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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator
Romans 14

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-12

Romans 14:1-12

Him that is weak in the faith receive, but not to doubtful disputations.

Strong and weak

Here is a lesson--

I. For those who are strong in the faith.

1. Not to provoke.

2. Nor despise those who are weak.

II. For those who are weak. Not to judge their stronger brethren.

III. For both.

1. To think and let think.

2. To give each other credit for sincerity. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The weak in the faith to be received, or the duty of mutual forbearance

1. “Faith” is not here used in the sense of confidence in Christ, but of the faith. The question was, did Christianity or did it not require abstinence from certain meats, and observance of certain fasts and festivals? The man who maintained that it did is here held to be weak in the faith. He had but faintly grasped the breadth of Christ’s redeeming work; while he who had attained superior light, and had been set free from all such scruples, was therefore strong in the faith.

2. Now, the apostle assumes that the latter was right. Had he been wrong, there could have been no discussion, and there could be no just ground for a moment’s toleration of him. But he was not wrong (Romans 14:14). The Mosaic law on these subjects had been done away in Christ (Colossians 2:16-17).

3. The question was whether the man who conscientiously abstained and observed might, or might not, be received into the Church. He was certainly not required in order to salvation to disregard the Jewish festivals, nor to eat unclean meats. But it never could be tolerated that he should set up his scrupulous conscience as the normal standard of Christian faith (Galatians 2:3-5; Gal_4:9-11; Gal_5:1-4). No one must bind burdens upon men which the Lord had not bound. Hence the weak in faith is to be received, but not to judgings or condemnations of opinions. If he is content to enjoy the advantages of fellowship with you, without insisting that you are all wrong, let him be received; but if his object is to promote contention, etc., then he has no rightful place amongst you.

I. Let not the strong in the faith despise them that are weak, for their convictions rest ultimately upon Divine revelation. The law of Moses was of Divine authority, and, although done away in Christ, was subject to it. Therefore it was not surprising if some of the Jewish converts still felt insuperable objections to its abandonment. It was a matter of conscience, and the man who respects his conscience deserves respect, even when prejudiced and wrong (Romans 14:6). The strong, therefore, must not put a stumbling-block in their brother’s way. This may be done--

1. By a contempt of his scruples. The disposition to sneer at his stupid weakness will not convince him that he is either stupid or weak, but will rather drive him utterly away from those who tolerate such an ungenerous spirit, and perhaps to apostasy. Now, though the strong had a perfect right to disregard the distinctions of meats, he had no right to imperil the salvation of any one for whom Christ died (Romans 14:17). The weak are not required to abstain from meats, but you are not bound to eat them (1 Corinthians 8:13).

2. By example or persuasion. It was quite lawful for the strong to employ argument in order to convince the weak that he misapprehended the character and purpose of Christianity: but it was not lawful for him to laugh at his scruples, and to assure him, without adducing proof, that there could really be no harm in eating, etc. That might be quite true for him, but it would not be true for his weak brother. If this man presumed to eat the meat, or to disregard the day, while his scruples remained, his own conscience would accuse him of unfaithfulness. Thank God for thy liberty (Romans 14:22); but use it lawfully (Galatians 5:13; 1 Peter 2:16; 1 Corinthians 8:9).

II. The weak in the faith are not to judge or condemn the strong in the faith, the thing to which they are always predisposed. Incapable of grasping comprehensive principles, that, e.g., of Christian love, they feel to require a multitude of minute prescriptions. Days and meats and dress must all be fixed by enactment. And so being most punctiliously conscientious themselves, are ready to condemn brethren who are not equally scrupulous. Admit them into the Church by all means, says the apostle; but they must lay aside this censorious spirit. For it is not suffered them to usurp the place of the great Supreme. These matters are in themselves morally indifferent (Romans 14:14; 1 Timothy 4:4). Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind, and act upon his own convictions. Your judgment is not binding upon any conscience but your own. As to all other matters there must be mutual forbearance and charity. Yet it is for each one to see--

1. That he is loyally and earnestly devoted to the service of his Lord. Whether strong or weak his object must be to approve himself unto the Lord in everything, and for the Lord’s sake to promote the comfort and perfection of all his brethren.

2. That conscience is not offended. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that which he alloweth in his own practice. Where there is doubt, respect that doubt. Seek that your conscience may be well informed. (W. Tyson.)

The treatment of the weak

Weak Christians have infirmities, but infirmity supposes life; and we must not despise them in heart, word, or carriage. We must rather deny ourselves than offend them. We must support them--bear them as pillars bear the house, as the shoulders the burden, as the wall the vine, as parents their children, as the oak the ivy; and this because--

1. They are brethren. Are they not of the same body? Shall the hand cut off the little finger because it is not as large as the thumb? Do men throw away their corn because it comes into the barn with chaff?

II. They are weak. Bear with them out of pity. In a family, if one of the little ones be sick, all the larger children are ready to attend it, which they need not do if it were well.

III. Christ does so. “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ”--the law of--

1. His command.

2. His example. He takes special care of the lambs, will not quench the smoking flax, and is touched with a feeling of our infirmities. (Philip Henry.)

The duty of forbearance in matters of opinion

Differences of opinion--

I. Must necessarily arise even among Christians, out of--

1. Human ignorance.

2. The different constitution of the mind.

II. In trivial matters indicate weakness of faith in those who are rigidly scrupulous. They do not understand the spirituality and liberty of the gospel.

III. Should be maintained in the spirit of love.

1. The strong may not despise the weak.

2. The weak and scrupulous may not judge the strong.

IV. Are of infinitely less importance than Christian brotherhood. He whom God has received must be--

1. Respected.

2. Treated as a brother beloved. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Religious toleration

The argument for this is founded on--

I. The nature and condition of man. He is imperfect, and therefore should also be tolerant. There is nothing more universal than ignorance, and hence there should be no virtue more universal than toleration. The facility with which we all absorb error and fall into prejudices, should make us always ready to tolerate many shades of religious opinion. It is folly to demand a unity of belief in a world where there is no one wise but God, and no one good except God. Some of the best men have been the victims of great errors. All intolerance is based upon egotism. It proceeds from the assumption that you have reached the ideal. The dreadful Popish persecutions all originated in a human egotism that cried, “I have found it!” They had become the exponents of God. Whereas now history shows that in all cases the persons exiled or put to death held a better creed at the time than those who forced upon them the bitter fate.

II. In the fact that the ideas over which most blood has been shed have subsequently been proven either useless or false. But one might have premised that the most intolerance would always be found gathered about the least valuable doctrine, because the most valuable doctrines are always so evident that no thumb-screw or faggot is ever needed to make the lips whisper assent. No man has ever been put to death for heresy regarding the Sermon on the Mount. But when a church comes along with its “legitimacy,” its Five Points, its Prayer Book, or its Infant Baptism, then comes the demand for the rack and the stake to make up in terrorism what is wanting in evidence. When witnesses were wanting, the high priests rent their clothes. If God has so fashioned the human mind that all its myriad forms can agree upon doctrines that are most vital; and if, as a fact, persecution has always attached itself to the small, then we would seem to have the curse of God visibly revealed against intolerance. (D. Swing.)

Toleration

A Quaker, after listening to Whitefield’s preaching, came up to him and said, “Friend George, I am as thou art. I am for bringing all to the life and power of the everlasting God; and therefore if thou wilt not quarrel with me about my hat, I will not quarrel with thee about thy gown.” (J. R. Andrews.)

Toleration: its value

Sailer, afterwards Bishop of Regensburg, could be identified with no party, and was hated by each. Napoleon prevented his promotion at one time by assuring the king he was a mere hanger-on to the Roman court; the Pope refused it at another because he suspected his attachment to the Church He was one of the mildest and most tolerant of men--mild to excess. It is told that having preached one morning near Salzburg, the parish clergyman rose up and said he would preach himself in the afternoon, as Sailer had made the doors of heaven too wide. “You are excellent at bandages,” said one of his friends, “but a bad operator.” “Very possibly,” he replied; “in my life I have seen more wounds healed by a good bandage than by a knife.” (Dr. Stephenson.)

Unity to be maintained in spite of differences of opinion

I. How it is imperilled.

1. By forcing our own opinions on others.

2. By overestimating our own practice.

II. How it may be promoted.

1. By forbearance (Romans 14:3).

2. By humility (Romans 14:4).

3. By aiming at personal conviction (Romans 14:5).

4. By keeping in view the glory of God (Romans 14:6).

III. Whereon it rests.

1. The common assurance that we serve one Lord.

2. That we are all redeemed by Him.

IV. What it requires.

1. That we avoid all unbrotherly conduct.

2. That we all submit to God.

3. That we remember our final account. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Religious disputations

This chapter is written to dissuade men from acting the part of religious critics. It cannot be said that men are indifferent to religion in other folks. It is only to religion in themselves that they are comparatively indifferent. Men are so accustomed to criticise each other’s church service, etc., that they lose the very spirit of religion. The apostle dissuades everybody from it. A little spring comes out from the side of a mountain, pure and cool. Two men are determined that that spring shall be kept perfectly pure and drinkable. One wants it to be done in one way, and the other in another way; and they are so zealous to keep the spring pure that they get to quarrelling about it, and tramp through it, and make it muddy. They defile it in their very zeal to keep it pure; and the water flows down turbid and unfit to drink. Now, men are so determined to glorify God that they act like the devil. They are so determined that charity shall prevail that they slay men. They are so determined that a kind spirit shall exist that they will not have a word to say to a man who does not believe in their catechism. They are so determined that the world shall be generous that they stir up all manner of corrupting appetites and passions. They condemn their fellow-men, saying, “Well, they are not orthodox. They are not true believers. They do not belong to the true Church. There are no covenants for them.” So, under one pretence and another, the great Christian brotherhood, through the ages past, has been turmoiled and distracted; and the world has seen the spectacle of anything but what God meant to establish in the world. The Church by which He meant to make known His manifold wisdom, has made manifest narrowness, sectarianism, selfishness, unjust partialities, and all manner of irritable jealousies. It has not made manifest the beauty of God, the sweetness of Christ Jesus, nor the love of the Spirit. It is a fact which I think can be stated without fear of contradiction, that the general aspect of religion, as presented by churches throughout Christendom, is not winning and attractive, and that the “beauty of holiness,” of which the Scriptures speak, has not yet blossomed out in the world. (H. W. Beecher.)

Practical godliness better rectifies the judgment than doubtful disputations

1. The weak one is--

2. Charity is enjoined towards such. “Take them to you, receive them into your houses” (Romans 12:13; Luke 5:29). When they fly for their religion and lives, supply their wants, though not just of your opinion. Do not force them to practise what they cannot freely do, but receive them into your arms, love and converse, that you may instruct them and win them into your communion. Let not little differences cause the greatest distances (Romans 14:3).

3. The limitation of this exception. “Not to doubtful disputations.”

I. Disputations are not easily judged of by such as are weak in faith. This is evident from the first dispute that ever was in the world.

1. By this first dispute with the serpent, our first parents were foiled when in uprightness and strength of the image of God. But now sinful man is in a much more dark and doleful state. For--

2. As we are lame in our feet by our naturals, so even those who by the light of the gospel and grace are brought over to better understanding, yet by virtue of the old craziness they are not thoroughly illuminated and refined. The very apostles themselves were plainly told by our Saviour of His sufferings and resurrection, yet “they understood none of these things” (Luke 18:33-34; Luke 24:45). Paul says, We “know” but “in part” (1 Corinthians 13:12). We see but one side of the globe. These weak Jews were zealous for their ceremonies; the Gentiles, as hot for theirs; let no man think himself infallible, for these were all mistaken.

3. Nothing so convulseth men’s reason as interest.

II. The practice of holy duties is the ready way to have our minds enlightened in the knowledge of principles. These practical duties--

1. Give light (John 3:21). The very entrance into the command giveth light (Psalms 119:130); the door is a window to him that hath a weak sight.

2. Advance light. Every step a man takes he goeth into a new horizon, and gets a further prospect into truth.

3. Keep from error or help out of it. Communion with the saints, e.g., as in a team if one horse lash out of the way, if the others hold their course, they will draw the former to the right path. “If any man will do this will of God, he shall know of the doctrine” (Psalms 35:14).

III. Christian charity and reception will sooner win weak ones to the truth than rigid arguments.

1. Opposition breeds oppositions. When men dispute, they jostle for the way, and so one or both must needs leave the path of truth and peace. The saw of contention reciprocated, with its keen teeth eateth up both truth and love; for such contentions are rather for victory than truth.

2. Loving converse taketh off those prejudices which hinder men’s minds from a true knowledge of others’ principles and practices.

3. Sincere love and converse breed a good opinion of persons who differ from us. They can taste humility, meekness, and kindness, better than the more speculative principles of religion. (T. Woodcock, A.M.)

Unwise disputations

Such facts remind us of an incident that occurred on the south-eastern coast. A noble ship with its crew and passengers was in awful peril, having struck on a sunken rock. Having been observed by those on shore, the lifeboat was ran down to the beach. Everything was in readiness when a most unseemly quarrel arose. There were two rival crews, each of which claimed the right to man the boat, and to receive any remuneration that might be earned by pulling out to the wreck. Neither crew would give way to the other, and so the boat was not launched, and while those men were wrangling with each other the ship and all on board her went under the raging billows. That was a sad scene. But in the eyes of Heaven it must be a still sadder spectacle to see the Church wasting her time and energies in disputing about points of doctrine and discipline, and yet leaving vast multitudes of men to perish in their sin and misery and despair. (Christian Journal.)

Christian forbearance

Let each receive every other in his individuality, and that not to doubtful disputations. We are not to attempt to shape men to that which we think they ought to be in a hard and systematic manner. In churches we see exhibited certain styles of character. The lines have been laid down with accuracy. The members are to believe such and such things, and they are to observe such and such bounds and theological lines, or else they are like a plant that is in a pot that is too small for its roots, and they are dwarfs all the rest of their lives. There are a few Christians (I would to God there were more) in whom the kingdom of God is like an oak or cedar of Lebanon; but there are many who are called Christians in whom the kingdom of God is no bigger than a thimble. There are men who have a few catechetical ideas, who are orthodox, and who make no mistakes in theology; but woe be to the man who does not make any mistakes. Count the sands of the sea, if you can, without misreckoning. A man that has a hundred ducats or dollars may count them and make no mistake; but multiply them by millions, and then can he count them without any mistake? I am sorry for a man who does not make mistakes. If you have a huge bucket, and a pint of water in it, you will never make the mistake of spilling the water; but if a man is carrying a huge bucket full of water he will be certain to spill it. (H. W. Beecher.)

Disputations to be avoided

John Wesley, a man whose bitterest enemy could not fairly accuse him of indifference to the doctrines and faith “once delivered to the saints,” wrote thus liberally and large-heartedly to a correspondent: “Men may die without any opinions, and yet be carried into Abraham’s bosom; but if we be without love, what will knowledge avail? I will not quarrel with you about opinions. Only see that your heart be right toward God, and that you know and love the Lord Jesus Christ, and love your neighbours, and walk as your Master walked, and I ask no more. I am sick of opinions. Give me a good and substantial religion, a humble, gentle love of God and man.”

Christian contention

God grant that we may contend with other churches, as the vine with the olive, which of us shall bear the best fruit; but not, as the brier with the thistle, which of us will be most unprofitable! (Lord Bacon.)

Contagious contention

As a little spark many times setteth a whole house on fire; even so a contentious and froward person, of a little matter of nought, maketh much debate and division among lovers and friends. As we see one coal kindle another, and wood to be apt matter to make a fire; so those that are disposed to contention and brawling are apt to kindle strife. (Cawdray.)

Test of controversy

A cobbler at Leyden, who used to attend the public disputations held at the academy, was once asked if he understood Latin. “No,” replied the mechanic; “but I know who is wrong in the argument.” “How?” replied his friend. “Why, by seeing who is angry first.”

Christian liberty:--In such points as may be held diversely by diverse persons, I would not take any man’s liberty from him; and I humbly beseech all men that they would not take mine from me. (Abp. Bramhall.)


Verses 1-23

Verse 3-4

Romans 14:3-4

Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not.

Strong and weak

I. The strong should not despise the weak brethren.

1. Tenderness and sensitiveness of conscience is a quality as precious as it is rare.

2. The clearer light of the strong is due to God’s special mercy and their superior advantages.

3. He who is good enough for Christ should not be rejected by man.

4. Possibly, for aught one could tell, their brother’s prejudices might decrease, and he ultimately outshine the strongest of the strong in Christian usefulness.

II. The weak should avoid censoriousness.

1. Difference of opinion will ever exist upon minor questions. No two minds regard the same subject exactly alike. Two artists, looking at the same landscape under like circumstances, will behold it with different eyes, and will represent it, though truthfully, yet according to their own previous education and peculiar stamp of mind.

2. It is the office of God alone to judge, and we should be charitable to others, but severe on ourselves. A weak brother, in regarding his strong brother’s conduct, was like a man beholding an object through a mist.

3. Supposing our brother to be somewhat mistaken in trivial points, yet God is willing to receive him; and shall we venture to excommunicate and unchurch him, or withdraw from his fellowship? Might not such conduct irritate his mind, stamp deeper his prejudices, and lead him to magnify the importance of these really subordinate and less essential questions on account of which he is despised, and thus neglect or depreciate fundamental truths? “Errors,” writes John Scott, “like paper kites, are many times raised and kept up in men’s minds by the incessant bluster of over-fierce opposition.” Conclusion: The weak and the strong have their representatives in all ages of the Church. The former are the conservative, and the latter are the liberal elements. Both parties are necessary in the present order of things. They may be compared to the centripetal and centrifugal forces which keep the Church in its due orbit of practice. (C. Nell, M.A.)

God hath received him.--

Accepted him in Christ, adopted him into His family, approved of that which the weak brother condemned. Their conduct was pleasing to God because according to gospel truth and liberty, not from laxity or flesh pleasing, but from religious principle. Man often condemns when God receives, and vice versa. Believers therefore are to be temperate in judging as well as in living. God’s views and conduct are to guide us--

1. In our judgment of things.

2. In our treatment of persons. The question in regard to a brother is, Does God receive him? The great question for ourselves is, Does God receive me? (J. Robinson, D.D.)

Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant?--

Censoriousness

I. The practical condemned.

1. Not all judgment.

2. But measuring and condemning others by our own standard.

3. This is exceedingly common.

II. The evil of it.

1. It is impertinent, because beyond our province.

2. Presumptuous because it is to invade the prerogative of God.

3. Perilous, because God may justify whom we condemn, and the condemnation falls back on ourselves. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

God the defender of those who are unjustly censured

He--

1. Challenges the offender.

2. Asserts His own prerogative.

3. Defends the right. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Christian liberty on debatable ground

(text and verse 15):--

1. A certain divine has said that “since Jeremy Taylor and Richard Baxter, English Protestantism has had no great casuists.” Nor is this to be regretted. “It is safer to leave men to the guidance of those great and obvious moral laws, whose authority every pure and honest heart acknowledges.” But as to what are those laws, the world has never been entirely agreed. On the one hand is the denial of all such moral laws. The nihilist and socialist agree in repudiating all moral restrictions. The utilitarian has his selfish statute of limitations to personal liberty. The Christian disciple finds the sum of obligation in one word--love.

2. We are now to consider Christian liberty, as Paul unfolds it. In doing so we are not to forget that “the great and obvious moral laws” of the Christian system are, like their Author, “the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever,” but that the scene and the conditions of their manifestation, in human conduct, are ever shifting, The open questions at Corinth and Rome in the first century touch us not at all, except as illustrations of a principle; while they may be the living questions of the hour in India and China.

I. Liberty is not freedom to do as one pleases.

1. Nobody on earth enjoys such liberty. Liberty is limited by conscience, by the views of others, by our health, by lack of means, by lack of courage, by hereditary traits and disabilities. We cannot believe what we please, for we are limited by the laws of thought and evidence. We are limited in our conduct by society. No man lives to himself in the trades, the schools, or the professions. We cannot divorce liberty from law. This would be to bring in anarchy.

2. Strictly speaking, personal and Christian liberty are the same. What is morally binding upon a Christian man is, in a sense, binding upon everybody. What any man may rightly do as accountable to God, a Christian may do. It will always be the duty of every man to love God and his neighbour, and to put his liberty under the limitations of that reigning principle of love.

3. Christ bound this as a yoke upon the necks of His disciples, to draw this world out of the sloughs of selfishness up on to the table lands of righteousness, and brotherhood, and consequent peace. Some things are for a Christian man innocent and harmless. If he abstain in things indifferent, it is not because it is morally wrong to indulge, but out of deference to the conscience or scruples of others, or the possible peril to which his example might expose those not so strong. His Lord and Master “pleased not Himself.” And “it is enough for the disciple that he be as his Master.”

II. Christian liberty is the liberty to be Christlike. When a man becomes the disciple of Christ he advances into a higher realm of liberty than that of the merely ethical right; into the liberty, the self-sacrifice, and self-forgetfulness of love. To the man who has put on Christ this is the grandest liberty in earth or heaven. The one absolutely free man who ever walked the earth was Jesus. The truth makes other men free. He was the Truth, and so was Freedom itself. Saul of Tarsus becomes the slave of Christ and the child of liberty at the same moment. This slave of Christ was the freest man in Greece or Rome. To his great, strong nature, his skilled, dialectic mind, meats and drinks and special days were indifferent matters; every creature of God was good and to be received with thanksgiving. But all were not able to make their way through this tangled mass so easily. All could not so easily shako off the influence of the past.

III. The liberty to be Christlike is all the liberty we have. In this light--

1. If Christian brethren are disposed to stand upon their rights and do what they think themselves honestly entitled to do, Christian liberty gives to their brethren who differ from them no right of censorious judgment. So long as he is true to his convictions in his bolder, freer course, “he shall be holder up; for God is able to make him stand,” and in condemning him, we may be violating the royal law of charity.

2. Christian liberty gives no warrant to any to follow the example of such at the expense of conscience. Though it be not immoral to enjoy it in and by itself, it is sinful in the man who thus, against his conscience, imitates the freer Christian.

3. The rights of Christian conscience are above the rights of Christian liberty. And so far is this from being a burdensome yoke, worn from love to Christ and men, it is a yoke easy and light and joyous.

4. The question arises, Are the weak always to give law to the strong? There are limits to self-abnegation. Weakness is a bad thing; and if a constant homage be paid to it, it tends to make others weak. I may think it right, for the sake of my own moral vigour and for that of those who are in danger of becoming morbidly scrupulous, to live the bolder freer life which my own conscience approves. We, then, that are strong, ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves;… for even Christ pleased not Himself. It is not the weak giving law to the strong; it is the strong giving law to himself in accordance with eternal principles of heavenly love. Yea, it is Christ, the mighty, leading the way in self-abnegation, and we, who have the mind of Christ, following on as best we can. The infant in the cradle: Is that weak, puny thing always to give law to mother-love? Does infantile weakness give law to mother-love, or does mother-love, obedient to its own instinct, tie itself down to the cradle--the freest thing this side the love of Christ on this earth? But the mother ties herself down to infantile weakness only so long as she must, and for the sake of leading weakness up on to the heights of strength. And so let us do toward the weak everywhere. (H. C. Haydn, D.D.)

The servant of God: his privileges and immunity

I. The Christian is the servant of God. The highest designation he can wear. Worn by Christ, angels, the best of men. He is the servant of God.

1. By creation. He was made to serve--to glorify God.

2. By purchase, and at what a cost--the precious blood of Christ.

3. By willing consecration.

II. The servant of God is responsible to his master.

1. To Him supremely in indisputable duties. Christians are under obligations to their fellow-men in innumerable matters, but largely because their fellow-men in certain relationships are the representatives of God. We cannot pay our debts to God directly, but we conform to the Divine law of honesty by paying our creditors. The servant discharges her duties to God through diligent domestic service.

2. To Him only in doubtful matters. Upon matters about which there is no clear Divine pronouncement, and in conforming or nonconforming to which our only guide is conscience, our only referee is God. This is obvious from the very fact that men differ so widely about them, and from the fact, too, that so often variant opinions are right. The man who ate only herbs was right--they agreed with his constitution, and were not forbidden by Divine law. The man who ate meat was right--it nourished his body, and was allowed by the law of Christ. Circumstances, however, might make either harmful or wrong. Who was to be the judge here? Not another, for no man has a perfect knowledge of the whole of another man’s circumstances. The obvious appeal therefore is to the omniscient God.

III. This master will uphold His servant (Romans 16:25; 1 Peter 1:5; Jude 1:24).

1. He has promised to do so.

2. This promise is very--

Conclusion. In disputable matters.

1. Let each mind his own business.

2. Let each see that his business is pleasing to God. (J. W. Burn.)

Meddlesome people

I knew man, in my youth, an elderly man, who was a great observer of human nature. I will not say of him, as it was said of Oliver Cromwell, that he could look through a man’s skin right to his backbone--but he had a most shrewd knowledge of mankind. A young man used to converse with him, occasionally, on this very theme of human character; and, one day, after a long conversation upon it, the young man said, “Ah! well; there are all sorts of people in the world.” “Nay.” said the elder man, “there is one sort wanting.” “What sort is that?” asked the young man eagerly. “The people,” replied the elder man, “who mind their own business, and let other people’s business alone.” (Thomas Cooper.)

Minding one’s own business

A lady made a complaint to Frederick the Great, King of Prussia: “Your Majesty,” said she, “my husband treats me badly.” “That’s none of my business,” said the king. “But he speaks ill of you,” said the lady. “That,” said he, “is none of your business.”


Verse 5-6

Romans 14:5-6

One man esteemeth one day above another.

The Sabbath question

It has been argued--“If we adopt the supposition, that a Christian Sabbath law was then in force, the propriety of the apostle’s counsel of forbearance must appear questionable, inasmuch as it must have been regarded by all as of indispensable obligation. How, then, could Paul have affirmed that “he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it”? We reply, that there is no evidence that the Sabbath was included in the apostle’s representation at all. For--

I. The whole reasoning has reference to observances distinctly Jewish. But the Sabbath was no such institution; it was instituted for mankind at the creation. If so, then it was not among the things that “vanished away” with the Jewish dispensation.

II. In controversy unqualified terms are always to be understood according to the extent of the subject in dispute. Suppose, e.g., in a controversy respecting the propriety of certain days long observed in the Romish and Anglican churches, a person might use the language before us, and speak of one man “esteeming one day above another,” while “another esteemed every day alike,” without being understood to refer to Sunday. No one would think of such a thing; but simply of the days in question. So the present difference was about days of Jewish observance; and therefore the previous question would demand settlement, Was the Sabbath one of these?

III. The language cannot be understood with no qualification; for then it would follow that they were under obligation to appropriate no day whatever to religious services. Now let us try this in application both to the seventh and to the first day of the week.

1. As to the former--those whose argument I am considering, hold the continued obligation of the seventh day upon Jewish believers, till the final overthrow of the nation. Very well, then; if it did continue obligatory its observance could not be optional and left to the mere persuasion of every man’s own mind.

2. As to the latter--it is clear that if the reference be to it, the apostle’s language leaves all at perfect liberty to observe it or not. It is vain to say, that by agreement of the Church, its stated meetings for worship were held on that day; for the terms of the passage contradict such agreement. From which it would follow, that here was a church that had no fixed observance of social worship, but every one left to do what was “right in his own eyes.” Whether such a state of things be consistent with that God who is not the Author of confusion, I leave you to judge. The passage, therefore, having reference to Jewish days of the week, does not in the least invalidate the fact of the observance of the first day, as it had no place among the days in dispute. And if it has no bearing against the observance of the first day, it leaves the reasonings for it from other sources in full force.

