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Bible Commentaries

The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
Romans 5

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-21

Romans 5:1-11

1. Therefore being justified by faith [justified therefore by faith], we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:

2. By whom also we have access [through whom also we have had our introduction] by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

3. And not only Song of Solomon , but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;

4. And patience, experience [approval]; and experience, hope:

5. And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad [read "because God"s love has been poured out"] in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given [read, "that was given"] unto us.

6. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly [rather, "Christ died in due time for the ungodly"].

7. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.

8. But God commendeth his love toward us, [observe it is "his own love toward us"] in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

9. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

10. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Song of Solomon , much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. ["For if, being enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Song of Solomon , much more having been reconciled, we shall be saved in his life."]

11. And not only Song of Solomon , but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement [read the reconciliation, as in Romans 11:15, and 2 Corinthians 5:18-19]

Justification By Faith

No man can understand the fifth chapter who has not read the Epistle from the beginning; specially is it needful to read the chapter immediately preceding. This is the difficulty of having chapters at all. The Epistle should be read in its argumentative parts as a whole, straight through, from beginning to end, if we would see what a very vehement and tumultuous mind is aiming to say. The Apostle Paul is not a neat writer; he is urgent, strenuous, pressing on with ineffable energy; having a goal in view, his great object is to reach it and glorify it. So the Apostle Paul has written many things hard to be understood. Blessed be God, there is no need to understand them in their literal significance; it is enough to come within the exhilarating and renovating influence of their atmosphere. We know the touch of earnestness; we are well aware of the difference between painted fire and real fire: it is enough, therefore, now and then to feel the glowing heart of Paul, without pretending to settle his letters in order, which he himself seldom condescended to do.

"Therefore": that is an argumentative word, connecting what is about to be said with what has already been said, and coming out of what has been said as the flower comes out of the root,—"being justified": this has unfortunately become a theological term. There is no need that the term should be theologised in any difficult and repellent sense; let us substitute another word:—Therefore being made right,—being rectified, having that which was crooked made straight, having that which was lacking introduced; having now become right—not by works, which it was impossible ever to do, but having become right by a new and greater life, by a sixth sense, called faith—a great and glorious harvest has fallen to our lot. The Apostle has been anxious to wrench from any hands that would greedily and exclusively grasp it the whole message and the whole kingdom of God. The Apostle will deal out his kingdom fairly; he says it belongs to all nations, through all times, and no section of humanity has any right to urge an exclusive claim to the kingdom of grace. He had great difficulty here. It is not comfortable for any man who imagines himself to be elected to have anybody sitting near him whom he does not himself introduce to that high position and that inextinguishable honour. There is nothing more tempting to fallen man than that he should imagine himself to be elected, and should then sit in judgment upon the rest of his fellow creatures, and allocate them to heaven, to hell, as his ignorance or indigestion may permit. The Church has been ruined by its self-elected saints. They are odious every one of them, wholly ill-skinned and ill-favoured and bad at the innermost marrow that is hidden in their bones. The Lord does not know them; they do not begin to understand what is meant by love, redemption, forgiveness, charity, sanctification, heaven; they have been living—if life it may be called—upon the alphabet; and no man was ever fed into great stature and massiveness and majesty of mind by repeating the letters of the alphabet. The Apostle Paul will clear the horizon of all the clouds which sectarian ignorance has breathed upon it. From every point he will have streaming sunshine. He cannot allow that Christ has died for half a world, for then he would be but half a Saviour; he will have the heart of the Son of Man satisfied, and that soul cannot be satisfied while twos and threes are saved and millions are damned because he himself would not save them. Paul"s gospel is more on a heaven than on an earth. No earth could hold it. The earth cannot hold the flowers, they are all trying to escape; the earth holds the roots well, but every flower says as it rises to the sun, I want to go to my native land. So the Lord"s Gospel is not sent to this locality or yonder district, but to all the world, in its uttermost parts; the darker the blackness that conceals those parts, the more determined should be the light-bearers to carry the glory where the night is thickest. Faith is a new word, and is much made of by those who first got hold of it. Faith is not an Old Testament word, yet faith had an Old Testament action. Many ages have lived our words before we got hold of the words themselves. Sometimes the later age has to translate the ages that went long before. There will arise in the Church an eloquent Prayer of Manasseh , and mighty in the Scriptures, who will go over the Old Testament with a new pen, who will write upon its margin, fill up all its foot-spaces with rich annotations, and constitute a Church of Faith, where men did not know themselves that they were living the broader and grander life. Some day it may be found that there have been Christians where sectarian imagination never suspected their existence. One day, all glory, the angels" day, time of judgment festival, the King shall say, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you,"—for ye are all theologians? nay, not so; that would be rude reading and a small heaven—"for I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was sick and in prison, and ye came unto me." How fast he is filling his heaven! It was thus that Christ constituted the true and eternal Church, it was thus that the Apostle went back upon the old records and said, "By faith Abraham... By faith Moses... By faith"—on through the gleaming calendar until the last saint was named and glorified. The saints would not have known themselves as drawn by the hand of the Apostle. But we must get over this difficulty: we do not know ourselves, we cannot tell what we are doing, what gifts we have, what responsibilities we are discharging: all this has to be revealed to us: it will be for the Lord to say what we have believed, what and how we have preached, what and how we have done down in this time-world, where we are worried by the vexing and ruthless moments that will not give us scope enough for the play and action of all our passion. Literalists have no standing in Paul"s Church, nor have they any foothold in the kingdom of God. Men are not to be measured or weighed in any sense whatsoever in regard to the Cross of Christ, and the grace of our blessed One who saved us with blood. Portraits are not taken in the Church, except by the hand of the Master: and no other man will know himself when the Master paints him. Every time attention is called to the delineation the soul will say, "Lord, when saw I thee an hungred and gave thee meat?" I do not know my own likeness. Nay, saith the Lord, only he who made thee can see thy likeness as it is; for this is thy beauty, thou child of light, thou wanderer in darkness; this is what thou wast doing; this is the apocalypse of thy tears, the uttermost and fullest meaning of thy sighs and alms and prayer. So Paul"s Church is a Church large as faith. The little law-doers were all tired. They got no credit, because they never did their works with their hearts. No man can do the law with his heart; no hireling can call up his heart to do anything. The hireling keeps his eye upon the clock and upon the taskmaster, and if he can stealthily ask some passer-by how goes the time, he will be pleased, because in asking the question he is saved at least one stroke of work: he is a hireling, and there is no speck of sainthood or spiritual beauty and honesty in his continually diminishing soul.

