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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Romans 15

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-3

DISCOURSE: 1919

SELF-DENYING LOVE INCULCATED

Romans 15:1-3. We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee, fell on me.

WHILST many scarcely ever dwell upon the atonement of Christ, and on that righteousness which he has wrought out for the redemption of a ruined world, others insist on these, almost to the utter exclusion of all other topics. But the Apostle Paul, who certainly was inferior to none in his regard for that fundamental doctrine of the Gospel,—salvation by faith in the Lord Jesus, was yet delighted to exhibit his Divine Master as a pattern and example of universal holiness. In respect to love in particular, he constantly urges us “to love one another, as Christ loved us.” In the words before us, he seems almost to go out of his way (if we may so speak) to introduce Christ to our notice in this view. He brings forward, as illustrative of it, a passage of Scripture, in which a person less conversant with the spiritual import of Scripture, or less alive to this important point, would scarcely have found any thing bearing upon his subject. Indeed he almost appears to apologize for this particular quotation, by observing, that “Whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning;” and that, consequently, this prophecy, even though it should not be thought to bear so directly and obviously upon his subject as some others, may properly be adduced in illustration of it. But this very circumstance tends so much the more to shew the importance of the subject in the precise view in which he has placed it. Let us consider then,

I. The example here propounded to us—

Two things are said of our blessed Lord,

1. He pleased not himself—

[And how true is this! View him in his incarnation: Was it to please himself that he left “the bosom of the Father,” and divested himself of all “the glory that he had with the Father from all eternity?” Was it to please himself, that, “when he was in the form of God, and thought it no robbery to be equal with God, he made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant?” Was it to please himself that he was “made in the likeness of sinful flesh,” partaking of all our infirmities, and being “made like unto us in all things, sin only excepted?” View him in his life: Was it to please himself that till the age of thirty he worked as a common carpenter: and that, from the time he took upon him his ministerial office, he was subjected to evils and distresses of every kind; being from first to last “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,” as his daily and hourly companion? So poor was he, that he had not a place where to lay his head: and so hated, that he was “a sign spoken against,” a butt of contradiction to all the people of Israel. There was not any thing he either said or did, that did not subject him to fresh reproaches, and prove an occasion of offence to all around him. Incessantly was he represented as a deceiver, a blasphemer, and a devil, yea, as one who should not be suffered to live. His very first sermon would have been his last, if he had not miraculously withdrawn himself from his persecutors. Was all this undertaken and submitted to, to please himself? View him in his death. Was it to please himself that he consented to drink the cup of bitterness which his Father put into his hands; or that he was bathed in a bloody sweat in the garden of Gethsemane; or that he endured the hidings of his Father’s face, and expired under all the shame and agonies of crucifixion? No: at no one moment of his life do we find him consulting his own pleasure: his only object, his very meat and drink, was to do the will of Him that sent him.]

2. He submitted to all manner of indignities purely for our sake—

[It had been foretold by David that he should do so. The passage cited by the Apostle undoubtedly refers to Christ. Whatever reference in a subordinate way it had to David, its main import is that affixed to it in our text [Note: Psalms 69:9; Psalms 69:20. The other passages connected with these in ver. 9 and 21. shew infallibly that the Apostle cites the text in its true, and not in an accommodated, sense.]. Every one that was an enemy to God the Father, was an enemy to him: and every shaft directed against the Majesty of heaven, pierced his breast. Nor did he withdraw himself from this inconceivably distressing situation, till he had accomplished all that his sufferings were intended to effect. Such was his stupendous love to God, whose glory he sought; and to men, whose souls he had undertaken to redeem! This was the end which he proposed to himself in all: and “this was the joy that was set before him, as his only inducement to endure the cross, and to despise the shame.” Consult all the sacred records, the types and prophecies of the Old Testament, or the uniform declarations of the New Testament, and the salvation of man will be found to have been the one end of all that he either did or suffered: “He who knew no sin was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” — — —]

Let us now proceed to consider,

II. The instruction founded upon it—

This is two-fold:

1. That we also should not please ourselves—

[There is a proneness in men to follow their own inclinations, without considering what may be the effect of their conduct on the minds of others. But in no case whatever should we be guilty of this: it is directly contrary to love, the invariable character of which is, that it “seeketh not her own.” We have perhaps a clearer insight into the nature and extent of Christian liberty than others: but shall we therefore use that liberty in a way that may ensnare them, or wound their feelings? No: “the strong ought to bear with the infirmities of the weak, and not to please themselves.” The sacrifice must be made on the part of the strong; and the stronger any profess themselves to be, the more should this self-denial be exercised by them. This is a subject peculiarly worthy the attention of all who “profess godliness.” It is much to be lamented, that many carry their zeal for religious liberty to a very undue extent: the mere circumstance of a thing being required by law or custom, is sufficient to make them violent against it: and they would rend the Church into a thousand parties, rather than comply with a prescribed rite or ceremony, even of the most innocent kind. We mean not by this observation to justify the imposing of any thing which is wrong, or that admits of any serious doubt: but there must be, and there are in every Church under heaven, some rules and orders of human appointment; and, where there is no moral evil in them, they should be observed “for the Lord’s sake:” and to be rigid and fierce in our opposition to them, merely because they are established by law, whilst we conform to others that are established only by this or that particular society of Christians, is unreasonable, inconsistent, and highly unbecoming. Such was not the conduct of our blessed Lord, who, though he had no sin to wash away, submitted to John’s baptism, notwithstanding it had never been enjoined by the Mosaic law; and wrought a miracle to pay a tax, from which he might have justly pleaded his right of exemption. St. Paul also has in this respect set us a beautiful example, “making himself the servant of all,” and “becoming all things to all men, for the Gospel’s sake [Note: 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.].” This was a truly Christian spirit, which we should ever study to imitate; submitting cheerfully to an abridgment of our liberty in matters of indifference, instead of acrimoniously vindicating our rights, and “using our liberty for a cloak of maliciousness.”]

2. That we should seek rather the edification of others—

[To “please our neighbour” is an object well worthy our pursuit: for it is by pleasing him that we shall gain the more easy access to him, for the benefit of his soul. Not that we should attempt to please him by any sinful compliance: for “if in that sense we please men, we cannot be the servants of Jesus Christ.” The proper limit to our compliance is here assigned: we must go so far only as will be “for his good to edification.” Do we think him too much leaning to the side of needless scrupulosity or superstitious fear? let us not despise his weakness, but act towards him with all imaginable tenderness and forbearance. Do we behold in him a readiness to be offended or grieved at any liberty in which we indulge ourselves? let us cheerfully condescend to his infirmity in a way of conciliation and concession. To “win his soul” should be in our estimation a rich recompence for all the kindness we can manifest, and all the self-denial we can exercise. This was the line of conduct which St. Paul both enjoined to us, and himself practised: “Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth — — — even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved [Note: 1 Corinthians 10:24; 1 Corinthians 10:33.].”

But to recur to the example of our blessed Lord, to which our attention is more especially directed. We see to what an extent he carried these virtues, even to a relinquishment of all the glory of heaven, and to a suffering of all “the pains of of hell,” for the welfare, not of his friends and brethren, but of his most inveterate enemies: yes, “even christ” (whose pleasure the whole universe ought incessantly to consult) “pleased not himself.” Shall we then be backward to deny ourselves? we, whose only hope is founded on the self-denial that Christ has exercised for us; and who are bound even to “lay down our lives for the brethren?” No: “Let the same mind be in us as was in Christ Jesus; and let us look, not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others [Note: Philippians 2:4-5.].”]

The subject thus viewed may well suggest to us the following reflections:

1. How extensive and amiable is true religion!

[Religion consists not in notions, nor even in outward actions; but in the habits and dispositions of the mind: it consists in a subjugation of self in all its bearings, and in a conformity of heart to the mind that was in Christ Jesus. And O! what a world would this be, if true religion universally prevailed! Some have thought that piety thus exercised would excite admiration in all who beheld it: but unhappily we know the contrary: for our blessed Lord exhibited it in its utmost possible perfection; and was the more hated on account of the brightness of his example. But still there is something in this conduct that carries its own evidence along with it; and we cannot but feel, that the more it prevails, the more happiness must be diffused all around us. Only conceive, for a moment, every professor of Christianity “walking precisely as Christ walked,” “not pleasing himself” in any thing, but studying in all things to please, and benefit, mankind! Conceive him to be so intent on this blessed work, as readily to bear all manner of reproaches and distresses for the furtherance of it! Could this fail of diffusing happiness wherever he went? Let it then be our endeavour to foster, both in ourselves and others, this heavenly disposition: and “whatever is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, let us think of these things,” and practise these things [Note: Philippians 4:8.]; that so all men may “see that we are Christ’s, by the Spirit which he has given us.”]

2. How little is there of true religion in the world!

[In polished society we behold some semblance of this: the very essence of good breeding is, so to demean ourselves as to give no offence to any, but pleasure and satisfaction to all. And it is happy for the world, that, where higher principles are wanting, there is a substitute for piety in the established usages of mankind. But however this substitute may answer many valuable purposes in society, it is of no value in the sight of God, since it is almost always laid aside in the domestic circle, and never exercised from any principle of love to God. In truth, we cannot conceive any thing more contrary to the deportment of the Lord Jesus Christ, than the insincere professions, which pass for politeness among men: so that it is in vain to look for any conformity to Christ in the world. Nor shall we find much even in the Church itself. There is a deplorable want of a Christian spirit amongst the generality of those who profess the Gospel. Every party, instead of endeavouring by kindness and concessions to conciliate others, is ready to erect a barrier against others, on purpose to prevent that harmony which should subsist amongst all the members of Christ’s mystical body. “Brethren, these things ought not so to be:” they are most offensive to God, and most injurious to yourselves: and yet persons who live in the indulgence of these hateful tempers, will call themselves followers of Christ; as if “a fountain could at the same place send forth sweet water and bitter [Note: James 3:9-12.].” But woe be to those in whom “this earthly, sensual, devilish, wisdom” is found [Note: James 3:14-15.]: they cannot on earth, nor will they in heaven, be found acceptable worshippers before God. Pray then, brethren, to our common Father, that your souls may be filled with more holy dispositions; and that, “being made like-minded one towards another, according to Christ Jesus, ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ [Note: ver. 5, 6.].”]

3. How conducive to piety is an intimate acquaintance with the Holy Scriptures!

[In reading the Holy Scriptures, we should aim particularly at our own spiritual improvement: and, in that view, we should notice with peculiar care the spirit that is inculcated in the precepts, and the disposition that is exercised by the saints of God. If we are not principally attentive to this object, we shall lose more than half the benefit that would result to us from the perusal of them. It is probable, that, in the many hundred times that we may have read the 69th Psalm, we never noticed the very point mentioned by St. Paul, notwithstanding he has taken such care to direct our attention to it! Alas! it is to little purpose to read the Scriptures, if we do not read them with a practical application of them to our own souls. But if we read them in this way, behold, what unspeakable benefit we may derive from them! Brethren, let not a day pass without treasuring up in your minds some passage that shall lead you into a fuller knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, and a more entire conformity to his image. We are told, that “whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning [Note: ver. 4.]:” and we see in the application of the prophecy before us, what valuable instruction is to be drawn from that sacred source. Treat every passage then in this way. Treasure it up in your minds: consider all that it either expresses or implies: and apply it to your souls for your more abundant edification in faith and love. So shall you grow up into Christ as your living Head, and progressively “be changed into his image, from glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord.”]