IV. Although the Sabbath was not a peculiarly Jewish institution, yet, being enjoined upon the Israelites by motives peculiar to themselves, it became so. We may admit, therefore, that the apostle refers to it in the light in which it was contended for by the adherents of the law--because, if the original and universal Sabbath was transferred to “the first day of the week” in commemoration of the finished work of redemption, then it could only be as a part of the Jewish law that the retention of the seventh day was contended for. And this view of the case suits well with the apostle’s argument, and avoids the difficulty as to there being no day at all on which they were at one, as to the duty of spending it differently from other days. (R. Wardlaw, D.D.)

The religious non-observance of the Sabbath

Consider--

I. The principle on which Paul declared the repeal of the Sabbath.

1. Christ had vindicated all for God: therefore there was no one thing more God’s than another.

2. It is not at all inconsistent with this, that just as it became desirable to set apart certain places for worship, in which the noise of business should not be heard, so it was desirable to set apart certain days for worship. But then all such were defensible on the ground of wise and Christian expediency, and not on that of a Divine command. Accordingly in early times the Church felt the necessity of substituting something in place of the ordinances which had been repealed. And the Lord’s day arose.

II. The modifications of this view.

1. With reference--

(a) The spiritual intent of Christianity is to worship God every day in the spirit. But had this law been given to the unspiritual Jews, instead of turning every week-day into a Sabbath, they would have transformed every Sabbath into a week-day. Therefore the law specialised a day, in order to lead them to the broader truth that every day is God’s. Now, so far as we are in the Jewish state, the fourth commandment is indispensable. For who is he who needs not the day? He is the man so conformed to the mind of Christ, that he needs no carnal ordinances to kindle spiritual feelings, seeing he is, as it were, in heaven already. The Sabbath was made for man. The need of it, therefore, is deeply hidden in human nature. He who can dispense with it must be holy and spiritual indeed. And he who, still unholy and unspiritual, would yet dispense with it, would fain be wiser than his Maker.

(b) No man, therefore, who knows himself or the need of his brethren will wantonly desecrate it. And no such man can look with aught but grave apprehensions on a scheme which will invite millions to an unreligious use of the day of rest.

2. Here, then, we are at issue with the defenders of public recreations on the Sabbath-day. With respect to--

3. On the other hand, we dissent from those who would arrest such project by petitions to the legislature.

Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.--

Christian liberty

1. Under the Christian dispensation much is left to the determination of a man’s own conscience.

2. He must, however, be fully persuaded in his own mind--whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

3. It follows this liberty may not be infringed by the dictation of others. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Christian liberty

I. Its nature--it is the right of determining our own conduct in things indifferent.

II. Its extent. It reaches to all matters--

1. Not determined by the Word of God.

2. Not settled by human relations, or law.

3. Not calculated to offend the consciences of others.

III. Its test.

1. Can we do it to the glory of God?

2. Can we give God thanks? (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Bigotry

1. There had been a hot discussion upon the subject of dietetics. There were some vegetarians who quarrelled with those who thought it right to eat flesh. Paul decides the matter, “Now, let this quarrel stop. You men who want to eat herbs, eat herbs. You men who want to eat flesh, eat it. Your own consciences must rule: ‘Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.’”

2. This lays down a principle applicable to ten thousand cases of conscience. The religious world is divided into a great variety of sects. While our conscience will not allow us to choose some of these beliefs, we must allow to others the liberty of conscience which we demand for ourselves.

3. The air and the sea keep pure by constant circulation, and there is a tendency in religious discussion towards moral health. Between the fourth and sixteenth century the Church proposed to keep down all error by prohibiting free discussion; but the world has found out that you cannot change men’s beliefs by twisting off their heads. Let error run! Only let the truth run with it, and in the long run truth will win.

4. A king who had a great deal of trouble with his subjects was afterwards imprisoned, and to while away the time he made watches and clocks, and tried to make the watches tick alike, and the clocks strike alike. Of course he failed. Then he said to himself: “What a very foolish king I was! How could I expect to make all my subjects alike?”

I. The causes of bigotry.

1. Wrong education in the home. There are some who caricature and throw slurs upon other denominations in family circle and produce little bigots ten years old.

2. The superior power of any one denomination. People think that all other churches are wrong, and that theirs is right, because it happens to be more fashionable, wealthy, or influential.

3. Ignorance. Knowledge enlarges the mind. A thorough bigot is the man who thinks he knows a great deal, but does not. In the East there is an obelisk; one side of it is white, another blue, another green. Some travellers went to look at that obelisk, and soon got into a fierce contest--one saying that it was white, another blue, etc. “Stop this contest,” said some one. “I walked all round, and find you are all right and all wrong.” If there is any man to he pitied, it is the man who has just one idea in his head.

II. Its evils.

1. It cripples investigation. The different denominations were intended, by holy rivalry and honest competition, to keep each other wide awake. While each denomination ought to preach all the doctrines of the Bible, I think that it is the mission of each more emphatically to preach some one doctrine, e.g., the Calvinistic Church to preach the sovereignty of God, the Arminian man’s free agency, the Episcopal the importance of order and solemn ceremony, the Baptist the necessity of ordinances, the Congregational the individual responsibility of its members, the Methodist holy enthusiasm; but when one says, “All others are wrong, and I am right,” from the realm of God’s truth, over which the archangel might fly from eternity to eternity without touching the limits, they shut themselves out, and die like blind moles under a corn-sheaf.

2. It prejudices people against Christianity. The perpetual bombardment of other sects drives men away from religion. You go down the street and you see a contest and hear the report of firearms. You are not foolish enough to go through that street.

3. It hinders the Church’s triumph. How much wasted energy! Suppose there were a common enemy riding up the Narrows to-morrow morning, and our batteries around New York were to fire into each other, you would cry out, “National suicide!” And yet while all the navies of darkness have been riding up the bay, sect has been warring with sect, and belief with belief, and there has been suicide instead of conquest.

III. How to cure it.

1. By a realisation of our own infirmities and weakness. If we make so many mistakes upon other things, ought we not to be a little modest in regard to our religious belief?

2. By dwelling chiefly upon those things on which we agree, rather than upon those in which we differ. The gospel platform is large enough to hold all who put their trust in our Lord Jesus Christ.

3. By realising that all denominations of Christians have yielded beneficent institutions and noble men, and therefore are to be respected. One gave to the world a Robert Hall and an Adoniram Judson; another gave a Latimer and a Melvill; another a Wesley and a Summerfield, etc.

4. By toiling in Christian work with men of other beliefs. Here are two men in hostility. Let them go and kneel by that dying woman and commend Christ to her soul. If they went into that room with antipathies, they will come out with love. (T. De Witt Talmage, D.D.)

The value of a firm conviction of the right

I. To ourselves.

1. We act on fixed principles.

2. Are preserved from wavering.

3. Secure inward peace.

II. To others.

1. They know with whom they have to do.

2. Can put confidence in us.

3. Derive benefit from our example. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Strong convictions in religion

The apostle teaches that in every circumstance we should have a firm conviction as to duty, and act accordingly. We should reach conclusions concerning right and wrong upon our own responsibility.

I. The prevailing want of strong religious convictions.

1. Paul’s faith was not a vague, cloudy sentiment, but his very life. He was not a fanatic; yet he was willing to even die for his principles. The martyrs of the early church--Savonarola, Huss, Wiclif, Luther, Calvin, the Puritans--furnish examples of people governed by strong convictions in the sphere of faith and practice.

2. It is to be feared that most Christians are not characterised by such earnest convictions in our day. The masses do not think; they let the press do their thinking for them. It is too possible to have our editors, lecturers, professors, and preachers do our thinking for us. This intellectual lassitude is especially blameworthy in religion. Sunday-school teachers should strive to have views of their own concerning Bible subjects, not relying implicitly upon any mere “lesson helps.” Church members should cultivate independence, depth and earnestness of thought. We are each, in our separate personalities, to stand before the judgment-seat of Christ. We are to be judged for our thinking and acting; not for those of others.

II. Incentives to the cultivation of strong religious convictions.

1. A person of strong religious convictions will be an active figure in life. This explains the prominence in the anti-slavery movement of men like Wendell Phillips, Whittier, and Beecher. Followers of Christ, with an intense belief in the need and power of the gospel, will be inside the vineyard instead of standing in the market-place idle.

2. The possession of strong religious convictions gives the believer a purpose in life, gives life a meaning and a definite end. To live for Christ, to believe in that life is to have life directed to a definite port, to supply compass, quadrant, chart, helm, and pilot, to keep it in the straight line through waves and storm till the voyage is over. No life was ever a failure that was genuinely lived for Christ.

3. Truth is promoted where emphatic views of things prevail. The hardest class of hearers are those who have no opinions and do not care what the truth is. A mind which tends to earnest thinking is like fertile soil. It may be full of weeds now; but even that is better than a soil that will support no life whatever. A sea-captain would rather encounter an opposing breeze than to be held in a dead calm. (G. F. Greene.)

Be true to yourself

I. There are circumstances under which this exhortation has a peculiar meaning.

1. As a young artist, lawyer, doctor, etc., enters upon his profession, advisers gather about him, and some kind, thoughtful old man says, “I have but one thing to say to you, be true to yourself.”

2. At times communities sink down into a sort of dead contentment. Enterprise is, comparatively speaking, unknown; men read little and think less; religion, for the most part, is a repetition of things, and everything goes on in a servile and ignoble routine. Now, under such circumstances, it is a wholesome thing for a man to stir men up, and inspire them with curiosity, and make them long for other views of truth, and nobler ideals of life. Then, when there is resurrection from sloth, stupidity, and base conformity to a vulgar life, there is power in the maxim, “Be true to yourself.”

II. To be true to yourself you must understand that there is a devilish and a Divine self in every man.

1. Now the lower animal self no man can afford to be true to. Shall you say to a man who lives for eating and drinking, or to an old miser, “Be true to yourself”? Fidelity to self has been their damnation. One man is true to himself: he is a peacock. Another man is true to himself: he is a monkey. Another man is true to himself: he is a lion, or a tiger, or a bear. I say, in regard to your whole lower self, “Deny, discipline, educate, restrain that self.”

2. But then, there is a Divine self. God comes into our consideration. Our mind takes in a nobler sphere, a larger range. Now, in regard to this higher self, be true to it.

(a) Do you tell me that you cannot get along and be an honest man? I say that you cannot afford to get along then. I reply to you as Talleyrand replied to a man who said, “Why, you know I must live”--“I do not see that.” Do you say, “I must have money”? Ah! that ends it for you. “They that will be rich,” says the apostle, “fall into temptation and a snare.” “The love of money is the root of all evil.” If you cannot maintain your integrity and succeed, less success with a clear conscience will bring you more happiness. And success surely comes with conscience in the long run, other things being equal. Capacity and fidelity are commercially profitable qualities.

(b) Be true to yourself, also, as a consciencebearer against ridicule. Many a man from fear of this goes aside from what he understands to be the truest and best things. “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” Do not comply with others’ opinions unless they commend themselves to your judgment. Do that which you think is right, whatever others may say or think.

(c) Be true to yourself against sympathetic bias through your best affections. We hear people who have done what they knew was wrong say: “I could not say ‘No,’ and disoblige one who has been so kind to me.” No one ever became a full man without some cross-bearing.

(d) Be true to your conscience against all those society compliances which may be easy and pleasant, but which in the end lower the tone of your manhood and self-respect.

Christian casuistry

1. There are questions relating to the degree of our conformity to the world, and to the share it is lawful to take in its company and amusements, about which there is the greatest indecision from the absence of any decisive principle of authority to bear upon them. And so the mind fluctuates, for while one class dogmatises with all the readiness of minds that are thoroughly made up, others wait till a clear reason approve itself to their judgments, ere they utter a confident deliverance.

2. When the renunciation of these things is laid down for the observance of the young disciple in the shape of so many categorical impositions--

I. It is very possible that he may be thereby misled as to the design and nature of Christianity.

1. For these acts of abstemiousness occupy the place of works, and may minister the complacency of self-righteousness. And, besides, they are such acts as do not necessarily imply any graceful or elevated morality, and may be the mere heartless austerities of Pharisaical devoteeship--the morose penances of one who denies himself that gratification which he nevertheless is still most desirously set upon. So Christianity instead of a religion of freedom, because her only control is that of heavenly principle over delighted votaries, may be transformed into a narrow system of bigotry, whose oppressive mandates of “touch not, taste not, handle not,” bear no relation whatever to the spiritual department of our nature.

2. For this reason it is greatly better, with every young inquirer at least, to begin at the beginning--to aim a blow at the root of his corruption, instead of mangling and lacerating at one of its branches; instead of charging him with a matter of doubtful criminality, to put it direct to his conscience, whether the world, or He who made it, has the greatest ascendency over him. After having reached his convictions on this point we would tell him that the thing for adjustment was not the habitual attendance of his person upon places of amusement. We should rather move the previous question--or proceed to the order of the day. The point of immediate urgency is his general state with God. Our indictment is not that he has been incidentally seen in places which lie without the territory of sacredness, but that from that territory he is wholly an outcast and a wanderer.

3. On the personal settlement of this question a great personal change takes place. Other glories than those of this world’s splendour now engage the affections; and other paths than those of this world’s dissipations are now the ways of pleasantness. It may not, however, be with the fierce intolerance of a bigot that he looks on the amusements of other days, but simply with the indifference of one who has found his way to higher and better amusements. And should the result be that he keeps himself from the ball-room or the theatre, this result is only one among the many.

II. It gives to the general eye an appearance of narrowness to our religion which really does not belong to it.

1. Better surely to impregnate the man’s heart first with the taste and spirit of our religion; and then, if this should supersede the taste and affection for the frivolities of life, it impresses a far nobler character of freeness and greatness, than when it is merely a reluctant compliance with a rigid exaction of what seems to be an unreasonable intolerance. Better that it spring up, in kindly vegetation from the soil of the new nature, than be forced forward at the call of an uncompromising or unmeaning dogmatism. The new wine that was put into old bottles had not yet done with its fermentation; and the bottles that had lost their elasticity did not expand to the process, but burst, so that both wine and bottles were destroyed. And the same may often be the result of prematurely putting into an unregenerated man those new observations which are in most pleasing accordancy with the whole desire and habit of an altogether Christian. When the new wine is put into a new bottle, both are preserved. The commandment to renounce the amusements of the world ceases to be grievous, or rather ceases to be necessary. He is taken up with something else that he likes better. As the new wine is suited to the new bottle, so are the present habits of the present heart of the new creature in Jesus Christ our Lord. The reply that was once given by an aged Christian to the question of an anxious beginner whether he should now continue to go to the theatre was that he might go as long as he could. And was this not greatly better than admitting him to doubtful disputation?

2. But still it may be asked, Is it not true that in all the amusements referred to the spirit of earthliness has the predominancy; and that the places where they are held, leave their company on the broad way? Grant this to be true, and that all these assemblages were broken up and their visitors dispersed, these visitors may still keep on the broad way; and we cannot see what is gained by drawing thousands away from the theatre and ball-room, if they shall all tarry at any point short of the conversion of their souls. We should feel as if nothing had been effected by pulling any one away from the theatre, if we had not pulled them across the mighty line of separation that marks off the region of grace from the region of unconverted nature. Whitfield once preached for several days at one of the great London fairs, and we may be sure that he was not content with denouncing with intemperate and untimely zeal as a gross abomination the scenes of madness wherewith he was surrounded. He went there charged with the gospel, and his errand was not to put down one of the modifications of worldliness, but all worldliness. He did not break up the fair, but he did a great deal better, he gathered out of it a harvest for eternity.

3. To intrude a sermon now into any place of amusement would be impossible, and could not be tolerated. But among her other caprices fashion has been known to send her votaries to church; and to vary by a sermon on the Sabbath the giddy round of her week-day entertainments. And should any of her enamoured followers be now listening, we would have them to know that it is not with any of those entertainments that we are holding controversy. We are charged with one far more tremendous. Our direct affirmation, and let them carry it to their consciences and try it there, is, that they live without God in the world; and that in the whirl of time’s gratifications and concerns, they have buried all effective consideration of eternity. Be first Christians, and then we may satisfy your curiosity about the lawfulness or unlawfulness of theatres. Conclusion: A heart with rightly-set affections and desires is the best of casuist. If the heart in its various regards be as it ought, this is our securest guarantee that the history in its various manifestations will be as it ought. The new-born desire of a Christianised heart is worth the catalogue of a thousand solutions to a thousand perplexities. We need scarcely speak on the details of Sabbath observation to him who already loves that hallowed day. Give us a heart set on the things that are above, and what call for warning against the amusements of the world the man who in the midst of higher and better engagements feels their utter insipidity! (T. Chalmers, D.D.)


Verses 7-9

Romans 14:7-9

For none of us liveth to himself.

None of us liveth unto himself

This is seen in--

I. Success, which can be secured only by co-operation. When one devotes himself to one kind of work and another to another, the results of their labours are brought together to complete a perfect mechanism. Thus by these labour exchanges the experience of all is made to benefit each. One man does not make a whole pin.

II. Curiosity. We are anxious to know about our neighbours. It may be denounced by some as impertinence, but after all God has made us look at others--“Look not every man on his own things.” God said early, “Where is thy brother?” And it was a Cain who replied, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” It is true that this curiosity often degenerates into gossip. It is evil when we speak of others only to criticise their garb, etc. It is a higher use of curiosity when we want to know not how a dress fits, but whether these people have on the wedding garment; not whether such an one is of obscure origin, but whether she belongs to the family of God. It is a right curiosity when we inquire about our brethren in foreign lands. The Lord has joined us together by a bond of brotherhood, as the very curiosity we manifest in each other shows.

III. Our love of society. The child wants other children to play with just as soon as it knows anything. The young man or woman goes forth in search of companions. The old man, though becoming deaf, still desires to be told by the voice of affection of what is said. A child plays around while his elders converse about politics, science, or literature, and he seems not to hear. But let one tell of a friend dying, or a battle raging, or a dreadful accident, and the child will at once drop his playthings and cease his sports to listen. Why is this? Because there are common bonds which unite us all, and because we are not made to live to ourselves. Everything that touches one heart awakes an echo in another. There is no punishment more dreadful than solitary confinement. The reason of men so confined sometimes has given way. Human beings, when they could not have men to talk to, have talked to beasts. Baron Trenck, in his solitary dungeon, made a friend of a spider. The greatest of poets made the desolate Lear talk to the clouds and the winds. All these things serve to show that “no man liveth to himself.”

IV. The disposition to imitate. The girl saw her mother nurse the baby, and must have a doll. The boy saw his father chop the wood, and must have an axe and a saw. This principle is in the very heart of man, for God has put it there.

V. The judgment we form of ourselves and others. When we turn away from a beggar we cannot help feeling that we have done wrong, and we begin to reason so as to relieve our Conscience from a sense of having failed in duty. We came home tired. We were told that a neighbour was ill, without a friend to do anything for him. We hesitated, but went to bed. Next morning we learned that he had died in the night, alone, and without any one to speak to him of a Saviour. Then we reproached ourselves. Why? Was it not right to take rest? Certainly; but God had taught us not to live for ourselves alone, and we condemned ourselves for our selfishness. If we had gone we might have had a pain in the head next day, but the heart would have felt all right. Here was a generous, benevolent man, doing all he could for the welfare of society, and trying to help the poor every way possible. When he died, what a funeral! The secret was that that man did not live for himself. There was another man, just as honourable and moral, but a miser. When he died there were no tears, only a host of relatives fighting over his hoard. We admire heroes, not because they are men of blood, but because they live not for themselves, but for others, for their country. Think of Howard, whose name still lives as a synonym for all that is self-denying and beneficent. So is it with Miss Nightingale, Luther, Calvin, and Wesley. Conclusion: If we should not live for ourselves, for what ought we to live?

1. To live for Christ is the only way to live for humanity. Many have tried to live for their friends and failed. A priest, thinking he was doing the European inhabitants of the Spanish colonies a favour, suggested that the African race could better stand the climate and the work of the tropics. In that way slavery was originated in this part of the world, and what a price it has cost us to free ourselves from the curse!

2. When we live for Christ we take Him as our pattern and live for humanity. Then will we lift up the fallen, cleanse the leper, lead the blind, etc.

3. We have to be introduced to Christ by some one who knows Him. But introduced, we can introduce others. (Bp. Simpson.)

None of us liveth to himself

Each living man bears a relation to his whole race: his having lived will never cease to be felt throughout the universe. We own each other, and God owns us all. A man never stands alone, unrelated to anything, but his closest relation is always to his Creator. A willow tree may stand far from the banks of the stream, and with no apparent support, except from the ground about its trunk; but what are its roots doing? Down burrowing amid the rocks, forcing a way through the earth, seeking for openings, pushing whithersoever is the smell of moist soil, diving to the level of the cool well, and drinking deep of its nourishing waters, shooting out by the brook side many, many rods away, till its banks are fringed like a shawl, seeking everywhere for nutriment, which gives life to the tree above them. This is what the roots are doing; and man is like a tree, only his roots shoot upward as well as downward; his firmest tie is to the heart of God, as his surest and best supply is from thence; but he is also indissolubly connected with all below him and round about him. Who, then, can say, “I am mine own; I stand alone, unrelated, unlinked, solitary, uninfluenced and uninfluencing”? Such a thing cannot be; and so it is written by the unerring pen of inspiration--“None of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.” (H. W. Beecher.)

None liveth unto himself

I was not born for myself alone; my country claims a part, my relations claim a part, and my friends claim a part in me. (Plato.)

The duty of not living to ourselves

It is the excellence of our rational nature that by it we are capable of living to some known end, and of governing our lives and conduct by some rule, whereas brute creatures necessarily live and act at random, just as the present appetite influences them. Let us, then, make the most of this our prerogative by proposing to ourselves the noblest end of human life, and engaging in such a course of action as will reflect the greatest honour upon our nature, and be productive of the most lasting happiness.

I. We should, according to this apostolical maxim, by no means confine our regards to ourselves, and have our own pleasure, profit, or advantage in view in everything we undertake; but look out of, and beyond ourselves, and take a generous concern in the happiness of all our brethren of mankind; make their sorrows our sorrows, their joys our joys, and their happiness our pursuit; and it is in this disinterested conduct, and in this only, that we shall find our own true happiness.

1. This disinterested conduct of man is most agreeable to the course of nature without us. The sun, the moon, the planets, and comets, are strictly connected, and combined into one system. Each body, though so exceedingly remote from the rest, is admirably adapted, by its situation, magnitude, and velocity in its orbit, to the state of the whole, in those respects and many others. This connection, probably, also extends to the remotest bodies in the universe, so that it is impossible to say that the withdrawing of any one would not in some respect or other affect all the rest. The clouds and the rain are designed to moisten the earth, and the sun to warm it, and the texture and juices of the earth are formed so as to receive the genial influences of both, in order to ripen and bring to perfection that infinite variety of plants and fruits, the seeds of which are deposited in it. Are not all plants likewise suited to the various kinds of animals which feed upon them? The various kinds of animals are, again, in a thousand ways adapted to, and formed for, the use of one another. That brute animals are excellently adapted to tile use of man, and were, therefore, made to be subservient to the use of man, man will not deny. The strength of some, and the sagacity of others, are as much at our command, and are as effectually employed for our use, as if they belonged to ourselves.

2. The situation of man in this world, or the external circumstances of human nature, oblige us to assert, with Paul, that no man liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. Man himself is but a link, though the highest link, of this great chain, all the parts of which are closely connected by the hand of our Divine Author. Nay, the more extensive are our powers, either for action or enjoyment, on that very account, the more multiplied and extensive are our wants; so that, at the same time that they are marks of our superiority to, they are bonds of our connection with, and signs of our dependence upon, the various parts of the world around us, and of our subservience to one another. The rich, if they would receive the greatest advantages from society, must contribute to the happiness of it. If they act upon different maxims, and think to avail themselves of the pleasures of society without promoting the good of it, they will never know the true pleasures of society. And, in the end, they will be found to have enjoyed the least themselves who have least contributed to the enjoyment of others. Thus it appears from a view of the external circumstances of mankind that man was not made to live to himself. The same truth may be inferred--

3. From a nearer inspection of the principles of human nature and the springs of human actions. Whence is that quick sensibility which we are conscious of with respect to both the joys and the sorrows of our fellow-creatures if their happiness or misery were a matter of indifference to us? Can we feel what is sometimes called the contagion of the passions when we find that our minds contract a kind of gloom in the company of the melancholy, and that this melancholy vanishes in company which is innocently cheerful, and question the influence of social connections? Much less can the reality or the power of the social principle be doubted when a fellow-creature in distress calls forth the most exquisite feelings of compassion, attended with instant efforts towards his relief. Doth not the sense of honour in the human breast derive all its force from the influence which social connections have over us? Of what use could it be but to beings formed for society? Lastly, of what doth devotion itself consist but the exercise of the social affections? What are the dispositions of our minds which are called forth into action in private or public prayer, but reverence for true greatness, humility, gratitude, love, and confidence in God, as the greatest and best of beings; qualities of the most admirable use and effect in social life.

II. Having given this general view of the social turn of our whole natures, whereby we are continually led out of ourselves in our pursuit of happiness, I shall now consider farther how all our appetites and passions, which are the springs of all our actions, do, in their own nature, tend to lead us out of ourselves, and how much our happiness depends upon our keeping their proper objects in view, and upon our minds being thereby constantly engaged upon something foreign to themselves, after which I shall show what are the fittest objects thus to engage our attention. Our benevolence, for instance, leads us immediately to relieve and oblige others. Pleasure, indeed, always attends generous actions, but the satisfaction we receive in our minds from having done kind offices to others is far less pure, and less perfectly enjoyed, if at all, when we had any private gratification in view before the action. In like manner, he who courts applause and does worthy actions solely to obtain it, can have no knowledge of the genuine pleasure arising either from the good action itself or the applause that is given to it, because he is sensible in his own mind that if those who praise his conduct were acquainted with the real motive of it they would be so far from admiring that they would despise him for it. It is chiefly an anxious solicitude about ourselves, and the appearance we shall make in the eyes of others, which is the cause of that affectation and constraint in behaviour which is so troublesome to a person’s self, and so ridiculous in the eyes of others. This trifling remark, being so frequently verified, may serve to show that these sentiments are by no means merely speculative, but that they enter into the daily scenes of active life. Indeed they are in the highest sense practical, and upon them depend those maxims of conduct which contain the great secret of human happiness, and which are confirmed by every day’s experience. Why are persons whose situation in life obliges them to constant labour, either of body or mind, generally more happy than those whose circumstances do not lay them under a necessity to labour? Persons thus employed have not much leisure to attend to the idea of self, and that anxiety which always attends the frequent recurring of it, whereas a person who has no object foreign to himself, which necessarily engages his attention, cannot have his faculties fully exerted, and therefore his mind cannot possibly be in that state of vigorous sensation in which happiness consists.