What is the result of being made right by faith? It is a spiritual result, and is indicated in these words: "peace with God"—the great peace. It is as if some wayward world had got out of gear, had slipped the rhythmic process, and had gone out on its own account to revolve and shine independently. The Lord will not permit such revolution and self-originated and self-directed illumination. It is as if attempts had been made to lift that errant world back by some mechanical force,—say of leverage or pulley or screw,—yet the new jointing could not be wrought out by mechanical powers; then it seems as if the kind spirit of astronomy had been touched with pity at seeing the bootless efforts of this erratic star, and had condescended to come, and by the infinite gravitation which keeps all things right had set the little wanderer back in its place; then comes the song of the stars. Therefore now being made right, not by lever and screw and inclined plane or other mechanical device, but being made right by the astronomic genius, by the omnipotent gravitation, now I swing in rhythm with the worlds, and make no jar in the procession of the stars. Many men are trying to lift themselves up, and they are continually falling back into still deeper abysses than those out of which they attempted to extricate themselves: they are writing new schedules of discipline; they are going to rise earlier, to eat less, to subdue themselves by flagellations newly invented and somewhat cruel in their spirit; they are going to strike themselves in the eye, and make the flesh feel that it has at last got a master; so they write out on their blank paper all these little laws, and sketch in legislative enactment new signs and new commandments, in patches of fives and tens: at the end all the little laws have been broken, and all the old schedules must be reduced to ashes, for as long as they come within visual range they are as a rebuke and a stinging reproach to the hands that deftly wrote them, and to the memory that scandalously forgot them all. Not until men are lifted by the Cross, the Christ, the blood mystery, can they have peace with God, with the Infinite, with the eternal requirements, with the eternal claims. All other answers are compromises, concessions, arrangements—things understood to be partial, and to be of the nature of giving and taking; but there is no peace in them, they do not belong to the household of the stars, they are outside the great eternity of things, and they have no root, and therefore no growth; lime is against them, eternity in its earliest hours will blight their fairness, and reveal them to themselves as children of death. We must have mystery in our reconciliations, great solemn realities about which we know nothing. Woe to the man who can explain his religion! Until we start from this point we shall make no progress. When a man can explain his religion he has no religion to explain. Faith never explains itself; faith has no dictionary; faith does not live in words: it is the five senses all taken up and glorified into a sixth that Acts , but never stoops to tell the reason why.

Now the Apostle has "access by faith into this grace wherein we stand," and now he calls upon those who have kindred faith to "rejoice in hope of the glory of God." The word rendered "rejoice" is in all other cases rendered "boast"; so we might read—"and boast in hope of the glory of God,"—not the boasting of vanity, not the swelling pride of weakness, but a triumphing in eternal realities and assurances, such a sense of the infinite that there ceases to be either time or space, and the soul rests upon the very essence and duration of God.

