold cord that binds the Christian unto God, and that keeps him safe in all the changes and circumstances of life. In order to love God, we must know him and trust him. This knowledge and this trust can only come by the study of God's Word. This love can only come from a heart that has experienced the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. The natural man is enmity against God. Cultivate the love of God if you would have light for the dark places of life, if you would have strength for its hours of weakness, and comfort for its hours of trial and sorrow. Then you will experience that "all things work together for good to them that love God."—C.H.I.
The uncertainties and certainties of a new year: a new year's sermon.
St. Paul was no narrow dogmatist. He was a man of profound sympathy and charity even for those from whom he differed. Yet there are some strong assertions in his writings. Nowadays it is almost considered a virtue to be in doubt, and a rash presumption to be sure of anything. In the revolt from superstition, men have gone into an unbelief that almost amounts to a superstition in itself. There was no superstition about St. Paul. He was a man of thoughtful mind, of wise judgment. But he did not think it either presumption or dogmatism to be firmly persuaded and convinced of certain things. It is no dogmatism to assert that the sun is shining, when its warm bright rays are flashing down upon us and around us. It is no dogmatism to assert the existence of frost, when the earth grows hard beneath its grasp, and we feel its icy breath upon our faces and in our throats. With all the uncertainties and unrealities of life, there is such a thing as certainty and truth. To St. Paul the love of Christ was such a certainty. He had felt it, not as the frost, but as the warm sunshine in his heart. He had yielded himself to its influence, till it became to him what the steam is to the steam-engine, till he could say, "The love of Christ constraineth me;" or again, "I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." There are few finer or more complete pictures of that love and its power than this eighth chapter of Romans presents to us. Here St. Paul shows us the Christian, under the influence of that love, gaining the victory over sin and temptation, glorying in tribulation, receiving the Spirit of adoption, standing fearlessly before the judgment-seat in the irresistible conviction that he is a child of God, shielded and strengthened by the love of Christ; and, as he gazes from point to point, from time to eternity, and sees the Christian secure and safe at every point, his conviction, his rapture, increase in intensity till they carry him away in that grand outburst, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?… For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Here are the uncertainties and the certainties of life contrasted.
I. THE UNCERTAINTIES OF A NEW YEAR.
1. The new year may be a time of prosperity. If it is God's will to give us worldly prosperity and wealth, let us pray for grace and wisdom to use them aright. Prosperity has its dangers. It comes in as a separating barrier between the soul and God. Our Saviour, in one of his parables, speaks of the deceitfulness of riches, and tells us that, along with the cares of this world, it is like thorns that choke the good seed of Divine truth, so that it becomes unfruitful. Let not riches "separate us from the love of Christ."
2. The new year may be a time of trial. St. Paul felt convinced that no trials could separate him from that wondrous love. "Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?… Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us" (verses 35, 37). No trial, or the prospect of it, brings dismay or terror to the apostle's heart.
"Come one, come all! this rock shall fly
From its firm base as soon as I."
Conquerors! Yes, and more than conquerors of our trials! We do more than vanquish them. We turn them, or rather the love of Christ turns them for us, into our friends. So Paul found it in his experience. So did many a child of God. Martin Luther was sent to prison in the Wartburg, apparently a heavy blow to himself and his friends, and the cause of the Reformation. But the love of Christ was stronger than the castle walls. They could not keep Christ out. Luther was more than conqueror. He not only endured his imprisonment, but while he was a prisoner he translated the Scriptures into that great German version of his, and wrote besides some of his great commentaries. The walls of Bedford Jail could not separate John Bunyan from the love of Christ, and during his imprisonment for conscience' sake he wrote that matchless allegory, 'The Pilgrim's Progress.' Samuel Rutherford, a prisoner in Aberdeen Castle, wrote his beautiful 'Letters,' of which Richard Baxter said that, after the Bible, such a book the world never saw. All of these were more than conquerors through him that loved them. Whatever trials we may meet with, there is the great certainty of the love of Christ. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? If God be for us, who can be against us?" (verse 31). We may lose our earthly friends, but Jesus remains—the Friend that sticketh closer than a brother.
3. The new year may be to some of us a year of death. Philip Henry, father of Matthew Henry the commentator, used frequently to pray this prayer, "Fit us to leave or to be left." Whatever uncertainty we may feel about the earthly lot that is in store for us, whether our days may be many or few, let us make sure that we are clinging to the cross of Jesus, and then we have a safety and a security which no trials can ever shake.
II. THE CERTAINTIES OF A NEW YEAR. While there is much that is uncertain about each new year, there is much also that we may with confidence expect.
1. The new year will be a time of opportunities. This is as certain as that the sun will shine, and the seasons come, and the ocean ebb and flow. Every day will bring to each of us its opportunities. Opportunities save souls. John Williams, a careless young man, was persuaded by a friend to go one sabbath evening to a place of worship, and there he heard a sermon on the words, "What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" That opportunity, availed of, saved his soul and led him to decide for Christ, and he became the famous missionary and martyr of Erromanga. Had he refused that invitation, rejected that opportunity, a similar opportunity might never have returned. Opportunities test character. Some one has said that "opportunities are importunities." Every opportunity appeals to us. It appeals to us to avail ourselves of it, to show what side we are on, to make our choice for time and eternity. Abraham had his opportunity when the call came to him to leave his father's house, and he used it well. It showed him to be a man of faith, a man who would do God's bidding at any cost. Joseph, Joshua, Daniel—each of these had his opportunity, and well he used it. Herod had his opportunity, and seemed to be impressed by the preaching of John the Baptist, for "he did many things, and heard him gladly;" but when the critical and testing opportunity came of making his choice, of choosing good rather than evil, he lost it. So it was with Felix and Agrippa. But let our life be dominated by the constraining influence of the love of Christ, and then the opportunities which the passing hours are sure to bring will only show more and more clearly that we are on the Lord's side.
2. The new year will be a time of duties. It is well to begin the year with a high sense of our obligations and responsibilities. Duties are a certainty which every day brings with it. There are the duties of daffy prayer and daily thanksgiving to God; the duties of parents to their children, of employers to their servants, of all Christians to those who are around them. Here, again, let every duty be discharged in the spirit of love to Christ, and there will be no uncertainty about our faithfulness. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?"—C.H.I.
HOMILIES BY T.F. LOCKYER
What the Law could not do.
The perpetual conscience-cry that rings through all the struggles of Romans 7:1-25. is, "Condemnation!" But "to them that are in Christ Jesus"? "No condemnation now!" The heavens smile, the earth is glad. All things are made new. Such is the opening note of this eighth chapter; a sweet song of joy in place of the old cry of despair. And we have here following—God's work in Christ; Christ's work in us.
I. GOD'S WORK IN CHRIST. The great work referred to here is the practical condemnation of sin. And it is set forth, in regard to Christ and in regard to ourselves, negatively and positively.
1. Negatively, by contrast with the impotence of mere Law: "What the Law could not do." The Law of God, whether inwardly in conscience, or outwardly as through Moses, sufficiently condemns sin theoretically; but practically?—"weak through the flesh." All this has been emphatically demonstrated in the previous chapter: "I delight in the Law of God after the inward man; but I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind," etc. (Romans 7:22, Romans 7:23). The flesh dominates, and there is no power to render effectual the better aspirations.
2. Positively, in the holy, loving life of Christ: "God, sending his own Son," etc. He came into the realms of sin, and wearing the nature which sin had weakened and destroyed, but resolutely resisting sin's power, defying sin's assaults. "The flesh in him was like a door constantly open to the temptations both of pleasure and pain; and yet he constantly refused sin any entrance into his will and action. By this persevering and absolute exclusion he declared it evil and unworthy of existing in humanity "(Godet). Yes; God in Christ "condemned sin in the flesh," by practically casting it out from that humanity. Casting it out? nay, it was not suffered to intrude. The history of the temptation, and of the last agony, is the emphatic illustration of these words.
II. CHRIST'S WORK IN US. In Christ, then, there is a practical and immediate condemnation of sin, by its utter exclusion from his life. But is there not in this a pledge of the like condemnation in those who are joined to him by faith? And is not this pledge fulfilled to those who are in Christ Jesus "When we see the king's son enter the revolted province without opposition, and know that he has come because or the revolt, we are sure that the king is both able and determined to overthrow the rule of the usurper" (Beet). And in us who believe, and who therefore "walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit," the usurper is dethroned, and "the ordinance of the Law" is "fulfilled."
1. Negatively, or "after the flesh." to "mind the things of the flesh." As above, our state by nature is one of bondage to "the flesh;" the lower impulses master us. And though the aspirations of the spirit may be quickened, yet we sigh vainly for freedom and strength. We do but realize the more bitterly our bondage to sin. How shall the bondage be destroyed? "Through Jesus Christ our Lord." He has broken the condemnation of the past by the offering of himself, once for all; he destroys our present captivity by the incoming of his Spirit, received by faith in that same sacrificial love. Thus the aspirations are realized by this blessed inspiration.
2. Positively. "After the Spirit," to "mind the things of the Spirit:" Christ, who conquered for us, conquers in us. we are joined to him, and "he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit" (1 Corinthians 6:17). Thus "we are transformed into the same image," and "walk even as he walked." Now, then, we more than realize our first estate; our manhood is redeemed; "the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" makes us "free." Our service is the glad, spontaneous service of sonship; we are not commanded to an impossible obedience from without, but animated by the impulse of a boundless love within; and this love, with the free obedience which it begets, is nourished and strengthened evermore by our fellowship with God in Christ. "Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honourable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report" we "think on these things;" and "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, guards our hearts and our thoughts in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7, Philippians 4:8).
The one supreme question for us is—Are we in Christ? If so, the determining element of our life is new, all things are new. But if not, we abide in death I And how shall Christ be received? By simplest faith. He offers himself freely, we are to receive him freely. Believe! yes, believe with the heart in all his boundless love, and live by it.—T.F.L.
The flesh and the Spirit.
Being free from sin in Christ Jesus, we are also free from its results—condemnation and death; or rather—for the result is one—the death, of which condemnation is but one aspect.
I. THE MIND OF THE FLESH. In a state of sin, as in a state of holiness, there is activity, though the activity be abnormal. The "flesh," equally with the "spirit;" has its "mind," i.e. its purpose, its aspiration; an activity which tends to a goal. And what is the dread goal to which the activity of sin must lead? Death! Yes, "the mind of the flesh is death;" this is as surely the result of such a perverse activity of our nature as though it were consciously designed and sought after. What is death, to such a one as man? The complete separation of the soul from God! And how is such death wrought by the "mind of the flesh"? By the reciprocal hostility between sin and God, which must work an utter mutual exclusion.
1. Sin's hostility to God. (Romans 8:7.) The very essence of sin is rebellion against the Divine authority. The "flesh," viz. all the lower desires and passions of man's nature, broken loose from their proper governance, together with the more spiritual faculties which have been dragged down by the riotous animal impulses into a kindred perversion and anarchy—the flesh is "enmity against God." And, this being so, man's very sin, by its own action, shuts out God. Oh, what a suicide is here! For, with God, all good must ultimately be gone. The rebel rioters bar every avenue to shut out God; they darken the windows that the light of heaven may not shine; they exclude every breath of life and liberty.
2. God's hostility to sin. (Romans 8:8.) But God is not a mere passive influence, whose exclusion from sinful man is determined solely by the express action of man's sin itself. God is a Spirit! Yes, no mere influence, but a living Person; a living Will! And God were no God, if he were not a holy God; and, being holy, ever hostile to all sin. It must be so. And therefore, when man erects his own rebellious will against his Maker, God's presence is not merely shut Out from the soul by sin, but God in grief—yea, and in wrath, in holy wrath—withdraws himself. "They that are in the flesh cannot please God." So, then, on these two grounds, "the mind of the flesh is death." Both by the repugnant action of sin to God, and by the repugnant action of God to sin, all the favour and love and life of God are banished from the heart.
II. THE MIND OF THE SPIRIT. But if the inevitable result, and in some sense the conscious choice, of sin is the loss of God, what is the result of the true and right activity of the renewed nature, when the "spirit" is inspired by the Spirit of God, and restored to its proper ascendancy over the "flesh"? "The mind of the spirit is life and peace:" this is the necessary result; this is the result which is consciously sought after and desired. What is this life? The perfect possession and enjoyment of God, and of all good in God. And how is it wrought by the "mind of the spirit"? As in the former case, by the reciprocal action between the renewed spirit and God; though here, not reciprocal enmity, but reciprocal love.
1. The craving for God. "The spirit thirsts for life in God, which is its element, and sacrifices everything to succeed in enjoying it perfectly" (Godet). This is the very essence of the new life, as of all true spiritual life, a desire for God (see the Psalms, passim). And, by the appropriating power of faith, the spirit possesses itself of that which it desires. It hungers, and is fed.