III. We now come to see what considerations drawn from the Holy Scriptures will further confirm and illustrate this maxim of human conduct which was first suggested by them. Nothing is more frequent with the sacred writers than to exhort men to the practice of their duty as the command of God, from a principle of love to God, of love to Christ, and of love to mankind, more especially of our fellow Christians, and from a regard to the interest of our holy religion--motives which do not at all turn the attention of our minds upon themselves. This is not borrowing the aid of self-love to strengthen the principles of benevolence and piety, but it is properly deriving additional strength to these noble dispositions, as it were, from within themselves, independent of foreign considerations. (J. Priestley, L.L.D.)

Related life

I. “no man liveth unto himself.”

1. We gather about the grave of one who, while he lived, withdrew himself largely from contact with men, and from the activities of his generation; and we say of him, “There was a man who lived entirely to himself.” No, he did not! That reserve and isolation are as definite a power in the world as the marching of a regiment. When, on the sea, the wind suddenly becomes chill and the fog thickens, and the commander paces the deck with anxious face, you know that you are in the neighbourhood of an iceberg--though the iceberg has cabled you no message. And just so with those moral icebergs. The air grows chillier whenever they approach. The frost of their selfishness nips the kindly buds of other lives and makes them as fruitless as their own.

2. And if this is so, how clearly we see the force of the text when we look at some character of an opposite type! Here is a man with fine sympathies and endowments whose life seems to be engrossed in his business or his studies. What an influence he could wield, we think, if he could set out of that narrow round which holds him to such petty cares! But every one of those cares touches some other life. His partners, clerks, workmen, children, and servants--all these are conscious that something warmer and ampler than the starved currents of their own being has flowed into their lives through him.

3. In a word, all life in man is consistent--the highest form of it with the lowest--the life of the soul with the life of the nerves. There are two sets of nerves, those of motion and those of sensation, running side by side like a railway with a double track. One set of nerves or tracks brings us the incoming trains--the tidings and influences from without; the other set dispatches the influences from within. To have both these sets of nerves constantly doing their duty--to have my eye and ear and the nerves which are connected with them correctly reporting to me the beauty and the melody that are outside, and then to have lips and every organ of expression accurately transmitting to others the thought and purpose that are within--this is life. But suppose that while my nervous system is receiving impressions it has become incapable of expression. It would be paralysis, and paralysis is simply an incipient form of death. Life is virtually impossible without expression, and that expression for ever betrays the man that is behind it. There are many who are trying to live to themselves in the sense that they are trying to keep the quality of their lives a secret. Let me exhort them to desist from such an impossible undertaking. The world will be quick to find out what brings the throb into your pulse and the light into your eye. And therefore your life will be worthier and happier if you frankly recognise that it is the law of your being to betray itself.

II. “no man dieth to himself.”

1. Does this mean that when a man comes to his death-bed, his end must needs reveal himself, and so strongly influence others? Hardly; for there is a physical terror of death which is the characteristic of certain timid and sensitive natures, and the more devout the character, the keener often is its dismay. And on the other hand, there are persons with such force of will, that the acted career they have been playing all along, they play with equal composure to the very end.

2. The significance of death is to be found in the temper and purpose with which it is contemplated and approached. Do we understand that the process of life is double, and that every step forward is a progress in decay and an experience of death? The worn-out weariness of the octogenarian utters itself, incipiently, in the tired slumber of the child. Man is acting, from the beginning, with a certainty in view. And how is he acting? Knowing that he will die, is he using his life as if it were a vestibule or a terminus? Conscious that a part of himself will drop away into the grave and a part endure beyond it, is he living for what will perish, or rather for what will last? For what is it that happens at death?

Living

to self:--The first question which arises as we meet these words is as to their scope and sweep. Must we not begin by putting them under limitations? Is it true? Are there not multitudes of persons who are living to themselves? We ought not to limit any truth until we find it impossible to do otherwise. Truth as it comes from the lips of a man specially endowed to speak it is always likely to be greater than our comprehension of it. First of all, we know, as a matter of fact, that no man is simply an individual. An individual life would have to start as it was said of the life of Melchisedek, without father and without mother. We all of us are related. Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, the fact remains. We need not concern ourselves, however, about remote ancestries. Those immediately back of us have influenced us more or less. We see family likenesses extending not alone to facial expression, but family likenesses extending to character. If you find a proud and obstinate mother you are pretty sure in a family to find also a proud and obstinate son; if you find a weak and indolent father you will not be surprised if somewhere in the family you find a still weaker and more indolent daughter. Our relationships count for something. They are not mere matters of arrangement; or of convenience. Soul, as well as body, descends. And yet every man has something which individualises him. There is a spark as it were of spiritual life in every one of us, as there is a spark of electricity in every drop of water and in every grain of sand. Electricity in matter seems in a certain way, and remotely, to represent spirituality in mind. Very well, then, take only these two facts--the fact of relationship to others making our life a continuation of their life, and the fact of each of us having a distinct personality--and how mysterious it is! And yet nobody can deny the facts. Now this relation to others from whom we cannot free ourselves shows that the good in us and the evil in us are not entirely our own, and that no man can be judged simply as an individual. It is not our own till we adopt it as our own. Related all round as we are, then, does it not become clearer and clearer that the apostle simply indicates a universal law of life when he says, “For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself”? It is manifestly impossible that any man should live to himself in unrelated and uninfluential independence of others. Every man is related all round. Is it not clear that no good man lives to himself? The very idea of goodness implies unselfishness, kindness, sympathy. When a man intelligently and voluntarily co-operates with God, “lives unto the Lord,” as St. Paul phrases it, then we all agree that he is not living to himself. And yet if we look into the matter sufficiently close we shall find that there is a sense in which a man is never so much living to himself or for his own interests as when he is voluntarily living to God. The laws of the universe are such that benevolence ultimately hangs up by the neck the man whose penuriousness has blinded his eyes to the fact that he has been occupying himself all his life, like Haman of old, in gallows-building. For living to himself, mark you, is an impossible task. In some degree or other every man is multiplying himself, his character does not remain at home, but it travels abroad. Is there not great comfort in the fact that no man can be good without doing good? We used to be taught in the days gone by that we must not think of ourselves, but we must be good and unselfish. Did we not feel at the time that there was something impossible and unnatural in that advice? Self is here with us, we cannot rid ourselves of it. The consciousness of self I cannot escape. (Rouen Thomas, D.D.)

None of us liveth to himself

I. Senses in which this is true.

1. That of personal influence over our fellows.

2. That of mutual dependence. The work of many of you is rather for your children than for yourselves: and even the young should know that their parents’ happiness is dependent on their turning out well. Effects, reaching to millions of people, come of causes in human beings thousands of miles away, and never seen nor known. A fancy, in a savage race, for some article of British manufacture, will increase the comforts of many homes in a great manufacturing town. Or a people arise in war for slavery; and the consequence is felt in trade and religion all over the world. We are gradually finding out that the welfare of one race or nation is the welfare of all. We are learning to cast away the infidel question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” and are learning instead those wise words of a heathen, “I am a human being, and I feel that I have something to do with everything human!” which are an echo of St. Paul’s. Yes, my friend, there are some who could not do well for a while yet without you. There are those whom almost every human being would miss if he were taken away. Very few lives could be quenched without loss and grief to some one.

II. The sense in which Paul meant it.

1. The text is a step in an argument. Paul has been arguing for toleration, and showing that though men may differ on points short of the great essential doctrines of salvation, they may yet be conscientious and devoted Christians. So we are to recognise as Christians all whom God would recognise. Everything the true Christian does, the apostle says he does as for his God and Saviour. “For none of us liveth unto himself,” etc. And thus the great truth taught is that the Christian does not live to himself in the sense of thinking mainly of self. His will is subordinated to God’s; his great end is not to get on in life, but rather “to glorify God and enjoy Him for ever.” Now, in this sense of the phrase, many do live entirely to themselves and not at all to God. There are people who could not seriously say that, from Monday morning to Saturday night, they bestow any real thought on anything beyond the horizon of this world.

2. Here, then, we have a test by which to try the reality of our Christian profession and character. Would it be a safe thing for any one to say to this congregation, We differ one from another in a great many respects; but there is one thing in which we are all agreed, “None of us liveth to himself, and none of us will die to himself!” We are all living and will die to God. But this great test is one that is thoroughly accepted by people who are not Christians, who hold very cheap the fair words of the man in whom all is tainted with the plague-spot of selfishness. The great secret of usefulness is the ceasing to live to yourself! “They glorified God in me,” said St. Paul of those who heard of his conversion; and God shall be glorified in each of us, whether in life or in death, if we be truly devoted to Him. (A. K. H. Boyd, D.D.)

Religious selfishness

Do we all live up to the spirit of the text in our--

I. Prayers? The Lord s Prayer is all in the plural number. Our Saviour’s prayers were and are essentially intercessory. So were Daniel’s, Paul’s, Jeremiah’s, Abraham’s. In fact, all the great prayers of the Bible are intercessory. But is it not with most of us, my wants, my sorrows, my difficulties, my soul? Is not the thought of others a very small part when you are upon your knees, and thanksgiving for others the smallest of all? May not this be a reason for the very few answers you have had? God turned the captivity of Job when he prayed for his friends. Inscribe it in your oratory as the life of your prayers--“None of us liveth to himself.”

II. Religious life. The religion of most men consists of little more than going to church, reading religious books, and now and then talking to some religious person. Whereas every Christian is to be a leavening element, placed in this world to germinate and extend truth. Every feeling which God gives a man is the property of the Church and of the world.

III. Conversation. The right rule for this is, that there should be a reciprocity, and that each person should try, according to the character of the persons to whom he is talking, to get good, or to do good, but the tendency is to think far more of the good we may get than of that we may give.

IV. Religious views. Most of us live in a very narrow system of ideas. God forbid that we should be so liberal as to profess to find truth everywhere and leave it nowhere. But so the more essential truths are held, and the Lord Jesus is magnified, we ought not to break up the great continent of truth into so many little islands, on which each puny man takes his stand, and says, “This is the Church.”

V. Church work. Can it be a right state when, out of such a congregation as this, there is such a little band to be found of those who give themselves to any expressed work of usefulness? How many are living in their little daily circle, attending to their own health, or their own business, or their own souls! But will the kingdom of God ever be spread in this way? (J. Vaughan, M.A.)

Religious selfishness

The Emperor Constantine said to one who was dissatisfied with every church he had attended, “Some are so supremely selfish that they would construct a special heaven for themselves and their friends.” (S. Milner.)

Selfish and unselfish workers

Of all things beware of that most mortal selfishness, that greedy selfishness, which makes a man unwilling to labour, for fear that somebody else will get the benefit of his labour instead of himself. Remember Him who for ever and for ever labours for something or somebody beside Himself. What can the sparrow give to God? And yet God every morning thinks of the sparrow. What can ten myriad, myriad worms on the earth give back to God? And yet God never forgets the worm. What return can the great tribe of insects make to God for His watchful care? Piping on their tiny instruments they can raise no song of praise worthy of His hearing. All living creatures on the broad universe receive God’s benefaction; and it is His joy to work for their benefit. (H. W. Beecher.)

Self or Christ; which is it

?--

I. The setting aside of self. Not annihilating it, but giving it its proper place. Selfishness is the master-sin, the master-curse of man. The selfish man is not like one looking round on a noble landscape, and forgetting himself in the beauty of the wide expanse, but like one carrying a mirror with him, so that every object is seen in connection with self, and is only admired as it helps to set off self. The apostle reverses all this. From the Christian’s life, death, and all between, self has been displaced. The first setting aside of self is in the matter of justification before God; for, previously, man’s object was to amend, improve, or mortify self, in order that he might recommend himself to God. The Holy Spirit, however, shows that self can contribute nothing towards man’s acceptance with God. What is conviction of sin but just the setting aside of self? From that point it proceeds onwards throughout a man’s whole life. Others may live and die to themselves, but not we who have been “bought with a price.” How this--

1. Elevates life! That which degrades life is the introduction of self, but now life is lifted up into its true glory--the position which God originally designed for man.

2. Takes away life’s littlenesses.

3. Establishes and strengthens life.

4. Secures us against all failure and disappointment.

II. The substitute for self.

1. In the matter of our standing before God. As the first thing the Holy Spirit does is to set aside self, in the matter of justification and acceptance, so His next is to present to us the Son of God as the true ground of our acceptance. Having taken Him in the place of self, we find ourselves at once “accepted in the Beloved.”

2. As the object for whom we live. In Him we find an object worth living for.

III. The manner in which this substitution is effected (verse 9). Christ’s claim over us as Jehovah is eternal, and nothing can be added to it. But His claim over us as the Christ is a superadded claim. This claim He has made good by His death and resurrection. Nor can any one dispute it or present a rival one, for no other has done what He did.

1. The least, then, that we can give Him is our life; the undivided service of our being, in every part.

2. Our death is to be His. In dying He thought on us; so in dying let us think on Him. Our death is to be for His glory.

3. Our eternity is to be His. He ever liveth for us; let us anticipate the ever living for Him. (H. Bonar, D.D.)

The action of presence

1. One of the most remarkable phenomena in chemistry is that which is known as “catalysis,” or the “action of presence”--so called because the mere presence of a certain substance among the atoms of another substance produces the most extensive changes upon these atoms; and yet the body thus operating is itself unchanged. Thus, e.g., starch is converted into sugar and gum, at a certain temperature, by the presence of an acid which does not participate in the change. A current of hydrogen gas directed upon a piece of polished platinum will take fire, and yet the platinum will remain completely unaltered. Very many of the most important actions of growth and decay, of life and death throughout the animal and vegetable kingdoms, are produced by this catalytic power. We find illustrations also in the attractions of cohesion and gravitation, in the resemblance of many animals to the soil on which they live, or the objects by which they are surrounded, and in the regional resemblance subsisting between all the plants and animals belonging to one continent and its dependencies. Ascending higher, we find the influence of this principle in the characteristic features of mental, moral, and physical likeness which the inhabitants of a particular district acquire; and in the resemblance so often noticed between the countenances of husband and wife who have lived long together.

2. But it is in the social world that we see the most striking examples. Human beings are unceasingly exerting unconscious influence upon one another, and producing results of the most vital and lasting importance. The very presence of some is like sunshine, while the society of others acts like a dark cloud. We feel at once at our ease in the presence of some people, and awkward and reserved in the presence of others. On a large scale we see the effects of the same law in the conventionalities of life, in fashions, in the enthusiasm of a crowd, in the panics of trade, and in moral epidemics.

3. The hem of Christ’s garment was instinct with healing power; and the very shadow of the apostles shed silent virtue on the sick laid by the wayside. And so in a manner is it with Christians still. But this nameless influence is different in different cases. The natural man often shines through the new man, and produces an alien impression. One is morose and bigoted; his very presence acts like an acid. Another is Pharisaically strict, and makes sad the heart that God has not made sad. A third is morbid, oppressed with little fidgety difficulties and trials. All these Christians are, insensibly to themselves, producing an effect upon others quite contrary to what they wish: they are giving a wrong idea of their religion to the world. On the other hand, there are Christians who produce in others a sense of their close relation to God, and breathe around them an atmosphere as healthy and exhilarating as the air on a mountain-top. They give an adequate representation of what Christianity is and does. Note respecting this spiritual catalysis--

I. Its truthfulness. We say of children that they instinctively know those who love them, and go to such at once; while no kind words or sweet looks will allure them to the side of those who are not lovers of the little ones at heart. What is this but just the impression which a true character is making upon a heart gifted, by virtue of its simplicity, with an insight unknown to the wise and prudent? So also every one has noticed the fondness of animals for certain persons, and their aversion to others. Every Christian is producing two sets of influences. One is the involuntary influence of his real character; the other is the influence of what he says and does for a special purpose. Now these two currents may be opposed to one another. The character may be saying one thing, the lips and conduct another. But in vain does a man profess to be what he is not. The mask worn for a purpose continually slips aside, and reveals the natural face behind. There is a species of animalcule called Rotifera, living in tufts of mosses, which, when placed under the microscope, is found to be transparent as crystal. You see all its internal organs and the processes of life as you see the works of a watch through the glass. We are like this creature. I may not be able to tell why I think a certain person is not a genuine character, but I have an instinctive feeling that he is not what he pretends to be.

II. Its constancy. Not more constantly is the sun shining, or a flower exhaling its fragrance, than the Christian is radiating or exhaling influence from his character upon those around him. What a man voluntarily chooses, says, or does, is only occasional. But what he is--that is necessarily perpetual. I cannot always speak a word for Christ, but I can always live for Him. The voluntary language of what I say or do is spasmodic, and liable to continual interruption; but the language of what I really am is as continuous as my life itself. Just as the leaven, by its mere presence, changes the particles of meal in the midst of which it is hid, so does each human being, by his mere presence, affect for good or evil those with whom he associates.

III. Its responsibility. This we do not always acknowledge. We are responsible, we say, for the influence that we desire to produce upon others; but for the voluntary effect of our life, we think we are no more responsible than we are for the involuntary beating of our hearts. We cannot, however, thus repudiate our responsibility. For what is our character? The sum of our thoughts, feelings, and actions. This character we ourselves have formed, and while we cannot help the silent influence of our character, when formed, we are responsible for the formation of it. Our very accountability to God rests upon our ability to build up a good character; and if we are judged according to the goodness and evil of our character itself, we may certainly be held responsible for the good or evil influence which, unknown to us, it produces upon others. We cannot live in the world and escape this responsibility, because we cannot live in the world and not exert a moral influence upon others. The radiation of heat from one object to another, the equalisation of temperature, is not more certain in the physical world than the distribution of influence in the moral. (H. Macmillan, D.D.)

Influence

I. The power of human influence.

1. Nothing in the universe is self-contained. There is an intimate connection and mutual dependence existing between all things and beings. This is true in--

2. Influence binds us to one another and the world. It is twofold.

II. Human influences should be consecrated to God’s service.

1. God claims this power as peculiarly belonging to Him. His empire is as extensive as space and eternity, “He is sovereign Lord over life” and “death.” Either with or against our wills, our influence must minister to His purposes.

2. The Christian who realises the principles of the text consciously and willingly consecrates this power, “his life,” “his death” to God. In every state of being we belong to Christ.

3. All claims to service rest either upon--

III. The advantages resulting from an unreserved consecration of influence to the Divine service.

1. The end of life in its holiest and highest form is answered. The springs of an action determine its value, selfishness is adverse to usefulness. A disinterested Christian life alleviates much moral and physical misery.

2. Is the fountain of the purest and most permanent happiness.

3. Gilds the close of life with unspeakable light and peace. (J. Foster, B.A.)

Influence, a child’s

In a cemetery a little white stone marked the grave of a dear little girl, and on the stone were chiselled these words--“A child of whom her playmates said, ‘It was easier to be good when she was with us’”--one of the most beautiful epitaphs ever heard of.

Influence, a child’s

A gentleman was once lecturing in the neighbourhood of London. In the course of his address he said, “All have influence.” There was a rough man at the other end of the room with a little girl in his arms. “Everybody has influence, even that little child,” said the lecturer, pointing to her. “That’s true, sir.” cried the man. Everybody looked round, of course; but the man said no more, and the lecturer proceeded. At the close the man came up to the gentleman and said, “I beg your pardon, sir, but I could not help speaking. I was a drunkard; but as I did not like to go to the public-house alone, I used to carry this child. As I came near the public-house one night, hearing a great noise inside, she said, ‘Don’t go, father.’ ‘Hold your tongue, child.’ ‘Please, father, don’t go.’ ‘Hold your tongue, I say.’ Presently I felt a big tear on my cheek. I could not go a step farther, sir. I turned round and went home, and have never been in a public-house since--thank God for it. I am now a happy man, sir, and this little girl has done it all; and when you said that even she had influence I could not help saying, ‘That’s true, sir’; all have influence.” (Freeman.)

Influence, inevitable

That which a man is, that sum total made up of the items of his beliefs, purposes, affections, tastes, and habits, manifested in all he does and does not, is contagious in its tendency, and is ever photographing itself on other spirits. He himself may be as unconscious of this emanation of good or evil from his character, as he is of the contagion of disease from his body, or, if that were equally possible, of the contagion of good health; but the fact, nevertheless, is certain. If the light is in him, it must shine; if darkness reigns, it must shade; if he glows with love, it will radiate its warmth; if he is frozen with selfishness, the cold will chill the atmosphere around him; and if corrupt and vile, he will poison it. Nor is it possible for any one to occupy a neutral or indifferent position. In some form or other he must affect others. Were he to banish himself to a distant island, or even enter the gates of death, he still exercises a positive influence, for he is a loss to his brother--the loss of that most blessed gift of God, even that of a living man to living men, of a being who ought to have loved and to have been beloved. (N. Macleod, D.D.)

Living for others

“I live not wholly for myself,” said a beautiful flower one fair morning, as it lifted to the sun its crest sparkling with dewdrops. “I live not wholly for myself. Mortals come and gaze on me, and breathe my fragrance, and go away better than they came; for I minister to their perceptions of the beautiful. I give to the bee his honey, and to the insect his food; I help to clothe the earth in beauty.” “I live not wholly for myself,” said a wide-spreading tree. “I give a happy home to a hundred living beings; I grant support to the living tendrils of the vine; I absorb the noxious vapours in the air; I spread a welcome shadow for man and beast; and I, too, help to make earth beautiful “I live not wholly for myself,” said a laughing mountain streamlet. “I know that my tribute to the ocean is small, but still I am hastening to carry it there. And I try to do all the good I can on my way. The tree and the flower love my banks, for I give them life and nourishment; and even the grass which feels my influence has a greener hue. The minnows find life and happiness in my waters, though I glide onward only a silver thread; and men and animals seek my brink to assuage their thirst, and enjoy the shadow of the trees which I nourish. I live not wholly for myself.” “I live not wholly for myself,” said a bright-hued bird, as he soared upwards into the air. “My songs are a blessing to man. I have seen the poor man sad and despondent as he went home from his daily work, for he knew not how to obtain food for his little ones. Then I tuned one of my sweetest lays for his ear, and he looked upward, saying: ‘Behold the fowls of the air; for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet my heavenly Father feedeth them. Am not I better than they?’ and the look of gloom changed to one of cheerfulness and hope. I live not wholly for myself.” “I live not wholly for myself,” should be the language of every thinking, reflecting mind. It is the language of duty, guiding to the only paths of happiness on earth, and preparing the soul for unalloyed bliss throughout “the measureless enduring of eternity.” (Great Thoughts.)

Every man has a good or evil influence

The fact that no man can evade the responsibility of living either for good or for evil in this world, is strikingly set forth by Dr. Chalmers in the following weighty paragraph:--“Every man is a missionary now and for ever, for good or for evil, whether he intends it or designs it or not. He may be a blot, radiating his dark influence to the very circumference of society; or he may be a blessing, spreading benediction over the length and breadth of the world; but a blank he cannot be. There are no moral blanks; there are no neutral characters. We are either the sower that sows and corrupts, or the light that splendidly illuminates, and the salt that silently operates; but being dead or alive, every man speaks.”

The power of influence

Look at those concentric rings growing wider and wider, rolling their fair ripples among the reedy sedge, tipping the overhanging boughs of yonder willow, stirring the nest of the startled water-hen, producing an influence, slight but conscious, to the farthest margin of the lake itself. That idle word--that word of heat or scorn--flung from my lips in casual company. “Oh,” you say, “it produced a momentary impression upon the mind of those who listened to it, and that is all.” No; it is not.:Believe me it is not. It deepened that man’s disgust at godliness; and it sharpened the edge of that other man’s sarcasm; and it shamed that half-convinced one out of his penitent misgivings; and it exerted an influence, slight but determining, upon the destinies of that immortal life. Oh, this is a terrible power that I have--this power of influence. And I cannot get rid of it. It clings to me like the shirt of Nessus upon Hercules. It looks through my eye: it speaks from my lips; it walks abroad with me. I cannot live to myself. I must either be a light to illuminate or a tempest to destroy. (W. M. Punshon.)

Influence, permanent

The pulsations of the atmosphere, once set in motion by the human voice, cease not to exist with the sounds to which they gave rise. Strong and audible as they may be in the immediate neighbourhood of the speaker, and at the immediate moment of utterance, their attenuated force soon becomes inaudible to human ears. The waves of the air thus raised perambulate the earth and ocean’s surface; and, in less than twenty hours, every atom of its atmosphere takes up the altered movement due to that infinitely small portion of the primitive motion which has been conveyed to it through countless channels, and which must continue to influence its path throughout its future existence. Thus considered, what a strange chaos is this wide atmosphere we breathe! Every atom, impressed with good and with ill, retains at once the motion which sages and philosophers have imparted to it, mixed and combined in ten thousand ways with all that is worthless and base. The air is one vast library, on whose pages are for ever written all that man has ever said, or woman whispered. There, in their mutable but unerring characters, mixed with the earliest as well as with the latest sighs of mortality, stand for ever recorded vows unredeemed, promises unfulfilled, perpetuating in the united movements of each particle the testimony of man’s changeful will. (Babbage.)

Influence, perpetuity of

It is a high, solemn, almost awful thought for every individual man, that his earthly influence, which has had a beginning, will never, through all ages, were he the very meanest of us, have an end! What is done is done; has already blended itself with the boundless, everliving, ever-working universe, and will also work there, for good or for evil, openly or secretly, throughout all time.

Influence, personal

The greatest works that have been done have been done by the ones. The hundreds do not often do much, the companies never do: it is the units, just the single individuals, that, after all, are the power and the might. Take any church,--there are multitudes in it; but it is some two or three that do the work. Look on the Reformation!--there might be many reformers, but there was but one Luther: there might be many teachers, but there was but one Calvin. Look ye upon the preachers of the last age, the mighty preachers who stirred up the churches--there were many coadjutors with them; but, after all, it was not Whitefield’s friends, nor Wesley’s friends, but the men themselves, that did it. Individual effort is, after all, the grand thing. A man alone can do more than a man with fifty men at his heels to fetter him. Look back through all history. Who delivered Israel from the Philistines?--it was solitary Samson. Who was it gathered the people together to rout the Midianites?--it was one Gideon, who cried, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!” Who was he that smote the enemy?--it was Shamgar, with his ex-goad; or it was an Ehud, who, with his dagger, put an end to his country’s tyrant. Separate men-Davids with their slings and stones--have done more than armies could accomplish. (C. H. Spurgeon)

Influence, posthumous

Da Vinci’s famous painting of “The Lord’s Supper,” originally adorning the dining.room of a convent, has suffered such destruction from the ravages of time, war, and abuse, that none of its original beauty remains. Yet it has been copied and engraved; and impressions of the great picture have been multiplied through all civilised lands. Behold a parable of posthumous influence.

Influence, small, its value

“I have no more influence than a farthing rushlight,” said a workman; to whom his friend gave reply, “Well, a rushlight does much. It may burn a haystack or a house--nay, it helps me to read God’s Word. Go your way, and let your rushlight so shine before men that they may glorify your Father in heaven.”

Influence, unconscious

It is related that when Thorwaldsen returned to his native land with those wonderful marbles which have made his name immortal, chiselled with patient toil and glowing aspiration during his studies in Italy, the servants who opened them scattered upon the ground the straw in which they were packed. The next summer, flowers from the gardens of Rome were blossoming in the streets of Copenhagen from the seeds thus accidentally planted. The genius that wrought grandly in marble had unconsciously planted beauty by the wayside.