"And not only so...." The Apostle never can end a sentence. He no sooner gets to a semicolon, which he meant to make a fullstop, than he sees another horizon. It is so with him in some of his superscriptions to the epistles. It is as though the Apostle Paul never could get through a superscription. He no sooner gets access into a larger liberty than he says "And not only so." There is no end to the gifts of God, there is no finality in the kingdom of heaven: we are only satisfied to be dissatisfied, we only sit down to one festival to hunger for another that is already prepared, so that in our hunger there is no pain. What does the Apostle say we do now?—"we glory in tribulations also": sorrow is joy, labour is rest, suffering brings us nearer the Crucified, into sweet fellowship and deeper association with the Man who created Calvary in all its spiritual pathos, and in all its immortal significance. The Christian would not be without pain; he says, To be without pain is to be without the power of understanding my dear Lord; it is through sorrow I see him; it is through pain I hold the largest relations with him: I have come to expect my pain, to welcome it as a guest, because in coming thus it brings the Lord with it in all his tenderest aspects and most consolatory ministries. Is this sentiment on the part of the Apostle? He will answer for himself. He proceeds to show that the presence of this ennobling sentiment in the soul ends in discipline of the severest and yet most useful kind:—"knowing that tribulation worketh patience." Without patience what is any character? an excitement, a spasm, a thing undignified, selfish, urgent because greedy, and energetic because discontented. "Tribulation"—the action of the tribulum upon the heart, the tearing of it fibre from fibre, the infliction of pain upon pain—works out the mystery of patience, longsuffering, forbearance, a sweet element of character. "And patience, experience": the word rendered "experience" might be rendered "approved less"; that of which the quality has been tried; that of which the merchantman could say, This is good; it has undergone the last refinement, the quality is approved. We learn by experience. Without experience the wisest man is but a learned fool. Experience keeps a costly school, but there is no great, deep, lasting learning, without going and paying the expense every whit. "And experience, hope": we do not go from one darkness to another, but into a great darkness that we may be startled by an unexpected dawn. "And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." Thus we come into a great spiritual estate; thus our inheritance is assured to us in Christ Jesus. That which we thought to be transcendental becomes really experimental; that which we thought to be merely sentimental becomes really disciplinary: and this new quality, force, or ministry, called faith, has ten thousand hands which we put out to claim the promises of God, and everything is filled with uncalculated and everlasting riches. This is the mystery of faith. We must come into this kingdom by the door of conscious self-helplessness. If we do not come in by this door we do not come in at all. There are those who have undertaken to pronounce upon the kingdom of heaven who are only fine gentlemen—as if any fine gentleman could understand the Son of Man. There be those who approach the Son of Man as if to examine him, and form an opinion about him, and weigh him in their scales, and settle his place in the pantheon of the ages. The Son of Man will not speak to them; the Son of Man knows nothing of literary exquisites; the Son of God has no message for those who are merely literary, and who think they can form literary estimates, and write about Christ and Socrates, the Son of Mary and Seneca, as it they were writing about equal characters. No. Say this of him: "He came to seek and to save that which was lost." "The Son of Man is not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." "This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them."

A Fortiori

Romans 5:9-10

This is a favourite form of spiritual reasoning. I want the simplest reader to understand what is meant by a somewhat ungainly yet partially self-explaining term, "a fortiori." That is the kind of reasoning which is in great favour in all the Biblical books. Let those who understood the term long before any of us had the remotest idea of it be patient whilst I illustrate it to those less fortunate ones who really do not understand things until they are explained. Let the lightning minds do what they like for a moment or two, but I must insist that the very slowest shall be waited for, and carried forward if he will so permit. "A fortiori" is the subject. A fortiori means from one strength to another, stronger and stronger, more and more. Thus: If a man is. very particular about little things, how much more about great things! That is the meaning of it in substance. Or thus: If a man will risk his life for another, how much more will he put himself to some momentary inconvenience to oblige or assist those whom he loves! It is always—How much more! If he will do a certain great thing, how much more will he do a little thing: or if he will do a little thing, how much more ought he to do the greater thing. Now we are all on a level. Let us see how this a fortiori reasoning runs through the Scriptures.

"If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" Your fatherhood is a little ladder by which you can climb so far to heaven, to God. Whatever there is good in you, instinctively, naturally, or by any other law and process, that is so much on the way to God; only, when you have reached the end of your attainment, you are to say, How much more! Then will come in all the revelation of Divine light and beneficence, tenderness and compassion. It has pleased God thus to make us by experience annotators of his own personality and administration. When we would ask profoundly metaphysical questions about the Divine relation to human life and human infirmity, when we would put the puzzle into pompous polysyllables and would darken counsel with a multitude of words, the kind celestial voice says to us, Cease, this is the explanation of the whole of it, namely, "Like as a father...." What do you want with long words and metaphysics, and why should you presume to explain the Divine love in the action of forgiveness? Look within; let instinct interpret theology, let the everlasting love that comes with the child interpret your relation to God and God"s relation to you: put away from you all long, intricate, and perplexing terms, and write after all the mysteries of God"s action, "Like as a father." Why, that is Christ"s inquiry:—"If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more...." Human love is but a drop of God"s love; human love is but a symbol of God"s affection; human love is only a type, an index-finger, a little speck to begin with: when you know its agony, its passion, its pathos, its mystery of suffering; when you have fully comprehended the love that is in your own heart, multiply it by infinity, and say, This is the beginning of the love of God.