2. The response of God. As above, God is not a mere atmosphere to be breathed, but a living God to give or withhold himself. And just as he withdraws in holy wrath from sinful man, so he imparts himself in gracious love to the humble, believing soul (see John 14:17, passim). So then "the mind of the spirit is life"—life which consists in the full possession of God, and, with him, of peace, joy, strength, and perfect liberty. Yes, "this is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3).
Which shall be our portion, our destiny? Life? or death? We answer, practically, by living according to the flesh or the spirit. But this latter is possible only in one way: does the Spirit of God dwell in us?—T.F.L.
The Spirit of Christ.
Let us resume a little. The "flesh" and the "spirit," as elements of man's complex nature. Latter controlling power, itself God-controlled. There was to be a supreme and established domination of spirit over flesh, according to God's design. But reverse took place; spirit sunk in flesh. But God's Spirit has not forsaken the spirit of man. Cannot reassert its own supremacy, but his help is nigh. For though he cannot enter into fellowship with sinful man, and if man persist in sin must ultimately withdraw altogether, yet now he seeks to save. And so the dualism of man's own nature, which is hopeless, gives way to this higher and better dualism, which is essentially full of hope. God's contact with man is in conscience; man's appropriation of God is in Christ. Hence a true faith in Christ is inevitably followed by the reigning influence of Christ's Spirit in the heart. The true, attractive doctrine of the Spirit: not a something antagonistic to everything that is human, but a sweetly moulding and formative influence towards all that is truly, divinely human, all that is noble and pure and good. A Liberator from bondage—a bondage which all feel—and One who lifts us from the murky mists of self and sin into a tranquil, sunny air. The true sign of true conversion—as we have already seen. But a danger of the mystical fostering of some supposed interior life of ecstasy and transport, to the great detriment of a sober, useful godliness, and even perhaps to the disparagement of a careful, conscientious righteousness. Therefore the text needs to be interpreted in such a way as to check and prevent such perversion. And it may well be. Christ's Spirit was certainly the Informer and Moulder of his human life of humiliation, as it is the effluence now of his Divine-human life of glorification. And as he informed and moulded his human life, in the flesh, so he will inform and mould our human life likewise. Therefore, to know whether we have Christ's Spirit, we have but to inquire whether we reflect Christ's character. And so our Lord's words will have their application, "By their fruits ye shall know them." That character, then, the test. But the manifoldness of that perfect character makes delineation impossible, in detail. Let us content ourselves now with the contemplation of two generic qualities of character, as illustrated in him, which spring from the inspiring Spirit of God. For the rest, we all must make comparison continually. We may consider, then, his intense godliness, and intense humanness.
I. INTENSE GODLINESS. The quarrel of Christianity with the mere ethicists of the day. Depths of man's nature; its heights. The two relationships, towards God and towards man; and shall that higher one be disregarded? Let us look at the elements of Christ's godliness.
1. Conscious contact with God. The "angels ascending and descending;" "the Son of man which is in heaven." The baptism; the Mount of Transfiguration. We want this contact with God. A present God, face to face, heart to heart, breath to breath. This the inspiring power of a godly, righteous, and sober life. And this everywhere, and always. Meetings and means are but to express, and in turn to foster. But the real presence should be a constant factor of our life; everywhere heaven about us.
2. Complete obedience to God. The temptation, and the agony. A spotless life the sequel of the former; a patiently submissive life the precursor of the latter. So, "Thy will be done" must be the motto of our life. Not in one narrow sense; for activity as well as passivity. "I do always those things that please him :" shall not we seek to say that?
3. Enthusiastic devotion for God. From "Wist ye not," etc.? (Luke 2:49), to "I have a baptism to be baptized with," etc. (Luke 12:50). So John 4:34. And we must cherish a like devotion. For we have a special life-work to do for God: let the doing of it be our bread of life! Such the godliness.
II. INTENSE HUMANNESS.
1. A tremulous, burning sympathy with all that was truly human. Had he been amongst us now, he would have been the Inspiration of all educational, social, and philanthropic enterprise. We must catch this spirit.
2. A stern, unsparing hatred of all that was false in man. The Pharisees: "Woe unto you!" So we. No false tenderness. Know how to hate, as well as how to love. And so hate unsparingly all falseness, hypocrisy, badness, in ourselves and in others—but most in ourselves. Some sins too leniently dealt with; and they damning sins! Oh, let the fiery, scorching indignation of Christian society burn them up! Such the humanness.
In the light of all this read again, "If any man hath not., etc. Begin beneath the shadow of the cross, advance by drinking daily into his Spirit, and so shall you end by being transformed into his perfect likeness. We all know that Christ died for us; let us be quite as sure that Christ lives in us.—T.F.L.
Romans 8:10, Romans 8:11
The redemption of the body.
He has said (Romans 8:6) that the "mind of the spirit is life." We have seen in what a large, rich sense these words are true. But it might be objected—and our special familiarity with one aspect of the meaning of "life" would lead to this—that after all, we die; that, in Solomon's language, "all things come alike to all; there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked." And at first sight this would seem to be a formidable objection. The brand of condemnation is upon us to the last: we die! Of what validity, then, is the justification through Christ? and of what reality the renewal by the Spirit? The objection is answered in these verses, in which are set forth—the persistence of death, the triumph of life.
I. THE PERSISTENCE OF DEATH. It is, indeed, true that, in spite of our justification and renewal, death seems to have dominion over us in our physical relations: "the body is dead." This needs no proving; no human fact can be more patent. We die daily, and at last yield to the final triumph of the foe. How is this reconcilable with the new life? The body is dead "because of sin," viz. the sin of the first man, our federal head. This is the sad heritage which descends to the race on account of the transgression.
1. And one main secret of the persistence of death consists in this, that mankind, in all its natural relations, is one organism. If one member suffer, the other members suffer with it. More especially do ancestral actions, entailing physical consequences, affect the condition of succeeding generations. Therefore, as above (Romans 5:15.), "by the trespass of the one the many died." The complex unity of man's natural relations necessitated this permanent consequence to the race.
2. Yes, each one's mortality is linked on to the mortality of the race; man, by necessary natural entailment, is "born to die." But why, it may be asked, does not the individual, volitional agency by which the Christian believer is linked on to a new federation, and made partaker of the power of life, involve of equal necessity the reversal of the original cause? The answer in part is this: that, for reasons which we may or may not partially discern, in the present economy of things there is a permanence of natural causation even in spite of altered spiritual conditions. It is this principle which effectuates the ordained unity of the race, as above set forth; and the same principle involves that, not merely must each member of the race accept at birth his natural heritage, but even his own free spiritual choice and action may not, at least now, effect a change in the sequence of natural causation. This is true of such natural consequences as may have resulted from each one's individual transgressions; it is equally true of the inherited consequences of the first transgression; it is eminently true of the unique entailment of mortality.
3. And one special reason for this permanence of natural causation, in addition to the economic considerations requiring the organic unity of the race, is the necessity that man, under a process of redemptive recovery from sin, should be subjected to the chastening influence which only an experience of the evil of sin's effects can supply. Illustrate by continuance of penalty resulting from individual transgression; as, e.g., drunkenness, dishonesty. So, generally, the continuance of all the ills that flesh is heir to, on account of human sin. In this twofold sense, then, "the body is dead because of sin:" the transgression involved it as a natural consequence; also, in view of redemption, as a remedial discipline.
II. THE TRIUMPH OF LIFE. "But"—oh, what a "but" is this!—"the spirit is life because of righteousness." Observe, not living, as the body is said to be dead, i.e. not merely possessed of an attribute; but life! itself, through the inhabitation of the Spirit of God, a living power, which shall eventually penetrate with its vitality all man's psychical and even bodily nature (see Godet). All this is involved in the peculiar phraseology of the tenth verse, and is plainly set forth in the eleventh.
1. A new organic unity of the race, with its own laws of natural causation, is established in Christ. He is the second Adam, the "greater Man." And as by the "sin" of the former came death, so by the "righteousness"—the justification—which is through the latter comes life.
2. "With its own laws of natural causation:" yes; for, though we may not trace their working, they are at work, and shall eventuate in our triumph, through Christ, over even the mortality to which we now must submit. The case is complex; the two humanities are as yet commingled; the two trains of causation are jointly at work. But of the triumph of life, we have the pledge in that he was raised from the dead; himself submitted to the old law, and rose by the power of the new. "Christ the Firstfruits, afterward they that are Christ's at his coming."
3. "Afterward:" yes, when the remedial discipline shall have done its work, and from a restored world, from a renewed mankind, the curse shall be utterly removed. For this we wait, for this we work; and we do not work and wait in vain. "The Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead shall quicken also your mortal bodies."
Such, then, is our assurance, such is our hope. But on what is it conditioned? "If Christ be in you;" "If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you." Oh, let us hasten to him who is the Source of the new life, the Giver of the living Spirit!—T.F.L.
The adoption in Christ.
Is our desire, is our vocation, life? Then we are bound in honour, hound by the necessity of the case, to live, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. But are we even then sure of the destiny of life? We are walking in a way; whither does the way lead? The answer to this question lies in the prevailing characteristic of the life we live now—a life that is "led by the Spirit of God:" These are sons! Survey the life: only "sons" could live a life like that. And the life, being of God, is to God; "If children, then heirs." We have, then, to consider—sonship, heirship.
I. THE SONSHIP. In Romans 8:15 he leads them back to the commencement of this new life. What was the change which then passed over them? They were in bondage once—such bondage as he has described in Romans 7:1-25. And this bondage might be said to be of God, for it was the transition to liberty. God showed them the infinite claims of his holy Law, and thereby revealed to them their guilt, their helplessness, their doom. Oh, what bondage was theirs then! The whole purport of that period of their spiritual discipline was "unto fear." Nay, not the whole purport; they were but wounded that they might be made whole. God had prepared some better things for them. "In me dwelleth no good thing :" yes, this they learned. But, in Christ, they "received the Spirit of adoption;" in him they saw their sin forgiven, and in the power of God's boundless love they mounted upward as on eagles' wings. Accepted in the Beloved!
1. The adoption. An alienation is here implied from the original sonship. Man's fall; each one's sin and wicked works. The potential adoption of all in Christ Jesus: hold fast to this great fact. But not this alone: each one's individuality respected, and hence the actual adoption only of those who voluntarily attach themselves to the new Headship of Christ Jesus. This the blessed concomitant of pardon; and love working by law (Roman custom), that in this also "he might be just."
2. The witness. Each one who unfeignedly believes in Christ Jesus is adopted into the family of God. But may not this blessed adoption be realized? Thank God, it may: "The Spirit witnesseth with our spirit." "All things are of God" (2 Corinthians 5:18), and so the whole of the great work of salvation is his work, and when every holy confidence towards himself is inspired in the believer's mind, it is his inspiration. But he deals with men in harmony with the laws of their own minds, and guides and inspires them through the processes of their own thought. Hence the expression, "witnesseth with our spirit." Our consciousness of God's forgiveness, our conviction of his love, are produced instrumentally by our apprehension of his purposes and promises in Christ; but in and through the working of our own spirit his Spirit works. We are prompted by our perception of God's love in Christ to cry, "Abba, Father;" but it is also by him that we thus cry. He works the assurance in and through the working of our thought and feeling: "witnesseth with our spirit." And thus is explained the failure, where there is failure, to realize this assurance. God's inspiration is not wanting, but the instrumentality is at fault. Perceptions, tone, temperament—these constitute the hindrance. And remediable by proper means. Such, then, the sonship which is the secret of the new life: adoption, and the realization of that adoption—all of God. His children! His beloved ones! Therefore we love him; therefore we live to him.
II. THE HEIRSHIP. But if sonship be the inspiration of this new life, what must its destiny be? We are heirs—"heirs of God; joint-heirs with Christ."
1. Heirs of God. The idea of fatherhood is the bestowal of all benediction on the child. And "of him every fatherhood in heaven and on earth is named" (Ephesians 3:15). Therefore he himself, and all that he can give, shall constitute our heritage. Now, in this world, God is ours; this is the great possession: his presence, his power, his love. And thus the world itself is transmuted into an inheritance of joy, even sorrows yielding blessing. But we are not yet of age; our manhood then! And oh, the inheritance that shall be! God himself we shall see face to face, knowing even as we are known. And God's creation shall be made—how fair and beautiful to us, who shall say? "In thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Psalms 16:11). And that "path of life" shall be "shown" us by God.
2. Joint-heirs with Christ. Christ, the Appointed One, the Son of man—God has adopted us in him; God has made us heirs in him! And his appropriation of the heritage is our pledge. His life in the world: the Father, the Father's gifts; yea, even the cross. His risen and ascended life: "the Firstfruits of them that slept;" "whither the Forerunner is for us entered" (1 Corinthians 15:20; Hebrews 6:20). See John 17:1-26., where the co-heirship is so set forth.