Influence, unconscious, its power

Many years ago an intelligent youth was apprenticed in the town of Peele. He had been piously trained by his good parents, but unhappily, having left home, he yielded to temptation, neglected the reading of his Bible, disregarded the Sabbath, and gave up prayer. John was gradually declining from bad to worse, when one night a new apprentice arrived. On being pointed to his little bed, the youth put down his luggage, and then, in a very silent but solemn manner, knelt down to pray. John, who was busily preparing for rest, saw this. He did not raise a laugh, as many youths would have done; conscience troubled him. God’s Holy Spirit strove with him: it was the turning-point in his life. He again began to pray, sought the Saviour, and was enabled at length to rejoice as one of God’s forgiven children. A few years afterwards he began to preach to others. He ultimately devoted himself altogether to the ministry, and became one of the most laborious, successful, and honoured of God’s servants. His writings are to be found in many languages, and in almost every part of the world, and his name will probably be had in grateful remembrance as long as time shall last. A few years ago a funeral--such a funeral as is seldom seen--took place in one of our great manufacturing towns. Clergymen, ministers, civic authorities, merchants, and thousands of men of all classes were paying honour to the departed. Shops were closed, and the whole town seemed wrapt in mourning, as though some great prince had fallen. And who was the departed? None other than John Angell James, of Birmingham, the author of “The Anxious Inquirer,” once the boy whose turning-point in life was brought about by the unflinching and devout example of his fellow-apprentice.

The object of life

To whom, for whom do we live? This is a question of the utmost importance to everybody, even when we look at it singly; but this importance acquires an awful character when we cast our thoughts forward from this question to the next. To whom, for whom shall we die? And each person will have to make his own answer.

I. Most men live to themselves. Some hunt after riches, others after pleasure, others after ease and comfort, others after power, others after honour and a good name, a few after knowledge; but all for themselves. However the tunes may change, the same keynote runs through them all--self, self, self. Where do we hear of any, labouring for the sake of gaining riches, pleasure, etc., for others? A few, indeed, here and there, are not unwilling to spend the odds and ends of their time for the good of others, who will eat the dinner themselves, and then call in their neighbours to pick up the crumbs under the table. Thus far the natural man may mount. But so long as our natural heart continues unchanged, so long will self be the idol which that heart worships, and the taint of selfishness cleave even to our least blamable actions.

II. How strange that men should live to themselves! For we cannot fail to see that by our very nature we were made, not to live to ourselves, but to each other.

1. We are brought into the world by others. We cannot grow up without others; nor learn to walk, to speak, to do anything without others. All that we learn by reading we learn from others, most of whom have been long lying in their graves. The tea you drink comes from China; the cotton for your clothes from India or America.

2. It is impossible for any person to live wholly for himself; at least unless he shuts himself up in a cell or a wilderness. But this is an act so contrary to our nature, that no one would frame such a design, unless with a purpose of living, not for himself, but for God. In their ordinary condition men have numberless wants, which bind them together, and make them dependent on each other. The help, which, during the period of our entire helplessness, was given through the stirrings of natural affection, we cannot obtain, when we are grown up, except by helping others in turn. The richest man cannot live without the ministries of his poorer brethren: nor can he gain their help, except by making them in some measure sharers in his riches. The reason why, as society advances, men are set apart for different trades, is, because they will help each other far more than each man could ever help himself by following every trade at once.

III. Men should not live to themselves, but to God. The text is more especially meant as a warning against one particular branch of selfishness--self-will. It tells us that we are not to live according to our own will, but according to a higher will than our own.

1. This too is a lesson, which the whole order of our nature and condition in the world and the constitution of society are meant to teach us. It is plainly one of the reasons why we are born so helpless, and continue so long in childhood, in order that we may learn to obey, so that our stubborn will may be mortified and crushed. Again in after life, whatever we do, if we are to do it successfully, we must do patiently, obediently, conforming our will to nature, watching the course of the seasons, and ploughing and sowing accordingly, ministering to nature, to the end that nature may minister to us. Moreover, when men unite into societies, they are constrained to sacrifice, each his own will, to the will of the society, which is set up on high as law, and claims obedience from all.

2. Yet all these forces, mighty as they would seem to be, are totally unable to subdue our self-will. In spite of all the lessons of experience, we cling to the persuasion that happiness consists in having our own way, although no man ever had his own way without falling sooner or later into the bottomless pit.

3. Nor is there any power mighty enough to deliver us from the bonds of selfishness, except the free Spirit of Christ. We must learn to live to God, to do all things for His glory, and with an eye to His will, and we shall then learn to live for others. The Christian must endeavour to fashion himself after the perfect pattern set before him by his Lord. For Jesus lived not to Himself, but to God, not seeking His own happiness, but the happiness of all mankind. This was the very purpose for which He left His throne and died upon the Cross. (Archdeacon Hare.)

The end of life

I. It is God’s design that we should not confine our regards to ourselves, but extend them to our fellow-men. Various considerations may be presented in support of this proposition.

1. The duty relating to man enjoined in the moral law is, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

2. This testimony of Scripture is confirmed by the gregarious tendencies of man. The instinct implanted in our nature by the Author of our being, which leads men to cling together and to form themselves into communities for mutual assistance and protection, affords no small proof of the Creator’s design that they should be fellow-helpers of each other.

3. Additional confirmation of this truth may be found in our social relations.

II. It is God’s design that we should not live to ourselves, but for the promotion of His glory.

1. The same law which requires us to love our neighbour as ourselves, also requires us to love God supremely.

2. The nature of man echoes this verdict of inspiration. When I look at heathen nations, I find them everywhere in their own way acknowledging their obligations to a God. There is a law written on every man’s heart to the effect that as we are indebted to God for the origin and maintenance of our existence, we owe Him our supreme regard and constant service.

3. Our conviction is strengthened when we survey the external world. (W. Landels.)

Living and dying to the Lord

This is an instance of Paul’s way of rising from a particular question to a general principle. A doubtful disputation springs up, on a small and narrow point of casuistry, as to meats or days. Instead of its being discussed by subtle argumentation and a fine balance of small reasons for and against, the case is at once carried into a region of spiritual thought and duty, from whence there may be got both a nearer insight into heaven and a larger oversight of earth.

I. the fact stated.

1. Negatively. There is a sense in which we speak of a man living to himself, when he acts with a selfish eye to his own interests or pleasure. Is this the explanation here? It might be so, were it not for what follows; for no selfish man dies for his own profit. When dying or not dying to one’s self is connected with living or not living to one’s self, it is plain that states of being, not Seeds or actions, must be intended. There can be no reference to what is matter of voluntary choice, but rather to what is ordered and arranged for us.

(a) I enter the busy hall of commerce or the haunt of gaiety and dissipation, and not one in either place is living really to himself. The life you are living, whether in the pursuit of gold or pleasure, is not indeed to yourselves. You heap up riches, and know not who shall gather them. You live in wantonness, but you live in vain. A man cannot isolate himself in this great and goodly universe of being. He cannot become either a hermit or a god.

(b) And how awfully true is it of the ungodly that none of them dieth unto himself! Did any one of the company of Corah die to himself? Or take those who close a life of vanity with self-righteous decorum or mere slumbering insensibility, does any one of them die to himself for his own benefit, as if his death were for himself alone? How great, ye godless ones, is your madness! If you could live to yourselves, or die to yourselves, then indeed ye might have some apology for trifling as you now do with life’s precious gift and death’s awful doom.

(a) As if they belonged to you as being purchased or procured by you.

(b) As if for your own sakes and on your own account merely they were given to you.

(c) As gifts terminating in yourselves, They have respect to something out of and beyond yourselves.

2. Positively.

3. These views may tend to soothe our spirits, in the contemplation of the lives and deaths of God’s people.

II. The inference deduced. “Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”

1. All men are the Lord’s, whether they will or no. It is true of unbelievers that living and dying you are the Lord’s. He has you in His grasp, and you cannot escape. Ah! were either of these two things otherwise, your case might not be so desperate as it is. If your life and death were unto yourselves; or if you, living and dying, were still your own, you might have some apology for your unconcern, and for living and dying as you please. But do but consider what it is to belong absolutely and helplessly to that very Lord who tells you that, live and die as you may, it is to Him and to His ends. Oh! surely “it is hard for you to kick against the pricks!” Consider who this Lord is. Is it not He who, at a great price, has purchased this lordship over you, this ownership of you? It is Jesus who died and rose again, to whom the Father has given power over all flesh.

2. But again, I turn to you who believe.

Christian devotedness

I. No man liveth to himself. This is essentially characteristic of the true Christian; for a man who lives to himself, by the sentence of the text, is not a Christian. The Christian--

1. Regards the great end of his being. Human existence must have an object. God acts not in anything without design. What am I? and, Why am I? are questions we ought frequently to ask; and he who acts according to the answer which the Scripture gives, will live not to himself, but to the Lord.

2. Habitually respects the approbation of God.

3. Feels an interest in the cause of Christ. To live unto ourselves is quite incompatible with this. We must renounce either the one or the other. “If any man will be My disciple, let him deny himself.”

4. Is concerned for the temporal miseries of his suffering fellow-men. He who lives to the Lord will follow His example in going about doing good. Nor is this work of charity obstructed by the most earnest concern for the salvation of men.

II. No Christian man dieth to himself. This is his reward for not living to himself. God takes his cause into His own hands, and binds up his death with His own plans.

1. It may be in judgment to others. So many prayers are lost to the world; an influence is withdrawn; a light is quenched; one fewer is left to stand between the living and the dead. It may be in judgment to families who have refused admonition, and to unfaithful churches, and to nations. Properly, indeed, do we often pray that God would spare useful lives.

2. It may be hastened in mercy to him. The righteous are often taken away from the evil to come.

3. It is deferred, in many eases, in mercy to others. He is sometimes to endure the evil to come, and his private feelings are to give place to the public good. Thus Jeremiah was doomed to weep over the destruction of his people. St. Paul desired to depart; yet it was needful for him to continue.

4. In all cases God is glorified by his death. Perhaps in extreme suffering we may show a power of patience, a great triumph, an abundant entrance into the kingdom of our Lord. Perhaps our death may be a calm dying into life; a summer wave gently rippling to the shore. It is enough. Let us live to Him, and in our death we shall glorify God.

III. He is therefore the Lord’s in life and death, to do His will, to be acknowledged, guarded, blessed, and honoured as His. The Christian man is the Lord’s--

1. In life. Life includes--

2. In death. The Christian man has served in the outer apartments of the house; he is now called into the presence-chamber. (R. Watson.)

The Christian’s mission

I. The negative presentments of the truth involved.

1. None of us ought to live to himself; for God has an original claim upon the service of every one of us, based upon the right of creation, the mercy of continued being, the mystery of redemption, the derivation from Him of a spiritual nature, gifts, and covenants, and revelations, and hopes of heaven.

2. None of us can do so. We have duties to discharge, which it must be to the injury of others if we neglect; a moral example to hold up, which must influence, either for good or evil, some subordinate mind. A man cannot dwell apart; nor divest himself of the necessity of doing some good or harm every day.

3. Nor is this view to be limited to the present generation. Our good or our evil deeds live after us. No man dieth to himself. We believe in the joyous meetings of the redeemed. To their unutterable sorrow the ungodly shall have meetings likewise, as well with those whom they have tempted, as with those who have tempted them.

II. The affirmative view.

1. “For whether we live, we live unto the Lord.” This expression--

2. “Whether we die, we die unto the Lord.”

Christians can neither live useless lives, nor die useless deaths.

1. God gets to Himself honour from the dying hours of a Christian by the blessing to survivors, often occasioned by the affecting circumstances of his removal. A man may be permitted to win souls to Christ by his death, whom he could never win to seriousness in his life.

2. A good man dies unto the Lord, because his removal may assume the aspect of a witness or a judgment, and so become a vindication to a faithless world of the rectitude of our Maker’s ways. It is the world’s loss; the loss of so many fervent prayers, so much of beneficent influence, so much of bright example to lure to heaven and lead the way.

3. A Christian “dies unto the Lord,” because he dies to the glory of the Lord; to the honour of His grace, to the vindication of His faithfulness, to the magnifying of His gospel, to the illustration of His unchanging love, to the swelling of His redeeming triumphs in the life of the world to come. He dies to the Lord who dies in the Lord.

4. “Whether, therefore, we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” Such is the apostle’s conclusion of the whole matter. It tells of--

The Divinity of the inner and outer life of the good

The context suggests--

1. That there is a variety of grades in Christian attainments--“weak in faith” and the “strong.” The causes of this diversity are difference in mental capacity, methods of education, in the period of adopting Christianity, in the means of improvement and the manner of employing them, etc.

2. That those in the lowest grades of Christian attainment have generally displayed an undue attachment to religious ritualism. “Another who is weak, eateth herbs.”

3. That the lowest grades, who act in conformity with their sincere conviction, demand the generous respect of all. “Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not.” Had this always been acted upon the Church would have been spared all acrimonious controversies, schisms, and persecutions.

4. That the grand characteristic common to every grade in Christian attainment is devotedness to the Lord (verse 6). The text is but an amplification of this idea.

I. Christ is the Sovereign of the Christian’s inner life. “We live unto the Lord.” Whatever power controls the soul is the true sovereign. The political Caesars are but impotent pretenders compared with this. The supreme love is ever this power. The text suggests in relation to this inner sovereignty of Christ--

1. That it is a principle of rule which stands opposed to all personal aims. “None of us liveth unto himself.” There is a sense in which no man can live unto himself. Man is a link in the vast chain of being. He cannot move without influencing others. But what the apostle means is, that we Christians live not to self as a supreme end. Whilst it is the glory of man’s nature that he cannot live unto himself, it is his shame that he will strive to do so. Is there a crime on the black scroll of human depravity that may not be traced to this source? Now, St. Paul intimates that living unto the Lord is the very opposite of this; it is to live as He lived who “pleased not Himself.”

2. That it is a principle of rule held supreme amidst all the variations of life. “We live.” “We die.” It is not long since we commenced life: not far hence we shall close it. Now, the Christian holds the principle of Divine rule within him supreme amidst all these changes, even in the greatest death itself. “Not My will, but Thine, be done.” Perhaps these variations are but the types of future changes. Eternity is not a scene of monotony. Death here, to the good man, is but an out-birth to a higher life; and may it not be that holy souls will emerge into higher, and still higher, forms of being for ever? But there will never be a change as to this governing principle of the soul. But why yield up our existence so entirely to the influence of another?

II. Christ is the Sovereign of his outerlife (verse 9).

1. Let it not be supposed that He is the Sovereign of both in the same sense.

2. The basis and extent of Christ’s outward authority.

(a) “For to this end He died.” Not because of any law of mortality or violence, but simply because He purposed it (Hebrews 2:14). Have you anything analogous to this in the history of our world? It may be said that many men have been found willing to die; but their willingness was nothing more, at most, than a desire to die now rather than then. The question never rested with them to decide whether they would die or not. But Christ chose to die, whilst He might have avoided it for ever (John 10:17-18). But wherein is the moral propriety of this? To die by self-resolution, what is it but suicide? The reply is this: that Christ was what no man is--the Proprietor of His own existence.

(b) He rose as well as died, by His own personal purpose. It is not said that He was revived, but that He revived. This is wonderful, and there is but one way of explaining it: Jesus was God-man. The man-nature died, and the God-nature revived it. Now, these two facts are the basis of His mediatorial authority. “I am He that liveth and was dead, and am alive again, and have the keys of death and hell.”

Conclusion: If Christ is the “Lord of the dead and the living,” then--

1. There is nothing accidental in human history. He presides over all the acts of our being.

2. The departed are still in existence. Had the apostle believed that all that remained of the dead was the dust that lay in their graves, would he have spoken of Jesus as their Lord?

3. Death is not the introduction to a new kingdom.

4. We may anticipate the day when death shall be swallowed up in victory. (D. Thomas, D.D.)

The Lord of the dead and the living

When our Lord had reached the end of His redeeming work He announced to His Church, “All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.” This explained the whole mystery of His life on earth, and connected it with His future reign in heaven. The text is an echo of the Saviour’s final saying.

I. The redeemer’s dominion over men. This is declared to be the end of His ministry on earth.

1. His death was a means to an end.

(a) Sin had dominion over man in virtue of the penalty of violated law. The Redeemer died to atone for sin, to absorb its sentence in Himself, and thus to reign in the bestowment of pardon and peace.

(b) Sin had dominion over man through the law of evil ruling in his nature. By His atoning death the Redeemer obtained for man the Spirit of a new life making him free from the law of sin and death.

2. His resurrection declared that His end was attained, and that His empire was won.

II. The administration of that dominion

1. Its extent. The words “Lord of the dead and living.”

(a) The phrase gives mankind its distinct definition. Elsewhere the Redeemer’s dominion is the entire creation.

(b) It suggests the whole sad history of our ruin and wretchedness. We are a dying race, from generation to generation succumbing to our mortal enemy. But our Redeemer is ruling over our ruin and translating it into salvation. Our death His government turns to life.

(c) It is not, however, the living and the dead, but the dead and living. The dead must have the pre-eminence, for they are the bulk of our race, sanctified to our thought by their mystery and multitude.

(d) But it is the language of mortals. Christ has no dead subjects. All live to Him, as He told the Sadducees.

(e) It prescribes the limits of the Redeemer’s lordship which is to last while mankind are made up of dead and living. When death is swallowed up in victory it will cease, and God shall be all in all.

(a) He is the Lord of the world of disembodied spirits. He entered this world and Death yielded Him the keys which had been His from the beginning, but now became His by another right. But here the light fails us, and the evangelical record which follows the Lord’s passion to His final cry suspends its story till He opens His lips to Mary; and we do well to respect its silence. The same restraint is laid upon us when we speak of the nature of Christ’s empire here. Concerning one great province, that tenanted by those who died without the gospel, all we can say is that Christ is their Lord. Concerning those who have sinned against all revelation, inward and outward, He is their Lord too, and only their Lord. Over the remaining province, paradise, Christ rules, but there He also is, and all who enter follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth.

(b) We must now return to the living. He is their absolute Lord. It is the probation of every man who hears the gospel to accept or reject His sway. Rejection of that sway seals every man’s fate; while acceptance is the foundation of personal religion.

2. Its character (verse 7). The Lord to whom we have submitted has become--


Verse 8

Romans 14:8

For whether we live, we live unto the Lord.

The Christian idea o/ life

I. The Christian idea of life: “To the Lord we live: to the Lord we die.” That idea of life is founded on Romans 14:7. In one aspect that is a universal and inevitable law. Now, Paul says that what all other men must do unconsciously, the Christian does consciously. Life has two aspects--the voluntary and the involuntary. Both these spheres of life are to be consecrated.

1. In the Christian idea the whole of those marvellous activities that rise from our will are to be one scene of dedication to God. This seems visionary and impossible. I believe it is practicable and attainable. To illustrate this. Our voluntary actions are most powerfully influenced by silent currents of emotion which only now and then flash into sight. Just as in the ocean, underneath the constant motion of its waves, there are deep currents setting in one fixed direction, undisturbed by the roar of the storm, and moving on still when calmness rests on the sea--so in the life of the soul. You see this in great transgressors. The silent progress towards crime culminates suddenly in outward action, and the unseen smouldering fire leaps out in flame. You see it in great discoverers. They had long been seeking for a truth; in a moment it revealed itself, and the silent train of inquiry flashed then to its result. We see it in ourselves. We have found temptation suddenly assume a gigantic and almost irresistible strength after periods of carelessness or unwatchfulness over our inner life. Or we have often found, after long fear and foreboding of some trial, a strength of soul arise which enables us to bear it. Now, if these silent, secret tendencies of thought and feeling control so much of our voluntary life, may not that life be wholly consecrated, if a great silent consecration be the strong impulse of our being? Have we not met with men whose lives were silent prayers, who have made us feel--even by passing words and trifling things--that Christ was being “formed within them”? Such men apparently forget the future in their work, but really, never. Present a temptation to them, and their strength of resistance manifests itself. If, then we are dedicated, we “live unto the Lord.”

2. But there are the inevitable occurrences in life. Against them our wills are powerless. Constantly do we feel the truth of the proverb, “Man proposes, but God disposes.” Now the question arises, How can such things be consecrated; can we consecrate the unknown and inevitable? We cannot, but we can dedicate ourselves by accepting the inevitable as coming from the hand of our Father. Not in mechanical submission, like slaves broken into discipline by the lash; not in hard stoicism, like the creatures of an inscrutable and remorseless fate; but in patient, trustful resignation, as children who, though they cannot trace the Father’s plan, can yet repose on the knowledge of His love. To the man who can thus see God’s glory through the windows of life, all adverse circumstances become consecrations. Disappointments bear on their bitter winds the sounds of songs. Great sorrows may rend the temple of life, but they will reveal within an altar and a sacrifice kindled by a Divine fire. Therefore, “whether we die, we may die unto the Lord.”

II. The motive by which this consecration may be realised (Romans 14:9). There are two aspects of this--

1. By the power of His love Christ is Lord over our voluntary life. Christ must possess us, and we must yield up our hearts daily as living sacrifices to God through Him. It may be said, “But this is ideal and impossible, and would generate a morbid pietism.” I do not say we can always be consciously acting under the power of Christ’s love. But a deep communion with Him may so penetrate us with His Spirit as to hallow and glorify all our life, and thus “we may live unto the Lord.”

2. Christ is Lord over the inevitable events of life. All things are given into His hands. He is King over our whole histories. Our disappointments, failures, sorrows, “death’s agonies and fears,” are known to and sympathised with by Him. (E. L. Hull, B.A.)

A consecrated life

I. Implies--

1. Complete submission to Christ’s authority.

2. Devotion to Him as our highest aim.

3. Subserviency to His designs.

II. Secures--

1. Happiness.

2. Honour.

3. Blessing.

4. Success.

5. Final salvation. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Living unto the Lord

I. What this is. It is the consecration to Christ of the life.

1. Intellectual. To think for Him, study Him, understand His will, read His Word.

2. Emotional. To make Him the object of our love, joy, hope.

3. Practical. To use the mouth to speak for Him, the hands to work for Him, the feet to carry His messages.

4. Spiritual. To be one with Him.

II. How this is to be accomplished.

1. By His living unto us. This He has done and still does.

2. By His drawing us to Himself. This He does by the allurements of His love.

3. By our willing surrender to His attraction.

4. By definite acts and a permanent spirit of self-consecration.

III. For what purpose this is done.

1. Supremely--for Christ’s glory.

2. Mediately--for the benefit of the world.

3. Subordinately--for our own perfection.

IV. To what issue does this tend?

1. Christ’s universal supremacy in fact as well as by right.

2. A regenerated universe.

3. Endless personal reward. (J. W. Burn.)

Living unto the Lord

I. Living unto the Lord may be considered as including the following particulars--

1. That we make His will the rule, the only rule, of our conduct.

2. That we make His approbation our governing aim, and to study to please Him in all that we do.

3. That we make His glory our end in everything we do.

4. That we be wholly resigned to His disposal; blessing Him at all times, in adversity as well as in prosperity, making Him as welcome to take from us as to give unto us.

5. That we be so thoroughly devoted to Him as to account that we live not at all, but in so far as we serve Him and show forth His praise.

II. Apply this description of genuine Christianity as a measure or standard for helping us to judge of our spiritual condition.

1. Of what weight is the authority of God in your hearts ?

2. Whom do you seek to please, and whose approbation do you principally covet?

3. What regard do you feel for the honour of your Lord?

4. What is it that gives the highest value to everything in your esteem?

Conclusion--

1. Unless we live unto the Lord we shall counteract the very design of that marvellous love He hath manifested towards us in giving Himself for us an offering and sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour.

2. We are therefore obliged to live unto the Lord, as we regard the honour of our Master, and the credit of that saving religion which He taught.

3. We are bound to live in the manner I described by the strictest ties of justice and equity (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). (R. Walker.)

Living unto the Lord

1. Christ is the giver of our life.

2. He is the sustainer of our life.

3. He has redeemed our life.

4. He should therefore have the devotion of our life.

5. Then He will be the rewarder of our life. (R. Walker.)

Working as to the Lord

Let me say this--we want to work as in the presence of the Lord. We know that the apostle in writing to Timothy in the Second Epistle says when he was speaking of his adversaries, “Notwithstanding, the Lord stood with me and strengthened me.” There is such a thing as working under the eye of men. I was in a factory the other day in Fife, and the head of the firm took me through it; and while there was considerable activity and diligence on the part of the hands employed, I noticed when the master stood beside the man or woman engaged in a certain work that there was a kind of special care. They were working under the master’s eye. Ah! my brethren and my sisters, if we know that the Lord is with us in the pulpit or in the class or as we speak to individual souls we shall seek to do the work as under His eye. (W. Lockhart.)

And whether we die, we die unto the Lord.

Dying unto the Lord

I. What is it to die unto the Lord? To have a view to the glory of God in all that pertains to our death.

1. In the state of our views and feelings in the prospect of death. It is not to be wondered at that the ungodly should fear death. But when God’s people are alarmed it is a disparagement to Christ. When, however, they look forward to death with holy calmness and no longer regard it as the king of terrors, trusting in the sufficiency of Christ to bear up, God is glorified. Such count not their lives dear to them.

2. In the frame of our mind, and the tenor of our actions, during the various preparatory exercises which may precede death.

(I) A deathbed brings around you affectionate friends, and places you in a situation to speak with effect and with power on Christ’s behalf. Many good men and women are found on their deathbeds to be eminent and successful preachers of righteousness.

3. Amidst the struggle and pain with which death is attended. Some only of God’s saints are privileged thus to give glory to God. Times of trial and persecution are the seasons in which God has been most signally glorified amidst the last sufferings of His saints.

II. What means should be employed that we may be prepared to die unto the lord?

1. Enrich your minds with the stores of Divine truth. A deathbed needs these supports, and they are then very precious.

2. Do not entangle yourself needlessly with the concerns and cares of the world. Many Christians, by erring in this respect, greatly disturb the peace of their dying hours, and impair the force and value of their testimony.

3. Mortify all the evil tempers and corrupt feelings of the natural heart. Fretfulness and impatience, excessive concern about personal indulgences, and discomposure at apparent neglect sit ill on a dying Christian. These can only be obviated by attending when you are in health to the right ordering of every feeling and temper, and by self-denial.

4. Accustom yourselves to just and scriptural notions of death. Considering--

5. Learn to lean with a simple, childlike trust on Christ. The nearness of Christ to the dying man is the great concern, and then all helps and accessories may be withdrawn. (S. Smith.)

Dying unto the Lord

It is true that no earthly friend can accompany us through the swellings of Jordan. But though we may then be alone in one sense, yet we need not in another: the Saviour has promised to accompany us. He says, “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee.” See that child who has to go through a dark plantation at the dead hour of night. Does he fear? No. Why? Simply because his father’s hand is locked in his. The presence of his father dismisses his fears. So, when we are in the hands of our heavenly Father, we need not fear. He who holds up worlds can surely protect us, and He has pledged Him-self to do so if we fully trust ourselves to Him. (J. Whitson.)

Dying unto the Lord

“Paid the debt of nature.” No; it is not paying a debt: it is rather like bringing a note to a bank to obtain solid gold in exchange for it. In this case you bring this cumbrous body, which is nothing worth, and which you could not wish to retain long: you lay it down, and receive for it, from the eternal treasures, liberty, victory, knowledge, rapture. (J. Foster.)