Jesus Christ fashions, another inquiry upon the same line of reasoning; he says, "If they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?" Man"s temper is tested by circumstances. Here you have men struggling against difficulty, persisting in quenching the oppositions of nature; here you have men so obstinate that they have determined to overcome all natural difficulties and barriers: if they will do these things when circumstances are against them, and all nature seems to testify against their purpose, what will they do when everything falls easily into their hands? If they can climb the mountains in this way, how easily they will run down the valleys; if they can fight against nature, instinct, reason, family association, pastoral solicitude and guidance, how much more will they fall into the ways of the world when they live in the world sympathetically, and when all surrounding companionships constitute an environment of sympathy! There are men who have wrought wonders in the green tree—sappy, juicy tree; they have burned it, they have dried up all the blood of the plant, and have gone on towards conflagration and annihilation. There are men who have lived down all the mystery of the love of home. There are souls that have torn out of themselves every holy memory: if men can do these things when God seems to have surrounded them with saving and redeeming influences, what can we expect of those who are born in darkness, born in poverty, and who were doomed from the day of their birth to carry heavy loads and to toil under sweltering suns? Thus the Lord Christ, sweat Teacher, Sister-Monitor, comes down to spell out all things to us, saying, Open your eyes and see life in its daily aspects, in its continual mutations, and learn that within all the evolution of providence, sanctified or perverted, there is a revelation of God, thought, law, destiny. Why, if the pen-and-ink Bible were burned, God is rewriting it every page on the scroll of the passing days.

Another inquiry the Saviour bases on the same line of reasoning. They are all looking round and admiring the beauties and wonders of nature, and Jesus says, Who clothed this field with grass? The disciples said, The Lord our God did this. Then Christ retorted, being swift in all spiritual reasoning and tremendous in all moral application, "If then God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day Isaiah , and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?" Find your theology in the grass; find the defence of your faith in every bird that flies; erect the fair lilies into fair altars, and bow down before them and say, As God made this lily and takes care of it, so he made me and so he will preserve my life; yea, I will say to grass and lily and flying bird, How much more have I than any of you, being a man—a transcript of God! Thus the Saviour would keep us always on a line of fact and reason. He would have us build our house upon a rock; not upon the sand of speculation or the bog of nightmare, but upon the realities of things round about us doth Christ build the tabernacle of God. Thus we have to be very careful how we admit anything to Christ. He is so skilled in the use of the a fortiori method of reasoning that if we admit anything, the very smallest, he will hale us, take us into custody, land us in the court of God, there to be acquitted or condemned. You must not admit that God clothes the grass of the field, or Christ will lay his fingers upon your shoulder and say, How much more will he clothe this framework, this house which dwells until the rickety old roof is blown off by the winds of age. O fools, and slow of heart! have you a Father fond of the grass of a day"s duration but neglectful of the souls into which he has breathed immortality? Jesus Christ does not ask our assent and consent to some profound theological proposition, which we but partially understand. If we allow that we breathe, he will compel us to pray. We had better admit nothing in Christ"s court: but he will turn our dumbness into a charge against us; yea, he will reproach and taunt and upbraid and banter us like a diviner Elijah, because he will charge us with theft; having received all these things of good nature, sweet nature, all-bountiful nature, we dare not open our lips and say, Thanks to the anonymous donor!

Changing the line of illustration for a moment, we come upon a passage of this kind which leads us in the same direction, namely, "Howl, fir trees; for the cedar is fallen." Thus the argument is brought down instead of being made to ascend. If God can crush the suns and throw away their dust, wilt thou set up against him thy poor tottering bones, thou child of yesterday? Thou art consumed before the moth. If he hath torn up the cedar by the roots, is he unable to disturb the daisy that grew leader its shadow? The mightiest die, shall the frailest live for ever? And is there not a cautionary eloquence in this admonition. When the noblest voices cease, what hope is there for the world in voices that have neither their range of eloquence nor persuasion? If the leaders in the army fall, what of those who can only go in proportion as they are assured of a heroic captaincy? If the trustees of social honour should prove faithless, how dare we of no name or standing in the marketplace venture to say that the honour of the world is safe in our custody? If Samson has had his eyes put out, who is the cripple that dare come forward and say he will fight the Philistines and blind them? This voice of caution comes from the grave of the heroic dead. "Howl, fir trees; for the cedar is fallen."

With this brief reference to the Old Testament we hasten back to the New, and we find the Apostle Paul adopting the Christly method of reasoning:—"But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Song of Solomon , much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." We always think that Christ"s work ended on Calvary: it only began there. We think that Christ has completed all his work when he has saved the sinner: that is only the beginning of the priesthood of the Lord, "much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." The whole Logosity is with us, the ineffable mystery of the Word dwells in us, and we are pilgrims hastening to a city out of sight, founded, lighted, kept by God. We have lost this "Much more then." It has been enough for us to say we are saved by Christ, and to have lived a kind of cripple"s life. Oh, that we had kept his law, and hearkened unto his commandments, and availed ourselves of the whole love of the Cross! for then had our peace flowed like a river, and our righteousness had been as the waves of the sea. We have lived superficially when we might have lived profoundly; we have taken a little when we might have taken much. "Eat and drink abundantly" is the welcome of the Divine hospitality. We are not called to little things but to great things. "Much more, being reconciled"—having gotten our pardon by the blood of the Cross, having been dismissed from the category of rebels—"we shall be saved by his life"; eternity shall pour its inexhaustible fountains of energy and solace into our souls, and we shall not know weariness because we know not the pain of mortality. Why this little life? this narrow, desiccated, pitiable existence? We are called to have life, and to have it more abundantly, as if God would say, Enlarge your capacity, and I will fill it: or, Receive my gift of life and that will enlarge your capacity, and then your growing commodiousness of manhood shall receive increasing manifestation of the Divine presence and grace. Grow in grace. He giveth more grace, he giveth grace upon grace. Why sit and sigh and deplore your littleness, when the inheritance is at hand and may be seized by the gracious violence of love at any moment?