But meanwhile, "if so be that we suffer with him"! The process of recovery to sonship, heirship. We drink of that cup, we bear that cross; but so we shall wear that crown.—T.F.L.
The redemption of the creation
"If so be that we suffer with him." Then we do suffer? Yes, even as he did. For ours is a redemptive history, and redemption is not without pain. But the future—oh, how the glory eclipses all the momentary trial! So was it with himself. "For the joy that was set before him," he "endured the cross, despising the shame" (Hebrews 12:2). And so shall it be with us. We may well join the apostle in his triumphant outburst of hope, "For I reckon," etc. Ours is the hope of an immortal glory; nay, the hope is the hope of the world: "the earnest expectation of the creation," etc. So, then, we have for our consideration—the present pains, the future glory.
I. THE PRESENT PAINS.
1. Of the creation. This expression must not be toned down. It refers to all the creation, outside of man himself, with which man has to do; our "world," which is connected by a mysterious solidarity with ourselves, sorrowing in our sorrow, rejoicing in our joy. Once? It was "very good;" all was harmony, beauty, peace. We may not tell what were the joys of the early creation, but it was the garden of the Lord, the paradise of man. The ravages of the storm, the desolations of the wilderness, were then unknown; the creatures preyed not one upon another then; love, liberty, and life were all in all. But man's fall drew a shadow-oh, how dark!—across the beauty; and for love, liberty, and life, there were then strife, bondage, death! "The creation was subjected to vanity;" yes, cursed was the world for man's sake. And now? Look around you: "the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together." The earthquake and storm, the arid desert and dreary seas, the inhospitable clime, the unfriendly skies, the blighted harvests—the shadow of the cross! And the ravages of the animal world: destruction, pain, death. And at last? "The fashion of this world passeth away!"
2. Of ourselves. The nature-part of us is likewise "subject to vanity:" we groan. Disease, death—of our own frame and organic life; of our relationships. Oh, how we are mocked: dust, dust, dust!
II. THE FUTURE GLORY.
1. Of ourselves. We are God's children by faith in Christ; his adopted ones. But though the adoption is real, it is not yet manifest to the universe. No, nor to ourselves in its fulness. As though a beggar-child were adopted by a king, but for a while must still appear in beggar-garments. Oh, it shall not be always so! The beggar-garments shall be cast away, and the royal robe assumed; our sonship shall be made manifest to all: we wait "for the redemption of our body." Yes, God's purposes shall be accomplished; in the resurrection of the Son they are pledged to fulfilment; the body of our humiliation shall be made like to the body of his glory, and "then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory."
2. Of the creation. But if we wait, and wait in hope, so does our creation wait, groan, yearn for the revealing of the sons of God. The ἀποκαραδοκία! The decay and death not intrinsically pertaining to it; no, not if God's world. The vanity to which it was subjected, the mockery of aim, the frustration of purpose, this was all "in hope." And as by man came the curse, by man comes the blessing. Bondage, corruption, through the sin? Yes; and liberty, glory, through the great redemption! Whatever of evil was done, shall be undone; the blot shall be wiped away; the shadow shall pass that the eternal light may shine. And all our relationships with the world, and with one another, these shall be remade then; delivered, glorified! Oh, how the heart has bled—bled because of the frustrations and rendings of this world. Oh, how the heart shall bound—bound with the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ; a gospel, not in word only, but in power, delivering power that shall work its deliverance on man's whole nature, all man's relationships, man's whole world!
Shall ours, then, not be the patience—"we wait for it "? Yes for he giveth grace. But shall we not know something of the triumph too? Shall we not grasp the future, and almost live in it as though the present were not? Yes; for ourselves, for our dear ones, for our dear world, "I reckon" etc.—T.F.L.
Romans 8:26, Romans 8:27
Helping our infirmity.
In the previous verses the twofold "groaning" has been set forth—of nature as subjected to vanity, and of redeemed man as still sharing the heritage of vanity in himself and in his relation to the world around. "We hope for that we see not:" and this hope, though it be of the character of patient waiting, is yet also of the character of intense desire. But are our desires merely vague, unauthorized wishes for some fancied good, which God may not be purposed ever to grant? Nay; for what might be otherwise but the vague wishes of our burdened hearts are intensified and authorized by the spiritual life which is in us—are, indeed, the promptings, the groanings, of that very Spirit of God who is the Author and Sustainer of our spiritual life. And as such they are according to God's will, and, being according to his will, are the sure pledge of their own realization. The general truth here set forth is that, in all our times of weakness in this mortal life, when we are ready to faint, the Spirit sustains us; the special application of the truth is that, when "in praying we cannot express to God what the blessing is which would allay the distress of our heart" (Godet), the Spirit of God inspires us with holy aspirations, which are not indeed to be formulated in human words, seeing that they are touched with something of the infinite, but which react in comfort on the heart, as conveying in themselves an assurance that the almost infinite craving shall be infinitely satisfied.
I. OUR INFIRMITY.
1. In this life of trial, in which evil is so largely mingled with good, and in which, therefore, as regards our perfect redemption, we have to "hope for that which we see not," we are called to exercise both a passive and an active waiting.
2. And this general infirmity manifests itself specially in our inability to pray aright for the good which we confusedly desire. Oh, who has not proved this? The evils and mysteries of life almost daze our spirits; we strive in vain with our vision to pierce the impenetrable darkness. "Who shall show us any good?" So, coming before God, we do not find our accustomed relief: "we know not how to pray as we ought."
II. OUR HELP.
1. Amid all our weakness, however manifesting itself, the Spirit helps us. He gives us the patience to wait, and the strength to bear the burden and to do the work. Yes, that which of all things else is hardest, "to labour and to wait," earnestly to pursue our appointed task in spite of the mystery and distress of life, that is made possible by the good Spirit's help. Nay, even more, an inspiration comes from him which makes us zealous for the extension of his kingdom, and we urge our way with strength renewed; for our way is his way, and it tends to the accomplishment of his perfect will.
2. But especially, as these verses teach us, the Spirit helpeth our infirmity when "we know not how to pray as we ought" Oppressed by the mystery of life, torn by its cruel-seeming evils, knowing that these things ought not so to be, that they will not so be in a perfect state, we yet can scarcely realize our own desires, and cannot pray for the things we need. Then comes the inspiration from on high, and our heart goes forth towards God in aspirations prompted, and therefore warranted, by God. And the very desire, so born, gives rest. We may not know its full meaning; we are but partly conscious of our true need as regards that future for which we sigh. And therefore we may certainly not articulate all our desire in syllables of human speech to God: the groanings "cannot be uttered." But they are heard; they are understood; they shall be answered. For the Spirit that is in us is the Spirit who "searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God" (1 Corinthians 2:10); and he therefore "maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God." Oh, what a pledge is here of our sure fruition of all good! We do not vainly and wrongly sigh for the perfectness of the new world; God himself sighs in us, with us, for this consummation. There is truly a groaning in nature itself for deliverance; there is a groaning in ourselves for "the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body;" and there is a groaning, in and with ours, of God's Spirit likewise, for the doing away of all contradictions such as now are, and the ushering in of the day of God, the perfect day. Here, then, is the law of a spiritual instinct, which, like all true instinct, however vaguely it may be conscious of its exact purport, is yet the pledge of its own realization.
Let us, then, not be ashamed to hope, to intensely hope, for that we see not, for the hope is heaven-born. But because of the very divineness of the hope itself, and the consequent certainty of realization, let us with patience wait for it.—T.F.L.
God's purpose in Christ.
The apostle has indicated the hope of the future glory, in comparison with which all suffering now is as nought. He has also shown how, this hope is no vain imagining of a diseased mind, but the inspiration of God's Spirit. And now he goes on to show that, since this divinely inspired hope corresponds with the great purpose of God concerning us, all things which enter into God's plan for our governance, including apparently evil things which are suffered by him to befall us, must ultimately subserve his purpose and be for the fulfilling of our hope. All this, assuming that we "love God;" thus any carelessness or sin of ours is utterly excluded from the reckoning. It is, indeed, this inward principle of love which transmutes the evil into good, and prepares for the final glorifying. We have, then—the purpose; the process.
I. THE PURPOSE. God's purpose concerning man dates back to the eternal past, for to God's mind all things are ever present. But, objectively, it dates back to the wreck of the primal purpose in man's transgression and death. On the first purpose a second purpose was built; out of the wreck of the old race a new race should be formed.
1. The Firstborn. Since the first man had betrayed his trust, and become the progenitor of a fallen race, there should be a second Man, the Lord from heaven. He should be God's own Son, for the redemption-work was one which needed the powers of Divinity; he should be man's Son also, one in whom the nature of the race might be concentrated, who might therefore redeem men, as God, but through the medium of a true humanity. He should humble himself, be shorn of his splendour, suffer and die, being baptized with blood for the remission of our sins; he should also, "dying, draw the sting of death," and, rising as the Firstfruits of a justified race, pass into the heavens as our Forerunner. Being perfect in all things as Son of man, obedient to the Father, and having performed a perfect work, he should enter perfected into life, glorified with the glory which he had with the Father before the world was.
2. The many brethren. Such was God's purpose in his Son. But, glorifying his Son, he should also "bring many sons unto glory" (Hebrews 2:10); for the Son, "having been made perfect," should become "unto all them that obey him the Author of eternal salvation" (Hebrews 5:9). For them he suffered, and therefore they also must suffer, "becoming conformed unto his death" (Philippians 3:10); but, just as he passed through death unto life, so they also, dying with him, should with him "attain unto the resurrection from the dead" (Philippians 3:11). "Conformed to the image of his Son:" yes, this was God's purpose in Christ for man, the inward conformation of consummate holiness, and the outward conformation of consummate happiness.
II. THE PROCESS. Those, then, who by their own free choice should become Christ's people—for all others are here left out of account—were foreknown and foreordained by God, "according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus," as sharers together with him in the perfect adoption of sons of God. Now, such a purpose, formed by God, and formed m the eternal past—such a purpose concerning believers and faithful ones (for, as above, all possible misuse of freedom on the part of man, whether for rejecting. God's grace, or for casting away a grace received, is here warred, and it is assumed that the purpose formed by God is embraced and adhered to by man)—such a purpose cannot fail of its result, but the process of God's working must issue in its complete accomplishment.
1. Called. The summons in accordance with the purpose. God calls his people, by the outward Word, by the inward Spirit; or, in other words, invites them, summons them, to enter into life. Can his Word be broken? Can his Spirit deceive? He means what he says, and, responding to his call, his people have a guarantee which is more sure than the pillars of the universe (Matthew 24:35).
2. Justified. The virtual instatement in accordance with the purpose. Calling them, he justifies them. There is a Name which destroys all guilt, and acquits for ever, and upon them this Name is named. They are "in Christ Jesus," and "there is therefore now no condemnation." From darkness into light; from death unto life. And the justification is the pledge and beginning of all blessings in Christ that shall tend to the consummation of the life. It carries with it the regeneration of our nature; it supplies the power that shall issue in our complete sanctification; and it points unfalteringly through all the tears and darknesses of the intermediate discipline to "the revealing of the sons of God."
3. Glorified. The actual instatement in accordance with the purpose. This "revealing of the sons of God" is so assured to us, that it is spoken of here as though already an accomplished fact. Yes, all things must be made consistent and harmonious at last; the discord must be done away; the blessedness of the saved spirit must be wedded to the blessedness of a saved world, and so "all things be made new." Such shall be the culmination of the process by which God's purpose shall be fulfilled. The lesson insisted on is this: God will let nothing thwart him. Only love him, throw yourself into the current of his good purpose, and all things shall be made good to you. Opposition there may be, affliction there may be; but God in Christ shall triumph—triumph in you. The very hindrances shall become helps, the enemies unwitting friends. Yes, "we know that all things," etc.—T.F.L.
Romans 8:31, Romans 8:32
Supplying all our need.
The argument of Romans 8:28-30, and, indeed, of the entire chapter, is now summed up in a triumphant hymn—the victorious battle-cry with which the conqueror surveys the vacated field (Godet). Romans 8:31 and Romans 8:32 refer to God's call according to purpose; Romans 8:33 and Romans 8:34 to the solemn justification of believers by God; and Romans 8:35-39 to their final glorifying as involved in the justification. Here the reference is to God's great purpose in Christ, and the apostle challenges an answer to his question, "If God is for us, who is against us?" Nay, God's purpose is irrefragable. And what a pledge has he given of his intent to carry out that purpose to the uttermost! "He spared not his own Son." Surely, therefore, in him all things are ours. Let us consider, then, what are the "all things" that we need, and what is our assurance that God will give them.