Verse 5-6

DISCOURSE: 1920

PREFERRING THE GOOD OF OTHERS

Romans 15:5-6. Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: that ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. [Note: A Sketch extemporaneously given to a young friend.] IN order to glorify God, we should deny ourselves for the benefit of others.

In the apostolical Churches there were many evils to be corrected. These arose, partly from the vast diversity of states from which the converts were brought to unite with each other in one Church; but they arose also, more particularly, from the corruptions of the human heart. Selfishness is not peculiar to any age or place, but extends itself through the whole race of mankind; and to correct this is one of the great objects of the Gospel of Christ. For the correction of it the Scriptures supply the richest instruction: for the correction of it they exhibit also the brightest example. To both of these we are directed in the passage before us.

We will consider,

I. The example of Christ here proposed to us—

[To enter into this we must consider the state in which our blessed Lord was from all eternity; his glory and felicity in the bosom of his Father. What would he have done had he considered only his own. happiness? He would have left the world in the same way as he did the fallen angels. But how did he act? He assumed our nature in its fallen state; submitted to all the evils incident to that state; endured the contradiction of sinners throughout his life; bore the very wrath of God himself even unto death; and by this has redeemed our souls from death, and restored us to the favour of our offended God. Thus, instead of pleasing himself and disregarding us, he disregarded himself to benefit us.]

II. The obligation that lies upon us to follow it—

[Our blessed Lord is set forth as an example to us: in the above respects we need more especially to follow him. Man as fallen, thinks of nothing but his own personal gratification: man, as redeemed, continues also but a selfish creature. Self-denial is a grace which we are very averse to exercise: we press even duty to the side of self-indulgence, and enlist conscience in the service of our own lusts. But love should be seated on the throne of our hearts; its dictates alone should be followed in all things. The waving the felicity of heaven for a season, and incurring for a season the pains of hell, would scarcely be too high a standard to aim at for the good of others. This was our Lord’s example; and in this we should endeavour to follow his steps [Note: Philippians 2:4-5.].]

III. The high attainments to which we should aspire in the prosecution of it—

[The want of this spirit produces much disunion in the Church, and brings much dishonour to God; the exercise of this spirit renders the Church a prelude to heaven. To glorify God should be the one object of all; and in this there should be one heart, one mind, one faith, throughout the whole. To the attainment of this should every one aspire, and to contribute towards it should be the one labour of his life.

But it may be asked, How can all this ever be attained? how can creatures, who have so little natural forbearance, in whose minds there is such a proneness to irritation and disquietude, ever be brought to such a state as this? Truly, if we looked into ourselves, our state would be hopeless; but in God there is all that we stand in need of. Need we patience? He is a God of patience; possessed of it in all its fulness. Does such a fulness of comfort appear beyond the reach of mortal man? God is a God of comfort also; ready to bestow it out of his own inexhaustible, immeasurable fulness; and to him we are here directed to lift up our eyes, in earnest and assured expectation. There is nothing which he cannot work in the mind of man. He who wrote his law on tablets of stone, can write it on the fleshy tables of our hearts: he who upheld his own law in all that he did and suffered, can effect the same blessed work in us also; and this he has promised to his Church and people; has promised it by covenant and by oath. Look to him then as your covenant God and Father; plead with him the glory that will result to himself from the exercise of these graces; and, in dependence on his strength, go forth to the fulfilment of this duty: “Seek not your own things;” “prefer others in honour before yourselves;” “seek not even your own profit,” as abstracted from that of others, but “seek the profit of many, that they may be saved;” and know that the more you deny yourselves for the benefit of others, the more you will resemble Christ, and glorify your God.]


Verses 8-12

DISCOURSE: 1921

THE UNIVERSALITY OF CHRIST’S KINGDOM

Romans 15:8-12. Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: and that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, for this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people. And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles, in him shall the Gentiles trust.

THERE is in man by nature such an inordinate portion of self-love, that his regards are almost exclusively confined to those who coincide with him in sentiment and contribute to his comfort. The smallest difference of opinion in things either political or religious shall be sufficient to produce not only indifference, but in many instances alienation and aversion. We do not much wonder at a want of mutual affection between the Jews and Gentiles, because they imbibed from their very infancy the most inveterate prejudices against each other, and had all their principles and habits as opposite as can be conceived. But, unhappily for the Christian Church, the same disposition to despise or condemn each other remained amongst them, after they were incorporated in one body, and united under one Head, the Lord Jesus Christ. To counteract this unhallowed temper, and to promote a cordial union amongst all the members of Christ’s mystical body, was the incessant labour of St. Paul. In the whole of the preceding context he insists on this subject, recommending mutual forbearance and affection from the example of Christ, who shewed the same regard both to Jews and Gentiles, both to strong and weak [Note: ver. 1–3, 5–7. with the text.].

In the words before us we see,

I. The extent of Christ’s Church—

The ministry of our blessed Lord had respect,

1. Primarily, to the Jews—

[Jesus was himself born a Jew; and he submitted to circumcision, which was the initiatory rite whereby the Jews were received into covenant with God. When he entered upon his ministerial office, he addressed himself exclusively to those of the circumcision: when solicited to confer his blessings on a Syro-phenician woman, he refused; saying, that he was “sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel;” and that “he could not take the children’s bread and cast it unto dogs [Note: Matthew 15:23-26.]:” though, for the encouragement of all future supplicants, of whatever nation or character, he afterwards granted her request [Note: Matthew 15:28.]. When he sent forth his Disciples into all the cities, towns, and villages, he expressly forbade them to enter into any city of the Gentiles or Samaritans [Note: Matthew 10:5.]. Even after his resurrection, he enjoined his Disciples to make the first overtures of mercy to the Jews, notwithstanding they had so recently imbrued their hands in his blood [Note: Luke 24:47.]. And though he gave them a commission to carry his Gospel into all the world [Note: Mark 16:15.], they still retained their prejudice respecting the exclusive privileges of the Jews: the people who were scattered abroad on the persecution of Stephen, went every where speaking the word to none but Jews only [Note: Acts 11:19.]: and when, after the space of six years, this prejudice was opposed by the miraculous interposition, and incontrovertible attestation, of God himself, the Apostles with difficulty acquiesced, saying, “Then hath God unto the Gentiles also granted repentance unto life [Note: Acts 11:18.].” Even St. Paul himself, who from his first conversion was constituted more especially the minister of the uncircumcision, laboured first to convince the Jews, and turned not to the Gentiles, till the invincible obstinacy of the Jews rendered his further attempts to instruct them altogether hopeless [Note: Acts 13:46-47.].

In all this the Lord Jesus consulted “the truth of God, and confirmed the promises made to the fathers;” which, though they comprehended all the spiritual seed of Abraham, had doubtless respect to those in the first place who should also be found among his lineal descendants [Note: Genesis 17:1-8.].]

2. Ultimately, to the Gentiles also—

[In the very promises made to Abraham, the Gentile nations were expressly included [Note: Romans 4:16-18. Galatians 3:7-9; Galatians 3:28-29.]. But, to confirm this truth, St. Paul brings passages out of all the different parts of the Old Testament, “the law of Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms [Note: Our Lord thus divides the Old Testament, Luke 24:44.],” to prove his point. It is needless to enter into a minute examination of all the passages adduced, since the authority of an inspired Apostle is proof sufficient that they all relate to the point in hand. In the first passage, David speaks in the person of the Messiah; and declares, that, in consequence of the subjugation of his enemies, he will promote the Father’s glory among all the nations of the world [Note: Psalms 18:49.]. In the next, Moses exhorts the Gentiles, when made partakers of all the blessings of redemption, to unite with the Jews in celebrating the event with holy joy [Note: Deuteronomy 32:43.]. The third passage, which is selected from the Psalms, is of similar import with the foregoing [Note: Psalms 117:1.]. And the last, which is more express and pertinent than any of the former, is a prophecy that the Gentiles shall trust in and obey Him, who was, as God, “the root;” and, as man, “the offspring,” of David and of Jesse [Note: Isaiah 11:10. with Revelation 22:16.].

These testimonies unequivocally prove, that, however Jesus, for the accomplishing of the promises, ministered to the circumcision chiefly, yet he did not confine his regards to them, but ordained that all, of whatever nation, should equally be admitted to his covenant, and be made partakers of his salvation.]

The Apostle’s main point respecting the extent of the Church being proved, we would call your attention to what he incidentally mentions; namely,

II. The duty of all its members—

To whomsoever our Lord communicated his salvation, it was his invariable purpose that they who partook of it should “glorify God for his mercy.” The manner in which this is to be done, may be gathered from the passages that are cited. The duty of every member of Christ’s Church is,

1. To submit to him—

[Christ is “risen to reign over the Gentiles.” Now where there is government, there must be subjection: and consequently all who would belong to Christ must “take his yoke upon them.” Their submission too must be willing and unreserved: they must say, like Paul at his conversion, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do [Note: Acts 9:6.]?” If we retain in any thing a will contrary to his will, and a practice contrary to his commands, we are rebels and enemies: and if we say respecting him, “I will not have this man to reign over me [Note: Luke 19:14.],” he will ere long say respecting us, “Bring hither those that were mine enemies, who would not that I should reign over them, and slay them before me [Note: Luke 19:27.].”]

2. To trust in him—

[Christ comes, not only as a Lord, but as a Saviour; through whom we are to find deliverance from the wrath to come. Now it is said, that “in him shall the Gentiles trust.” Our duty towards him is, to believe that he is equal to the task which he has undertaken; that in him there is a fulness of wisdom to instruct the ignorant, of righteousness to justify the guilty, and of grace to sanctify the polluted. We should entertain no conceit of our own sufficiency, nor any doubts of his. We should renounce every kind and degree of self-confidence, and repose all our trust in him alone. Whatever be our character, this is our duty: the learned must look to him for guidance, as much as the most illiterate: the moral must look for acceptance through his righteousness, as much as the most immoral: the strong must depend entirely on his arm, as much as the weakest person in the universe. There is one mode in which all recline upon their bed for the rest of their bodies; and this is the mode which all must adopt in reference to Christ, in order that they may find rest unto their souls [Note: 1 Peter 5:7. Isaiah 50:10.].]