The Apostle uses the same form of reasoning when he says about certain persons, "They do it to obtain a corruptible crown," as if he would say, How much more shall we do it to obtain a crown incorruptible. If men can put themselves to these actions of self-denial for the sake of something that is fluttering and withering and transitory, how much more should we be on the alert, and how much more should we avail ourselves of spiritual discipline, when our aim is not a faded bay-leaf but an eternal amaranth, the green that grows in Paradise?

One more illustration will show you how rich the Bible is in this form of reasoning. You can find many other instances. To preachers I would say, find them and amplify them: there you have a bank on which you may draw for even And to those who are in search of further religious experience and wisdom I would say, collate all these passages, and see how God reasons with men, and urges them by persuasions founded upon their own admissions. How fond we are of quoting the passage—"Bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now Isaiah , and of that which is to come." Why, there is a concealed a fortiori reasoning in that very passage. It is not, "Bodily exercise profiteth little." This indeed does stand in our version and therefore we have said, It is of no use; ceremony and ritual and penalty self-inflicted, all these amount to nothing, we should seek after godliness. That is not the Apostle"s reasoning at all. He ought to be thus translated:—"Bodily exercise profiteth a little:" it has its good, it has its quality, it is useful; bodily exercise profiteth an inch, but godliness profiteth infinity.

Is there no line of practical reasoning for us? Shall I be for a moment a feeble Elijah and taunt the idolaters of Baal? Shall I mock you? How many men in London we could all justly mock in the spirit and power of Elijah! Here is a man who has insured the house but not the tenant. Here is the same Prayer of Manasseh , who may have insured the tenant"s body and left the tenant"s soul a vagrant, a felon, an orphan! O fool, and slow of heart to interpret the meaning of the best practical reasoning! I am insured as far as my house is concerned; all the building, the structure, the furniture, the works of art, and the plate are insured as far as possible; I am a prudent man; I have insured my life, I have made provision for my family in this way, for I am a prudent man. And your soul? He has forgotten his soul! Is he wise? Is this your marketplace prudence? Are you men of business? I mock you, taunt you; I say, Cry aloud to your life policy; it is a policy, what will it do for mind and heart and soul and eternity? Here is a man who is guarded against thieves, burglars; he has a bolt at the top of the door, and a bolt at the foot of it, and a lock in the middle of it, and an iron bar that goes across it diagonally; and therefore he can go to rest with security. What have you done for the protection of your mind against evil suggestion, against the burglars of the soul, against the poison-blowers that come in through publications of many kinds, or through conversation, or through music, or through art of other sorts? What have you done to protect yourself against the burglars? Here is a man who has protected himself against disease. He says he is a sanitary reformer; he has made wonderful arrangements underground and overhead for the prevention of disease; what have you done for the prevention of disease in your soul, keeping out evil spirits, keeping out temptations, keeping out malign suggestions, keeping out the devil? What if you have succeeded in shooting down a hundred little boy-burglars and have admitted the prince of hell? I will not have you called prudent men, but adult fools, consummately educated in the school of folly.

When we see the trees coming out in vernal beauty, the great bulbs on the chestnut trees, and the little green prophecies upon many a black branch of other trees, and when we see some early adventurous almonds almost out in their fullest spring costume, we ask, Is God, able to raise again these trees, unable to raise our dead? Is he a God of limited omnipotence. Shall we thus put his power into paradoxical expression, and twit him with the irony of almightiness that can only do part of the work? Is he great at the resurrection of trees, and does he fail at the resurrection of lives? Shall thy dead men live again? If a man die shall he live again? Will there be any voice penetrate the past and bring up all the holy, saintly beauteous dead? Do they go to help the roots of the trees only, or will they somehow be brought back again, so that the corruptible may put on incorruption and the mortal put on immortality? O thou God of the trees, our hope is in thee, wherefore we say, If God can so raise again the trees of the field for their little annual exhibition of beauty and growth of fruit; how much more—. Then do we stand in the centre of the cemetery, and say, O Grave, where is thy victory?

Prayer

Living God, and God of all living, save us from death. Show us, by increasing our life, that thy great purpose is to bring us into a great and glorious immortality. Deliver us from our own notions of life and honour, and help us to live in joyful obedience to thy will. Specially teach us that it is in thy power to make death itself the servant of life, and show us that, by thy mysterious law, that which we sow is not quickened except it die. Teach us that we ourselves must die before we can truly and for ever live. Lord, slay us with thine own sword, that we perish not by the hand of the devil! Our hope is in crucifixion with Jesus Christ. With him would we humbly say, Not our will, but thine, be done! Thou hast severely yet graciously chastised us when we have sought to walk in our own light, and to turn away from the brightness of thy face. Thou hast punished us by allowing us to have our own way. We have put our feet into the nest of the serpent, and drunk greedily at poisoned wells; often have we mistaken the coiled scorpion for an egg, and been stung for our own ignorance and foolhardiness. We said unto the darkness, "Let there be light," but the darkness gave no heed to our voice; we commanded the waters to stand back in heaps, but the floods despised us; we smote the rock that we might find in it the cooling stream, but the flint made no answer to our rod: thou, Lord, must go before us to make all our way plain—thou must teach us—thou must overrule all our desires—thou must inspire the prayer and then satisfy it with blessing. Not our will, but thine, be done! Blind, we cannot see things as they really are; deaf, we hear not all the feet and wings that are for ever busy about our way: Lord, see for us and hear for us, and teach us what to do; and wherein we are stiff-necked and self-sufficient do thou break us down by the most humbling disappointments, and by the bitterest mortifications. We see but parts of things—thou seest round the whole universe; we hear but the sounding of the present hour—thou hearest the voices of all the future:—O Lord of Hosts, O God of ages, O Spirit of eternity, Not our will, but thine, be done. Amen and Amen.


