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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator
Romans 10

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-13

Romans 10:1-13

Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.

Paul’s desire and prayer

I. Predestination should be no barrier in the way of prayer. The text derives a special interest from the very position which it occupies. He who saw the farthest into the counsels of the Divinity above, saw nothing there which should affect either the diligence or the devotions of any humble worshipper below. However indelibly the ultimate futurities of man are written in the book of heaven, this should not foreclose but rather stimulate his prayers. Let us quit arduous speculation, and keep by obvious duty--taking our lesson from Paul, who, though just alighted from the daring ascents among the past ordinations of the Godhead, forthwith busies himself among the plain and the present duties of the humble Christian. Theology has its altitudes shooting upwardly to heaven till lost in the cloudy envelopment which surrounds them. Yet there is a clear path which winds around its basement, and by which the lowliest of Zion’s travellers may find an ascending way that will land him in a place of purest transparency, where he shall know even as he is known.

II. Unless the desire of the heart goes before it, it is no prayer at all. The virtue does not lie in the articulation, but altogether in the wish which prompts it. It is thus that we can pray without ceasing. In the case of prayer, God has committed Himself to the amplest promises of fulfilment; but He is not pledged to the accomplishment of any prayer where the desire of the heart does not originate the utterance of the mouth. The want of such desire nullifies the prayer; and to imagine otherwise would be to countenance the superstition that a religious service consists in mere ceremonial. Be assured of this and of every other ordinance of Christianity, that, unless impregnated with life and meaning, it is but a body without a soul--a mere service which the hand can perform, but which the heart with all its high functions has no share in. It stands in the same relation of inferiority to genuine religion that the drudgery of an animal does to the devotion of a seraph. In one word, if in the doing of any ordinance there be not the intercourse of mind with mind, there substantially is nothing; and yet we fear it to be just such a nothingness as is yielded by many who are regular in prayer, and who walk with decency and order through the rounds of a sacrament.

III. The subject of the prayer. “That Israel might be saved.”

1. It is not all desire that will meet with acceptance in heaven, for the same Scripture which holds out the promise of “ask, and ye shall receive,” has also held out the warning that many ask and receive not “because they ask amiss.”

2. Still, Scripture does furnish the principles by which to discriminate the warrantable from the unwarrantable, and so classifies the topics of prayer. It is written “that if we ask any thing according to His will He heareth us.” This does not confer a sanction upon every suit, but certainly upon a vast number of them. Thus, surely, every petition in the Lord’s Prayer may be preferred with utmost confidence; and so it is that while we have no warrant to pray for this world’s riches, we have a perfect warrant to pray for daily bread. The same principle of agreeableness to the will of God sustains our faith, when praying for the salvation of ourselves or others, being expressly told that God willeth such intercessions to be made for all men, and on this ground too that He willeth all men to be saved.

3. So near does God bring salvation to us that there is no obstacle between our sincere wish for it and our secure possession of it. At least there is but one stepping-stone between them; and that is prayer. And so let us ask till we receive--let us seek till we find--let us knock till the door of salvation is opened to us.

IV. The whole extent and import of the term salvation.

1. Its common acceptance is a deliverance from the penalty of sin. Whereas, additionally to this, it signifies deliverance from sin itself. “He shall be called Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins”--save them from a great deal more than the torment of sin’s penalty, even from the tyranny of sin’s power. The first secures for the sinner a change of place, the second a change of principle. This last is the constituting essence of salvation; the other more the accompaniment. The one takes place after death. The other takes place now.

2. The legitimate desire, then, which should animate the heart when the mouth utters a prayer for salvation is for a future happiness, but also for a present holiness. Man might like to be put into a state of happiness without holiness; but God does not like that such a happiness shall be conferred upon him. It is most assuredly not God’s will that heaven should be peopled with any but those who are of the same family likeness with Himself. He loves the happiness of His creatures, but He loves their virtue more. And so from Paradise all that offendeth shall be rooted out. Now remember that in praying to be saved, you just pray that such a heaven may be the place of your settlement through all eternity. Else there is no significancy in your prayer. It is not enough that you seize by faith on a deed of justification. You must enter forthwith on a busy process of sanctification. Now that a way for the ransomed of the Lord is open, let us forget not that it is a way of holiness. There is a work of salvation going on in heaven, and by which Jesus Christ is there employed in preparing a place for us. But there is also a work of salvation going on in earth, and by which Jesus Christ through His Word and Spirit is here employed in preparing us for the place. And our distinct business is to be ever practising and ever improving ourselves in the virtues of this preparation. This desire for salvation, then, if rightly understood, is desire for a present holiness.

V. But this is an intercessory prayer, and suggests what we ought to do for the salvation of those who are dear to us. Paul had made many a vain effort for the salvation of his countrymen; but after every effort failed, still he had recourse to prayer. The desire of his heart was not extinguished by the disappointment he met with.

1. This might serve as admonition to those whose hearts are set on the salvation of relatives or friends--to the mother who has watched and laboured for years that the good seed might have future in the hearts of her children, but does not find that this precious deposit has yet settled or had occupation there, etc., etc. Let them never forget, that what has heretofore been impracticable to performance may not be impracticable to prayer. With man it may be impossible; but with God all things are possible. That cause which has so oft been defeated and is now hopeless on the field of exertion, may on the field of prayer and of faith be triumphant. God willeth intercessions to be made for all men, and He willeth all men to be saved. These declarations place you on firm and high vantage-ground in praying for souls. This, however, is a matter on which parents may delude themselves. They may be glad to stand exonerated from the fatigues of performance, and take refuge in the formalities of prayer. That prayer never can avail which is not the prayer of honesty, and it is not the prayer of honesty if, even though you pray to the uttermost for the religion of others, you do not also perform to the uttermost. (T. Chalmers, D.D.)

Paul’s desire and prayer

Notice here--

I. The apostle. Observe--

1. That ministers are not only to preach against wicked persons, and to exhort their people to obedience, but also to pray for them, as Samuel and Jeremiah did (1 Samuel 12:23; Jeremiah 13:17).

2. When ministers are to speak of a matter that may distaste, they must wisely prevent all offence by preparing the minds of the hearers, and showing that they speak out of love, and a desire of their salvation. As physicians prepare, and nurses sometimes still their little ones with singing, so also must ministers attempt every way which may profit their people.

3. Paul loves the Jews, but tells them plainly of their faults; so must ministers do. The way to get peace among men is not to reprove, but this is the way to lose the peace of God.

4. The condition of ministers is painful. The care to save souls that we may give up a good account is infinite. But our joy is in the conscionable discharge of our duty, and for such as receive the Word with reverence we praise God for the joy wherewith we rejoice on their behalf (1 Thessalonians 3:9).

II. The Christian. Observe--

1. Though the Jews seek Paul’s life, yet he loves them. We are Pharisees by nature, loving our friends and hating our foes, but we are Christians by grace, and therefore must love our enemies and pray for them, as our Saviour taught and practised. Every man can love his friend, but only a godly man can love his enemy; and in this doing we do ourselves more good than our enemies. If, then, thou canst so rule thine affection as to love thine enemy and pray for him, it will be a sweet comfort to thy breast.

2. Paul’s love was hearty; so let thine be. Some, after a controversy is ended, will promise friendship, but with a reservation of revenge. Judas kissed Christ, and betrayed Him; and Joab saluted Amasa courteously and slew him. Remember thou to mean the truth thou makest show of.

3. Let thy love appear in kind words and salutations, as Paul calls the Jews brethren, which condemns the practice of some, who, if they be offended, show that they are possessed either with a dumb devil--they will not speak; or with a railing devil--if they speak it shall be with taunts and reproaches.

4. Pray for them thou lovest. Thou shalt never have any comfort of his friendship for whom thou dost not pray. (Elnathan Parr, B.D.)

Paul’s chief desire for his countrymen

I. A title which should never be forgotten. “Brethren” has in its surroundings here more than one lesson for us. Did we remember this in the world, what a very much better world it would be; how much more and truer interest we would take in each other; how much less selfishness, how much more sympathy there would be felt and manifested. And, then, if we remembered it in the church, how much liker Christ the Church and Christians would be.

II. A marriage which none should divorce. “My heart’s desire and prayer to God.” Let these two always be united. Then our heart’s desires shall be right, and our prayers real; and then too our heart’s desires shall be granted, our prayers answered. View the phrase for a moment from both sides. First, as it stands. Whatever is our heart’s desire, let us make it our prayer to God. For several reasons we should do so; but to mention only two, one is, should our heart’s desire be wrong, we shall find ourselves unable to pray for it; or in the very praying for it we shall discover its wrongness; and so praying against it we shall get rid of it, and rid too of the distraction which it causes. And the second is, if on the other hand our heart’s desire be right, prayer to God is the true way and the sure way to secure it. Turn also the phrase about, and learn from it another lesson. Our prayer to God should be, and ever, our heart’s desire, and we do not pray really until or unless it is so.

III. A patriotism above suspicion: “for israel.” Not all so-called patriotism is above suspicion. Sometimes it is simply partyism, and the interests of a section are sought, not of the nation as a whole. Sometimes, again, patriotism is but personalism; apparently zealous for the country or for the party, some are simply seeking through the party to serve and secure their own individual interests. Such patriotism bears the name, but it is not the thing. The patriotism, however, here exemplified, is of another stamp. It is patriotism of the highest kind and type.

IV. A need which is the most imperative. “That they might be saved.” Paul tells us elsewhere that he felt this need the most imperative for himself. He says, “I count all things but loss,” etc. (Philippians 3:8-9). And so here he speaks of it in the same way for others. And is it not so? Is this not the principal thing? What about health; what about wealth; what about all the gratification of earthly pleasures, the carrying out of earthly plans, the establishing of earthly prospects in comparison, or rather in contrast, with this? We need to be saved because we have sinned, and because we are already under sentence, and because we are utterly unable to remove or to escape that sentence by any merits or by any efforts of our own.. And let us rejoice that we may be saved. God is not willing that any should perish.

V. An earnestness which may be an error. “For I bear them record,” he continues, “that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.” This may be said too about many of our countrymen. They put us to shame by the attention they pay to religious rights and duties. It might be said too about some amongst ourselves. But let us remember religiousness is not always religion. To be saved, we must come to a knowledge of the truth. Mere earnestness, mere sincerity will not avail.

VI. An ignorance which is quite inexcusable. “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness.” God’s righteousness means here, God’s method of justification; and this phrase suggesting the question, what is that method? may I not characterise ignorance of it as quite, inexcusable. God has so plainly, and fully, and repeatedly revealed it in His Word, “that a wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err therein.” See the succeeding verses here from the 5th to the 10th.

VII. An effort which must always be a failure. “And going about to establish their own righteousness.” Many would like to be saved, but they do not like to be beholden to Christ for salvation; or at all events they do not like to be beholden to Him entirely. And so they “go about to establish their own righteousness,” wearying themselves for very vanity. The apostles idea or image here would seem to be as if men in this attempt were trying continuously to set up upon its feet that which had no feet to stand upon; or as if they were persevering with stones unsquared, and mortar untempered to raise up, upon an insecure foundation, a wall which, ever as they raised it, tottered and toppled down again.

VIII. An obstinacy which must end in ruin. That is, it must do so if we continue it. If we wilt not submit ourselves to the righteousness of God; if, in other words, we will not consent to be saved through the redemption and righteousness of Christ; then we utterly shut the door of hope against ourselves, and leave God no alternative but to pronounce our doom. Christ is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God through Him; but there is no salvation in any other.

IX. A direction which is simple and certain. “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” In order to salvation men can do nothing; but Christ has done all; He “has made an end of sin and brought in everlasting righteousness.”

X. A sine qua non of salvation. Many forget or fail to realise this: and therefore look for salvation to mercy alone. They do not take into account that if the sinner is to be saved, he cannot under the administration of God the righteous judge be so by any suspension of law, or setting aside of it; or by any failure to meet its just demands either of precept or punishment. In the salvation of the sinner, in other words, truth and mercy must meet together; and righteousness and peace embrace each other: and these can only meet, can only embrace in “Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

XI. An opportunity abundantly open to all. “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.”

XII. A means sublimely simple to a salvation sublimely sure and glorious. Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. (D. Jamison, B.A.)

A comprehensive desire

Paul had just spoken with apparent severity of his brethren. To them his doctrines were peculiarly offensive. They must have regarded him as a traitor. Still he loved his kindred, and his loving heart gushes forth in this comprehensive desire. It is--

I. Heartfelt. “My heart’s desire.” Not all who are interested in the salvation of men are influenced by this desire. There may be--

1. A professional desire. The evangelist, the teacher, the pastor may have it.

2. A duteous desire. Better this than none.

3. An intellectual desire. Paul’s intellect was active, but it was sweetly submissive to Christ. All this gave him power. It gives power to-day. This is true of music, of art, of poetry. No heart, no power. Love evokes love. Heart responds to heart.

II. Prayerful. Genuine desire must voice itself in prayer. Our heart’s desire is our prayer. The heart that goes out to men must go up to God. Often the shortest and surest way to reach men is by way of God’s throne.

III. Fraternal. Paul was a cosmopolitan man; still he was a Hebrew of the Hebrews. The Christian is the true Jew. Judaism is the root; Christianity is the flower and the fruit. Judaism the dawn; Christianity is the splendour of noon. When Paul became a Christian he found that for which he always sought. Now he longs for his brethren. So ought we. There is a sanctified patriotism.

IV. Evangelical. “That they might be saved.” This was Christlike. Nothing short of this could satisfy the apostle. Not enough for them to be saved from national disaster; not enough from earthly sorrow. They must be saved from sin here, and death hereafter. Are you saved? Then make Paul’s comprehensive desire yours. (R. S. MacArthur, D.D.)

Apostolic patriotism

St. Paul was not more distinguished as a saint and an apostle than as a patriot. His patriotism had a philosophy which discovered the cause of his country’s evils, and a policy exquisitely fitted to remove them. Without ignoring its temporal interests, his main endeavour was to raise its benighted intellect to light, and turn the current of its moral sympathies into the channel of truth and holiness. It was not an occasional sentiment passing off in chanting national airs or delivering florid speeches; it was with him a “heart’s desire and prayer to God.” It was consistent with, and a development of, true philanthropy. The passion that inspires men to ruin other countries in order to aggrandise their own, has no affinity with the apostle’s passion. The statesmen, warriors, kings, who violate the eternal rights of man, bring a ruinous retribution upon their country. “With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” The apostle’s patriotism--

I. Sought the highest good of his country. What was that? Augmented wealth, extended dominion, a higher state of intellectual culture? No, salvation. Salvation is the master-theme of the Bible, the great want of the race. It implies deliverance from all evil, and a right state of soul in which every thought shall be true, every emotion felicitous, every act holy, and every scene gleaming with the smiles of an approving God. This “heart’s desire” implies a conviction--

1. That his countrymen needed salvation. Their physical blessings were great; his brethren “according to the flesh” lived in a beautiful country. “It was a land flowing with milk and honey.” His countrymen had also the oracles of God, etc. Yet in spite of all this the apostle regarded his brethren as lost. He looked into the moral heart of his country, and he found that the soul was dead and dark under sin and condemnation; hence he sought their salvation. Whatever else a country has, if it has not true religion it is lost. This is its great want. Give it this, and every other good will come. All political and social evils grow out of moral causes, and godliness alone can remove these. It is profitable therefore unto all things.

2. A conviction that the salvation of his countrymen requires the interposition of God. Why else did he pray? The apostle believed in the adaptation of the gospel to effect the spiritual restoration of mankind. His triumphs he ever gratefully ascribed to the agency of God, and the co-operation of that agency was the grand invocation of his most earnest prayers. “I have planted, Apollos watered,” etc. “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord.”

3. A conviction that this interposition of God is to be obtained by intercessory prayer. Hence he prays for others; hence he calls for others to pray for him and his apostolic coadjutors. I know not how prayer influences the Almighty, nor why it should; but I know that it does, and that it must be employed if human labour in His cause is ever to be crowned with efficiency. The true patriot is a man of prayer. Never did David act more truly a patriot’s part than when he breathed this prayer to heaven:--“Let the people praise Thee, O God,” etc.

II. Recognised the characteristic evils of his country.

1. Corrupt zealotism (verse 2). He himself had been a Jewish zealot, and was therefore qualified to pronounce a judgment upon it. Zeal is an important element in every undertaking. There is not much success where it is not. But when it is dissociated from intelligence it is fraught with evils. Zeal when directed to wrong objects, when directed to right objects in wrong proportions, and when it cannot assign an intelligent reason for its action, is “zeal without knowledge.” This zeal was one of the cardinal evils amongst the Jews. Knowledge and zeal should always be associated. The former without the latter is a well-equipped vessel on a placid sea without the propulsion of steam, billow, or breeze. The latter without the former is like a bark on the billows with propulsion and no rudder. Both combined is like a goodly ship trading from port to port at will, steering clear of dangers, coping gallantly with hostile elements, and fulfilling the mission of its masters.

2. Ignorance of Christianity (verse 3). By “God’s righteousness,” here, we understand not His personal rectitude, but that merciful method by which He makes corrupt men right (Romans 8:2-3). Of this method the Jews were “ignorant.” Men perish for the lack of this knowledge. In the case of the Jew it was not only ruinous, but culpable. They had the means of knowledge.

3. Self-righteousness (verse 2). They considered their own righteousness to consist in their patriarchal descent, and their conformity to the letter of the law. In this they gloried as that which distinguished them from all the nations of the earth, and which met the righteous claims of Heaven. The apostle himself once felt this to be his glory (Philippians 3:1-21.). The Pharisee in the temple was a type of the leading religious sect, and his language is expressive of its spirit.

4. Gospel rejection. “Have not submitted,” etc. This is the grand result of all other evils, and the crowning sin of all. They refused the only Physician who could heal their diseases; the only Liberator that could break their fetters, the only Priest whose sacrifice could atone for their guilt. Such are some of the evils which Paul as a patriot discovered and deplored in his country. He is no patriot who shuts his eyes to his country’s crimes, and pours into her ears the most fulsome eulogies. Call not this patriotism; call it moral obliquity.

III. Proposed the right method for saving his country (verse 4). Note--

1. That righteousness is essential to the well-being of the people. There is no true happiness without righteousness. All the social, political, religious, moral evils under which all men and nations groan, spring from the want of righteousness. As no individual can be happy until he has been made thoroughly right in heart, so no people or country can. This rectitude is the only element that can work off all the evils that afflict mankind, and give them the tone and blessedness of a vigorous health. This is the only key-note that can set the discordant elements of the world to music. The righteousness which is essential to the salvation of a soul, is that which alone “exalteth a nation.”

2. That the grand aim of the moral law is to promote righteousness. Righteousness is the end of the law. The law was holy, just, and good. Conformity to it is righteousness in the creature (verse 5).

3. That the righteousness which the law aimed to promote is to be obtained by faith in Christ (verse 4). Christ did not abolish law, on the contrary He fulfilled it. He wrought out its principles in a grand life; He demonstrated its majesty in a wonderful death. Instead of releasing His disciples from obligation to the law, He brings the law to them with a mightier aspect and a greater force of motive. And the apostle’s method of making the sinner righteous is by faith in Christ. (D. Thomas, D.D.)

Paul’s concern for his people

I. its object--their salvation.

II. The cause of it (Romans 9:32).

III. Its intensity.

1. Heartfelt.

2. Inspired by the Spirit of God and belief of the truth.

IV. Its expression.

1. Prayer to God.

2. Effort. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The salvation of Israel

I. Contemplate the history of the Hebrew people, and judge whether it deserves our respect and veneration. And first, reflect on its antiquity. Before the empire of Persia was founded, when Greece was overrun by a few barbarian hordes, and Italy was an unpeopled wilderness, the race of Abraham was chosen by the Divine Founder of all empires as one distinct and peculiar people; incorporated by an inviolable charter from the Supreme Monarch of the universe, no human power has been able, for four thousand years, to dissolve its union, or shake its stability. But if this nation is venerable, as the grand depository of historical truth and ancient wisdom, much more is it distinguished and consecrated as the chosen instrument which the Divinity has employed for the religious instruction of mankind, the guardians and witnesses of every sacred truth; the hallowed fount which, springing from the sanctuary of God, has poured forth in unceasing and abundant profusion its healing and holy waters, to purify and bless the surrounding regions of the earth. But, beyond all this, in considering the blessings derived to us and all mankind from the Jewish law and the Jewish people, we never should forget the clearness and solemnity with which the great rules of moral conduct are promulgated in the Decalogue, and the two grand principles of love to God and love to our neighbour inculcated by the Jewish law. What a powerful claim to the respect, the gratitude of every man who values virtue or reveres religion must such a people possess, if we consider them merely as the depositaries and guardian of natural theology, the preservers and teachers of moral principle; but they are connected with us by ties much closer, they possess claims on our regard far more sacred: they were the instruments employed by God to prepare for the dominion of the gospel of Christ.

II. Let us next proceed to enquire how have Christians answered all these claims, how have they repaid this debt of gratitude? Alas, almost incredible to tell, their conduct towards this chosen nation has been one almost uninterrupted series of cruelty and calumny, of oppression and persecution. I do not mean to say that such cruelty and persecution were unprovoked and gratuitous; but I contend that however great the provocation, such cruelty and persecution were unjust and criminal. Would we vindicate our holy religion from the foulest reproach that ever stained its character, we will atone for the past oppressions heaped upon this ancient though unhappy race, by straining every nerve to promote from henceforward their happiness both temporal and eternal.

III. But what, you ask, are the signs of the times which encourage us now to hope for success in attempting the conversion of the Jews rather than at any preceding period of the world. (Dean Graves.)

How to promote the salvation of others

I. Our hearts must be in the work. It must be--

1. Our most earnest desire.

2. Our constant prayer.

II. We must correctly estimate their state and condition.

1. Appreciating what is good.

2. Discriminating what is defective.

III. We must guard them against--

1. Error.

2. Ignorance.

3. Self-righteousness.

4. Unbelief.

IV. We must point them to Christ.

1. The end of the law.

2. Through faith. (Dean Graves)

Zeal for the salvation of sinners

True religion consists chiefly in love to God and love to man; and wherever one of these is found, there is the other also. Observe--

I. That serious Christians plainly perceive the dangerous state of unconverted sinners around them. This state appears from--

1. Their openly living in sin.

2. Their carelessness about religion.

3. Their formality in religion.

4. Their reception for truth of great and fundamental errors as to the doctrines of religion.

II. That serious Christians earnestly and sincerely desire the salvation of their neighbours, whom they thus perceive to be in a dangerous state.

1. We tremble to think of their future misery (Romans 1:18).

2. As we wish to prevent their future destruction, so we earnestly desire that they may share with us in the joys and glories of the heavenly world.

3. We wish them to know and enjoy the present pleasures of true religion.

4. We wish the salvation of others on account of the glory of God, for which we feel ourselves concerned, and which will be promoted thereby.

5. Beside all, we have some view to our own peace and happiness. The conversion of a soul is the greatest honour and happiness, next to our own salvation, that we can enjoy.

III. In what manner this desire ought to be expressed.

1. By prayer.

2. By urging our friends to come and hear the gospel.

3. By the Christian education of children--our own and our neighbour’s.

4. By personal exhortation.

5. By a holy life. (G. Burder.)

Zeal for the conversion of relatives

“I can’t die till I see my brother converted.” So said a very aged Karen chief to Mr. Mason. He had just returned from a last visit to this brother, who lived a long day’s journey from him. Too feeble to walk, he had made the journey on the back of a grandson, a fine intelligent Christian, whose willingness to perform the laborious service was worthy of the zeal with which the old man forgot his aching bones in the delight he felt at having once more exhorted his brother, and seen in him some evidences of Divine grace. (Mrs. McLeod Wylie.)

lsrael a lamentable example of the blindness of unbelief

I. Their zeal for the law.

1. Pitiable (verse 1).

2. Ignorant (verses 2, 3).

3. Ruinous, because misguided (verse 4).

II. Their rejection of Christ.

1. Relying on their own unavailing effort (verses 5-7).

2. Refusing the word of faith (verses 8-9).

3. Denying the salvation of the gospel. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

On zeal

The conversion of Paul did not cool the ardour of his affection for his countrymen. Fidelity impelled him to expose their errors, but charity inclined him to notice what was commendable. They were honest in their zeal; but honesty can make no atonement for dangerous errors or perverse abuses. They were ignorant, but they shut their eyes to the light.

I. The apostle here ascribes to the Jews an essential and most valuable property of the Christian, and more especially of the ministerial character. Two things seemed to be included under it--ardour, as opposed to lukewarmness, and activity, as opposed to remissness. It implies that the object which has called it forth is held in the highest estimation by us; that our hearts, engaged in the love and animated by the desire of it, prompt us to make every effort to secure its attainment. Christian zeal consists in the warm exercise of the graces of the Spirit, issuing in the decided and growing production of the fruits of the Spirit. It is founded on an enlightened and firmly-rooted conviction of the truth of the gospel. In its exercise, zeal, like charity, must begin at home. The man who searches abroad for evils to remedy, and overlooks those which attach to himself, is either a hypocrite or a fool, or both. But zeal, though it begins, does not terminate with ourselves. It feels for the honour of God and the souls of men, and endeavours to advance the one and save the other. When this principle is wanting, religion is an empty name, a lifeless carcass. But though there cannot be religion without zeal, there may be zeal without religion. Note some of the defects of that zeal which the apostle condemns.

1. It was exerted in contending for matters of inferior moment, and neglected those which were of supreme importance. The Jews expended the strength of their zeal on points of form and ceremony, and overlooked the weightier matters of the law. Those who are most ignorant or indifferent in regard to what is essential are invariably the most violent and tenacious in regard to what is circumstantial. Liberality, it is true, may be carried to a dangerous extreme, but so may intolerance, and it is better to err on the side of charity than to incur the imputation of bigotry. The object of zeal is to make converts, not proselytes; to bring accessions to the Church from the world, not to transfer the members of one religious denomination to another.

2. It was ostentatious and presuming. They wore broad phylacteries, said long prayers at the corners of the streets, etc. Our Lord saw through the disguise of their fair professions and their hollow sanctity, and inculcated a course of conduct quite the reverse of theirs. The zeal of which He approves is not that which assumes useless singularities, and is ever urging its claims to public admiration. It is not the men that make the most noise that do the greatest good.

3. It was overbearing and uncharitable. They excluded from the pale of the Church all who did not think as they thought and do as they did. It would have been well had the intolerant spirit of the Jews died with themselves; but it has, in this enlightened age, made its appearance in a most offensive and injurious form. When we see individuals setting themselves up as the only true Christians on earth, denouncing the religion of the whole world, except their own, we know not whether most to pity or to blame. As perfection is not attainable here, neither probably is uniformity.

II. From their defects let us now learn what ought to be the distinguishing features of zeal in us. To escape the charge which the Jews deservedly incurred, ours must be--

1. An enlightened zeal formed and regulated by clear, comprehensive, and correct views of truth and duty. Without this, zeal is a most dangerous principle. There are no extravagances which it will not practise; there are no cruelties which it will not perpetrate. Before his conversion Paul had zeal, but it was not according to knowledge (Philippians 3:1-21.).

2. Pure zeal; a zeal influenced by gospel motives and animated by Christ’s Spirit. Jehu boasted of his zeal for the Lord; but he had no higher aim than the gratification of his own ambition. In requesting our Lord to command fire from heaven for the destruction of the Samaritans, the disciples discovered an impure zeal, and spake under the influence of national prejudices and irritated feelings.

3. Prudent zeal: guarding against every avoidable occasion of offence to others; displaying all the wisdom of the serpent in selecting means and opportunities of doing good, and employing them with a tender regard to the feelings and prejudices of others. Destitute of this property, zeal is calculated to do far more harm than good, and awakens aversion where it should conciliate love.

4. Peaceable; calm in its exercise; prompting to no foolish extravagances; disposed to put the most favourable construction on others, and discovering a sincere regard for their welfare.

5. Decided zeal; above the meanness of all temporising accommodations; disregarding the fear of man; determined to pursue the path of duty; prepared to stand by the consequences.

6. Fruitful; not evaporating in words, but abounding in deeds of usefulness. (J. Barr, D.D.)

For I bear them record that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.

Zealous, but wrong

We ought to have an intense longing for the salvation of all sorts of men, and especially for those that treat us badly. We shall see more conversions when more people pray for conversions. We should earnestly pray for the conversion of the kind of people who are here described: self-righteous people, people that have done no ill, but, on the contrary, have laboured to do a great deal of good.

I. Why are we specially concerned for these people? Because--

1. They are so zealous. You see plenty of zeal where politics, fashion, art, etc., are concerned; but we are not overdone with it in religion. If anybody is a little zealous above others, great efforts are made to put him down. Therefore, when we do meet with zealous people, we take an interest in them, however mistaken their zeal may be. We like to associate with people who have hearts, not dry leather bottles. It does seem a pity that any zeal should be wasted, and that any one full of zeal should yet miss his way. And when we meet with any who are zealous in a wrong cause, they become peculiarly the object of a Christian’s prayers.

2. They may go so very wrong, and may do so much mischief to others. Those who have no life nor energy may easily ruin themselves, but they are not likely to harm others; whereas a mistaken zealot is like a madman with a firebrand in his hand. What did the Scribes and Pharisees in Christ’s day? And Saul afterwards? Take heed that none of you fall into a persecuting spirit through your zeal for the gospel, like zealous mistresses who will not have a servant in their house who does not go to their place of worship, and zealous landlords who turn every Dissenter out of their cottages.

3. They would be so useful. The man that is desperately earnest in a wrong way will be just as earnest in the right. See what Paul himself was.

4. It is so difficult to convert them. It requires the power of God to convert anybody; but there seems to be a double manifestation of power in the conversion of a downright bigot.

II. What these people are according to our text. They are--

1. Ignorant. “For they, being ignorant of God’s righteousness,” etc. you may be brought up under the shadow of a church, you may hear the gospel till you know every phrase by heart, and yet be ignorant of the righteousness of God. There are many who are ignorant as to--

III. What they do. They go about to establish their own righteousness, but, like a statue badly constructed, it tumbles down. They use all manner of schemes to set up their righteousness upon its legs, but to no purpose. Or they have bad foundations for a house, and bad materials, and bad mortar, and they are by no means good workmen; and when they have built up enough wall to shelter themselves, it tumbles down. They are determined, somehow or other, to build up a righteousness of their own, which is worthless when it is built. At first the man says, “I shall be saved, for I have kept the law. What lack I yet?” Now, a very small hole will let enough light into the man’s heart to force him to see that this pretence will not answer. No one of us has kept the law. When driven from this foolish hope, the man readily sets up another. If he cannot work, then he tries to feel. Or else he cries, “I must join a bit of religion to my pure morals. I will pray regularly, etc. And when I have done all this, do you not think it will come pretty square?” If a man’s conscience is awake, it will not come square, and the man will say, “No, I do not feel righteous after all! There is something amiss.” Conscience begins to call out, “It will not do.” Peradventure the man is taken ill. He thinks that he is going to die, and he must keep his wretched pretence afloat somehow; and so he cries, if he is rich, “I will endow an almshouse.” According to the church to which he belongs, the zealous person becomes a determined partisan of his sect. Now suppose that you were to get to heaven in your way, what would happen? You will throw up your cap, and say, “I have managed it after all!” You will glorify yourself, and depend upon it sinners saved by grace will glorify Christ. But our Lord is not going to have any discord in heaven; you shall all sing His praises there, or never sing at all.

IV. What they will not do. “They have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.”

1. Why, there are some that have not submitted even to hear it! Our law does not judge any man before it hears him, but these people both judge and condemn the gospel without giving it an hour’s attention. Are they not good enough of themselves? What can you tell them better than they know already? But it is always a pity not to know even that which we most despise. It will not hurt you to know. And yet there is such prejudice in the mind of some that they refuse to acquaint themselves with the verities which God has revealed. “Sinners saved by grace! It is all very well for the commonalty; but we were always so good.” Very well, then; there is a heaven for the commonalty, and it is highly probable that you ladies and gentlemen are too good to go there. Where will you go? There is but one way to heaven, and that way is closed against the proud.

2. And then there are others who, when they hear it, will not admit that they need it. “What, sir! Must I go down on my knees and plead guilty?” Yes, you must, or else you will never be saved. “They that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick.”

3. There are others who will not submit to the spirit of it, to the influence of it, for the spirit of free grace is this: if God saves me for nothing, then I belong to Him for ever and ever. If He forgives me every sin simply because I believe in Jesus, then I will hate every sin, and flee from it. I will love Him with all my heart, and for the love I bear Him I will lead a holy life. The virtue I aimed at before, in my own strength, I will now ask for from His Holy Spirit. Many will not submit to that; yet they can never be saved from sin unless they yield themselves as the blood-bought servants of Christ. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Blind zeal

As all zeal without discretion is as an offering without eyes, which was by God forbidden, so likewise all blind zeal is a blind offering, which God will never accept. (Cawdray.)

Zeal, cautious

As Minerva is said to have put a golden bridle upon Pegasus, that he should not fly too fast, so our Christian discretion must put a golden bridle upon our Pegasus--that is, our zeal--lest, if it be unbridled, it make us run out of course. (Cawdray.)

Zeal, false

There is a sort of men who seem to be mighty zealous for religion; but their heart breaks out wholly in this way: that they fill the place wherever they are with noise and clamour, with dust and smoke. Nothing can be said in their presence, but instantly a controversy is started, scarcely anything is orthodox enough for them; for they spin so fine a thread, and have such a cobweb divinity, that the least brush against it is not to be endured, and yet withal they are as positive and decretal in their assertions that the Pope himself is nobody to them. One would think they were privy counsellors of heaven. They define with so great confidence what will and what will not please God. (J. Goodman.)

Zeal, misguided

I. Its features. It errs in--

1. Its motives.

2. Its objects.

3. Its means.

II. Its prevalence.

1. In the world.

2. In the Church.

III. Its mischievous tendency. It breeds--

1. Delusion.

2. Disorder.

3. Hatred.

4. Contention.

5. Ruin. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The proper regulation of religious zeal

I. It must be founded upon knowledge of and judgment about the matter which engages our zeal. It is for wanting this that the apostle blames the zeal of the Jews. The necessity of such knowledge is, one would think, obvious, for without it our zeal may, for aught we know, be engaged in a bad cause. The man who, designing to make great haste, either shuts his eyes or takes no notice whither he goes, is the likeliest to stumble or go astray. Let us, then, take care that, before we suffer our zeal to grow warm for or against any cause, we get as thorough a knowledge of it as we can. And yet, as history shows, most of those in every age who have shown the warmest zeal have discovered the greatest ignorance, and where there has been most knowledge there has been most candour and forbearance towards those of a different opinion.

II. Must re free from prejudice and party views, and proceed from a sincere regard to truth and virtue. It is not my being thoroughly acquainted with a cause that will justify my zeal in it. If, knowing a thing to be false or unlawful, I strenuously insist upon it, all the zeal I express is faulty. Nay, though it be truth or duty, if my zeal is occasioned by prejudice, it is not of the right kind. We ought therefore to be very careful about the springs from whence our zeal flows. When the heart glows with an ardent love to God and for the cause of truth and virtue, there will be very little danger of running into extremes.