3. Rejoice in him—

[To “rejoice in the Lord always [Note: Philippians 4:4.]” is not merely permitted, as a privilege, but commanded, as a duty. We dishonour him when we do not rejoice in him: we evidently shew that we have a low apprehension of his excellency, and of the benefits which he confers. What they are doing in the Church above, that we should be doing in the Church below. Our obligations are the same, and so should also our occupations be. Are the glorified saints incessantly admiring and adoring him who is the Author of all their happiness [Note: Revelation 4:8; Revelation 5:12.]? We also should ever be contemplating the incomprehensible wonders of his love [Note: Ephesians 3:18-19.], and “rejoicing in him with joy unspeakable and glorified [Note: 1 Peter 1:8.].” Let not religion be viewed as a system of restraints, but as a fountain of joys; for “all her ways are ways of pleasantness and peace.” The effect of it on all who embraced it in the first ages was, to fill the soul with joy [Note: Acts 2:41; Acts 2:46; Acts 8:8; Acts 8:39.]: and such will be its effect on us, if we do not by sin and unbelief provoke the Saviour to hide his face from us.]

4. Walk in his steps—

[This is the particular scope of the text; the intent for which all these quotations are introduced. Our blessed Saviour has shewn a gracious and merciful regard for all the human race: nor has he permitted any diversity in their habits or conduct to exclude them from his kingdom, provided they repent and obey his Gospel. Now our hearts should be enlarged after his example. We should not suffer little circumstantial differences to alienate us from each other. While we claim a right to follow our own judgment, we should cheerfully concede the same liberty to others. A difference of conduct may be proper for different persons, or for the same persons under different circumstances. This is evident from Paul refusing to suffer Titus to receive circumcision, when he had already administered that rite to Timothy; as also from his performing at Jerusalem the vows of a Nazarite, after he had for twenty years renounced the authority of the ceremonial law. It is therefore by no means necessary that we all conform precisely to the same rule in indifferent matters: but it is necessary that we cultivate charity, and maintain “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” If we be not perfectly agreed in sentiment respecting things that are non-essential, we must at least agree in this, to leave every one to the exercise of his own judgment: the weak must not judge the strong, nor the strong despise the weak [Note: Romans 14:3.], but all follow after “the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another [Note: Romans 14:19.].”]


Verse 13

DISCOURSE: 1922

THE HOLY GHOST THE AUTHOR OF HOPE

Romans 15:13. 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.

CHRISTIANS, even in the purest ages of the Church, have been too ready to indulge a spirit of bigotry and contention. The Jewish and Gentile converts in every place were much addicted to it. St. Paul, studious to counteract it in those at Rome, shews that Christ, though a minister of the circumcision, intended to incorporate the Gentiles into his Church; and prays for both parties, that, as the means of restoring union among themselves, they might be endued with more grace. His words shew us,

I. The privileges of true Christians—

The world forms a very false estimate of the Christian’s portion; and Christians themselves too often live below their privileges. It is their privilege to be be filled,

1. With lively joy—

[No one in the world has so much cause for joy as they — — — The man healed by Peter and John fitly, though imperfectly, represents their state — — — Nor is their joy like that of sinners, which soon expires in spleen and melancholy [Note: Ecclesiastes 7:6 and Proverbs 14:13.]. They may “rejoice evermore,” and without ceasing.]

2. With abiding peace—

[It would be thought by many that “peace” should have preceded “joy”; but the experience of God’s people accords exactly with the Scriptures [Note: Compare Isaiah 55:12. with the text.]. Being freed from the torment of a guilty conscience, they have peace with God [Note: Romans 5:1.]. Christ has both purchased for them, and bequeathed to them, his peace, which passeth all understanding [Note: John 14:27 and Philippians 4:7.]. Their “peace may well be as a river, since their righteousness is as the waves of the sea [Note: Isaiah 48:18.].”]

3. With assured hope—

[This is the fruit, rather than the root, of peace and joy. They have the promise and oath of God on their side [Note: Hebrews 6:17-18], and have already received in their souls an earnest of their inheritance [Note: Ephesians 1:14.]. Well therefore may they enjoy a confident expectation of the promised land. All indeed are not sufficiently studious to “walk thus in the light:” but, what the Apostle prayed for on the behalf of all, it is the privilege of all to possess.]

The Apostle further directs us,

II. How we may attain the enjoyment of them—

In this short and comprehensive prayer we are taught to seek them,

1. From God as the fountain—

[God in himself is “a consuming fire:” but in Christ he is the “God of hope” and the source of all good [Note: James 1:17.]. It is he who provided for us the Saviour, and accepted him in our behalf; and has promised to cast out none who come to him in his Son’s name. In vain will be the use of other means, if we apply not to him in prayer. But nothing is too great for God to give to the believing suppliant.]

2. By faith as the means—

[God has “treasured up a fulness for us in Christ Jesus;” and out of it we receive by faith according to the full extent of our necessities. By faith we resemble an infant at the mother’s breast — — — However favoured we are, we can receive nothing but by the exercise of faith [Note: James 1:6-7.]; but “in believing we shall be filled with joy and peace.” It is faith that enables us to realize invisible things, and, by discovering Christ to the soul, “to rejoice in him with joy unspeakable and glorified;” and, by experiencing this joy of faith, our hope is augmented and confirmed [Note: Romans 5:5.].]

3. Through the Holy Ghost as the agent—

[There is no power less than his that will produce these things. The whole work of grace is, not by might nor by power, but by God’s Spirit [Note: Zechariah 4:6.]. He will afford us clear discoveries of the heavenly glory. He will witness to us our adoption, and seal us with God’s image [Note: 2 Corinthians 1:22.]. And thus while he forms us to a meetness for heaven, he gives us also a foretaste of it in our hearts.]

Infer—

1. How much happier is the Christian than others even in this world [Note: Deuteronomy 33:29.]! — — —

2. How happy will the Christian be when he shall receive these communications from the Deity, not through the narrow and obstructed channel of faith, but immediately at the fountain head [Note: 1 Corinthians 13:12.]! — — —

3. How deservedly will they be left destitute of this happiness hereafter, who now give the pleasures of sin their decided preference [Note: Proverbs 1:22-31.]! — — —


Verse 15-16

DISCOURSE: 1923

MINISTERING TO THE GENTILES, A GOOD WORK

Romans 15:15-16. [The] grace [that] is given to me of God, that I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the Gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.

THE calling of the Gentiles was, with the Apostle Paul, a very favourite subject of contemplation: and no wonder: for he had been appointed of God to be the minister of the Gentiles: and, in proportion as the prejudices of the Jews were hostile to their conversion, there was need of more abundant zeal in him who was ordained to promote it.

In the chapter before us he speaks very strongly on this subject. He affirms, indeed, that Jesus Christ was, in the first instance, “a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:” but that a further end of his mission was, “that the Gentiles also should glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. And again, Praise the Lord, O ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people. And again Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse; and He that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles, in him shall the Gentiles trust [Note: ver. 8–12.].”

On this subject the Apostle wrote most explicitly to the Church at Rome, which consisted chiefly of Gentile converts. With the Jews he was more reserved upon it, because of the inveteracy of their prejudices, which he did not wish unnecessarily to excite; though, when occasion required, he was as firm in maintaining it with them, as with the Gentiles themselves. But to the Church at Rome, which consisted chiefly of Gentiles, he wrote more boldly, “because of the grace given to him of God, to be in a more especial manner the minister of Christ to them.”

In discoursing on the Apostle’s words, we shall open to you,

I. The office committed to him—

He was appointed in a more peculiar manner “the minister of the Gentiles [Note: Romans 11:13.].” To this he was ordained at his first conversion [Note: Acts 9:15; Acts 22:21.]; and he accounted this as a very singular honour, for which he was most highly indebted to the grace of God [Note: Ephesians 3:1-2; Ephesians 3:7-8.]. In the execution of this office he acted,

1. As a Preacher to them—

[“He ministered to them the Gospel of God;” and preached to them a free and full salvation, through the Lord Jesus Christ — — — The Jews in general, indeed, had no idea that such a mercy was designed for the Gentiles: but to the Apostle Paul it was “made known by a special revelation, that the Gentiles were to be fellow-heirs with the Jews, and of the same body, and partakers of God’s promise in Christ by the Gospel [Note: Ephesians 3:3; Ephesians 3:6.].” This, therefore, he proclaimed to them in a most fearless manner; and with such indefatigable industry, that “from Jerusalem and round about unto Illyricum he fully preached the Gospel of Christ [Note: ver. 19.].”]

2. As a Priest to God—

[It was for priests alone to present any offerings to God. To this office amongst the Jews St. Paul had no right; because he was of the tribe of Benjamin, and not of the tribe of Levi. But amongst the Gentiles he was at full liberty to perform it. They were his offering, even as many as he was instrumental in converting to the faith of Christ. In this light they had been represented by the Prophet Isaiah; who, speaking of the preachers in the latter day, says, “They shall declare my glory among the Gentiles; and they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the Lord, even to my holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the Lord, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the Lord [Note: Isaiah 66:19-20.].” Now the offerings under the law were sanctified unto the Lord [Note: Numbers 8:7; Numbers 8:11; Numbers 8:15; Numbers 8:21.]; some with water, as the Levites, when they were dedicated to him; and others with oil, as the first-fruits, which were to be presented to the Lord as his exclusive property [Note: Leviticus 23:13; Leviticus 23:17.]. In both these views were converts to be consecrated to the Lord; for, under the Gospel, the whole body of believers are a “holy priesthood [Note: 1 Peter 2:9.]:” and all of them “are begotten of God by the word of truth, that they may be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures [Note: James 1:18.].” But it is “by the Holy Ghost that they are sanctified,” even by his Almighty operation on their souls: “He sanctifies them wholly, in body, soul, and spirit [Note: 1 Thessalonians 5:23.];” and thus renders them altogether “acceptable to God, by Jesus Christ [Note: 1 Peter 2:5. with the text.].”]

But though this office was assigned to Paul in the first instance, yet we hesitate not to affirm,

II. The acceptableness of it, by whomsoever executed—

We mean not to say, that any one at this day is to arrogate to himself the apostolic office: that has long since passed away; nor can be revived, without a special revelation from heaven. But preachers to men, and priests to God, we may all be; though some in a more subordinate sense than others.

We may all labour for the conversion of the Gentile world—

[Some of us may engage in that holy work in our own persons: and a nobler or more honourable vocation cannot be exercised on earth. Christians, in general, have by no means such exalted notions of the missionary office as they ought to have. Even those who look up with reverence to stated ministers who superintend one particular charge, are apt to regard a missionary as a sort of vagrant, that occupies a very subordinate office in the Church of God. But the very reverse of this is true. The missionary approximates far more to the apostolic office; and is elevated in honour above the stationary minister, in proportion as his self-denial is greater and his work more arduous. And I cannot but earnestly recommend to those who are educating for the ministry, to consider whether they may not render to God and to the world a more acceptable service, by devoting themselves to that high employment of preaching the Gospel to some portion of the Gentile world — — —

But all of us may labour in this good work, through the instrumentality of others. Persons of either sex, and of every quality, contributed towards the constructing and furnishing of the Tabernacle [Note: Exodus 35:21-29.]: the same also concurred in the rebuilding of Jerusalem [Note: Nehemiah 3:12.]. And, in raising the spiritual Jerusalem, too, all may co-operate with effect. St. Paul speaks of “women who laboured with him in the Gospel [Note: Philippians 4:3.]:” and not unfrequently are they of most extensive service to the Church of God; assisting in a great variety of ways the cause of God, and advancing, in their own line, as much as ministers do in theirs, his kingdom in the world [Note: Romans 16:1-4; Romans 16:6; Romans 16:12.]. The contributing, or raising of contributions for the support of missionaries, is an office which they can perform with very superior effect: and if in no other respect they can be useful, there is not one who may not contribute to the success of missions by offering up their prayers to God in their behalf. This is the duty of all, without exception: for our Lord has commanded all to pray, “Thy kingdom come:” and if the people of God were more united and more earnest in presenting this petition to the Lord, there can be no doubt but that God would hasten forward that glorious day, in answer to their prayers [Note: Isaiah 62:1-2; Isaiah 62:6-7.].]