I. OUR NEED. Ours is a triple need—of guidance, grace, and glory.
1. Guidance. A venture has been made upon a new career. Is it a venture? and may we possibly find ourselves in endless mazes lost? Or are we not sure, rather, of the leading of an unseen hand? "Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel."
2. Grace. If we need direction, do we not also need active help? for we are not only fallible, but frail.
(a) Actively: as pressing our way through temptation;
(b) passively: we learn to suffer and be strong.
3. Glory. While guidance and grace are given to conduct us to the glory, the glory itself is sure.
II. OUR PLEDGE. But how know we that these things shall be given? The pledge is twofold: God's purpose—"God is for us;" God's gift—"He spared not his own Son."
1. God initiates salvation. Not begged of him by us; not procured by a third. "Of his own will." If he begins to work, he will finish.
2. God gives the supreme Gift. The very life: his Son; himself. Hence all subordinate gifts will be given. "Is not the life more than meat?"
3. God loves with such a love. Beyond our thought. But more than all which the analogue suggests: "his own Son."
"How then shall he not," etc.? Argue the matter to yourselves. He gave his Son for me! And then—
"All, all he hath for mine I claim;
I dare believe in Jesu's Name!"
Romans 8:33, Romans 8:34
The triumphant challenge.
He has asked the general question, challenging an answer: "If God be for us, who can be against us?" He now proceeds to two special questions, the first of which has reference to the justification of believers by God. In view of that he asks, "Who shall lay anything to their charge? who shall condemn?" And again, amplifying the fact of their justification, he tells of the death, the resurrection, the ascension, the intercession, of Christ Jesus, as the pledge and declaration of their acquittal. We may consider the possible sources of charge against God's people, and their triumphant vindication.
I. THE CHARGE. To them that are in Christ Jesus there is now no condemnation, and yet whispers of condemnation may again and again be heard.
1. The transgressions of the past may come to mind with such force as to destroy our joy in God. Past irreparable, and though first consciousness of free forgiveness of God may almost blot it from our memory for the time, yet there are times when it seems to live again, and so vividly that we can hardly detach the thought of overwhelming guilt as still upon us.
2. The imperfections of the present. How far from the perfectness of the ideal! And how the very growth of earnestness and increase of endeavour seem to make the ideal more distant still! So conscience, the Law, the adversary, and accusing men (see Beet, in loc.) may make us feel condemned.
II. THE VINDICATION. But the condemnation is not real; it exists only in the diseased imagination. Let it be brought face to face with the great facts of the gospel, and it must vanish quite away. What are these facts?
1. The great central fact is that we are God's chosen ones; and who shall dispute God's choice? Not that he ever can act without reason; but, whether we see the reason or not, we are elect, the elect of God, as being his people, and who shall gainsay it?
2. This great election is declared by his justification of the believer, which has gone abroad in the gospel to all the world: "He that believeth is not condemned."
3. And even the reasons of the election of believers are graciously made known, and graciously confirmed: Christ's death, resurrection, exaltation, and intercession.
Oh, then, whether we look to God who has chosen and justified us, or to him whom God hath set forth as a Propitiation, and again declared to be his Son, well-pleasing and beloved, by the raising from the dead; whether we regard God in Christ as the Source of our salvation, as the Effecter of salvation, or as the Manifester of salvation; whether we think of the past, the present, or the future in Christ;—in any case we can take up the triumphant challenge given us by Paul, "It is God that justifieth; Who is he that shall condemn? It is Christ Jesus," etc.—T.F.L.
The great persuasion.
This second special question which Paul asks has reference to that final glorifying of believers by God, that perfect conformation to the image of his Son, which is the import of his purpose concerning them, the goal of all his working. The "love of Christ," or the "love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord," is represented as laying hold of them with a firm grasp, to rescue them from death, and to raise them to perfect newness of life; and the apostle asks, in view of all possible evils which might seem to threaten the accomplishment of such purpose, assuming, of course, their own continued loyalty of heart, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" and, as he recapitulates all actual or imagined perils, the ready answer still breaks forth from his lips, "Nought, nought shall separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord I" We have, then, here for our consideration—love; love's hindrances; love's triumph.
I. LOVE. The great truth, great beyond all others, fundamental to all others; the truth to which all the revelations were designed to lead, and in which they culminate; the truth set forth so wondrously in the life and death of Christ, is this, that "God is love." This love was manifest in man's creation, and in the rich resources of man's world, furnished for man's sake with such liberal lavishment; it was manifest yet more in man's redemption, and in the rich resources of man's spiritual world, prepared and furnished for man with infinite tenderness. And how has it not been manifest to each of the called ones, laying hold of them, lifting them from the depths, setting them even now in heavenly places, and destining them, as joint-heirs with Christ, to all the blessedness of an immortal future!
II. LOVE'S HINDRANCES. But this love has its seeming hindrances; shall they obstruct the accomplishment of its designs?
1. Death and life.
(a) Positively: dangers and difficulties of circumstance and event; moral difficulties, as world's reproach, and opposing one's self to stream of custom; and difficulties relating to one's own patient continuance in well-doing.
(b) Negatively: the allurements of temptation; repetition of primal fall. Thus life perpetually tries us.
2. Angels and principalities. Ephesians 6:1-24. opens our eyes to the tremendous forces arrayed against us. So Bunyan's allegory no fiction. There is a real, objective opposition of "spiritual wickedness" against us, and of what strength and subtlety who shall say? And through the medium of the strength and authority of the "powers" of this world; as Roman emperors.
3. Height and depth. Great exaltation, of this life or of the spiritual life, has its besetting temptations: so Paul himself (2 Corinthians 12:1-21.) in danger of being "exalted above measure." Great depression or abasement has likewise its perils: rebellion, or despair.
4. Things present and things to come. Boding fears often worse than actual fightings. So we may "die a thousand deaths in fearing one."
5. Any other creation. The apostle has been hinting at a new creation, when the true Paradise shall be restored. But if the former Paradise was so perilous, and this creation now has so many perils, what may not the new creation bring? Shall that separate us from the love of Christ?
III. LOVE'S TRIUMPH. Shall these things separate us from God's love? Nay, God's love is too strong; and God's gifts, already given, are too great. And, indeed, those things all enter into the working of God's purpose, and therefore cannot break it. Nay, more: if they enter into the working of that purpose, they shall actually subserve it; and so we shall not only conquer, but more than conquer (verse 28); for that which is against us shall become for us, evil shall be transformed to good, our enemies shall become unwitting friends. "More than conquerors!" Of our entry into life they swell the triumph (illustrate by triumph of Roman generals), and so an entrance is ministered to us abundantly into the everlasting kingdom.
Let this be our persuasion, our faith; so shall we be strong, and at last we shall realize the victory which is even now assured.—T.F.L.
HOMILIES BY S.R. ALDRIDGE
This is a glorious beginning to a glorious chapter. As in some great musical work, we can tell its character from the opening bars. The apostle, having been treating some of the darkest human problems, delights to emerge into the brightness of the new condition achieved for our fallen humanity by Christ Jesus.
I. HOW CLOSE IS THE UNION BETWEEN CHRIST AND HIS PEOPLE! The preposition "in" denotes an altered state, men no longer reckoning themselves according to their genealogy from Adam, but as grafted into the stock of Christ. It is not hearing merely of the gospel, but being vitally united to its Author, deriving life from him, as the branches in the vine are nourished by its sap. Or, as the apostle puts it in Romans 7:1-25., we are "married to" Christ, made "members of his flesh, of his body and of his bones." The relationship is effected on God's side by his Spirit, on man's side by repentance and faith. No other religion claims such an intimate association to exist between its founder and its votaries. The union is mystical, but very real. Christ is our City of refuge from the avenger, our Ark of salvation, our Haven of peace. "Abide in me ' is his cheering counsel to all his disciples.
II. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR GOD TO CONDEMN THOSE WHO ARE THUS UNITED TO HIS SON. This would mean severing himself from the Son of his love. He did conceal his presence from the crucified One, but only for a season. "God hid his face, but held him by the hand" The Saviour said, "Father, into thy hands," etc. The resurrection was the seal of God's approbation of the Messiah's career. And Christ's people, by their faith in the Redeemer, virtually place his Person and work between themselves and the condemnatory Law. Though metaphors are inadequate, we may assert that justice cannot demand a double payment. If Christ our Representative was accepted and glorified, we may triumphantly await the judgment. The very "weakness of the flesh" which made the Law unable to condemn sin was compelled, in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, to show the exceeding sinfulness of sin, which tried to seduce him from holiness, and, failing, wounded him unto death. In the flesh was an offering made for sin, demonstrating the guilt of human nature, and yet redeeming it from the deserved penalty. As the "hue and cry," or the preparation of the scaffold for the execution of some sentenced wretch, does not alarm the innocent, so the threatenings of the law of sin and death do not concern or terrify those who have received the law of the Spirit of life. We are not saved by understanding accurately the rationale of the plan of Divine mercy; but to be able, like the apostle, to see the truth grounded on an adequate foundation, is to feel our feet on the granite rock which no wave of wrath's sea can shake.
III. THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF LIFE SECURED BY UNION WITH CHRIST RENDERS CONDEMNATION IMPOSSIBLE, The apostle speaks strongly of the requirements of the moral law being "fulfilled" in Christians. They walk no longer "after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Thus the Law sees its end accomplished, its goal reached. The affections are placed on things above, the thoughts are cleansed, the will is submissive to the dictates of God. The most rigid code could not produce holiness. But to love Christ, to learn of him, to walk in him, is to cut up sin at the roots. Christ is not only a Pattern of obedience, but a Power to his associates, enabling them to become like him, "fulfilling all righteousness." The husk of the Law being stript off, the kernel is acknowledged to be "just and good." If the Law ventured to prefer a complaint against the infirmities and failings of Christians, all objection is banished by the assurance of the Master that his scholars shall grow in grace and knowledge till they are not only saints in name, but in character and deed. They shall be presented faultless before the throne of judgment.—S.R.A.
The spiritual and the carnal man.
Religion may be judged of from within or without—from the character it forms or the actions to which it gives rise. Only the latter can properly come under the survey of our fellows, whilst we may discern the inward effects. Besides ourselves, only God can determine our inner condition. The Searcher of hearts can unlock the private door of the heart. It is well for us, without self-flattery or self-depreciation, to anticipate the disclosures of the last day. No wise man wishes to deceive himself.
I. TWO DIAMETRICALLY OPPOSITE DISPOSITIONS. We may be spiritually or carnally minded. The "mind" of the Revised Version suggests too much the rational part of our nature; "mindedness" would perhaps be preferable. We are to think of what the Spirit has a mind to, and what the flesh. The "minding" is what a man thinks of, aims at, cares for. The spiritually minded man is one in whom the Spirit is supreme. The Holy Spirit has breathed upon the soul, giving a new impulse from God, so that the spirit of man asserts its rightful position, bringing the lower passions under control. Though not without a struggle, the flesh has to yield. He discerns the excellence of spiritual objects. He recognizes in the Scriptures a message from the Most High. He thinks of God with veneration and affection; he respects the blessings of salvation and of the life to come. Be delights in spiritual exercises, deeming them not a round of duties, but of enjoyments. He flies to them as a refuge from cares and anxieties. Whilst he meditates, the dove of peace broods over the turbulent waters, and there is a great calm. The fleshly man is deaf to the charms of spiritual melody, and blind to the glory of the spiritual sunrise. He turns all the events of life to spiritual purposes. Plants may have the same air and moisture and soil, yet they embody the results according to their separate individuality; as animals from similar food produce hair or wool, or bodies of diverse structure and capability. So two men may witness the same scene or road, the same paragraph; yet how different the emotions! The one loathes wickedness, the other gloats over the garbage. To mind the things of the Spirit is to draw instruction from every event, to turn the mercies of God into praise, and his judgments into matter for humiliation. Temptations make such a man more watchful, afflictions contribute to his advancement, as the flower climbs even by a thorn. We do not deny that worldly minded men occasionally turn their thoughts to the spiritual realm; but this is accidental, and does not accord with their ordinary behaviour, so as to flow spontaneously from the inner life. What makes men doubt the contrariety is that dispositions and actions shade into one another, constituting at times a sort of neutral borderland, where it is difficult to say which is flesh and which Spirit. Yet darkness is not light, nor poverty riches, nor is vice an infinitesimal degree of virtue; there is a radical distinction.