Dying unto the Lord

A lieutenant in an Iowa regiment was brought into the hospital, wounded in the shoulder. At first it was thought that he would recover; but, after a few days, he rapidly declined. Just before his death, a lady nurse said to him, “Lieutenant, you have but a few moments to live: if you have any word to send to your wife and little one in Iowa, you must speak it very quickly.” He looked up at her, his face shining like an angel’s, and said, “Tell my wife that there is not a cloud between me and Jesus.” (G. S. F. Savage.)

Living and dying unto the Lord

I. Real Christians are the Lord’s.

1. By election.

2. By redemption.

3. By sanctification.

4. By adoption. He has received them into His holy family, and entitled them to all the privileges and blessings of it.

II. They are willing both to live and to die to the Lord. There is no medium between men’s living and dying to God, and their living and dying to themselves (Romans 14:7). They are willing--

1. To live to Him, by--

2. To die unto the Lord.

Conclusion: If Christians are willing to live and to die to the Lord, then--

1. The life of a real Christian is a life of self-denial.

2. They live much happier than those who live to themselves.

3. Their life is an exemplary life.

4. Their death, though a gain to them, is a loss to the world.

5. They are willing to bury their friends who die to the Lord, whenever they are called to the trial. (N. Emmons, D.D.)

Whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.--

We are the Lord’s

I. Living.

1. Consecrated to Him.

2. At His disposal.

3. Under His protection.

4. Acknowledged and blessed by Him.

II. Dying.

1. When and where He pleases.

2. Glorifying Him.

3. Delivered by Him.

4. Claimed as His property for ever. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

We are the Lord’s

I. By voluntary sacrifice.

1. We live to Him.

2. We die to Him.

II. By inalienable right.

1. In life.

2. In death. (J. Lyth, D.D.)


Verse 9

Romans 14:9

For to this end Christ both died and rose,… that He might be Lord both of the dead and living.

How we should improve the end of Christ’s death and resurrection

Christ’s death and resurrection are firmly believed, and often considered by us; but too little attention is paid to the end of both.

I. What is this end?

1. That He, as man, might be the lawful possessor of the dead and living. Man has, by sin, forfeited all he has and is, into the hands of justice. Christ, by His death, has satisfied justice, and purchased us for Himself: and in consequence of His resurrection He rescues us, both the living and the dead (Philippians 2:6-10).

2. That He might be their Deliverer, Protector, and Ruler, defending them from their enemies, and reigning in and over them.

3. That He might be their Master, that they might obey His will, and promote His glory: His sufferings and death supply the greatest inducement to this, and procure grace for us: His resurrection confers that grace, and enables us to live to Him.

4. That He might be the Head and Husband of the dead and living. Lord sometimes means husband. His death manifests His love to His spouse, the Church (Ephesians 5:25): His being raised, makes Him able to fulfil the part of a husband (Romans 7:4), including union (1 Corinthians 6:17), communion, maintenance, guidance, government. Hence it appears that the dead are not dead: He will not be the Husband of the dead.

5. That He might be the Judge of the dead and the living (Romans 14:10-13; Acts 17:31). This honour is conferred upon Him as a fit reward of His sufferings and death: He rose to give full assurance of it: He is thereby capacitated to exercise it.

II. The use we should make of this doctrine. Did He die and rise again--

1. That He might be our Owner? Then let us give Him His own (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

2. That He might be our Governor? Then let us be subject to Him in heart and life, and dependent on His protection.

3. That He might be our Master? Then let us live to Him (2 Corinthians 5:14-15); this is our duty, in justice and gratitude.

4. That He might be our Husband? Then how great the honour and happiness He designs for us! Let us immediately embrace it.

5. That He might be our Judge? Then let us keep the awful day in view, and prepare for it. (J. Benson.)

Christ, Lord of the dead and the living

This Lordship--

I. Provides the only solid and satisfactory assurance of the future reunion and recognition of His followers. The question that rises oftener than any other to the lips of the bereaved touches this point of reunion. You may try to construct a heaven cut clean off in all its sympathies and attachments and recognitions from this world we are in now. But you will almost certainly then have before the mind a heaven practically destitute of sympathies and attachments, too vague to awaken expectation, too unreal to inspire enthusiasm. He who rose is the Lord of the living and the dead. They are not two families, but one, because they are all in Him, in spite of the transient curtain that hangs between the departed and ourselves--a curtain that probably has its only substance in the eyes of our flesh. The resurrection of the body of Jesus signifies the literal reality of all that is promised the Christian in his future home--the actual identity of the person here and the person there, and the actual renewal of affections and their interchange; for what is the identity, or the blessing of it, if the heart has got to begin its whole history afresh? It signifies the actual restoration, too, of the society, only in more exalted forms, of those who have believed and worshipped the same Saviour here. There will be no confusion of persons, no obliteration of the lines that mark off one soul from another. We shall be just, as distinct persons: with all personal faculties, affections, sympathies, substances, yes, and appearances, as we are now. In those celestial congregations there will, no doubt, be something to be recognised by, in feature or form, inbred on earth and indestructible by dissolution. Hence the need of a glorified resurrection body, to be set free at the last change--following the analogy still of His body who died and rose the same.

II. Suggests that our resurrection life will be social as well as individual. As everything in the kingdom of heaven has its type and model in the Person of our Lord, so in the rising of His form, and the subsequent interviews with His disciples, we see a promise that, literally and for ever, those to whom He imparts His Spirit will move together in a family order and freedom about Him. Nothing less than this can be taught us by the parable of Lazarus, by the inspired images of the Apocalypse, by the company of saints made perfect; but, more than all these, by the reappearing, in the body, of the Lord of the dead and the living. Whither would the forth-going soul take its strange journey if there were no centre of spiritual attraction, no Christ receiving the believer to Himself where He is? (Bp. Huntington.)

Christ’s Lordship

I. Its nature.

1. Universal. He is Lord over all the dead and all the living; but in a peculiar manner over His Church, even as a husband is lord over his wife, which is a lordship with sweetness. It is indeed a lordship; but it is such as is good for His subjects. Christ accounts Himself happy in His Church, which is His fulness, and (Ephesians 1:23) the Church is most happy in His government.

2. Independent. Only His Father joins with Him. All human authority is derived from Him (Proverbs 8:15). “King of kings,” He is Lord Paramount over all.

3. Complete. He is a Lord of the whole man, body and soul. He sits in the throne of conscience. There He prescribes laws to it, pacifies, stablishes, and settles it against all fears. He bows the neck of the inward man, and brings it wholly to be subject to Him.

4. Eternal. Other lords have nothing to do with men when they are dead, because they are lords over the outward man only. But Christ’s lordship is when we are gone hence, and then more especially. For then we are more immediately with Him (Philippians 1:23).

5. Excellent. He hath all things that a lord should have.

II. Deductions from it. We see--

1. That the grounds of a Christian’s faith and comfort are very strong. God doth all to ends, it being a point of wisdom to prefix an end, and work to it. Here the greatest work hath the greatest end.

2. That the principal points of religion have an influence on all the particulars. For one is the cause of another, and one depends upon another. Christ is proved to be Lord of all, because He died and rose.

3. The truth of the Catholic Church, from the first man living to the end of the Church, under one head Christ (Hebrews 13:8; Acts 4:12).

4. The blessedness of being under the sovereignty of Christ. To be Solomon’s servant was accounted a great happiness (1 Kings 10:8). What shall we think of those that are under Christ, who is greater than Solomon (Matthew 12:42). For Christ’s servants are so many kings (Revelation 1:6), and such kings as do not rule over slaves, but over the greatest enemies of all. A Christian can think with comfort upon those enemies that make the greatest tyrants quake--death, sin, and the law. Therefore, those Christians that are afraid of death, forget their dignity. If Christ be their Lord when they die, what need they fear to die?

5. The duty we owe to our Lord--

(a) When we know and acknowledge Christ hath a full interest in us. Upon this issues all other obedience.

(b) When we are directed by His will, and not our own. Christ squared His life immediately according to His Father’s will (Psalms 40:7). So all that are Christ’s must have the same spirit.

(c) When we aim at the glory of Christ in all things (1 Corinthians 10:31). The contrary to this the apostle complains of (Philippians 2:21).

(a) thereupon submit ourselves to Him, and not murmur when He comes to call for our life.

(b) When upon any good occasion He calls for our life in standing for a good cause--for the Church or State--we are ready to lay it down.

(c) When we carry ourselves so, when death comes, as we may express such graces as glorify God, and when we study to do all the good we can, that we may die fruitfully.

6. What we may expect from Christ, and what we ought to return to Him again. For relations are bonds.

(a) That He will make us willing and able subjects. He is such a Head as quickeneth dead members; such a Husband as makes His spouse beautiful. A king cannot alter his subjects; but He is such a King as can, and does. He takes them out of a contrary kingdom, as being not born its subjects, but “born anew by the Spirit.”

(b) Advancement. The meanest man that is a subject to Christ is a king, and a king over that which all others are slaves to. They rule over others, but they are in thraldom to their own lusts.

7. How to carry ourselves to men otherwise affected. Christ rules over us, both living and dying; therefore be not the servants of men, but “in the Lord”--i.e., so far as it may stand in the will and pleasure of Him that is the Lord of lords. For when the authority of any superior doth countermand against the will of this Lord, it ceaseth to bind. (R. Sibbes, D.D.)

Christ’s lordship over the dead and living

I. It is plainly a mediatorial lordship that Christ is here said to have. It is altogether apart from the supreme dominion belonging to Him as God, and from that universal lordship which has been conferred on Him as Mediator. The apostle is teaching a lesson of Christian forbearance. You differ from one another about some doubtful points. But do not judge one another. Let every man judge for himself. You are not one another’s lords. Nay, you do not belong to yourselves. You all belong to Christ, who, that He might be your Lord, both died and rose again. Thus far the argument tells for its being a restricted lordship. But why is there any mention made of the dead as distinct from the living? It is the living only who are or can be concerned about the rule. But the living, who have to do with the rule and the reason for it, are soon to be themselves the dead. You are to look at the point in dispute in the light in which it will appear to you when you are dead. You are equally amenable to the Lord now as then. Dead, you will completely own His lordship; living, own it all the same. The lordship of Christ, therefore, is a lordship over His people; and such a lordship over them living, as has its type, one may say, as well as its consummation, in His lordship over them when dead.

II. The connection between this Lordship of Christ and his death and resurrection is very close. “ To this end” (Hebrews 12:2)--

1. It is the appropriate reward, the natural fruit and issue of His dying and rising again, that He is Lord. Christ died and rose again, not as an isolated private individual, transacting with the Father for Himself alone. He bore a representative character. He had gathered up in His one single person all the interests of all His people. Lordship over them is really involved in His dying and rising again. He has them as much at His disposal as He has His own body.

2. Yet there is not much of apparent lordship here. He appears rather as passive than as active. Dying and rising again, He stands forth as not Lord, but servant. But it is through this service that He reaches His lordship. And the lordship answers to the service in all respects.

(a) There is intelligence and consent in the one case that we cannot find in the other.

(b) There is a real distinction, as regards the dependence of Christ’s lordship, in His dying and rising again, between the two cases. It is indispensable to the accomplishment of the end for which He died and rose again, that He should have as part of His recompense this wide prerogative of universal lordship. But the end itself, the joy set before Him, was surely a lordship more peculiar and more precious (John 17:1-2).

3. Thus, carrying back the lordship into the dying and rising, we may see, even in the humiliation, the real glory of the exaltation. He is Lord, when He dies and rises and lives; Lord, in their life and in their death, of those for whom He dies and rises and lives. His dying and living again is in itself an act of lordship over them.

III. In the light of this connection, consider the Lordship of Christ in its bearing upon those over whom it is exercised.

1. As dying and rising, He is Lord of His own dead.

2. The Lord of you living; the Lord of your life--of the life which you have in Him as dying and rising. Surely it is a Blessed lordship for you now to realise and own. Is not that a source of confidence alike in life and in death? And is it not also a motive to most thorough self-surrender? (R. S.Candlish, D.D.)

The dominion of Christ over mankind

is--

I. Mediatorial.

1. As God, He reigns in His own eternal right.

2. As man, by the appointment of the Father.

II. Absolute. He has all power--

1. To determine their conditions.

2. To pardon and save them.

2. To command their service.

3. To decide their eternal lot.

III. Universal. It includes the living and the dead.

IV. Righteous. It is secured by--

1. His death.

2. His resurrection. (J. Lyth, D.D.)


Verse 10

Romans 14:10

But why dost thou judge … thou set at nought thy brother?
for we shall all stand before the Judgment seat of Christ.

The guilt of judging and contemptuousness

To the weak and scrupulous the apostle says, “Why judge?” To the strong and liberal, “Why despise?”

I. The supremacy of conscience.

1. This principle is the master thought of the chapter (Romans 14:5; Rom_14:12-13). Nothing is to supersede personal conviction.

2. But let us not mistake supremacy of conscience for that of the individual will. The apostle asserted the sanctity of convictions, but we must not exalt our opinions to the rank of convictions.

II. The violation of the rights of conscience.

1. By unchristian judging. Judging is persecuting; it was the procedure of the dark ages. But consider the judgment that is not peculiar to Rome, but which belongs to human nature. Take these cases cited by the apostle--Sabbath observance, and abstinence from things pronounced worldly. How do we treat those who do not hold our views on these matters? You hear insinuations about laxity or Sabbath breaking or worldliness: then about socinianism or infidelity; then immorality. This is judging. It is not life or liberty that is assailed, but character. Look at the wrong of this. Note

(l) Its arrogance. Such judging is only to be defended on the claim of infallibility, and therefore Rome is consistent, but Protestants are not. Are those who judge free from human frailty? Or are they not generally the weakest of both sexes?

2. By contemptuousness. The sin of judging is the sin of the narrow minded; the sin of the liberal minded is contempt for narrowness and scorn for scruples. There is a distinction between largeness of view and largeness of heart. A narrow mind is not always a narrow heart. There are worse things than narrow views. The missionaries often hold narrow views, and yet these men give their lives to turn men to God, and shame those of larger views. Take heed how ye despise any of God’s little ones, for what is largeness of view compared with devotedness of life? Good men usually cling to a superstition or a form for the sake of some deep truth with which it stands connected. (F. W. Robertson, M.A.)

A lesson in charity

Peter Cooper of New York, a man who spends a large amount of money on philanthropic objects, took a great interest in a Woman’s Art School. One day he stood watching the portrait class in that institution, whilst they were drawing a likeness of the same model from different positions. One scholar took the face in profile; another had it turned a little into the shadow; a third saw more of the full face, and represented it accordingly; whilst others worked still further into the light or away from it. Of course the portraits thus taken were very different; some of them, indeed, so different, that any one unacquainted with the original might have been almost excused for thinking that they were portraits of different people. Mr. Cooper observing the scene, said, “Such a sight as this should be a lesson in charity, when we perceive how the same person may be so different, according to the way he is looked at by various people.” (Sunday at Home.)

Charity in judging others

It is a comfortable thought that the smallest and most turbid mud-puddle can contain its own picture of heaven; it shall be a symbol to me that even a human breast that may appear least spiritual in some aspects may still have the capability of reflecting an infinite heaven in its depths, and therefore of enjoying it. Let us remember this when we feel inclined to deny all spiritual life to some people, in whom, nevertheless, our Father may perhaps see the image of His face. This dull river has a deep religion of its own--so, let us trust, has the dullest human soul, though perhaps unconsciously. (W. Hawthorne.)

Reproof of censoriousness

Observe--

I. The characters reproved. Those who--

1. Judge others.

2. Despise others.

II. Their reproof.

1. They forget that all are amenable at the judgment seat of Christ.

2. That they invade the prerogative of God.

3. That they must give account of themselves. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The judgment seat of God

1. I suppose “Christ” slipped into certain MSS. because Paul had been speaking of Christ, and it was thought to be natural that he should continue to use the same name. He knew that Christ is God, and when he was speaking of Him it was no deviation for him to call Him God. It was necessary, too, because he was about to quote an Old Testament passage which speaks of the sovereignty of God, which is to be confessed by all mankind. It would have been most important to draw a distinction between Christ and God if there had been any doubt as to His divinity.

2. St. Paul mentioned the future judgment, that by its influence the Roman Christians might cease the mischievous meddlesomeness of judging, when the Judge was at the door. A day is to come when men shall be judged after a better fashion than we can judge. How dare we, then, travesty God’s great assize by ourselves mounting the throne. Moreover, we impudently intrude ourselves into the office and prerogative of Christ. “It is all needless, too; for both your brother and yourself will stand before the judgment seat of God, who will manage the affairs of men far better than you can.” And, finally, your judgment is unprofitable: you would spend your time better if you would recollect that you will be yourselves examined by an unerring eye. This judgment will be:--

I. Universal--“all.” There will come a judgment for the strong and for the weak. No elevation in piety will exclude us, and no weakness will serve as an excuse. The man of one and the man of ten talents must alike be reckoned with. What a motley throng will gather at that assize, of all nations and peoples and tongues! Persons of all ages. Kings and paupers, saints and sinners, will be arraigned.

II. Personal (Romans 14:12). If it only dealt with actions, words, and thoughts, the account would be solemn enough, but we must each one give an account of himself, of what he was as well as what he did, of what was in his heart as well as of that which came out of it in his deeds.

III. Divine, and therefore--

1. According to truth. God will make no mistakes.

2. By the supreme standard of perfect justice.

3. Most searching.

4. Impartial.

5. Final. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The final judgment

This is often spoken of as the most terrible event in human history. And so it will be, and the happiest too. “We must all stand,” etc.; then--

I. Life is not a set of broken accidents and confused occurrences. It seems to be so--act seems separated from act, and thought from thought, and thought from act, and we often know not what to make of life. But then life will appear in its completeness and its meaning be clear. This--

1. Should cause us to look more into the bearings of our life. We ought not to live at haphazard, but thoughtfully.

2. Should elevate life, and redeem it both from hopelessness and vulgarity.

II. We shall be independent of the misjudgments of men. There is a sense in which a concern for what our neighbours think of us may be just and proper. Nothing is more valuable than the words of the good and wise. But we ought not to be distressed in mind and hindered in our work by the unjust judgments of the world. In the long run we may get even better judgments from the world if we seek to live in the spirit of the judgment of Christ. But let those who fight against God’s people remember that they grasp a blade without a handle. Comfort yourselves, then, that Christ is Judge, and will vindicate righteousness.

III. We ought to make preparation for so solemn an event. If you are invited to meet some grand personage on some special occasion and make no preparation, you will be given to feel your want of preparedness by the contempt of those who are about you. Should we, then, as men of common sense, make no preparation for the supreme event in our history. Do not prepare in a spirit of fear, but as a matter of right, and as an expression of love? We are not to get up ourselves in fine rags and gilt, but meet our Judge in the robe of character which He has fashioned and adorned.

IV. We need have no uncertainty as to the decision. We know the Judge and His method. We can therefore judge ourselves now. Everything righteous and noble will be approved; everything base and bad will be condemned. Right is right eternally; wrong is wrong for ever. Have we repented, etc.?

V. Trifling excuses will not for one moment be tolerated. (J. Parker, D.D.)

The final judgment

1. Christ Himself spake of judgment, but never after this fashion. He never spoke of Himself as put upon His trial, but always as the Judge. Here, however, Paul speaks of himself as appearing at the judgment. What is the fair inference? Clearly, that high as Paul was, Jesus Christ is far higher. God cannot be judged, but every intelligent, accountable creature will be judged. Jesus Christ was not a creature, but God manifested in humanity.

2. Religious truths frequently conceal each other. This truth of the judgment day hides from some eyes the fact of the judgment which is going on every day. You are all now upon your trial. And there are certain results of this trial that are akin to sentence. Does not the drunkard and the sensualist of every shape suffer a present punishment? Are not integrity and truthfulness generally recognised with favour?

3. By the mention of this fact, the Apostle Paul teaches the members of the Church in Rome to be liberal in the estimate they form of each other. There is, however, a false liberality. There are some that would apply these remarks to the facts and doctrines of the gospel, and to moral principles. Now hear what the same man wrote: “Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach to you any other gospel than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”

I. The certainty of judgment. The emphasis of the text is in the words “We shall.” Judgment is no probability. But what is judgment ? There is trial--the idea of really testing the character, of summing up and judging the totality of a man’s life. Then there is the disclosure, the bringing out of everything. Then there is decision upon the case, and sentence. Let us consider some facts which make this appear certain.

1. There is a looking for of judgment in every man. When Adam and his wife had eaten of the fruit they hid themselves. What was this but an expression of expectancy that God would come and judge them! Is this peculiar? No. What do the fears and the remorse of the man who has done wrong say but that he expects judgment!

2. This Divine and real judgment seems needful. “Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper?” Look at the mistakes that occur concerning men. A man is in reputation for religion and may have a heart as black as hell. Now, is this to be perpetual? No; there is a sort of necessity in God’s nature to put everything right and to give to every man his real character.

3. It is indicated by present punishment and reward on a limited scale. During the storm you have often heard the thunder at the distance before the tempest has broken over your dwelling, and just so may you hear the trumpet of the future judgment in what you now experience when you have done wrong.

4. By the voice of Old Testament and New God speaks to you of this judgment.

II. Our personal appearance is certain. There will be no escape from a final Divine trial. You may leave a pious home to get far from what you call cant, but you will not escape from this judgment. There will be no evasion, excuse, proxy.

III. Christ will be the judge, and mark what this involves. The Judge will be--

1. Visible. Christ has taken His human nature to heaven.

2. Competent, and the multitude, without exception, will feel that competency. Just as you often have been conscious of the presence of greatness when you have been with some man whose intelligence very far exceeded your own, so will it be felt before the judgment seat of Christ. (S. Martin.)

Future judgment

I. The fact.

1. All.

2. Shall stand.

3. At the judgment seat of Christ.

II. The certainty of it.

1. Attested by reason and revelation.

2. Confirmed by the oath of God.

III. The issue. Every one shall give an account--

1. Of himself.

2. Before God Himself. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The final tribunal

In the establishment of this we see--

I. The honour and dignity with which this invests individual human lives. Look at society. A few men are eminent, but the millions lead ordinary lives. We are limited, fettered, and we are ready to say, “What is man?” Yet God is to judge him, and individually. A human court puts honour on man’s nature by his very trial. A leopard leaping from his cave to tear asunder his victim is not a subject of arrest and trial. He is shot, and that is the end of it. Man has a knowledge of God and of immortal verities. Therefore he is judged.

II. The significance of the humblest life and of the humblest act of any life. Too often we gauge character and success by their conspicuousness. We note the obsequies of the great, but who notes the paupers funeral? But the text--

1. Gives a significance to the poor man’s death.

2. We are apt to measure our own lives by our larger efforts, and forget the little acts that, like drops, go to make up the continuous stream of life. It is these smaller actions that at once show and shape character. Christ represents the good as amazed at the final judgment because such little acts as the cup of water were remembered; and so the wicked. Phidias polished the back of his statues, for he said that though men saw not his work, the gods beheld it. Every deed, however small or secret, comes under the cognisance of God. To neglect to adjust our inward life to this truth and cultivate the merely outward exhibitions of character is as irrational as it would be to burnish the ornaments of an engine and build the boiler of defective metal, or decorate the outside of an edifice while its foundations and walls are insecure.

III. How majestic an attribute is man’s conscience. True, conscience may be mistaken; but, enlightened by the Holy Spirit it is the echo of God’s voice. Its remorse is an echo of His rebuke, and its approval an echo of His benediction. We may anticipate the final tribunal. Judging ourselves now, we shall not at last be condemned. How wicked, then, it is to put out this eye, to suffocate the voice of God within us! It is moral suicide.

IV. The secret of true independence from the world. If God be for us, who can be against us? Paul, Pascal, Luther, Wilberforce, etc., swung loose from entangling criticisms, undismayed by human censure in the thought of their personal responsibility to their Judge. “It is a small matter that we be judged of man’s judgment”; this was their word. So may the maligned wait calmly for the final vindication.

V. The beauty and significance of the Saviour’s work. Christ does not abolish judgment; He claims it as His own and thus asserts His Divinity. No man, no angel, can assume this function. It belongs to Omniscience alone. We learn how it is accomplished--by the self-conviction of the sinner. Before Christ on earth they who accused another stood self-convicted, and went away one by one. “He told me all I ever knew,” said another. It was on the Cross that atonement was completed. It is on that ground we, as believers, are saved. The lustre of the Cross is shed on the judgment throne. The Judge is our Redeemer, friend, and advocate. We can have “boldness in that day,” for we are in Him.

VI. The duty of accepting and the privilege of proclaiming the glorious gospel of the Son of God. Before His face we must stand. We cannot postpone the day. Nearer it comes every hour. Are you ready for it? Only in Christ can you be serene and safe, contemplating its approach. (R. S. Storrs, D.D.)


Verse 11-12

Romans 14:11-12

As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.

The final subjection of mankind to God will be

I. Universal.

II. Complete. It includes--

1. An acknowledgment of His supremacy.

2. Submission at His feet.

3. The confession of every tongue.

II. Certain. God--

1. Has sworn.

2. Is true.

3. Is able to effect it. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Two-fold subjugation of humanity to God

(text and Exodus 10:17; Acts 9:6). This passage is taken from Isaiah 45:23, and predicts the universal subjugation of mankind to the Divine will. This does not mean universal salvation, for there is a twofold subjugation--the one represented by Pharaoh and the other by Paul.

I. The one is by conviction of God’s terrible power; the other, by conviction of His love. An overwhelming sense of God’s great power compelled Pharaoh to “bow his knee” before the Almighty. He felt that further rebellion would be his ruin; and for a moment he yielded. Paul’s subjugation sprung from a conviction of God’s love in Christ. The voice said to him, “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.” This brought him down, smote his rebellious will, reduced him to subjection. So it is ever; wicked men and devils are made to bow by a sense of God’s force and God’s power. Good men and angels bow from a sense of His love.

II. The one subjugation involves moral anguish, the other moral enjoyment. What a state of agony and alarm was Pharaoh in! But what joy came into Paul at the heavenly voice of Mercy! The one subjugation therefore involves heaven, the other, hell.

1. In the one, there is the sense of slavery; in the other, a sense of freedom.

2. In the one, there is a sense of overwhelming terror; in the other, a sense of hopefulness.

3. In the one, there is the sense of Divine favour; in the other, the sense of Divine antagonism.

III. The one becomes a ministry of destruction to others; the other, a ministry of salvation. Pharaoh, the moment the panic abated, rushes on and brings destruction on himself and his hosts. Paul begins a beneficent ministry which issues in the salvation of thousands. Conclusion: In which way wilt thou be subjugated? It is not for thee to determine whether thou shalt bow thy knee or not: thy knee must bow, thy tongue must confess; but it is with thee to determine how thou wilt do it--by a sense of God’s power or of His love, by coercion or by choice. (D. Thomas, D.D.)

So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.--

The last account

I. By whom rendered.

1. By ourselves.

2. Respecting all that we have done, enjoyed, or suffered.

II. Before whom.

1. God.

2. The searcher of hearts.

3. Who sees in secret and rewards openly. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Human accountability

The argument of this chapter goes to prove that Christians are not mutual judges, but fellow-servants of Christ. The truths wrapped up in these words are principles to guide us in our daily life, as well as predictions about the great day. These principles are--

I. The universality of human accountability. “Every one of us.” The old and young, rich and poor, ignorant and cultured, rejector of religion and professor, etc. “I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God.”