And this will be truly “acceptable” to the Lord—

[God smelled a sweet savour, when offerings were presented to him in the days of old. And will he not, when we present to him such offerings as these? Yes: God the Father will accept them: for it is “his Gospel that is preached,” even “the glorious Gospel of the blessed God [Note: 1 These. 2:9 and 1 Timothy 1:2; 1 Timothy 1:11.].” It was He who devised this way of salvation for fallen man, and sent his own Son to effect it, and accepted the sacrifice of his Son in our behalf: and therefore we can have no doubt but that he will be well pleased with having that Gospel ministered to, and embraced by, the Gentile world. And God the Son, too, will be pleased: for it is “His servants that we are,” and it is his kingdom which we labour to establish in the world. And God the Holy Ghost also will most joyfully accept the offering, because it is He who sanctifies it, in every case. It is he who renders our word effectual, and seals it on the souls of men. It is he who makes use of that word to purify them throughout, and to transform them into the Divine image. In a word, it is his work that we perform; or rather, we are mere instruments in his hands: for neither is Paul any thing, nor Apollos any thing; but God is “all in all.”

Shall we not then all, according to our ability, engage in such a work as this? Methinks it is a work which the first archangel in heaven might account it his highest honour to perform. Nor shall any who engage in this work lose his reward: for God has said, that “every man shall receive according to his own labour [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:8.];” and, that “they who turn many to righteousness, shall shine as the stars for ever and ever [Note: Daniel 12:3.].”]

Application—

1. Remember, in the first place, to offer up yourselves to God—

[This must precede every thing else. Nothing that you can do will be of any value, till this is done. St. Paul, when commending the Macedonians for their unparalleled liberality, mentions it to their honour, that “they first gave their own selves to the Lord [Note: 2 Corinthians 8:5.].” Thus must all of you “present yourselves as living sacrifices to God,” sanctified throughout by an unction from above, and by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. This is “your reasonable service;” and most “acceptable will it be to God [Note: Romans 12:1.].” If you do not this, it is in vain that the Gospel is ministered unto you. To effect this, is the scope of all our labours, and the great end also of God’s tender “mercies [Note: Romans 12:1.].” It is for this end that you have been bought with a price; that you should no longer consider yourselves as at your own disposal; but that you should be His who bought you, and “glorify him with your bodies and your spirits, which are his [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.].”]

2. Contribute to the utmost to the offering up of others—

[It is a blessed work wherein to be engaged. If we be successful in one single instance only, it will well repay the labours of a whole life. Who that knows the value of his own soul, must not pant after the salvation of the souls of others? And who, that knows his obligations to God, must not long to serve God in a way so acceptable to his mind, and so conducive to his glory? Let me not, then, call you to this work in vain. If there be any who are by education and by grace fitted for personal exertion in that field of labour, let him, like the Prophet, stand forth, and say, “Here am I: send me [Note: Isaiah 6:8.].” If it be only in a subordinate manner that you are able to assist in this good cause, still let it be seen that your heart is in it, and your labour according to the full extent of your ability. In your contributions, be liberal after your power: and in whatever way you can be useful, “give yourselves to the work” with cheerfulness, and persevere in it with diligence. Certainly, if ever united exertions were called for, it is now, when God is so evidently prospering the work, and putting honour on those who are engaged in it [Note: Here any particulars may be mentioned.] — — — “Come then, all of you, to the help of the Lord:” and “whatever your hand findeth to do, do it with all your might.”]


Verse 26-27

DISCOURSE: 1924

CHRISTIANS DEBTORS TO THE JEWS

Romans 15:26-27. It hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things.

AMONGST all the subjects which occupy the minds of men, there is one, which, though it has as great a claim to our attention as any other, is, as it were by the general consent of the Christian world, kept entirely upon the back ground, and is scarcely ever so much as named;—I mean, our obligations to the Jews. Our blessed Lord has said, that “salvation is of the Jews;” and yet notwithstanding we have received salvation from them, we scarcely ever think of making any return to them, or of bringing them to a participation of the blessings which they have transmitted to us. True indeed, in theory, we trace up all the great truths of Christianity to the writings of the Old Testament, where they were primarily revealed and shadowed forth: but beyond the consideration of Judaism as the foundation of Christianity, and of Christianity as the completion of Judaism, we have in general scarcely a thought upon the subject. We hope that no apology will be deemed necessary for bringing to your view a point, which confessedly is of great importance; and which, if regarded as it ought to be, by those whom I have the honour to address, would soon engage the attention of Christians throughout the land [Note: Written with a view to the University; but never preached before them.].

In the apostolic age, the converts, whether from amongst Jews or Gentiles, all considered themselves as one great family, of which Christ was the Head. Accordingly, when those of Jud ζa were brought into circumstances of peculiar distress, partly through persecutions, and partly through the famine that prevailed in the days of Claudius C ζsar, the Christians of other countries, especially of Macedonia and Achaia, gladly contributed for their relief. The pleasure with which they exerted themselves in this labour of love, is twice noticed by the Apostle: “It pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia; it pleased them verily;” that is, they took great delight in this act of kindness. But, whilst the Apostle thus records their benevolence, he acknowledges, that it was no more than the occasion justly demanded: for many of the Jewish Christians had shewn a very ardent zeal in extending to the Gentiles the knowledge of salvation through a crucified Redeemer; and therefore it was but right, that the Gentiles, who had been made partakers of their spiritual things, should impart liberally to their benefactors such a portion of their carnal things as the pressure of the times required: “It pleased them verily; and their debtors they are.”

Now this idea, that the Gentile Christians are debtors to the Jews, is that which we propose more largely to consider: and in the prosecution of it, we shall state,

I. Our obligations to the Jews;

II. The returns we should make them.

I. Our obligations to the Jews—

To the whole nation of the Jews, from the earliest period of their existence, we are greatly indebted. Let us first notice our obligations to the patriarchs. And here we will begin with Abraham, the father of the faithful. With him was made the covenant of grace, that covenant which is at this very moment the one ground of all our hopes. We, especially we Christians, know nothing of uncovenanted mercies. It is in Christ only that we can obtain salvation; in Christ, as our Surety, who has undertaken to discharge our debt, and to make reconciliation for us through the blood of his cross. The covenant of which we speak, was made with Abraham and his seed, particularly with that promised Seed, the Lord Jesus Christ [Note: Galatians 3:16.]: and it is only as children of Abraham that we have any part in it [Note: Romans 4:11; Romans 4:16. Galatians 3:7-9; Galatians 3:29.]. Here then at once the obligations of the whole Christian world to Abraham are manifest to an unknown extent, inasmuch as every individual among them is indebted to him, for that covenant, which is the fountain and foundation of all their hopes.

To Isaac and Jacob also are we very greatly indebted: for they, in conjunction with Abraham, have shewn to us, in a way that has never been surpassed, the nature and operation of saving faith. God promised to Abraham a Seed in whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed. According to all human appearances, the accomplishment of that promise was impossible: but Abraham “hoped against hope,” and “staggered not at the promise through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God.” “Go out from thy house and kindred,” says God to him, “and sojourn in a land which I will give thee.” He went instantly, in dependence upon God’s word, “not knowing whither he went.” Go “take thy son Isaac, the promised seed whom I have given thee, and offer him up for a burnt-offering on a mount that I will tell thee of.” He instantly goes to execute the divine command, not doubting but that God will restore his son to life again, even after he should have been offered on the altar, and reduced to ashes. In like manner Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise, sojourned in the land of Canaan, in full expectation, that it should be inherited by their posterity, though as yet they had not a foot of ground in it. They had opportunities enough to return to their own country, if they had chosen it; but they determined rather to be as strangers and pilgrims on the earth all their days; thereby “declaring plainly, that they sought a better country, that is, an heavenly one, and looked for a city that hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God [Note: Compare Romans 4:19-21. with Hebrews 11:8-10; Hebrews 11:13-19.].”

Now here we see what faith is: it is such a practical dependence upon the word of God, as leads us to trust in it without doubting, and to obey it without reserve. It is true, we are not required to go forth from our native country, and to live in a foreign land, as they did; but the same mind must be in us as was in them: like them we must consider ourselves altogether “as pilgrims and sojourners” here, having our hearts fixed entirely on things above, and our lives conformed to the precepts and injunctions of our God. If we had not such bright patterns of holiness before our eyes, we should be ready to think, that lower attainments would suffice; and that some limit might be assigned to the exercise of faith, or to the efforts of obedience: but here we see in men of like passions with ourselves, what a life of faith really is, and what is required of all those who profess themselves the people of the Lord. What an advantage is it to have such patterns before our eyes, and to behold before us the footsteps which will infallibly lead us to everlasting happiness and glory!

From the patriarchs we will proceed to notice the prophets, and our obligations to them. Of these, the first whom we will mention is Moses, that great prophet, like unto whom the Saviour himself was to arise [Note: Acts 3:22.]. To him we owe the moral law, even that law which discovers to us the extent of God’s requirements, and consequently the depth of our depravity, and the impossibility of ever being saved by any obedience of our own. It is the knowledge of this law that alone can convince the soul of its lost and undone state without Christ; and it is intended by God as a schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we may be justified by faith. Now we all consider ourselves indebted to those who have instructed us in our youth, especially if they have taught us important things which none other was able to communicate. How then are we all indebted to Moses for this infinitely important knowledge, which we never could have derived from any other source, and without which even the gift of God’s only dear Son to die for us would never have been effectual for its desired ends! Besides, from this law every believer is in structed how to please and serve his God. It is a compendium of all that God requires of us: and, if only we follow that in all things, we are as infallibly sure of pleasing God, and of being rewarded by him at the last, as we are sure that there is a God in heaven. Are we not then greatly indebted to the man who has given us this directory?