II. THE CERTAIN MISERY OF THE ONE STATE. "The minding of the flesh is death." It overturns all proper order. The lower appetites are ruling; the pyramid is inverted, and a fall is certain. Where the rabble revolt and reign, anarchy leads to dissolution of all prosperity. It fights against Divine Law. "The carnal mind is not subject to the Law of God;" it may prudently regard the Law so as to secure greater indulgence, but it does not voluntarily submit or embrace the Law gladly. All the laws of God are for the good of his creatures; they are for, not against, the spiritual life. Men cannot come into conflict with the laws of their being without harm and loss. Death is the visible effect in all departments. Vice ruins the physical constitution; unjust acts disintegrate civil society; the pursuance of evil blunts the perception of moral good, and deadens the conscience; and even Christians, through sin, may become callous to the spiritual—"having a name to live, and being dead." These are the beginnings, quite sufficient to show the terrible possibility of becoming altogether fleshly, choosing evil deliberately as good. As men long immured in prison may lose all desire for liberty, deeming the light of day painful and fellowship irksome, so does it kill all the rational. longings and stifle the highest faculties of the soul to be continually in bondage to the bodily appetites.
III. THE NECESSARY BLESSEDNESS OF THE OTHER STATE. To be in Christ is to be a new creation, where the thrill of young life fills the being with joyous hope of yet better things to come. There are new desires, new resolves made, new occupations entered upon. The boy that refuses to tell a lie may suffer, yet is glad within; and the victor over temptation knows what it is for the angels to minister to him. There is a happy consciousness that we are on the right path, that there is harmony between us and our Maker. The reality of life is manifested by its fruits, against which there is no law, no sentence of death. This life is accompanied by the tranquil satisfaction of peace, the panacea for daily irritations. Not the deceitful calm of opiate slumber, nor the stagnation of a festering pool; but a flowing stream, gliding by smiling orchards and productive industries. He has "life and peace" whose "conversation is in heaven," for such is not swayed by the customs of the hour, nor ruffled by the accidents of the day. Take from the Christian what you please, you cannot rob him of this holy serenity. Not death can strip him of his comfort; he has "a house not made with hands," his honour stands not in the breath of man, his treasure is not dug out of the bowels of the earth. He receives "a kingdom which cannot be moved." He lives when all the world is dead, is happy when all the fountains of earthly pleasure are dried up.—S.R.A.
An indwelling Saviour.
Awe-struck must Israel have been when the cloud of the Lord rested upon the tabernacle, the sign of the interest of Jehovah in his people and of his intention to dwell amongst them. And when the dedication of the temple of Solomon was completed, and the glory of the Lord filled the house, the nearness and condescension of their God caused the Israelites to bow with their faces to the ground, and to praise the Lord, saying, "For he is good: his mercy endureth for ever." It was much when the angelic messengers appeared to patriarchs and prophets, brightening their homes for a space. But how vast the honour conferred upon the humblest Christian when the Son of God fulfils his promise by not only visiting him, but taking up his abode in his heart! The visit of a sovereign invests the meanest domicile with interest. Look with wonder, therefore, on the man with whom the Deity is a constant Guest.
I. THE INTIMACY OF THE UNION. Jesus employed the figure of a vine to set it forth. He used the same way of speaking as with reference to the union between his Father and himself. "At that day ye shall know that I am in the Father, and ye in me, and I in you." Paul, alluding to his conversion, said, "It pleased God to reveal his Son in me." The heart of man is pictured in Scripture as a house at which the Saviour knocks for admission. Thus is the question answered, that God will "dwell with man upon the earth." Christ is said to abide in us when his words are retained in the memory and acted upon in the life, becoming a source of inspiration for high and holy thoughts and deeds. "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you," etc. Christ bestows upon his people the gift of his Spirit, to be his Representative, the living, present Comforter. "Hereby know we that he abideth in us, by his Spirit which he hath given us." To aspire to such a relationship we had never dared of ourselves; the conception is manifestly Divine.
II. SOME EFFECTS OF THE INDWELLING OF CHRIST.
1. It is not intended to nullify all the natural results upon the body of the fall of man. "The body is dead because of sin." The reception of Christ by faith, and the consequent obedience to his teachings, does indeed tend to produce such temperateness, industry, and contentment as are most fitted to preserve the corporeal frame in pure and wholesome condition and to prolong its existence. Nevertheless, the gospel does not avert the operation of physical laws, and longevity is not the Christian's chief aim. The youthful may pass away because of inheriting a weak constitution, and their early decease is not to be regarded as mysterious, and as a scourge from God's hand to the sorrowing relatives. Every death does speak to us of the evil of sin in the race. The forcible wrenching asunder of soul and body can never be beautiful to contemplate. God writes in dreadful character his opinion of sin.
2. It leads to the mortification of wrong desires. As the Messiah drove nut from his Father's house the thieves and law-breakers who polluted the sanctuary, so he cannot enter the temple of the soul without vindicating it against profanation by unholy passions. "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh." There is a spiritual death of the body in the sense that the Shechinah of the Divine presence involves a restraint upon corrupt longings, a controlling of rebellion against the laws of God, against unruly will and envious, impure affections. Inclinations contrary to righteousness are not henceforth to have their way, but to be as if dead.
3. It vivifies the spirit of man. As the sap invigorates the branches, so the power of Christ works in us mightily. "The Spirit is life because of righteousness." Man's good purposes and feelings are strengthened, the seed of life fructifies, the dethroned spirit restored to supremacy is aided in the government of the kingdom by the auxiliary forces of the King of kin?. No unrighteous confederacy is permanent; its union is external, not internal; it carries within itself the germs of its own decay. Righteousness alone unites a people in strength, forbidding discord and promoting progress and prosperity. The presence of Jesus conforms us to his image, as friends grow like one another. Having Christ, we have the principle of life, of holiness, of perfection; work it must, until it attains the designed development. The acorn prophesies the oak, and the stainless spirits of heaven are predicted in the saints of this earthly sphere.
4. It promises a quickening of the mortal body. In view of the comparison instituted in Romans 8:11, it is impossible to restrict the interpretation to a merely spiritual resurrection. The triumph of our Deliverer is not consummated till these frail tenements of clay are freed from corruption and glorified. In what the exact relationship or identity consists, we may not know. "Thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain. But God giveth it a body as it pleased him." Look not on the graveyards as charnel-houses of the dead, but as nurseries where seeds of immortal plants are deposited, to bloom with undying vigour in the heavenly garden.
CONCLUSION. It is our connection with Christ which alleviates affliction. Through him does God educe good out of evil, triumphing over opposing threes, and making sin to contribute to righteousness, and death to be the gate of life. But if there be no loving communion between us and Christ, if we stand aloof from him, we cut ourselves off from salvation and glory. It is not sufficient to hear of the Saviour; we must entrust ourselves to him; we must entreat him to "come in and tarry with us,"—S.R.A.
The guidance of the Spirit.
Moses displayed a beautiful absence of jealousy when he cried, "Would to God that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them!" His wish is realized under the Christian dispensation, where "the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal." This gift is the fulfilment of Christ's promise that his disciples should not be left "orphans," and our investiture with his Spirit is a testimony to the efficacy of the work of Christ. The Spirit operates silently but powerfully on the heart; though unseen, his presence is most real. Science acquaints us with subtle forces that work on matter. Place a bar of steel in the magnetic meridian with the north end downward, and, if struck with a wooden mallet, the bar will be magnetized. ]No outward difference is perceptible, yet the particles have assumed a uniform direction, have acquired new properties. So does the Spirit impart a new tendency, a new nature, and the whole man is changed. The Spirit works not like the influences of our environment from without inwardly, but from within outwardly.
I. THE LEADING FOR WHICH THAT OF THE SPIRIT IS SUBSTITUTED. It is called "self," or "the flesh," where the inimical power of the great adversary is the chief factor. The aim of the life may not be clear to the man possessed. He may seem to have no definable object of pursuit; led on now by one impulse, now by another, its force and persistency varying in all degrees. Some rely on their own native wisdom for the steerage of their course, others are governed by the maxims and customs of the society in which they move. The "spirit of the age" is a prevalent controlling force. In proportion as any one goal is kept in view, and "reached forth to' perseveringly, is the man esteemed strong and successful. And the Christian is strong according to the heartiness and fidelity with which he surrenders himself to the guidance of the Spirit. He acknowledges that "it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps."
II. THE ROAD TRAVELLED UNDER THE GUIDANCE OF THE SPIRIT. It is a heavenward journey; the affections are "set on things above." It begins with taking up the cross to follow Christ, and implies self-denial in order to please God. It is a pilgrimage. This world is not our rest, or our final home. It involves a warfare, for many foes beset our path, and there is no turning aside to By-path Meadows for the man under the influence of the Spirit. How the natural life is glorified and transfigured by this conception of the unseen hand impelling us! No man is ever harmed by the Spirit's leading, and if he falls into a snare it is because he has mistaken the Divine indications of his route.
III. ASCERTAINING THE MIND OF THE SPIRIT. We are not led blindfold and irresistibly; the reason is illumined, the emotions are quickened. All that strengthens the spiritual life contributes to the clearness with which we recognize the Spirit's prompting, and to the readiness with which we yield to his gentlest touch. Prayer keeps open the communication with the spiritual realm. Ask for guidance before, not after, commencing an enterprise; nor expect the Holy Spirit to come in as a deus ex machina to rectify your errors. Compare your judgment and conduct with the precepts and principles of Scripture, and with the example of good men, especially of Jesus Christ. We are taught in his school. Like an artist intently studying some work of genius and imbibing its spirit, so meditate on Christ till you catch his enthusiasm for goodness and consecration to the will of God. Make the most of the seasons when you are blessedly conscious that you are "in the Spirit," be it on "the Lord's day" or any other. It is sin that darkens our spiritual perceptions, as some accident to the body may blunt the finer sensations, may dull the hearing and dim the sight.
IV. THE FAMILY LIKENESS WHICH THIS GUIDANCE IMPARTS. The Spirit of God enables us to realize our sonship. Hatred and disobedience and fear are exchanged for glad communion and willing service. We become increasingly like our Father, like our elder Brother Christ, and like the rest of the redeemed children. It is not identical sameness, but similarity, which results. Members of the same home may differ much in exact lineaments, yet the stranger can discern a family likeness. By his Spirit is the Saviour preparing his brethren for their heavenly home, to enter with intelligent zest into its enjoyments, the society of the angels and of the blest, into holier worship and higher service than we can render here.—S.R.A.
The Christian, apocalypse.
The kingdom of God is a kingdom of progress; "forward" is its watchword. That outgoing of the character of God which constitutes his works and laws cannot be other than an advance. For God to retrograde is impossible. In Judaism at its brightest period, the eyes of the noblest men directed their vision to better days to come. The saints "died in faith," not having received the promises, but embracing them afar off. And today the Christian, much as he loves to read of the illustrious sacrifice of himself on earth of the Son of God, regarding the events of that earthly sojourn as the foundation of his hope and religion, yet sighs not for a return of past wonders, but believes in a more glorious unveiling of the plan of God. Times of apparent defeat and humiliation are but valleys to be traversed in ascending to the topmost mountain-peak.
I. THE GOAL OF EXPECTATION. "The revealing of the sons of God." The sons are at present in obscurity. The statue is partially hidden, its proportions are visible, but we shall hereafter discern its lustrous beauty and perfection, complete, unstained. Princes, heirs to the throne, may be for a season in poor habiliments and amid mean surroundings; but they are to be brought forth like Joash, to be crowned as kings and priests unto God. God has given us "the firstfruits of the Spirit." As when a friend despatches his carriage and servants and son to conduct us with all honour to his house, so God has sent his Spirit into the hearts of his children—the earnest of the joys of heaven. Sweet voices whisper a coming state of larger possibilities and nobler felicity. The dawn heralds a cloudless day. We "wait for the redemption of the body," the removal of every trace of sin, the deliverance from every yoke, the complete abolition of death. Here a mean presence may conceal a beautiful personality; there the body shall be the out-flashing glory of the perfected spirit, as at the Transfiguration the soul of Christ in its intensity tinged with splendour the very skirts of his garments.
II. THE WHOLE CREATION IS INTERESTED IN THIS UNVEILING. With uplifted and outstretched head does the "creature" wait to decry the long-desired event. Genesis tells us of the ground cursed for man's sake. Man was formed to rule over the world, but, unable to control himself, his dominion has been broken in upon by disorder. And the beasts have suffered through the degradation of man. If the master deteriorate, so will his household. The howling of the dog, the moaning of the lion, the writhing of the worm, the fluttering of the imprisoned bird, all confirm the assertion of "subjection to vanity unwillingly," The poor brutes at the mercy of rough men may well pant for the redemption of the sons of God. Had man continued upright and grown in true wisdom, doubtless the very character of nature had changed for the better. Then had the glowing language of Isaiah been descriptive of common occurrences: "The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and a little child shall lead them." All things in God's universe are linked together. Man was formed out of the dust of the ground, and we must despise nothing.