II. Its individuality. “Of himself.” Christianity, while in some aspects the true socialism, is also the great individualiser. It teaches the right use of the pronoun “I” It empties it of pride, but crowns it with responsibility. In the judgment, “the books will be opened,” and amongst them Memory and Conscience. These will be quite sufficient to condemn. Their revealings have made kings tremble on their thrones, and will make sinners quake before the judgment seat of Christ.

III. Its solemnity. It is to God. He “with whom we have to do,” is the All-wise, All-holy, All-good. And all sin is against Him, though it be also against His creatures. Conclusion: Our subject gives light--

1. On our tendency to pass judgment on others. We may not judge; but we all must be judged.

2. On the intervention of sacerdotal authority. All priestism is, by the principles of our text, cleared away, that the relationship of man to God may be intense, close, vivid.

3. The erection of social standards of right and wrong. We are to guide our life, not by maxims of markets, professions, Churches, but the law of Him to whom we must give account. (U. R. Thomas.)

Human accountability

I. The account to which the text refers (verse 10) is--

1. Certain. It must be given.

2. Individual. “Every one of us.”

3. Particular. Every one shall give an account “of all the deeds done in the body.”

4. Near. Though the reference is to the day of judgment, death will summon us to an immediate interview with our Judge.

II. The being to whom this account must be given. God.

1. Who is omniscient, and cannot therefore be deceived (Psalms 139:1-4).

2. Who is just, and cannot therefore be biased in His decisions (Romans 2:6-11).

3. Who is omnipotent, and able therefore to carry into full effect the sentence which He pronounces.

III. The influence which the prospect should have upon you. It should induce you--

1. To apply immediately to Christ for His saving grace, and to devote yourselves unreservedly to His service.

2. Solemnly to think of your last account, until your souls are affected with such a strong and abiding sense of it, as shall give it an influence on your whole conduct. (Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)

Personal responsibility

These words assert with great precision individual responsibility. This dealing in judgment with each separate soul according to its special history makes the judgment incomparably more awful. For not only does it imply a closer act of scrutiny, but it also individualises the shame which will belong to the wicked in that day. This truth of individual accountability needs, however, to be vindicated from the misapprehensions which are apt to cloud it.

I. Let us regard the individual in relation to himself. “Every one of us shall give account of himself.” The exact meaning of the words is more specific: it is concerning himself, just as if a steward were called to give account of the particular properties entrusted to his management. God has laid to every man’s charge the care of himself; not to each man the care of some other man; the dying flesh, but above all the never-dying soul. I do not mean that each man’s care is to be a selfish one for himself alone, or that we are not called to labour for other men’s souls as well as for our own. But this still springs from our solemn charge of ourselves. It must be our opportunities and powers, not the opportunities and powers of other men, of which we must make use. It is still the right use of ourselves, though it be for the good of others, for which we are responsible.

II. Let us look at the individual in relation to other men, and to our actions in common with other men. Man can never act alone, and least of all in this age of associated effort. We act together, and thus we gain an idea of common action in which we drown out of sight our individual responsibility. However devout a congregation may be, for instance, there will be cause lament over some careless faces some unbended knees, some silent tongues. Think you that, were each of them placed singly face to face with the awfulness of God, they would dare to act in His presence if they stood alone, as they act in His house amid the general crowd of worshippers? Or, to take another case, can we doubt that tile vastness of the number of unsaved souls in the world diminishes to each man’s consciousness the awfulness of being an unsaved soul? In reality the number fearfully increases it, for Heaven might weep over such a spectacle as a world of lost souls.

III. Let us look at the individual in relation to God and to the duty that he owes Him. For here another common error at once starts to view. It is the notion of some men that the individual obligation of work and toil and self-sacrifice for God is lessened, because others share the obligation with ourselves. It is our duty to do our share, we say, but why should we take more than our fair proportion of the burden? Thus we are led, instead of doing each one his best in the service of our Master, to measure out just what we think to be our own share of the common work. Whether it be money, or labour, or talent, or time, we are asked to contribute, let us do it, each one for himself and to the utmost of his opportunity. If each man did his duty all men would do their duty.

IV. There yet remains another aspect of the matter, which belongs equally to all these three relations. It suggests the motive, graciously supplied in the rich harmony of the Divine dealings, which shall stimulate the effort that it sweetens. For the doctrine of individual accountability has its complement in the doctrine of individual recompense. If the obligation be personal, so will be the reward which will crown the discharge of it. (Canon Garbett.)

Human accountability

Bishop Butler was once walking with his chaplain, Dr. Forster, when he suddenly turned towards him, and, with much earnestness, said, “I was thinking, Doctor, what an awful thing it is for a human being to stand before the moral Governor of the world, to give an account of all his actions in this life.”

Scrutiny of the judgment day

The headlight of a locomotive is terrible, if you stand near enough to catch the full glare of it. As it sweeps around the “Horse-shoe Curve” of the Alleghanies, or along the edges of the Sierra Nevadas, how far ahead, and how deep down, and how high up it flashes, and there is instantaneous revelation of mountain peak and wild beasts hieing themselves to their caverns, and cascades a thousand feet tall clinging in white terror to the precipices! But more intense, more far-reaching, more sudden, swifter, and more tremendous is the headlight of an advancing Judgment Day, under which all the most hidden affairs of life shall come to discovery and arraignment. I quote an overwhelming passage of Scripture, in which I put the whole emphasis on the word “secret”: “God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or evil.” (T. De Witt Talmage.)

God will require an account of items

Recollect, again, that your account will have to be particular. God will go into all the items of it. At the day of judgment you will not have to cast up a hurried account in the gross, but every item shall be read. Can you prove that? Yes. “For every idle word that man shall speak, he shall be brought into account at the day of judgment.” Now, it is in the items that men go astray. “Well,” says one, “if I look at my life in the bulk, I am not very much ashamed, but it is those items, those little items--they are the troublesome part of the account that one does not care to meddle with.” Do you know that all yesterday was made up of littles? And the things of to-day are all little, and what you do to-morrow will all be little things. Just as the tiny shells make up the chalk hills, and the chalk hills together make up the range, so the trifling actions make up the whole account, and each of these must be pulled asunder separately. You had an hour to spare the other day--what did you do? You had a voice--how did you use it? You had a pen--you could use that--how did you employ it? Each particular shall be brought out, and there shall be demanded an account for each one. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Individual responsibility

How helpful is it to read that Paul, who stood so far above us all, should confess himself to be “one of us”! It was a singular mark of the apostolic character that each and all emphasised their close relation to the community in which they ministered. In this they followed His steps who said, “I am among you as one that serveth.” What a rebuke to all spiritual pride and ecclesiastical assumption! Let him who is chief among you be the servant of all. And yet, whilst the apostle claimed this community, he drew the lines of individuality with no hesitating hand. “Every one of us.” We have in the text--

I. A solemn summons, in the midst of all that is opposed to the Divine will. By this summons there are certain facts very plainly implied.

1. If “every one of us” is to give an account unto God, then the dream of the materialist is certainly false. There is a God, and with that God man has to do. The traditions of all people, the consent of the moral sense in man everywhere endorse that which the Scripture so explicitly implies.

2. This accountability before God is an ever-present fact. Do not postpone it until death comes. It is a constant relation in which man stands. To bring the whole nature into accord with the law and character of God--this is the dictate of our sense of true accountability.

3. But beyond this life work there is a final criticism and judgment to come. This is involved in the very relations we hold to this God, and the solemn thought of such an assize is constrained by the anticipation of death itself.

II. A definite limitation. “Himself.”

1. We are responsible in our mutual relations for the influence that we exert over one another. “No man liveth to himself,” etc. But our responsibility for each other ends there. Our accountability for ourselves is more immediate, and cannot be evaded. We are not our brother’s keeper in this world except for his good. Look well to thyself. Leave others to God. Thou hast enough to do with thine own vineyard.

2. But the account is not the less varied because it is so individual. Think of how many component parts you are formed, and for each one a responsibility exists before God. Therefore let other people alone, and look to your own house.

III. A suggested preparation. We may give an account now; we shall do it finally in a more manifest way.

1. Recognise your individuality. Look yourselves in the face. Never allow yourself to be lost in the family, the Church, or in society. You came into the world subject to this solitary responsibility; you will go out of the world in the same way. It is the condition in which the gospel of Jesus Christ comes to you.

2. Train your conscience to utter distinct commands and prohibitions to you as an individual. Take not the worldly maxims of common living in this world; take not the practice of the Church. There is no rule except that which is contained in the character and the life of the God-man. (S. H. Tyng, D.D.)

Personal responsibility

1. The revelation of a judgment to come is one of the chief guarantees of human morality, and one of the most impressive illustrations of human greatness. Are we not in danger all of us of losing the vivid sense of personal responsibility for our own life? And if the sense of personal responsibility is lost, reverence for duty is lost too. There can be no morality apart from moral freedom, and it is to this that the revelation of future judgment appeals. Nearly everything else has been determined for you, but for your moral conduct you yourself are responsible.

2. Most of us had very little freedom of choice as to the trade or the profession that we should follow; but we can work honestly or dishonestly in the trade or profession in which we are engaged. It did not lie within our choice what language we should speak, but it does lie within our choice whether we shall speak the truth or not. The limits of our physical health and vigour are determined for us by the constitution with which we were born; but it lies with ourselves whether we will be sober or drunkards. It did not lie within our choice whether we would be born in a heathen or in a Christian land, among Romanists or among Protestants; but it does, lie within every man’s choice whether he will honour and welcome whatever light comes to him.

3. In many of us, in these days, the sense of our personal responsibility is faint and feeble. We are awed by the vast range and irresistible action of material forces. What are we that we should assert a freedom that does not belong to the planets or to the ocean? But I decline to surrender my dignity in the presence of material immensity. The tides rise and fall by an eternal necessity, but the passions which ebb and flow in my heart I can check and control. The planets are bound by irreversible forces to the orbits in which they travel; but instead of being irresistibly swung by a force over which I have no control, I choose for myself the rough path of duty which leads to heights where I breathe the air of heaven and see its glory, or the smoother path which descends to darkness and death. I am greater than the planets and the sea: they are subject, I am sovereign; they are hound, I am free. My own conscience assures me of this, and it is confirmed by the voice of God. The living God who is above Nature declares that I, too, am above Nature, and that I must give an account of myself to Him.

4. Then the physiologist comes, and he tells me that I inherit in my very blood, in the structure of my brain, in the vigorous or feeble fibre of my nervous organisation the results of the vices and the virtues of a long line of ancestors. But though the conditions of life have been determined for me, my life itself is my own, and that has not been determined for me; the material in which I shall work has been given, the way in which I shall treat it has not been given. I may have been born with a craving for physical excitement; is that to be my excuse if I go home drunk? And to God some of the noblest forms of moral life may be found where, to your eyes and to mine, there is the least dignity and grace. One man is placed under conditions--not of his own choice--which make it possible for him to do very little beyond getting the rough ore of goodness out of the black and gloomy mine; he has got it with the sweat of his brow, with pain and peril. To him God will say: “Well done!” Another man has the ore at his feet to start with. It is not enough for him to bring that to God; he must bring pure metal extracted from it. And the third has the metal to begin with. He fails, and fails disastrously, unless he works it into form of noble usefulness and gracious beauty. Each man will have to give account of himself to God. And God only can judge of the worth of each man’s work, because God only knows the conditions under which each man’s work is being carried on. Channing’s schoolmaster said to one of his schoolfellows: “Why are not you a good child like William Channing?” “Ah!” said the little boy, “it is so easy for William Channing to be good.” And perhaps we have looked round upon friends of ours to whom a conflict that we have to maintain is altogether unnecessary. The foes we have to fight with they never meet; the victories which we have to win for ourselves were won for them generations ago by the ancestors whose blood is in their veins. Shall we complain? God forbid! Let us do for our posterity what their ancestors have done for them; and let us take the rough conditions of our actual life, making the best of them, rejoicing in this, that we have to give account of ourselves to God.

5. This conception of the relations between man and God relieves human life of its awful gloom and confusion, and contains the promise of a Divine order. You tell me that there are great masses of men that have never had a chance of moral goodness. They have to give an account of themselves without their chance, if so it be. And this conception of our relationship to God invests with dignity the life alike of the obscurest and most illustrious of our race. The material triumphs of which we are so proud are the result of a spiritual energy that has come to us from generations which believed that man was the lord of all. And when that consciousness of sovereignty has been extinguished, we shall decline to meaner levels and to inferior forms of life. But this is not to be our destiny. We are free, and we know it; and if to this freedom there are mysterious limitations, if achievement hesitates and falters, and follows far behind purpose, the Christian gospel has its word of power and of grace for us in this great trouble. (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

Responsibility, unavoidable

Rev. John Thomas of Serampore was one day, after addressing a crowd of natives on the banks of the Ganges, accosted by a Brahmin as follows: “Sir, don’t you say that the devil tempts man to sin?” “Yes,” answered Mr. Thomas. “Then,” said the Brahmin, “certainly the fault is the devil’s: the devil, therefore, and not man, ought to suffer the punishment.” Mr. Thomas, observing a boat with several men on board descending the river, replied, “Brahmin, do you see yonder boat?” “Yes.” “Suppose I was to send some of my friends to destroy every person on board, and bring me all that is valuable in the boat: who ought to suffer punishment--I for instructing them, or they for doing this wicked act?” “Why,” answered the Brahmin, with great emotion, “you ought all to be put to death together.” “Ah, Brahmin,” replied Mr. Thomas; “and if you and the devil sin together, the devil and you will be punished together.”


Verses 13-15

Romans 14:13-15

Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling-block … , in his brother’s way.

Limitations of Christian liberty

It is limited--

I. In its extent; by a tender regard for the weak. Love--

1. Avoids offence.

2. Respects the convictions of others.

3. Denies itself.

II. In its object; the furtherance of the kingdom of God.

1. By guarding against reproach.

2. By esteeming spiritual blessings above all others.

3. By promoting the work of God in others.

III. In its rule of action; faith.

1. Allows only what faith permits.

2. Avoids what faith does not endorse. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The voluntary limitation of Christian liberty

I. Its extent. It--

1. Avoids offence.

2. Yields its conscious right for the sake of others.

3. Guards against the appearance of evil.

II. Its encouragements.

1. The kingdom of God suffers no disadvantage.

2. The weak brother is spared.

3. Private conviction and action are not sacrificed. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Things indifferent

I. What things are indifferent? Things--

1. Not forbidden.

2. That have in themselves no moral value.

3. That are clearly ascertained as such by an enlightened conscience.

II. When do they cease to be so?

1. When they become a stumbling-block to others.

2. When they infringe the law of love.

3. When they oppose the work of Christ--when they occasion reproach. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

In guarding against offence we must take care

1. To preserve our personal liberty.

2. Not to violate the law of love. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Personal responsibility

In the early part of his letter to the Romans the apostle expounds the fundamental doctrines of the Christian religion. In this latter part he applies these doctrines to the problems and duties of daily life. In the Roman Church he is confronted, as ministers of the gospel are confronted even to the present day, with two antagonistic parties, the legal and the spiritual, the conservative and the liberal, or, as he terms them, the weak and the strong. How to reconcile these two parties in the one Christian Church is the problem which engages the attention of him who has the care of all the Churches. A recognition of the Lord’s authority, a desire to execute the Lord’s purpose, and a confession of the Lord’s goodness, characterise both parties. But while there is good on both sides, there are on both sides manifestations of evil. A spirit of uncharitableness is seen in the judgments of both, and to this the apostle directs his teaching as he urges the exhortation, “Let us not therefore judge one another any more.”

1. The first argument against this habit of uncharitable criticism is found in the truth that judgment belongs unto God, man being incompetent to render it. “Why dost thou judge thy brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of God.” The Omniscient alone is competent to judge.

2. In this solemn fact the apostle finds his second argument against the habit of judging others. “Each one of us shall give account of himself to God: let us not, therefore, judge one another any more.” God does not hold us responsible for our brother’s action; but He does hold us responsible for our influence upon him. The large demands of the Divine Judge upon the Christian in relation to his brethren, the apostle now urges especially upon the strong. There is reason in making the application especially to the strong, for in the matters under discussion they alone have freedom of choice. The strong Christian may eat or forbear eating. He may observe the day or not observe the day. The weak, however, in his present moral condition, has no choice. To those who have the larger opportunity the truth is the more broadly applied. But we are not obliged to think that the entire doctrine of the relation of the strong to the weak is set forth in this chapter. Were that the case it might seem as if Paul exalted the weak man’s conscience to a place of tyranny. This surely is not his teaching. Truth is supreme. Opinion can never usurp her throne. If the weak brother’s opinion is not the truth, his position is open to attack, and in the fuller presentation of the truth it may be necessary to oppose it. Paul himself was constantly leading in such opposition. Not only may the position of the weak brother be attacked; there are times when his scruples have to be disregarded. They may always be disregarded by you when they are opposed to a clear conviction of your duty. “Let each man be fully persuaded in his own mind,” and he need not, he must not desist out of regard for another’s conscience. But if, after sufficient and candid study, he is fully assured that it is his duty to act, he must act, however his action may grieve his weaker brother. Even in matters which may be termed indifferent, the scruples of the weak brother may deserve to be set aside. Paul himself is our example. To him circumcision is nothing. At one time, on account of the Jews, he circumcises Timothy. At another time, when certain came to spy out the Christian’s liberty and to bring him into bondage, he refuses to circumcise Titus. To these he “gave place in the way of subjection, no, not for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue” with the Christian disciples. There are, therefore, grounds on which the position of the weak brother may be attacked and his scruples disregarded. Nevertheless, there are grounds on which the position of the weaker brother must be respected, and his scruples receive special regard. “If because of meat thy brother is grieved, thou walkest no longer according to love.” My act is not right simply because it does not harm me. As a child of God I must look upon the things of others. Christianity is satisfied with no standard but that of love. If this is true Christian doctrine the application in Christian ethics is clear. Justice is conformity to a standard; the Christian standard of life is the loving nature of God. I cannot therefore be just in the Christian sense unless I have love. Not what is good for me alone, nor what is good for my brother alone, but what is best for all, is to determine my action as a child of God. But the law of love is not satisfied with the attainment of anything less than the best good of all. There are many goods. They are of divers values. Freedom in eating and drinking is a good, but this is not the highest good which Christianity has to bestow. “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking; but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.” The man who, in his zeal to establish the right to eat and drink, or the right to the free observance to a religious day, cares not how much he disturbs the peace, diminishes the joy, and undermines the righteousness of his brethren, really places the minor above the major, the subordinate above the supreme. In seeking a good, he misses the best good of the kingdom of God. But the strong may say in way of defence: Inasmuch as nothing is unclean of itself, may we not encourage other to imitate us in customs which are not opposed to any law of righteousness? No, says the apostle, not so long as the weak brother considers the thing unclean, or the act unrighteous. The end of Christianity is not right conduct, viewed apart from its motive, but virtuous character. Christianity has not attained its ideal when certain legal decrees have been obeyed, but only when certain moral experiences have been evoked. A merely legal system might be satisfied with formally correct conduct, but a vital religion demands a godly character. The teaching is sharp and decisive. “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” Whatsoever is done without consent of the moral nature, whatsoever is done contrary to what one believes to be right, is sin. This is striking doctrine. But does not our best ethics confirm this view? Do we not frequently see the unhappy results of submission to precepts which may be right, and yet are in opposition to the beliefs of the heart? In such submission the man surrenders his freedom, the birthright of moral manhood. He submits to the rule of his fellow-men. In opposition to the teaching of Christ, “Call no man master,” he yields his sovereignty and lets others lay down the law of his life. Whatsoever is not of faith is of foreign dictation. It is the act of the bondman, not of the freeman. By such conformity the man benumbs his sense of obligation. It is this sense which binds him to the eternal truth. It is like the cable which holds the buoy to its moorings. The sense of obligation is the one assuring evidence that God has not forgotten us. This binds us to the eternal throne. Like the clue which Ariadne gave to Theseus, it leads through devious ways out into the world of light, of life, and of love; it leads to the throne, to the feet, to the heart of God. Lose this thread and the soul is left alone, “in wandering mazes lost.” Cherish your own sense of obligation; beware how you injure another’s. More fundamentally still, the performance of an act which is contrary to the soul’s belief, to which the consent of the moral nature is not given, is essentially subordination of the impulse to live for others to the impulse to live for one’s self. The teachings of this chapter become intelligible in proportion as we come to understand the end which Christianity seeks to attain. Christianity aims not simply to cause our actions to conform to a certain legal standard, but rather to make us partake of the nature and thus of the blessed experiences of the ever-blessed God. (T. D. Anderson.)

Personal responsibility

The discussion which we reach in this part of the Epistle to the Romans turns not on great and plain matters of righteousness and equity, on which there can be but one opinion. It is not aimed against our judging a wrong to be what it is, for how can we help condemning the violator of law? but it all has reference to daily questions where there is no positive rule for any one but such as grows up in the community and shifts with changing circumstances. The private conscience properly asks, Is this right for me? The social conscience asks, Is this right, all things considered? So the well-trained moral sense of the Christian is broad in its scope and unselfish in its utterances. Practical duties in the New Testament are seen to be the sequence of sublime truths. We see that there could not help being wide differences in temperament and attainments among such converts, and that many serious complications might arise in their attempts to walk according to the new Way of life. It is so everywhere in modern times in the missionary fields. We can see, from our own selves, how strong the temptation would be to “take positions upon such matters where there was no, “Thus saith the Lord,” and where for that very reason men grow pugnaciously sure. First of all we note that while he places himself on the side of the strong and says that nothing is unclean of itself, he does not try to change the feelings of either party for the sake of a dull and heartless uniformity of practice. He does not turn to the weak brother and say to him, Give up your absurd scruples! or belabour him with proofs that he ought to be free from the law. Nor does he say to the strong, You have no right to a freedom upon things not free to others! Give up your liberty for the common good! On the contrary, he tells him to keep his faith as to all these things and have it before God. And for the establishment of this he sets up a great landmark in morals. We are personally accountable for ourselves unto God, and are never called upon to sit in judgment upon others who are the servants of the same God and show the fruits of the Spirit in their lives. Of course we must condemn wickedness wherever we behold it. While we are our brother’s keeper and owe him a debt of loving care and sympathetic influence, we are not his overseer, divinely set up to regulate every attitude of his mind and the small details of his conduct. Christian love may degenerate into officiousness. The apostle shows that we ought to cultivate a regard for another’s conscience all the more if it is weak. God is speaking through it. To him that esteemeth a thing to be profane, to him it is profane. By your inconsiderate freedom, he says, you may actually destroy your brother who will stand by your side at the judgment-seat and for whom Christ died. But besides this, love is more than liberty. What is liberty? Does not all turn upon the use we make of liberty and the nature of the thing about which we are free? One observation seems proper at this point as to the use of wine. It is of the Lord that Christian sentiment should favour the weaker side everywhere, but the question may fairly arise whether the strong have any rights or any place for the use of their freedom. The words of Paul are clear that if we have faith that gives us liberty we are to hold it before God and not to create a sin for ourselves because another has found one. In the constant movements towards a better social life more and more attention is given to the poor and the oppressed, to the victims of appetite and of evil in all its forms, and more is asked of every Christian to-day in the way of personal sacrifice than ever before. But the practical guide upon a thousand matters of daily conduct, where we ask, Shall we dance? Shall we play cards? Shall we attend the theatre? Shall we visit and ride on the Lord’s Day? is found within these great lessons of the apostle. He says, Whatsoever is not of faith is sin. That “faith” is not the common belief of the Christian, but a regulative principle derived from the Word of God and the practices of His people. For us, then, if serious questions arise, let there be a simple rule. We can abstain. We can be safe. We can place ourselves where no act of ours can by any possibility destroy the delicate bloom of another’s faith, and where we give up a trifle and have a kingdom of peace within! (E. N. Packard.)

Personal rights

Well, is there no other question? Yes, oh yes, there is another question. What is that? It is the great question as to what a man may do with his rights. Paul takes the ground that every man must assert his personal rights. Now the question is, having once shown that I can indulge in such and such pleasures without any harm to me, and with some benefit, shall I go on and indulge in them without any regard to the effect which my indulgence may have on others? “Oh no,” says Paul. “There is no harm in your eating meat dedicated to an idol, but if your brother sees you do it, and, misunderstanding the whole of it, is led conscientiously into wrong, then you do not act wisely or kindly; for you use your right to break down his conscience and his right.” There are two principles in regard to rights. The first is to ascertain and vindicate them, and the next is to subject them to the law of love. There are a great many things that I have a right to, till love comes and says, “Will you not forbear them for the sake of others?” I have a right to eat meat; but for me to do it under circumstances such that my whole household are led to eat it, and they are thrown into a fever, is wrong. For the sake of keeping my children well, I would abstain from eating meat. I have a right to drink wine; but if I found that my drinking wine would lead poorer men to drink whiskey, or the young men around me to drink wine, I would say to myself, “Shall I use a right of mine in such a way as to destroy my fellow-men for whom Christ died? That would not be acting wisely nor well.” (H. W. Beecher.)

Self-denial for others

A friend told me that he was visiting a lighthouse lately, and said to the keeper, “Are you not afraid to live here? it is a dreadful place to be constantly in.” “No,” replied the man, “I am not afraid. We never think of ourselves here.” “Never think of yourselves! How is that?” The reply was a good one. “We know that we are perfectly safe, and only think of having our lamps burning brightly, and keeping the reflectors clear, so that those in danger may be saved.” That is what Christians ought to do. They are safe in a house built on a rock, which cannot be moved by the wildest storm, and in a spirit of holy unselfishness they should let their light gleam across the dark waves of sin, that they who are imperilled may be guided into the harbour of eternal safety. (Sword and Trowel.)

Selfishness

A man is called selfish, not for pursuing his own good, but for neglecting his neighbour’s. (Abp. Whately.)

The sacredness of man

While from the beginning the kindly affections of men’s nature have been largely developed, outside of their own households they have seldom felt themselves under much obligation to men, and outside their acquaintanceship and nation are felt a hundred obligations of aversion. And it is one of the tokens of the Divine inspiration of the truth that “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” has been the declaration of the Divine law from the earliest period. And there is no duty that the Apostle Paul so developed as this. Note--

I. The ground on which he puts men is the ground of their sacredness.

1. Christians are tempted to judge men by standards that are not the highest nor the most Christian.

2. And yet, low as they are, their value may be beyond count.

II. It is upon the ground of the value that inheres in men that we must not put any stumbling-block in their way. It is a case in which the highest are to serve the lowest. It is being to men what mothers are to children. What father is there that does not subdue himself to the level of the cradle? Accomplishments, tastes, and liberties are commanded to serve the wants of the little one. We must use our liberty and our strength for men, not them for our strength and liberty.

1. It is right, if a man is worshipping superstitiously, to supplant the superstition by a more rational worship. If I go into a Catholic church, and there stands the font of sacred water by the door, and I perceive one and another dipping their hands in and making the sign of the cross with the utmost reverence, I do not follow their example; I have no need of it; and yet I should abuse my liberty if I were to ridicule the act, or if I were to use my liberty and my intelligence to oppress the consciences of those that were lower and less than I. To a person who performs the act it may seem sacred; and if you cast contempt upon it you may be a violator of what is sacred to him, and therefore you may put a stumbling-block in his way. Idolaters were not treated with disrespect by Christ and His apostles. When Paul stood in the midst of the radiant idols at Athens he never spoke of them in such a way as to wound the feelings of any one who believed in them.