III. Must always be proportioned to the moment of the things about which it is engaged. The more important the thing is, the warmer may our zeal be, either for or against it; and the less important, the less need is there of being much concerned about it. That zeal is very irregular which is equally warm upon every occasion. It would be endless to tell you what trifling matters have given occasion to the most furious contests in the Christian Church.

1. Since it is of vastly greater importance to us that we should judge right in matters of doctrine and behave well in matters of practice ourselves than that others should do so, it follows that our zeal ought principally to be employed this way. Nothing is more common than to see the same men who express a great concern that others should think and act just as they do in matters of religion shamelessly careless in their own searches after truth, and in regulating their own conduct.

2. Plain duties are of more importance than matters of speculation, and therefore regular zeal will be more solicitous about the former than about the latter. And yet, as if mankind were resolved to act preposterously, they have generally acted from the opposite principle. Observe how contentedly some of the warmest zealots can let a drunkard, a swearer, etc., live peaceably by them, and yet take fire immediately on the utterance of a contrary opinion. But will not God much more easily pardon an error in judgment than badness of life?

3. Peace and love among Christians are of unspeakably more importance than any particular form of church government or any religious rites, and therefore if our zeal be regular, we shall be much less concerned about imposing these than for the securing peace and love among all good men.

IV. Must re attended with Christian charity, and must never break in upon those rights which all claim in common as men and Christians. Nothing has been more common than for intemperate zeal to do the greatest mischiefs and commit the most bare-faced violations of justice and humanity, under the pretence of charity to men’s souls and a hearty concern for their everlasting welfare.

V. Must be under the conduct of Christian prudence, by which I mean the prudence that will direct to the choice, and in the use of the properest methods, and the fittest seasons for promoting these good ends. (W. Smyth.)

Zeal, true

True zeal is a loving thing, and makes us always active to edification, and not to destruction. If we keep the fire of zeal within the chimney, in its own proper place, it never doth any hurt; it only warmeth, quickeneth, and enliveneth us; but if once we let it break out, and catch hold of the thatch of our flesh, and kindle our corrupt nature, and set the house of our body on fire, it is no longer zeal--heavenly fire, but a most destructive and devouring thing. True zeal is an ignis lambens, a soft and gentle flame that will not scorch our hand; it is no predatory or voracious thing; but carnal and fleshly zeal is like the spirit of gunpowder set on fire, that tears and blows up all that stands before it. True zeal is like the vital heat in us that we live upon, which we never feel to be angry or troublesome; but though it gently feed upon the radical oil within us, that sweet balsam of our natural moisture, yet it lives lovingly with it, and maintains that by which it is fed; but that other furious and distempered zeal is nothing else but a fever in the soul. To conclude, we may learn what kind of zeal it is that we should use in promoting the gospel by an emblem of God’s own--those fiery tongues that on the Day of Pentecost sat upon the apostles; which sure, were harmless flames, for we cannot read that they did any hurt, or that they did so much as singe a hair of their heads. (R. Cudworth.)

Zeal, true and false

Andrew Melville, Professor of Divinity at St. Andrews in the reign of James VI, was a very bold and zealous man for the cause of God and truth. When some of his more moderate brethren blamed him for being too hot and fiery, he was wont to reply, “If you see my fire go downwards, set your foot upon it and put it out; but if it go upwards, let it return to its own place.” (J. Whitecross.)

Zeal without knowledge

I. The qualifications and properties of a zeal “according to knowledge.”

1. That our zeal be right in respect of its object; viz., that those things which we are zealous for be certainly good, and that those things which we are zealous against be certainly evil. Otherwise it is not a heavenly fire, but like the fire of hell, heat without light.

2. That the measure and degree of it must be proportioned to the good or evil of things about which it is conversant. That is an ignorant zeal which is conversant about lesser things and unconcerned for greater. A zealous strictness about external rites and matters of difference, where there is a visible neglect of the substantial duties of religion, is either a gross ignorance of the true nature of religion, or a fulsome hypocrisy.

3. That we pursue it by lawful means and ways. No zeal for God and His glory, for His true Church and religion, will justify the doing of that which is morally evil.

II. By what marks we may know the zeal which is “not according to knowledge.” It is a zeal without knowledge--

1. That is mistaken in the proper object of it; that calls good evil, and evil good.

2. That is manifestly disproportioned to the good or evil of things about which it is conversant, when there is in men a greater and fiercer zeal for the externals of religion than for the vital and essential parts of it.

3. That is prosecuted by unlawful and unwarrantable means, that, e.g., which warrants the doing of evil that good may come.

4. That is uncharitable, and is an enemy to peace and order, and thinks itself sufficiently warranted to break the peace of the Church upon every scruple.

5. That is furious and cruel, that which St. James tells us tends to “ confusion and every evil work.”

6. A zeal for ignorance. This is a zeal peculiar to the Church of Rome, which forbids people the use of the Holy Scriptures in a known tongue.

III. Inferences.

1. If it be so necessary that our zeal be directed by knowledge, this shows us how dangerous a thing zeal is in the weak and ignorant. Zeal is an edge-tool, which children in understanding should not meddle withal. Zeal is only fit for wise men, but it is chiefly in fashion among fools. Nay, it is dangerous in the hands of wise men, and to be kept in with a strict rein, otherwise it will transport them to the doing of undue and irregular things. Moses in a fit of zeal let fall the two tables of the law which he had but just received from God. A true emblem of an ungoverned zeal, in the transport whereof even good men are apt to forget the laws of God.

2. From hence we plainly see that men may do the worst and wickedest things out of a zeal for God and religion. Thus it was among the Jews, who engrossed salvation to themselves, and denied the possibility of it to all the world besides, and the Church of Rome have taken copy by them.

3. Zeal for God and religion does not alter the nature of actions done upon that account. Persecution and murder are damnable sins, and no zeal for God and religion can excuse them. (Abp. Tillotson.)

Zeal and knowledge

There are two sorts of men hereby to be apprehended.

1. They which have a defect not of zeal, but of knowledge for the ground of their zeal.

2. They which have a defect not of knowledge, but of zeal answerable to their knowledge. Of the first of these may be verified the proverb, they set the cart before the horse. The second may be likened to Pharaoh’s chariots when the wheels were off, so slowly do they express their knowledge in their lives. The first are like a little ship without ballast and freight, but with a great many sails, which is soon either dashed against the rocks or toppled over. The second are like a goodly great ship, well ballasted and richly freighted, but without any sails, which quickly falleth into the hands of pirates because it can make no speed, sooner making a prey for them than a good voyage for the merchant. Separate zeal and knowledge, and they become both unprofitable, but wisely join them, and they perfect a Christian, being like a precious diamond in a ring of gold. Let not zeal outrun knowledge or lag behind it, but let it ad equale agree, going hand in hand with the same. For even as in an instrument of music there is a proportion of sound wherein is the harmony, beyond which, if any string be strained, it makes a squeaking noise; and if it be not strained enough it yields a clagging, dull, and unpleasant sound. So is it in our zeal if it be either more or less than our knowledge. (Elnathan Parr, B.D.)

Zeal, uncontrolled

Phaeton took upon him to drive the chariot of the sun; but through his rashness set the world in combustion. What a horse is without a rider, or a ship without a rudder, such is zeal without knowledge. St. Bernard hits full on this point. Discretion without zeal is slow-paced, and zeal without discretion is strongheaded; let, therefore, zeal spur on discretion, and discretion rein in zeal. (J. Spencer.)

Zeal without knowledge

The first good use of some texts is, to endeavour to prevent a bad one.

I. The text has often been cited for the purpose of depreciating genuine zeal. Think on how many excellent designs it has been quoted against, and what would have become of home and foreign missionary enterprise had certain interpretations ruled! With men of indifferent, frozen temperament, the text has been a great favourite. So it has with timid, cowardly men, with the parsimonious, with idolaters of custom, and of everything established, and with that class which is content with mere speculation, regarding scarcely anything as worth attempting. With most of these, however, it is not zeal itself that is contemned, for “none would be more zealous than they--on a proper occasion.” But when can that occasion come? Is it to be expressly brought on by Providence to enable them to show this virtue? Or is it to be when all things are mended, so that there shall be less to be done? But who, then, is to do all this in the meantime?

II. But still there is in the world an ill-judging and unwarrantable zeal.

1. Indeed, if we take it in its general sense, persevering ardour in prosecution of a purpose, it has been, in its depraved operation, the animating demon of every active evil. And, many that are comparatively harmless, let but this fire be kindled by a torch from hell applied to the brimstone that lies cold and quiet in their nature--and we should see.

2. But not to dwell on these terrible operations of zeal, we see its effect in numberless things of a more diminutive order, e.g., long and earnest exertions for excellence in some most trifling attainment; unremitting efforts in prosecution of inquiry into something not worth any cost to know; an intense devotion to add particle after particle to the little sum of worldly possession; the earnest vying in little points of appearance, consequence, precedence. Zeal is an element that will combine with any active principle in man; it is like fire, that will smoulder in garbage, and will lighten in the heavens.

III. Zeal thus has its operation in all the active interests of men. But it is most usually spoken of as belonging to religion, and it is in this relation that we have here to consider it. “Zeal of God.”

1. And who can help wishing that there were a thousand times more zeal directed this way? Of the whole measure that there is being constantly expended what proportion might well be spared, nay, destroyed, to advantage? Nine parts in ten? Perhaps more. Now think, if one or more of these portions misapplied could be devoted to God! Look at an ambitious man’s zeal; an avaricious man’s zeal; an indefatigable intellectual trifler’s zeal! nine parts in ten misapplied; wasted at the best; a large portion worse than wasted! So it is going--while there is here what deserves it all--like clouds, heavy with rain, passing away from gardens and fields languishing under drought, to be discharged on mere deserts or marshes or sea. Or suppose a great city on fire in a severe winter; what a blessing so much fire would be if distributed into all the abodes of shivering poverty and sickness!

2. After such a view of the immense proportion of zeal altogether lost to God, we are reluctant to consider that a share even of the zeal that is directed to God may be “not according to knowledge.” The necessity of knowledge to religious zeal is fearfully illustrated by

IV. Turn now to the ordinary forms in which religious zeal is devoid of knowledge.

1. That which the apostle here speaks of, namely, men’s zealously maintaining the sufficiency of a righteousness of their own, which God will not accept (verse 3). Fatal ignorance in zeal! Knowledge here would reveal to them the holiness, justice, and law of God; would reveal themselves to them; and then their zeal would go another way, as when a convinced pagan perceives his god to be a worthless idol.

2. Zeal when accompanied by no desire of knowledge, rather aversion to it. Horror of free reasoning. A notion that all religious speculation is necessarily destructive to religious feeling, insomuch that the very reasons for being zealous are not to be clearly defined. Whatever the strong impulse may be, it plainly is not “zeal according to knowledge” when a man does not know why he is zealous.

3. A capricious and fluctuating zeal, and what we have just described is likely to be such. It shall blaze at one time and seem sunk under the ashes at another, varying with the changeable recoil of the man’s mind. It is true that there will be in most minds considerable variations of feeling, of which zeal will in a measure partake. But a most important counteracting and sustaining principle is a clear, decided knowledge of the object and reasons of the zeal.

4. The zeal which consists in a considerable degree of mere temper, where a man’s irritability or impetuousness and restlessness goes into the zeal for the object, and is mistaken by him as all pure zeal respecting the object itself. So that, in this one point especially, it is not “according to knowledge,” for he knows not himself. “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are off”

5. That zeal which is less concerned about the object itself than about the man himself. Jehu’s zeal was, in mere point of fact, for the “Lord of hosts,” but he did not really care much for that sacred cause itself. It was a fine thing that he should be exhibited as a conspicuous vindicator in the ranks of the Lord’s “hosts.”

6. A great zeal for comparatively little things in religion. Now knowledge gives the scale of the greater and the less. There are minor points of doctrine, form, and observance. These have often been magnified and enforced as if they were the very life and essence of Christianity.

7. Zeal for great things for little reasons. Thus Christianity has been zealously advocated just on the ground that it is conducive to the temporal well-being of a state! By innumerable persons some one model of Christian faith is zealously maintained, chiefly because it has been maintained by their ancestors. We have known persons zealously holding some important doctrine because it has happened to coincide with some particular fancy or impression of the person’s mind; not from a consideration of its own great evidences. This is a gross desertion of the rule--that zeal should be “according to knowledge.”

8. A zeal for single points in religion, especially the most controverted ones, as if the whole importance of religion converged to these, as we see in the most strenuous Calvinists and Arminians. Such zeal miserably impoverishes the interest for religion as a grand comprehensive whole, and for all the parts of it but the one. And thus the very “knowledge” itself will dwindle from taking account of the whole.

9. The excessive zeal for a religious sect or party, a mere worldly spirit of competition and jealousy. This indeed is “ according to knowledge,” the “wisdom” that James describes as coming from below.

10. The zeal which is expended in some one way of attempting to serve religion when it might be applied to better purpose in another. Thus able men have exhausted their talents and labours upon comparative trifles when, with the same exertion, they might have served the greatest interests. And ordinary Christians have been invincibly set on serving God in ways foreign to their attainments and situations when there were plainly before them other ways of certain usefulness.

11. That zeal which, in attempting to do good, takes no account of the fitness of season and occasion. Knowledge would show the adaptation of means to ends--the laws and working of human minds--the favourable conjuncture. Knowledge, too, would point to consequences. And zeal should not fancy itself the more noble and heroic for setting all consequences at defiance.

12. That zeal which seems willing to let its activity in public plans and exertions to serve religion be a substitute for personal religion. In such zeal where is the man’s knowledge if it does not strike him with irresistible conviction how indispensable is religion to his own self? (John Foster.)

Zeal without knowledge

I. The Israelites had one good quality while they wanted another, and the apostle makes their possession of this the reason of his prayer--“For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God.” One would think that, if they wanted both, they would stand in greater need of his prayers; and the mystery is, how their having something good should be the moving cause why Paul should pray for their salvation, an intimation that if they had not been in the possession at least of this he would not have prayed for them.

1. The explanation is this. It is only the prayer of faith that availeth, and in proportion as this faith is staggered or weakened prayer loses its efficacy--e.g., you have not the same heart in praying for some unlikelihood as in praying for what is agreeable to the will of God. You cannot pray so hopefully for a confirmed reprobate as for a man in whom you perceive some lurking remainders of good. Paul was not yet discouraged about the Jews. He still observed one good point, even that very zeal which once actuated himself. And so he still could hope and pray for them.

2. From such an argument there may be constructed a powerful appeal to arrest the headlong way of that moral desperado, who, hastening on from one enormity to another, is fast losing all the delicacies of conscience, and whom the Spirit, tired and provoked by stubborn resistance, is on the eve perhaps of abandoning. Know, then, that your friends behold the progress of this impenitency, and supplicate Heaven on your account. But the time may arrive when your impiety shall look so desperate that to supplicate in faith is beyond them. And is it not time to retrace your footsteps, unknowing as you are how soon the very parents who gave yea birth may weep but cannot pray for you!

II. That must have been a valuable property, in virtue of which the Jews could still be prayed for. But that must have been a most important property from the want of which they eventually perished. Had they added knowledge to their zeal they would still have remained the favourites of Heaven.

1. From their actual history we may learn what a serious want this is. That day of their visitation, in the prospect of which our Saviour shed tears, came upon them just because they “knew not the things which belonged to their peace.” It is true that the extermination came upon them because they had killed the Prince of Life. But it was, as Peter and John testify, through ignorance that they did it, and had they known, Paul says, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. Let us not, then, underrate the importance of knowledge in religion, nor be under the imagination that ignorance is not a responsible or not a punishable offence.

2. But in addition to the historical proofs of the importance of religious knowledge, there is abundance of still more direct proof. The knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ is said to be eternal life, and many are said to perish for lack of knowledge. Christ shall come “to take vengeance on those that know not God.” Knowledge and ignorance in fact are dealt with, even as righteousness and sin are dealt with.

3. Now the question is, ought this in moral fairness to be? The difficulty is to conceive on what ground the views of the understanding should be made the subjects of reckoning. Man is held to be responsible for his doings, which he can help; but not for his doctrines, which they say he cannot help. But we affirm that his belief in certain circumstances (and Christianity is in these circumstances) is that which he can help. It is by an act of the will that you set yourself to the acquisition of knowledge. It is by a continued act of the will that you continue a prolonged examination into the grounds of an opinion. It is at the bidding of the will, not that you believe without evidence, but that you investigate the evidence on which you might believe. It is in no way your fault that you do not see when it is dark. But it is in every way your fault that you do not look when either the light of heaven or of heaven’s revelation is around you. It is thus that the will has virtually to do with the ultimate belief, just because it has to do with the various steps of that process which goes before it. Where there is candour, which is a moral property, the due attention will be given; when there is the opposite of candour--moral unfairness--the due attention will be refused, and the man will be landed in the state of being wrong intellectually, but just because he is wrong morally.

4. You find a most impressive exemplification of this in the history of those very Jews. During the whole of our Saviour’s ministry upon earth they were plied with evidences which, if they had but attended to, would have carried their belief in the validity of His claims. But the belief was painful to them, and at all hazards they resolved to bar the avenues of their minds against the admittance of it. Theirs was not the darkness of men whom no light had visited, but of men who obstinately shut their eyes.

5. And this for our admonition. In this our day the want of faith is still due to the want of a thorough moral earnestness. (T. Chalmers, D.D.)

Zealotry

The worst of madmen is a saint run mad. (Pope.)

To be furious in religion is to be irreligiously religious. (W. Penn.)

The way of salvation

I. Man’s way.

1. Consists in zeal for God ignorantly directed.

2. Terminates in self-righteousness and unbelief.

3. Utterly fails, because Christ is the end of the law, and the law requires absolute obedience (verses 2-5).

II. God’s way.

1. Requires--

2. Terminates in salvation. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own … have not submitted … unto the righteousness of God.--

Ignorance of God’s righteousness, the guilt of

The ignorance here spoken of is something more than the mere passive blindness of those who cannot help themselves because of the total darkness by which they are encompassed. It was very much the ignorance of those who would not open their eyes. There was an activity, a will in it, as much as there was in the other things ascribed to them in the “going about” to establish a different righteousness from that which they would not submit to. This forms the true principle on which the condemnation of unbelief rests. “They love the darkness rather than the light.” Even as the Gentiles “liked not to retain God in their knowledge”--even so the Jews liked not in this instance to admit God into their knowledge, or give entertainment in their minds to that way of salvation which He had devised for the recovery of a guilty world. It is the part which the will has in it that makes ignorance the proper object of retribution; and so, when Christ cometh, He will take vengeance “on those who know not God and obey not the gospel.” (T. Chalmers, D.D.)

Human righteousness only attainable by submitting to “the righteousness of God”

1. “The righteousness of God” is His truth, justice, holiness, wisdom, and love blended in eternal perfection, and embraces infinite hatred to sin with infinite love to the sinner. It is at once the terror of every guilty conscience, and the hope of every true penitent.

2. The world before and since the days of Luther has been making the same mistake as he at first made. It has so felt the need of righteousness as to make desperate efforts to attain unto it, now soaring to inaccessible heights, and then delving to unknown depths, while the blessing itself has been ever within reach.

I. Men, until they come to the knowledge of Christ, are everywhere vainly endeavouring to establish their own righteousness.

1. If it had been possible for any man to succeed, surely it had been Paul. Constancy, conscientiousness, self-denial, lofty motives, a blameless life, etc.; and yet, when viewed in relation to the object sought, how utterly vain! Solomon’s experiment ought to have been sufficient to satisfy all voluptuaries of the vanity of earthly things, and Paul’s failure ought to convince all self-righteous moralists that righteousness is not attainable by “the deeds of the law.”

2. But the truth can only be known, or wisdom taught, by experience. And so Paul’s experiment, in all its essential features, has been made again and again. Luther in his way repeated the experiment with the same result. These men remind one of the old alchemists, who, vary their experiments as they might, and imitate the colour of gold as they did, yet the base metal remained base metal after all.

3. And yet multitudes continue to “go about to establish their own righteousness.” It is impossible to avoid a feeling of mingled respect and pity for them. This feeling filled Paul’s heart (verse 1). “Going about to” is old English for “trying at.” They were eager, restless, painstaking, ready to employ every means in order to secure it. But an April day might sooner establish its character for constancy, and the wide ocean its character as a refuge; the raven with its croak, and the owl with its hooting, establish theirs for melody; the farthing rushlight its right to rule the day; every little pool its claim to be considered a fountain; the bramble its pretensions to be king over the forest, than these misguided souls succeed in establishing their own righteousness. They are endeavouring to forge a key to unlock the grave, to build a lifeboat to swim in a sea of fire, to construct a ladder to scale the skies, to hush the thunders of Sinai by filling their ears with wool, to stop the lightning of God’s wrath by gossamer threads of human goodness, to arrest the course of Divine justice by piling up little heaps of stones in their path. God pronounces “our righteousness”--not our wickedness--to be “filthy rags.”

4. No man ever established his “own righteousness” to his own satisfaction. This sky was never without a cloud, this sun without a spot, this life without a defect. It was the consciousness cf this that quickened the steps of Saul of Tarsus in his persecution of the early disciples, and prompted him to a deadlier revenge. In proportion to a soul’s consciousness of what sin is will be its misery at the sight of it. God has set our sins “in the light of His countenance”; and when we remember that there may be impurity in a look, and murder in a desire, the very thought of “establishing our own righteousness” is the wildest of fancies, the wickedest of delusions!

5. And men thus court failure, because they are “ignorant of God’s righteousness,” both of what it is and what it requires. The whiteness of the snow, the morning light, the blue heavens, are figures that inadequately represent the righteousness of God. “The heavens are not clean in His sight.” God is so “glorious in holiness” that the angels cover their faces and their feet with their wings. Being thus essentially and absolutely righteous, what mere outward propriety or thin crust of goodness could satisfy Him? Motives as pure as the light, and ways as straight as a mathematical line, do but indicate what God requires of men if He enter into judgment with them. This they do not understand nor realise, nor that if God’s love is holy, His righteousness is tender, merciful, long-suffering to the vilest offender. If men knew that they had only to ask of Him, and He would cover them with the robe of His righteousness, they would desist from all their vain efforts to “establish their own righteousness.” His righteousness is unknown by men, and hence--

II. Their insane refusal to submit unto the righteousness of God--

1. For the very reason, in most instances, that “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” And yet this glorious fact is the very essence of saving truth. Salvation by faith in Christ is taught in type, prophecy, history, promise, and doctrine. The same God “who lights one world by another, and sustains one life by another,” purposes to save all who truly repent and believe by Christ’s obedience, death, resurrection, and intercession. And yet infidels stigmatise the doctrine of salvation by Jesus Christ as absurd, cruel, immoral, and many professedly Christian teachers speak of justification by the righteousness of another in disparaging terms. And if it were true that men might be saved by faith in Christ without a change of heart and life; if the caricature of this doctrine of justification set forth by its enemies were correct, then nothing more monstrous could be conceived.

2. Let, however, the apostles term rebuke their ignorant presumption. Men have to “submit themselves to the righteousness of God.” Is God or man to be Supreme? When man submits to God the cause of difference is removed, the moral distance between man and God is annihilated. A revolution has taken place. Repentance, justification, regeneration, conversion, reconciliation, adoption, sanctification are words which represent the various aspects of the one great reality, and do not exaggerate the greatness of the change that is experienced. The understanding is enlightened, the conscience rejoices in God’s righteousness in condemning sin and sinners, the will returns to its true allegiance, and the heart casts away its idols and loathes its sin.

3. It should not be lost sight of that it is to the righteousness of God that men have to submit--not to His caprice, nor to His will, divorced from purity and goodness. And so in the very act of submission man acquires a nobleness which in his condition of wilful independence had been impossible. It never can be degrading or injurious to submit to righteousness. As righteousness is the glory of God, when man submits to it it becomes his also.

4. As Christ was hated by Scribes and Pharisees on account of His goodness and purity, and as the Jews who searched the Scriptures for eternal life had no sooner discovered that it centred in Christ than they refused to come to Him that they might have life, so submission to the righteousness of God seems more difficult because it involves an acknowledgment of and delight in the fact that “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” Yet this exactly meets man’s case as a sinner. Christ has satisfied every requirement. God’s righteousness is established. His vindication is complete, and in the act of showing mercy “His truth and justice receive their brightest manifestation.”

5. The blessing which is received is also retained by faith. Faith first joins us to Christ, and by faith the union is perpetuated. We set no limits to God’s power, but the eternal inheritance is reserved for those who are kept by it through faith. “The just shall live by faith.” The righteousness of Christ is not only appropriated and retained by faith, but it must also be attested, shown, illustrated. And thus, while sinners become righteous through the righteousness of another, yet, as the Apostle John says, “He that doeth righteousness is righteous.” This, by His indwelling Spirit, He enables believers to do. (F. W. Bourne, D.D.)

Reasons why men reject the righteousness of God

1. The position of the apostle was a very affecting one. He was in plenary possession of the great saving truth. He had submitted to the righteousness of God, and was persuaded that nothing could separate him from the love of God. But to an unselfish mind personal security is not always perfect felicity. Suppose that a man has found refuge in a fortress on the alarm of a sudden invasion, but has not succeeded in carrying all his kindred with him, the first emotion, as he realises the commanding position of the castle, will likely be assurance, exultation, gratitude. But, alas! out on the open plain he descries a brother who has thus far escaped, but who, by some infatuation, is running past the castle gate in quest of some other inlet. In such a case the brother saved would only eye with the more lacerating anguish the wilfulness of that brother who was fleeing from the door of safety. This was the apostle’s situation. He had found the refuge. He was looking over the ramparts of salvation--so far, a happy man. But there, in: the open field of danger, were his kinsmen according to the flesh. Some blindness had happened to them, for scarcely one of them made for the door of hope; and though, in the fulness of his fraternal affection, he had lifted up his voice and directed them to the open door, scarce one believed his report.

2. The reason given in this chapter for his sorrow was not merely his patriotic love of his countrymen, but his respect for the motives and character of many among them. They were not atheists; they had a zeal of God. They were not infidels, reprobates, or libertines, for they had a great regard for the law, and a real anxiety to establish a righteousness for themselves,

3. Unhappily, the very same thing which wrung the apostle’s heart is still going on in the world. Multitudes of people, the facsimiles of these zealous Jews, are falling short of heaven for the same reasons which proved so fatal in the days of Paul. Let us consider these reasons:--

I. Ignorance of God’s righteousness.

1. It is the glory of heaven that there is nothing unholy there. A perfect righteousness is the only passport into the presence of a holy God.

2. But in this world of ours there is no such thing as a spotless soul. The only real righteousness on earth is a righteousness which came down from heaven. The Word was made flesh. He bare our sins, and in His own body on the tree made ample satisfaction for them. His blood cleanseth from all sin. But it is not enough that the guilt be cancelled. The rebel’s attainder may be removed, but he may not be restored to his place beside the sovereign’s person, nor put anew in his patrimonial possessions. A creature may be cleansed from the pollution of actual sin, and remain in all the insipidity of no positive righteousness. Now herein consists the completeness of the great redemption. During the thirty years which preceded His directly expiatory work the sinner’s Representative was living a life of vicarious obedience. Year by year He was accumulating that merit which He needed not for Himself, but which was needful for every one that would enter heaven. Now observe these two things go together; the neutralising and the positive ingredients make up one righteousness--the sin-cancelling atonement and the heaven-claiming merit--the sufferings which shut the sinner’s hell and the obedience which opened the ransomed sinner’s heaven. But Christ was God. His obedience had a Divine virtue in it, and His sufferings had a Divine virtue in them. And therefore His obedience and satisfaction are called “the righteousness of God.”

3. Now many are ignorant of the existence of such a righteousness. This righteousness is so hid in its notoriety, so puzzling in its plainness, so overlooked in its studious obviousness, that people who, in their anxiety after acceptance with God, would give all that they had for the least scrap of unquestionable merit, never dream that the righteousness of God--neither Adam’s righteousness, nor an angel’s righteousness, but God’s own righteousness--was that which they might appropriate as their own. We have heard of scholars who could speak many tongues, but who did not know the meaning of Jehovah Tsidkenu. We have known chronologists who could tell most of the remarkable events of history, but who could not tell the year which “brought in everlasting righteousness.” And we have listened to acute reasoners and metaphysicians who could discourse eloquently on the powers of human nature, and high-souled moralists who described the beauty of true virtue, and divines full of zeal for God, but who never adverted to that righteousness which alone the apostle deemed worthy of the name.

II. Some are aware that such a righteousness exists who do not know how they are to benefit by it.

1. They say in their heart, “Who shall ascend into heaven? By what process of self-elevation shall I render myself worthy of this righteousness? Or who shall descend into the deep? How humbled must I become before I be in a fit state for God to impart this righteousness?” Now the righteousness of God is brought so near that nothing which the sinner can do can bring it nearer.

2. The Lord Jesus did not purchase pardon and then deposit it in some far island of the sea, so that it would be needful to undertake a tedious and hazardous voyage in order to arrive at it. Nor did He perch it on some cloud of the upper firmament, so as to rack the anxious invention in finding out the aerostation which would soar up to it, or the spell which would charm it down. And yet the intricacy of system has conveyed some such idea to many minds. You may perfectly perceive that the righteousness of Jesus is the righteousness of God, but you may fancy that faith is the ship which you need to float you over this abyss, or the wings you need to waft you up to the airy elevation where this righteousness dwells. But the righteousness is not only wrought out, but brought so near that not a moment of time nor a point of space intervenes between you and its present possession. If you have such affection for the Lord Jesus as to confess Him before men--and this you will have if you really believe that God has raised Him from the dead as your Redeemer--“thou shalt be saved.”

3. A welcome from the King (as our Lord taught in the parable) depends entirely on having on “a wedding robe,” and none who is willing need want it, for it is gratuitously given to all. That robe is righteousness--not man’s, but Jehovah’s (Philippians 3:8-9). Be persuaded--put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ. Ye poor and blind! step in to the feast--ye halt and maimed! creep in. When at heaven’s gate they ask in whose right you come, make mention of Jesus’ righteousness, and the everlasting doors will open to receive you. The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth; speak it out. Avow your faith in Him by the life and language of discipleship. The Lord has not bid you do some great thing, not even sent you to wash in Jordan seven times.

III. Some reject God’s righteousness in their anxiety “to establish their own.”

1. “I have broken God’s law times without number, but I see that it is good, and it would be a real satisfaction to myself if I could do anything to atone for my transgressions; and if you could only prescribe what I should do--if it were only revealed from heaven how many prayers I should offer, how many fasts I should keep, etc., I would grudge no sacrifice.” When to a soul so convinced of sin you say, “Believe and live--accept the righteousness of God and nothing more is needed,” the simplicity of the prescription is almost provoking. The soul wants to do some great thing. Bent on establishing a righteousness of its own, it is not easy to “submit to the righteousness of God.”

2. In this state of mind there is a just feeling, and there is also a strong delusion. It is a just feeling that the law should be vindicated, and that sin should receive its commensurate punishment. But it is a delusion to imagine that a sinner can atone for sin. But the greatest delusion of all is that you think yourself wiser than God when you prefer your plan to His, and mightier than Immanuel if you consider your work more perfect than His. Believe in Christ, who is the end of the law, and you are righteous in Him.

IV. You fear lest so free and prompt a forgiveness should be fatal to future obedience. You find, by experience among men, that a pardon too easily obtained is apt to be abused, and you fear lest this scheme should encourage men to sin because grace is so abundant.

1. Remark, however, that the gospel pardon, though so prompt and free to the sinner, is not a cheap nor easy pardon to Him who first of all procured it; owing to the darkness of the human understanding and the perversity of the human will, it is seldom too suddenly or lightly attained by the sinner, who eventually finds it his own. And I think it might be commended to reason that real obedience begins only where slavish terror ends, and that the principle most prolific of loyalty and unwearied services is love.

2. But the gospel puts the matter beyond all question by its express declarations. It assures us that the faith which receives the Saviour is the first step of new obedience--that the moment when God’s righteousness is accepted is the moment when morality begins.

V. Some earnest seekers miss salvation because they go too far to find it. There was a small colony planted on a creek of a vast continent. Their soil was very fertile, but its limits were somewhat narrow. On the landward side it was enclosed by rocky mountains, on the other it looked out on the immeasurable main. A pestilence broke out, which made fearful havoc all through the population, and the doctors declared that it was beyond their skill. Just at the time the plague was raging worst a stranger appeared and told them of a plant which healed this disorder, and left a paper in which, he said, they would find a full description of it and directions how to find it. The tidings diffused considerable activity. A plant of such efficacy deserved the most diligent search. Almost all agreed that it must be far away, but a discussion arose whether it lay beyond the cliffs or across the sea. Most thought the latter, and a ship was launched, which they christened Ecclesia, and sent in search of the famous plant, and all who wished to escape the plague were invited to take passages in this good ship. A few others, however, thought that they would have better success by trying to get over the cliffs. This was an arduous enterprise, for the precipices were steep and extremely high. A few attempts were made, and, after many weariful efforts, the climbers either grew dizzy and fell back, or allowed themselves to slide down again. But others, more inventive, busied themselves constructing artificial wings and serial engines of various kinds, Imitatio Christi, asceticism, penitential prayers, and such like; and some of them answered exceedingly well for a little, and rose so high that their neighbours really thought they would reach the top; but, after getting a certain height, they uniformly found themselves again on the spot from which they first ascended. A long time had now passed on, and multitudes had died of the plague, when a poor sufferer who had already gone a fruitless expedition in the ship, and from the severity of his anguish was eager in trying every scheme, lay tossing on his bed. He got hold of a large paper roll which lay on a shelf beside him. It was very dirty, and the ink was faded. He at once suspected that it was the book which the stranger had left. It gave a full description of the Plant of Renown, and as he advanced in his feverish earnestness, hoping that it would tell him the very spot where he should look for it, he found the plant itself! There it lay in the heart of the long-neglected volume, and Luther’s eye glistened as he read “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” “But where is Christ to be found? Must I ascend the height or descend into the deep? Oh, no! Christ is here--nigh me--God’s present gift to me conveyed in the volume of this book. I accept Him. I believe.” The apologue has prematurely betrayed itself, but no matter. The cure for a plague-stricken, dying world was long concealed in the Bible, till, led by the Spirit of God, Luther found it there. You have only to go where Luther went. (James Hamilton.)

Man’s tendency to trust in his own righteousness

I. Man feels that he is under law to God. He knows that there is a power above him to which he is subject. He may try to deliver himself and claim independence, but ever and anon he is made to see that there is a moral law commanding him to do this and avoid that. He may refuse to obey only to find that it imposes a penalty in the shape of a reproach of conscience, or thwarting of his plans, etc. He may drown it in folly, but it will take its revenge when the hour of reflection comes. Under this feeling every man is made to realise that he “must give an account of himself to God.”