III. IT IS ALREADY OBSERVABLE THAT THE PREVALENCE OF CHRISTIANITY ALLEVIATES THE HARDEST LOT. Many are the philanthropic agencies which owe their origin to the diffusion of the Spirit of Christ. First deemed quixotic, sentimental, then plausible and possible, and further becoming actual, the contrary has at last come to be thought disgraceful and unnatural. More consideration is shown to the lower animals. Earth yields up her stores to investigation, rejoices in the augmenting power of man to use her forces and bring her marvels to light. That sympathy with nature which modern poetry exhibits was almost unknown to the ancients. We are learning the language of Creation, interpreting her smiles and tears. At the death of Christ, the association with nature's pangs was made visible by the rending of the rocks and the darkening of the sun.
IV. If this tendency to amelioration is even now patent, WHAT SHALL BE THE EFFECT OF THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF GOD'S PURPOSES! Then shall "earth be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God." Moses in his song called the "heavens to hear, and the earth to give ear." Our Saviour showed his command of the elements. Winds and waves, trees, sickness, and evil spirits obeyed his word. In the desert the wild beasts hurt him not. In anticipation of the day when men shall be like the Saviour, the psalmist called upon earth to "make a joyful noise before the Lord. Let the floods clap their hands, for he cometh to judge the earth." Isaiah predicted that in Israel's millennium "the mountains and hills shall break forth into singing." And in the Book of Revelation we hear the chorus of redeemed creation: "Every creature which is in heaven and in earth, and under the earth, heard I saying, Blessing … be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever." The cross of Christ is the great rectifier, reconciling all things unto God. If we cannot fathom the deep secrets of God, it is good, howler, for us to meditate on the hints of a widespread redemption. There is something in the prospect which dwarfs our selfish earthly plans, and ennobles all that is linked on to God and his kingdom. It makes the paros and strifes and aches of the world bearable, because "our redemption draweth nigh." Are we doing aught as the sons of God to quicken the approach of the apocalypse? May our awaking be not to shame and everlasting contempt, but to the glorious emancipation of redeemed humanity!—S.R.A.
Romans 8:24, Romans 8:25
The Christian, like the rest of the creation, waifs for full redemption, but consciously and aspiringly. He is an heir who has not yet entered into the possession of his inheritance. He is saved from the guilt of sin, and is being released from its power. His sun is veiled under morning clouds, and he shall soon rejoice in cloudless splendour. A state of hope is the condition in which and the instrument by which he works out his complete salvation.
I. HOPE IS EXERCISED ON THE UNSEEN. What we see is here before us; what we hope for is still in the future—the invisible womb of time. Faith and hope are inseparable companions; where the former is, the latter is nigh. Hope is faith in the attitude of looking towards better things to come. It vividly pictures the approaching glory, and is "the present enjoyment of future good." Christian hope is not a mirage that mocks the heart, but is surely grounded on the work of Christ, who has revealed the character of God and his far-reaching purpose of love. Many a man depending on high expectations has found them baseless; the legacy is absent, the coveted post is given to another. When the sceptic talks of a bird in the hand being preferable to two in the bush, we reply that by the very nature of the case Christian anticipation is precluded from being satisfied with the temporal. "We look for new heavens and a new earth."
II. HOPE DRIVES OUT DESPAIR, THE FOE OF PATIENCE. Where despondency grows, there activity ceases. What means that sudden splash, that piercing cry, except that life has been quenched because the light of hope had vanished first? The gospel, by its promise of a free pardon for the penitent sinner, rolls away the burden from the back, enables the criminal to take heart of grace, and to exchange the dungeon of dreary fate for the glad sunlight of a new lease of endeavour after righteousness. There is a danger of succumbing to the weariness of the long Christian journey, but hope grasps the future and draws us thereto. Hopeful, in the 'Pilgrim's Progress,' had much ado to keep his brother's head above the water; but he comforted him saying, "Brother, I see the gate, and men standing by to receive us."
"Hope, like the glimmering taper's light,
Adorns and cheers the way;
And still, as darker grows the night,
Emits a brighter ray."
We are not as shipwrecked mariners, uncertain if any vessel shall pass near enough to succour us; we know that, if we wait patiently, "he that cometh will come, and will not tarry."
III. HOPE FITS THE SOUL FOR ITS FUTURE ARENA OF GLORY. For every state certain qualifications are requisite, if we would play a proper part therein. Dr. Johnson would like due notice of Burke's visits, that he might prepare himself for the lofty conversation certain to ensue. The young lady prepares herself for the engagements of society, and to acquit herself gracefully on her presentation at court. It is the hope of after-practice that inspires the labour of the student barristers and doctors. The necessary waiting is a beneficial discipline testing perseverance and fidelity. The disciple of Christ can abstain from worldly indulgences because of more cherished longings. He will not barter away his birthright even though faint with hunger. "Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself." Hope is the great engine of progress and reformation. Israel under Ezra could ratify a covenant of amendment, because "there was hope for Israel concerning this thing."—S.R.A.
One reason for the lasting power of the Bible is its wide-ranging view of life. It runs through the whole gamut of feeling, touches every state. In this passage the apostle has brought heaven and earth together—has shown that creation is a unity waiting for a glorious consummation. He gives us truth fit to be "the master-light of all our Christian seeing, the guardian light of all our doing."
I. OUR HUMAN WEAKNESS. "Infirmity" suggests not so much the feebleness of the babe from a want of development, as the prostration of illness through the inroad of disease. Sin wastes the constitution, and we perceive our weakness when we proceed to act. This is the first stage of enlightenment, to be made conscious of helplessness. Ours is a condition of sighing. Like the rest of creation, Christians "groan within" themselves. They are subject to vanity, corruption, and sorrow. Afflictions deceive, comforts disappoint. At Marah the waters are bitter, and at Nineveh the gourd of one day withers the next. With what pain is thought exercised! Sin weighs us down; a cloud of passion obscures the Saviour's love; we toil, and "catch nothing." Deliverance is our cry. We stretch the head and crane the neck to hail the day of redemption. "We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened." A notable instance of weakness is furnished by our prayers. We are ignorant of the fit requests to make, and the proper manner in which to present them. There is a danger of our asking unwisely, too impetuously, for a hurtful gratification. The most needful object, what "we ought" to supplicate, we are not earnest enough about; we scarce know what it is. We look through eyes of flesh, and our vision is limited. We dislike a burden and all suffering. Like Paul, we have "thrice besought the Lord" to remove what is designed for beneficial discipline. Like sufferers under the surgeon's knife, we long for present ease rather than the removal of the real cause of disorder. Amid the whirl of life "bound to its wheel," we are liable to "mistake its end;" would fain arrest the machinery ere the clay is sufficiently impressed to make a "vessel meet for the Master's use."
II. THE DIVINE PROVISION. Help is afforded us by the Spirit of God. The very sense of dissatisfaction is a sign of the indwelling Spirit. The world wonders at the lamentation so frequent in religious biography. But to be quite content arbores deadness of soul. To deem one's self perfectly wise is a sure token of self-deceit. The Spirit breaks up the deeps of an undisturbed monotony. The Emperor Augustus desired to see the wonderful couch on which a man slept serenely in spite of his heavy indebtedness. The groaning of the Christian is an advance upon that of the natural creation. It is not merely bewailing and murmuring; it is for spiritual reasons. He is made aware of his Divine sonship, and has to reconcile his confidence in the Father with his present irksome bondage. Creation longs for development; the Christian feels his sinfulness and sighs for salvation. His groaning proves a longing for infinitude; that he was made for God, and nothing less can satisfy. Like the hart chased by pursuers, till big tears are rolling from the eyes and the moisture is black upon its sides, so the Christian "thirsts for the living God." For him, to cease to aspire is to die, as the cessation of activity in extreme cold means a fatal rest. The unwilling bondage is an "incipient liberty." This groaning is an intercession of the Spirit, an utterance too big for words, a powerful plea with God. We have the advocacy of Christ without us, and the intercession of the Holy Spirit within. "I will send you another Advocate." Such an advocacy assures us of good. The Spirit is "the Firstfruits," and the golden harvest shall surely follow to the garner. These yearnings are the earnest of the fulfilment of our largest hopes, a pledge that the Father does not mean us always to remain down-trodden and stained and imperfect in knowledge. How great the encouragement to pray! Even though we are uncertain what exactly we want, our vague aspirations are not useless. We are lifted higher by them. Prayer is God's law, though how it acts on God we cannot tell. We know that in the human sphere a father exerts his power of loving aid when his child cries in trouble. And God reads the mind of his own Spirit, urging us to pour out our hearts before his throne of grace. We may pray, then, even though we realize our inability to express our needs. We can interpret the dumb animal's pleading look, or the babe's expression of suffering; we project our spirit to them, and by sympathy understand their wants. And our broken utterances, or the stereotyped phrases of the Liturgy, are multiplied by the Spirit into a mighty intercession on our behalf. Though we fear lest we ask amiss, God will understand aright, nor grant an injurious boon. The direction of the Spirit's longing stimulated within us is ever in accordance with the judgment of the All-wise.—S.R.A.
A consolatory argument.
This is one of the most wonderful chapters in all Scripture, for the height to which it soars and the breadth of its conceptions. It is rich in doctrine, in promise, and in consolation. Having climbed, as it were, the mount of God, the apostle reaches the summit, stands bathed in the very light of God.
I. A GLORIOUS AND SOLEMN TRUTH COMMEMORATED. "God spared not his own Son." God has known what it is to be bereaved by the departure and death of his best-beloved. No need now to dwell upon those sufferings of Christ at the crucifixion—the baptism of horror, darkness, and blood in which the Sun of Righteousness set for two days. The God who in his tender mercy steps in and spares offenders taken in arms against him, then seemed deaf to the cries of his only begotten Son. He must drink the bitter cup to its dregs. Hagar in the wilderness turned away that she might not see her child die. She prayed, and Ishmael lived. Yet God beheld his Son prostrate in the garden, and yet yielded him up for us all. What can give such views of the enormity of sin as the sacrifice of Christ! When hard iron laws tempt us to disbelieve the compassion of our Maker, we are reassured by the spectacle of the suffering Christ. There is no lack of wisdom, power, or love, however stern the necessity which compels our anguish. "A man spareth his own son that serveth him" all needless toil, but the grandest service may entail the severest labour. "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the Author of eternal salvation."
II. THE ARGUMENT WHICH THIS TRUTH IS USED TO ENFORCE. If God bestows such a gift, what will he withhold?
1. When we were enemies he surrendered his Son on our behalf; how much will he not do for us now we are friends? The mediation of Christ hath restored us to a covenant position.
2. Jesus Christ is the sum of all good gifts, inestimable, unspeakable. Nothing more precious in the eyes of God than his dear Son! It is absurd to suppose that he will refuse us a lesser gift. All good is embodied in Christ; other blessings are fruits of his tree of life. He is the Sun; other brightness is but beams from that Sun.
3. The gift of Christ was for the express purpose of opening a door through which all other good things might pass to us. He is the great Charter of Christian privilege, the Preacher of peace, the Ambassador of reconciliation, the Channel of Divine grace. "All things are yours."
4. As we did nothing to deserve the gift of Christ, so the lesser blessings to enrich our lives are bestowed not according to our deserts, but according to God's free bounty. He gives abundantly "without money and without price."
5. The one condition is to receive Christ. These gifts are to be had "with Christ," or not at all. What is to be said for him who can treat lightly this stupendous boon? If God spared not his own Son, what must the impenitent expect who refuse to obey the will of God, and harden themselves in unbelief? Turn to him in prayer, and employ the persuasive petition, "for Christ's sake."—S.R.A.
This chapter is like a stream that gathers strength and volume as it flows. Beginning with the Christian's state as one of freedom from condemnation, it ends by placing him on the summit of victory, radiant with the love of God. It is a chapter full of Christ. Christ in humiliation and triumph; Christ as the Sacrifice in whom sin was condemned, and, as the risen Redeemer, the Firstborn of many brethren; Christ as the present Strength of his people by his indwelling Spirit, and, as seated upon the throne, the perfect Son of God, to whose lineage all the sons are to be conformed. The earnest rhetoric of the apostle leads him to summon all adversaries to the bar, and challenge them to prove their ability to upset his reasonings and destroy the hopes of the followers of Christ. Who or what shall sever the tie that binds them to their Lord?
I. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE CHALLENGE. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" The passage requires us to understand the expression as referring rather to Christ's love for us than to our response to his love. See the parallelism with Romans 8:37, "through him that loved us." And Romans 8:39 speaks of "the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." This interpretation loses no shade of meaning, since Christ's affection involves our love in return, as its natural outcome. The expression is, in truth, a description of our religion. To be severed from Christ's love means utter loss.
1. Christianity is founded upon the love of Christ. This looked down pityingly upon our dark and helpless world. It shone through all the symbols of the Law, pointing the worshippers to the coming Saviour. It nerved him to endure his anguish in the garden and on the cross. It has provided for man a day of grace, and the endowment of the Spirit to renew and sanctify.