But there is another law which we have received from Moses, even the ceremonial law; which though, as given to the Jews, it was an insupportable yoke of bondage, yet, as handed down to us, it is scarcely less profitable than the moral law itself. To the Jews it was a dark and shadowy representation of good things to come: those shadows now are all explained by the Gospel; so that, through the light of the Gospel, all the mysterious rites and ceremonies of the law are presented in a clear, definite, and instructive view, as typifying Christ in all his work and offices: and, whilst it thus derives light from the Gospel, it reflects light back again upon the Gospel itself, and renders that incomparably more clear than it would otherwise be. To illustrate this a little:—A drawing that should represent all the constituent parts of a complicated engine, would not be intelligible without a distinct explanation of them: but with the help of the explanation, it would be clear enough. On the other hand, the explanation itself would not be clear, if it had not the drawing to illustrate it. So it is with the Law as explained by the Gospel: it does indeed receive in the first instance all its light from the Gospel; but afterwards it presents such an elucidation of Gospel truths, as conveys them with astonishing beauty and force to the mind. Take, for instance, the scape-goat. You are told in the Gospel, that “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin;” and that “all who believe are justified from all things:” but behold the high-priest slaying one goat, and sprinkling its blood upon the mercy-seat within the vail; and then laying both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confessing over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and then sending him away into the wilderness never more to be seen by man [Note: Leviticus 16:15; Leviticus 16:21-22.]: who that contemplates this, and realizes in his mind the transaction, does not see the actual transfer of his sins to Christ, and the everlasting removal of them from his own soul? I say then, that for the ceremonial, no less than the moral law, we are greatly indebted to this faithful servant of our God.

Let us turn from him to the prophets at large, comprehending the whole collective body of them: what a chain of prophecy have they given us! what an accumulation of particulars, so as to render it impossible for any one who candidly compares the predictions with the events, to entertain a doubt, but that Jesus is the Christ! And let it be remembered, that they all suffered much at the hands of their fellow-creatures for their fidelity to God: and, at the time that they were delivering their prophecies, they knew that it was not for their own benefit, or the benefit of the existing generation, that they were testifying of these things, but for the instruction and benefit of generations yet unborn, even of us, to whom the Gospel is now fully revealed [Note: 1 Peter 1:11-12.]. Do we owe them no gratitude for these self-denying labours? But, in order to appreciate more justly our obligations to them, let us suppose for a moment, that none of them had recorded the things revealed unto them, and that all their predictions had been forgotten: what would now have been the state of our minds in relation to the Saviour? With what doubts and fears should we have been agitated, and how uncertain should we have been at this hour, whether Christianity were not altogether “a cunningly-devised fable!” Do not let us forget, that the assurance which we enjoy respecting the truth of our holy religion, is altogether derived from them: for though the miracles of our Lord were a convincing evidence of his Messiahship to those who saw them, yet to us at this remote period the completion of prophecy is a far surer and firmer ground of confidence: and therefore to those who gave us such a minute and connected series of prophecies we ought to feel the greatest obligations.

There is however one prophet in particular whose name we cannot possibly pass over in silence;—I mean, the Prophet David. He has committed to writing all the secret workings of his heart, under all the diversified conditions into which he was brought, and has given to the Church this invaluable record, that all future saints, into whatever situation they might be brought, might be comforted and edified by his example. Where is there a child of God in the whole universe that does not account the Psalms of David his richest treasure? Who does not read them, and meditate upon them, and find them as marrow and fatness to his soul? Who that has any true religion in his soul, does not find the Psalms the means of his communication with heaven; the ladder, by which he daily, and as it were hourly, ascends to God? Is this no benefit? or is the conferring of it no ground of obligation? Verily the man to whom the name of David is not dear, evinces, that he has no taste for heavenly things, no just discernment of what is truly excellent.

It will of course be expected, that we should not overlook the Apostles, those faithful instructors in the whole counsel of God, and those bright examples of all holy obedience. What did not they endure, that they might carry the Gospel to the Gentiles? How did they go throughout all the known world, in labours most abundant, and in deaths oft, “not counting their lives dear unto them, so that they might but fulfil the ministry which they had received of the Lord Jesus, and testify the Gospel of the grace of God!” How many millions are now blessing God for them in heaven! How many too are daily adoring God for them on earth, for all the light of their instructions, and all the benefit of their examples! If those who have extended the blessings of civilization, of liberty, and of science, are called benefactors, what name shall we find whereby to testify our gratitude to the Apostles, for all the light, and peace, and joy, and holiness, which through their instrumentality we possess.

We will content ourselves however with this brief mention of them, that we may fix our attention on Him to whom infinitely above all we are indebted,—the Lord Jesus Christ. He also was a Jew, “of the seed of David as pertaining to the flesh,” though in his divine nature he was “over all, God blessed for ever.” Where shall we begin to speak of the obligations which we owe to him? or, having begun, where shall we make an end? He did not merely engage in the covenant of grace as a party, like Abraham, but was the very Mediator and Surety of the covenant, who confirmed and ratified it with his own blood, and undertook, both on the part of God and man, that all the conditions of it should be fulfilled. He did not, like the prophets, merely utter predictions that should be afterwards accomplished, but actually accomplished in his own person all that had been predicted, and fulfilled every iota of what they had said should come to pass. Nor did he, like the Apostles, merely preach salvation to us, though at the expense of his own life; but he actually wrought out salvation for us, bearing our sins in his own body on the tree; and “becoming a curse for us,” that we might be delivered from the curse of the broken law, and the wrath of an offended God. Nay more; after having wrought out an everlasting righteousness for us by his own obedience unto death, he has for nearly eighteen hundred years been incessantly occupied in securing to us the blessings of redemption by the efficacy of his all-prevailing intercession, and by the all-sufficient operations of his grace. He is at this very moment the Head of the whole mystical body, the Church; and is the source of life and strength to all his members. There is not amongst all the saints upon earth one holy desire, one good counsel, or one just thought, which does not proceed from him as its true and proper source: whatever any man possesses, he has received it out of the inexhaustible fulness of Jesus Christ: so that neither on earth nor in heaven is there one who can arrogate any glory to himself: it all belongs to that blessed Saviour, “who liveth in us:” and to all eternity our song must be, “Not unto us, not unto us, but unto thy name be the praise:” “To Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and made us kings and priests unto God and our Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever.” Say now, brethren, whether, or not, ye are indebted to our ever adorable Emmanuel; and whether, if you neglect to praise him, the very stones will not cry out against you?

We hope by this time that the body of evidence which has been adduced has sufficiently established our obligations to the Jews, and has prepared us with some measure of sincerity to inquire into,

II. The returns we should make to them—

It is something more than mere acknowledgments that we are called to make: our duty towards them may be comprised under two particulars: first, We should endeavour to secure for ourselves that salvation which the Jews of former ages have handed down to us: and next, We should endeavour by all possible means to make the Jews of this and future ages partakers of the same.

1. We should endeavour to secure for ourselves that salvation which the Jews of former ages have handed down to us—

I would ask, Can it be conceived, that we are at liberty to neglect a salvation, which has been purchased for us at so great a price, and has been proclaimed to us in such a variety of ways? Have not all those who in successive ages have laboured for us, a right to expect from us some fruit of their labours? Hear the appeal which God himself makes to us respecting this matter: “O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes [Note: Isaiah 5:3-4.]?” Here is the very case in point. There is not any thing which we could possibly have desired, either for our conviction or encouragement, which God has not done; yea, he has far exceeded any thing we could have desired, or even thought. And is all this kindness to be requited with neglect? No: the Apostle justly says, “How shall ye escape, if ye neglect so great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him [Note: Hebrews 2:3-4.]!” “If so many things had not been done for us, we had not, comparatively, had sin: but now we have no cloak for our sin:” and all who have sought our welfare, whether patriarchs, or prophets, or Apostles, yea and our Lord Jesus Christ himself, will be swift witnesses against us, if we suffer all their labour to be in vain. All that they have done for us, “if it be not unto us a savour of life unto life, will be a savour of death unto death.” The first return then which we are bound to make to God, and to all who, as his instruments, have sought our welfare, is, to give up ourselves wholly and unfeignedly to the Lord: and it is remarkable that the Apostle Paul, expressly referring to the collection made at Corinth on the very occasion mentioned in our text, says, “To their power, (I bear record,) yea and beyond their power, they were willing of themselves; praying us with much entreaty, that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their ownselves to the Lord [Note: 2 Corinthians 8:3-5.].” This then must have the precedence of all. Whatever returns we may make either to God or man for the benefits we have received from the Jews, they are all nothing without this: we must “first give our ownselves to the Lord.” “I beseech you then, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies and souls a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service [Note: Romans 12:1.].” I would, in the name of the Most High God, lay claim to every soul here present, and say, “Ye are not your own; ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God with your bodies and your spirits, which are his [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.].” We call upon you, not to perform a work of supererogation, but to pay a debt: for God’s debtors ye are; and this debt must be paid to him at the peril of your souls.

2. In the next place, having secured this salvation for ourselves, we should endeavour to make the Jews of this and future ages partakers of the same—

It may be thought, perhaps, that though we are debtors to the Jews of former ages, we owe nothing to those of this generation. But we would beg leave to state a case, which we apprehend will place this matter in its true point of view. Let us suppose, that a man of vast opulence had disinherited his own children on account of their misconduct towards him, and had bequeathed his whole possessions to us. Let us further suppose, that, after his descendants to the third or fourth generation had suffered all the most lamentable effects of his displeasure, it were in our power to benefit them, without at all injuring ourselves; yea, and perhaps to elevate them to their former rank and happiness, without the smallest diminution of our own property; should we not think that it was our duty to help them? Would not the very consideration of our having, without any merit or service on our part, come to the possession of their inheritance, give them some claim upon our compassion; so far at least as to benefit them, if we could do it without any loss to ourselves? Here then is the very case: “They were broken off from their own olive-tree, that we might be graffed in [Note: Romans 11:17-19.]:” and it is “of the root and fatness of their olive-tree that we are partaking” from day to day [Note: Romans 11:24.]: and, as we may by God’s help be instrumental to the “graffing them again upon their own olive-tree,” it is our bounden duty to do it, more especially as it is God’s avowed purpose, that “they shall be graffed in,” as soon as ever they repent them of their former sins, and look with sorrow on the Messiah, whom they have pierced. In this respect we may regard the Jews of this generation as the representatives of those of former ages, and discharge to them the debt which can no otherwise be paid to our original benefactors. If, notwithstanding their present degraded state, they are still “beloved by God for their fathers’ sakes,” much more should a regard for their fathers cause them to be beloved by us.