The Two Adams

Romans 5:15

This is a parallel. Let us honestly inquire what it means. Let us have no special pleading; no evasion of the solemn issue; let us ask ourselves earnestly, Is this parallel a piece of dramatic painting? or is it a reality? If a piece of dramatic painting, it is a mockery; if a reality, it is the grandest, sweetest gospel that the human heart ever dreamed. Do not run away from it. Many persons have walked round about this text, and have been very emphatic upon one of its members, and have treated the other part of the text as if it had but a remote and worthless relation to the general apostolic argument. If men could really believe this in their hearts, night would be dead, and there would be no more pain, no more sea, and no more trouble, and no more earth, or time, or sense, or enemy. So large and so bright is the heaven which lies within our reach! "If through the offence of one many be dead"—our theologians are very firm there, they will have no trifling at that point; they will not allow that one soul made in the Adamic likeness lives: but some of the theologians do not advance into the "much more" which follows that declaration—"much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one Prayer of Manasseh , Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many." Why refuse to enter that great door of love and hope? We do not glorify God by narrowing the opportunities which he has set before the soul; we do but drag down the eternal God to the stature and worthlessness of an idol when we attempt to worship him in this way, as if he were great in destruction but reluctant or half-hearted in salvation. We do not see the meaning of the words as they stand in the Authorised Version: "If through the offence of one many be dead" is in the Revised Version "if through the offence of one the many be dead,"—"the many" standing for all. So what Christ hath done, "hath abounded unto the many," the same number; the Apostle is not dealing with the one number in the left hand and another number in the right hand; it is in both hands the many, the all, the sum-total Man. But you cannot whip your theologians into that second part. They think they glorify God by destroying some men at any rate: there must be some destruction, although the text says that, if through the offence of the one, the many be dead, "much more"—words that cannot be explained—shall the righteousness of the One, the Second Adam, abound unto the salvation of the many, the total Man. Theologians of this kind are thieves and robbers; they come to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. They are not servants of the Good Shepherd who gave his life for the many, who became a ransom for the many,—not for many only, as giving a proportion, and even a major proportion, but for "the" many, the multitude, the total sum called humanity.

It is very marvellous to see the Apostle"s handling of the mystery of sin. He will not allow sin large scope; he will not allow redemption and sin to sign on the same page, as if they were exactly coeval in duration; he snubs the intruder called sin. According to the Apostle"s idea, the sin is a question of time; it is an incident of the present; it is a blight upon space; it is a wound inflicted far beyond the purpose of God. When God dreamed his universe he never dreamed sin. We must not allow sin eternal ranges; sin is not a pendulum which oscillates between eternity and eternity; sin struck our little world at a given moment—redemption never did. That is the difference between the sin and the redemption. Sin is a time incident; redemption never can be that: sin is something that happened; redemption is part of God, and therefore never happened, in the sense of historically occurring; it was manifested, it became part of our outward history, but in the spirit of it, in the poetry and love and meaning of it, God"s own eternity is the measure of redemption. We must never allow ourselves to think that sin came out of eternity: it is dignifying sin infinitely too much: but redemption is part of the Divine nature; God lives to heal, to reconstruct, to call back, to edify—that Isaiah , to build up an everlasting masonry of souls. The Lamb died from before the foundation of the world. What we call the foundation of the world was laid but yesterday; the devil"s range is measured by one stormy night; God"s love belongs to God"s eternity.