2. The new life is dependent on the continued manifestation of this love. Remove the sunlight, and the plant sickens and dies. Let the supply of the air above be stopped, and the diver cannot breathe. Without the love of Christ operating on the heart, the sweetest ordinances lose their savour, communion by reading and prayer is eclipsed, no rainbow brightens the tears of penitence. The love of Christ shed abroad is the root of obedience. From it we draw our most influential motives to holiness and service. The lustre of our deeds is marred unless encircled by this golden band.
3. The love of Christ is the love of God herein revealed. Christ is the Horn of plenty by which the Father would pour into the lap of his children all good things. To be sundered from this love must signify, therefore, our estrangement from all that lifts us heavenward. Could this happen, Christianity were stilled into a frozen sea, the ripples and waves remaining in form, but not in motion and might—a waste of desert ice. The query is not merely oratorical. Endeavours to intercept the love of Christ are reiterated and prolonged. The words that follow are not empty terms, not visions of the night, but stern foes, combatants to be encountered by day.
II. THE CONFIDENT REPLY. The apostle answers his own query. Look at the particular things enumerated, and then appreciate the apostolic assurance.
1. The trials of life cannot defeat the purposes, of Christ's love. "Tribulation, anguish, famine, nakedness," though they may becloud our path and awaken a bitter cry, yet, instead of being regarded as indications of abandonment, are rather signs of the providential discipline which perfects sanctification. The good Shepherd is moved to greater compassion at the sight of the wounds of his flock.
2. The hostility of an unbelieving world cannot dissolve this union. "Persecution, peril, and the sword" do but liken the servant to the Master. Piety has thriven most in days of ridicule and torment. Christian heroism cheerfully underwent the loss of goods, stripes, and imprisonment; it converted jails into holy fanes resounding with praise and prayer. "In that he suffered being tempted," he has proved himself "able to succour those that are tempted."
3. The apostle advances in his enumeration. Neither "death," however grim its aspect, nor "life," with its snares and bewitchments, its competitions, its trifles, can succeed in detaching the pilgrim from the protecting love of his Guide. Nor can the ranged battalions of evil win the victory. Christ triumphed over them, and conquers still.
4. So finally the apostle sums up in the emphatic comprehensive assertion that neither the forces of time, "things present and to come," nor the forces of space, "height and depth," bewildering the imagination or depressing the soul, no, "nor any other created thing," above or below, personal or impersonal, animate or inanimate, known or unknown, shall defeat the loving purpose of Christ in the salvation of his people. "Many waters cannot drown his love, nor the floods quench it."
III. THIS CONFIDENCE JUSTIFIABLE.
1. The dignity of Christ's Person and the perfection of his character forbid fear. His love falters not, is not fickle; it waxes, but never wanes. He does not undertake what he cannot accomplish, nor begin what is beyond his power to finish. The foes to our salvation were foreseen and measured from the first. To doubt it is to dishonour him.
2. The whole trend of the redemptive scheme is against any supposition of abandonment by Christ. How infinite the price already paid! How steadily and surely the great design of salvation has marched through the ages, developing ever deeper wisdom and unfailing resources! We might wonder that man had not been left to himself in his rebellion and a new race created; but man's elevation having been promised and begun, every indication points to the ultimate fulfilment of our purest and brightest hopes.
3. Innumerable biographies confirm the apostle's declaration. ,May our life add another testimony! Look at the forces opposed to our steadfastness, and then, like Peter, we lose heart and begin to sink. Fix the gaze upon Christ, and our cheerful courage, our triumphant conviction of his unshakable love, will of itself lend such vigour to our loyalty that every apprehension of disaster shall vanish.—S.R.A.
HOMILIES BY R.M. EDGAR
The last chapter, after bringing out the insufficiency of Law to sanctify, ends by declaring the sufficiency of Christ. Through him, as our Deliverer from the body of death, we are enabled to enter upon an experience which has been rightly denominated "Paradise regained." £ In the first section, which we are now to consider, we have the victory set before us which the Holy Spirit secures over sin and over death.
I. THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST ESTABLISHES THE SOUL IN HOLINESS. (Romans 8:1-4.) After what has been stated in Romans 7:1-25., it is seen that "there is not now any condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." The soul has died to Law in the death of Jesus Christ, and, now risen, is married to another, even the risen Christ. And this better Husband has put the soul under another and better law of life, what is called in this passage "the law of the Spirit of life," and we are enabled by Paul's statements to see how it operates. And here it is well to premise that law and Spirit are not antitheses. The Spirit has, in fact, his law of operation, and it is this we have here set before us.
1. The Spirit emancipates the soul from the law of sin. Law, that is, the Law of Moses, could never do this. It was weak through the flesh, and had not the necessary power. On the other hand, the Spirit takes Christ's life, applies it, and produces the emancipation through it. The grace of God is seen in "sending his own Son," that is, "the Son of himself;" and he made his advent "in the likeness of sinful flesh," that is, he came not as an apparition, but in a real body, yet it differed from other human bodies in that it was not "sinful flesh." And his purpose in assuming sinless flesh was that he might be "an Offering for sin" (Revised Version), and thereby might "condemn sin in the flesh." His whole life in the flesh was, indeed, a condemnation of sin; but the condemnation reached its climax when on the cross Jesus expiated human guilt. As a powerful writer has well stated the truth of the passage, "believers are made 'partakers of the Divine nature.' The nature of the Father through the Son is made known unto them—and as the rays of light which pass through a coloured medium take the hues of the medium through which they come, so the Spirit of God, coming to us through Christ incarnate, is baptized in the humanities of his Person, and hence becomes the Dispenser of the Divine mercy, as that mercy was revealed in the flesh. So that 'what the Law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh [had no sympathetic power to touch the emotional nature], God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the Law [which requires love, but cannot produce it] might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." £
2. The Spirit enables the soul to fulfil the righteousness of the Law by walking, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. "The righteousness of the Law," in Romans 7:4, is given in the Revised Version as "the ordinance of the Law" ( δικαίωμα, not δικαίοσυνη). But the idea is clear. The perfect life is the ideal of the Spirit. He accordingly comes to inspire as well as to condemn. He prompts us to "walk after the Spirit," in the spiritual path our Saviour trod, and so we find ourselves, through the appreciation of the life of Jesus, becoming progressively holy in character, approximating steadily towards the perfect righteousness which dwelt in him. It is this inspiration to holy living which defeats the law of sin. This is the real victory. Salvation is not so much from the uncomfortableness of hell, as from the greater misfortune of sin. As one has very properly said, "If my religion is to make me comfortable in spite of ill temper, and slipshod ways of business, and words that are not exactly true,—then I say deliberately, better the very fires of hell than that comfort, if they could only burn into me and through and through me a great abhorrence of all that is evil."
II. THROUGH DESTROYING SIN, THE SPIRIT DESTROYS DEATH. (Romans 7:5-11.) For as long as we "mind the things of the flesh," that is, are occupied with them to the exclusion or subordination of spiritual things, we are, as "carnally minded," in a state of spiritual death. This "mind of the flesh is death" (so Revised Version). And when we analyze this death of the soul, we find it consists in at least these three things:
1. To destroy this spiritual death by destroying sin. The moment we become "spiritually minded," we have passed the boundary between "Paradise lost" and "Paradise regained." We find that both "life and peace" result from spiritual-mindedness. "Here," says De Rougemont, "we are in full life and in full peace; there is in some way upon the mountain of God the terrestrial paradise of faith and of hope; there is the sweet sun of Eden, there are its sweet shades, there are its limpid waters which murmur, there is its tree of life whose fruits are the envy of the angels, if they have not similar ones in abundance. No one before Jesus Christ had known the way and passed the portal of this garden of delight. The Son of God descended to the lowest parts of the earth, and taught the existence of it to his disciples. They were suddenly transported there on the Day of Pentecost by the impetuous breath of the Spirit of God."
2. The Spirit also proposes to destroy the mortality of the body by resurrection. Alas! at conversion we do not become immortal. The change of heart has doubtless its good effect on the body, but it does not replace a bad constitution by a good one, nor rehabilitate the body. The body remains dead because of sin, even when the spirit has become life because of righteousness. But the justified and sanctified spirit within man is not going to be perpetually chained to a dying body. The Spirit of God, who has effected the vital change within, is the Spirit who raised up Jesus from the dead. That resurrection of our Lord is the pledge of our bodily resurrection. God is not going to leave his work half-done. Having raised our dead hearts out of the grave of trespass and of sin, he is not going to leave us in a state of physical mortality. The Head having been raised, the members shall be also "resurrected." The cemeteries shall not be left as trophies of the king of terrors. They shall be despoiled of their prey by the quickening power of the Divine Spirit. God means to save his people out and out, body as well as soul. Thus our gospel is that of the Resurrection. The tree of life in the midst of Paradise regained shall prove victorious over our mortality, and we shall have conferred upon us in body as well as soul an immortality like our Master's.
"No longer must the mourners weep,
Nor call departed Christians dead
For death is hallowed into sleep,
And every grave becomes a bed.
Now once more
Open stands to mortal eyes;
For Christ hath risen, and man shall rise!
Now at last,
All things past,
Hope and joy and peace begin;
For Christ hath won, and man shall win!
It is not exile, rest on high;
It is not sadness, peace from strife;
To fall asleep is not to die;
To dwell with Christ is better life.
Where our banner leads us
We may safely go;
Where our Chief precedes us,
We may face the foe.
His right arm is o'er us,
He will guide us through;
Christ hath gone before us;
Christians! follow you!"
(John Mason Neale.)
The Spirit of adoption.
In the previous section we have found "Paradise restored," through the Spirit destroying sin and thereby death within us, first in the soul and then in the body. But this experience of spiritual-mindedness is realized on the line of God's adopting love. The emancipating Spirit is the Spirit of adoption. Let us notice the stages as here presented by the apostle.
I. OUR OBLIGATION IS NOW TO THE SPIRIT, AND NOT TO THE FLESH. (Romans 8:12, Romans 8:13.) The Spirit of Christ has freed us from every condemnation; he has secured a measure of sanctification, and death is defeated in soul and will be in body. Such a work carries clearly obligation with it. We are his debtors. We realize accordingly:
1. That we are not bound to live after the flesh. To do so would only be to court death. It would be to return to our vomit, like the filthy dog; it would be to wallow once more in the mire, like the once-washed swine.
2. We are bound to mortify the deeds of the body, and so live. Mortification of fleshly desires and lusts is the great duty the Christian owes to the Spirit who condescends to dwell within him. It is a painful process, but passes into a painless one. When we earnestly set about it, it abundantly rewards us. And we find that mortification of the deeds of the body is the very secret of life. It is thus evident that the struggle of the latter part of the seventh chapter is also found in the eighth. Christian progress, as we have seen, is through antagonizing our sinful desires and tendencies, and so largely discharging our obligation to the pure Spirit who condescends to dwell within us (cf. Shedd's 'Commentary,' in loc.).
II. SONSHIP IS REALIZED IN THIS SUBMISSION TO THE SPIRIT. (Romans 8:14.) God's adopting love is realized within. He can give the family spirit as well as the legal standing as sons. Sonship among men, and especially adoption, may be destitute of the becoming spirit. The children may despise their parents or their foster-parents, and treat them inconsiderately. But in God-given sonship there is as its essence submission to God's Spirit. The adopted soul abandons himself to the Divine inspiration; the right filial attitude is reached; and life becomes the outcome of inspiration. They only are sons of God who are led by his Spirit.
III. ALL GOD'S TRUE CHILDREN PROVE PRAYERFUL. (Romans 8:15.) The spirit of bondage which leads souls to fear like stricken slaves before God gets cast out by the Spirit of adoption, and there is within us the divinely prompted cry, "Abba, Father." Just as true children love to have fellowship with their earthly parents, so God's children love to hold fellowship with their heavenly Parent. Prayerfulness is one of the best tests of our relation to God. It is the instinct of an adopted child. In this way the spiritual relationship is realized. Just as fellowship is the essence of family relationship, so is it with the family of God.