But if this illustration be not sufficient to convince us, then we will come to an express command of God, which cannot fail to carry conviction to every heart. It will be recollected by all who have paid any attention to the New Testament, that, in the 11th chapter to the Romans, it is said, that “through the fall of the Jews salvation is come unto the Gentiles [Note: ver. 11.];”—that “the fall of the Jews is the riches of the world, and the diminishing of the Jews the riches of the Gentiles [Note: ver. 12.];”—and, finally, that “the casting away of the Jews is the reconciling of the world [Note: ver. 15.].” But is this blessing which we inherit through them, to be engrossed by us, and no endeavour to be made on our part for their restoration to the Divine favour? No: if is committed to us as a sacred deposit, to be improved for their good: (I repeat these words; It is a sacred deposit, to be improved for their good:) it is delivered to us, not as proprietors, to use it as we please, but as stewards, to use it for the express purpose that our Lord and Master has enjoined: and this avowed purpose is, that by every means in our power we should bring the poor outcast Jews to the renewed enjoyment of their paternal inheritance: nor should we ever see a Jew without saying in our hearts, There is a man whose inheritance I possess, and to whom I am very deeply in debt. Let us hear the express declaration of God respecting it: “As ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief; even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy [Note: ver. 30, 31.].” Here let it be clearly seen, that the very end for which this mercy is committed unto us is, “that through our mercy they also may obtain mercy:” and if we do not improve, for the restoration of God’s ancient people, the light and knowledge, the means and privileges, which we enjoy, we are unfaithful stewards. Were we speaking of a steward, who had alienated to his own use the property which we had entrusted to him for the benefit of others, we should find no terms too severe, not even those of thief and robber, whereby to characterize his conduct. We are unwilling to use such terms in reference to the Christian world, who have so long neglected their Jewish brethren; for we are persuaded, that this neglect has proceeded from ignorance and inattention to the subject, rather than from any wilful dereliction of the trust committed to them: but we must say, that, if the Jews continue to be neglected by us as they have been, we shall contract a fearful responsibility before God.

There is an idea, which is often suggested in order to excuse our supineness, namely, that they are so blind and hardened, that it is in vain to attempt their conversion. But whose fault is it that they are so blind and hardened? Is it not ours? If Christians had universally displayed in their life and conversation the superior excellence of their religion, is there not reason to think, that the Jews might by this time have been led to view it in a more favourable light? Is there not also reason to apprehend, that they have been confirmed in their prejudices against Christianity by the misconduct of its professors? What wonder is it that they are ignorant of Christianity, when the professors of it now for so many hundred years have made no efforts to enlighten them with respect to it? I say again, The fault is ours. If Christians had universally laboured for their salvation, as their forefathers did for ours, would there have been no converts from among them? Would none of them have been stirred up to make inquiry into the evidences of our religion, and to seek its blessings? But be it so, They are blind and obdurate. And what were we, when in our Gentile state? yea, what should we at this very instant have been, if their fathers had done no more for us, than we have for them? But the same grace that has wrought in us, can work in them; and the same divine power that converted myriads of their forefathers, can work effectually in the hearts of men in the present day: the power that first “commanded the light to shine out of darkness, can shine into the hearts of the very darkest among them; to give them the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

By some it will be said, The time is not come. But who is authorized to say that the time is not come? We have rather reason to hope, that the time is come, or at least is near at hand: for there is confessedly at this present moment a greater zeal among Christians for the conversion of the Gentile world, and for the dissemination of God’s word throughout the habitable globe, than has been at any other period since the apostolic age: and this gives reason to hope, not only that God is about to do great things among the Gentiles, but that he is about to visit the Jews also: for as, on the one hand, “blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in,” that is, till the period for the fuller diffusion of divine light among the Gentiles be arrived; so, on the other hand, it is the fulness of the Jews, or the general conversion of them to Christianity, that is to be the riches of the Gentile world: according as it is written, “If the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the fall of them the riches of the Gentiles, how much more their fulness [Note: Romans 11:12; Romans 11:25.]?” Here is a fulness of the Jews, as well as a fulness of the Gentiles: and each is to be subservient to the completion of the other. In neither case is it to be understood as the completion of the work of divine grace among them; but in both cases it relates to the commencement of that period when the work shall be completed. The diminution of the Jews was progressive; and so we trust will be the bringing in of the complement both of Jews and Gentiles. Indeed so far is it from being true that the whole Gentile world must be converted before the work of conversion shall begin among the Jews, that, as appears from the passage just referred to, the Jews in their converted state will be eminently instrumental in converting the Gentile world: and the circumstance of their dispersion through the world, and their knowledge of the languages of the countries where they dwell, peculiarly fits them for communicating to the Gentiles the light of divine truth, the very moment that they themselves receive it. We trust therefore that the very exertions which are now making for the Gentiles, have a favourable aspect on the Jews also. But there is at this time among the Jews themselves, and especially on the continent, a considerable expectation of their Messiah [Note: In Britain also this now (1832) obtains to a considerable extent.]: nor is it an ill omen, that the Christian world have begun to pay some attention to them, and to use means for their restoration to the Divine favour. We lay not any great stress upon the success of past endeavours; though that is by no means contemptible, considering what difficulties there have been to contend with; but we say, that, whether the time for their full conversion be come, or not, the time for exertion on our part is always come: the time for us to pay our debts is always at hand: and therefore, without presuming to judge of secrets which God has reserved in his own bosom, we call on all to discharge to that benighted people their debt of love.

Is it asked, What shall we do? we feel that we are their debtors; but we know not how to discharge our debts? I answer, What their fathers did for us, that is the thing which we should do for them. St. Paul said, “I am a debtor both to the Jews and to the Greeks:” and how did he discharge his debt? He gave himself up altogether to the work of his ministry among the Gentiles; and counted not his life dear unto him, so that he might but fulfil it to their greatest advantage. He indeed had a particular call to the ministry, which does not extend to us: but we in our private capacity should be as strenuous for the welfare of our fellow-creatures, as he was in this official character as an Apostle: our modes of manifesting our regard for them will of course differ from his: but as far as our respective situations and characters will admit, we should exert ourselves to make known to them that Saviour, whom they have rejected and despised. It was not every Jew that preached to the Gentiles; nor is it every Christian that is to preach to the Jews: but in conversation with them we may do much good, and in putting into their hands the New Testament, or other useful books; and particularly in earnestly praying to God for them, we may bring down his blessing upon them. Besides, many united together for that end may effect incomparably more than the same number could in their separate and individual state. By encouraging therefore the Society that has been formed for the advancement of their welfare, we, though but small contributors ourselves, may be instrumental to the accomplishing of much good amongst them. The translating of the New Testament into pure Biblical Hebrew, and circulating that throughout all the world, is a work which we in particular, as patrons of learning and religion, shall do well to encourage. Were nothing more than the assisting of the Jews under some temporal calamity the object of this discourse, we should feel that we were warranted in calling upon you, not to be liberal, but to be just; not to present gifts, but to pay your debts, to that much neglected people: for “if we have been made partakers of their spiritual things, our duty is to minister unto them in carnal things.” But we stand on far higher ground than the Apostle, and prefer a higher claim. It is the souls of the Jews which we would commend to your care, and their eternal welfare which we would urge you to promote: and in this view all our claims upon you as debtors come with ten-fold weight. Alas! we are greatly and shamefully in arrears; but in proportion to our past neglect should be our future exertions: and, as we know not how little time may be allotted us for fulfilling our duties to them, “whatever our hand findeth to do, we should do it with our might.”

For the sake of those who may wish for a short compendious view of the subject, the following Skeleton is annexed.

Romans 15:26-27.

CHRISTIANITY a religion of love—exemplified on the day of Pentecost, and here—

But this exercise of love was a debt:—“their debtors they are.”

I. Our obligations to the Jews;

II. The return we should make them.

I. Our obligations to the Jews—

These Christians were Greeks, of a different nation from the Jews—

Yet were they debtors to the Jews; as we also are,

1. To the Patriarchs—

[Abraham—for the covenant of grace—and for a display of faith—

Isaac and Jacob—for illustrating a life of faith—]

2. To the Prophets—

[Moses—for the law

{

1. Moral{a schoolmaster— a rule— 2. Ceremonial—Scape-goat—This, as a complicated drawing, both receives light from the Gospel, and reflects light on it—

All the prophets—for a chain of prophecy—

David—for records of his experience—Ladder—]

3. To the Apostles—

[For so full an account of Christ—

For their zeal, in risking life for us—

For their example—of highest virtues—]

4. To the Lord Jesus Christ—

[He did not,

{

like Abraham, merely engage as a party in the covenant, but ratified it with his blood— like the prophets, utter predictions; but fulfilled them— like the Apostles, merely preach salvation; but obtained it for us—

He secures to us also by his life, what he procured for us by his death—

Who can tell the height and depth of his love?]

II. The return we should make them—

1. Endeavour to secure the salvation which the Jews of former ages have handed down to us—

[It would requite them ill to neglect it—

And would greatly aggravate our guilt—

The heathen are sinless in comparison—

“How shall we escape if, &c.?” Hebrews 2:3

Our duty then is,

To trust in Christ—

To follow the counsels and example

{

of Patriarchs— of Prophets— of Apostles—]

2. Endeavour to make the Jews of this and future ages partakers of the blessings which we derive from their fathers—

[If they are beloved of God for the fathers’ sake, much more should they be by us; Romans 11:28.

Obj.—We owe nothing to them—

Ans.—We do, as the bereaved children of our blessed Benefactor.

Query—How are we to do it?

Ans.—As their fathers did for us: Use all active self-denying exertions—

Obj.—‘Tis in vain—they are hardened.

Ans.—Whose fault is that?—Ours—

Had we done for them as their fathers did for us, would it have been so?

Have we not rather been a stumbling-block?

Obj.—The time is not come in their way—

Ans.—Who is authorized to say so?

We affirm that it is come—

1. God is awakening an attention to the world—in Bible Societies—Mission Societies, ’c.

2. He has stirred up attention to the Jews—

3. He has excited an expectation of the Messiah, here and on the Continent—

4. He has given success already—

Some pious—and studious, preparing—

Success great, considering the efforts—

Ergo, it is come.

Romans 11:25, misunderstood. See ver. 12.

But if it were not come, our duty is the same—

Romans 11:30-31, proves us unjust stewards if we do not—

We call you then, not to be generous but just—Pay your debts

If we called on you for temporal relief only, we should say so—text— “Our Duty is to minister to their relief”—

But we stand on higher ground than Paul—

Think what arrears are due—

Let not our importunity, like that of common creditors or claimants, offend—

Let all the means in our power be used—

Do all with holy zeal—“It pleased” twice

But let us, in the first place, give up our ownselves to the Lord; 2 Corinthians 8:5

Then may we hope for most success, when we can say, “Come, and I will go also;” Zechariah 8:21.]


Verse 29

DISCOURSE: 1925

THE GOSPEL A SOURCE OF BLESSINGS

Romans 15:29. I am sure, that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ.

OF all the Apostles, St. Paul was by far the most abundant in labours. In this chapter he mentions the almost incredible pains he had taken in preaching throughout all that extensive region, “from Jerusalem round about unto Illyricum, the Gospel of Christ.” He was now going to Jerusalem, to carry thither the alms he had collected for the relief of the poor saints in Jud ζa: but as soon as he should have accomplished that object, it was his intention to proceed immediately for Spain, and to visit Rome in his way thither. Of this intention he apprises the Church at Rome. He tells them, in this epistle, that, though he had not been the means of planting a Church among them, he considered himself “a debtor unto them, as well as unto other Gentiles;” and that “he longed exceedingly to see them, that he might impart to them some spiritual gift for the increase and establishment” of their faith and love [Note: Romans 1:11-15.]; and that “he was sure, that, when he should come to them, he should come in the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ.”