Sin has done much in the way of what we now call developing God. But for the sin we should never have known the Cross. Sin has brought redemption to light. We say life and immortality are brought to light by the Gospel, which is of course true; but there is a deep sense in which redemption is brought to light by sin. We do not know what God is until our sin-sick soul cries for him in the bitterness of self-detestation. But sin is not as old as redemption, notwithstanding. Sin has revealed God, shown us what God Isaiah , in tenderness, in sympathy, in mercy, in longsuffering, and in patience. Sin was once a surprise; in very deed, it simply happened. The sinner was surprised at his own guilt. Redemption comes to us through all the breathing of eternity, through all the hopefulness and poetry and joy of spring, through all the vineyards of summer, through all the largesses and bounties and hospitalities of autumn. The spirit of redemption has always been at work. No sooner has one part of nature done an injury than all the rest of nature has come like a kind doctor to heal the wound: if the lightning has struck the tree, already nature seems to be the tenderer for it in its relation to that tree; and instantaneously, hardly has the flash passed, until the healing, redeeming, motherly spirit has taken the tree in charge, to heal it, to cover up the wound that can never be fully repaired, and to grow on the barrenness of the scathed trunk some flower, or festoon, or touch of beauty that shall make the best of what appears to be an injury. God is love. Not, God once became loving; or, God was surprised into love: but, God is himself, in his essence, in his spirit, in the necessity of his Deity, God is love. So we have found him Shepherd, Mother, Physician, Friend, coming to heal and cure and reestablish and reconstruct things: and will he cease until he has completed his work? Is it like him? Has he left any star half-rounded, any system of light half-built? Has he been baulked in some miracle, or frustrated in some dream and effort of love? We must never allow God"s sovereignty to be delimited or broken in upon; he must never lift a broken sceptre, or he ceases to be Lord. Redemption has always been in the world in one of two aspects; either in the aspect of preservation, or in the aspect of reconstruction. In the aspect of preservation, redemption is a spirit that brings up the sun every morning and sees him safely over the ocean line every night, and trims the starlamps one by one, and watches over all living things with tender solicitude. That is not the spirit that becomes romantic or heroic in history, it is the quiet motherliness that keeps the house together. Motherliness has no fabulist to dwell romantically upon its charms and doings, yet it is the only romance that is worth talking about. Or redemption comes in the aspect of reconstruction; then there is business, then there is activity, then there are visible arrangements and rearrangements, and people say, What is this that is proceeding? Here is smiting and healing and restoring, and rejointing, and elevating in the sense of edification, until some architectural purpose be brought to consummation by the onplacing of a copestone and the shouting of men and angels. Of that side of redemption we say much, all our hymns are created by that aspect of affairs; the other side of redemption lies wellnigh unsung; perhaps in eternity it will not so lie, but will be the inspiration of our music: for it is the motherliness that keeps the house together, that becomes on occasion the tragedy that snatches the world from hell by the power of a Cross. It is the same spirit, the same love, the same tender, holy mercy.

What is the general idea of the work of Christ in the world? It is a poor idea. It is nowhere sanctioned in Scripture, and certainly is nowhere sanctioned by Christ himself. The representations of popular theology upon this point would be to this effect: Yonder is a ship overwhelmed in the sea; she cannot help herself, she is broken, shattered, fated to die; here is One, mightier than all others, radiant as the summer, gentle as the very spirit of peace, who goes out walking upon the waves, and advances towards the ill-fated ship, and supplies captain and crew and passengers with a gigantic saving apparatus, saying: Use what I now give you, and you will be able to swim to shore; if you use these arrangements you will be saved, if you do not use them you will be lost! All I can do is to offer you a gigantic and elaborate and costly apparatus of a saving kind. That is not my Gospel. I reject the figure. It is too mechanical to cover all this great necessity; it is an invention which a manufacturer might have imagined. This is not eternity. What then does this Christ of God, whom we worship as God the Song of Solomon , do? He takes away the sin of the world. He saves the world. He does not try to save it, he does not make a compromise with it, he does not say, We will do the best we can under disastrous circumstances. No, he saves the world. That is eternity. That covers the tragic need, that is a Gospel which thrills the world with life and hope. It is a saved world we live in, and we are saved men. Do not mechanise this great thought and artificialise it, as if it were some process in arithmetic, or some new science of legerdemain suited to the peculiar constitution of the soul. "As by one man"s disobedience the many were made sinners, so"—how can you treat one side of the case as if it were large to completeness, and treat the other side of the case as if it were partial, not to incompleteness, but to deficiency and conscious defeat? Read the words, speak them all, here they are—"As by one man"s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the obedience of the one, shall the many be made righteous." The devil is to have nothing. Not a bone shall he take away at the last. Not one little child shall he steal from the household, saying, with infernal laughter, This I have got, and with this I will constitute mine hell. When this consummation is to take place who knows? Ours is not a time God, ours is a time devil. The God whom we adore is from everlasting to everlasting; of his mercy it is said, it endureth for ever.

Is the world saved? Certainly. And yet God has never taken from man the power of suicide. If man could not commit suicide, he would not be man. Every angel in heaven must have the power to leave heaven, or he is not a moral agent; he is only a cog on a mechanical wheel, he is only a pulley or a screw in some gigantic piece of mechanism. The oldest archangel, the archangel that broke the solitude of God, must have the power to commit suicide, or he is no son of God; he is but some mechanical agent that has no control over his own spirit or his own worship, and therefore his reverence is worthless, and his song but a sigh of servility. As you can leave the first Adam so you can leave the Second. But you have to undo the Cross before you can go to hell. Understand that we are not people who have no relation to the Cross, and therefore can go to hell by some swinging method, and be able to say ages hence, If we had seen the Cross we would have worshipped the Sufferer. In all Christianised countries men have now to go to perdition, if they go at all, over a place called Calvary. Let them go! So great is moral agency, so mysterious is the nature of Prayer of Manasseh , that he can shut his eyes when the sun shines, he can say No, to God; he can hurt his own mother; he can die and perish. This makes all the difference between the statement of the case. If the Cross were only of effect, and if it only developed responsibility in relation to the degree in which it is intellectually perceived by men, then men, by closing their intellectual eyes, could throw off the larger portion of responsibility; but the Cross is here as the all-important fact, the world is saved by that Cross; what the first Adam did has been undone by the Second Adam, and now if any man will ruin himself he must ruin himself in the very presence of the Cross of Christ. This makes sin doubly sinful. If herein we magnify the universality of God"s love we also herein show how aggravated is human sin. It is no longer a slip, a lapse, an infirmity of moral conduct, a speck upon the surface; such sin as ours goes down to the pit of darkness, saying, The last thing I saw was Christ"s Cross, and Christ"s face, and I said to the bleeding Son of God, Begone! I am going to hell. That is how it stands with us now. Here is a fact to be overcome, the fact that the Second Adam has saved the world, and the fact that Prayer of Manasseh , being a moral agent, has of necessity the power of suicide, and has exercised that power as if it were a right.