II. There is a fear in every one that his conduct cannot stand a sifting inspection. So he has an apprehension at times that the power above him may be hostile. Our own consciences condemn us, and we cannot but see that God, who is purer than our conscience, must also condemn us. So we shrink from the law which we have broken and from the lawgiver. “When I remembered God, I was troubled.” We are troubled, as the boy is by the presence of his father whose command he has just disobeyed. We strive to press down the thought, but it is unsuppressible. So, in consequence of the pressure of these two feelings on each other, a third feeling is brought forth. This may be one or other of two sorts.

III. We may banish God and His law from our thoughts. This may be our first impulse. We act as the disobedient child who flees from his father. It was thus with Cain and Jonah. True, there will be times when God appears to allure or warn, but sinners do not wish to be disturbed, and they pray to Him, as the Gadarenes did when Jesus visited them, to “depart out of their Coasts”; and He left them, never to return.

IV. Another class act in an equally unworthy manner. They go about to establish their own righteousness. They know that God requires His intelligent and responsible creatures to give obedience to His royal law of love. According to the first covenant every man was to work out a righteousness for himself. But man has failed in this; he is not able to present a perfect obedience. He has only to search himself to discover that he has sinned. But then he would in future make amends for the past. See the self-righteous man as he goes about so diligently in working out a righteousness of his own. Listen to him as he talks to himself in the chamber of his thoughts. When he does a smart act, he, as it were, says, “How clever I am!” He relieves distress, and it is followed by the thought, “How tender-hearted I am!” He engages in a religious service, and then feels that he is so pious. This self-righteousness is all along offensive to God, and apt to be offensive to our fellow-men. It shows itself in a haughty manner, and in the perpetual narratives of our ability and prowess. A ploughman, whom Hervey once addressed to the effect that it was our first duty at once to abandon our sins, answered, “There is a prior duty, and that is to abandon the trust in our own righteousness.” There was true philosophy in this. As long as we are trusting in our own righteousness we have little motive to search out our sins and destroy them. Let a man feel that his deeds are as filthy rags before God, and then he will be disposed to give them up and seek for a better clothing. This self-righteous spirit is that of the Pharisees, so severely condemned by our Lord. It is embodied in the prayer, “Lord, I thank Thee,” etc. It was the spirit of the Stoics which seized on some of the highest minds in Greece and Rome. The meditations of Marcus Aurelius contain very lofty moral precepts, but his ethics are self-righteous throughout; the good man stands before God in the strength of his own merits. This being so, we can understand how the philosophers of this school should have been unwilling to submit to the humbling doctrines of the Cross, which require us to trust in the righteousness of another. What a humiliation must it have been to Saul of Tarsus when he was arrested on the road to Damascus, when not only his person but his pride were cast down to the ground! But his humiliation was a step necessary in order to his exaltation. He gave up trusting in his own righteousness, and went forward in the strength of Him who there and then conquered him, and thereby enabled him to conquer himself, and sent him forth to proclaim a doctrine which conquered the Roman world. Every man needs to pass through such a crisis. As long as the man is cherishing a self-righteous spirit he feels himself restrained on all hands. He cherishes a sense of merit, and yet is not satisfied, He makes now and greater exertions, only to find that they do not come up to the full requirements of the law. And the unforgiven sin will ever trouble the sinner till it is forgiven. Better at once submit, and instead of the prayer of the Pharisee put up the prayer of the publican. When the ground is as it is in winter, we might try to soften the hardness and remove the cold by shovelling away the frost and snow. But there is a better way. Let us have the returning sun of spring, and the coldness will disappear, and the earth will array itself in the loveliest green. So when we feel our hearts to be chilled and hardened, let us seek that the light of God’s countenance shine upon us, and the hardness will be dissolved, and the graces of peace and love will flow forth as the streams do in spring. (J. McCosh, D.D.)

Self-righteousness--ruin of many

“A gentleman in our late civil wars,” says Cowley, “when his quarters were beaten up by the enemy, was taken prisoner, and lost his life afterwards only by staying to put on a band and adjust his periwig; he would escape like a person of quality, or not at all, and died the noble martyr of ceremony and gentility.” Poor fool! and yet he is as bad who waits till he is dressed in the rags of his own fancied fitness before he will come to Jesus. He will die a martyr to pride and self-righteousness. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Phariseeism

Concerning the Jews, consider--

I. what they did.

1. They trusted to their self-righteousness.

2. They sought to establish it

3. They laboured diligently to do this.

II. What they did not do. They did not--

1. Accept God’s righteousness.

2. Realise its extent.

3. Bow down to it.

III. The cause of their self-righteous ignorance, which was--

1. Wilful.

2. Persistent.

3. Destructive. (J. Burns, D.D.)

Barriers broken down

The text sets forth three difficulties in the way of a man’s salvation.

I. Ignorance.

1. Ignorance is the “mother of devotion,” according to the Church of Rome; “the mother of error,” according to the Word of God.

2. This ignorance--

II. Self-will. Men, ignorant cf God’s righteousness, “go about to establish their own.”

1. They set up the poor idol of their own righteousness. There is a treasure of gold, and the man says, “No, I will not have that. I think that I could make a sovereign at home out of a bit of brass.” If I were at heaven’s gate, and a voice should say, “Enter freely,” and I replied, “No, I think I prefer the Surrey hills, or a place down by the seaside,” what a fool I should be! A human thing at best, how shall that match the Divine righteousness? An imperfect thing at best, how shall I compare that with the perfect righteousness of Christ? A fading, fleeting thing, always apt to be damaged by the next moment’s temptation, how can I be so foolish?

2. In what vain efforts they spend their time and strength! You will better understand the text if I read it: “They go about to set up their own righteousness.” It is a dead thing. The corpse of our own righteousness has a tendency to fall, and down it goes! “It wants something inside”; for until there is life within, it will not stand. It is like a man trying to patch up an old house which has not been repaired for fifty years. So he puts in a beam there, and a strut there, and another timber there; and, by the time he has spent as much as would have built a house, he has got a very handsome ruin left, and nothing more. Charles the First used to swear, “God mend me.” Somebody said it would be an easier job to make a new one of him. When men say, “God mend me,” they had better say “God make me new.”

3. They “go about” to do this.

4. These efforts of men for their own salvation are deadly efforts. God will save them one way, and they want to be saved another. God says, “There is medicine; take it.” Man says, “No, I will compound my own physic.” Can he ever get well in such a way as that? God says, “I will forgive.” Man says, “I will try and deserve to be forgiven”--as if that could be possible.

III. Flat rebellion. “They have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God?’ This is--

1. A strange word. Here is a criminal who will not submit to be pardoned; a sick man who will not submit to be made well; a poor beggar who will not submit to be made into a gentleman.

2. A searching word. Do I stick out? Am I such a self-willed fool that I will not submit before my Maker--will not yield even to have salvation for nothing?

3. A true word. There is many a sinner who has nothing to be proud of, and yet he is as proud as Lucifer. A dustman can be as proud as my Lord Mayor. The worse the man, the harder he is to bow before the righteousness of God.

4. A suggestive word. They will not own that God is King. When a man denies the rights of the magistrate to condemn him, how can he be pardoned? You must yield. Submit to the fact that God is God, or else you will not submit to God’s righteousness.

5. A very word. All I have to do is to submit myself. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verses 1-21

Verse 4

Romans 10:4

For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.

Christ the end of the law

I. In what sense?

1. As its great antitype.

2. Its only sacrifice.

3. The source of its moral power.

II. For what end? To secure--

1. Pardon of sin.

2. Holiness of life.

III. Unto whom?

1. Every one.

2. That believeth. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Christ the end of the law for righteousness

I. The end of all law is righteousness--the production of the most perfect results.

1. In the natural world the use of the law is to perpetuate results essential to its well-being, e.g., the circulation of the atmosphere, ebb and flow of tide, alteration of seasons, motions and influence of planets, etc.

2. The great aim of law in the moral world is to regulate conduct so as to produce a righteous character. The aim of the law of Moses was to lead to a higher life (Romans 7:10).

II. In Christ we have the grand end of both the ethical and ceremonial law--righteousness and holiness. Law depends for its authority upon the personal character of the lawgiver. The character of Christ was like His law--holy, just, and good.

1. From Christ proceeds the moral law by which sin is discovered to us. His character is a constant reproof to us. His words bring home the consciousness of violated law.

2. In Christ is the only remedy for sin. The arrangements of the ceremonial law terminated in Him--the shadow retired when the substance appeared. In His life and death He fulfilled the duties and endured the penalties of the law, thus vindicating the righteousness of God and providing a complete righteousness for sinful man.

III. Faith in Christ is accepted as a perfect obedience to the law. Law is powerless punitively when the end for which it exists is attained. We disarm the law by obeying it. All our unaided efforts to obey law--while in a state of lawless unnature--are futile. It is like running alongside a parallel pathway into which we are vainly trying to turn ourselves. Faith, and faith only, is the means of junction. This puts us into the position in which law would place us. The end of all law being the production of the most perfect results, this very end is answered when we believe in Jesus. For Christ, and all He has, becomes our own. “He is made unto us, of God, wisdom and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption.” “The law and the gospel are evidenced in man’s moral nature. The law the ideal of its life, the gospel the life of its ideal.” Lessons:

1. It is hopeless to attempt to attain righteousness by law, because of our moral inability to obey all its requirements.

2. Faith in Christ is the only and universal way of obedience. (J. S. Exell, M.A.)

Christ the end of the law for righteousness

I. What is implied in these words.

1. That the law of God has been universally broken (Romans 3:10-12).

2. That, therefore, every man is under the curse of that law (Galatians 3:13; Romans 2:8-11).

3. That, in order to be saved, this curse must be removed and sins remitted.

4. That no man of himself can remove this curse or obtain this remission of his sins.

5. That notwithstanding God cannot recede from His claims, nor abate one jot or tittle of what His holy law demands, either in penalty or precept.

6. That every person who would obtain salvation must look out for such a righteousness as shall be answerable to all the claims of the law, be perfectly satisfactory to God, and therefore available for his justification and peace.

II. In what way is “Christ the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth”? Consider--

1. The general purport of Christ’s coming (Psalms 40:6-10; Hebrews 10:1-14; Isaiah 42:6-7; Isa_42:21; Daniel 9:24; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Jer_33:15-16; Isaiah 53:6, cf. 1 Peter 2:24; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

2. The special character of His mediation. We must consider it as substitutional. We must behold Him rendering unto God, for those whom He represented, a perfect obedience to the law which they have broken, and suffering to its full and utmost extent the curse which they have incurred. Christ is the end of the law for righteousness--not by abrogating its authority, or lowering its requisitions, to meet the exigencies of our lapsed condition--but rather by asserting its full obligation and satisfying all its equitable claims. This is the great glory of the gospel--that God can be just--in exacting every claim of the law and in punishing every sin of those whom He saves to its full desert--and yet the justifier of them that believe in Jesus.

III. To whom is this provision available, or who are benefited thereby. “Every one that believeth,” and no more. But we must ascertain--

1. The testimony given in Scripture to this truth. We are again and again told that faith alone is the means appointed by God for granting the efficacy of this provision to the souls of men.

2. Why we can be benefited in this way of faith, and in no other? It is enough to say that God hath declared it. But we need not let the subject rest here. Man is utterly lost, helpless, and undone. Nothing that we can do can avail for our salvation. Our help and hope are based upon One, who only is mighty to save. It is therefore evident that the only way in which we can be benefited by what another has done for our salvation, must be by believing in Him for the execution of such an interposition, and for the advantage of the blessing procured thereby.

3. What is the nature of that faith by which we become interested in this righteousness. It is the act of a soul made willing in the day of God’s power, under a clear discovery of its lost condition, and a clear perception of the mediation of Jesus, by which it is brought to rely on that mediation, and to plead that righteousness with God for its pardon and peace (chap. 10:10; Hebrews 11:1).

4. To what extent is this truth to be carried in the justification of the sinner before God? To the full extent for which it is designed for that purpose. It takes in the sinner’s whole case--sins, guilt, condemnation, and deserved wrath. It brings him a full and complete deliverance and justification from all. Nay, more, it invests him with the perfect righteousness of Christ, as a perfect fulfilment of the law by which he stands accepted with God.

IV. What are the importance and advantages arising therefrom. Hereby--

1. The law is established in all its authority, obligations, and claims.

2. God is honoured and exalted in the possession and exercise of all His perfections.

3. A sure and certain way of life and salvation, of pardon and peace, is opened for guilty men.

4. A sure provision is made for a loving, devoted, and delightful obedience to the will of God.

5. There is afforded to the soul a sure rock for its present safety and a firm foundation for its future security, even for ever.

6. The Church of God is provided with an unerring test by which to try every doctrine proposed for her acceptance, and an indomitable weapon by which to conquer every antichristian foe. (R. Shittler.)

Christ the end of the law for righteousness

I. The proposition. “Christ is the end of the law.” The end of a thing is either mathematical or moral. The mathematical end is the utmost part of a thing, in which the length or continuance is determined; as a point is the end of a line, death the end of life, the day of judgment the end of this world. The moral end of a thing is the scope and perfection of it. Now Christ is the end of the law both ways.

1. The mathematical end of the ceremonial and moral. Of the ceremonial by a direct signification, of the moral by an accidental direction. The ceremonies signified Christ and ended at Him. Properly, the moral law leads sinners to the curse, but by account to Christ, as the disease leads to the medicine or physician.

2. He is also the moral end of both. For He is the body of those ceremonies and shadows, and He perfectly fulfilled the Decalogue for us, and that three ways.

For whatsoever the law required that we should be, do, or suffer, He hath performed in our behalf. Therefore one wittily saith that Christ is Telos, the end, or tribute, and we, by His payment, Ateleis, tribute-free, we are discharged by Him before God. Christ is both these ends, but principally the last is here understood.

II. The amplification “for righteousness.” When thou art come to Christ thou must not cast away the law, but use it still to make thee more to cling unto Christ and as a rule of righteous living. Christ is the end of the law, not the killing, but fulfilling end; not to end, but to urge thy obedience. When the merchant is come aboard his ship by boat, he drowns not his boat, but hoists it up into his ship; he may have use of it another time. Or as a nobleman neglects not his schoolmaster when he is come to his lands, but prefers him. So certainly, if the law (though sharp) hath brought thee to Christ, thou canst not but love it for this office; if thou doest not, thou hast not Christ. Yea, it will be the delight of a man to be then doing, when Christ is with him, as Peter then willingly and with success cast out his net. Without Christ the law is an uncomfortable study; but with Him, nothing more delightful. (Elnathan Parr, B.D.)

Christ the end of the law

Consider--

I. Christ in connection with the law. The law is that which we have cause to dread; for the sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them.” Yet, like the fascination which attracts the gnat to the candle, men by nature fly to the law for salvation. Now, what has our Lord to do with the law?

1. He is its purpose and object. The law is our schoolmaster, or rather our attendant to conduct us to the school of Jesus; the great net in which the fish are enclosed that they may be drawn out of the element of sin; the stormy wind which drives souls into the harbour of refuge; the sheriff’s officer to shut men up in prison for their sin, concluding them all under condemnation in order that they may look to the free grace of God alone for deliverance. It empties that grace may fill, wounds that mercy may heal. Had man never fallen, the law would have been most helpful to show him the way in which he should walk: and by keeping it he would have lived (Romans 10:5). But since man has fallen, a way of salvation by works has become impossible. The law is meant to lead the sinner to faith in Christ, by showing the impossibility of any other way. It is the dog to fetch the sheep to the shepherd, the burning heat which drives the traveller to the shadow of the great rock in a weary land. The law is adapted to this; for--

2. Christ is the law’s fulfilment.

3. Christ is the end of the law in that He is the termination of it in two senses.

II. Ourselves in connection with Christ--for “to every one that believeth.” To believe is not merely to accept a set of doctrines but to trust, to confide, to rest in. Dost thou believe that Christ stood in the sinner’s stead and suffered the just for the unjust, and that He is able to save to the uttermost? And dost thou therefore lay the whole weight of thy soul’s salvation upon Him alone? Then Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to thee, and thou art righteous. It is of no use to bring forward anything else if you are not believing, for nothing will avail--sacraments, prayers, etc. Observe--

1. There is no question raised about the previous character, for it is written, “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” But, Lord, this man before he believed was a persecutor and injurious. Yes, and that is the very man who wrote these words. So if I address one who is defiled with every sin, yet I say if thou believest thine iniquities are blotted out, for the blood of Christ cleanseth us from all sin.

2. There is nothing said by way of qualification as to the strength of the faith. He is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth, whether he is Little Faith or Greatheart. The link may be very like a film, a spider’s line of trembling faith, but, if it runs all the way from the heart to Christ, Divine grace can and will flow along the most slender thread. It is marvellous how fine the wire may be that will carry the electric flash. If thy faith be of the mustard-seed kind, if it be only such as tremblingly touches the garments hem, if it be but the faith of sinking Peter, or weeping Mary, yet Christ will be the end of the law for righteousness to thee as well as to the chief of the apostles.

3. If this be so then all of us who believe are righteous. We are not completely sanctified, but still, in the sight of God, we are righteous, and being justified by faith we have peace with Him.

4. The connection of our text assures us that being righteous we are saved (Romans 10:9).

Conclusion:

1. If any one thinks he can save himself, and that his own righteousness will suffice before God, I would ask, if your righteousness sufficeth, why did Christ come here to work one out?

2. For any to reject the righteousness of Christ must be to perish everlastingly, because it cannot be that God will accept you or your pretended righteousness when you have refused the real and Divine righteousness which He sets before you in His Son. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Christ the end of the law for righteousness

I. What that righteousness is, spoken of in the text. Evidently that which is necessary in order to eternal life, and which infallibly leads to it (Romans 5:17; Rom_5:21). It is termed “The righteousness of God” (Romans 10:3; chap. 1:17), and said to be by faith (Romans 3:21-22; Philippians 3:9). It implies--

1. Justification (Romans 3:24; Titus 3:7); without which, as guilty condemned sinners, we can have no title to eternal life.

2. Regeneration or sanctification (see Philippians 3:9); spoken of Ephesians 4:17-24; Titus 3:5-6; John 3:5-6; without which we are not in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15), and have no fitness for heaven.

3. Practical obedience (Ephesians 2:10); the grand evidence that we are righteous (Luke 1:6; 1 John 3:7). As to the necessity of this, see Romans 2:6-7; Revelation 22:14; and especially Matthew 7:20-21.

II. Where and how this righteousness is to be found.

1. Not in, or by, the law.

2. But wherefore, then, serveth the law? In Christ was the end for which the law was instituted; the moral law being chiefly to convince men of sin (Romans 3:19-20; Rom_7:7-8), and thus to be a “schoolmaster to bring them to Christ” (Galatians 3:19-24), and the ceremonial law to shadow forth His sacrifice and grace. The end may mean--

3. “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness.”

III. By whom this righteousness is to be found. By “every one that believeth” (verses 5-10).

1. Its object is that God hath raised Christ from the dead. This--

2. Our faith, in these respects, must be such as will enable us to “make confession with our mouth,” therefore it must be “with the heart man believeth unto righteousness” (verse 10). As to the faith that does not part with sin, and give up everything that stands in competition with Christ, it is dead (James 2:20-26).

3. As to the origin of this faith (see verses11-17). It arises from the Word and Spirit of God (Acts 16:14; Ephesians 2:8-9; Colossians 2:12). Therefore, hearing, reading, and prayer, are the important means. And in the exercise of that measure of faith we have received, however small, it will be increased. (Joseph Benson.)

Christ the end of the law for righteousness

I. The immutability of the law is a fundamental truth. This rests on its nature and the immutability of God. The evidence is found in nature and conscience.

1. This the Jews believed, and it lay at the foundation of their error, which was twofold.

2. This error led--

3. Paul taught--

The law is immutable so far as it demands righteousness as an indispensable condition of justification. But it is abrogated so far as it says, “Do this and live,” i.e., so far as it requires our own righteousness.

II. In what sense is Christ the end of the law.

1. Not in the sense of its completion. Telos never occurs in the sense of pleroma.

2. But in the sense of having made an end of it, abolished it. This He has done--

3. In the sense of being its aim or object. This means either--

III. Consequences.

1. Out of Christ we are exposed--

2. In Him we are righteous.

Conclusion: As a result of faith in Christ our righteousness we have--

1. Peace with God, and peace of conscience.

2. Assurance of eternal life, as no one can condemn those whom God justifies.

3. A principle of obedience, for until we are reconciled there can be no holiness.

4. All the benefits of Christ’s triumph. Having obeyed and suffered for us as our representative, we share in all the blessings promised as His reward. (C. Hodge, D.D.)

Christ the end of the law

Christ was revealed to abrogate, to annihilate, utterly to abolish sin. Now, we all know what it is to have a thing abrogated. Certain laws have held good up to the first of January of this year with regard to the hiring of public carriages, but now are under a new law. Suppose a driver complies with the new law, gets his license, puts up his flag, gives the passenger his card of prices, and afterwards the passenger summons him before the magistrate for asking a fare not authorised by the old law; the magistrate would say, “You are out of court, there is no such law. You cannot bring the man here, he has not broken the old law, for he is not under it. He has complied with the requisition of the new law, by which he declares himself no longer under the old rules, and I have no power over him.” So he that believeth in Christ Jesus may be summoned by conscience when misinformed before the bar of God, but the answer of peace to his conscience is, “Ye are not under the law, but under grace.” “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The relation of the law to the gospel

(text and 1 Timothy 1:5):--The law of God may be viewed in a twofold aspect, to distinguish between which is to prove a safeguard against both the errors of legality and the errors of antinomianism. We must regard the law--

I. In relation to the righteousness which constitutes the title to its rewards.

1. When we strive to make this out by our own obedience, the aim is to possess ourselves of a legal right to heaven. We proceed on the imagination of a contract between God and man--whereof the counterpart terms are a fulfilment of the law’s requisitions upon the one side, and a bestowment of the law’s rewards upon the other. The one is the purchase-money--the other is the payment. They stand related to each other, as work does to wages. Now this spirit of legality, as it is called, is nearly the universal spirit of humanity. They are not the Israelites only who go about to establish a righteousness of their own. There is, in fact, a legal disposition in the heart, and, long after the utter shortness of human virtue has been demonstrated, yet will man, as if by the bias of a constitutional necessity, recur to the old legal imagination, of this virtue being a thing of desert, and of heaven being the reward which is due to it.

2. Now, for man to establish a right by his righteousness, is in the face of all jurisprudence. Both the law and the gospel alike disown man’s legal right to the rewards of eternity; and if he be too proud to disown it himself, he remains both a victim of condemnation by the one, and a helpless, hopeless outcast from the mercy of the other. If man will persist in seeking to make out a title-deed to heaven by his own obedience, then that obedience must be perfect. Even if he have but committed one sin--there is the barrier of a moral necessity in his way, which it is impossible to force. The God who cannot lie, cannot recall His curse upon every one who continueth not in all the words of the book of His law to do them. And one of two things must happen. Either, with a just conception of the standard of the law, he will sink into despair; or, with a low conception of that standard, he, though but grovelling among the mere decencies of civil life or the barren formalities of religious service, will aspire no farther and yet count himself safe.

3. Now herein lies the grand peculiarity of the gospel. It pronounces on the utter insignificance of all that man can do for the establishment of his right to the kingdom of heaven; and yet, he must be somehow or other provided with such a right, ere that he can find admittance there. It is not by an act of mercy alone that the gate of heaven is opened to the sinner. He must be furnished with a plea which he can state at the bar of justice--not the plea of his own deservings, which the gospel holds no terms with; and therefore with a plea founded exclusively on the deservings of another. Now what we reckon to be the very essence of the gospel is the report which it brings to a sinful world of a solid and satisfying plea; and that every sinner is welcome to the use of it. In defect of his own righteousness, which he is required to disown, he is told of an everlasting righteousness which another has brought in; and which he is invited, nay commanded, to make mention of. It is thus that Christ becomes the end of the law for righteousness.

II. As holding out a method by which we might acquire a rightness of character in the cultivation and the exercise of its bidden virtues. The legal right which obedience confers is one thing. The personal rightness which obedience confers is another. Obedience for a legal right is everywhere denounced in the New Testament, but obedience for a personal rightness is everywhere urged. For the one end, the law has altogether lost its efficacy; and we, in our own utter inability to substantiate its claims, must seek to be justified only by the righteousness of Christ. For the other end, the law retains its office as a perfect guide and exemplar of all virtue; and; we, empowered by strength from on high to follow its dictates, must seek to be sanctified by the transference of its bidden uprightness upon our own characters. It is no longer the purchase-money by which to buy your right of entry to the marriage supper of the Lamb; but it is the wedding garment, without which you will never be seated among the beatitudes of that festival. To be meet in law, and without violence done to the jurisprudence of heaven, we must be invested by faith with the righteousness of Christ. To be meet in character, and without offence or violence to the spirit or the taste of heaven’s society, we must be invested with the graces of our own personal righteousness. (T. Chalmers, D.D.)


Verses 5-11

Romans 10:5-11

For Moses describeth the righteousness of the law.

The righteousness of the law

I. Requires absolute obedience--

1. In every point.

2. In the spirit as in the letter.

3. In the past as in the future.

II. Is utterly impossible to man, because--

1. He is sinful.

2. Has actually sinned.

III. Is described by Moses to prepare us for Christ, and it discovers our--

1. Misery.

2. Helplessness.

3. Danger. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The righteousness of the law and of faith

I. The righteousness of the law requires--

1. A sinless nature.

2. A perfect obedience.

II. The righteousness of faith requires--

1. No impossible achievements.

2. But a believing reception of the truth as it is in Jesus. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The righteousness of the law and of faith

The apostle does not here oppose the covenant given by Moses to that given by Christ, for the latter as well as the former words were spoken by Moses concerning the covenant that then was (Deuteronomy 30:11-14). But it is the covenant of grace, which God through Christ has established with men in all ages that is here opposed to the covenant of works made with Adam in Paradise.

I. The righteousness which is of the law required--

1. That man should fulfil all righteousness inward and outward, negative and positive.

2. That this righteousness should be perfect in degree. No allowance could be made for falling short in any particular.

3. That it should be perfectly uninterrupted.

II. The righteousness which is of faith.

1. By this is meant that condition of justification which was given by God to fallen man through the mediation of Christ (Genesis 3:15). It was a little more clearly revealed to Abraham (Genesis 22:16; Gen_22:18), and more fully made known to Moses and the prophets; but it, was not fully brought to light until Christ came.

2. This covenant saith not to, sinful man, “Perform unsinning obedience and live,” or he would have no more benefit through Christ than if he were required to “ascend into heaven,” etc. This were to mock human weakness. Strictly speaking, the covenant of grace doth not require us to do anything, but only to believe (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:11; Rom_4:23-25).

3. What, then, saith this covenant of forgiveness? “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” In the day that thou believest thou shalt surely live.

4. Now “this word is nigh thee.” The condition of life is plain, easy, always at hand. The moment that thou believest thou shalt be saved.

III. The difference between the two.

1. The one supposes him to whom it is given to be already happy and holy, and prescribes the condition wherein he may continue so; the other supposes him to be unholy and unhappy, and prescribes the condition wherein he may regain what he has lost.

2. The first in order to man’s continuance in God’s favour prescribed a perfect obedience; the second-in order to man’s recovery of God’s favour prescribes only faith.

3. The one required of Adam and his posterity to pay the price themselves, in consideration cf which they were to receive God’s blessing; in the other, seeing that we have nothing to pay, God “frankly forgives us all,” provided only we believe in Him who hath paid the price for us. The first required what is now afar off, the second what is nigh at hand.

IV. The folly of trusting in “the righteousness which is of the law.”

1. Those who do this set out wrong; their first step is a fundamental mistake; for before they can claim any blessing on the terms of this covenant they must suppose themselves in his state with whom it was made. And how foolish to forget that it was not given to man when “dead in trespasses and sins,” but when he was alive to God, and that it was never designed for the recovery of God’s favour, but only for the continuance thereof.

2. They do not consider what manner of obedience the law requires, nor their inability to perform it. What folly to offer our poor doings, mixed as they are with many sins, to Him who is strict to mark what is done amiss, and in whose sight no flesh living is justified.

V. The wisdom of submitting to the “righteousness which is of God by faith.” This appears from three considerations.

1. That it is acting according to truth and to the real nature of things. For what is it more than to acknowledge our sinfulness and helplessness.

2. That it is the righteousness of God--the method chosen by God Himself. Now as it is not meet for man to say unto God, “What doest Thou?” so it is true wisdom to acquiesce in whatever He has chosen.

3. That as it was of mere grace and undeserved mercy that God has vouchsafed to sinful man any way of reconciliation with Himself, whatever method He is pleased to appoint it is doubtless our wisdom to thankfully accept.

4. That it is wisdom to aim at the best end by the best means. Now the best end a fallen creature can pursue is happiness in God. But the best, nay the only, means of attaining this is submitting to the righteousness which is of God by faith.

Conclusion: Then do not say in thy heart--

1. “I must first do this; conquer sin, go to church,” etc., but first believe.

2. “I am not good enough.” Thou never wilt be till thou believe.

3. “I am not sensible enough of my sins.” It may be that God will make thee so by believing. (John Wesley, M.A.)

The two ways of salvation

Two ways to eternal life are here contrasted. The one is by doing; the other is by believing. The one by doing a full and finished righteousness for ourselves; the other by believing that Christ has done a full and sufficient righteousness for us. There are two places at which these respective ways may be compared with each other.

I. At the entrance of the two ways--when man, under the first effectual visitation of earnestness, resolves to go forth in busy search after the good of his eternity.

1. And here a consideration meets us at the very outset of the way of doing.

2. From all this there is no release to the spiritual bankrupt, till the gospel puts its discharge into his hands. By this gospel there is a deed of amnesity made known, to which all are welcome. There is revealed to us a Surety who hath taken the whole of our debt upon Himself. And whereas in the way of doing, the very entrance was impracticably closed against us--this initial obstruction is entirely moved aside from the way of believing. Like the emancipated debtor to whom the fruits of all his future toil and diligence are now fully assured to him, a weight is taken off from the activities of nature. Our labour is no longer in vain--because now it is labour in the Lord; and every effort becomes a step in advance towards heaven.

II. After a man has set forth in the pursuit of this righteousness, and has made the weary struggle it may be of months or of years in order to attain it.

1. A thousand punctualities may be rendered, with the view to establish a merit in the eye of heaven’s Lawgiver, which never can be effectually done without a full and faultless adherence to Heaven’s law. Now, if conscience feel as it ought, there will throughout this whole process be an inappeasable disquietude--a self-dissatisfaction which no doings or deserts of our own can terminate. For, let it be observed, that, reach what elevation of virtue we may, the higher we proceed, we shall command a farther view of the spaces which still lie before us; or, in other words, we shall be more filled with a sense of the magnitude of our own shortcomings. The conscience, in fact, grows in sensibility, just as the conduct is more the object of our strict and scrupulous regulation. The presumptuous imagination of our sufficiency comes down when we thus bring it to the trial; and that impotency of which we were not aware at the outset, we are made to know and to feel experimentally. Meanwhile that is a sore drudgery in which we are implicated; and all the more fatiguing that it is so utterly fruitless. This is the grand failure. The hand can labour; but the heart cannot love. And after wasting and wearying ourselves with the operose drudgeries of a manifold observation, we still find that we are helpless defaulters from the first and the greatest commandment.

2. Now, it is when thus harassed, that the very outlet required is opened. The righteousness, which the sinner has so ineffectually tried to make out in his own person, has been already made out for him by another; and now lies for his acceptance. The sin, which hitherto has so hardened him with despondency and remorse, is now washed away by the blood of a satisfying expiation. What a mighty enlargement when the title-deed to heaven, for which he had been stretching forward with many long and laborious efforts, till he at last sunk down into exhaustion and despair, is put into his hand. He passes from death unto life. And when delivered from the burden of this felt impossibility, man breaks forth on a scene of enlargement; and with all the alacrity of an emancipated creature whose bonds have been loosed, he proceeds to offer the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and to call on the name of the Lord.

3. And let us not be afraid lest this judicial salvation should not bring a moral salvation in its train. The great author of that economy under which we live will sanctify as well as justify; and if we but trust in Christ, we shall be sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who will superadd the personal to the judicial righteousness, and make us meet in character as well as meet in law for that heaven, the door whereof Christ hath opened to us. (T. Chalmers, D.D.)

The four witnesses

I. What moses saith (Romans 10:5). If you wish to be saved by the law you must do its commands and you shall live. The law is written in the ten commandments; you know them; and if you desire to live by them you must keep them. “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” Moses does not tone down the law to suit our fallen state, or talk of our doing our best and God’s being satisfied with our imperfect obedience if the law is once broken it is all over with you as to salvation thereby. You that hope to be saved by your works are indulging in a forlorn hope; whatever you may do or be in the future, the past has already ruined you. If you were to be saved by the law you should have begun without sin, continued without sin, and then it would be needful to end without sin. This is what Moses saith; hear it and be humbled.

II. What the gospel saith (Romans 10:6-9).

1. The gospel claims to be like the law in its clearness. Moses claimed for the law that it was within the range of their knowledge and understanding (Deuteronomy 30:11). The gospel says, “Believe and live,” quite as distinctly as Moses said, “Do and live.” No man doubts that if he had performed the law God would give him life; but it is equally certain that if we have believed in Christ we have eternal life.

2. It forbids the questions of despair. “Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend,” etc. When a man is awakened to a sense of sin he cries, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved? Surely it would need that I mount to heaven to own my sin, or dive to hell to bear my punishment. How is it possible that I can be saved?” This wail of despair takes many forms: one man puts it thus, “What doings can I perform by which I can be saved?” Another, despairing of deliverance by his doings, runs upon his feelings. Now, the gospel forbids us to dream in this fashion. Say not even in thy heart that anything is wanted as to doings or feelings in order to complete the righteousness which is wrought out by Jesus. Ah, then the heart foolishly cries, “I must know a great deal; as much as if I had been to heaven, or as if I had dived into the depths.” No, you must not: the gospel is simple; easy as the A B C of your childhood. Say not in thine heart that thou must be made into a scholar. No, trust in the sinner’s Saviour, and you are saved. Another says, “I must undergo a singular experience of heavenly delight, or hellish despair.” No, the righteousness of faith lies only in reliance upon the work of Jesus finished for you.

3. The gospel translates these questions, and then answers them. A voice cries, “Who shall ascend into heaven?” The gospel replies, if you did what would you do there, without the Saviour? You say, “Who shall descend into the deep?” Listen. If you were to descend there, what would you do without Him whom God has anointed to save? If you find Him it will not much matter where you find Him, in heaven or in the deep, for He must be almighty everywhere. Thou sayest, “Who shall ascend into heaven?” Why? “To bring Christ down?” Hear this! Jesus has come down--to the manger, the Cross, the grave. And our salvation lies not in our descending, but in Christ’s descending. You need not “bring up Christ again from the dead,” for the Lord has risen indeed. And your hope lies wholly in what this Son of God did in His descent and ascent. Now, soul, thou hast nothing to do with asking vain questions; thou hast to accept the result of the Saviour’s actual performances.

4. The gospel declares this word of life by faith in the risen Christ to be near us. As your next door neighbour’s house is not hard to get at, so neither is salvation by the gospel.