2. It is sometimes said of men, “They do not preach all that they believe.” They would be fools if they did. You might as well say to the mother who has a medicine chest, “Give all the medicine there is in that chest,” as to say to a man, “Preach all that you believe.” A man preaches to build men up. Are you to reproach a man for not putting all the materials for building into every edifice that he constructs? If a man builds of brick he does not think it necessary to exhaust the whole material that the country affords. And a man that teaches is not teaching for the sake of unsettling men. There are those who pile sermon upon sermon the year round, loosening everything, and at last nothing remains. But it is said, “They are bold men.” Yes; and they may do harm with their boldness. “Well, they are honest.” Honesty is a good thing; but even that should be handled prudently. It is better that men should have truth than that they should have delusion and falsity; but it is not wise that the change should be made too abruptly. Where a man has on a filthy garment, it is better that he should wear it than that he should go naked. Don’t take it from him until you have a better one to put in the place of it.

3. A man has a right, in the employment of his wealth, to have regard for the comfort and refinement of himself and his household. But no man has a right to such a use of wealth as shall be exclusive and selfish. A man has a right to the use of his property, but he must use it charitably. And, on the other hand, those that are poor are not to rail at rich men, but are to act according to the spirit which is contained in the gospel (verses 2, 3).

4. There are very many pleasures which I avoid, not because I have the slightest conscience respecting the things themselves, or because I suppose they would be otherwise than beneficial to me, but because my example should be such as not to mislead, but lead aright, the young men of the community, who, in looking upon what I did, if I indulged in all those things which were harmless to me, might venture on things that I could do safely, and they could not.

5. This should be carried still further. I hold that there is no one thing that is more perilous to young men than the usages of society in the matter of intoxicating drinks. Nevertheless, if I observe that my brother, in a neighbouring church, holds a contrary view, I have no right of disputation over his conscience. I may wish that he could see as I do; I may even attempt to give him the light that I have; but if, after all, in the exercise of his own judgment and discretion, he says, “I stand in my liberty before God,” I have no right to cast an imputation on him and his liberty. (H. W. Beecher.)

I know … , that there is nothing unclean of itself.

How the same thing may be clean and unclean

I. Nothing is unclean of itself.

1. Every creature of God is good.

2. May be lawfully used.

3. When sanctified by an enlightened conscience.

II. Everything becomes unclean.

1. When abused.

2. When used by him that esteems it unclean. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably.--

The duty of sacrificing private enjoyment for another’s benefit

I. The case supposed. The enjoyment though lawful, is a stumbling-block to another.

II. The apostle’s decision of it. It is a violation of the law of love, because selfish in itself, injurious in its effect.

III. The consequent duty. Of abstinence, lest you destroy him for whom Christ died, leaving you an example of self-sacrifice. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.--

Christ’s death, a man’s destruction

I. Christ died to save all. “He is the propitiation … for the sins of the whole world.” His death was a fact in the Divine government in which all are interested, a provision of Divine mercy, like the sun, the air, and the various elements of nature, from which all could derive the same supplies.

II. Though He died to save all, some will be destroyed. The truth has no practical influence on a man unless he studies it, and he may study it or not, rightly or not, the provision does not stream its blessings into a man, irrespective of his choice or efforts. The sun will not give its light to a man unless he open his eyes, nor will the water allay his burning thirst unless he drinks it in. “Ye will not come unto Me,” etc.

III. This destruction may be effected by a brother. One man can and often does spiritually ruin another by his suggestions, his spirit, his example. Whilst God saves man by man the devil damns man by man. Through man the spiritually restorative and destructive forces of the universe are everlastingly working.

IV. The brother may do this by a trifling thing--“meat.” By urging thy ceremonial observances thou art likely to ruin him; leave him free to his own conscience. As an invisible atom can destroy animal life, a little sin can damn a soul. (D. Thomas, D.D.)


Verse 16

Romans 14:16

Let not then your good be evil spoken off

We ought not, for we have none too much.

We may through--

1. Ignorance.

2. Levity of temper.

3. Moroseness.

4. Want of stability.

5. Improvidence.

6. A number of little things which, like dust upon a diamond, obscure its lustre, though each particle is almost nothing. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Let not your good be evil spoken of

1. The Bible speaks much of the beauty of holiness. It represents Jesus as the altogether lovely. His beauty consists in His perfect excellence, in the absolute symmetry of His whole character.

2. Believers are epistles of Christ. They are His witnesses. It is their solemn duty to make a fair representation of what He is, and what His religion is before the world.

3. There are two ways in which professors dishonour Christ, and make a false representation of Him and His religion--when by breaking the law they give men to understand that Christ allows such transgressions, and when they cause even their good to be evil spoken of, i.e., when they so act on right principles as to give those principles a bad character, or so conduct themselves as to mislead others as to the true nature of the gospel. This is done--

I. When men so use their Christian liberty as to injure their brethren. The distinctions between months, days, and meats had been abolished. It was right that this fact should be asserted and taught, and that Christians should act upon this liberty; but if they so used it as to destroy their brethren, they sinned against Christ, and caused their good to be evil spoken of. So now in regard to temperance, men may make such a use of truth, and so act on true principles as to do great harm.

II. When undue stress is laid on trifles. Paul says that religion does not consist in meat and drink; and to act as though it did is to slander the gospel. This is true of fanatics of all classes, and all bigots. They belie religion, as the tattooed New Zealander or painted Indian misrepresent the human face divine.

III. By the sanctimonious, who make a false representation of religion and cause it to be evil spoken of when they hold it up thus caricatured before men.

IV. By the censorious. Not only in making non-essentials of too much importance, but also in misrepresenting the spirit of their Master. His religion does not justify their harsh judgments.

V. By those who carry any right principle to excess.

1. By the Puritans in regard to the Sabbath, to things indifferent in worship, to days of religious observance.

2. By Quakers in regard to dress and conformity to the world.

3. By those who deny the Church any liberty in her organisation. In every case of this kind the human degrades the Divine. What is indifferent is made essential, and what is essential is made indifferent. (C. Hodge, D.D.)

Good evil spoken of

(Missionary Sermon):--Our good is evil spoken of--

I. If we propagate among others that which we do not receive for ourselves. Create any great system of efforts, and there will be many blindly carried away with it. Many are, therefore, induced to enrol themselves in our missionary associations. “Come, see my zeal,” said the ancient king, “for the Lord of Hosts.” Was not his zeal selfishness rather? But “Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord,” etc.

II. When we violate that solemnity which is appropriate to all such transactions. May it not be feared that, in some cases, too great a temper of flippancy has pervaded our assemblies, and characterised our institutions? Could a traveller, in exploring the vestiges of an ancient city, pass along its fallen theatres, its broken aqueducts, its prostrate temples, with levity? Could a philanthropist proceed through the walls of the lazaretto, or the cells of a prison, in a careless and unfeeling mood? Could a negotiator address the revolted and the insurgent with a sportive look and in a jocular tone? Let us copy His faithfulness who upbraided Capernaum, and imitate His compassion who wept over Jerusalem; remembering that we are now labouring in the same course, and should know the fellowship of the same sufferings.

III. When we forget that due estimate which we should take of what is distant and of what is near in the condition of mankind. Cast your eyes on your native land. Tens of thousands are before you, most imbruted, most immoral. And these are your kinsmen; a thousand ties of brotherhood make them one with yourselves. Cast your thoughts upon the distant realms of idolatry. You cannot tell how great is that darkness, for there is no contrasting light; you cannot tell the dimensions of that misery, for there is no measure by which you can gauge them. And in some districts of our favoured kingdom there are more Christian pastors than these societies have scattered around the circumference of the globe. Now, our good may be evil spoken of if we adopt any invidious partiality in our judgments. There are no souls more precious than those which throng the margins of the Indus, the Ganges, and the Nile; but the souls are alike precious which throng the majestic strands of the Severn, the Humber, and the Thames.

IV. If we forget the proportion which should exist between effort and prayer. There is a devotion which becomes selfishness. It wraps itself in a contemplative dream; it will make no sacrifice, engage in no exertion. There is an exertion which becomes impious. It is full of noise and ostentation. Now, it is necessary that devotion and activity be blended. Our labour must be habitual, not accidental--our devotion must be habitual, and not fitful. Look at the apostles--what were their prayers? Pentecost fully come--what were their deeds? Think of angels--they do always behold the face of their God; but they are winds--they are flames of fire. Think of the Son of God, how He spent whole nights in prayer! you see Him going about doing good. Let our prayers sanctify our efforts--let our efforts authenticate our prayers; let us take heaven by violence through the means of the one, and earth by violence through the means of the other.

V. When we call in the aid of worldly excitement. Have all our institutions to say that they are unspotted from the world? Has there been no strange fire which we have offered before the Lord? Has there been no suppression of truth, no evasion of facts, no adornment of narrative? Surely, if our purpose be to captivate the world to the Saviour, we must be on our guard, lest, in attempting it, we ourselves be led captive by the world.

VI. If we entertain a light view of the eternal danger of the heathen. Make Christianity a question of comparative advantage, of ameliorated state, a measure to give an increase of light already sufficient, a confirmation to hopes already well founded, and the missionary apparatus will soon come to neglect; men will necessarily decry it, as an unmeaning toy and a gaudy superfluity.

VII. If we obtrude party opinions and singularities. How pleasing is it that ours is a common cause, and that now, more than ever, ours is a common spirit. When the infidel and the scorner see we are moving in our different tracts, and yet are moving under a common influence and for a common purpose, we shall thus vindicate our good, and, in the absence of all that is little in sectarianism, we shall have our good compelled to be spoken well of.

VIII. When there is any disposition to disparage the missionary character. We have formed a heroism of principle and a dint of courage which were unknown; we can bring forth, confidently, men who have died unshrinkingly as martyrs. Can we ever use one term of detraction towards these men? Can we ever yield to them a supercilious patronage and a grudging support? We are honoured that they will go--we are honoured that we may sustain them. Let us remember that the very life--credit--character of our missionary institutions, must depend on the men whom we entrust with this work; and when they have been thus faithful in their work, let us give to them all that cordiality of confidence which they so well deserve, and which it would be unjust to refuse.

IX. When we apply a harsher rule to our converts than we apply to ourselves. The former may occasionally be carried away by error; but let us think of our own deviations at home. We should, indeed, be disheartened if ever we had to report of any of our native Churches abroad what the apostles had to report of Corinth and of Galatia.

X. If we at all encourage the hope of an unscriptural consummation. Remember that the present dispensation is a spiritual one; that it is complete, and nothing can be added to it; that it is an unearthly one, and therefore cannot admit of secular aggrandisement; and it is a final one--it therefore allows of no ulterior revelation. What know you other than this--than that all the world should be Christians?--other than this, that the gospel shall be universally preached? This is your consummation: you desire here no other paradise but to see the earth filled with the trees of righteousness.

XI. If we do not follow up our exertions and improve our success. We have made a lodgment, and God’s salvation has been openly showed in the sight of the heathen; and there have been those who have gone up to occupy the breach. Shall we leave them to perish? We have sown the seed; the harvest is come--it invites the sickle. Who would not enter with ecstasy into such a field, and crowd as labourers into such a harvest? (R. W. Hamilton, D.D.)

Our good

(Christian liberty.)

I. Is evil spoken of--

1. By the enemies of the truth, when they see a want of harmony in the Church.

2. By the weak, when they condemn the free conduct of their stronger brethren.

3. By the strong, when they give offence to the consciences of the weak.

II. Must be protected.

1. Against what?

(a) Offence.

(b) Misuse.

2. How?

3. Why? Thereby--

Misrepresented goodness

Some men seek to impress the world by their goodness when they really have no goodness. Such were the Pharisees. But the apostle has in view men who have goodness, but who do themselves injustice. We need to be careful about the manifestation of our religion, as well as about the reality of it. It is possible to be very good, and yet so to act as to put men out of conceit with religion itself. There is a book entitled “Roses: How to grow and How to Show them.” Anybody might say, “Ah! the question is, how to grow them. Bring your flower into fulness of glory, and it will show itself and win the prize.” But it is just for want of this particular skill that many a clever grower has missed the prize. So it is with character. Our good to be evil spoken of.

I. By sadness. A serious spirit is a true spirit, and one we should ever cherish. But how easy it is to turn it into sourness, and thus make a grand character repulsive! With all our solemnity there ought to be cheerfulness. A man who is all laughter counts for little, a man who is all groans counts for less; but he who lets a hopeful spirit shine through all his religion does much to recommend his faith.

II. By narrowness. The world often miscalls a noble self-denial strait-lacedness, and we must be prepared for it. But there is sometimes self-denial that is really narrowness, and that damages the reputation of good men. This illiberality of mind sometimes reveals itself in an orthodoxy that prevents a man from looking calmly and boldly at religious questions, sometimes in a harsh, exclusive denominationalism; sometimes in an asceticism which makes a man intolerant of recreations; sometimes in a fear of worldly conformity. Let us beware of this suspicious, conceited, uncharitable spirit. Let us hold a theology as broad as judgment, mercy, and truth. Christ stood at the utmost remove from the pettifogging Pharisee. He was the ideal Catholic. Let it be thus with us.

III. By hardness.

1. You may see this in business men sometimes. A Christian trader is in all things severely conscientious. And yet nobody likes him. The reason is his conscientiousness looks very much like selfishness, and is currently reckoned as such. Now, he might be all that a smart business man needs to be, and yet be popular into the bargain. He wants to understand the by-play of life--how to soften the severe rigid laws of the business sphere with little acts of forbearance, patience, generosity.

2. And you may see this hardness in family life. It was said of the mother of one of our most distinguished women that she did her duty to her children, made sacrifices for their welfare, and yet there was no sympathy in it all. And the gifted daughter grew up feeling that the lack of warmth and love in her early training was a lifelong loss. Oh, what a grand thing is graciousness in all our spirit and conduct! Some excellent people are sadly wanting here. They do not know how to show their roses--they thrust the posy into your face and you are more scratched with the thorns than regaled by the fragrance. We often hear about “diamonds in the rough”; there are Christians after that order, but it is a serious defect to be in the rough--Christ’s diamonds, like Himself, ought to be full of beauty and grace.

IV. By unseasonableness. Character is timeliness, a fine perception of what is becoming to the persons, to the place, to the hour. If we do not attend to this our mirthfulness may be reckoned levity, our strictness intolerance, our liberality weakness, our large-mindedness licence. We have need to pray constantly that “we may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom,” etc.; so shall we serve the apple of gold in the basket of silver. Let us not despise this matter. Do not say, Let us get the solid thing, and never mind the rest. A jeweller works altogether with gold and gems; but it is not enough to mix these anyhow. So we, as Christians, must be careful how we arrange our precious material, for of the virtues we may make an eyesore or a picture. We must work with judgment, sympathy, courtesy, or our good will be evil spoken of. (W. L. Watkinson.)

Reputation

I. Nothing is more easily destroyed than a good reputation. You may be years, a life-time even, in building it up, and yet a moment, a single act, may suffice to destroy it. A breath of scandal may blast it, an indiscretion may tarnish it, a “dead fly” in the ointment may make it offensive. How sedulously should we guard it!

II. Nothing on earth is so valuable or so potent as a good name. Wealth beside it is dross. Office, station, fame, are nothing worth in comparison. Talent, learning, and gifts of oratory, pale and fade in the presence of it.

1. For our own sake we should sacredly guard it--for it is our crown jewel, the one potential element of usefulness we possess.

2. For society’s sake we should do nothing, omit nothing, that will tend to obscure it. For Christ’s sake and the Church’s sake, we are bound to guard it as we would guard life itself: to wound it is to wound Christ in the house of His friends, and bring reproach upon His Church. Oh, it is these tarnished reputations, these soiled garments, these discredited names, in the household of faith, that so weaken the testimony of the Church and fill the mouths of scoffers and infidels. (Homiletic Monthly.)

The importance of a good man taking care of his reputation

Character and reputation are not convertible terms.

1. A bad man may have a good reputation. He may have the art of so concealing the reigning elements of his character as to give to his compeers a false impression. Hence, in all circles there are counterfeits that pass for true coin. The miser in heart passes for a philanthropist; the sensualist in heart for a man of chastity.

2. A good man may have a bad reputation. Genuine saints have often been regarded as great sinners. Against this the text is a warning.

I. There is a danger in this, arising--

1. From some things in society.

2. From some things in the good man himself. The more goodness a man has in him, the less suspicious he is, the more confiding, and the more regardless of conventional proprieties. He is natural, and like all natural objects shows himself as he is. He is likely to care no more for what men think of him than trees for the opinion of the birds, or flowers for the opinion of spectators. Great goodness is constantly making conventional mistakes and trampling artificial properties underfoot.

II. There is an evil in this. A man’s power to do good depends greatly upon the faith that society has in his goodness. If society suspects his genuineness or disinterestedness, he may preach like Paul, but he will accomplish but little good. Hence it has often happened that truly good men and powerful preachers have, by disregarding certain recognised proprieties of society, destroyed their usefulness for ever. Conclusion: Hence, because of this danger and evil, let us walk “circumspectly,” not as fools, but as wise; let us avoid the very appearance of evil, knowing that the loss of reputation tends to disqualify us for usefulness. (D. Thomas, D.D.)

On the imprudent way of discharging sacred duties

Perhaps there never was a time since the world began in which so much was done for the cause of God and of truth, as at the present. Yet it becomes us to rejoice with trembling, and to act with care. In proportion to our zeal, is the enemy’s malignity; while we act, the world watches, and connects the cause with the demeanour and temper of those who have espoused it. Sacred duties may be discharged in such a way as that they may be evil spoken of, and neutralised completely in their influence and effect. Take the case of--

I. Social prayer. Our good may be evil spoken of--

1. When the prayer-meeting is left without some wise and judicious leader.

2. When they are converted into anything but what they profess to be--meetings for prayer--when the time is much occupied in exhortation, or discussion.

3. When the language employed in prayer is pompous and inflated.

4. When undue familiarity with God is used in prayer.

5. When prayers are spun out to an unreasonable and wearisome length. Whitfield once said to a good man who had fallen into this error, “Sir, you first prayed me into a good frame, and then you prayed me out of it.”

6. When much time is occupied in prayer with such petitions as are only applicable to the case of the leader.

II. The visitation of the sick. This duty is improperly discharged.

1. When the conversation is confined entirely, or chiefly, to the disease under which the patient labours.

2. When an indiscriminate offer is made of the consolations of the gospel, which belong to believers only.

3. When special reference is not had to the peculiar circumstances of the case in prayer.

4. When there is harshness or severity in the manner of address.

III. Domestic religion and instruction.

1. Where there are no stated periods for the observance of family religion and instruction, but it is left to convenience, or caprice--to inclination, or to chance.

2. When the reading and explanation of the Scriptures do not form a great part of domestic instruction.

3. When the duty is hurried over with carelessness and haste.

4. When there are no inquiries made, as to their increase in the knowledge and understanding of Divine things.

IV. Active employment in religious and benevolent institutions. Such as Bible associations and Sunday Schools. Conclusion: Observe some general principles, the observance of which are of importance in efforts to do good.

1. Look well to your motives. If they are wrong, your conduct cannot be acceptable to God, nor is it likely to do your Christian profession credit before men.

2. See that your spirit and temper are always suitable to the character you sustain, and the objects which you have in view.

3. Do as much good as you possibly can in private.

4. Never talk much in what you do, or of what you do. Let your works, and not your words, praise you in the gate--and rather imitate the deep and silent river, that pursues its noiseless way, and is only known by the fertility and luxuriance it diffuses in its course--than the impetuous brook, that attracts the eye by its clamour, only to behold its shallowness.

5. Persevere in all you undertake, and then your activity will not be attributed to the mere impulse of the moment, but look more like the result of conviction and principle.

6. Let there be a cheerful alacrity in all you do, that it may appear to spring from a willing mind, and be esteemed rather your relaxation than your work.

7. Avoid the introduction of your own particular religious tenets.

8. Never do evil that good may come.

9. Seek to do good, abstracted from all the evil which may be connected with it.

10. Never refrain from doing good, for fear of its being evil spoken of.

11. Refer all that is good in what you do to God, and all that is evil to yourselves.

12. Cherish an abiding sense of your own helplessness, and ever rely on the power of God for strength, the Spirit of God for direction, and the work of Christ for acceptance.

13. Keep your great account in view--and the Lord grant you may find mercy of the Lord in that day. (T. Raffles, LL.D.)


Verse 17-18

Romans 14:17-18

For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink.

God’s kingdom

I. The description given of the kingdom of God.

1. The import of the term. Christ’s spiritual kingdom established on earth--His dominion over His redeemed people, having its seat in the soul, and extending over the entire life. This is a kingdom totally diverse from all others--one not in word or mere outward form, but in soul-subduing, life-transforming power, one that ultimately brings every thought into harmony with Christ’s holy mind and will.

2. Its peculiar characteristics.

(a) Holy conformity to God--“righteousness.”

(b) A mild and gentle demeanour--“peace.”

(c) Spiritual gladness of heart--“joy.”

(d) The presence and power of the Holy Spirit as producing all these.

II. The character of the true spiritual service of Christ (Romans 14:18). Observe--

1. The indispensable requisites of Christ’s service. In order to serve Christ, we must possess and manifest righteousness, and peace and joy, through the power of the Spirit of God. For these things there is, there can be, no substitute. Without that, however great your knowledge and profession and zeal may be, your service is a vain oblation.

2. In what respect Christ is served by these things.

(a) “Be ye therefore perfect.”

(b) “Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart.”

(c) “Ask and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.”

III. The blessed result of that service. There will be--

1. Divine acceptance. The ground of a guilty sinner’s acceptance before God is exclusively Christ’s finished work; but our text speaks not of that acceptance, but of the believer’s acceptance of his Heavenly Father. God’s complacency and delight in a holy life.

2. Human approval. Such a life as that delineated in our text cannot but commend itself even to the world. It is, however, only men of God who can, in the fullest sense of the word, appreciate it. (P. Morison.)

The kingdom of God

consists in--

1. Righteousness in respect to God.

2. Peace with respect to others.

3. Joy in respect to yourself. (T. Robinson, D.D.)

The kingdom of God

A peasant boy was asked, “What is the kingdom of God?” He paused, and with an expression of seriousness and devotion which I shall never forget, placing his hand on his bosom, he said, “It is something here!” and then raising his eyes, he added, and something up yonder. (J. Leifchild, D.D.)

The constitution of the kingdom of God

I. Not--

1. Abstinence from earthly pleasure.

2. Observance of external forms.

3. The adoption of a religious deportment.

4. Zeal for orthodoxy.

II. But--

1. Righteousness in faith and life.

2. Peace with God and man.

3. Joy in sorrow and reproach. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Distinguishing marks of the kingdom of God

Every kingdom is renowned for some distinctive feature. Rome was conspicuous for its warlike propensities. The Grecian States were celebrated for their love of the fine arts. France is eminent for its taste. The American States are famous for their enterprise. But the distinguishing mark of the kingdom of God is “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”

The inward and spiritual character of the kingdom of God

I. In its privileges. As some painters can produce a striking likeness by a few clear though rapid strokes of the pencil, so is it with this beautiful sketch of the new man.

1. The first lineament is righteousness. By this must be meant an entire justification and freedom from every charge and condemnation which sin might urge, and which God’s broken commands might pass upon the Christian. This is the choicest mercy in the catalogue of mercies. It is--

2. Peace is another lineament. Pardoning love hath subdued enmity against God. Peace hath been made by the blood of the Cross. This is one of the most gracious, as it is one of the most blessed, fruits of the Spirit.

3. Joy. It is the privilege of God’s children to rejoice, as the distinguished objects of His adopting love. And, surely, when the Spirit bears witness with the Christian’s spirit that he is a child of God, he hath the elements and materials for a holy joy, which the world, with all its pleasures, can never give, and which, with all its enmity, it is impotent to take away.

II. Is its duties.

1. It is righteousness in the Holy Ghost. Not only is the satisfaction of Christ’s perfect merit imputed to the soul, but the work of his sanctification by the Holy Ghost, making the believer one with Him, is commenced within the heart. Then will conscience be made of every duty towards God and man. Faith is in the soul, as lightning in the air, which purifies; as fire in the metal, which refines. The heart, which heretofore was the thoroughfare of Satan, becomes the enclosure of God.

2. Peace also is a duty to the subjects of the Great Salem; and as wars and fightings come of the lusts of men, so will the disciples of Jesus be self-denying men, in order that they may dwell in peace with Him and with each other.

3. And how shall the Christian manifest his joy as a duty? Even by the holy delight which he takes in that service which is perfect freedom. (R. P. Buddicom, M.A.)

The spirituality of the kingdom of God

These words do not infer that we may eat and drink as we please; the very opposite is implied, namely, that whether we eat or drink, righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost should determine our spirit and conduct. The doctrine is, that the kingdom of God is not founded on things outward, or any artificial arrangement of these; but on the absolute difference between right and wrong, happiness and misery; and that, accordingly, its design is to establish virtuous dispositions and holy joys. This doctrine is manifestly in direct antagonism to the tendency at Rome to indulge in disputation about the obligation of existing customs, and needs to be taught in the present day. There is a very general disregard of the spirituality of Christ’s kingdom, and of the sufficiency of its truths to meet the wants of man. To make the tree good, that its fruit may be good, is a process far too slow and undemonstrative for this enterprising age. Accordingly, we are overwhelmed with “improvements,” “reforms,” “schemes,” “societies,” and “movements,” to effect a speedy and decided change. Note--

I. The design of the kingdom--viz., the diffusion of righteousness, peace, and joy.

1. Societies are formed with a leading object in view. Zeal for that object is the distinguishing mark of the members of each society. Diversity of taste and opinion is tolerated so long as it does not interfere with the interests to be promoted. There are religious communities of whose institutions distinctions of meat and drink form an essential part. Such is the general character of Hindooism and Mohammedanism. Such was the general character of Pharisaism. John the Baptist adopted similar means of distinction; he came neither eating nor drinking, nor clothing himself like other men. But Christ, instead of building up such walls of partition, removed them, and strove, by the example of loving, familiar intercourse, to overcome deep-rooted antipathies. Henceforward, “righteousness, peace, and joy,” are to be the distinguishing tokens of His subjects--not any style of living or appearance peculiar to them as members of a community.

2. Tried by this test, Romanism, and all imitations of it, must stand condemned; but let us apply it to ourselves as members of a Church claiming to be scriptural. We belong to different grades of society, and have different tastes and habits, Hence there is no small risk of uncharitable judgments. Simple tastes and manners to some appear little short of barbarous, and refined tastes and manners to others voluptuous and worldly. How uncalled for these insinuations! To any disposed to make much of outward distinctions, we must ask--

II. The fitness of the design.

1. It accords with the extent of the kingdom. God, as the rightful sovereign of all men everywhere, commands them to return to their allegiance. The kingdom must therefore include men of all nations. How great the diversity of conditions of existence! And in His wisdom and love God has provided a system adapted to all these conditions. A religion eminently spiritual and practical, having very few and simple ordinances of worship, Christianity belongs specially to no clime, grade, or class.