Let me speak plainly to myself, and therefore speak plainly to others, about this matter. We have treated the Cross as if it were something to be intellectually discussed, whereas we ought to treat it as the fact of Salvation. The parallel has no meaning, if the world is not as much saved by Christ as it was lost by Adam. Christ will not be defeated; he shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied. How large is man? How do you measure him? Is man all body? Then he is so many measurable feet and inches. Where did man come from? From the dust? Only partly. God made man out of the dust of the ground, but he breathed into him that which is not dust, and man became—became! oh that wondrous word; word of growth, word of progress, word of development!—he became a living spirit. What is his magnitude now? He can tell who knows the bounds of eternity. He knows what man is who knows what God is: for man has in him the afflatus, the breath Divine, the wind that cometh from heaven. How, then, is man to be treated? Is he to be treated in his smaller relation or in his larger relation? If he be a creature of time, we can easily settle the case; if man be a denizen of heaven or of eternity, if he be a citizen of infinity, then we must not cut off his citizenship as if it belonged to time and space. The words "time and space" have victimised us; they are terms of limitation: with God there is no time, with God there is no space; the Eternal, the Infinite, are the consummation of terms which are given to us to be used as mere conveniences. Everything, therefore, depends upon what you make of man. If your man is body, you can deal with him within time limits, for to those limits he preeminently belongs; we were present at his making, and there is no reason why we should not be present at his extinction: but if man be more than body, if he be spirit, if he be akin to God, will God leave him, saying, I gave you eternity on earth, but I can do nothing more for you now that you have shed the body. When a man has shed the body, has he died? Is he gone, all gone? He has dropped the mortal coil, and can God touch him no more? Who can believe it, or receive it, or be satisfied with it?

We come back to the expression which we find repeated from Romans 5:15-20"But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." How boundless! Tell me that sin cannot hunt my soul into eternity, and I will, I say, Praise God! But tell me that God"s love can only deal with me in time, and will have no more to do with me simply because I have got rid of the body, and I am at least smitten with an infinite amazement. But if any man shall say, "Well, then, I will trust to eternity, and I may be saved there," that man commits suicide. There is the difference between reality and unreality, sincerity and insincerity. If a man shall say, Then I will play the devil"s game as long as this body lasts, and when I get rid of that I shall attend some sanctuary in the other world, a man that can talk so cannot be saved; his is the unpardonable sin. "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation": "Today, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts." It is impossible for a man to make terms with the devil, to serve him all his time, and then to say, with mental reservation, I will see about God in eternity. God is not mocked!

Prayer

Almighty God, we bless thee that through Jesus Christ our Lord we are citizens of a heavenly kingdom. We bless thee for thine own sovereignty, for the monarchy of the Saviour, and for the rule of God the Holy Ghost. Once we would not have Christ to reign over us, now we cry, We will have no other king. Jesus is now to us King of kings, Lord of lords; the name is written upon his vesture and upon his thigh; behold, his throne is above all. May he rule in us, may he be our Master and Lord. We would learn the sweetness of obedience; help us to say always, Not my will, but thine, be done. Thou canst work this miracle in us. This also cometh forth from the Lord of hosts. We cannot work it in ourselves; we are rebellious, self-reliant, we mistake the near for the great, and the present for the eternal; we are full of error: Lord, help us by the mighty grace of thy Holy Spirit to say constantly, Thy will be done on earth, as it is done in heaven. Help us to understand the kingdom of which we are subjects; enable us to feel its spirituality, to realise its nearness, its greatness, its divineness. Being subjects of such a crown, may we walk worthy of the kingdom of which we are members; may our conduct be good, noble, useful; may men constantly take knowledge of us that we have been in the garden with Jesus, that we have learned of Jesus, that we know his spirit, that we obey his command. Save us from all little, narrow, uncharitable, and unworthy notions of thy kingdom, thou who didst die to reign; may we not misrepresent thy rule, rather being taught by thy Holy Spirit may we present it to the world so that it may eventually become accepted of men. Lord hear us, behold our tears when we are in grief, behold us when we are weary through weakness, comfort us when all life is desolate; and bring us through all the wondrous experience of this poor grey cold time to see the meaning which thou hast hitherto hidden from our imagination, the meaning of thine own heaven. Amen.

 


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Bibliography Information
Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Romans 5:4". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jpb/romans-5.html. 1885-95.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, December 10th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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