That we may understand what it was that he thus taught them to expect, we shall shew,

I. The blessings which the Gospel is intended to impart—

There is a fulness of blessings treasured up for men in Christ Jesus, and communicated to them by the preaching of the Gospel: and, in order to form any just conception of them, we must speak of them, not in the minuteness of detail, but in a large and comprehensive view. We may say of the Gospel then, that it imparts a fulness,

1. Of light and liberty—

[It comes to men whilst they are “sitting in darkness and the shadow of death,” and fast bound in the iron yoke of sin. And to them it proclaims “a Saviour, and a great One, who is able and willing to deliver them [Note: Isaiah 19:20.];” yea, it bids them shake off their chains, and “come forth out of their prison house, and out of darkness [Note: Isaiah 42:7.].” The operation of the Gospel upon the souls of men may be not improperly illustrated by the deliverance of Peter from his prison. There he was lying bound with two chains, and sleeping, though on the very eve of his expected execution. But God sent an angel to deliver him; and suddenly a light shined into the prison; and Peter was awakened from his sleep: and the chains fell off from his hands; and all the gates that seemed to oppose an insurmountable obstacle to his escape, opened to him of their own accord; so that, to the utter surprise of all his friends, he was brought forth at once to light and liberty [Note: Acts 12:6-16.]. We do not mean to say, that the effect of the Gospel is always thus sudden; but, whether the operation be more or less gradual, this is invariably the issue of it, wherever “it comes in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:” the persons wrought upon by it, “have their eyes opened, and are turned from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God [Note: Acts 26:18.].” But there is an expression of St. Peter’s that deserves particular attention. He represents men as “called by the Gospel out of darkness into marvellous light [Note: 1 Peter 2:9.].” And marvellous indeed it is. It is such light as not all other books in the universe can impart;—a light proceeding immediately from “the Sun of Righteousness;”—a light that exhibits every thing in its true colours; sin, in all its malignity; human nature, in all its corruption; the world, in all its vanity; yea, and God, as a reconciled God, in all his glory: “it shines into the heart, and gives the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” “The darkness being passed, and the true light shining into the heart,” the soul is “delivered from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the children of God [Note: Romans 8:21.].”]

2. Of peace and joy—

[The first effect of the Gospel, or rather, of the law as preparing men for the Gospel, is, to alarm the conscience, and to make men sensible of their just desert: but the moment they embrace the promises of the Gospel, their fears are dissipated, and the whole soul is filled “with peace and joy in believing.” This effect cannot be better seen than in the converts on the day of Pentecost. When they assembled in the morning, they were under the influence of every hateful and malignant passion: and, on their first conviction of their guilt, they cried out with great distress of mind, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” But, as soon as they received the Gospel into their hearts, behold, what an astonishing change was wrought; they were all penetrated with love, and peace and joy, “and ate their meat with gladness, blessing and praising God” with one heart and one soul.

What was intimated before respecting the light imparted by the Gospel, may be said also of the peace and joy which it communicates: they are truly “marvellous;” the peace is a peace that passeth all understanding,” and the “joy is unspeakable and glorified.” The natural man has no conception either of the one or of the other: they are such as never were, nor ever can be, derived from any other source. Some little idea of them may be formed from the exalted language in which they are depicted by the prophets. The heavens and the earth, even universal nature, are called upon to sing and shout for joy on account of that glorious redemption revealed in the Gospel [Note: Psalms 96:11-13. Isaiah 44:23.]: and this is but a faint expression of that felicity which is the assured portion of all that believe [Note: Psalms 72:6-7. Isaiah 55:12; Isaiah 35:1-2; Isaiah 35:5-6; Isaiah 35:10.].

3. Of growth and stability—

[The Gospel does not merely beget souls to God, but fosters and nourishes them to their latest hour; so that they progressively advance, from “babes to young men, and fathers,” in the Christian Church. Under its influence they “proceed from strength to strength, till in due time they appear before their God in Zion.” Wonderful beyond all conception are the truths which it reveals to their minds; reveals, I mean, as far as they have a capacity to comprehend them. What astonishing views does it exhibit of the fulness, the excellency, the glory of Christ, and the sufficiency of the work wrought out by him! What discoveries does it give of the Divine perfections, as harmonizing and glorified in the work of redemption;—of the Divine counsels also, as planning every thing respecting it, and as infallibly accomplished in the salvation of God’s elect! What views does it afford them of the Lord Jesus Christ, as having undertaken to justify his people by his blood, to sanctify them by his Spirit, and to “keep them by his own power through faith unto everlasting salvation!” These truths, brought home with power to the soul, tend to “establish, strengthen, settle it;” and to create a holy confidence in “Christ, as the Finisher, no less than the Author, of his people’s faith.” It is from such deep and enlarged discoveries as these that they are enabled to say, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? 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.” Not that they expect the end without the means: they know that they can never attain “salvation but through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:” they know that “without holiness no man shall see the Lord:” but they know also that the grace of Christ shall be sufficient for them, and that he will “carry on and perfect in them the good work he has begun,” suffering “none to pluck them out of his hands,” nor any to bring them into condemnation.]

From this view of the blessings which the Gospel is intended to impart, we pass on to mark,

II. The subserviency of the ministry to the communication of them—

The Apostle felt assured that he should be an instrument to convey these blessings wherever he should go—

God had originally instituted the ministry for this very end—

[Under the law, the priest’s lips were “to keep knowledge,” and to impart it to all who should come to inquire of them: but under the Gospel dispensation there was an order of men appointed to go forth into all the world, and, by themselves or their successors in the ministerial office, to “preach the Gospel to every creature.” This also was the end for which the Holy Spirit, in his miraculous and gracious influences, was given unto men, even to fit them for the discharge of their ministerial functions; or, in other words, “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; till we all come, in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ [Note: Ephesians 4:8; Ephesians 4:12-13.].”

St. Paul too knew, by his own blessed experience, that the word, as delivered by him, had in many thousand instances produced this effect. Many Churches had been established by him: yea, in no place whatever had he been left to “run in vain, or labour in vain;” he was assured, therefore, that if ever he should have the happiness of going to Rome, he should see fruits of his labours there, as well as he had done among other nations. The Church of Rome too was already well prepared to receive all his instructions, seeing that already both their faith and their obedience were so eminent as to have attracted the notice and admiration of the whole Christian world [Note: Romans 1:8; Romans 16:19. See particularly his high commendation of them, chap. 15:14.]. He could have no doubt, therefore, but that in such a soil, the seed which he should sow would spring up abundantly.]

The same assurance also every faithful minister may have—

[God has said, that “if we stand in his counsel, and cause his people to hear his words, we shall be the means of turning them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings [Note: Jeremiah 23:22.].” True it is, we are not authorized to expect such success as was vouchsafed to the Apostle Paul: but we are assured, that, if “faithful in the discharge of our office,” we shall “not run in vain, or labour in vain.” God has said, “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and give bread to the eater and seed to the sower, so shall my word be, which goeth forth out of your mouth: it shall not return to me void; but it shall accomplish that which I please; it shall prosper in the thing whereunto I sent it.” The word is still “the rod of God’s strength,” the wonder-working rod, which, in whose hand soever it may be, shall alike effect the object for which it is sent, whether to the dividing of the Red Sea, or the bringing forth of water from the flinty rock. Still “it is as fire, or as the hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces:” still is it “mighty through God to the pulling down of strong-holds:” “it is sharper than any two-edged sword, and shall pierce even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and the joints and marrow.” What if we be but babes in the delivery of it? God will “ordain strength in the mouth of babes and sucklings,” and will shew, that the Gospel still is, no less than in the apostolic age, “the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believeth.”

And here we will venture to make our appeal to those who hear us, Whether “the handful of corn which we have cast upon the top of these mountains has not grown up?” and, though we cannot say that “the fruit thereof shakes like the woods of Lebanon,” or that converts amongst us “flourish as numerous and as beautiful as the grass of the earth [Note: Psalms 72:16.],” yet some we have had as “seals to our ministry;” and, “though poor” in ourselves, we have been the happy instruments of “making some rich;” even richer far, than if we had imparted to them all the wealth of the whole world [Note: 2 Corinthians 6:10.]. We quite mistake, if we suppose that any faithful minister shall be suffered to labour altogether in vain: the success of some may be small in comparison of that of others: but none shall be left wholly without witness; for our blessed Lord has expressly said, “Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world [Note: Matthew 28:20.].”]

May we not observe from hence—

1. What a glorious work is that of the ministry—

[A pious minister, who devotes himself wholly to his blessed work, is like a cloud, pouring down “showers of blessings” wherever he goes [Note: Ezekiel 34:26.]. God by his exertions “makes manifest the savour of the knowledge of Christ in every place [Note: 2 Corinthians 2:14.],” and scatters with a liberal hand “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” O blessed work! what employment in the universe can be compared with it? See it described in the passage cited from Isaiah by the Saviour himself [Note: Luke 4:18-19.]: and though that passage primarily relates to him, we may apply it with perfect propriety to all who go forth in his name: and, like him, we may justly say, “This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears [Note: Luke 4:21.].” O that all who bear this sacred character, or look forward to the assumption of it, might have a becoming sense of the dignity of their office, and live only for the profitable discharge of it! and that each in his place and station might be “a tree of life,” from which multitudes may gather fruit unto life eternal [Note: Proverbs 11:30.]!]

2. What enemies to themselves are they who will not attend the ordinances of the Gospel!—

[If Paul himself should “come hither in the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ,” what would they be benefited, who would not come within the sound of his voice? The pool of Bethesda was endued with all its healing virtues in vain, to those who would not come and wait for the moving of the waters: nor can they be nourished by all the rich provisions of the Gospel, who will not accept the invitation to the feast. O brethren, do not be making foolish excuses: for God, who knows the state of your hearts, will put the right interpretation on your refusal; and consider your answer, not according to the mere letter of it, “I cannot come,” but according to the spirit of it, “I will not come.” To such contemners of God’s mercy the Gospel will prove a curse, rather than a blessing: “to those to whom it is not a savour of life unto life, it will be a savour of death unto death:” and they who, “like Capernaum, have been lifted up to heaven” by the privileges they have enjoyed, “will be cast down the deeper into hell” for their abuse of them. The Lord grant that you may know the day of your visitation, and, “whilst ye have the light, may walk in the light, that ye may be the children of light!”]

3. What an awful responsibility attaches to those who hear the Gospel!—

[Surely every one of us should inquire, What blessings have I received from the ministration of the word? What know I of this fulness of light and liberty, of peace and joy, of growth and stability, which the Gospel is sent on purpose to communicate? Brethren, has it “come to you as yet in word only, and not in power and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance?” Unhappy people, if this be the case! Have you never read those words of the Apostle, “The earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: but that which beareth briers and thorns, is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned [Note: Hebrews 6:7-8.]?” O fearful curse! O, “who shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” Be persuaded, beloved brethren, to pray mightily to God for his blessing on the word. It would be to no purpose that even “Paul should plant, or Apollos water, unless God himself give the increase.” Look up to God, then, to make the word effectual for your good; and, when you are hearing it, pray to him to apply it with power to your hearts. Before you come up to the ordinances, go to the God of ordinances, and entreat of him to visit you with his salvation: and then say with yourselves, ‘Now I am going to meet my God, who is coming to “bless me with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus:” Lord, “I am not straitened in thee; let me not be straitened in my own bowels:” come to me “in all the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ,” and let me this day be “filled with all the fulness of God [Note: Ephesians 3:19.].’ ” To this prayer, in reference to every one of you, we most cordially add, “Amen and Amen.”]