2. It accords with the number and variety of the enemies to be overcome. Confessedly there is a great deal of irreligion and vice in the world; and no religion is worthy of the name that does not engage its adherents to a course of resolute opposition to these evils. But there is a great deal of sin and misery where these evils are neither seen nor heard. Seemly forms of religion and correct moral deportment have not been sufficient to satisfy the heart and purify the conscience. Churches have been rent, homes made desolate, and hearts broken, by men “touching the righteousness which is of the law blameless.” We do not need more fasts, zeal for traditions and customs; we need a religion that will strike at the root of all the evil in our nature. This religion we find in Christianity, which obliges us to follow after righteousness, peace, and joy.

3. It accords with the attributes of God; for there is blasphemy in the very supposition that the Divine Being can be satisfied with a religion chiefly ceremonial or outwardly correct. He is a Spirit; and they that worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.

4. It accords with the character of Christ. How strange that His name should have been given to such systems as have borne it! So far from patronising externalism, He exposed Himself to the wrath of the Ritualists of that day; so far from affecting peculiarity of living, He exposed Himself to the calumny that He was a gluttonous man and a winebibber. Everywhere and always He proclaimed the necessity of a righteousness exceeding that of the scribes and Pharisees. Were He this day amongst us, no word of sympathy would be heard from Him with those who compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and only succeed in perverting his better nature. His sympathy would be with those who assert their freedom from the commandments of men, and who joyfully own their obligation to love and obey their “Father which is in heaven.”

5. It accords with the destiny of all true subjects of the kingdom. There must be a meetness, as well as a title, belonging to all the heirs of glory. A training of the soul in righteousness, peace, and joy, we can well believe to bring about a meetness for the society of the spirits of the just made perfect; but we are at a loss to conceive how a round of forms and ceremonies, or a careful conformity to usages and example, in matters wholly of this world and of this body, can constitute any such preparation. (W. Limont.)

The kingdom of God is a soul-kingdom

Why was it called a kingdom at all? Well, since a man’s disposition is the fountain from which all his enjoyments that are worth having spring in this world, the condition of the soul becomes a kingdom in the sense that it represents to men the idea of felicity. The old notions were that a king was about the happiest man on earth. Hence the phrase, “Happy as a king.” Therefore in the description of the disposition, which is the soul-kingdom, it is called a king’s dominion, or a king-dora. But there is a more important reason--namely, that a king in his kingdom dominates, controls, governs. It is the disposition of men, their character, that controls. Their enjoyment, all their life, depends upon what they are in themselves, and inside of themselves. If a man’s soul is one that works itself out in righteousness, in peace, in joy in the Holy Ghost, that is the dominating influence which controls the whole life. Now I aver that men are happy in the exact proportion in which their dispositions are qualified to make happiness. The enjoyment of men is in the ratio in which they have a right inward condition. A man who has right feelings and right dispositions, either finds happiness or makes it. It will happen to a man who is all right in himself. He either finds or makes life a blessing. A man who is in good health, who has a right temperament, all of whose dispositions are noble, and who is hopeful, courageous, and cheerful, loving God and loving men, thanks nobody for making him happy; he is happy of himself. The human soul was just as much made to produce happiness as a music-box was made to produce music. If it be in a right and normal condition, harmonised with God, with the spirit-world, for which we are being trained, and with men, then it is happy. The soul must needs produce its own happiness out of the harmony of its own condition; but men do not believe in this. You will find young men saying, “If I were as rich as Vanderbilt, would not I enjoy myself?” Do you enjoy yourself now? “No--oh, no.” Then you would not then. (H. W. Beecher.)

The essentials of Christianity

I. A negative description of the kingdom of god. “Meat and drink” includes the carnal and sensational in every shape and form. True religion is not--

1. Ceremonial observances. Godliness is at a low ebb when great importance is attached to external rites. Ceremonialism is the respirator worn by a Church when its lungs are too weak to breathe the bracing atmosphere of revealed truth. Consumption has set in, and in time it will die of exhaustion, and be decently buried in tile grave of formality. This was the case with the Jewish Church. The temple services were carried on with regularity and gorgeousness, while the soul of religion was gone.

2. The gratification of the appetites. Pagan converts ran to the other extreme--religion to them was a matter of cookery, confectionery, and stimulants. Previous to their conversion they had been accustomed to associate worship with gluttony, drunkenness, and licentiousness of the lowest type. Their countrymen indulged in the wildest revelries while celebrating the festivities of Bacchus and Venus. What wonder, then, that such should come into the Church, expecting it to furnish them with fresh opportunities to pamper their carnal appetites? They even turned the Lord’s Supper into a carousal.

3. AEsthetic idealism. Many minds have been so “corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” by what is called higher criticism, as to lose all relish for doing, and they spend their time in dreaming. In this state of mind they devise for themselves an ideal Christ, no more like the real Christ of the gospels than the sensitive plant that grows in the hothouse to the hardy oak whose giant arms defy the storm. To the idealist the Bible is a poetical perfumery to regale the jaded senses, and not the voice of God, saying, “This is the way, walk ye in it.” The house of prayer is a floral halt, where the roll of music soothes the feelings, and the dim light plays softly on the eye, and fashion displays the contents of its costly wardrobes; and not the house of God, where sincerity agonises and devotion sheds tears of penitence and joy.

II. A positive description of true religion. It consists in--

1. Rightness of motive--“Righteousness.” One of the old schoolmen has said that “manners make the man.” That is true as far as society is concerned; but motives make the man in the sight of God; external accomplishments go for nothing if the moving springs of character are crooked and unrighteous. But how are they whose motives are wrong and character corrupt to be made right? For it is written, “There is none righteous, no not one.” “By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight.” But, thank God, there is a way of escape--“Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” “Not by works of righteousness which we have done,” etc.

2. Tranquillity of mind--“peace”--

3. Jubilation of heart--“joy in the Holy Ghost.”

(a) Demonstrative in its character. The outpouring of the Divine Spirit on the day of Pentecost was a most exciting scene; and during seasons of great awakening this has been repeated.

(b) Permanent. “As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” To possess it is to possess the most precious of treasures, the sweetest of pleasures, and the richest of feasts; it is a constant summer in the soul, and a heaven in miniature. (W. A. Griffiths.)

True religion

I. Negatively. Does not consist--

1. In anything of a mere external kind.

2. In orthodox opinions or right modes of worship.

3. In a system of observance that is either constrained by fear or is employed as a sort of compromise to ward off the Divine displeasure, or made a ground of claim in the way of merit to the Divine favour.

4. In mere temporary feeling, be those feelings of what kind they may.

II. Positively. It does consist in--

1. Righteousness.

2. Peace.

3. Joy.

(a) Gratitude.

(b) Complacency.

Moral goodness, or true religion

is--

I. The reign of God is the soul. The reign--

1. Of reality, in contradistinction to that of appearance.

2. Of spirit, in contradistinction to that of matter.

3. Of love, in contradistinction to that of selfishness.

4. Of the absolute, in contradistinction to the reign of the contingent and fleeting.

II. A spiritual service rendered to Christ (Romans 14:18). Not in meat, drink, and mere ceremonies, but in spiritual exercises. “Righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” To serve Christ is the grand end of being; to serve Christ is to serve in the highest sense your own interests, the good of the universe, and the will of God.

III. The highest glory of man. It ensures two things--

1. The favour of God. “Acceptable to God.” To please God--what is higher than this? To have His smile, to enjoy His friendship and fellowship.

2. The favour of men. “Approved of men.” Christly goodness commands the involuntary homage of all consciences. (D. Thomas, D.D.)

But righteousness.

Righteousness of life as the fruit of righteousness by faith. Righteousness practised as the effect of righteousness imparted. Righteousness before man as the evidence of righteousness before God. Believers are to be filled with the fruits of righteousness (Philippians 1:11). Death to sin and life to righteousness fruits of Christ’s death. (T. Robinson, D.D.)

The kingdom of God righteousness

I. It is based upon righteousness. If we trace earthly kingdoms up to their origin this will scarcely be affirmed of any of them. Whatever may be said about its present procedure, what existing throne has not been erected on the ruin of human rights and liberties? But God reigns by right. We belong to Him as His creatures and His children.

II. Its Monarch is righteous. Many potentates are manifestly unrighteous, and of the very best it can only be affirmed that on the whole they rule righteously. Compassed by infirmity, with the best intentions, they are often betrayed into deeds which charity is compelled to cover. But that astounding fiction when otherwise applied, “the king can do no wrong,” is absolutely and ever true in regard to God.

III. Its laws are righteous. Of none other can this be said. The best system has some bad laws--legislation, part of which presses inequitably of some portion of the community, and which is endured because of the righteousness of the rest. But God’s laws are all good, and good to all alike.

IV. It aims at the production of righteous character. The best earthly governments are content if the people are contented and law-abiding, i.e., if their subjects are materially prosperous and do not break the law. But the members of God’s kingdom are urged to keep His laws with a view to their own moral perfection and the ultimate moral perfection of the world. Hence the kingdom of the future is to be one wherein dwelleth righteousness, and the people thereof are to be all righteous. (J. W. Burn.)

Peace.--

The kingdom of God a kingdom of peace

This is one of its notable characteristics as pourtrayed in the Bible.

I. Its chief is the prince of peace.

II. Its rule was inaugurated by the proclamation of peace. “Peace on earth.”

III. Its measures are pacific. Its only wars are against the enemies of peace.

IV. Its subjects are peaceable. Disturbance here is disloyalty and treason.

V. Its universal establishment will secure world-wide peace. Arbitration, treaties, alliances, etc., will only effect partial and temporary peace. (J. W. Burn.)

And joy in the Holy Ghost.--

The kingdom of God a kingdom of joy

I. It was heralded as such. “Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy.”

II. As SUCH IT PROMOTES THE JOY OF ITS SUBJECTS, “Happy are the people whose God is the Lord.”

III. Its subjects therefore are commanded to be joyful. “Rejoice evermore.” (J. W. Burn.)

Joy in the Holy Ghost

1. Not natural, but spiritual.

2. Not imaginary, but real.

3. Not dependent on external circumstances, but upon the revelations of the Spirit to faith.

4. Not transitory, but; permanent.

5. Not extinguished in death, but perfected in heaven. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Joy

Jesus is the bringer of spiritual spring into the soul. When He comes the time of the singing of birds comes with Him. He is the Sun of Righteousness who turns January into May. Really, we ought to understand that God allows every child of His to make his own almanac. We can have warm weather, and flowers and fruits and bird-songs all the year through if we only live in the rays of Christ’s countenance. The sorest sorrows of life are of our own making. We shut out God’s larks from our hearts, and bring in the bats and hooting owls of miserable unbelief. These birds of evil omen disappear when the dayspring on high visits our souls. (T. L. Cuyler.)

For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.--

The ideal character and service

I. The ideal character.

1. Righteousness. This is characteristic of the man who is right--

(a) Through justifying faith.

(b) By a sanctified experience.

2. Peace. This marks the man who--

3. Joy. This--

II. The ideal service.

1. In these things we serve Christ. Christ’s work is to make us righteous, etc. “We are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus.” When we work out what He works in we are workers together with Him and so serve Him. What shall we say about the man who professes to be the servant of Christ, and is unrighteous, quarrelsome, or morose? These characteristics defeat Christ’s end in the world, and bring dishonour on his Master’s name and cause.

2. In these things we are--

(a) They are conformable to His own nature. He is the righteous Father, the God of Peace, the blessed God.

(b) They accomplish His design in creation, providence, and grace.

Men’s approbation desirable

1. For their own sakes.

2. For the sake of the Master whom we serve.

3. For our own comfort and influence. To please God the surest way to be approved of men. (T. Robinson, D.D.)

Christianity approved

It would not be a fair thing to test a philosophy, or a body of political, or scientific truth, by the conduct and character of the men that professed it; but it is a perfectly fair thing, under certain conditions and in certain limits, to test a system of practical morality, which professes to do certain things with people’s character and conduct, by its professors. It is just as fair, when a creed comes before our notice which assumes to influence men’s conduct, to say, “Well! I should like to see it working,” as it is for any of you mill-owners to say, when man comes to you with a fine invention upon paper, “Have you got a working model of it? Has it ever been tried? What have been the results that have been secured by it?” Or as it would be to say to anybody that claimed to have got a “medicine that will cure consumption,” to say,”Have you any cases? Can you quote any cures?” So when we Christians stand up and say, “We have a faith which is able to deaden men’s minds to the world; which is able to make them unselfish; which is able to lift them up above cares and sorrows; which is able to take men and transform their whole nature, and put new desires and hopes and joys into them,” it is quite fair for the world to say, “Have you? Does it? Does it do so with you? Can you produce your lives as working models of Christianity?” (A. Maclaren, D.D.)


Verse 19-20

Romans 14:19-20

Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace.

Things which make for peace

I. What these things are.

1. Righteousness.

2. Humility.

3. Love.

4. Faith.

II. We must follow them.

1. Earnestly.

2. Prayerfully.

3. With steady faith in our ultimate attainment of them.

III. The result. Eternal life in heaven with God and Christ. (J. H. Tarson.)

The things which make for peace

1. A peaceable temper.

2. Peaceable measures.

3. Peaceable methods.

Things to be sought after

I. Things which make for peace.

1. Essentials in which we all agree.

2. Objects which we all desire.

3. Blessings in which all can share.

II. Things that edify.

1. Knowledge.

2. Faith.

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

The endeavours of the true Christian for the welfare of his brethren

I. Wherein they consist. Endeavours after--

1. Peace.

2. Edification.

II. What are the common hindrances? Offences which--

1. Destroy mutual confidence.

2. Injure weak consciences.

III. How are they to be overcome.

1. By avoiding the occasions of offence.

2. By encouraging in others the growth of faith.

3. By abstaining from everything that might lead another to act in opposition to his own conscience. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

For meat destroy not the work of God.--

Thy weak brother

I. Weak as he is, is a work of god.

II. May easily be destroyed; for--

1. Though all things are pure--

2. They may become a cause of offence--

3. Especially to him that is weak.

III. Therefore abstain.

1. The enjoyment is little.

2. The consequence dreadful to contemplate.

3. The sacrifice noble. (J. Lyth, D.D.)


Verse 21

Romans 14:21

It is good neither to eat flesh nor to drink wine nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth.

It is good not to drink wine

Many object to total abstinence because it is not insisted on in the New Testament in so many words. True; but Paul appeals to our honour, conscience, brotherly feelings, and that to the Christian ought to be equivalent to a command.

I. Abstinence embodies the spirit of the gospel. “We that are strong,” etc. (Romans 15:1). This principle is recognised in the State. Laws are framed, not for the rich and powerful, but the poor, the oppressed, “the submerged tenth.” So in the home--the infant, the feeble, the invalid have the first claim. So in the Church--the sinner, the weakling should be our supreme care. Unlike the world saying, “Let the devil take the hindmost,” or Cain asking, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Paul declares, “If meat make my brother,” etc. He practised what he preached. Illustrated by his taking the vow solely for the sake of his weaker brethren. Christ also taught self-abnegation, and enforced it by His example. If we were in personal peril every one would admit we should abstain. Our neighbour is, and Christ said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Christ gave His life a ransom for many. We are therefore treading in His footsteps when we sacrifice our opinions and our tastes for the sake of our brother who is in danger of stumbling.

II. It fulfils the golden principle that underlies the text.

1. The case is desperate. “Diseases desperate grown by desperate appliance are relieved.” The surgeon cuts off a limb that he may save a life. The fireman pulls down a house that the devouring flames may not consume a city. Even if drink were one of “the good creatures of God,” it is Christlike to give it up for the sake of those it is destroying body and soul.

2. We are free from a terrible responsibility. Meroz was cursed for its neutrality. Let us not share its fate by aiding the foe or holding aloof in the battle that is raging between the Church and the drink traffic.

3. “None of us liveth to himself,” etc. By taking decided temperance views no one can quote our example for a moderation that may lead to fatal excess.

4. Our usefulness will be increased. We can better help the drunkard back to sobriety and Christ when we support him by our practice.

5. We shall be rewarded. It may cost a struggle to surrender the convictions and habits of a lifetime. But if abstinence be right we are simply confessing that we are wiser to-day than we were yesterday. Having done it for Christ’s sake, we may safely leave ourselves in His hands. (W. Wakinshaw.)

Christian abstinence

I. The general principle of our text is that it is the duty of every Christian scrupulously to avoid all those things which have a tendency to lead others to sin. This principle I would seek to maintain because--

1. Its philosophy is sound. Mankind are imitative animals. What others do, rather than what God says, is the constant inquiry. This gives to example its mighty influence. It is surely most rational that Christians, who possess powerful influence by their example, should inquire, whether in their meats or their drinks, their dress or their manners, they are likely to lead others to evil.

2. Its philanthropy is obvious. Cain proudly asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” and betrayed the apathy of his murderous heart when he asked the question. We are taught to love our neighbour. And how can I do that better than by scrupulously avoiding everything which has a tendency to lead my friend, the members of my family, to sin.

3. Its piety is unquestionable. The whole life of the Son of God was an exemplification of the principle before us.

II. The peculiar application of this principle to the present subject. We ask you to abstain--

1. Not from wholesome food, but from poisonous drink. St. Paul laid it down as an axiom, that the Christian disciple should forego that which was healthful, and pleasant, for the sake of his weak brethren; but we ask you to give up that which is baneful, for which you can say nothing but that it affords you a temporary gratification, and may lead on to habits that may corrupt the mind and destroy the body.

2. Not from that which may trouble a tender conscience, but from that which will debase moral character. The Jewish converts were scrupulous concerning the use of certain meats and drinks, and lest they should be tempted to eat, and thus bring guilt on their conscience, the apostle persuades them, out of kindness to their brethren, to abstain. But we are asking you to regard moral character, for you are likely by moderate use of ardent spirits to form the habit that pollutes the soul of man.

3. From that which, if innocent to yourselves, may be ruinous to others. As the Gentiles could eat and drink with a safe conscience, so you may use ardent spirits so diluted and so seldom, that you may escape the mischief; but what about others--your children and servants, e.g.?

Conclusion: To strengthen the argument I appeal to you--

1. On behalf of yourselves.

2. For the sake of your country. Drunkenness is the source of disease, poverty, and immorality.

3. For the sake of our Churches. Many strong men have been wounded by the hateful practice.

4. For the sake of missions. The use of ardent spirits has been a fearful hindrance. (J. Blackburn.)


Verse 22-23

Romans 14:22-23

Hast thou faith?
Have it to thyself before God.

Duties in regard to things indifferent

Some things are unlawful in their own nature, and can never be right. Others are wrong because forbidden, and only as long as the prohibition continues, and only to the parties concerned. Others are wrong on the ground of expediency, and therefore are sometimes wrong and sometimes right. It is not always easy to discriminate these classes.

I. There are, however, certain criteria by which we can distinguish the naturally wrong from the naturally indifferent.

1. One of these is to be found in our moral constitution. We can see intuitively that malice, envy, pride, etc., are in their nature wrong. They are evil, not because they are forbidden, nor because of their injurious tendency, but they are essentially evil.

2. The Scriptures condemn such things as are in their nature evil, not for one people, nor for a limited period, but for all men always.

II. For things indifferent in their nature the scriptures lay down the following rules.

1. If prohibited for any special reason, they are unlawful while that prohibition lasts.

2. When the prohibition is removed, they are right or wrong according to circumstances.

(a) That there was no harm in doing or neglecting them. If a man chose to circumcise his son, or to keep a holy day, or to abstain from certain meats, he was free to do so.

(b) That he must not make his judgment a rule of duty to others. He must not condemn those who thought or acted differently (Romans 14:4).

(c) But if any of these things became a source of evil, caused the weak to offend, then the law of love forbids our indulging in them, or availing ourselves of our Christian liberty,

(d) But if any of these things were urged as a matter of duty, or a condition of salvation, then it became a sin to make them necessary. Paul, therefore, although he circumcised Timothy, refused to allow Titus to be circumcised. It is difficult to determine whether compliance with the prejudices of others is right or wrong. Our Lord disregarded Jewish prejudices in regard to the Sabbath. In other cases He complied in order to avoid giving offence.

III. There are certain principles important to have fixed as guides of conduct.

1. Nothing is right or wrong which is not commanded or forbidden in Scripture.

2. We must stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and not allow any rule of duty to be imposed on us.

3. In the use of this liberty, and while asserting and maintaining it, we should not so use it as to do harm to our neighbours.

4. Nothing indifferent can be a proper ground of Church discipline or a condition of Church fellowship. These principles are often violated, as in the course pursued by many on slavery, temperance, tobacco, dress, Church ceremonies, etc. (C. Hodge, D.D.)

Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.

The management and offices of conscience

There is a great difference of opinion among good men respecting many things in religion. They are not altogether agreed respecting moral duties. There is one point, however, in which we are all agreed--which is, the necessity of every man’s following the dictates of his own conscience. The man that violates his own conscience stands condemned in his own mind; whilst “He is happy that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.”

I. The offices of conscience. It is given us as--

1. A secret monitor. “The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord.” It testifies beforehand respecting the quality of the act proposed, and operates as a stimulus if the act be good, and as a check if the act be evil.

2. An authoritative judge. It is God’s vicegerent in the soul. Sometimes conscience exercises this authority immediately, as in the cases of Adam and David. At other times it delays its verdict until some occasion give reason for speaking plainly the truth, as in the case of Joseph’s brethren. Sometimes it delivers judgment, and so produces humiliation, as in the case of Peter; at other times it will drive a man to despondency, as in the ease of Judas.

II. Our duty to our consciences. We ought--

1. To get our consciences well informed. Conscience prescribes no rules, but gives testimony to a rule before existing. Nor does any man ever commit sin by following its dictates. St. Paul sinned, of course; but not because he followed the dictates of his conscience, but on account of his not having his conscience well informed. He did it “ignorantly, through unbelief.” We must always look to God to guide us by His Word and Spirit. Nor should we hastily imagine that our views are correct; we must be jealous of ourselves lest Satan deceive us; “Take care that the light that is in you be not darkness,” etc.

2. To consult it on all occasions. To act first, and afterwards to make inquiries, is a certain way to involve ourselves in guilt. To do anything without a careful inquiry into the quality of the action, is presumptuous. Nor is the testimony of conscience always easily obtained; sometimes, indeed, it speaks instantaneously; but generally it requires time to make a fair estimate of the circumstances; and then, if they have respect to God only, we should consider the example of Christ; or if it be in respect to man, we should change places with the person concerned. If we doubt concerning the lawfulness of anything, we are self-condemned if we perform it, for “whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” We should pause, in such a case, and deliberate, until we see our way clearly--and determine not to proceed in anything until we are fully persuaded in our own minds.

3. To keep it upright and tender. Conscience may easily be warped, and silenced too, so that it will give no testimony until awakened by some flagrant enormity.

III. The happiness of conformity to conscience.

1. Peace.

2. Confidence.

3. The favour of God. (C. Simeon, M.A.)

The danger of contracting unallowable habits

I. The foundation on which the caution in the text is built.

1. There are some things which are in themselves indifferent, but are sinful by accident.

2. There are other kinds of actions which some men inadvertently carry into common practice that are not only circumstantially but essentially evil in themselves. And the great danger of contracting any habits of this kind lies here, that they wear off a sense of the evil of them.

II. In what manner this happiness is to be attained.

1. Let us see in what manner bad habits are originally contracted.

(a) What is it? is it in its own nature good, bad, or indifferent?

(b) Whither does it tend? what influence will it have on the temper of my mind or the health of my body?

(c) Where will it end? how will it appear in the review? and what will be the certain consequence if it settle into a habit?

2. How they are to be conquered.

(a) As all bad habits are contracted by frequent repetition of bad actions, so they are conquered by a frequent repetition of the opposite good ones.

(b) Temptations are more weakened by declining than opposing them.

(c) To suppress the first motions and avoid the remote occasions of sin is the easiest way to conquer it.

(d) Let us especially beware of indolence, self-confidence, in a time of prosperity. For when we are least apprehensive of danger it is then oftentimes the nearest.

III. Illustrate the truth of the proposition contained in the text, and show wherein the happiness here mentioned doth consist. This happiness may refer both to the present and future world.

1. With regard to the present world the man who condemns not himself in the thing which he alloweth is happy in two respects especially.

2. This happiness reaches beyond the bounds of time, and will attend us in the world of spirits, where we shall be happy beyond all that words can paint or thought conceive. Conclusion:

1. How well is Christianity adapted to promote the happiness of civil society! If it does not permit us, even in matters of indifference, to do anything that would unnecessarily offend our neighbour, this implies our duty to cultivate the greatest tenderness and good-will towards him.

2. We see that, considering the condition of our natures as frail beings and our connection with creatures as imperfect as ourselves, we are under an indispensable necessity of exercising continual circumspection and frequent self-denial and patience in order to keep our conscience clear.

3. Let us take care, then, what habits we contract, and diligently examine those we have already contracted. (J. Mason, M.A.)

Better be sure than sorry

“Better be sure than sorry!” said a garden-worker, when his employer expressed a doubt whether it was necessary to cover a certain vegetation to protect it from frost. “Better be sure than sorry!”A man who is not sure is very likely to be sorry. He who takes things on trust will be quite likely to be cheated and disappointed at last. The business man who treads in uncertain paths, who is not sure of his course, is very likely to be sorry he has taken it. Keep on the safe side. Do not give yourself the benefit of every doubt. Be lenient to others’ faults, but strict regarding your own. If there be an act which in your own mind is doubtful or questionable in its character, take the course of wisdom and prudence. It would be a terrible thing to be mistaken in the final day; it is better to be sure here than to be sorry at the judgment-seat of Christ. (Christian Journal.)

And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith.--

Doubtful actions

1. Doubt of its rectitude makes the action doubtful.

2. Doubtful actions bring condemnation.

3. Condemnation implies sin.

4. The sin lies in the want of faith.

5. Therefore all doubtful actions should be avoided. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Doubtful things

Resolved, that I will never do anything about the lawfulness of which I am doubtful, unless I am equally doubtful whether it be lawful to omit the doing of it. (Jon. Edwards.)

For whatsoever is not of faith is sin.--

I. How this is often misapplied.

1. When all the virtues of the heathen--

2. The morality of the unconverted--

3. The proprieties of civilised life--are denounced as polished vice.

II. How it ought to be applied.

1. To Christian believers.

2. As a rule for the regulation of all doubtful actions. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Whatsoever is not of faith is sin

I. In order for works to be acceptable to god they must--

1. Be done by His grace.

2. Spring from a principle of faith.

II. The spirit which leads a man to rely on his unassisted efforts as rendering him meet to receive grace is sin, because it involves a denial of--

1. Christ’s atonement.

2. Human infirmity.

3. The need of the Holy Spirit’s help.

Lessons:

1. For reproof.

2. Correction.

3. Instruction in righteousness. (W. Webster, M.A.)

Whatsoever is not of faith is sin

I. Explain the proposition. Some actions are doubtful; in this case compliance is sinful, because it discovers--

1. A contempt of God’s authority and favour.

2. Light views of the evil of sin.

3. A great want of self-denial and resolution.

4. Some prevailing bad principle or motive of action.

5. And leads to greater irregularities.

II. Some practical reflections.

1. How aggravated the guilt of presumptuous sin.

2. We should show a tender regard for others that we do not lead them into sin.

3. In all doubtful cases it is best to keep on the safe side. (J. Lyth, D.D.)
.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Romans 14:4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/romans-14.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, June 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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