III. What the Scripture saith (Romans 10:11).

1. That “whosoever” in all the world, throughout all the ages, shall trust on Christ shall never be ashamed of having done so; he shall never turn round on his dying bed, and cry, “I made a mistake in trusting Christ.” Cardinal Bellarmine thought that we might trust in our works; but admitted that inasmuch as no man could be sure that he had done enough, it was safest to trust altogether to the merits of Jesus. I have always felt obliged to the Cardinal for that admission; because the best is good enough for me.

2. That no man is forbidden to believe (Romans 10:12). There never was a sinner yet to whom God said, “You must not trust My Son”; on the contrary, it is written, “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.”

3. That though your faith should only be strong enough to lead you to pray, yet it shall save you (Romans 10:13).

IV. What experience saith.

1. That it is the grandest way of living in the world.

2. That it enables men to face death with courage. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise.

The righteousness of faith is

I. Relative.

1. The gift of God.

2. Through Christ.

II. Easy of attainment.

1. You have no great thing to do.

2. But simply believe.

III. Is sure. Thou shalt be saved. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The righteousness of faith

The apostle employs a strong personification, investing “the righteousness which is of faith” with powers of speech in general, and of discriminative and persuasive speech in particular. The personified object is represented as “of,” i.e., “from,” faith. Not that it originates “in” or is identical “with” faith. It is conveyed to the soul of the recipient “by” faith, and as elsewhere represented is from God to be enjoyed by man on the condition of faith. If it were gifted with speech it would say to each man, “Say not in thy heart,” etc. No such effort is required. Men who have fallen into unrighteousness can be lifted up again. It is a great work. But it is not to be effected by some supernatural effort on the part of men themselves. They do not need, e.g., to soar aloft to find Christ and induce Him to come down to save. The indispensable supernatural forthputting of energy has already been put forth by one who is “mighty to save to the uttermost,” The apostle weaves the woof of the utterances of his personified pleader into the warp of some grand oratorical pleading addressed by Moses to the Israelites on the eve of his disappearance within the veil (Deuteronomy 30:11-14). In Romans 10:7 an alternative is oratorically introduced, not identical with that laid down by Moses, but substantially parallel. Moses spoke of “going over the sea.” But the apostle, for his peculiar purpose, modifies and intensifies the representation. He desired to make the way plain for introducing a reference to Christ’s resurrection; and hence he speaks of the world of the deceased, representing it, in one of its awesome aspects, as an abyss. Will it be needful to go down into that dismal region, which, as “bottomless,” has never been explored. “Say not Who shall make that terrible descent?” The personified righteousness continues to speak, and as it speaks it draws attention to “the word” in which it is conveyed to the soul. In Deuteronomy it is not righteousness that speaks, but Moses in God’s name. Hence there is no rhetorical personification, but the living personality of the lawgiver. And it is with, his own living voice that he specifies “the commandment which God commanded, and says, “It is not hidden, nor afar off, but nigh … that thou mayest do it.” “The word” referred to is the commandment exhibiting the duty devolving on the Israelites. The apostle’s reference is different. The “word” with him is the gospel--“the word of faith,” so called because it is the object towards which faith points and in which it terminates. The gospel is “a word,” though not necessarily or generally a mere vocable. As there may be several vocables in a word of exhortation, so in the proclamation of the word of faith harmonious groups of vocables may be requisite. Sometimes, indeed, it may be condensed into a single one such as “Jesus,” “Christ,” “propitiation,” etc. But more frequently it expands itself into some such worded utterance as “God so loved the world,” etc. Let a man study till he understands this word; or let him master the vocables referred to, and a great light will dawn on his spirit. The personified pleader says of the word, “It is near thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart.” It has been brought near by proclamation, or conversation, or by some kindred modification of instrumentality, or by some more subtle influence still. Men heedlessly utter gospel words with their mouths; and both before and after utterance, the words are in the heart or mind. Like other words, however, they have both a kernel and a husk; and too often is the attention occupied with the exterior to the neglect of the interior. (J. Morison, D.D.)

What saith the righteousness of faith?

Seek--

I. Not in heaven. Christ is here,

II. Not in the grave. Christ is risen.

III. Not afar off. Christ is nigh thee.

IV. In thy mouth, in thy heart, if thou canst but believe. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The cry of the soul and the answer of the gospel

A man of poetic genius has ever a strong tendency to personifications. He gives life to dead things, thought and feeling to unconscious objects, and makes even dumb matter speak. Hence the apostle here personifies Christianity; he makes her speak to the men who are looking out in the distance for the good which stood in all its plenitude by their side. His description of Christianity here is simple, compendious, and expressive. He calls it the righteousness which is of faith, which means the system which is to make men right by believing in the heart. A heart-belief in the gospel makes men right--right in their spirit, motives, lives, relations. Note here--

I. The cry of the soul, “Say not in thine heart,” etc.

1. The spirit of this cry is identical throughout the race. What is it? It is a heart craving for some good in the external, the distant, and the supernatural. This craving explains much of the history of the ages.

2. The objects of this cry are various throughout the race. Whilst all cry for good, all do not cry for the same kind of good. The summum bonum varies with different men. The text implies that the men addressed are seeking the Messianic good, and crying out for Christ. This was the grand wish of the Jewish world. Christ is the desire of nations. If we analyse the cry we shall-find that it includes--

II. The answer of the gospel.

1. The answer discourages this tendency. “Say not in thine heart.” Christianity discourages the tendency in man to look for good outside, far off, and in the miraculous; it bids him to look within, enjoy the near and the natural.

2. The answer reveals the provision. “The word is nigh thee,” etc. The good, to satisfy the deepest cravings of the human soul, is to be found in that Word which was made flesh and dwelt among us. Christ meets all the exigencies and aspirations of the soul, and He is near to every one who has the revelation. Near--

The cry of humanity and the response of the gospel

I. Man cries for the supernatural (verse 6).

II. Christianity responds to man’s cry (verse 8).

III. The practical acceptance of the response is salvation (verse 9). (Homilist.)

Important questions answered

The questions asked may be through unbelief, or embarrassment, or anxiety, or possibly through all three combined. The anxious follower after righteousness is not disappointed by an impracticable code, nor mocked by an unintelligible revelation: the word is near him, therefore accessible; plain and simple, and therefore apprehensible; and, we may fairly add deals with definite historical fact, and therefore certain; so that his salvation is nor, contingent on an amount of performance which is beyond him, and therefore inaccessible; irrational, and therefore inapprehensible; undefined, and therefore involved in uncertainty. (Dean Alford.)

The present blessing

Your salvation is in Christ, and that salvation is marked--

I. By clearness. “Who shall ascend into heaven?” etc., is the language of one bewildered. Salvation is felt as a difficult and perplexing problem. The apostle reminds us that it is plain and intelligible. In verse 9 you have the Apostle’s Creed.

1. It is a definite creed. A dying German metaphysician exclaimed, “Only one man in Germany understands my philosophy, and he doesn’t understand it.” But we are not called upon to struggle with incomprehensible speculations, but to receive simple, historical facts. To believe in the Christ: His incarnation, His atoning death, His resurrection, His reign at the right hand of God, dispensing grace and joy to all who trust in Him.

2. It is a simple creed. But you say, “It is full of mysteries.” True, but you are called upon to rest in the facts, not to understand the mysteries. “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” Thousands of men enjoy the sunshine who know nothing of astronomy; admire the rainbow knowing nothing of optics. God will some day reveal more fully the philosophy of redemption, but to-day I am to take God at His word, and leave the mysteries. Believe that in your lost estate God loved you, that He worked out your salvation in Christ, that if you only rest in Christ God will not cast you out. “If thou shalt believe,” etc.

3. It is a short creed. Dr. Porson declared he should require fifty years to satisfy himself on all points of divinity, but in five hours you may grasp the truth which saves the soul. There is no intellectual impossibility. It is not as difficult to become a saint as to become a Homer or Newton. We cannot write an “Iliad” or a “Principia,” but we can believe that God loves us, and that He for Christ’s sake blots out our sin.

II. By nearness. “The word is nigh thee,” etc. It is not in the heights or depths. Our poet says, “A man’s best things lie nearest him, lie close about his feet.” It is so in daily life, and also in spiritual things.

1. All we need for the healing of our nature is here. Some maintain that we need never have recourse to foreign drugs, that God has planted in each locality the very plants which can cure the diseases of that locality. “God put such and such a plant that heals sore throats by the riverside,” they tell us, “because where the bane is, the antidote is.” However this may be, it is a grand thing to know that the Plant of Renown, the Tree of Life whose leaves are for the healing of the nations, is close to us.

2. All we need for the perfecting of our life is here. In the third verse we read of Israel “going about to establish their own righteousness.” A plant has not to go about looking for the sunshine, the dew, the rain; all that it has to do is to bare its heart and take in the precious influences which wait upon it. So the truth which saves, the love which purifies, the faith which uplifts, the power which perfects, are all about us, waiting only the opening of our heart to take them in. By this time a great number of our rich countrymen have left us for milder climes; but the poor and busy amongst us cannot take our flight to find health and life beyond the sea--we must stay where we are, and die, it may be, under the rigours of an English winter. But, thank God, the poorest of us for our spiritual health and salvation need not to cross the sea. “Say not who shall ascend into heaven, or go beyond the sea.” The world of health and blessing is about us already. Men are seeking for truth and power as if they were up in the sky, down in the depths; but the saving truth has been in our lips, the saving grace in our heart from childhood, and all we have to do is to realise that language, to exercise that grace. The Redeemer is not distant geographically, nor historically. The difficulty is not to find Christ, but to avoid Him. The word of salvation is in thy mouth, the power in thine heart--believe it, use it, and you shall know your Saviour nigh at hand and not afar off.

III. By freeness. “Who shall ascend,” etc. Some impossible task is contemplated. But the argument is, all has been done already; all we have to do is gratefully to accept what is pressed upon us. Justification and eternal life are free gifts. I know that men do not like to think so; they fancy they can work up to them, but this is in strict consistency with God’s method of action in the intellectual world. Men may work day and night, know well the theory of their art, strictly observe rule and order, but it is all to little purpose if they are not originally gifted men. Did the poor ploughman Robert Burns “learn” to make poetry? Did that tinker of Bedford “learn” to dream? No; they were gifted, and it was easy to them to sing, to write, to paint the very grandest things the world has ever seen. So it is with true righteousness. Genius, however, is to the few, but the same Lord over all is rich in grace to all who call upon Him. Some of you have long sought to fulfil the law, and you have miserably failed. You could not climb the sky of moral perfection, you could not penetrate its depths; but find in Christ abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness, and you shall delightfully fulfil the commandment in all its heights and depths. (W. L. Watkinson.)

But what saith it? The word is nigh thee.--The importance of simple faith in the Word:--To bring Christ down from above, or to bring Him up from the dead, would be to make Him an object of sight. A current aphorism is, that seeing is believing; yet Scripture distinguishes between the two. “Faith is the assurance of things not seen,” and belief through the medium of the senses is far less valued than a belief in a testimony (Luke 24:25; Mark 16:14; 1 Peter 1:7-8; Romans 4:21). But there is a third way in which an absent thing might be viewed by us--viz., as an object of conception, an act often conjoined with faith, yet perfectly distinct from it. One might conceive a thing without any belief in its reality; and, on the other hand, though one can scarcely believe without some conception of the object of faith--yet may that conception be so dull as almost to justify the expression of our believing in the dark. You might believe in the existence of an absent friend, and in his affection for yourself; and this belief might or might not be as strong to-morrow as it is to-day. His whole countenance, manner, and voice, bespeaking the utmost cordiality--these may all tell more vividly on the imagination at one time than another. This conception flits and fluctuates, as if dependent on the ever varying mood of the spirit--at one time gleaming forth towards the vivacity of sense, and at another fading almost to extinction. But the remarkable thing is that, under all these varieties of conception, the faith might remain invariable. There may be a dimness in the contemplation, without the slightest mixture of a doubt in the object contemplated. What is true of an earthly friend is true of our Friend in heaven. He is far removed out of sight, but may become the object of faith through the word that is nigh unto us. And He may also become the object of conception, which is a sort of substitute for sight. But let us never forget that as faith without sight is all the more pleasing to God in that it subsists on its own unborrowed strength without the aid of the senses--so might faith be in the absence of any lucid or enlivening conception, having nothing to sustain it but the simple credit which it gives to the word of the testimony. Yet while we hold these bright and exhilarating views of the Saviour to be unspeakably precious (John 14:21), we should distinguish between the conception and the faith--because while the one may be a minister of sensible comfort, it is the other which is the guarantee of our salvation. The man who, to repair the insufficiency of the word, would bring down Christ from heaven, but exemplifies the man who, as if to make up for the same insufficiency, strains but ineffectually to frame some picturesque idea of Him there. The danger is that he may compass himself about with sparks of his own kindling, or walk in the light of his own fancy or his own fire. Let him keep, then, determinedly by the word which is nigh, rather than by the imagery wherewith he peoples the distinct and lofty places which are away from him. He who has conception but not faith, will at length lie down in sorrow. He who has faith, but from the want of conception walketh in darkness, and has no light, is still bidden trust in the name of God and stay upon His word. He who conceiveth may have sensible comfort; but, with or without this, he who believeth is safe (Isaiah 50:10-11). (T. Chalmers, D.D.)

The apparatus of salvation nigh

Once in the city of Rome, giving a gentleman of the place an account of a sermon I had heard a friar preach in the Coloseum, I said that though many things in it pleased me, one did not: he never gave the people to understand that they might go for absolution direct to God without the offices of a priest. That intelligent and noble man leaned across the table, and, with an eager look, said, “Do you believe that a man can obtain absolution without the intermediation of a priest?” Of course, I replied that our view of the place and work of the minister of the gospel was directly the opposite of that. Instead of his being a power between God and the sinner, we hold that his happiest work is to make the sinner feel that there is no power, visible or invisible, between him and the Saviour, and so to encourage him and lead him direct to the one Mediator. He then put some question which seemed to say, “What, then, is the apparatus of absolution?” This, he was told, was settled by a few words of St. Paul. “The word is nigh you” (Romans 10:6-10). Here the whole apparatus is “nigh” the man, in his own person--his heart to trust in the Saviour, his mouth to call upon Him; that is all the apparatus. Wherever a man stands feeling his need of salvation, there are all things now ready--the loving Saviour, the free pardon, the blood that speaketh peace, the heart to believe, the mouth to call upon the Lord. When the Roman heard this he looked up and said, “How grand that is! why, that could be done in a quarter of an hour.” Yes, it may be done in a quarter of an hour; for this salvation is a free gift (Matthew 7:7-8). (W. Arthur, M.A.)

Salvation near

It is said that some years ago a vessel sailing on the northern coast of the South American continent was observed to make signals of distress. When hailed by another vessel, they reported themselves as “dying for water!” “Dip it up, then,” was the response, “you are in the mouth of the Amazon river.” There was fresh water all around them, they had nothing to do but to dip it up, and yet they were dying of thirst, because they thought themselves to be surrounded by the salt sea. How often are men ignorant of their mercies! How sad that they should perish for lack of knowledge! Jesus is near the seeker even when he is tossed upon oceans of doubt. The sinner has but to stoop down and drink and live; and yet he is ready to perish, as if salvation were hard to find. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Even In thy mouth and in thy heart.--In the heart for our personal salvation; in the mouth for God’s glory and the salvation of ethers. In the heart and not in the mouth is cowardice; in the mouth and not in the heart is hypocrisy. The gospel believed is a fountain in the heart; the gospel possessed is the streams through the mouth. (T. Robinson, D.D.)

That is, the word of faith which we preach.--

The word of faith

I. Its nature.

1. It teaches faith.

2. Is offered to faith.

3. Inspires faith.

II. Its dispensation.

1. We are but dispensers.

2. Divinely commissioned.

3. To all who will receive it. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Faith is desire

Faith is desire. Never in the history of the world has it been, or can it be, that a longing towards Christ shall be a longing thrown back unsatisfied upon itself. You have but to trust, and you possess. We open the door for the entrance of Christ by the simple act of faith; and, blessed be His name, He can squeeze Himself through a little chink, and He does not require the gates should be flung wide open in order that, with some of His blessings, He may come in. (A. Maclaren, D.D.)

True preaching

Preaching is not the communication of information, the transfer of a dead sum or capital of facts or theories from one mind to another, but the opening of living fountains within the heart, the scattering of sparks which shall kindle where they fall; the planting of seeds of truth which shall take root in the new soil where they are cast, and striking their roots downward and sending their branches upward shall grow into goodly trees. (Abp. Trench.)

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God has raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.--

Mouth and heart

Paul’s great work was saving souls. This is one of the reasons why he so often gives us weighty condensations of the gospel. He prepared them for his brethren, as one provides for travellers portable meats. A compact sentence of this sort is a little Bible, a miniature Body of Divinity’, and he who composes such may be working as effectively for the salvation of men as another who preaches. Notice--

I. That the gospel is a gospel of faith, and this gospel is evidently intended for lost men.

1. The law continues life to those who have already life enough to do good work (verse 5); but the gospel saith not only that we shall live by it, but that we shall be saved by it, which implies that we are lost and ruined.

2. Jesus comes to bring salvation.

II. That saving faith concerns itself only about Jesus Himself. Read verses 6-9.

1. Unbelief saith, “Who shall ascend into heaven? Who shall descend into the abyss?” Unbelief is always starting questions. Faith is of another kind: she takes her stand where Christ is, and she says, “If salvation is anywhere it is in Him.”

2. Unbelief dreams of skies and seas, and all immeasurable things. “Who shall ascend into heaven?” Imagination beholds her mighty merits scaling the everlasting ramparts. At another time, when she is heavy, her dream is of a wretched diver into the deep seas of anguish, plunging down into the abyss to find the pearl of peace. Faith has done with dreams, for she has done with Sinai. With open eye faith reads facts. She reflects that Christ died, rose again, and is gone into glory.

3. Unbelief puts a sad slur upon Christ. She talks about going up to heaven: but that would imply that Jesus had never come down. She talks of descending into the abyss, as if Christ had never come up from the dead. The fact is, all that can be done has been done. Why do you want to do what is already done?

III. That saving faith has a confession to make. Observe--

1. This confession is put first.

2. What it is that is to be confessed: “The Lord Jesus.”

3. This confession is very definite. It is not to be an inference drawn in silence from your life, but a declared statement of the mouth. If the apostle meant that we were merely to obey Christ, he would have said so. Why is this? Because confession with the mouth is--

IV. That faith has a great comfort to enjoy.

1. She has truth of which she must speak with her mouth; but she has also facts which she ponders in her heart. “With thy heart believe that God hath raised Him from the dead”--does not only mean that you believe the fact, but so believe it that it warms and comforts our heart.

2. Why is salvation promised especially to this? Because--

V. That faith has a sure promise to rest upon. “If thou believest … thou shalt be saved.”

1. The singular pronoun, “thou,” sets its mark upon you. Put thine ear to this telephone; a voice speaks to thee.

2. Observe the absence of “ifs” and “buts.” It is not “thou mayest be saved,” but “thou shalt be saved.”

3. There is a sort of passiveness about the expression “be saved.” The text does not speak about what you are going to do, but about something that is to be done for and in you.

4. There never was, and there never will be, a man that with his mouth confessed the Lord Jesus, and with his heart believed that God raised Him from the dead, that was not saved. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Faith and confession

Distinguished by this text of belief, and confession of that belief, men are divided into four classes. There are those

Faith and confession

There is no Christian faith without Christian confession, and vice versa. Confession is just faith turned from its obverse side to its reverse. The two sides of the precious unity are inseparable and mutually indispensable. When faith comes forth in silence to announce itself, and to proclaim the glory and grace of the Lord, its voice is confession. (J. Morison, D.D.)

Confession of faith

Paul is making an earnest effort to show how simple for both Jew and Gentile the way of salvation is. It is heart-faith in Jesus. It is life-devotion to His honour. Three principles are laid down with the utmost assurance.

I. A man should have a heart-faith in Christ to confess. Profession without such heart-life is self-delusion or hypocrisy, and has most pernicious influence on the man. The heart-life is something between Christ and the soul. None may intermeddle with it. But it has its tests, which discover it to others. Heart-faith is--

1. Sincere and loving.

2. In Christ: Christ risen: Christ raised by God.

3. Tones the life with righteousness.

Can these tests be applied now by men to themselves? Can these tests be applied now by men to their fellow men? Show they can. The sincere response to these is the abiding confidence of godly men.

II. A man should find out the best way is which to confess such heart-life. It is due to Christ that he should. It is needful for himself that he should. Life repressed is imperilled. Illustration. Archimedes running into the street, saying, “Eureka. I have found it,” when his problem was solved. And what is the best way in which to confess?

1. A life on all of which lies the Christly stamp.

2. Association with those who stand out as manifestly Christ’s.

3. Obedience to Christ in any public symbolic act--as Lord’s Supper.

Illustration. How these would come home to timid secret disciples among Romans. In these Christian times such confession is still demanded.

III. A man will surely find that God’s blessing rests on full obedience: in heart-belief, and lip, and life confession. Remember Christ’s words--“Ashamed of Me before men.” Blessing comes--

1. To the man himself--in fixity of mind and of life.

2. To others--in the example of His firmness, and in the work which confessed disciples undertake. Conclusion: Public confession of Christ must not be delayed until either--

Confession of faith, public

There was one Victorinus, famous in Rome as a teacher of rhetoric, who in his old age was converted to Christianity, and came to Simplicianus, who was an eminent man, whispering softly in his ears, “I am a Christian.” But the holy man answered, “I will not believe it, nor count thee so, till I see thee among the Christians in the church.” At which he laughed, saying, “Do these walls make a Christian? Cannot I be such unless I openly profess it, and let the world know the same? “ A while after being more confirmed in the faith, and considering that, if he should thus continue ashamed of Christ, Christ would be ashamed of him in the last day, he changed his language, and came to Simplicianus, saying, “Let us go to the church: I will now in earnest be a Christian.” And there, though a private confession of his faith might have been sufficient, yet he chose to make it open, saying, “That he had openly professed rhetoric, which was not a matter of salvation, and should he be afraid to own the Word of God in the congregation of the faithful? (Biblical Museum.)

Confession of faith the glory of Christians

As the emperor always wears the diadem upon his head, so let us everywhere carry about the confession of our heart. The crown cannot so adorn the emperor as confession and faith the Christian. (Chrysostom.)

Confessing the Lord Jesus

This is a short chain to reach from earth to heaven. And God meant it to be easy. But its ease is its difficulty. Can this be really all?

I. As to faith--“If thou shalt believe,” etc.

1. All real faith lies in the heart, not in the understanding; it is not the result of reasoning; no education will give it. I have to feel--in the closest personality--that Jesus died for me. If your faith has been inoperative, may not the reason be that it has not yet been heart work?

2. But why does God say, “Believe that God raised Him from the dead” instead of “that He died for you”?

II. As to confession. What is “the confession of the mouth”?

1. It may be that general acknowledgment of Christ, and the great doctrines of His religion, which ought to characterise our daily conversation. And here most of us must plead guilty to the charge that we do not show “whose we are, and whom we serve,” by speaking of Christ and the great truths of the Christian religion. And yet if all we profess to believe of Christ be really true--if we owe to Him every comfort and every hope--if He is really my Brother, my Friend, my Saviour, my King, “out of the abundance of the heart” would not “the month speak”? We read, “They that feared the Lord spake often one to another.” To talk in generalities about religion requires no effort, and brings no shame. The world likes it. But to talk of Christ requires an effort, and offends people. And yet it is a very solemn thought that Christ has said, “Whosoever shall confess Me,” etc. Therefore it is no mean test of a believer, and we cannot wonder that it is made one of the conditions of salvation.

2. There can be no doubt that, from the first, all Christians were required to make, at some time, a public declaration of their faith. It is of this that St. Paul says to Timothy--“Thou hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.”

Confessing Christ

I. What are we to confess?

1. That Christ is risen. The resurrection of Jesus was the decision of all controversies between Him and His enemies. They had invented stories to discredit it. To confess Christ, therefore, was to declare for Christ against the Jewish rulers. And as the Gentile philosophers scorned the resurrection, to confess Christ was to brave this scorn.

2. Christ’s official character as the Messiah, which He suspended on His resurrection.

3. His personal dignity, as proved by the fact (Romans 1:3-4).

4. The sufficiency and the exclusive efficacy of his righteousness and atonement. To confess His resurrection is to glory in His cross and passion.

5. His sole and supreme authority. We must acknowledge Him as the only Lord of the conscience, and if we do this we shall follow His will, let the world say what they may. This practical confession is indispensable. In the confession of the lips without it there is no sincerity. The apostle speaks cf some who professed that they knew God, while in works they denied Him. The practical denial was the true testimony.

6. His title to Divine worship and adoration. This is suggested by verses11-13. In all this the avowal must be sincere and open, no silent reserve, no ashamed concealment, no disguising and palliating of the truth, no trimming and artful evasion.

II. Why are we to confess? Because--

1. Jesus is well entitled to it, both for what He is and what He bath done (John 1:1-3; 2 Corinthians 8:9). Away with ingratitude so base that would disown or shrink from acknowledging such a friend!

2. It is one of the required and reasonable evidences of faith. There is no faith where there is no confession. And this evidence is of the utmost importance and value. Evidence of personal interest in Christ must be added to the evidence of the truth itself to give stability to personal hope and confidence (1 John 3:19; 2 Corinthians 13:5).

3. It is intimately connected with salvation. The terms expressing this connection are equally explicit with those which express the connection of faith with justification. If you do not make confession you do not believe, you are not justified, and cannot be saved.

4. It distinguishes the believer from the world, and is opposed to everything like neutrality. A man must be on one side or on the other. There must be no “halting between two opinions,” and compromising with the so-called Christian world, any more than with the world of the avowedly unbelieving and ungodly. (R. Wardlaw, D.D.)

Confessing Christ

I. What does it embrace?

1. A hearty reception of Christ (Luke 8:40; John 20:28; 1 Peter 1:8-9).

2. An acknowledgment of the power of the Holy Spirit.

3. A public acknowledgment.

II. Excuses men offer for not confessing Christ.

1. Personal unworthiness.

2. Moral weakness; fear of inconsistency; will not hold out; bondage to sin.

3. Have not sufficient knowledge--

4. Will defer it for the present.

III. Reasons given in the Scriptures why men do not confess Christ. Because of--

1. Unbelief (John 5:38; Joh_5:40; Joh_8:24; 1 John 5:10-11; 1 Corinthians 2:14).

2. Insincerity (Jeremiah 17:9; Jer_29:13).

3. Fear of man; sensitiveness to ridicule; ashamed of Christ (John 7:13; Joh_12:42; Mark 8:38).

4. Love of the world (James 4:4; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4; 1 John 2:15-16; Proverbs 1:24-32).

IV. Reasons why all should confess Christ (Hebrews 3:12-13; 1 John 4:15; Romans 2:4-5; Proverbs 27:1; John 3:36). “What shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17; Isaiah 55:7). (W. H. Van Doren.)

Confessing Christ

I. Confession is--

1. To say the same thing with others; to agree with.

2. To promise.

3. To acknowledge, to declare a person or thing to be what he or it really is.

II. To confess Christ, therefore, is to acknowledge Him to be what He really is and declares Himself to be--

1. The Son of God.

2. God manifest in the flesh.

3. The Saviour of the world.

4. The Lord.

III. The nature of this confession.

1. It is not enough that we cherish the conviction in our hearts, or confess it to ourselves, to friends who agree with us, or to God.

2. It must be done publicly, or before men--foes as well as friends, amid good and evil report, when it brings reproach and danger as well as when it incurs no risk.

3. It must be with the mouth. It is not enough that men may infer from our conduct that we are Christians, we must audibly declare it.

4. This must be done--

5. It must be sincere. “Not every one that saith, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven.” It is only when the outward act is a revelation of the heart that it has any value.

IV. Its advantages.

1. It strengthens faith.

2. It is a proof of regeneration, because it supposes the apprehension of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

3. It is an indispensable condition of salvation because--

V. Its obligation.

1. It is not merely a commandment.

2. It is the highest moral duty to acknowledge the truth, and especially to acknowledge God to be God.

3. It is the most direct means we can take to honour Christ, and to bring others to acknowledge Him. Conclusion. Read Matthew 10:32; Luke 12:8; Mark 8:38; 2 Timothy 2:12; 1 John 4:2; 1Jn_4:15. (C. Hodge, D.D.)

Confessing Christ, ashamed of

A minister in Brooklyn was recently called upon by a business man, who said, “I come, sir, to inquire if Jesus Christ will take me into the concern as a silent partner.” “Why do you ask?” said the minister. “Because I wish to be a member of the firm, and do not wish anybody to know it,” said the man. The reply was, “Christ takes no silent partners. The firm must be, ‘Jesus Christ & Co.,’ and the names of the ‘Co.,’ though they may occupy a subordinate place, must all be written out on the signboard.”

Confessing Christ: decisive

A young seaman, who had only a few nights before been converted, laying a blank card before a friend, requested him to write a few words upon it, because, as he said, “You will do it more plainly than I can.” “What must I write?” said my friend. “Write these words, sir, ‘I love Jesus--do you?’” After he had written them my friend said, “Now you must tell me what you are going to do with the card.” He replied, “I am going to sea to-morrow, and I am afraid if I do not take a stand at once I may begin to be ashamed of my religion, and let myself be laughed out of it altogether. Now as soon as I go on board I shall walk straight to my bunk and nail up this card upon it, that every one may know that I am a Christian, and may give up all hope of making me either ashamed or afraid of adhering to the Lord.” (Clerical Library.)

Confessing Christ, from gratitude

At the battle of Williamsburg a soldier, who had the artery of his arm severed by a fragment of a shell, and was fast bleeding to death, saw a surgeon going to the front for orders, and, lifting his bleeding member, cried, “Doctor, please!” The surgeon dismounted, bound up the vessel, and gave all possible relief. As he started on, the man said, “Doctor, what is your name?” The reply was, “No matter.” “But, doctor,” said the wounded man, “I want to tell my wife and children who saved me.”

Confessing Christ inevitable

It is impossible to believe with the heart and not confess with the mouth--this were to have a fire which did not burn, a light which did not illuminate, a principle which did not actuate, a hope which did not stimulate. Genuine Christians are temples of the living God; but think ye to be temples, and yet that no voice shall go forth from the secret shrine? Not so. There must issue a sound from the recesses of the sanctuary, the sound as of a presiding deity, eloquent to all around of the power and authority of the Being that dwelleth within. Therefore, whilst we admit that it is faith which is the instrument of justification, we can understand why confession should also be given as that which issues in salvation; even as we can understand why works should be spoken of as procuring us immortality. Confession is but the necessary result of belief--the demonstration and exhibition. It is but faith showing itself in speech, even as works are but belief showing itself in action. Speech is one of the most distinguishing properties of man. Ought, then, the hand, the ear, the eye, to be pressed into the service of religion, and is the tongue to be exempt? Nay, this best member must do its part, otherwise is the whole man in rebellion against his Maker. (H. Melvill, B.D.)

Confessing Christ: its necessity

I. Confession is the necessary expression of faith in Christ.

1. Lively emotions usually find expression.

2. Especially those which deeply affect the whole life.

3. If, then, faith really saves, confession cannot be found wanting.

II. Courageous confession is the touchstone of faith.

1. While faith is hidden its operation is hidden.

2. Weak faith, by its want of confession, shows its defectiveness. It has not yet attained to the assurance of salvation. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The faith that makes men righteous

The late Professor C. S. Harrington, held in such high esteem for his deep spiritual attainments, as well as for his thorough scholarship, wrote near the close of life:--“The faith that makes men righteous is the faith that fastens simply and trustingly on the Lord Jesus Christ as the only, all-sufficient, atoning Saviour. It is that faith in Jesus that blots our transgressions, makes our record clear. It is Jesus that gives spiritual life. It is He that continues it. This faith merges the believer’s life into the life of Christ. It dares not, it wishes not, a moment’s separation. It knows no historic past; it deals only in present tenses. It echoes Paul’s prayer, ‘Let me be found in Him.’ I cannot tell the process; I cannot explain the power by which the black coal is transformed into the gleaming diamond; how much less can I tell how, by the mystery of the new birth, the lost, dead soul lives by the merit of Jesus! I cannot tell how the living tree gets its flower and fruit from the dead substance in which it is rooted, and on which it feeds; how much less can I tell how the wounds, the blood, the death of Christ gives life to the soul dead in trespasses and sins, and clothes it with the fruitage of holiness! Or how can I tell the end of this Divine work, when the Giver of spiritual life shall crown it with life eternal? when dust and ashes, this body, shall spring from its sepulchre and appear in the glorified body of the resurrection? But it shall be done ‘according to the working of the power whereby He is able to subdue all things unto Himself.’ Enough for me that this is God’s way, and the work is worthy of God.”

Trusting Christ

If a king should give to one of his subjects a ring, and say to him, “When you are in distress or disgrace, simply send me that ring, and I will do all for you that is needful,” if that man should wilfully refuse to send it, but purchase presents, or go about to do some singular feats of valour in order to win his monarch’s favour, you would say, “What a fool he is! Here is a simple way, but he will not avail himself of it, he wastes his wits in inventing new devices, and toils away his life in following out plans that must end in disappointment.” Is not this the case with all those who refuse to trust Christ? The Lord has assured them that if they trust Jesus they shall be saved; but they go about after ten thousand imaginings, and let their God, their Saviour, go.

Believing with the heart

You have only to observe the character of the truths which revelation unfolds, and you may see clearly that belief presupposes the possession, or requires the exercise of those virtues whose seat must be the heart. There must be humility in him who believes, for he must cordially confess himself unclean and undone. There must be submission of the understanding to God, for much which has to be received is not explained. There must be willingness to suffer, for Christianity summons to tribulation. There must be willingness to labour, for Christianity sets man about the most arduous of duties. What then? Is faith nothing more than an involuntary act, depending simply on the quantity of evidence, and therefore wholly unworthy of being exalted into a condition for the bestowment of blessings? Is it nothing that in him who believes there must be candour and freedom from prejudice, sincerity of purpose, an abandonment of all good opinion of himself, an entire resignation of his judgment to God, a willingness to submit to insult, a determination to enter into combat with the world, the flesh, and the devil? Are we to be told that though there must indeed be this great combination in every man who cordially believes in revelation, it is, nevertheless, a surprising thing that faith should be so dignified in the Bible, that it should be used as the test of admission into the privileges of the gospel? For our own part, when we consider what faith presupposes, what obstacles there are in the constitution of man to the belief of Christian truths, we can only feel that if God did not work on the human heart the whole world would be infidel. We do not know any achievement so remarkable, so little to have been expected, from a proud, prejudiced, and depraved creature such as man naturally is, as the believing in a record so humiliating, so condemnatory of lust, so rigid in enjoining difficult duties as the gospel of Jesus Christ. (H. Melvill, B.D.)

Redemptive faith

I. The faith by which man is made righteous and saved is the faith of the heart. Faith in general is conviction arising from evidence.