IV. THE PRAYERFUL CHILDREN RECEIVE THE SPIRIT'S WITNESS TO THEIR SONSHIP. (Romans 8:16.) The witness of the Spirit is something distinct from the testimony of our own consciousness, as the verse implies. The latter concurs with the former. What is it, then? If we consider Jesus in his baptismal prayer, we shall find that he received not only the gift of the opened heaven, that is, all needful revelation, and the gift of the descending dove, that is, the perfect inspiration, but also the audible assurance of his Sonship, when the voice came from heaven to say, "Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." The Father assures the Son of his ineffable relation. Now, this passage shows that there is something corresponding to this assurance granted to God's sons. They are enabled to hear the Father's voice, and are reassured thereby. It is not, of course, an audible voice, as when they said, "It thundered;" yet a voice which speaks home to the spirit within. It comes through God's Word. Up to a certain point the Bible is a splendid literary treasure; but the Spirit comes, and the Bible becomes a child's book, with a Father's voice ringing lovingly through it all. These spiritual tones are found to coincide with experience, and we have the witness within. It is thus that we are enabled to examine ourselves through God's Word. We begin to read it as children should to whom a father is faithfully speaking, and we are reassured and comforted thereby. £
V. THE PRAYERFUL CHILDREN THROUGH LISTENING TO THE FATHER'S VOICE COME TO REALIZE THAT THEY ARE HEIRS OF GOD, AND JOINT-HEIRS WITH CHRIST. (Romans 8:17.) Heirship succeeds the sense of sonship, Now, in earthly inheritances the sad condition now is the parent's death; but it was not so under the ancient law. Then, as in the parable of the prodigal son, the inheritance could be divided in the father's lifetime, and either enjoyed with the father or away from him. £ Thus the father says to the elder son, "All that I have is thine;" and the promise to God's children is clear, "All things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's" (1 Corinthians 3:21-23). When we realize, therefore, that God is to us "all in all," then have we entered into our inheritance with him. And what adds to its preciousness is the fact that it is a joint-inheritance with Christ. It is through him that it has become ours. What he gets we get. He has raised his brothers and sisters through adoption to the platform of his own inheritance.
VI. FELLOWSHIP IN SUFFERING IS THE SIGN AND PLEDGE OF FELLOWSHIP IN THE COMING GLORY. (Romans 8:17.) Now, we must remember that fellowship through suffering is the closest fellowship of all. It is when hearts are together in the fires that they are welded or rather melted into one. Now, life gets sooner or later for the true son of God like Nebuchadnezzar's fiery furnace, with one like unto the Son of God in the fire along with him. "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth" (Hebrews 11:6, Hebrews 11:7). It is to this fellowship in his sufferings that we are providentially called, that so we may become in due season conformable unto his death (Philippians 3:11). We should reconcile ourselves to our inheritance of suffering, seeing that it is through it we, as a rule, reach our inheritance of wisdom, £ And as a suffering with Christ is the sign and pledge of being glorified together with him, we should hail it as the birthright mark, and rejoice in hope of the glory.—R.M.E.
Salvation in spite of suffering.
"Paradise regained" in this life is not a sorrowless and painless condition. The sons of God are chastened. They know what suffering is. And there is here the great religious evidence. When the world sees men and women composed and even cheerful amid untold tribulation, then it sees a reality in religion. Job, for instance, was an evidence for the reality of religion that, even Satan himself could not gainsay or deny. How is it that the Christian spirit can assert its supremacy amid suffering of the most intense character? It is because it is enabled to keep its eye on the hidden good, and bless God for it. And so in this section we have the spirit of the apostle asserting itself upon this important subject.
I. THERE IS THE CONTRAST BETWEEN PRESENT SUFFERINGS AND THE PERFECTED SANCTIFICATION. (Verse 18.) God's end in his dispensations is to create a glory in us of an eternal character—the glory of sanctification when it comes in fulness. We may see the price we pay in the stanzas of the poetess.
"Through long days did Anguish,
And sad nights did Pain,
Forge my shield, Endurance,
Bright and free from stain!
"Doubt, in misty caverns,
'Mid dark horrors sought,
Till my peerless jewel,
Faith, to me she brought,
"Sorrow that I wearied
Should remain so long,
Wreathed my starry glory
The bright crown of Song.
"Strife that racked my spirit
Without hope or rest,
Left the blooming flower,
Patience, in my breast."
(Miss Procter's 'Legends and Lyrics.')
Now, when we look at what is paid and what is bought, we must admit that the bargain is a good one, for the glory of sanctification is weighty and eternal. "The light affliction," says the apostle elsewhere, "which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17).
II. IN SUFFERING WE ARE IN FELLOWSHIP WITH THE WHOLE CREATION. (Verses 19-22.) When we look into the Book of Job we see that the man of God is a special sufferer. But God points out in the sequel of the book that the perplexity in Job's experience is matched by the perplexity which pervades all nature. So is it with suffering. We may see it all through nature. Suffering human nature is only in line with suffering nature. And here we have to remark that:
1. The study of nature shows long progress through suffering towards higher forms. This is the lesson of evolution so far as it is a truth. The "struggle for existence" is painful progress towards more perfect forms. It may seem to our philosophic laureate a mystery that nature should be "so careful of the type," and "so careless of the single life;" nay, he goes on to see that she lets "a thousand types" go, and seems to care for nothing. £ But if we take the great procession as a whole, we may see that it embodies progress through pain to more perfect form. The groaning creation thus sheds light on sanctification through suffering and pain.
2. Out of the present is to be born a new state of things in which nature shall share in the restoration of the sons of God. The very word "nature," which signifies "something about to be born," is a prophecy similar to what the apostle here gives. If Nature, without any moral fault, has been subjected to vanity; if it has, without consent on her part, been made the painful illustration of moral and spiritual truth; then we may expect a just Governor like God to give Nature compensation, and allow her to share in the glorious liberty of his children. £ It is surely significant that that manly Christian, Frank Buckland, when he was dying, said, "I am going a long journey where I think I shall see a great many curious animals. This journey I must go alone." £ As animals were saved in the ark with Noah, and in Nineveh with the penitent Ninevites, is it not reasonable to suppose that they shall have some share in the regeneration of all things?
III. MAN AS THE SOUL OF THE WORLD INTERPRETS THE TRAVAIL OF THE CREATION. (Verses 23-27.) And here we cannot do better than take up the points as St. Paul gives them.
1. Man's aspiration about the body. (Verse 23.) For the body is to be redeemed, not discarded. It is this "hope" which saves us in our present distresses (verse 24). £ If we had not this hope, we should inevitably despair. And along with hope comes patience, so that "the patience of hope" becomes the attitude of all faithful souls. £ Then:
2. The Holy Spirit endorses our groaning after the better bodies. (Verse 26.) Prayer is not all articulate. A groan, a sigh, a tear, may have all the elements of prayer addressed to the heart of the Most High. Now, some saints have had such suffering communicated to them as compelled them to groan with desire after a better, because promised condition. These groans, that are too deep to be articulate, are Spirit-prompted. He pressed from tried spirits these unutterable longings.
3. God, the Heart-searcher, responds to these unutterable groans. (Verse 27.) We have here the whole philosophy of prayer. It is the inspired expression, articulately or otherwise, of what is agreeable to the Divine will, and the Heart-searcher recognizes in the prompted prayer the return to him of his own will, and so can answer it. £
IV. THIS IS THE BEST POSSIBLE WORLD FOR ONE WHO LOVES GOD. (Verse 28.) There is a certain idealism which inspires us all. According to our inward state is our outward world. "'Tis in ourselves that we are thus or thus." Consequently, if we have learned to love God, we take all things as animated by a Divine purpose of good to us. Suffering may come, but it comes to sanctify. Faith thus becomes optimistic. It lifts up its head, knowing that its redemption draweth nigh. It refuses to be pessimistic. In spite of all drawbacks, the glory of sanctification is on its way. And so those who have been called by a loving God to the exercise of love, find as they look about them that all things are co-operating for God's holy end of making his children holier and fitter for his fellowship. We could not be better situated than we are for sanctification. A poet on the subject "It is well" has thus written—
''So they said, who saw the wonders
Of Messiah's power and love;
So they sing, who see his glory
In the Father's house above:
Ever reading in each record
Of the strangely varied past,
'All was well which God appointed,
All has wrought for good at last.'
"And thus, while years are fleeting,
Though our joys are with them gone,
In thy changeless love rejoicing
We shall journey calmly on;
Till at last, all sorrow over,
Each our tale of grace shall tell,
In the heavenly chorus joining:
'Lord, thou hast done all things well!'"
(Cf. Randolph's 'Changed Cross, and other Poems,')
V. CONFORMITY TO CHRIST'S GLORIOUS IMAGE IS WHAT GOD HAS IN VIEW FOR THOSE HE CALLS. (Verses 29, 30.) The gospel is God's plan for securing a multitude of children who shall all become Christ-like. He sent his only Child, "the only begotten Son," into the world to secure many brethren, and be the Firstborn among them. No narrow jealousies here! In the holiest sense it is true regarding God's family that "the more' there are in it, "the merrier" will all be. Now, God's purpose, foreknowledge, and predestination are robbed of every repulsive feature, when we bear in mind that individuals are not predestinated to salvation without regard to their moral state. They are predestinated to become Christ-like. Men may reject the call of God to Christ-likeness, but his purpose is not nullified by such wickedness. His purpose was pure in calling them, even though they reject the call. And so it is in the light of this holy purpose to make men Christ-like that we are to regard the predestination, and the call, and the justification, and the glorification. The glory when reached, the glory of Christ-likeness, sheds its heavenly halo over all. May we all reach that paradise of experience, likeness to our blessed Lord!—R.M.E.
Faith rising into assurance.
We have appreciated the paradise of pardon, of acceptance, of sanctification, into which, in spite of this life's sufferings, believers in Jesus come. And now we are to study that hymn of courageous assurance, into which the apostle rises at the close of the chapter. Nowhere does St. Paul rise into nobler eloquence than here.
I. THE BELIEVER'S SOLILOQUY. (Romans 8:31, Romans 8:32.) In this soliloquy the apostle reviews the whole previous argument. Romans 1:1-32.-5. is God for us—justification by faith; Romans 6:1-23.-8., is God in us—sanctification through the Spirit of Christ. What can be said to these things? If God be for us, then we ask naturally and logically:
1. Who can be against us? With God as our Ally, we may safely face the world in arms. Assurance is thus traced to its Divine Source. It is not boastfulness, but humble dependence upon the almighty strength of God. The One is more than a match for all his and our foes.
2. In sparing not his own Son, he has given us the greatest pledge of his good will. In delivering up his Son to the death for us all, God was giving to man his very greatest Gift. It implies that the lesser gifts of the Spirit and of providence shall not be wanting.
"He who his Son, most dear and loved,
Gave up for us to die,
Shall he not all things freely give
That goodness can supply?"
It was a similar argument through which Abraham passed, tie journeyed to Mount Moriah to offer Isaac as a burnt offering. He found there that God had provided a substitute in the ram caught in the thicket, and that, therefore, Isaac could go free. He accordingly called the place "Jehovah-jireh"—the Lord will look after everything, and I shall not want any really good thing from his hands (Genesis 22:1-24.). Christ crucified is thus the foundation of the believer's assurance.
II. THE BELIEVER'S CHALLENGE. (Verses 33-36.) And here we have a challenge:
1. To all who may dispute his right to salvation. (Verses 33, 34.) For:
2. We have a challenge to all adverse circumstances. (Verses 35-37.) The believer can defy his environment, as it is now called, as well as his enemies. Tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword,—one and all shall be found to be powerless in separating him from the love of Christ. Jesus, with his loving and almighty arm, can hold his people safe in every trial and difficulty. What have these adverse circumstances been but opportunities for the exercise of preserving power? They are golden opportunities which Christ embraces for exhibiting his power to save. And so here we have the true Christian evidence, that Jesus can preserve his people in spite of all apparently adverse things.
III. THE BELIEVER'S SUPREME PERSUASION. (Verses 38, 39.) In these verses the apostle exhausts the category and declares his persuasion that not one of the things or persons embraced shall be able to separate the believer from the Divine love. Let us glance at them in order.
1. Death shall be no separating power. So far from this, the believer is enabled to rejoice in the fact that to die shall be gain; absent from the body, present with the Lord. The king of terrors will only usher the emancipated spirit into the near presence of his Lord.
2. Life shall prove no separating power. Even when it is flowing full and free, with all its garish and distracting shows, it will not be allowed to separate us from the love of Christ. Of the two dangers to our union with Christ, life is greater than death, but not so great as to defeat the loving power of Jesus.
3. Angels, principalities, powers, shall prove no separating power. This must refer to the evil angels, to Satan and his hosts; for the good angels are our helpers (Hebrews 1:14). A risen Saviour is more than sufficient to meet and overthrow them all.
4. Things present, appealing to sense, shall also be unable to separate us from Christ's love. They are subtle and powerful foes, yet Christ can vanquish them. He can conquer the inclination to be over-occupied with such things.
5. Things to come, appealing to fear, shall be unable to separate us from Christ. No possible combination of circumstances can perplex him. He is more than a match for all.
6. Height, depth, or any other creature, shall likewise be unable to separate us from the Lord's love. Neither space nor time, things physical or things metaphysical, shall be able to endanger our union with Christ. £—R.M.E.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Romans 8". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Easter