Verse 30

DISCOURSE: 1926

PRAYER FOR MINISTERS

Romans 15:30. I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me.

LITTLE do men imagine how great is the efficacy of intercession [Note: If this were a subject for Trinity Sunday, the exordium might be to this effect: We might well expect that the doctrine of the Trinity, if really true, would not merely be mentioned in two or three distinct passages of Holy Scripture, but that it would pervade the whole Scriptures, as it were, in an incidental way. And so we find it;—e. g. the Text.]. They seem to think it presumptuous for one man to hope that he shall prevail with God in behalf of another. And doubtless it would be presumptuous, on a supposition that the intercessor conceived he should prevail by any power or goodness of his own. But, when God has enjoined intercession as a duty, and appointed it as a means of bestowing his blessing upon men, it is highly becoming in us to obey his mandate, and to seek his blessing in his appointed way. There is no man who may not he benefited by another in this way. A beggar may bring down blessings on the greatest monarch; and a very child in grace, upon the most eminent saint. St. Paul, conscious of this, frequently requested his brethren to pray for him [Note: Ephesians 6:19-20. 2 Corinthians 1:10-11.]. In the passage before us, he seems to speak as if his whole welfare depended on the prayers of others; so urgent is he in his request that they would plead in his behalf at the throne of grace. In my remarks upon this request of his, I shall notice,

I. Its extreme urgency—

Language can scarcely express greater urgency than is here manifested in the Apostle’s request. Observe,

1. The object of his request—

[“Brethren, pray for me.” He was now in peculiar circumstances. He was going up to Jerusalem, to carry to the saints there that relief which he had collected for their necessities. But the Jews there were exceedingly enraged against him, on account of his going to the Gentiles. The very saints themselves also were greatly prejudiced against him on this account: for they could not yet see that the Mosaic law was abolished; and, consequently, could not understand how he should so neglect, and discourage, the observance of it. And from this extreme irritation of all parties against him, he could not but apprehend that his life was in danger, and that his labours for the welfare of mankind would be brought to a close before he had accomplished the projects which he had formed. He therefore says, “Pray for me, that I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Jud ζa; and that my service, which I have for Jerusalem, may be accepted of the saints, that I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed.” In a word, he desired them to pray for the preservation of his life, the success of his labours, and the extension of his usefulness in the world. Now these are objects for which every minister needs a remembrance in the prayers of his brethren, and which justly call for their most earnest importunity in his behalf.]

2. The manner in which he urged it—

[He “besought” them: and to give the greater weight to his entreaty, he enforced it with the most powerful motives that he could possibly suggest. “I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit.” Now what was there which they did not owe to the Lord Jesus Christ, who had come down from heaven for them, and redeemed them to God by his blood? And what anxiety were they not bound to manifest for HIS interests, which are so essentially connected with the labours of his servants, and the prosperity of his Church? For his sake, therefore, he entreated them to intercede for them, that his work might be carried forward, and his name be glorified. “For the love of the Spirit,” also, he desired their prayers. By this expression, I do not understand either their love towards the Holy Spirit, or the Spirit’s love towards them. I understand him, rather, as urging them by the consideration of that love which they professed to feel towards all the members of Christ’s mystical body, which was the common bond of union between them, and which was infused by the Holy Spirit into every soul wherein he dwelt. ‘I understand it as though the Apostle had said, I entreat you by that “fellowship of the Spirit [Note: Philippians 2:1.]” which ye profess, and which of necessity will manifest itself by love, shew me this greatest possible act of kindness, by interceding for me at the throne of grace.’

But the manner in which he desires them to pray is yet further remarkable, in that it breathes the very same ardour of mind as is expressed in his importunity. He intimates that he himself was extremely urgent in prayer with God for himself: and then he desires their concurrence with him in these his supplications. The term which he makes use of is taken from the contests that were maintained in the Grecian games, where every one put forth his utmost strength in order to obtain the victory. “I beseech you, strive together with me in your prayer to God for me:” be not content with offering a few lukewarm petitions; but wrestle with Almighty God, even as Jacob did, and rest not till you have obtained for me the desired blessings.]

To justify the Apostle in making this request, I will proceed to point out,

II. Its reasonableness—

The Apostle, from the first moment of his conversion, had lived only for God and for the souls of men—

[This appears from the history of the Church, and from all the epistles which he wrote: “He counted not his life deal to him, so that he might but finish his course with joy, and fulfil the ministry which he had received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God.”

Now, though we are far from comparing any minister of the present day with him, yet we must say, that every faithful minister, according to the grace given to him, is like-minded with the Apostle in this particular. Ministers, who feel in any measure the obligations of their ordination vows, give themselves up wholly to their ministry, and wait on it as their one employment through life. They direct all their studies, and all their labours, to this one object. Allured by no hopes, deterred by no fears, discouraged by no difficulties or disappointments, onward they go, accounting the conversion of one soul an ample recompence for all that they can either do, or suffer, for the attainment of it.]

He might well, therefore, claim from them an interest in their prayers—

[Certainly the Apostle’s request was reasonable in this view: and certainly every faithful minister has a right to expect the same favour at the hands of his people. It is the least that they can do for him; and, I may add, it is the greatest thing which one human being can do for another. The minister, in his exertions for his people, exposes himself to all the hostility of an ungodly world: but the people, in praying for him, transact with God alone the business in which they are engaged. For them he can only embrace such opportunities as may be afforded him after much labour, and travail, and danger: whereas they have access to God at all times, and in all places, without any other difficulty than what arises from the deadness and carnality of their own hearts. To refuse him, therefore, this mark of their love, would be base in the extreme.]

But, to enter more fully into it, I must proceed to mark,

III. Its importance—

The welfare of the Church, humanly speaking, depended on the preservation of the Apostle’s life: and in like manner does it depend on the continuance and efficiency of every minister’s labours. We would not magnify ourselves, brethren; for it would ill become us to do so: but we may, and must, “magnify our office;” and, in this view, we may be permitted to say, that you yourselves are interested in the welfare of your ministers. If they be truly faithful and laborious, as they ought to be, your welfare is deeply interested in,

1. The continuance of their lives—

[Doubtless God can raise up others in the place of those whom he removes. But, humanly speaking, the spiritual prosperity of any people is intimately connected with the continuance of a pious minister amongst them. Who that sees places, where religion once flourished, now left in darkness, and immersed in all the vanities of an ungodly world, must not take up a lamentation over them, and bewail the removal of the candlestick from amongst them! We need only look to the seven Churches of Asia, in confirmation of this melancholy truth. Or perhaps we may come nearer home, and survey it in towns and villages within the sphere of our own observation. In truth, as if the labours of pious ministers were no better than a noxious pestilence, it is the aim of many to place in their room such pastors as shall defeat to the uttermost all the efforts of their lives, and bring back the people to a state of ignorance, carelessness, and indifference. I must say, therefore, that they who have profited by the labours of any minister are deeply interested in his continuance amongst them.]

2. The prosperity of their souls—

[A pious minister, if he relapse into a carnal and worldly state, will soon shew it in his ministrations. A neglect of his duties will ensue; and a lukewarmness will pervade all his labours. The people will catch his spirit, and languish together with him, and soon relapse into formality. On the other hand, if his soul flourish, there will be an unction upon his word; and it will go forth with power, and will reach the hearts of multitudes. He will be crying to God in secret, and will bring with him a blessing wherever he goes. Being blessed in his own soul, he will be a blessing to all around him. I say, then, that the people are interested, deeply interested, in the prosperity of his soul. He is a vessel in which the golden oil is treasured up; and from which it passes, in the golden pipes of ordinances, to every lamp. If he be destitute, their light will decay: if he be full, they will burn the brighter, and God will be the more glorified in them.

If, then, the people would enjoy much of God themselves, they should pray for their minister; who, under God, is the medium of communication between God and them.]

Application—

And now, methinks, I might well address to you the words of the Apostle in my own behalf—

[For surely, if not circumstanced as he was in relation to bodily dangers, we are all exposed to dangers from our great adversary, who, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour; and consequently we need, as much as ever the Apostle did, your intercessions with God, that we may be delivered from all the assaults of Satan, and be preserved blameless to the end. Nor can our efforts, how multiplied soever they may be, produce any good effect without God’s special blessing. If ever we be “mutually refreshed” by our intercourse with each other, either in public or private, it must be through the out-pouring of his Spirit upon our souls. I hope, too, that I may say, I have some claim to your good offices in this respect.]

But, waving that part of my subject, I will remind you of your obligations to the Lord Jesus Christ, and to the Holy Spirit—

[Where would you have been, if the Lord Jesus Christ had not come down from heaven to expiate you guilt, and to work out a righteousness for you by his own obedience unto death? Or what would still have been your state, if the Holy Spirit had not opened your eyes, and sealed instruction upon your souls? You would, all, without exception, have been in darkness and the shadow of death, under the guilt of all your sins, and obnoxious to the wrath of an offended God. What spark of love would you have had in your hearts to the Saviour and to the members of his mystical body, if it had not been kindled there by the Holy Spirit? And if your ears had not been opened by that Divine Agent, you would have been as deaf to the motives here urged, as if the Lord Jesus Christ and his Church had no claim upon you whatever. Then I say to you, Be sensible of your obligations to every person in the ever-blessed Trinity; and be ready to shew your gratitude and love, by every exertion in your power for the honour of your God, and for the benefit of his Church and people.]

Above all, I would call upon you to engage in prayer, with all possible earnestness, for your own souls—

[If you ought to “strive,” as if you were wrestling for your life, in behalf of others, what exertions should you not make for yourselves? Be assured, it is not a few lukewarm petitions that God expects from you; nor are such addresses to the Deity at all suited to your state. You are sinners before God: you are exposed to his everlasting displeasure: you have all the powers of darkness leagued together for your destruction. It is but a little time that is allotted to you for the obtaining of mercy, and for working out your salvation: and it is by prayer alone that you can obtain deliverance from your enemies, or strength to fulfil the will of God. You must ask, if you would have; and seek, if you would find; and knock, if you would have the door of mercy opened to you. I entreat you, then, to be in earnest: yea, I beseech you, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for your own soul’s sake, to strive with God in prayer: and never to let him go, till you have obtained from him the desired blessing. Plead with him for mercy through the Redeemer’s blood; plead with him for a more abundant effusion of his Spirit upon your souls; plead with him, if he have begun the good work within you, to carry it on, and perfect it to the end. Then shall all these blessings descend upon you, and God be glorified in your everlasting salvation.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Romans 15:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/romans-15.html. 1832.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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