1. The faith of the intellect is based on the evidence of the senses, or on the results of reasoning. Mathematical reasoning, with its definitions, postulates, axioms, etc., metaphysical proofs of the existence of God, the external evidences of Divine revelation, appeal to the mind as distinguished from the heart. Education, prejudice, circumstances, and associations frequently determine the mind to a languid acquiescence in various doctrines.

2. The faith of the heart supposes the assent of the understanding, the approval of the judgment, the submission and choice of the will.

II. The object of this faith is the resurrection of the Lord Jesus from the dead by the power of God. The Resurrection is presented--

1. As the object of our faith, rather than His death.

2. In a special point of view, viz., as having been accomplished by the power of God. In other passages Christ’s resurrection is ascribed to His own power, or to the energy of the Holy Spirit. As an act of the Father, it is designed--

III. Open confession of the Lord Jesus is an indispensable accompaniment of this faith.

1. What is to be confessed? Jesus, as--

2. Why is this confession enjoined? It is required--

The instructor to whom you owe your career, the lawyer who has saved your property, the physician who has saved your life, will you not thankfully speak of them? How much more should you speak of the great Physician, Teacher, Advocate. How is it to be made? Avow your principles. Join His Church. Confess Him boldly, sincerely, wisely, meekly, reverentially.

Conclusion:

1. The way of salvation is--

2. A profession of religion is necessary. Christ demands it, and we are not His disciples, and compromise our salvation if we disobey. “With the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

3. Faith must be attended by confession, and confession by faith. (W. C. St. Freare.)

Salvation assured to all believers whether weak or strong

In crossing the sea I will suppose that there shall be a good stiff wind, and that the vessel may be driven out of her course, and be in danger. As I walk the deck, I see a poor girl on board; she is very weak and ill, quite a contrast to that fine, strong, burly passenger who is standing beside her, apparently enjoying the salt spray and the rough wind. Now suppose a storm should come on, which of these two is the more safe? Well, I cannot see any difference, because if the ship goes to the bottom, they will both go, and if the ship gets to the other side of the channel they will both land in security. The safety is equal when the thing upon which it depends is the same. So, if the weakest Christian is in the boat of salvation--that is, if he trusts Christ--he is as safe as the strongest Christian; because if Christ failed the weak one, He would fail the strong one too. If the least Christian who believes in Jesus does not get to heaven, then Peter himself will not get to heaven. If the smallest star which Christ ever kindled does not blaze in eternity, neither will the brightest star. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Salvation

I. Its import. Deliverance--

1. From sin.

2. From its consequences.

II. Its conditions.

1. Confession of Christ as our only Saviour and Lord.

2. Faith in His resurrection.

III. Its process.

1. Faith brings righteousness.

2. Righteousness prompts confession.

3. Faithful confession ensures salvation.

IV. Its security.

1. The word and promise of God.

2. Which may be trusted.

3. Without fear of disappointment. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Salvation

is--

I. A personal matter.

1. All need it.

2. It is offered to all in Christ.

3. We preach it to you.

II. Suspended on human conduct. “If thou shalt”--

1. Confess.

2. Believe.

III. Secured by the promise and purpose of god. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The gospel of the resurrection

I. The gospel meets the general necessities of man, and by the fact of Christ’s resurrection this may be proved.

1. Man is ignorant, and needs authoritative instruction. Not of arts, government, and sciences; they affect not the eternal welfare of man. That only is true wisdom which is suited to our highest nature and eternal destiny. Man, by nature, knows not, nor enjoys God. “The world by wisdom knew not God.” But the gospel meets the case. Jesus Christ taught every truth necessary to enlighten the understanding, and direct the conscience, and God raised Him from the dead as His great confirmatory seal to the truth of His doctrines.

2. Man is guilty and needs an acceptable propitiation. Now Christ was raised from the dead; therefore His death is an available atonement.

3. Man is depraved, and needs entire renewal. The gospel meets this case. Christ declares that man must be the subject of a supernatural change, and promises to send forth the Spirit for this purpose. But the Promiser died, but rose again; and “therefore, being by the right hand of God exalted, He received of the Father the promise of the Spirit.”

4. Man is supine, and needs powerful motives. And the gospel presents motives to rouse the most supine--motives fetched from eternity. Christ declares, “he that believeth not, shall be damned”--“he that believeth not, is condemned already.” His strongest motives are derived from His doctrine of the day of judgment. But all His doctrines are founded on the Resurrection, as the grand proof of His Messiahship. And “God now commandeth all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30-31).

5. Man is unbelieving, and needs strong evidence. And what evidence can be stronger than that He rose from the dead according to His own prediction.

II. The gospel has a special provision for a sinner’s justification, and the resurrection of Christ is a grand object of his faith. Let us notice--

1. The pre-requisites of faith. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus”--that is, acknowledge Jesus Christ as thy only Saviour. This is one of the most difficult tasks to human nature. We cleave to our own performances and attach merit to them. “I must first reform--weep more--bring a softer heart--pray more,” is not “confessing the Lord Jesus.”

2. The object of faith. “That God hath raised Jesus Christ from the dead.” In Scripture a part is often put for the whole: so here, the resurrection of Christ is put for the whole of His mediatorial work, because by that miracle God gave assurance that Christ was His Son--that His sacrifice was acceptable and efficacious; and that His laws were binding, His doctrines true, and His promises sure.

3. The exercise of faith. “Believe with thine heart.” We sometimes use the term, “faith in the head”; by which we mean an instinctive, rational conviction. This is not shut out; but it is only the casket of the jewel--a shell of the fruit. The righteousness of faith is by the heart. The affections have now more to do than the intellect. In this exercise of faith thou art called upon cordially to approve of God’s way of saving sinners; not to understand how the death of Christ avails for thee!

4. The encouragement of faith (verses 12, 13). (J. A. West.)


Verse 10

Romans 10:10

With the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Observe the harmonious relation between

1. The heart and the mouth.

2. Faith and confession.

3. Righteousness and salvation. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Faith, and the confession of faith

1. It was a saying of Dr. Johnson, that “classical quotation was the parole of literary men,” and we can understand how a sympathy similar to that existing among scholars would obtain between Paul and the Jews to whom he wrote, and they found him adapting the words of the law in his exposition of the gospel. A comparison of Romans 10:6-8 with Deuteronomy 30:11-14 will show clearly that they are adapted rather than quoted.

2. In verse 9, confession comes before believing, there being a play upon the words quoted in verse 8; but in verse 10 we have, more logically, belief coming before confession.

I. “with the heart man believeth unto righteousness.”

1. Nature of evangelical faith.

2. This faith is to be in the resurrection of Christ.

3. Hence it is a belief “unto righteousness;” i.e.,

II. “with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

1. This has been supposed to have reference to the primitive confession of faith in baptism. If so, the text will correspond to Mark 16:16.

2. We may, consistently with what has been said under I. 3, take the “confession” to stand for practical Christianity, since confessing Christ with the mouth is but one of the “works” wrought by loving faith.

(a) The man of the world finds it hard to understand how professing Christians can believe while their actions remain unaffected by their belief. In commerce, a belief in the dishonesty of any one with whom he has to do, leads him to guard and protect himself against possible wrong. The mariner, again, whose charts disclose rocks and shoals, keeps his ship at a safe distance from them--he makes use of his knowledge.

(b) But the true Christian must act. His faith brings before him the “things unseen” (Hebrews 11:1), and he no longer walks under the influence of the things of sight, like the children of this world (2 Corinthians 5:7). As spiritual health increases, old ways of sin are thrown off, the heart is cleansed and purified, and the man’s daily life has a heavenly fragrance which blesses his fellow-men. Conclusion: The secret of men’s unbelief lies for the most part, not in the mind, but in the affections. They cannot bring themselves to forsake their worldliness and sin, and therefore come to the consideration of the gospel message, if they consider it at all, with prejudiced minds. (J. C. Pilkington, M.A.)

Faith and confession the subjective condition of salvation

I. “with the heart man believeth unto righteousness.”

1. Belief and faith are one. In respect to mundane matters, we receive the testimony of men; while in the matters pertaining to the unseen world, we receive the testimony of God. Faith in man sustains the whole fabric of our secular and scientific knowledge, and faith in God is the support of our spiritual and religious knowledge. If, in order to secure the salvation of our souls, we must have the latter faith, even so, in order to the preservation and comfort of our bodies, we must have the former. “Without faith it is impossible to please God”; and without faith, belief, it is impossible to enjoy the advantages of civilised life. And whether it has respect to man or God, faith is belief in testimony (1 John 5:9-11).

2. The apostle clearly intends by “the heart” the inner, as contrasted with the external man; and not the emotional, as opposed to the intelligent man. For the contrast is not between heart and head, but between heart and mouth. The sacred authors often spoke of bodily organs as if they projected mental values into them. With them the “heart” did not specially denote the affections as distinguished from the understanding (Deuteronomy 29:4; 1 Kings 3:9; 1Ki_3:12; Mark 7:21; Mar_2:6; Acts 11:23; Proverbs 16:21). The heart stood for the very centre of the person, where thought had its fountain, intelligence its post of observation, and the stores of knowledge and experience were treasured up.

3. The testimony to be believed is here spoken of as a “report”; i.e., the thing announced by the witnesses and heard by those to whom it was spoken. It was a report concerning the Saviour, and being given by competent and faithful witnesses, and confirmed by the attesting seal of God, there was no need for any man to go out of or beyond himself for Christ. For the word was nigh him.

4. But why specially believe that God hath raised Christ from the dead? Because the testimony is that He died for our sins, and His resurrection is the proof that the sin is purged; for our Substitute has been discharged and restored to deathless life. Therefore a sure belief that God hath raised Him from the dead carries with it a sure belief that our everlasting life is made certain.

5. But though faith, considered in itself, is simply belief in testimony, it nevertheless serves to awaken various emotions of the heart in accordance with the character of the testimony believed, and the kind and amount of personal interest involved. If we have no conscious interest in that which is the subject of testimony, then no emotion will result from its belief. But if we have, then the belief will give rise to joy or sorrow, hope or fear, triumph or dread, as the case may be. Tidings come of a terrible hurricane in the mid-Atlantic, in which numbers of ships have foundered, and belief of the tidings instantly fills many a hitherto bright and happy home with the gloom of despair and death. But let them presently have the assurance that the particular ships which contained their hopes have escaped and have safely arrived in port, and, believing this, how instantly they find their sorrow and despair give place to gratitude and joy! And here is a poor guilty wanderer, who has long and grievously offended against his heavenly Father. He has come to realise the fearfulness of his danger. Can any one wonder that he should “roar” because of the disquietude of his spirit? But let him now hear and believe that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” and that “whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life,” and of what a change from the terrors of despair to the joy of salvation is he at once conscious!

II. “with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

1. The “salvation” spoken of is not already attained, but one for which, or in order to which, confession is made. It is therefore something which is yet future. Though a Christian man is saved here and now, yet this present salvation is but a thing begun, not completed (1 Corinthians 15:2; Philippians 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:8; Romans 8:24; Hebrews 1:14; Romans 13:11; 1 Peter 1:5; Hebrews 9:28).

2. Now it is in respect to this continued and ultimately completed redemption that confession is made with the mouth unto salvation. “The righteousness obtained by faith would, forsooth, fall to the ground again, and would not be attended by salvation, if faith had not the vital force to produce confession of the mouth, which speaks out of the fulness of the heart.” For the confession indicated is not that merely of the lip, but true and bold acknowledgment of Christ both in deed and word, Jesus Christ “before Pontius Pilate witnessed s good confession” (1 Timothy 6:13)--one that cost Him His life; and any union with Him which has not in it the spirit of devoted loyalty to Him, even unto death, if needful, is vain (Matthew 10:28-33; Revelation 21:8; Hebrews 11:33). (W. Tyson.)

Believing with the heart

I. The object of faith (verse 9). There are many who for many a weary month question whether they have the right sort of faith; whereas they would do better if they looked to see whether their faith rested upon a right foundation. Now, soul-saving faith rests upon Christ--

1. As incarnate.

2. In His life. Faith perceives that He is perfect in obedience, sanctified wholly to His work, and although “tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin.”

3. But chiefly in His death. Faith hears the expiring sin-bearer cry with a loud voice, “It is finished,” and adds a glad Amen, “It is finished! “

4. In His resurrection. Inasmuch as Christ was put into the prison of the tomb as a hostage and bail for His people, faith knows that He never could have come out again if God had not been completely satisfied with His substitutionary work. “He ne’er had been at freedom set.” Faith, therefore, perceives that if Christ is risen the soul is justified.

5. In His ascension. Faith beholds Him in His session at the right hand of God, sees Him pleading as the great High Priest, and expecting until His enemies are made His footstool. Mark, not so much as a hair’s breadth of faith’s foundation is to be found out of Christ. Faith does not build on its own experience, on any knowledge which it has obtained by research, or on merit which it fancies it has procured by long and ardent service.

II. The nature of faith. “With the heart man believeth.”

1. We generally attribute the act of faith to the mind, but our text makes it to be a work of the affections.

2. What is this believing with the heart?

3. What is true of us when we commence our spiritual career is true all our lives long. Soul-saving faith is always the belief of the heart. I think I see some grey-headed man rise up and say, “In my young days I gave my heart to Christ, and I had a peace and joy such as I had never known before. Since that time, this brow has been furrowed with many cares, but the Lord has been my heart’s stay and confidence. When trouble has come in upon me, I have been able to sustain it.

4. This is the right way to believe in Jesus, because this is the way in which you can believe in Him when you come to die. You have heard of the renowned bishop on his dying bed. His friends said to him, “Do not you know us?” There was a shake of the head. Next, the children beg him to remember them. But he shakes his head. Last, came his wife, and he had forgotten her. At last, one said in his ear, “Do you know Jesus?” The response was instantaneous. “Know Him?” said he, “yes, He is all my salvation and all my desire.” Though the heart may know the wife and the child, yet never can the heart know the dearest earthly object as it knows Christ. He that believeth with his heart hath Christ in him, not on him, the hope of glory.

5. It is a very blessed thing that “with the heart man believeth”; because some of you might say, “I have not head enough to be a Christian.” Even fools may still believe. “The wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein.”

III. The result of faith. “Unto righteousness.” The man who believes in Christ is righteous; he is righteous at once, in a moment; he is righteous in the germ. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Believing with the heart

The seat of faith, it deserves to be observed, is not in the brain, but the heart; not that I wish to enter into any dispute concerning the part of the body which is the seat of faith, but since the word “heart” generally means a serious, sincere, ardent affection, I am desirous to show the confidence of faith to be a firm, efficacious, and operative principle in all the emotions and feelings of the soul, not a mere naked notion of the head. (J. Calvin.)

Heart judgment

1. The popular impression is that argument produces belief, and that no justly founded belief can be entertained unless the man has had clear intellectual reasons for that belief.

2. Life contradicts this view by the wholesale. Men believe thousands of things of which they have had no demonstration, and there are multitudes of things which men can demonstrate that they do not believe. What is evidence? It is that which satisfies intellect, conscience, taste, and the emotions. Some men want evidence that touches the intellect; some evidence that touches the imagination; some evidence that touches the taste; some evidence that strikes the moral sense. The evidence that convinces one man has no effect upon another.

3. Now, in regard to evidence, belief has a wide range. In things material, a man believes upon sense-evidence. But in regard to scientific things, there are no evidences that are less reliable than the obvious operations of what are called the five senses. That Huxley and Tyndall will tell you. Here a trained intellect is the master of evidence. An impassioned investigator is carried away. Men insist upon it that you must discharge all feeling, lay aside all pre-conceived notions, and come with your mind as transparent as crystal to the investigation.

4. But the range of truth that is thus brought within the scope of our investigation is relatively small. The truths that work to manhood, to character, and conduct, are innumerable and immensely more important. The great bulk of the questions about which men are to believe or not have reference to a kind of truth that you can never judge by pure cold intellect. All social and moral truths depend upon the affections. A man who carries a purely mathematical mind to the reading of Milton is a fool. A man who should read Tennyson as a microscopist would examine an insect, how preposterous his conduct would be! In the largest department, then, belief depends upon the feelings. I do not mean that it excludes the intellect, but that the investigating intellect is obliged to be in harmony with the feelings that dominate the department where the truth lies. Truths of beauty--and that takes in the whole realm of art--cannot be conceived of by a purely speculative intellect. The intellect must be struck through and through with the elements of the beautiful in order to appreciate it. There is a great deal of mathematics in the science of music; yet music itself cannot be appreciated by the mere man of science without the sense or faculty of music in him.

5. The great religious truths which determine conduct and character cannot be understood except through the state of the heart. The baser animal passions indulged in so cloud the moral feeling and the intellect as to preclude the truth and investigation of it. The natural man cannot discern the things of the Spirit. A man in a rage cannot understand the emotions of peace. A man that is grasping and unfair is not in a state to consider justice and equity. How can a man who is puffed up with self-conceit have any adequate comparison within himself of his moral states? Selfishness so distorts and disturbs the light of the reason that it cannot form a just judgment of truths nor understand them even when they are expounded by others. Recently, at Cornell University, a professor said, “I hope they will never establish an observatory here.” “Why?” “Because the locality is utterly unfit for celestial observations. Cayuga Lake every night fills the atmosphere with so much vapour that it is not until late in the day that you can get a clear view of the sky, and hardly three nights in the whole year have been fit for a critical observation of the heavens.” The clouds that go up around the human observatory prevent men from seeing clearly. They cannot make observations of celestial things.

6. Notice how careful men are in forming their beliefs on scientific subjects. Although the truths of science are material, largely, yet men feel the necessity of good health, of a clear eye, and of all conditions which render them secure from various adverse interruptions. So far is this carried that men do not trust themselves; there is what is called a “personal equation” among them. When a star in transit passes a given line, and a man records the time exactly of its striking the line, it will happen that a dull brain did not see it for a measurable period of time after a sensitive and quick brain; and the astronomer has a personal equation of his own peculiarities of quickness or slowness, according to rules that have been established, so that in making the additions or subtractions, he always takes it into account as a part of his calculations. This is for the sake of physical observations. Whoever thought of making a personal equation in the judgment of men on great moral questions? Look at the way in which a judge feels himself bound to come to the consideration of facts, law, and reasoning. If he is a naturally obstinate man, and has the shadow of a previous idea in the case, it will take twice as much evidence and coercive logic to dislodge him from his prejudices. An honourable man would refuse to sit on any case in which he was conscious that he had a foregoing disqualification. Now, see how in regard to justice, science, and every department, men are conscious of the disturbing forces felt in one way or another; and see how they prepare themselves to arrive at right judgments and to correct them as much as possible by review and restatement. But compare the way in which men approach these tremendous themes of religion and sit in judgment upon Divine equity, and upon questions of right and questions of duty. See how young men, being somewhat unsettled from their old foundations, plunge into unbelief. They read their evidence in the newspaper, going from their house to their business. “Oh, I have read on that subject; I know all about it.” How little have men read, how little have they pondered, how little have they ever had the slightest idea that their judgments have been influenced by their dispositions, by their conduct, by their wishes and longings, by their self-indulgence--how little have they come to form a judgment against the pulling-down influences that act upon them!

7. Now, it is often the case that a true-hearted, simple-minded man, believing the gospels without a particle of intellectual evidence, but with a hungry heart and with a real love of things that are spiritual, is led to believe, I had almost said, without the operation of his reason at all. He is not able to give a reason for the faith that is in him any more than an artist is able to give the reason why he puts in a bit of red there, except that his eye was hungry for it. It is possible for a man pure in heart to come to a just conclusion in regard to mighty truths, that involve time and eternity, in such a way that he will be the laughing stock and the derision of eminent philosophers, or even eminent theologians. But such simple men believe with their heart. The temperature of the heart was such that it inclined them to accept these things, and, accepting them, they believed in God and felt good.

8. See how this is the doctrine of the Bible. Take, e.g., John 1:1-5, “The light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” Turn to John 1:20-25. Our Saviour bears testimony again and again in St. John’s Gospel, which records His controversies with the conceited, scholarly men of the temple, when He declared to them that He made known to them the invisible truths of God, which ought to be appreciated by moral sensibility, but that they could not see them, and even denied them, on account of the condition of their hearts. This is the Scripture testimony, and it corroborates the experience of men. In secular life men have come to understand that they must prepare themselves before they come to a judgment or appreciate a thing accurately. But in religion men are still asking for intellectual proof that shall come like a mathematical demonstration. They are believing this and disbelieving that, on evidence which does not belong to the subject at all. “Blessed are the pure in heart; they shall see God.” Men of distempered heart, unclean and impure, shall never see Him. Beware, then, of the disturbance of your own hearts. Beware of all those judgments that are merely abstract, or factual, as in science. Accept those judgments that come to you from the heart, and report themselves to you irresistibly as true, springing from the highest moral conditions, from conscience, reason, hope, faith, love. (H. W. Beecher.)

Belief of the heart necessary for righteousness

Since the end of religion is obedience, the heart is wanted. To know what we ought to do and to do it are two very different things. For the first: perhaps, the mind is adequate; for the second we have need of the heart. “I see the better and I take the worse way,” said one of the ancients. Why? Because there was no force strong enough to impel him to the better way. This is what we all want. What the philosophers call the dynamic force--to constrain us to obey what we see we should. Most of us have got knowledge enough of the right way; what we lack is the impulse to walk therein. The body is like a delicate piece of machinery worked by the heart, which sends the blood pulsating through every vein and artery. Without that all would be in vain. What the heart is to the body the emotions are to the soul--the impelling force. But, it may be said, the heart is, of all parts of our complex nature, the least under our control. Faith springs up spontaneously, or not at all. To bid men believe or love is a waste of breath. God therefore makes Himself visible in His Son Jesus Christ, and when thus we really see Him, faith must spring up in our hearts, as surely as admiration does in the heart of a beholder of a glowing sunset, or the hearer of noble music, or the spectator of some heroic deed. A child is sinking in a stream; you see a man at the risk of his life leap in to save the precious life. It needs no command to make your heart glow with gratitude to such a deliverer. It leaps up at the sight. To look at Jesus Christ touches the heart so that it is constrained by the love of Christ, so as to live, not for itself but for Him. (W. G. Horder.)

The faith of the heart

We remember to have heard a preacher describe this act of faith as follows:--“Look at that drowning man, hurried down the stream by the furious torrent with which he is convulsively struggling. His looks and cries bespeak the agony he feels. By and by his attention is directed to a life preserver, which his friends are placing in the most favourable position possible. He at once sees that if he is saved at all, it must be by that instrument; and here is the exercise of his understanding. But it is very questionable whether he shall be able to reach it. The current seems to carry him in another direction; yet there is hope; it is taking another turn. He is gradually approaching the instrument of his safety; and now there is hope, mingled with his agony; he comes nearer and nearer: his friends cry ‘courage,’ and see with what energy he seizes the preserver of his life. There was heart in that grasp. But not more so than when the poor trembling sinner lays hold of Christ. He is pointed to the Cross, but the current of his feelings drives him past it. He weeps and mourns, he groans and prays; his friends reason and encourage; the spirit operates; hope springs up; immediately the direction of the stream is changed; he gets nearer every moment; he looks, weeps, cries, ‘Save, for Thy name’s sake’; and in an agony--with all his heart--and with all the affections and powers of his soul, he grasps the Saviour.” (Handbook to Scripture Doctrines.)

Faith and righteousness

Look at certain doctrines, and see what they must produce when believed with the heart. It is a portion of Scripture revelation that God is omniscient and omnipotent, that He is ever at hand, to note down human actions, and register them for judgment. Can this really be believed, and yet the believer fail to be intensely earnest to approve himself in God’s sight? Rather, will not his faith produce a holy reverence of the Almighty, and make him walk circumspectly, because walking side by side with his Maker and his Judge? The Bible tells him, moreover, of an amazing scheme of rescue planned and executed by God on behalf of himself and his fellow-men. It sets God before Him as giving His own Son, and that Son as giving Himself to ignominy and shame that pardon might be placed within reach of the sinful. Can this be believed, and yet the believer not glow with intense love towards so gracious a God; yea, and towards his fellow-men, seeing that they are objects of the same mercy, and therefore equally precious in the sight of the Creator? But yet further. Along with the revelation of this scheme of mercy the Bible sets forth conditions apart from which we can have no share in the blessings of Christ’s death, imposing duties on the performance of which our future portion is made to depend, and annexing threatenings and promises just as though we were to be judged by our works irrespective of the blood of the Redeemer. It tells us of heaven; it tells us of hell; and, dealing with us as with accountable creatures, it conjures us by the joys of the one state and the terrors of the other to “live soberly, righteously, and godly in the world.” Now tell me who believes this? The man who lives as though there were no heaven, or no hell, doing the very things, obeying the very passions, neglecting the very duties, which are forbidden or commanded, to all who would escape wrath and find mercy hereafter? Impossible. These things cannot be believed by the sensual man, the covetous, the proud, or the ambitious. Faith in these things must lead to effort, to obedience, to self-denial. (H. Melvill, B.D.)

Confession of faith

I. the Divine order of salvation.

1. Faith.

2. Confession.

II. The result of this order.

1. Righteousness.

2. Salvation.

III. Inferences.

1. These requisites are a matter of present duty.

2. Unbelief and silence are sinful. (W. W. Wythe.)

Confession with the mouth

1. There must be no confession where there is not a believing. To profess what you have not, is to make yourself a deceptive trader, who pretends to be carrying on a very large business, while he has no stock and no capital. To make a profession, without having a possession, is to be a cloud without rain--a river-bed without water, a mere play-actor, a rotten tree, green on the outside, but inwardly, as Bunyan puts it, “only fit to be tinder for the devil’s tinder-box.”

2. True faith, however, produces works; and, among the rest, confession of Christ. Faith, without works, is a dead root., yielding no fruit; a well filled with deadly vapour; a tree twice dead, plucked up by the roots, like some of those forest monsters which block up the navigation of the Mississippi, upon which many a goodly vessel has been wrecked. As you are to flee from profession without faith, so equally flee from a faith which does not bring forth a good profession.

I. To confess Christ with the mouth embraces the whole life-work of the Christian. It consists in--

1. Uniting in acts of public worship. As soon almost as the two distinct seeds of the woman and of the serpent were discernible, “Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord,” while those who feared not God went away to their various occupations. When Jeroboam set up the calves at Bethel, the act of standing with the multitude around the courts of the temple was a distinct confession of allegiance to Jehovah. In the apostolic times, those who believed were constant in the apostle’s doctrine, and in breaking of bread, and in prayer. In the early Christian days, you may see a picture something like this: There is a low arch, like the opening of a sewer. Yonder comes a maiden, who stoops beneath and emerges into one of the catacombs of Rome. A torch renders darkness visible, and some watchful brother observes her; asks for her pass-word. Her being there proves her a Christian. She would not have been there to worship God among those pariahs of society if she had not loved the Lord. Very much so was it in later times. When the Lollard preached to the handful in some remote farmhouse, with a watcher outside; or in the days of the Covenant, while the dragoons of Claver-house were scenting out their prey, you might be clear that they were for the Lord of Hosts, who met at peril of their lives. To-day it is so to very few. There are some, perhaps, whose husband’s last words were, “If you go to church you will never enter my house again”; but it is not so with nine hundred and ninety-nine out of a thousand. We mingle together saint and sinner. And if this were the only profession, it would not fulfil the intention of my text. In persecuting times it would; but now it is little or no confession to most of us to sit comfortably in our seats and listen to the preacher, and then go our way.

2. A dutiful attention to those two ordinances which are intended by Christ to be the distinctive badge of believers. Under the old Mosaic dispensation, ordinances were only for Israelites. And under the Christian dispensation there are no ordinances for aliens. The Ethiopian travelled all the way from the realm of Candace, in order that he might be present at the distinctive worship of the Jew. You remember how carefully the heads of the Jewish houses were that they and all their children were present at the passover.

3. An association with the Lord’s people. It was so in the olden times. Moses may, if he wilts, live in the court of Pharaoh, but he counts the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. What a touching illustration of this point we have in Ruth 1:16-17. We find in the early Church, that as soon as a man became a Christian, he went to his own company. Paul was not content with being baptized; and wherever there were people of God, they were always formed into a Church. Those who speak lightly of Church fellowship do mischief. Suppose, instead of the compact phalanx of this one Church, we were broken into individual Christians, some of the warmest-hearted among you would grow cold; the little ones among us would be subjected to false doctrine; while even the strongest here would feel it to be a most solemn bereavement.

4. The taking up of the cross in the family. It may be you are the first one converted. You pray, and there is a ringing laugh within the walls. Persevere! for now it is that you are to make confession unto salvation. Your faith cannot save you unless you say, “I cannot love father or mother more than Christ.” This is hard; but remember the example of your Lord, for whom you do it.

5. Bearing witness in time of temptation. Young Joseph’s answer was, “How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” The case of Nehemiah is equally to the point. “Can such a man as I flee?” Christian, some dirty trick in business comes in your way. Now, play the man, and say, “I would rather starve than do it.” On a Sabbath morning, when you are invited to waste its holy hours, say, “No, I am a Christian.”

6. Testifying whenever we are called into trial for Christ’s sake. Remember the three Hebrew children, Daniel, Peter, and John. I have noticed that whenever men are likely to lose anything for Christ, that the most timid generally come out at that time. You do not hear of Joseph of Arimathaea while Jesus lives. But when Christ’s body is on the Cross he begs His body. And who shall help to wrap Him in spices? Why, Nicodemus, that came to Jesus Christ by night. The stag flies before the hounds, but when it comes to bay, fights with the bravery of desperation. Erasmus said he was not made of the right stuff to be a martyr. So the papists picture him as hanging somewhere between heaven and hell. He had knowledge of the truth, but he had not the courage to avow it; while Luther smote the triple crown upon the Pope’s brow. “If the Lord be God, follow Him,”etc.

7. The going out of one’s way at times to bear testimony. “Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come unto me.” Every now and then we shall not be able to confess Christ, unless we do something that shall seem harsh and strange. Surely, God’s Elijahs cannot be silent while thousands of Baal’s priests are kindling their fires. We shall find it needful to intrude upon the dainties of etiquette, and, like the prophet who came to Bethel, we shall have to cry against altars at which others pay their vows.

8. The using of our position as a method of confession. Joshua is the head of a household tie uses that position: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Let the family altar be reared. You have influence, perhaps, where you can help Christ’s Church. Esther came to the kingdom “for such a time as this.” Some of you are large employers, or members of Parliament. All that influence is so much money given to you to put out to interest for your Lord.

9. Preaching. There are some of you who have ability to speak. You can talk upon politics and science; but if you love Jesus, are you going to give all your attention to these inferior themes? You tell me you are nervous. Never mind. If you break down half a dozen times, try again; you shall find your talents increase. This confession, then, is a life-work. The Christian man is to be something like a physician. There is a brass plate on his door and a big bell. How else does he profess to be a physician? You do not see a box of lancets hanging at his side, nor see him dress in a peculiar costume. His profession is carried on by his practice. This is how a Christian’s profession is to be carried on. When we went to school we drew houses, horses, and trees, and used to write “house” under the house, etc., for some persons might have thought the horse was a house. So there are some people who need to wear a label round their necks to show they are Christians, or else we might mistake them for sinners. Avoid that. Let your profession be manifest by your practice.

II. Do not excuse yourself from this, for no excuse will be valid. You will lose your business! Lose it, and gain your soul, and you will be unfashionable! What is it to be fashionable? You will be despised by those who love you! Do you love husband or wife more than Christ? If so, you are not worthy of Him. But you are so timid! Mind you are not so timid as to be lost at last, for the fearful and unbelieving shall have their portion in the lake that burneth. In the silence of the sick or dying hour, no excuse, however specious it may appear today, will answer your conscience: and if so answer your conscience, depend upon if it will not satisfy God, Conclusion:

1. Remember how dishonourable it is to say you believe, and yet not to make confession. You are like a rat behind the wainscot, coming out just now and then when nobody is looking, and then running behind again. What! is Christ to be treated as if His name were a thing to be avowed in holes and corners? No, in the face of the sun let it be said, “I do love Jesus, who gave Himself for me.” He died in the face of the sun, with mockers round about Him; and with mockers round about us let us declare our faith in Him.

2. How honourable will the confession be to you. If I had to join an army, and found for my comrades the scrapings of the street, I do not think I should like to be a soldier; but if I found my colonel a great conqueror, and that I had for compeers men who had won renown, I should feel honoured by being allowed to be a drummer-boy. So when I read the list, and find Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Daniel, Isaac, Jesus Christ Himself, the apostles, Luther, Calvin, etc., I count it an honour if my name shall be found written with theirs, as the humblest soldier in the army.

3. I urge this upon you, because it will make you useful. A secret Christian is a candle under a bushel, salt without savour.

4. Grace is sufficient. If grace put you upon a pinnacle of the temple, depend upon it, grace will keep you there.

5. The reward is splendid. “He that confesseth Me before men, him will I confess before My Father which is in heaven.” There was once a prince who journeyed into a distant part of the king’s dominions, where he was little known and cared for. The people said, “This is the heir; let us insult him.” Others said he was no heir at all. And they agreed to set him in the pillory. As he stood there they said, “Who dare acknowledge, and stand by him?” One from the crowd, who said, “I dare!” they set side by side with the prince; and when they threw their filth on or spoke hard words of the prince and him, he stood there, smiling, and received it all. Years went by, the king came into those dominions and subdued them; and there came a day of triumph. The prince came to the gates, and the traitors all bound in chains stood before him trembling. He singled out from among the crowd one man only, and he said to the traitors, “Know ye this man? He stood with me in that day when ye treated me with scorn. He shall stand with me in the day of my glory. Come up hither!” And the poor, despised citizen of that rebellious city rode through the streets side by side with his king. This is the parable. Live it out! (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Confession of Christ indispensable

It is sometimes said that piety should be retiring, and unseen. But why? There is nothing of it in the Bible. Hypocrisy is rebuked; but I ask for a single passage where the manifestation of pure religion is rebuked. “Let your light shine before men,” “He that is ashamed of me,” etc. Religion is supposed to be manifest, if it exists at all. It is to constitute the character and to distinguish the man. I point you to the example of Christ. Religion is everything in His life. I point you to the example of Paul. You see nothing else in his life but his religion. I point you to David, and Isaiah, and John, and the holy martyrs. The men were modest men; but their religion was open and bold. And thus it is in all the works and doings of God. Does the sun hide his noontide beams under the plea that pure light should not be ostentatious? Is the moon--that, like the Christian, shines by reflected light--or the stars ashamed to send their rays on a darkened world? Light shines not indeed for display, but for use; not for its own glory, but like the light that should radiate from the Christian’s life, to illustrate the glory of the great Creator. The ocean that He has made is not ashamed to roll, the lightning of heaven to play, the oak to spread out its boughs, the flower to bloom. The humblest violet is not ashamed to exhibit its beauty, and display its Maker’s praise. And if Christian light does not shine forth in the life, we have the highest evidence that it has never been enkindled in the bosom. (A. Barnes, D.D.)

Confession of Christ indispensable

During a series of evangelistic services in Ireland a young man found peace with God, but three nights after I found him again in the inquiry room. “What’s wrong?” I said. “I was too precipitate the other night; there is no change in me.” “No, sir, that is not the reason. You have not confessed Christ.” He almost jumped up in amazement. “How do you know? Who told you?” “Nobody told me, or needed to tell me. When a man goes away trusting one night, and comes back doubting the next, it is an infallible sign that he has not confessed Christ.” He then said, “You are quite right; I live alone with my mother, who is a Christian. I thought as I walked home that I would tell her, but my heart failed. I then said to myself, ‘I’ll tell her to-morrow morning,’ but the next day it seemed more difficult instead of less, and it occurred to me that she would say, ‘Why did you not tell me last night?’ Then the thought arose, ‘If you had found a five-pound note, you would have told her fast enough. Yet here you have found Christ and eternal life, and you utter not a sound: why it is all a delusion.’ And I said to myself, ‘I’m not saved at all. If I had been, I could not have helped confessing it.’” I said, “Yes, my friend; instead of the devil tempting you, you tempted the devil, and he began his old game of making you distrust God’s Word.” He gave his heart anew to the Saviour, and went away to tell his mother. Next night I found him in the inquiry room, pointing a soul to Christ. I touched him in passing, and said, “How is it with you now?” He looked up with a bright smile, and said, “I told my mother!” (D. L. Moody.)

Necessity of confession

Lieutenant Watson, once a gay young aristocrat, was awakened and converted by means of a few earnest words spoken by a brother officer (Captain Hawtry), when he was preparing for a ball. Growing rapidly in grace, and confessing Christ from the first and constantly, he was soon led, while serving in the Peninsula, under Wellington, to hold meetings in his own quarters for the soldiers, who were spiritually in a very destitute condition. Many of these were converted, but the officers generally mocked, calling Lieut. Watson “Coachie,” saying he drove the mail coach to heaven, and crying after him, “Any room for passengers inside or outside to-night?” One officer, however, Lieut. Whitley, a man of refined and scientific mind, behaved differently, and although he reasoned with Watson, he always behaved as a gentleman. The result of quiet conversations was that he became seriously interested in the gospel. “One day,” says Mr. Watson, “on his repeating the question, ‘How am I to get the Spirit?’ I replied, ‘The Lord said, “Ask, and ye shall receive.”’ He said, ‘I hope I have asked, though feebly.’ I remarked, ‘Jesus said again, “If a man will be My disciple, he must deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”’ ‘What did He mean by that?’ he said. I told him, ‘You can now have a practical proof. You know we have a public meeting. Will you take up your cross and come to-night?’ ‘Anything but that,’ he said. ‘But you must remember the words of Jesus,’ I told him, ‘“Whosoever shall be ashamed of Me and My doctrine in this sinful generation, of him will I be ashamed when I come in My glory.”’ ‘Oh,’ he exclaimed, ‘I will go.’ And he went under great exercise of mind.” Of course the going was greatly blessed to him, and soon after “the Lord filled him with joy and peace in believing. He now became most valiant for the truth, and ceased not, wherever he was, to speak of Jesus.”

Power of confession

In relating his experience during the Peninsular War, Captain Watson says, “I was nominated to sit on a garrison court-martial. A number of officers of different ranks and regiments were present on the occasion, and before the proceedings commenced, some of them indulged in loose and sceptical observations. ‘Alas,’ thought I, ‘here are many not ashamed to speak openly for their master and shall I hold my peace and refrain when the honour and cause of Him who has had mercy on me are called in question?’ I looked for wisdom and assistance from on high, and I was enabled to speak for a quarter of an hour in a way that astonished my hearers and myself. The Lord was pleased to give what I said a favourable reception, and not another improper word was uttered by them during my stay in that room.”


Verses 11-13

Romans 10:11-13

Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed (see Romans 9:33).

The believer not ashamed

That is either--

I. Shall not be ashamed by the non-fulfilment of that which is the object of their confident expectation. It is a confidence which they might well cherish and avow--secure as they are from the mockery of any failure or disappointment in their hopes. All the promises of God in Christ Jesus are yea and amen; and it is because of their certain and punctual accomplishment, that the hope which they inspire is a hope which “maketh not ashamed.” When the verse is thus regarded, its reference is to the future, when the promises will all be made good. Then will the believer lift up his head and rejoice. Otherwise, ashamed of the vain and illusory imagination on which he had before rested, he would sink into despair.

II. Or shall not be ashamed now when the promises are only as yet believed. Even at this stage might faith have a present and powerful effect in repressing shame, and more especially the shame of making the avowal of itself, and so of testifying for Christ. Like every other principle of strong and felt urgency within, it may delight in the vent and forthgoing of its own utterance, and in bearing down the restraints whether of shame or of fear, which might have otherwise intercepted the expression of it (Psalms 116:10; Psa_39:8; Matthew 12:34). The apostle was not ashamed, because of the certainty he felt in Him whom he believed, and the firm persuasion he had of His ability to save him. And so he bids Timothy not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, who Himself tells us that whosoever shall be ashamed of Him and of His words, of him also shall the Son of Man be ashamed. We like this view of the text. It binds so together the belief of its first clause with the confession of its second, and harmonises the saying that “confession is unto salvation” with the saying that “the end of our faith is the salvation of our souls.”

III. From the proposition of this verse a certain converse proposition might be drawn that might well be used as a criterion by which to test and to ascertain the reality of our faith. If it be true that whosoever believeth on Him is not ashamed, then it should be true that whosoever is ashamed of Him doth not believe. Or, whosoever maketh not confession of Him with the mouth, believeth Him not with the heart. How comes it, then, that Christ and all which is expressly Christian are so systematically excluded from society as topics of conversation? The general emigration of a whole neighbourhood from one country to another in this world would be the constant talk of all its parties. How is it that we meet with nothing like this on the subject of that universal emigration from one world to another? Is it because there are no outfits, no preparations, and therefore no prospects to talk about?--these having no place in the converse just because they have no place in the business or in the hearts of men? They are seldom or never the subjects of speech, just because they are seldom or never the subjects of thought. Or if there be any who think of them, but are ashamed to speak of them--such we say is the overbearing magnitude of the interest at stake that it needs but a realising sense of them to put to flight both the fear and the shame of this world. (T. Chalmers, D.D.)

The Christian not ashamed

I. Of Christ (2 Timothy 1:12; Mark 8:38).

II. Of the gospel (Romans 1:16).

III. At Christ’s coming (1 John 2:28).

IV. Of God’s people (Ruth 1:16; Philippians 5:16).

V. Of God’s revelation (Psalms 119:6; Psa_119:31; Psa_119:46; Psa_119:80).

VI. To suffer as a Christian (1 Peter 4:16).

VII. To own his former state (Ephesians 2:1-5).

VIII. To bear the reproach of Christ (2 Timothy 1:8; 2Ti_1:16).

IX. In the last great day (Daniel 12:1-3).

X. Of “nothing” (Philippians 1:20). “They shall not be ashamed that wait for Thee.” (Homiletic Monthly.)

The believer not ashamed

I. Whosoever trust in anything but in christ shall be ashamed. The Jews of their confidence in the law. They also which, with King Asa, trust in the physicians and not in God in the day of sickness, so they which trust in their riches contrary to the commandment of the Spirit, whom Christ calls fools. These also who seek in losses to wizards and not to God. Many trust in outward things without God, but there are few who trust in God without outward things.

II. There is much fear and doubting where faith is, but in the end believers shall not be ashamed. This makes them confident against the reproach cast upon them by the world. Though the gospel be spoken against in every place, yet Paul will not be ashamed of it. This also comforts against the guiltiness of sin, which is the true cause of shame. Faith obtains pardon, and therefore we shall never be put to shame, and the more we believe the less do we fear shame. Peter walked upon the water and shamed himself, for he began to sink. What was the cause? Not the wind or waves, but the defect of faith. Make precious account therefore of thy faith, and labour to increase it. A certain captain, being in a hot skirmish, was stricken down, and taken up for dead. As soon as he came to himself he first asked if his target were safe, being loth his enemies should get that. So look to thy faith, for the devil, thy enemy, will look to it, and thou shalt not be ashamed.

III. Wicked men and unbelievers are miserable because of the shame which follows them. There can be almost no stronger argument against sin than to say it will make ashamed. Some, like shameless beasts, glory in their shame, making a pastime of that with Solomon’s fool (Proverbs 10:23), which they should bewail with tears of blood. It is a face of brass that is not ashamed of blasphemy, drunkenness, adultery, and pride. Though many of these things be not now ashamed, yet at the day of death or judgment they shall be put to shame, and then there shall be no covering for their shame. If thou be one of these and couldst blush, there were hope of thee. When a thief is taken how doth he hang down his head before men. Alas! if thou believest not, nor repentest, how shalt thou be able to look Christ in the face when He comes to judgment? Let us therefore so live that when He shall appear we may be bold, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. (Elnathan Parr, B.D.)

The believer not ashamed

Faith is a frequent source of shame. How often has unfounded trust in ourselves or others brought disgrace and disappointment? In one direction, and in one direction only, can we with unlimited confidence say that whosoever believeth shall not be ashamed.

I. The believer might be ashamed.

1. Of Christ, were He--

2. Of His service. Could it be demonstrated to be--

3. Of His teaching. Were it--

4. Of His influence, if it were--

5. Of His promised rewards, if they were--

Mention one of whom in all these regards it could be said that he that believeth in him shall not be ashamed? Is Christ an exception? Yes.

II. The believer cannot be ashamed--

1. Of Christ. Consider--

2. Of His service.

(a) Its character;

(b) Those who have engaged in it.

3. Of His teaching, which is

4. Of His influence. How can one be ashamed of that which everywhere makes for righteousness. We are ashamed of much that we did before we came under His influence; but we are ashamed now only that we did not come under it before.

5. Of His promised rewards. These are--

III. Then do not be ashamed--

1. To confess Christ. He is worthy.

2. To engage in His service, and that with the utmost earnestness.

3. To study and practise His teaching. It will live when the wisdom of this world is forgotten.

4. To yield utterly to His influence.

5. To fulfil the conditions upon which He has promised His rewards. “Be thou faithful unto death,” etc. (J. W. Burn.)

For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek.

True equality

There is no difference, for--

1. There is the same Lord.

2. He is rich to all. The Jews need not grudge the coming in of the Gentiles; they shall not have the less, for God is able to enrich all. As the sun, though it every day give his light to everybody, yet neither hath it or we the less, so though thousands from one end of the earth to the other flock to the receiving of mercy yet God hath store, and the fountain is above our thirst.

3. An equal condition propounded to all, “If they call on Him,” which, if the Gentile do, the gate of mercy was open and free to him as to the Jew. The favours of God concerning justification and salvation are dispensed, without any respect of persons, to them which believe and call upon Him (Acts 10:34; Romans 3:29-30; Galatians 3:28).

I. In this world, for the most part, the poor are condemned. If there be any favour it falls into the rich man’s mouth. If there be any danger the rich man gets through, when the poor is taken in the net of the law. The poor is scanted in the things of this earth, but in the favour of God and heavenly things he shareth with the best. The rich cannot bribe for these. God respected the low estate of Mary His handmaiden; yea, Lazarus went to heaven when Dives went to hell.

II. If thou be rich be humble. Do not disdainfully overlook thy poor neighbour. He is heir of the same grace, serves the same Master, and, it may be, in as great favour with Him as thyself. The rich and poor are all one by creation; there is the same entrance into the world and the same way to depart to them both, unless the rich man’s fulness open more doors of death than the emptiness of the poor man. In the worst things, as sin and corruption, the richest is equal with the poorest. In the best things, as justification and eternal life, the poorest is equal with the richest.

III. There is no difference between the rich and the poor in spiritual things. In civil there is great difference, even by God’s ordinance. For the gospel abolisheth not order. We must honour our superiors. We may not say, Wherein is he better than I? We all come of Adam. When the counters are put up into the bag there is no difference between them, but while the account is casting there is great difference. One stands for a pound, another for a penny. So at the day of judgment and in Christ there is no difference; but while we here live there is difference, and it is to be acknowledged.

IV. Be at unity, for there is the same Lord. We are all servants to one Master; He will prefer us all; we need not envy one another. We are all of a family, and wear all one livery, and the badge is love. Will any man endure that his servants or children shall be quarrelling? Indeed, if we served divers masters there might sometimes naked swords be seen, but now contentions must needs be odious. A Church in division is like a house on fire. Quench and increase not this flame by thy brainless opinions.

V. The way to be rich in all grace is to ask. Ask, and you shall have; He is rich to all that call upon Him. He gives bountifully, and casts no man in the teeth. Plead not thine own deservings, thou must sue in forma pauperis. Beggars obtain; the rich are sent empty away.

VI. Every man desires to serve a liberal master, that he may be preferred. Serve god and thou shalt be made rich. Why dost thou by swearing, lying, etc., serve that beggarly master the devil, that hath nothing to give his followers but hell? If God be thy Master thou art made for ever. No marvel that Paul breaks out into such pathetical thanksgivings because God entertained him into His service. Get into God’s service, and, when thou art in, keep thee there. There are two things to be done that we may keep our service.

1. To know our Master well.

2. To do it. And then as God was rich to Abraham for his faith, to David for his zeal, to Stephen for his constancy, so will He be rich to thee. As God is rich in mercy to the good, so in judgments, plagues, woes, curses, is He rich to all ungodly and wicked men. (Elnathan Parr, B.D.)

The universality of the gospel

The gospel is admirably adapted to meet the wants of man. At whatever time, in whatever place, and under whatever circumstances, it satisfies his inquiries respecting salvation and a future world. It recognises no differences--

I. Of a national kind. The Jew and the Greek are on perfect equality as regards the gospel. Our Saviour says, “Go ye into all the world,” etc. Thus the gospel cuts at the root of all national selfishness and animosity, and extends its blessings to all; for “God hath made of one blood all nations of the earth”; and the redeemed sing, “Worthy is the Lamb … who hath redeemed us out of all nations.”

II. Of a social kind. Great as are the differences of social condition amongst men, the gospel recognises none. The gospel says to the prince, “Believe,” and if he believes he is saved; but if he does not he is damned, though he be a prince. It just says the same to the slave. The rich and the poor, the master and servant, must partake of salvation by the same faith in the Son of God.

III. Of a denominational kind. The Independent and the Baptist, the Churchman and the Dissenter, each and all through Christ can be saved. The bigot in religion erects his little barrier, and having enclosed all within it who agree with him, excludes all others and regards them as outside the pale of salvation. The Lord Jesus Christ knocks down all such barriers, and standing on their ruins, proclaims salvation to each and to all who believe in His name.

IV. Of a mental kind. The refined scholar, and the untutored boor; the man of acute intellect, and the one of dull apprehension, each and all through Jesus Christ can be saved. Paul was debtor both to the wise and to the unwise. Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, nor let the uninstructed despair. Christ offers the riches of His grace to all.

V. Of a moral kind. None are shut out from the blessings of the gospel on account of their bad character. (C. Hargreaves.)

The gospel and its publication

I. The salvation revealed in the gospel. It consists in a deliverance from the punishment and power of sin, and is effected by the death of Jesus Christ. Notice--

1. The richness of its blessings. According to the necessities of the sinner, so are the blessings presented in the gospel. Is he bowed down under a sense of the guilt of his transgressions? The gospel tells him, “God so loved the world,” etc. Is he sensible of the deep pollution of his soul? He learns that “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin.” Does he feel his inability to honour God, by keeping the whole law? The gospel shows him that “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth,” etc. Is the soul harassed by the power of temptation, and ready to despair? The gospel reveals the promises of deliverance and support. Does he shudder at the approach of death as the king of terrors? The gospel says, “Christ came to deliver those who, from fear of death, were subject to bondage,” etc. Does Satan excite doubts and fears as to the final result? The gospel reveals God as swearing to him by two immutable things, etc., that he might have strong consolation.

2. The extensiveness of its efficiency. Its blessings are confined to no particular nation, but are suited to all, in every place (Romans 10:12).

3. The means by which its blessings are to be secured. We must “call upon God.” But this must be much more than the address of the lips, which in many is only the result of education and example. The calling upon God here spoken of, is the result of heartfelt convictions of the truth of the gospel, and the importance of salvation. There can be no repentance without a discovery of the awful nature of sin, and without right views of the holiness of God. It is only in proportion as we see the blessings of salvation to be suitable and necessary that we shall call upon God for them.

II. The necessity of publishing the gospel throughout the whole earth. This necessity is great, and it is heightened--

1. By the natural state of the human mind. Reason brought out great results in arts and sciences, etc.; it has enabled man to trace out the being and attributes of Jehovah (Romans 1:19-20). By this also the knowledge of sin is attainable (Romans 2:14-15). But, great as are the powers of the human mind, they fail to reveal the way in which the wrath of God may be appeased, the way in which man must be just with God (Micah 6:6-7). Man is conscious of guilt, of merited punishment: self-preservation induces a wish to escape, but whither he knows not. Christ is set forth as a propitiation for the sins of the world--through faith in Him alone pardon and salvation are to be obtained; but millions of our fellow-creatures have never heard of Him, and therefore how shall they believe in Him? Hence the necessity of publishing it to them.

2. By the Divine appointment of Jehovah. We are blessed with the light of Divine truth; the spirit of true Christian benevolence, therefore, should prompt us to diffuse it. The gospel is designed both for Jews and Gentiles. This doctrine is to be found in the Old Testament as well as in the New. In the accomplishment of his designs, however, God works by means. He has appointed the preaching of His gospel. “Go ye into all the world, and preach,” etc. Salvation is by faith; and if faith be essential to salvation, it is necessary to hear; for “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” And we may well ask, “How shall they hear without a preacher?” etc.

Conclusion: Let us learn from this subject--

1. The unspeakable privilege of those who profess the gospel.

2. The duties which attach themselves to the possessors of these privileges. (J. C. Williams.)

For the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him.--

The Lordship of Christ

I. Christ is Lord.

1. The word is frequently an equivalent for Jehovah. Whether it is so here or not, the apostle recognised Christ’s oneness with God even as Christ professed the same. Upon this is rooted our Lord’s claim to the homage of the race.

2. The least that the word can mean is Sovereign. Christ is the King of men. This office is in danger of being overlooked in favour of His priestly and prophetic offices. It is more agreeable to be saved by His sacrifice and to listen to His gracious words than to fight His battles and to do His will. Yet what honour to be the subjects of such a King; what safety to be under His protection; what honour must come from obedience to His rule.

II. Christ is Lord over all.

1. There is but one Lord--“The same Lord.” Heathenism had lords many, which entailed religious confusion. Hence moral confusion and unrest. Christ is the only authoritative and perfectly self-consistent moral ruler.

2. He is over all, without distinction. His rights are based on--

He who created, who preserves, and who redeemed all, must be Lord of all. The inference is the essential equality of the race. Differences of rank, etc., are accidental and will pass away. That rich and poor, etc., are common subjects of the same King will never pass away. Let this soften racial, social, and sectarian asperities.

III. Christ, being Lord over all, is rich unto all. Rich Himself, He does not use His wealth for Himself. “For our sakes He” once “became poor”; but now, being again highly exalted, He gives gifts to men.

1. This is to be understood in the widest sense. His providential riches are distributed universally. Good and bad, enemies and friends, are partakers of His bounty.

2. This is to be understood in a more limited sense. His choicest favours are indeed offered to all, and the condition of their acceptance is possible to all; but they are confined to those who “call upon Him.”

God’s riches

The word “rich” is here used in its ethical import, as equivalent to liberal or bountiful. Hence the remarkable expression “rich unto.” In the sphere of ordinary life, when men become rich, they are in general simply said to be rich--at times it may be said that they are rich in this world’s possessions, or that they are rich in the possession of devoted friends, or rich in genius, but God is here represented as “rich unto”--i.e., He is abundant in goodness. (J. Morison, D.D.)

If men are not saved the fault is their own

because--

I. God is willing to save all.

1. He makes no difference.

2. Is rich unto all.

3. Offers salvation to all who call upon Him.

II. God provides means for all.

1. He sends His gospel to all (Romans 10:14-15).

2. Convinces men of unbelief (Romans 10:16).

3. Makes His word effective in producing faith (Romans 10:17).

III. Men rob themselves of their salvation by their unbelief.

1. They do not improve the means (Romans 10:18).

2. Are often more unfaithful than others less favoured (Romans 10:19-20).

3. Make the purpose of God of no effect through their disobedience. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

For whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall he saved.--

The inclusive “whosoever”

John Berridge once said, after having given out these words as his text, “I would much rather it be written, ‘Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved’--than ‘If John Berridge shall call out the name of the Lord he shall be saved’; because” said he, “how do I know that there might not be another John Berridge in the world to whom those words were addressed? But when I read, ‘Whosoever shall call,’ etc., I know I must be included.”

Salvation

1. Its import.

2. Its conditions.

3. Its universal offer. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Salvation

This is the substance of the grand gospel. It implies--

1. That we are not saved by our opinions, theories, Churches, or ordinances.

2. That we are saved by Christ.

3. That application to Him for salvation must be made.

4. That in granting salvation Christ is no respecter of persons.

How thankful should we be for this simple, comprehensive declaration. How instant and earnest should be our application. How hopeful and assured of a favourable reply. (J. Parker, D.D.)

Salvation is

I. Needed by all.

II. Is intended for all.

III. Is within the reach of all.

IV. May be secured by all. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Salvation, its Author and condition

Paul opened this chapter with an expression of heartfelt desire for the salvation of Israel; but the mass cf the nation were acting in direct antagonism to the only method of salvation. In his estimation, their rejection of the Divine plan of saving men was a crime which admitted of no palliation. There were no physical difficulties in the way (verses 6, 7). There were no intellectual difficulties in the way (verse 8). There were no moral difficulties in the way, save in their own voluntary ignorance and unbelief. Hell is self-chosen, both by Jew and Gentile. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

I. Man wants salvation--

1. From present evil. “The whole world is guilty before God.”

2. From future evil. Living to sin, the tendency of his soul is downwards, and no plumb-line can fathom the depths to which he may descend. Perish is the dark dissyllable used to describe the final state of the impenitent.

II. The salvation man wants is attainable. “Shall be saved.” Salvation includes--

1. Deliverance from the great moral evils of the present.

2. Fitness for the enjoyment of the great realities of the future. The saving power creates a heaven in the heart, ere it introduces a heaven to the eye.

III. The salvation man wants is attainable only by Christ.

1. He procured it as the world’s Saviour. “He redeemed us to God with His blood.” He could have destroyed; but while we were yet sinners He died for us.

2. He bestows salvation as the world’s Sovereign.

IV. The salvation man wants and is attainable only by Christ, is suspended on the condition of prayer.

1. This condition embodies all that is instrumentally necessary to man’s salvation. It implies--

There was self-condemnation. Smiting upon his burdened conscience, he exclaimed, “God be merciful to me.”… There was a confession of sin to God: “God be merciful to”… “a sinner.” There was faith.

2. This condition is strikingly simple compared with the great results of its exercise. “Whosoever shall call … shall be saved.” We have not to traverse sandy deserts, and climb rugged steeps with the Mohammedan, nor to endure maceration with the papist, in order to obtain salvation. We have no work of supposed merit to perform; not to purchase, not to suffer, but to beg.

3. This condition is bound up with a name that renders salvation the certain result of its exercise. The condition is, that we pray to Christ. Complying with this condition, the name of Christ is a guarantee of success.

4. This condition may be exercised with success by any one cf the race. “Whosoever shall,” etc. Christianity invites the confidence of the world. Catholicity appears--

“Whosoever” is a word utterly neutralising the attempts which men have rashly made to limit the compassion of God, and obstruct the way of the sinner’s approach to the mercy-seat. Conclusion: The subject reminds us--

1. That only one method of salvation exists. “There is none other name given among men,” etc.

2. To perish with a knowledge of this, man must commit soul-suicide. (G. Wallis.)

Free salvation

I. The blessing. Salvation from--

1. The guilt.

2. The power.

3. The results of sin.

II. The duty. To call--

1. Upon God.

2. Through the mediation of Christ.

3. By the aid of the Spirit.

4. With a disposition to be saved.

III. The promise. To all--

1. Nations.

2. Ranks.

3. Conditions.

4. Characters. (W. W. Wythe.)

The glad tidings

I. Their nature.

II. Dispensation.

III. Reception.

IV. Effect. (W. W. Wythe.)

Calling on the name of the Lord

To call upon the name of the Lord implies--

I. Right faiths, to call upon Him as He is.

II. Right trust in Him, leaning upon Him.

III. Right devotion, calling upon Him, as He has appointed.

IV. Right life, ourselves who call upon Him being, or becoming, by His grace, what He wills.

They call not upon the Lord, but upon some idol of their own imagining, who call upon Him as other than He has revealed Himself, or remaining themselves other than those whom He has declared that He will hear. (E. B. Pusey, D.D.)

Calling in earnest

I. This call does not always express itself in words, but is the speech of the Spirit, and is well understood by the heavenly Father, who seeks to hear those who worship Him in spirit and in truth.

II. It is not an artificial call. The mere saying of prayers is an act of gross superstition; the form is useless unless your heart feels and prompts the expression.

III. It is not a call for form’s sake, but a dying cry for help. A Frenchman going to the chapel to pray, found that workmen were in the chapel, and the altar covered up with a dirty cloth. So walking quietly up the centre of the chapel and making a courteous bow, he placed his card upon the altar and retired. But there was also in the place a poor woman, who had been led, perhaps by poverty and cruel temptation, into sin. Crouching upon the floor, her tears fell upon the sawdust, and her soul cried to God. In the one case it was a matter of form, in the other it was an earnest desire for the forgiveness and peace of God.

IV. It is a call that is intensely earnest. The call that shall move God to save us is not a mere chaunted prayer, but the cry within the heart, “God, be merciful to me a sinner.”

V. It is the call of the helpless one, who is broken down under the load of sin.

VI. It is the call of the easily tempted. VII. It is the call of a captive. VIII. It is a call of the despairing soul. (W. Birch.)

A simple sermon for seeking souls

1. Inasmuch as our text talks of men being saved, it implies that men need saving; but if men had been as God created them, they would have needed no saving. We must not, however, throw the blame on Adam; no man was ever yet damned for Adam’s sin alone. Children dying in infancy are, without doubt, saved through the atonement. But we are not children. We need not talk just now of Adam’s sins. We have our own to account for.

2. Salvation means our escaping from the punishment of sin, and also from the habit of sin.

3. How may men be saved? The answer is in the text.

I. Explanation. What is meant by calling upon the name of the Lord?

1. Worship. “When men began to multiply upon the face of the earth, then began men to call upon the name of the Lord,” i.e., they builded altars in His name, offered sacrifice, bowed their knee, and lifted their voice. Now, whosoever is enabled by grace to worship God, in God’s way, shall be saved.

2. Prayer. Elijah, when the prophets of Baal sought to get rain from their false god, said, “I will call upon God,” i.e., “I will pray to God, that He may send the rain.” Now, whosoever prayeth to God through Christ, with sincere prayer, shall be saved. Thou canst not pray and perish. It may be a groan, a tear, or a prayer in broken English; but if it be a prayer from the inmost heart, thou shalt be saved.

3. Trust. A man cannot call upon the name of the Lord, unless he trusts in that name, and he that trusteth in Christ, calling on His name, shall be saved.

4. Professing His name. Ananias said to Saul, “Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling upon the name of the Lord.” Now some of you say, “We will believe and be secret Christians.” Hear this, then--“If any man be ashamed of Me,” etc. What would Her Majesty think of her soldiers, if they should prefer not to wear anything that would mark them as being soldiers?

II. Refutation. There are some popular errors which need to be cured by refutation., viz.--

1. That a priest or a minister is absolutely necessary to assist men in salvation. The necessity of a preacher lies in telling what the way of salvation is; but his office goes no further. Neither Paul, nor an angel from heaven, can help you in salvation. We must each of us go to the fountain-head, pleading this promise.

2. That a good dream is a most splendid thing in order to save people. Rowland Hill, when a woman pleaded that she was saved because she dreamed, said, “Well, it is very nice to have good dreams when you are asleep; but I want to see how you act when you are awake; for if your conduct is not consistent in religion when you are awake. I will not give a snap of the finger for your dreams.” Some people have been alarmed by dreams; but to trust to them is to trust to a shadow.

3. That a certain kind of feeling must be experienced in order to salvation. Now, the only feeling I want is that I am a sinner and that Christ is my Saviour. You may keep your ecstasies and raptures to yourselves; the only feeling necessary is deep repentance and humble faith; and if you have got that you are saved.

4. That somehow or other salvation is connected with learning. Now, I would advise you to know as much as ever you can; but in regard to going to heaven, the way is so plain, that “the wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein.” All you want to know is, the two things that begin with S--Sin and Saviour.

III. Exhortation. Believe the message. Does it seem hard to believe? Nothing is too hard for the Most High. I will use a few reasons to induce you to believe this truth. If thou callest on Christ’s name thou wilt be saved.

1. Because thou art elect. That doctrine which puzzles many and frightens more, never need do so. If you call on the name of Christ you are elect.

2. Because thou art redeemed. Christ has bought thee, and paid for thee.

3. Because Christ says, “In My Father’s house there are many mansions,” and there is one there for you. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The obligation of Christian missions

I. The gospel is designed for the world (verse 13).

II. The world needs it (verse 14).

III. The church is commissioned to dispense it. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Steps essential to faith

I. Faith is essential to worship (verse 13). “He that cometh to God must believe that He is,” etc. Acceptable worship is not speech, ritual, or bodily service, but the devotions of a soul quickened by a living faith.

1. Not a corporate faith, the current faith of a community to which we belong.

2. Not a traditional faith.

3. But an individual faith which has been reached by our own examination of facts and evidence, and which has become a living power within us.

II. Information is essential to faith (verse 14). Faith implies objects known to us. We cannot believe in something, however true, that is unknown. Men know nothing of God until they are informed. The knowledge does not come either as an intuition, or as a truth conveyed by nature. “The world by wisdom knew not God.” There must come a special revelation.

III. Preaching is essential to knowledge. “How shall they hear without a preacher?” Let the word “preacher” stand for all who convey from God necessary information--prophets, apostles, and all true modern expositors of the blessed Book. Had not such messengers appeared whom God made organs of communications to men, what should we have known of Him? What to produce a living faith? The publication of the gospel by preaching is God’s established instrumentality for giving the world a knowledge of the great things of faith.

IV. Divine commission is essential to preaching. “How shall they preach except they be sent?” The men who give the true knowledge are the men only whom God sends. There are many unsent preachers proclaiming their notions. Who are the sent ones? What are the criteria by which to determine the point--volubility, animal warmth, popularity? Not necessarily so. He is the sent who is divinely qualified by having the right conceptions, the right sympathies, the right speech. (D. Thomas, D.D.)

Links in the soul’s redemptive chain

I. Prayer. “How then shall they call on Him?” etc. This implies--

1. Consciousness of dependence upon Him.

2. An earnest desire after Him.

II. Faith. “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?” Faith in--

1. His personal existence.

2. The entreatability of His nature.

III. Knowledge. “How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?” Faith is at the basis of all knowledge--soul redemptive faith requires knowledge, not of the creative, sustaining God, but of the redeeming God, God in Christ.

IV. Preaching. The redeeming God has been made known to man by preaching. Enoch, Noah, Moses, the prophets, the apostles, and Christ all preached. And the subject of all their preaching was the redeeming God. No one can preach this properly unless he be sent. (D. Thomas, D.D.)

God’s readiness to forgive

Macaulay speaks of James II as being hard and as glorying in the opportunity of crushing another. One of the most affecting pictures in the Royal Academy of this year depicts the king in the act of crushing the poor defeated Duke of Monmouth. In a room hung with tapestry the king stands erect, lank, sickly, and contemptuous. The poor duke whose rebellion had roused the hatred of the king, thought to move him to pity. His arms were “bound behind him with a silken cord, and thus secured he was ushered into the presence of the implacable kinsman whom he had wronged. Then Monmouth threw himself on the ground and crawled to the king’s feet.” The artist represents him with face on the smooth floor, eyes swollen with weeping and watching, striving to move the king to pity. It was in vain. The king only crushed with hardness and contempt. No wonder that the historian says strongly, “To see him, and not to spare him, was an outrage on humanity and decency.” How many such outrages are committed in a day by those of lower rank 1 Those who feel that they have sinned and who come imploringly to the feet of Divine mercy, have no need to fear that they will be treated with hardness. God “will not break the bruised reed,” He is gentle towards us. He forgives, uplifts, strengthens, and saves. (Mother’s Treasury.)

Crying for salvation

Some years ago a vessel struck on the rocks. They had only one lifeboat. In that lifeboat the passengers and crew were getting ashore. The vessel had foundered, and was sinking deeper and deeper, and that one boat could not take the passengers very swiftly. A little girl stood on the deck waiting for her turn to get into the boat. The boat came and went, came and went, but her turn did not seem to come. After awhile she could wait no longer, and she leaped on the taffrail and then sprang into the sea, crying to the boatman, “Save me next! Save me next!” Oh, how many have gone ashore into God’s mercy, and yet you are clinging to the wreck of sin! Others have accepted the pardon of Christ, but you are in peril. Why not, this moment, make a rush for your immortal rescue, crying until Jesus shall hear you, and heaven and earth ring with the cry, “Save me next! Save me next”?


Verse 14-15

Romans 10:14-15

How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?

Salvation preached

I. Salvation by grace.

1. We all hope to be saved. Salvation cannot be of merit for anybody that you or I have ever known. It must be of grace, if grace be possible: there is no other way. And there is this way--an old way, an eternal way--prepared and opened far back behind all time, when the Lamb was slain. This takes us back into mysterious and awful depths. But revelation leads the way. Surely we narrow God, unless we think of Him as Triune. Surely we slander God, unless we make atonement as much the work of the Father and the Spirit, as of the Son.

2. How to be square and clean, how to be considerate and generous, how not to be selfish and self-willed; how not to be afraid or ashamed to die: this is the great problem of life. Tell me how to do this and you will tell me how to be saved. Grace tramples down no law. Salvation by grace is through faith, working by love, which, like fire, cleanses the heart and cleanses the life.

3. The salvation of society, menaced now, menaced always, by human appetite and passions in their disorganising play, must come by the same road. No one form of government rather than another, no mere selfish forces, is the thing required. Till society shall have become unselfish it has not been saved, nor can it be. And to become unselfish, it must learn, not of socialistic reformers, who pronounce unselfishness impossible, but of Him who was unselfishness incarnate.

II. This salvation must be preached.

1. Christianity is one of the great Book-Religions, of which there are pre-eminently three--Judaism and Mohammedanism being the other two. This word “Book-Religion” means a great deal.

2. And yet Christianity did not start as a volume, but as a voice. Christ Himself probably wrote nothing, not a line. Meanwhile, the kingdom of Christ has been marching and conquering, north and south, towards the rising and towards the setting sun. Its snow-white banners, chasing the Roman eagles, had outflown those eagles beyond the Danube, the Euphrates, and the Indus. What wrought that triumph? The foolishness of preaching wrought it. Christ is no Confucius, or Socrates, or Solon, but God Incarnate. He that saves us spake, and as never man spake. So the sacred message ran, and runs, from lip to lip. It is in the air all the time.

3. A Bible in every human habitation is something well worth trying to achieve. But I can tell you of something better still. It is Christ Himself, in any one of the humblest of His disciples, casting His shadow on the wall. Breathing men, not breathless books, must carry salvation round the globe. It must be preached; preached by men who have had it preached to them; preached to sinners by men who have sinned themselves; by dying men to dying men.

III. The preachers must be sent.

1. Our text does not say by whom, but the context makes it plain enough. God must send them.

2. Whom God sends to preach, He first converts. And then He kindles in him, beyond the average, what we have been in the habit of calling a love for souls; call it, if you please, enthusiasm, a great, good heart, quick sympathy with men as men, and with the daily wants and ways of men.

3. In the apostolic and early Church, which wrought such wonders, preaching was not exclusively an official prerogative. Strictly speaking, there was no order of preachers. Anybody might preach who had anything to say worth saying. Not till near the close of the fourth century were laymen forbidden to preach. And then the Church had got far along in the bad way. I confess I do not see how Christianity is ever to carry the day, unless the great bulk of our Church membership becomes also a ministry. A Grecian army, with or without leaders, might possibly have stood its ground all the same at Marathon, saving Greece, and saving the civilisation of the Occident. But Miltiades alone there, with his handful of officers, would not have stayed for a moment the Persian march on Athens. (R. D. Hitchcock, D.D.)

The necessity of revelation to faith

Belief is impossible, where it is impossible to convey any knowledge of the subjects of belief; the body cannot digest without nutriment to engage its digestive functions; the mind cannot believe without facts and propositions to occupy its believing faculty (verse 17). The voice of God, the hearing of man, the consequent belief, are the three necessarily successive links in the golden chain of revealed salvation. Sever the continuity of any two, and the electric spark cannot be transferred across the interval. (W. Archer Butler, M.A.)

How shall they hear without a preacher?--

Preaching

I. Its advantages.

1. Economy of exertion. How much is done with comparatively little speaking.

2. Many receive religious instruction who would otherwise have none.

3. Religion is kept a conspicuous thing.

4. All are made witnesses to all they have heard.

5. There is something in it for popular opinion to lean upon.

6. It tends to secure for religion deep study, at least in some parts of the community.

II. Its requisites.

1. Power of thought.

2. Facility of expression.

3. Knowledge of the Scriptures. (John Foster.)

The usefulness and authority of an established ministry

I. The necessity of a ministry to officiate in the Church of God.

1. The settling and preserving a ministry to officiate in the Church is an instance of our respect to Almighty God. God is the God of order, not of confusion, and expects that His service should be performed after a regular and decent manner, free from negligence on the one hand and foppery on the other; especially He requires that acts of public adoration should be accompanied with a reverence and solemnity suitable to the majesty of such a presence. Now this cannot reasonably be supposed to be so exactly performable by those who are frequently embroiled in the affairs of the world, and by that means have their thoughts and affections the more estranged from heavenly contemplations. It has therefore been the universal practice of all nations to appoint some peculiar persons to attend upon God’s service more immediately, who, by continually applying themselves to such things as were acceptable to Him, were supposed to have some interest in Him, to be qualified to understand His will, and to be authorised to reveal it to others. Now as this was done by the common consent of all heathen nations in relation to their false divinities, so was it more eminently put in practice by those who had a clearer notion of the true Deity; one tribe in twelve being set apart by the Jews and consecrated to the service of God and His Temple, no worldly concerns being suffered to interfere, but the whole employment and business of their lives being to study His will and the methods of His worship.

2. I proceed, next, to enforce the necessity of a ministry to officiate in the Church of God from the great advantages accruing thereby to the other members of Christ’s body.

II. The authority by which they act. “How shall they preach except they be sent?” Our blessed Saviour, in order to carry on the universal design of our redemption, thought fit to select a certain number of men to be His missionaries or apostles, investing them with some part of His own authority (Mark 3:14). From Him, then, “who is a Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec” is derived to His ministers a plenitude of power proportionable to the majesty of so august a Founder. We have His own Word for it, who cannot lie (John 17:18). Since, therefore, the Author and Finisher of our faith has thus expressly testified in relation to His ministers that as He was sent even so did He send, the questioning that authority by which they act will cast an imputation upon Christ Himself, and a doubting the validness of their mission will unhappily glance and reflect upon His. I shall now close up all that has been said with a word or two of application. Can they not hear without a preacher? Is the necessity and advantage of an established ministry so very great? Let us, then, most heartily pray the great Lord of the harvest that He will still continue to send forth able labourers into His harvest. Let us also consider how many miserable souls are deprived of those benefits which we possess. And let this consideration cause in us gratitude and thanksgiving for the happy enjoyment of such inestimable blessings. Can they not preach except they be sent? Can they not officiate except their calling be from above? Then it extremely stands them upon to make good their mission. And the surest way of proving that to be undeniably true is by accommodating their doctrine to the Word of God and squaring their lives according to their doctrine. But farther--Is their commission so full and their authority so large? This, then, should oblige us to put some distinction between those who come so duly authorised and others who intrude into the same employment. (N. Brady.)

Hearing versus reading

You take up a book and read a poem. Slowly, carefully you distil the meaning, admire it, appropriate it. Very likely you imagine that you have obtained the author’s full significance, and extracted therefrom all the enjoyment and profit possible. But let some friend recite it, enunciating clearly, articulating sympathetically, giving to each line its appropriate expression, and the probability is that you will see and feel more than you did previously. An experienced and able missionary has remarked, “I have never seen a Chinaman weep over a book; but I have seen a Chinaman weep under a sermon. I have myself many times made a Chinaman weep by the proclamation of the gospel.” We have the sermons of George Whitfield and the orations of Edward Irving, and what is the first experience of those who peruse them? In the majority of cases it is disappointment. “Can this be the renowned man who moved so mightily the spirits of his contemporaries?” Such is our astonished question. Yes, it is the renowned man; but cannot you see how it is that you are not affected by his discourses as others were? It is because they heard, whereas you only read. Wisely, then, is it ordained that the gospel shall be preached. (T. R. Stevenson.)

Preaching: its necessity

1. Preaching is God’s ordained method of communicating Divine knowledge.

2. Without Divine knowledge men cannot believe.

3. Without faith men cannot call upon God.

4. Without calling upon God they cannot be saved. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Missionary obligation

The gospel should be preached to every creature it being a universal message from heaven to earth. A commission thus universal should have had at our hands a universal fulfilment; but we have only to open our eyes and see how palpably short it has come of this. And yet we affect to wonder that the blessings of Christianity are limited to so small a portion of the human family. But surely it is not time to charge the Almighty, or to arraign the methods of His administration--till we have inquired in how far this precept has been carried into operation; and then what the instances are in which, when the precept was fully acted up to, this promise has ever been withheld. Verses 14, 15 give the first and readiest answer to the question--How is it that the whole earth is not Christianised? God could, by an act of sovereignty, achieve this result at the instant bidding of His voice--even as He said Let there be light, and there was light. But God hath, in the exercise of a wisdom, in perfect analogy with the many processes of nature and providence, chosen to ordain an instrumentality for the diffusion of the Christian religion over the world. Now it so happens that men are the chief parts of this instrumentality; and we should first inquire how they have done their part--so as to ascertain whether it be not we the men who are in fault, before daring to lay the fault upon God. It is a sound doctrinal theology which acknowledges, amid the countless diversity of operations around us, that it is God who worketh all in all. But God worketh by means; and when a certain prescribed human agency enters into that system of means which He hath instituted, it is a sound practical theology to labour as assiduously in the bidden way as if man worked all. God could have worked a saving faith in the heart of Cornelius by an immediate suggestion from His own Spirit, or through the mouth of an angel. And He did send an angel to Cornelius, not however that he might preach the gospel to him, but that he might bid him send for Peter, and receive that gospel at the lips of a fellow-mortal. And God also sent to Peter a communication from heaven to prepare him for the message--thus doubling as it were the amount of miraculous agency, in order that the gospel might be heard by a yet unconverted child of Adam, not through the medium of a supernatural and angelic, but through the medium of a natural and a human utterance. Yet not so as that the natural should supersede or displace the super-natural--for while Peter spake, the Holy Ghost fell on all them who heard. The function of Peter was the same with that of a minister or missionary in the present day--it was to tell Cornelius the words by which he and all his house should be saved. And the function of the Holy Ghost for the purpose of giving demonstration and efficiency to the word, is the same now as ever--He falls on us still even as He did on them at the beginning. Let no man put asunder the things which God hath joined. The application of all this to the question of missions, whether home or foreign, is quite obvious. Let these be multiplied to the uttermost, yet all will be useless and effete, if unblest or unaccompanied by the Spirit of God, Some there are, men of devotion, who have a contempt for machinery, and who think to succeed by prayer alone for the extension of our Redeemer’s kingdom. Others there are, men of bustle and enterprise, who think to succeed by the busy prosecution of schemes and societies. Both must be conjoined, and it is to this prolific union of devout and desirous hearts with busy hands, that the Church of Christ stands indebted for all its prosperity. (T. Chalmers, D.D.)

And how shall they preach except they be sent?--

The necessity of a proper commission for a minister

It is not a man’s skill in state affairs that makes him an ambassador, nor ability in the law that makes him a magistrate, but the call to these places: neither do gifts make a man a minister, but his mission. (W. Gurnall.)

How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace!--This is a picture on the canvas of the imagination. In a time of intense anxiety and imminent peril, many are the earnest and wistful looks that are directed to the mountain pass in the distance. At length when hope deferred was turning into despair, the messenger is descried. He is striding in haste, waving a token of the glad tidings he is commissioned to communicate. The feet which bear him rapidly along, are beautiful to behold--beautiful to the eyes of the hopeful. (J. Morison, D.D.)

The preacher’s feet beautiful

Three things make them so:

1. The preciousness of his message.

2. The ardour of his zeal and love.

3. The holy consistency of his life. (T. Robinson, D.D.)

The messenger of mercy

I. His commission.

1. From God.

2. From the Church.

II. His message.

1. Glad tidings.

2. Of peace.

3. Of good things.

III. His welcome.

1. By the perishing world.

2. By the penitent sinner. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The Christian missionary

I. How necessary his mission!

II. How welcome his coming!

III. How glorious his message!

IV. How beautiful his track! (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The gospel of peace

I. The general import of the gospel. Good news, or glad tidings. A message which bears this designation--

1. Must relate to something that is really and substantially good. Bad news may find the ear open, but the heart will be shut. Now the gospel unfolds what is truly good for our immortal souls. Its promises and provisions are inestimably precious. It lays pipes close to the fountain of goodness, and through them pours a profusion of blessings.

2. Must relate to a good that immediately concerns us. To tell a man in penury, of abundance; or a man in sickness, of healing; or a man in danger, of deliverance, which is placed utterly beyond his reach, is but to aggravate his distress. But the religion of Jesus supplies healing and help and adequate relief.

3. Must be true and certain. What avail great and good things, held out to us in a precarious manner? The good news, which we publish, is well authenticated. Omnipotence has confirmed and ratified it.

II. Some reasons why the sacred word is emphatically called the gospel of peace. Peace is a blessing of the highest value. In our text it is used in its most comprehensive acceptation, as denoting--

1. Peace with God, or reconciliation (Colossians 1:19-21). The terms of this reconciliation are set forth in Romans 5:1-3.

2. Peace with ourselves, or peace of conscience. “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” They try a variety of expedients, which all utterly fail of success. It is necessary that the gospel be actually received, to tranquillise the heart (Hebrews 10:19).

3. Peace with our brethren, or the peace of amity. Christianity is a religion of peace. It allays the fury of those passions which are the springs of strife and bitterness. Its doctrines and principles of Christianity breathe a spirit of universal benevolence. (Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)

The gospel of peace

1. The effect of the preaching of the gospel is joy in them which hear it. So at Antioch there was great joy; so in Galatia, and elsewhere.

2. This effect is set forth under a comparison of the less; for Isaiah (Isaiah 52:7) speaks of the royal receiving of the messengers of Israel’s deliverance from the captivity of Babylon. If, then, the tidings of such temporal deliverance was so welcome, much more must be welcome the glad tidings of the gospel: and as those messengers were from God, so much more these. In these words are two things.

I. A commendation of the gospel. “How beautiful”--as if he were not able to express such beauty--“are the feet!” Some take feet for men; some for the affections, being that to the soul which feet are to the body: these affections appearing in the apostles, by their sweet delivery and utterance; some for the velocity of the apostles in converting the world; some their constancy and courage. Some take beauty for the holiness of the apostles; some for a fleshly beauty by ornaments, as slippers embroidered with gold and pearl; as this Scripture is abused to the consecrating of the Pope’s toe. But the plain meaning is that the coming of the apostles with the glad tidings of salvation was acceptable: he saith feet because they are the instruments of going; as we familiarly say of poor men, they get their living by their fingers’ ends, which are the instruments of their labour. Beautiful. The Hebrew word may signify to be desired and longed for, or beautiful and welcome. The beauty of a thing causeth it to be desired, as the beauty of Christ makes the Church sick of love. The Greek term comes of a root which signifies--

1. Time. Generally time, or seasonable time: and so some read it, “How seasonable!” A word spoken in season is beautiful. Everything is beautiful in his season. Many of our daintiest meats are not, but the gospel is always in season; in the winter of adversity, in the summer of prosperity, in the spring of youth, and autumn of age.

2. The spring: and therefore some have compared the coming of the preachers of the gospel to the spring. For as the fields in the spring begin to be adorned with flowers, in which all creatures rejoice, so the preaching of the gospel turns our winter-like barrenness into fruitfulness, making us to flourish with heavenly graces and virtues.

3. Ripeness, and so some have likened the coming of the apostles to ripe fruit. Unripe fruit is dangerous, and not so well coloured, but that which is ripe is both well tasted and well coloured. No dainty-coloured fruit so beautiful and wholesome as the gospel.

4. Comeliness; that which we call the pride and flowers of life; also youth, wherein is that mixture of white and red which is called beauty. As Christ is said to be fairer, so also is the gospel.

II. A reason. Because it is the gospel of peace and glad tidings of good things. This redundance serves to make us the more to esteem of it. It is the Ghost’s spell, a comforting and soul-saving word.

1. Peace. We are by corruption of nature enemies to God; the gospel reveals a threefold peace--with God, with ourselves, with men; according to the song of the angels at the birth of Christ.

2. Good things. Yea, the best in the superlative degree, celestial good things: a freedom from all evil of sin, of punishment.

Conclusion: Nothing should be so welcome as the preaching and preachers of the gospel. That Christ came to save sinners is a faithful saying, and worthy of the best welcome (1 Timothy 1:15). It is called the word of life, of salvation, the gospel of the kingdom. Even the key of heaven; for life and immortality are brought to light by the gospel (2 Timothy 1:12).

1. The essential duty of a minister is to preach the gospel. The law is to be preached also, both as an introduction to the gospel, and for a direction how to lead our lives when we have received the gospel, because sin breaks God’s peace; but chiefly we are sent to preach the gospel.

2. Not riches, nor dignities, but to preach the gospel is the chief honour and beauty of a minister, who, though highly advanced, if he preach not the gospel, shall be despised.

3. Some love their ministers because they keep hospitality, which is commendable; some because they gain by them, which is carnal; some because they never preach, which is abominable; some because themselves would be well accounted of, which is hypocritical. But to love them for their work’s sake is conscionable, and according to the commandment (1 Thessalonians 5:13). It is an argument of great corruption to esteem meanly a preacher; when he that brings tidings of a good bargain, or is an instrument of our pleasures, shall be highly welcomed and rewarded.

4. If the minister have weak gifts, yet if he preach the gospel thou must account his feet beautiful. It is not the gifts of men, but the Word of God which works the feat in our conversion.

5. If it be the gospel of peace, the professors are to be peaceable. (Elnathan Parr, B.D.)

The music of the gospel

What music is there ever heard in this world to be compared with the music of the gospel? It goes to the heart of universal humanity. It is richer in its tones than all the voices of men. It is more thrilling far than all the symphonies of Handel and Mozart, of Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Rossini, and of all the mighty masters of song. It is softer than the murmur of the evening breeze; more soothing than the sound of the distant waterfall. It is sweeter than the warblings of summer birds; more harmonious than the chorus of the forest’s rustling leaves. It is grander than the hallelujahs of the waves of the ocean; more overpowering than the organ roll of the reverberating thunder. Aye, and more melting and delicious than the harping of those heavenly intelligences whom God designates as the “morning stars.” The gospel steals over the bosom of the desolate and inexpressibly sad. It drops its assuaging balm on the ear of the broken and the weary, the forsaken, the bereaved, the solitary. It charms away the despondency of the labouring and the heavy-laden. Its minstrelsy penetrates within the prison bars of the captive, and floats to the ear of tyranny’s fettered victim in the subterranean dungeon. Its solace cheers those who sit in ashes, who are clad in the vestments of mourning, and are swooning under the spirit of heaviness, It comes with resistless force to the bankrupt, the ruined and undone, to the guilty, the betrayed, the despairing, the polluted, and the lost. When all other voices are still, with gentler than a mother’s accents, it breathes out hope and retrieval for the fallen and the outcast. No fabled Orpheus ever so affected rocks, trees, and wild beasts, by harp and song, as Christ by the music of the gospel has drawn after Him, in blissful captivity, the dullest, rudest, and most savage of mankind, constraining them to leave their carnal instincts, their habits of depravity, their ways of sin, so that, forsaking all besides, o’er all the world they follow Him. (J. Somerville.)

The gospel of peace

It is a great mercy to enjoy the “gospel of peace,” but a still greater to enjoy the peace of the gospel. (J. Dyer.)

The gospel indifferent to the means of its conveyance

The meanness of the earthen vessel, which conveys to others the gospel treasure, takes nothing from the value of the treasure. A dying hand may sign a deed of gift of incalculable value. A shepherd’s boy may point out the way to a philosopher. A beggar may be the bearer of an invaluable present. (W. Cecil, M.A.)


Verse 16

Romans 10:16

But they have not all obeyed the gospel.
For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?

Obedience to the gospel

1. Paul prevents an objection to that which was said concerning the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles, that it was of God. As if some Jew should say, No, Paul, God never sent you to preach to them, for if He had He would have sent you first to us, and have blessed your labours; but the greater part obey you not, either of Jews or Gentiles. This Paul answers by a concession, with a correction annexed, as if he should say, Indeed all do not obey the gospel, yet you Jews are not to be offended, because, as our sending was foretold, so your and their incredulity; and the small fruit and effect was foretold also.

2. All have not obeyed, i.e., believed. So called because obedience is an inseparable effect of faith. So we say of the trees in our orchards, this is a pear, that a plum, when they are the trees that bear such fruit; so faith is the tree that bears the fruit of obedience. The obedience of faith is twofold. First, of reason, when it gives place and way to the gospel, though it conceive it not. For the gospel goes beyond reason, as in the point of the Trinity, incarnation of Christ, justification of a sinner before God, resurrection, etc. Abraham believed (2 Corinthians 10:5) above or against reason, and the gospel is said to bring into subjection our reason. That of works is when we observe the law, for faith worketh by love (Galatians 5:6), and is to be shown by our works.

3. When the gospel is preached all are not converted by it and believe it (John 3:32; Joh_12:37; Matthew 20:16; 2 Thessalonians 3:2).

I. Faith is called obedience. Obey thou in life, and make thy reason obey. No man standing on his own reason ever believed; an unsanctified wit is a great hindrance of faith. The greatest philosophers (Acts 17:18) most resisted Paul, as our greatest politicians most scoff at preaching of the Word.

II. All are bound to hear, and nothing so worthy to be heard as the gospel. Let us say of hearing, as Paul speaks of knowing it, viz., that he esteemed to know nothing besides (1 Corinthians 2:2). The nurse’s song doth not so quiet the babe as the preaching of the gospel the conscience. It is the hand of God offering us forgiveness of sins. He, therefore, who hath ears to hear, let him hear. If thou wilt not now hear that which may profit thee, thou shalt hear one day that which will make thy heart to ache, even this, “Go, you cursed,” etc.

III. Ministers must be affected and grieve when they see the company of reverent hearers so thin, and their labours so fruitless. The prophet here complains of this; so Christ groans for the hardness of the people’s hearts, and weeps over the stubbornness of Jerusalem. The shrewdest turn to be done to a minister is to deprive him of the joy of his labours, and the way to rejoice them is to embrace the gospel they preach.

IV. Isaiah and Paul gave not over, though they had cause to complain. As the physician omits no point of his art, though the recovery of his patient be desperate, so, though we preach to many desperate and scoffing hearers, we must not give over, but rather use the more diligence.

V. Although faith cannot be without preaching going before it, yet preaching may be without faith following it. As that which is to be known may be without the knowledge of it. There are two things required to faith: the determination of that which is to be believed, and the inclination and persuasion of the heart to believe. Preaching determines, but it is God who persuades by preaching. God can do it without preaching, but preaching cannot do it without God. Our voice can say repent, but it is God only that gives repentance. Paul preacheth to Lydia’s care, but God hath the key of her heart. (Elnathan Parr, B.D.)

Disobedience to the gospel

1. Man is the same disobedient creature under all dispensations. We bemoan his rejection of the gospel, and so did Isaiah, who spoke in the name of the whole company of the prophets.

2. It is one of the greatest proofs of the depravity of man’s heart that he will no more obey the gospel than the law, but disobeys his God, whether He speaks to him in love or in law. Men will sooner be lost than trust their God.

3. When any receive the gospel it is a work of grace--“the arm of the Lord is revealed”; but when they refuse it it is their own sin--“they have not obeyed the gospel.”

I. The gospel comes to men with the force of a command. It is not optional to men to accept or refuse it at pleasure (Acts 17:30; Mark 1:5). To refuse to believe is to incur great sin (John 16:8). There is a death penalty attached to disobedience (Mark 16:16). It is so put--

1. To secure the honour of God. It is not the offer of an equal to an equal, but of the great God to a condemned sinner.

2. To embolden the proclaimer of it. The minister now speaks boldly with his Master’s authority.

3. To remind him of his obligations. Repentance and faith are natural duties from which the gospel does not exonerate a man, although it blesses him by bestowing them upon him.

4. To encourage the humble seeker. He must be at full liberty to believe in Jesus, since he is commanded to do so, and threatened if he does not do so.

5. To suggest to men the urgent duty of seeing to their soul’s welfare. Suicide, whether of the body or of the soul, is always a great crime. To neglect the great salvation is a grave offence. The gospel is set forth as a feast, to which men are bound to come, under penalty of the King’s displeasure (Matthew 22:1-7). The prodigal was right in returning to his father; and if he was right in doing so, so would each one of us be in doing the same.

II. What, then, are the claims of the gospel to obedience?

1. The authority of the sender. Whatever God commands, man is under bonds to do.

2. The motive of the sender. Love shines in the gospel command, and no man should slight infinite love. To refuse to obey the gospel of salvation is an insult to Divine love.

3. The great gift of the sender: He has given us His only begotten Son. To refuse Jesus is a high affront to measureless love.

4. The reasonableness of the demand of the sender. Should not men believe their God and trust their Saviour?

5. The earnestness of the sender. His whole heart is in the gospel. Note the high position which the scheme of salvation occupies in the esteem of God. Shall we not obey an appeal put before us with such energy of compassion? Ask your own consciences whether you do right to refuse or neglect the gospel of the grace of God. Ask those who are now saved what they think of their long unbelief. Do not incur a world of regrets in after years by long delays. Do not jeopardise your souls by refusing the gospel.

III. What is the obedience required by the gospel? Not mere hearing, crediting, liking, professing, or proclaiming; but a hearty obedience to its commands. It claims--

1. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

2. Renunciation of self-righteousness and confession of guilt.

3. Repentance and practical quittance of sin,

4. Discipleship under the Lord Jesus; and this means obedience both to His teaching and His example.

5. Public confession of His name, in His own way, namely, by baptism. Conclusion: If you refuse to obey the gospel your hearts will harden to a deeper unbelief. Others will obtain the blessing which you refuse; and this will deepen your own condemnation (Romans 10:19). You will die in your sins, with your blood on your own heads. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

An incredible rumour

About 700 B.C. there was a great revival in Israel. The songs of pure worship were heard again in the temple, and the people bowed at the altars of Jehovah. This return to truth and righteousness was, however, merely temporary. It was as the flashing of Northern Lights: the returning darkness was deeper than ever. King and people went back to their abominations, and the prophet disappeared in the gloom of the gathering night, uttering this sad lament, ‘Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” Seven hundred years went by, and around the spur of Mount Olivet passed a procession on its way to the Holy City. “Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David!” cried those that went before and those that followed after. Jesus entered the temple, and from the porch where Isaiah had vainly besought the people to repent and believe He preached the glorious gospel. But in Him there was no form nor comeliness that men should desire Him. The heart of the people was in no wise changed, as Esaias had written, “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is God’s arm revealed?” When all was over and the glorious work had been verified by the Saviour’s triumph over death, Paul, writing to the people of Rome, bids them believe that their salvation is near; he would have them rejoice in the good news of deliverance from sin. Yet still the message was rejected, and the apostle finds utterance for his disappointment in the prophet’s words, “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” And here am I, eighteen hundred years after, preaching the same gospel. Has human nature changed in the meantime? There are multitudes who still reject the offer of redemption in Jesus Christ. What is this report which the people so persistently reject? It is the story of God’s intervention in behalf of our ruined race. The greatest blunder that a human soul can ever make is to refuse the proffer of salvation in Jesus Christ. And pride is at the bottom of it.

I. Pride of intellect. We all know something, and none knows over-much. “A little learning is a dangerous thing.” The temptation is to reject everything which does not fall within the grasp of reason. Observe some of the fundamental facts of the gospel over which we stumble because they baffle us.

1. The manger. Not for a moment must it be supposed that a finite mind can comprehend the mystery of the Incarnation. That, however, is absolutely no reason at all why we should reject it.

2. The Cross. How can the innocent suffer for the guilty? How can the Infinite God bear the sins of His creatures? How can justice be satisfied by vicarious pain? But the mystery of God’s vicarious death in our behalf is really no more incredible than the lower but like mystery of a mother’s love. And a mother’s love is the commonest thing in the world.

3. The open sepulchre. He that was dead is alive again. This also is repugnant to our reason. And yet life out of death, the mystery of mysteries, is all around us and ever forcing itself upon us.

II. Moral pride. The worst of us thinks moderately well of himself.

1. The suggestion of sin is abhorrent to us. It disturbs our equanimity; it troubles our sleep. Christ tears away the turf from our assumption of virtue and exposes a graveful of “dead men’s bones and uncleanness.” Little wonder that a sinner will have none of it.

2. We do not like the notion of repentance. We all would kill John the Baptist could we catch him.

3. The doctrine of free grace is repugnant to us. We would cheerfully pay; but Croesus himself could not, with all his generous possessions, buy one of the clusters from the king’s vineyard. We would be glad to suffer if suffering could expiate the mis-lived past; but we cannot. Christ has suffered once for all. What then remains? How shall a sinner be saved? By simply accepting the proffer of pardon and life. He that believeth shall be saved. Is this all? Ay; and it is the slightness of it that offends us. We must become nothing in the presence of Christ, to the end that Christ may become everything to us. There are two concluding thoughts.

The gospel report

I. The gospel is a report.

1. It is not a new report. It is that which was first heard by our first parents, “Thou shalt bruise his head.” It is the same which was received by the patriarchs and prophets, of whom it is said, “These all died in faith.” It is the same which began to be made by Christ, when in the fulness of time He brought life and immortality to light by the gospel. Novelty is sometimes pleaded against the preachers of the gospel. There is, indeed, a sense in which it is new; its excellence can be known only by experience.

2. But, if it be not new, it is full of truth. Your attention might perhaps be excited by a report that is not true, as some of you may have been excited by the mimicry of the stage, or as others may have poured tears of sensibility over a romance. But all is truth, all is reality here.

3. But supposing it to be true, is it interesting? Is this report an important one? Yes, it is as good as it is true, as true as it is good. There is something striking in the scheme of the gospel. Infinite wisdom is displayed in it, infinite grace is manifested in it; it is infinitely glorious in its effects. Drop it in a town, in a village, in a family, its influence will be soon felt. It does more than all the wisdom of the senate--than all the maxims of philosophers--than all the power of armies.

II. This report is connected with faith. Else it is made in vain. The complaint is, “Who hath believed our report?” I do not mean a family faith, for the exercise of which a man can assign no other reason than that his father believed so before him. Nor do I mean a geographical faith, by which a man makes a profession of Christianity merely because he lives in a Christian country. I speak of genuine faith. This is a Divine principle, and it produces Divine effects. It is of the operation of the Spirit, and it is always accompanied by proper fruits. Wherever the gospel report is carried, it carries the obligation to believe it, for there is--

1. Sufficiency of object. Christ, who was “made sin for us, though He knew no sin,” and who is as willing as He is able, and as able as He is willing, “to save to the uttermost.”

2. A sufficiency of authority to warrant all that the sinner expects. The Saviour came to seek and to save sinners. And is not this your character?

3. A sufficiency of invitation. The language of this report is, “Come.” The Old Testament says “Come”--“Come, and let us reason together,” etc. “Ho, every one that thirsteth,” etc. The Lord Jesus Christ says, “Come”--“If any man thirst, let him come to Me and drink”--“Come unto Me, all that labour,” etc. “And the Spirit and the Bride say, Come,” etc. (W. Mann, A.M.)

Man’s treatment of the gospel

I. This quotation is regarded by Dean Vaughan as the citing of a parallel case. “The gospel is sent to all; but” (it may be objected} “not all obey. It is true. That complaint is as old as Isaiah’s time: who believed? This failure did not stop Isaiah’s utterance, nor is the same experience any argument against the universal proclamation of God’s message now.”

II. Dr. Hodge considers it as a proof. “The complaint of the prophet was not confined to the men of his generation. It had reference mainly to the general rejection of the gospel, especially by the theocratical people. ‘Christ came unto His own, and His own received Him not.’ And this was predicted of old.”

Hearing and hearkening:--

I. You have all heard. These are the days in which knowledge is increased in the earth, and many run to and fro. The Maories of New Zealand have heard of a Saviour’s love, and many of them have rejoiced in it believingly. Throughout the world the gospel is winning its widening way, and on the wings of mighty love it flies, scattering its treasures in its flight. But, apart altogether from the condition of the heathen world, the fact remains that all of you have heard the gospel. I talk to one who, though he sits in darkness still, cannot plead that no day-star has arisen. You remember, doubtless, the touching story of the dying gipsy boy who, being visited by a lady who told him of Jesus, the Saviour of sinners, poured this doleful lament into the missionary’s ears, “Nobody ever told me! Nobody ever told me!” He died, muttering words which to his mother were altogether unintelligible, but which the good lady understood; for, as his spirit passed away, he shook his head and wept bitter tears, saying, “Nobody ever told me!” My friends, you cannot make that excuse before the throne of God, for you have all heard the gospel.

II. Let me try to show you the difference between hearing and obeying. The fact that the apostle laments that they did not all obey, implies that some did. Wherever the gospel is preached some will receive the truth in the love of it. But, alas, I must confess that in New Zealand, as well as in Old England, there are many who, though they hear it, do not hearken to it. I will try to show you the difference. We have in the Colonies a custom in connection with the Fire Brigade which will illustrate my point. The city is divided into numbered wards, and when the alarm has been sounded, the bell tolls out the number of the ward in which the conflagration has occurred. By this arrangement those who are from home, attending a service or visiting their friends, are informed of the locality of the fire. Suppose the system could be amplified, so that every street and house were indicated; what eager listening there would be! When the bell had finished clanging its alarm, would not every householder count the strokes? and he who heard the number of his house sounded out, would have wings to his heels immediately, and rush away to save his children and his goods from the fiery element. Now, it is when the gospel comes home to a man like that--when he hears his number rung out, and feels that his soul is in danger of eternal burning--when the finger of God points at him as Nathan’s did at David, and a stern voice declares “Thou art the man”--then it is that he has given up hearing for hearkening, and hearkening becomes equivalent to obeying. Then he hastens to the Saviour, saying, “I flee unto Thee to hide me.” Perhaps another illustration will make this clearer still. There is a large crowd in the street, and I hear the bellman’s ringing, and his stentorian voice crying out, “Oh yes! oh yes! oh yes!” He proceeds to announce that as the inhabitants of the town are perishing for lack of bread, and shivering for want of clothing, certain friends have opened a soup kitchen yonder, and others in another place are giving blankets and clothes away. The starving, shivering people listen with all-eager interest. Oh, what glad tidings it is to them--bread enough and to spare! “Oh,” they say, “this is just the thing for us.” No, they do not stop to say that. Away they go, without comment, to receive the bounty. They listen first, and then they hearken. They no sooner hear than they obey. But, while the crowd was listening to the bellman, a fine lady in a grand carriage said to the coachman, “John, what is the matter there? Just pull up a minute. I would like to see what is wrong.” Thereupon the splendid equipage neared the crowd, but did not remain, for her ladyship was disgusted as soon as she saw so many poor, hungry, ill-clothed folk, and said, peevishly, “Drive on, John; drive home.” She did not want any soup and blankets--not she. She could readily have spared half of hers for the poor and needy, so of course she does not obey the bellman. I am persuaded that the great reason why there are so few hearkeners among so many hearers of the glad tidings is that they do not realise their necessities.

III. Now, lastly, let me urge you to obey. You have heard the tidings. You cannot doubt that it is glad tidings. Procrastinate no longer. Accept the joyful tidings and the Saviour of whom the tidings speak. Why do so many remain disobedient to this heavenly vision? Either they do not realise their need, or else they do not recognise the richness of the supply. It must be one or the other. Stretch yourselves in imagination on a couch. You are lying half asleep in a room on the wall of which is a simple picture. At a cottage door a poor wayfarer sits upon a fallen log. He looks hungry and tired; and just in the porchway there stands a kind-looking country woman with a baby in her arms, and a little child beside her with a basin of porridge or of soup in its hands. The little one is being taught by its mother to be good and kind to the poor. How is it that want and weariness do not eagerly accept kindness and refreshment? The answer is found in the fact that it is not real life at all; it is only a picture. The man has no real needs, he is not actually hungry, nor is it a basin of porridge at all, and the smile on the woman’s face is only pictured. There is nothing real in all of it, or the dinner would soon be demolished, the famished fed, and the giver gratified. There are some who do not accept the offered mercy because its glorious reality has never dawned upon them; nor are they aware of the reality of their need, though they may have a dreamy sense of the fact that something is wanting. (Thos. Spurgeon.)

Man’s treatment of the gospel, indifference

How many hear the gospel with unconcern! A telegram on the Exchange--they read it with both their eyes--will there be a rise or fall of stocks? An article from which they may judge of the general current of trade--how they devour it with their minds, they suck in the meaning, and then go and practise what they have gathered from it. A sermon heard, and lo, the minister is judged as to how he preached it--as if a man reading a telegram should say the capital letter was not well inked on the press, or the dot to the “i” had dropped off the letter; or as if a man reading an article of business should simply criticise the style of the article instead of seeking to get at its meaning, and act upon its advice. Oh, how men will hear and think it to be right, to be the height of perfection to say they liked or disapproved of the sermon! As if the God-sent preacher cared one dolt whether you did or did not like his sermon, his business being not to please your tastes, but to save your souls; not to win your approbation, but to win your hearts for Jesus, and bring you to be reconciled to God. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Indifference: the cause of discouragement

“Why do I sit as if I were asleep when I play?” said Rubinstein, in reply to a question. “I will gladly tell you how that is. Some five years ago I gave a concert in London. My audience seemed very interested, and I myself was well disposed. As I was playing Beethoven’s ‘Appassionata,’ without thinking I looked around, and there, at the other end of the piano, I saw a lady gossiping as fast as possible! It was like a douche of ice-water. I closed my eyes at once, and since then I have never dared to even cast a glance at an audience.”

Indifference no reason for despair

A minister with a large congregation came home one day in great trouble and told his wife that he was almost out of heart, and felt very much like resigning his place and giving up his work. “And what makes you feel that way?” responded his wife. “Well,” said the minister, “everything seems to be going wrong. It is so difficult to keep people interested in religion, and so many seem to be almost wholly indifferent.” “So you would like to have everybody and everything just right, would you? “ said his wife. “That is it.” “Very well,” continued the wife, “then you could resign; then your work would not be needed. But as things are you should hold firmly your place, for the reason you have given is just why you should work on.”

Indifference: its prevalence

Is earnest faith declining? The tendency seems to be decidedly in this direction. Even in secular affairs, The Times tells us, “Nothing is more remarkable than the complete extinction of that keen interest, that intense faith, and that eager hope, which manifestly inspired the politicians of half a century ago, and made their influence felt among all classes of the community.” In religious circles it is common to hear comments on the indifference of a large number of persons who go to church, the absence from their minds of anything like powerful convictions, and the easy nonchalance with which they pass by great and solemn inquiries, the importance of which used to be felt by nearly all. Ministers of the gospel, therefore, who have the responsibility of guiding the Church, have need to remember that if they would see an earnest faith on the part of their people, nothing is more necessary than that their own hearts be pervaded by it, and if they would see that faith controlling other men’s lives it must very really control their own. (A. M. Fairbairn, D.D.)

Indifference: the prevalent

The grossest form of indifference is cynicism. When one hears certain men talk of Christ and His religion with a half-patronising tone, or reads their writings in which His character and works are subjected to a criticism that is simply insolent, one is appalled by such flagrant indecency. This is an indifference that is not common, however, but yet its infection may quickly spread if ever the poison of a profane irreverence has prepared any section of society for its reception. The indifference that is fashionable is formalist. There are thousands to whom religion is merely the adaptation of a certain conventional habit of respectable observance. They are Christians because they live in Christendom; Protestants because they live in England; Church people because their parents were so. In church there is an indifference about the service, the prayers, the sermon. It is a ceremony performed, not for God’s glory, but for custom’s sake, as “the right thing to do,” not because it is a privilege and a joy. And from one Sunday to the next, unless there is a custom of family prayers, the question of religion simply never once strikes them as forming any part of every-day life. The service, the preacher, the doctrine, the style, may be occasionally discussed in intervals between other topics of the day--politics, amusements, the weather--but that is all. About the things of Christ and of God there is the most supreme indifference. Across the smooth surface of that mental and spiritual unconcern not a ripple is ever stirred by any breath of life from above, or any blast of terror from beneath. (R. F. L. Blunt.)


Verse 17

Romans 10:17

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.

How can I obtain faith?

If I am thirsty, how shall I quench my thirst? By a draught of water. But in what way can I obtain water? It is enough to tell me to go to the tap or the fountain. There is no need to explain that the water is supplied by a reservoir, having been first drawn from the river, which received it from the clouds. To the thirsty all you want to say is, “There’s the water, drink.” A man is hungry, and he asks you, “How can I get bread? … . Go to the baker’s,” you say. If he wants to know how bread is obtained, we can give it to him at another time. And when you are dealing with an anxious person, it will suffice to say, “Faith cometh by hearing”; further information can be supplied under happier circumstances.

I. The way by which faith comes to men. “By hearing.”

1. Negatively. It does not come--

2. Positively: “Faith cometh by hearing.” Sometimes faith has come into men’s minds by hearing--

II. The obstructions which often block up this way.

1. A want of intention. Many persons come to hear, but they have no wish to be led into faith. Like the butterflies which flit from flower to flower, they extract no honey because they come not for such a purpose; while the bees dive into the cups and bells of the flowers, and come up loaded with their luscious food.

2. A want of attention. Sleepy hearers are not likely to be led to faith. Wandering hearts lose the benefit of the truth, and vain minds trifle away the privilege of a gospel ministry.

3. A want of candour. If a man hears with a prejudiced heart he is not likely to be convinced.

4. The want of after meditation. The juryman who is most likely to get at the truth of a given case will be the man who, having heard attentively, takes the notes of the evidence, weighs it, and endeavours to sift out the truth. So when you hear us preach, sift the sermon afterwards, pick holes in it if you like, but do search into the truth, and be not content till you find it. Here is a bag, and I drop into it pound after pound, but I find that the bag is just as empty as before; the reason is, there are holes in it, and the money drops through. Too many hearers are as a bag full of holes, and golden sermons will not bless them because they wilfully forget all.

III. The importance that faith should come to us by this way. If you have been a hearer and faith has not come to you, you are, this moment, in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity. The wrath of God abideth on you. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The faith hearing the word of God

I. What is faith?

1. An historical (James 2:19).

2. A dogmatical (Acts 8:13; Act_8:33; Luke 4:41).

3. A temporary (Luke 8:13; John 5:35).

4. A faith of miracles (Luke 17:6; 1 Corinthians 13:2).

5. A saving faith (Romans 10:10; Acts 16:31; 1 Peter 2:6).

II. What is the worn by the hearing whereof faith comes?

1. Not the word of men.

2. Not of angels (Galatians 1:8).

3. But of God.

III. What is meant by hearing this word? Hearing it--

1. Read.

2. Expounded.

3. Preached.

IV. How is faith wrought by the word? Not as by the principal, but only instrumental cause. Thus--

1. The minister commissioned by God speaks it to the ear, sometimes of God’s mercy, sometimes of man’s duty (2 Timothy 4:2).

2. The ears of the hearer take in what the preacher speaks, and convey it to the understanding. But that cannot receive it (1 Corinthians 2:14), therefore--

3. The Spirit goes along with the word, and enables the understanding to receive it.

4. The Spirit having done so inclines the heart to embrace it (Philippians 2:13; Romans 7:15; Hebrews 4:12).

V. Use of reprehension.

1. To those who think themselves above ordinances.

2. To those who will not come up to them. This doctrine meets, as the angel did Balaam, with a drawn sword--

VI. Motives. Consider--

1. Whose word it is.

2. What a word it is (Psalms 19:7; Romans 1:16; James 1:21).

3. What thou mayest get by coming to it; what thou mayest lose by staying from it.

4. The time will come when thou wilt curse thyself for every opportunity lost, or bless God for everyone embraced (Matthew 23:39).

VII. Directions.

1. Before hearing--

(a) For the minister (Romans 15:20).

(b) For yourselves, that God would assist the word (Isaiah 8:11).

(a) with an appetite (Matthew 5:6; Job 29:23).

(b) With large expectations.

(c) With strong resolutions to practise.

2. In hearing. Hear--

3. After hearing--

The two great instruments appointed for the propagation of the gospel; and thy duty of the Christian public to keep them both in vigorous operation

I. The general lesson of the text.

1. As all is suspended upon God, and as He reigns with as supreme a dominion in the heart of man as in the world around us, all relating to the salvation of the soul is His work. But on the ether hand, it is evident that though it be God alone that worketh, yet He worketh by instruments. None were more impressed than Paul with the pious sentiment that all depends upon God; yet he says “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” If, in that extraordinary age, when the Author of nature broke in upon the constancy of its operations by miracles, one of His own inspired messengers does not overlook the use of instruments, it would ill become us to overlook them.

2. Now observe that the operation of the two instruments laid before us in the text is somewhat different at present from what it was in the days of the apostles. Those were the days of inspiration; and faith came by the hearing of inspired teachers; and hearing came by the “Word of God--for the apostles spake only as God put the word into their mouth. But whatever is capable of being spoken is capable of being written also; and it was not long before the Christian teachers committed to writing the doctrine of salvation; and if you read what they wrote with the impression that it is the genuine production of inspired men, you are in circumstances likely for receiving faith. Now, however, there is a change in one of the instruments. Instead of the messenger delivering the message in person, you have the substance of it in a written communication. And now faith comes by reading, and reading by the Word of God.

3. We are not to suppose, however, that reading is substituted for hearing. True you can no longer hear the immediate messengers of heaven; but you can hear the descendants of these messengers. And although you have the inspired documents, heaven still gives a saving influence to the living energy of a human voice.

4. In no age of the Church, indeed, does it appear that the one instrument ever superseded the other. Nehemiah not only “read in the book of the law of God distinctly, but gave the sense, and caused the people to understand the reading.” And this reading and expounding of the law from the days of Ezra formed a permanent institution among the Jews. We meet with traces of its existence in the New Testament (Acts 13:14, etc.; Luke 4:16, etc.). And it has descended, without interruption, through all the ages of Christian worship. The apostles deemed it necessary to leave something more than the written volume of inspiration behind them. They left teachers and overseers; and to this very day, the readings, and the explanations, and the sermons of Christian pastors, are superadded to the silent reading of Christian people; and both are found to be instruments of mighty operation, for the edifying of the body of Christ.

5. Neither instrument is to be dispensed with.

II. Its application to the evangelisation of the world. The propagation of the gospel is a cause the maintenance of which consists of the providing of Bibles, and the providing of human agents. The latter, by teaching them to read, teaches unlettered people to use one of the instruments of the text; and to the latter belongs the exclusive office of bringing the other instrument to bear upon them--the instrument of hearing. The society whose office it is to provide the former is the Bible Society. The society whose office it is to provide the latter instrument is the Missionary Society. It is the duty of a Christian public to keep both instruments in vigorous operation. Each of these societies has mighty claims upon you. The two go hand in hand. The one ploughs while the other sows; and let no opposition be instituted betwixt their claims on the generosity of the public. (T. Chalmers, D.D.)

Hear and live

A poor man being on his death-bed, asked that the fifty-fifth chapter of Isaiah should be read to him. Though weak and faint, and full of pain, yet when he heard the words, “Incline your ear and come unto Me; hear, and your soul shall live,” he gathered up his strength to say, “What a mercy, sir, that it is not ‘ Read, and your soul shall live,’ for if it had been I could not have been saved, for you know I am no scholar. But, blessed be God, it is ‘Hear, and your soul shall live.’ I have heard and believed, and trust I shall be saved.”

Power to hear, a blessing

It is said that a beautiful countess of one of the Orkney Islands was a deaf mute. One day, when her firstborn child was a few months old, as it was sleeping in its cradle, she softly approached its side, to the terror of the nurse, with a large stone in her hands, and dropped it on the floor, eagerly watching the face of the babe to see the effect of the noise. To the inexpressible joy of the fond mother’s heart the child started and awoke, so that she knew it had the sense of hearing. She embraced both child and nurse, and wept tears of gratitude to God that her own sad affliction was not transmitted to her offspring.


Verses 18-21

Romans 10:18-21

But I say, Have they not heard?
Yes, verily, their sound went into all the earth.

Observe

I. The original application of these words--voices in nature.

II. The apostolic use of them--the multitude of the preachers.

III. The analogy established between the natural and the spiritual--the universality of God’s revelation in nature is the promise of the universal spread of the gospel. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Apostolic labours an evidence of Christian truth

The general scope of the apostle is sufficiently plain. The Jew is taught his responsibilities in presence of the advancing gospel from the pages of his Hebrew Bible. He learns to contrast the religion of the synagogue with that of the Church, when viewed in its spirit, method, and end. And this, not from the lips of evangelists, but from the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy (Romans 10:5; Leviticus 18:5; Romans 10:6; Deuteronomy 30:12-14). Prophets like Isaiah and Joel successively announce to him the reward of faith in Christ, and the intimate and beneficent nearness of the Lord of all to all His true worshippers (Romans 10:11; Isaiah 28:16; Romans 10:13; Joel 2:32), and by consequence, the abolition of the Judaic nationalism, and the Catholicity of the religion which was succeeding it. And when the question is asked how there can be such true worship without faith in its object, or faith without a religious education, or this again without a message from heaven, and an authoritative commission to proclaim it, the reply is given in the words of the evangelical prophet (Isaiah 52:7), for whose entranced soul the intervening centuries have neither force nor meaning, and the distant and contingent future is a realised and present fact. Along with the messengers who announce to captive Israel the speedy return of peace and freedom, there mingle, in the prophet’s vision, other forms of apostolic mien and greatness, and their footsteps fall on all the mountains of the world, as they carry forward the message which emancipates mankind, and which proclaims an alliance between earth and heaven. Yet more, this greatest of the prophets foresees the partial acceptance of the gospel as accurately as he foretells its universal promulgation (Romans 10:16; Isaiah 53:1): and prophecy closes around the Jew, who refuses belief to the report of the apostles, by describing not merely the truth which confronts him, but his own attitude towards it. That there may be no mistake as to the weight and pressure of the Jew’s responsibility, the apostle asks in the text somewhat abruptly, whether the men of Israel have not heard the gospel-message. And he answers not by pointing to the literal fact, that already the messengers of Christ had penetrated far and wide into either of the great branches of the Dispersion, while Jerusalem itself was the home and focus of Christian doctrine; he quotes a psalmist who is singing of the heavenly bodies, and who tells how they speak for the glorious Creator in terms which all can understand, while from day to day and age to age they hand on their mighty tradition of the truth, which all the languages of man confess, and all the climes and regions of the earth have heard. The apostle reads the history of the Church in the light of his Master’s words: “Go, teach all nations.” The intervening centuries count for nothing; just as when we gaze at the fixed star, we do not ordinarily reflect upon that scintillation of the rays of its light through almost measureless space which science yet reveals to us in all its wonder with minute precision. And the apostle sees all at a single glance: he ignores the alternation of ebb and flow--the constant play of light and shade--which meet us in the actual history of the Church; we forget, as we read his words, that struggle for life, maintained for centuries,--maintained against overwhelming forces. We seem to be watching a process which has all the beauty and ease of a natural movement; we have before us what is less the history of an accomplished and hard-won triumph than it is the spectacle of a beneficent provision or law of the universe, in which there is no struggle, no effort, no resistance, and in which the Heavenly Wisdom already reaches from one end to another mightily, and smoothly and sweetly ordereth all things. “Their sound is gone out into all lands, and their words unto the ends of the world.” And here are two points that demand our consideration.

I. Our Lord’s command and the prophecy of His apostle imply first of all that the gospel would stand the test of time. Of all forms of power, as of all forms of thought that are merely human, time is the great enemy. No sooner has a doctrine or a system taken its place in the arena of human thought, than, like the ocean which imperceptibly fritters away the base of a mountain cliff, time forthwith begins its relentless work of progressive demolition. Again, time brings with it what we term in our ignorance chance; it brings combinations of circumstances, and of agencies to bear, upon which no genius can calculate, and against which no prudence can take its measures. Once more, the lapse of time involves the liability to internal decay: those who have reached power, betake themselves to its enjoyment; those who believe that they are securely masters of the world of thought, are not alive to the decomposition which awaits or preys upon their stagnant system. And, lastly, as the years pass over a doctrine or a system, they inevitably subject it to the decisive test of opposition. And this not necessarily because it has faults and failings, but because it exists, and by its existence invites hostile criticism, since it drains away something, however little, of the attention, and labour, and substance, which would but for the fact of its existence be bestowed elsewhere. Need I say that He who came from heaven to redeem and save us knew what was before Him. He foresaw the coolness which would succeed to a first fervour of welcome to His truth; He allowed for the unfavourable conjunctions of circumstance, and for the intimidation and the errors of those who might represent Him, and for the opposition which a gospel such as His (making, as it did, no terms with any human feeling or conviction that was inconsistent with the rights of God), could not but encounter in the passions of man. He predicted a time when the love of many would wax cold, etc. (Matthew 24:9; Matthew 24:11-12; Matthew 24:24). He accepted, He set forth the idea of the intense hatred which His gospel must perforce encounter in the world, so energetically, that He, the Prince of Peace, described Himself as sending not peace, but a sword. Yet foreseeing these elements of destruction gathering around Him, He is calmly certain of the perpetuity of His doctrine (Mark 13:31). Surely the event has not falsified the prediction. Since the Incarnation, all else has changed; new races, new moulds of thought, new languages, new institutions, political and social, supplant others which once seemed destined to exist for ever, and which have passed away. But, reigning amid the ruins of the past, reigning amid the progress of the present towards the future, Jesus Christ is here. You may contend that here and there His work is marred or broken; you may insist on the desolating spread of the great heresies of the first ages, or on the loss of the Churches of the East and of the Church of Cyprian and of Augustine--trampled as these are beneath the feet of the infidel. Now, as of old, He is crucified in weakness, while He reigns in power: He is, by the very pressure and fierceness of His foes, uniting friends who have long been sundered; His vast providences enlist the services even of men who know but fragments of His truth; He has more loyal hearts who trust and worship Him than in any previous age. For observe, that He does not merely hold His ground: He is extending His Empire. He is again laying siege to those citadels of superstitious yet of philosophical idolatry--the oriental religions--which have so long resisted Him; He is bidding the islands of the sea wait on His advancing foot-steps.

II. Observe a second feature of the predicted missionary energy of the Church, which, no less than that already mentioned, would seem to possess an evidential value. For our Lord did not merely insure His religion against the triumph of those causes which, in the case of human institutions or opinions, must ultimately produce decay and dissolution. The stone which you throw loses force and swiftness as it obeys the impulse you gave to it; it buries itself, we will suppose, beneath the waters of a still lake, and again the ripple which radiates from the point of disturbance, becomes, moment by moment, less clear to the eye, as on this side and on that its widening circles approach the shore. So it is with human religions: they spend themselves while they gain the prestige of antiquity; and our Lord, as we have seen, reversed this law of exhaustion, in the case of His gospel. But He did more: He presumed upon, He appealed to, because He knew Himself able to create and command, an ever-youthful and active enthusiasm, which in the last ages of the faith, no less than in the first, would carry forward His doctrine into all the regions of the earth, and, at whatever risk, would press it closely in its perfectness and its power on the consciences of men. Look at the other great religions which have ruled, or which still rule, the thought or the heart of the human race. Where have ancient priesthoods, like the Egyptian, been missionary agencies? Where have philosophical speculations, like these of the Schools of Greece, been more than the luxury and the pride of the selfish few--where and when have they shown any capacity of becoming the inheritance of the heart and thought of the struggling many? Surely it were not unreasonable to surmise that if the Infinite and the Eternal God has spoken in very deed to us His creatures, He can only so have spoken, as at the first He can only have given us being, out of the free and pure love which He bare towards us. And thus along with the gift of truth would come the accompanying gift of love; and we should anticipate what is in fact the case, that He, our Incarnate Lord, whom we worship as the highest and absolute Truth, is also the most tender and indeed boundless Charity. It is by combining in Himself truth and love so perfectly that Jesus, from age to age; commands the most intelligent and the most heroic devotion of which man has ever been capable. Think not that true devotion to Christ our Lord is a luxury of the Primitive Church, which can find no lasting home in the midst of our modern civilisation. It may be true that mutilated creeds cannot provoke, and that coward hearts cannot understand, such devotion. But wherever the truth is taught in its integrity to hearts that are “honest and good,” the same phenomena of absolute self-devotion will be found to repeat themselves which illustrated so gloriously the first ages and children of the faith. He has indeed made men love Himself; for around Him and His work there mantles such a robe of unfailing and ever-youthful beauty, that in His Divine Person, His human form, His words, His world-redeeming sacrifice, His ceaseless intercession, His gift of the Blessed Spirit, His oneness with His people through the sacraments of His Church, the soul finds that which answers to its highest imaginings no less than to its deepest needs. It finds in Him, as in none else, its rest. (Canon Liddon.)

The spread of the gospel

In the psalm he speaks of works, here of the Word.

1. Some say that Paul argues from the less. If God teach all by the great volume of the heavens, much more will He teach all by the heavenly doctrine of the gospel.

2. I think that there is here hid a prophecy of the preaching of the gospel, because the latter part of the psalm speaks much in the commendation of it; and Paul here so applies it. And, indeed, there is a most sweet analogy between the heavens found and the gospel. The heavens are the work of God’s hand; so is the gospel revealed by God. The heavens show the work of God: so the gospel, that we are justified by the work of God, which is faith, not by the works of man. The doctrine of the gospel is pure and lightsome as are the heavens. The influence of the heavens comforteth and cherisheth inferior things: so doth the gospel the conscience. The diversity of nations and languages is manifold which understand not one another; yet all understand the excellency of the heavens, and the wonderful work of God in them. So God enabled the apostles to teach all nations in their own tongues the wonderful works of God (Mark 16:20; Acts 1:8; Colossians 1:6).

I. That is the true religion which agrees with that which was preached in all the world by the apostles.

II. It was a miracle that the gospel, a doctrine teaching the denial of ourselves and bearing of the Cross, carried by poor and mean persons, oppressed by mighty emperors and kings, should in despite of men and devils, within the space of forty years, be so published in all the world. Let all enemies cease to oppose it by the remembrance hereof.

III. Obey the gospel, lest He which sent it take it away, and remove our candlestick for our unbelief and contempt of it. For this cause Turcism and Papism possess many places, which have been heretofore famous for the gospel. Hath the grace of God shined to thee? Make much of this light, and walk in it. Hast thou heard the sound of it? Why dost thou live in lewd practices, as if thou hadst never heard any inkling of it? Where sin bears rule, there is not the gospel received. (Elnathan Parr, B.D.)

The voice of truth

I. Is heard--

1. In nature.

2. In the Word of God.

3. In the gospel.

II. Diffuses itself--

1. Like waves of sound.

2. Through time.

3. Through the world.

III. Demands universal attention. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The world convicted of unbelief

I. To whom do these words apply? To the unbelieving--

1. Jews.

2. Gentiles.

II. What do they imply? The sufficiency of revelation as respects--

1. Its clearness.

2. Its diffusion.

III. What must we infer.

1. The inexcusable guilt of man.

2. The justice of God. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

God’s dealings with His ancient people

I. His communications to them.

1. Clear.

2. Repeated.

3. Everywhere heard.

II. His warnings of rejection.

1. By Moses.

2. By Isaiah.

III. His patient forbearance.

1. Kindly entreating them.

2. During the long period of Old Testament history.

3. Spite of disobedience.

IV. The final transfer of His favour to the Gentiles. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

But I say, Did not Israel know?--Observe--

I. How God disciplines a rebellious people. He--

1. Instructs.

2. Warns.

3. Bears patiently.

4. At length transfers His favour to others, whom they despise.

II. How this applies to us. We have been--

1. Equally privileged.

2. Equally rebellious.

3. If Israel could not escape, how shall we? (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Israel’s

1. Privilege.

2. Warning.

3. Persistent disobedience.

4. Punishment. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Gospel chimes

I tarried two or three days near the tower of Antwerp. Every fifteen minutes the bells of that tower chime--so sweetly that it seems as if the angels of God flying past have alighted in the tower. But when the full hour comes, then the clock, with heavy tongue, strikes the hour, adding impressiveness and solemnity to the chime of bells. So this great gospel tower chimes every fifteen minutes--nay, every moment. Tones of mercy. Tones of love. Tones of compassion. Tones of pardon. And occasion-ally, to let you know that the weights are running down, and that the time is going past, the heavy tongue of this bell comes down with an emphasis, saying, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?” “Now is the accepted time--Now is the day of salvation!” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

But Esaias is very bold.--

Consider the words

I. In their prophetic import as accomplished--

1. In the calling of the Gentiles.

2. The rejection of the Jews.

II. As descriptive of God’s actual procedure.

1. He receives sinners and outcasts.

2. But the children of the kingdom are cast out.

III. As illustrating the whole economy of the gospel.

1. It is a system of unmerited grace.

2. Those who do not participate in it have themselves wholly to blame. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

I was found of them that sought Me not.--

God found unsought

It is a singular thing to find one inspired writer calling another “bold.” But we are not to understand that the apostle doubted what the prophet said, nor that he feared some would think Isaiah had hazarded a perilous statement. He merely recalled two exceedingly commonplace, but most important considerations concerning the time in which Isaiah lived. Then it was a bold thing to say that God had rejected the Jews and chosen the Gentiles; there being then really no signs of a revolution like that. Moreover, such a statement would anger that entire nation, and thus imperil the popularity of the prophet, as well as his life. But Isaiah did say it, and Paul here repeats it. The text is an announcement of a fact in the government of God; namely, that there is a sovereign love of God which goes out after a human soul before that soul has even so far started out for God as to wish for Him.

I. God has never yet relinquished His hold upon the entire human race. Sin entered the world and ruined the race. But the Almighty has not given it away to destruction, and is going to repossess His own.

II. God even now asserts His full right to a special people of His own in the midst of earthly rebellion and disownment of His Son. His call is, Who is on the Lord’s side? and asserts authority in a land, without consulting the poor magnates at the head of it. He commissioned Jonah to go to Nineveh, He sent Moses into Egypt with orders to Pharaoh to dismiss a million of his subjects for ever on a night’s notice. It made no difference whatever that the king said he did not know who this Jehovah was; the Maker of the universe assumed that it was the business of all His intelligent creatures to understand the authority which belonged to a monarch like Him. He assumes that same pre-eminence now. The only question that can arise is one of individual bearing, who shall rally first around His standard, and serve Him? And this He decides Himself (verses 11-13). Nor does He leave this choice to a mere chance acceptance. Does He need a king? Then the ruddy-checked son of Jesse is anointed. Does He need a priest? He summoned Melchizedek. Does He need a prophet? Then shall the unwilling lips of Balaam be turned from cursing into blessing. Thus does He gather His agents at His own sovereign will, often unexpectedly to themselves, as well as surprisingly to others. Literally, “He is found of those who sought Him not,” etc.

III. The all-wise God has originated and announced a plan by which He may bring His people to Himself without any failure.

1. God assumes at the start that men are utterly lost? We are condemned already. The wrath of God abideth on every one of us.

2. That God prefers to save the transgressor rather than punish him. God says He takes no pleasure in the infliction of penalty. He has proffered a way of escape (verse 4). And this is the only way

3. That the human will is stubborn, and always refuses free grace. Just here enters the greatest mystery of the gospel. A certain spiritual pressure is exerted by God Himself. The Holy Ghost constrains the surrender of the disobedient heart.

IV. In the carrying out of His plan God sometimes strives directly with impenitent men, without their expecting it, and even without their understanding it. Thus it is that He is often “found of those who sought Him not.” He has a right to everybody, and when He desires a man He sends for him. No actual force is employed, but certain processes of His are put into operation. The sinner does not always know precisely what all this means, but he feels a surprising impelling power, active in the very centre of his being. He is awakened to see his own needs. He is constrained to reflect upon the issues of another life. Now it is God in person who is making Himself to be found, even when the man is not seeking after Him. And He acts very gently. There are, in every-day life, two ways of waking a man out of dangerous slumber. You may shout in his ear, or rudely shake his person; or bring a lamp into the room, and leave it burning. The latter is the way in which God works. Furthermore, Providence sometimes works in with grace. An adversity or a blessing is used as an instrument in the awakening of the soul. But He aims only to lead men to the beginning of their work; He does not propose to do it for them. He says to those who seek Him not, Seek Me. He calls to the prayerless, Pray--to the thoughtless, Think.

V. This moment, in which the Spirit of God is striving, is the moment above all others in which to yield to His call. For now, if never before, a man has a chance. If God is sincere, He offers personal pardon now. (C. S..Robinson, D.D.)

Sovereign grace and man’s responsibility

Doubtless these words primarily refer to the casting away of the Jews, and to the choosing of the Gentiles. Yet this is but a type of a universal fact. The system of truth is not one straight line, but two. No man will ever get a right view of the gospel until he knows how to look at the two lines at once. I am taught that what I sow I shall reap: I am also taught that “it is not of him that willeth nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.” I see in one place, God presiding over all in providence; and yet I see that man acts as he pleases, and two truths cannot be contradictory to each other. Note then--

I. Divine sovereignty. If any man be saved, he is saved by Divine grace alone. Now, in speaking of God’s gracious acts of salvation, notice--

1. That they are entirely unmerited. The people here mentioned certainly did not merit God’s grace. They found Him, but they never sought for Him; He was made manifest to them, but they never asked for Him.

2. Sovereign, i.e., God has an absolute right to give grace where He chooses, and to withhold it when He pleases. It is mercy, indeed, when God saves a seeker; but how much greater mercy when He seeks the lost Himself! Mark the parable of the lost sheep. How was it you came to seek God? “Why, because He led you to do it.” Nature can never rise above itself. You put water into a reservoir, and it will rise as high as that, but no higher if let alone. So there must be an extraordinary pressure of the Holy Spirit put upon the heart to lead us first to ask for mercy.

II. Man’s responsibility (verse 21). Now, these people whom God had cast away had been sought, had been entreated to be saved; but they would not, and inasmuch as they were not saved, it was the effect of their disobedience and their gainsaying. Notice the wooing of God and of what sort it is.

1. Most affectionate. God says He stretched out His hands. You that are not saved to-day are without excuse, for God stretched out His hands to you, and He said, “Come, come.”

2. Very frequent. “All the day long,” may be translated “daily.” From the first dawn of your life He wooed you through your mother. And in your boyhood how your Sunday-school teacher endeavoured to bring you to the Saviour! And you have not yet surely forgotten how many Sabbaths you have spent, and how many times you have been warned. It is probable that God will keep on stretching out His hands to you until your hairs grow grey, still continually inviting you: and perhaps when you are nearing death He will still say, “Come unto Me, come unto Me.” But if still you reject Christ, let nothing make you imagine that you shall go unpunished. “How can you escape, if you neglect so great salvation?” No one will be responsible for your damnation but yourself, at the last great day. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

God found without seeking

That was an odd voice, surely the oddest I ever heard of, which came a little time ago in an Italian town to one of God’s elect ones there. He was so depraved that he actually fell to worshipping the devil rather than God. It chanced one day that a rumour went through the city that a Protestant was coming there to preach. The priest, alarmed for his religion, told the people from the altar that Protestants worshipped the devil, and he charged them not to go near the meeting-room. The news, as you may judge, excited no horror in the devil-worshipper’s mind. “Ay,” thought he, “then I shall meet with brethren,” and so he went to hear our beloved missionary who is now labouring in Rome. Nothing else would have drawn the poor wretch to hear the good word, but this lie of the priest’s was overruled to that end. He went and heard, not of the devil, but of the devil’s Conqueror, and before long he was found at Jesus’ feet, a sinner saved. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

All the day long I have stretched forth My hands.--

God’s conduct and man’s

I. God’s conduct towards men.

1. Kind.

2. Earnest.

3. Forbearing.

4. Patient.

II. Man’s conduct towards God.

1. Ungrateful.

2. Wicked.

3. Obstinate.

4. Insulting. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

God’s entreaties

Nothing can be more wonderful. That man should stretch out his hands to God--the dependent and sinful creature supplicating the supremely righteous and holy Creator--this is as it ought to be. But here--the Creator stretches out His hands to the creature; God entreats man; the offended Sovereign beseeches the offending subject! But is there not something still more wonderful, that He should have to complain of want of success? Yet such was the mournful fact! God’s entreaties were--

I. Condescending. When a father entreats a child, a master a servant, a monarch, a subject, there is condescension. But what is all the condescension of creature to creature?--of creature the most exalted to creature the most insignificant and mean? But what is the difference between any one creature and any other, compared with the difference between the Eternal God and the highest of them all?

II. Forbearing--for there was a principle in the Divine nature, that drew powerfully in the opposite direction--God’s infinite hatred of sin. His whole conduct was but a practical utterance of the pathetic pleading--“How shall I give thee up.” (Hosea 11:8-9).

III. Earnest. The posture or attitude expresses this.

IV. Perseveringly importunate. “All day long,” etc.

V. Disinterested. When we hear of “calling” and “stretching out the hands” to another, we naturally think of some deep-felt want, or some suffered or dreaded evil; of which the supply is earnestly desired, or the endurance deprecated. A starving man stretches out his hand for food; the oppressed for deliverance; the slave for freedom; the criminal for pardon; the victim of assassination for life. But does God need anything from His creatures? They needed Him; not He them. The danger was on their part, not on His; the damage resulting from their refusal to hear Him, all their own. The sum of His entreaties is, “Do thyself no harm,” and His kind assurance, in beseeching them to obey His voice--“I will do you no hurt.” Far was it from His heart to do them hurt. Judgment was His strange work. His threatenings and His solicitations were alike in mercy. (R. Wardlaw, D.D.)

Deafness to God’s appeals

God offers not only a truce, but a peace, and has been most active in urging a reconciliation. Can He manifest His willingness in clearer methods than that of sending His Son to reconcile the world to Himself? Can He evidence more sincerity than by His repeated and reiterated pressing of our souls to the acceptance of Him? God knocks at our hearts, and we are deaf to Him; He thunders in our ears, and we regard Him not; He waits upon us for our acceptance of His love, and we grow more mad against Him; He beseecheth us, and we ungratefully and proudly reject Him; He opens His bosom, and we turn our backs; He offers us His pearls, and we tread them under our feet; He would clothe us with pure linen, but we would still wear our foul rags; He would give us angels’ bread, and we feed on husks with swine. The wisdom of God shines upon us, and we account it foolishness; the infinite kindness of God courts us, and we refuse it, as if it were the greatest cruelty. Christ calls and begs, and we will not hear Him either commanding or entreating. To love God is our privilege, and though it be our indispensable duty, yet it had been a presumption in us to aspire so high as to think the casting our earthly affections upon so transcendent an object, should be dear to Him, had He not authorised it by His command, and encouraged it by His acceptance. But it is strange that God should court us by such varieties of kindness to that, wherein not His happiness, but our affection does consist; and much stranger, that such pieces of earth and clay should turn their backs upon so admirable an object, and be enemies to Him, who displays himself in so many allurements to their souls, and fix their hatred upon that tender God who sues for their affections. (S. Charnock.)

Disregarding God

I know a mother who has an idiot child. For it she gave up all society, almost everything, and devoted her whole life to it. “And now,” said she, “for fourteen years I have tended it, and loved it, and it does not even know me. Oh, it is breaking my heart!” Oh, how the Lord might say this of hundreds here. Jesus comes here, and goes from one to another, asking if there is a place for Him. Oh, will not some of you take Him into your hearts? (D. L. Moody.)

Irresponsive to God

A man cannot get these Divine blessings if he does not want them. You take a hermetically sealed bottle and put it into the sea, it may float about in mid-ocean for a century, surrounded by a shoreless ocean, and it will be as dry and empty inside at the end as it was at the beginning. So you and I float, live, move, and have our being in that great ocean of the Divine love in Christ, but you can cork up your hearts and wax them over with an impenetrable cover, through which that grace does not come. And you do do it, some of you. (A. Maclaren.)
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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Romans 10:4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/romans-10.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, December 9th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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