Romans 8Observe here, 1. The apostle doth not say, there is no corruption in them that are in Christ Jesus, but there is no condemnation to them. Perfection in holiness is the saint's aim in this life, his attainment only in the next.
2. He doth not say, there is no correction belongs to them, but no condemnation; corrected they may be, condemned they never shall be; yea, they are therefore corrected, that they may never be condemned.
3. The apostle doth not say, there is nothing that deserves condemnation, nothing damnable in them,; but not actual condemnation belonging to them.
4. He doth not say, there is no condemnation to this or that particular believer, to himself, and such as had attained to the like measures and degrees of grace with himself; but he extends the privilege to all believers indefinitely, There is no condemnation to them; that is, to any of them that are in Christ Jesus.
5. He says not, there shall be no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, but there is now none: he hath everlasting life, and is already passed from death to life.
6. Our apostle doth not say, there are not many condemnations belonging to them, but not any: dzeey, not one either from law or gospel; for the gospel has its condemnatory sentence as well as the law; yea, the highest and sorest condemnation is that which the gospel denounces, This is the condemnation, that light, &c. Joh 3:19.
Learn hence, 1. That it is a great felicity and happiness, not to be obnoxious to condemnation.
2. That this felicity and happiness is the portion of all those, and only those, that are in Christ Jesus; not by external federation, and visible profession only, but by virtue of a personal implantation into him by faith.
Learn, 3. That such as are thus in Jesus Christ, obey not the inclinations of corrupt nature, but the holy motions of the blessed Spirit of God.
Learn, 4. That a uniform and constant course of holy walking in the paths of sincere obedience, is both the indubitable mark and character, and also the indispensable duty and obligation, of all such as are freed by Christ from condemnation.
If by the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, be meant the doctrine of the gospel, which is called the ministration of the Spirit, then the note is, that the gospel or new covenant is a law, that it is the law of the Spirit in Christ Jesus, and that it sets the sincere Christian at liberty from the slavery of sin, and the condemning power of the law.
If by the law of the Spirit of life be understood a real and vital principle of regenerating grace, working a new and heavenly life in the soul with great power and efficacy; thence we learn,
1. That the holy and blessed Spirit of God is a spirit of life.
1. Essentially and formally in himself; as the Father hath life in himself, so the Spriit hath life in himself also.
And, 2. effectively or casually, with respect to us. He is a quickening or life-giving Spirit, being the original spring and frontal cause of that spiritual life which is in a gracious soul.
Learn, 2. That every person, before the Spirit of life takes hold of him, is under the law of sin and death.
Learn, 3. That such as are truly regenerate, are made free from the law of sin and death.
4. That it is by the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, that any soul is made free from the law of sin and death.
That is, when mankind could by no means be freed from sin and death, God sent his one and only Son to be a sacrifice for sin, that our liberty might be fully accomplished.
Observe here, 1. The impotency and weakness of the law declared; there is something which the law cannot do, it cannot justify, it cannot save, because it requires that which the fallen creature can never perform, and cannot make reparation for what the fallen creature has done.
Learn hence, That the moral law of God, though an holy and excellent law, and designed by God for holy and excellent ends; yet having now to do with fallen man, is become weak, and altogether unable to justify and save.
Observe, 2. The reason of the law's impotency and weakness assigned: It is weak through the flesh; that is, through our corrupt and depraved natures. Its weakness doth not arise from itself; but from us; the law properly is not weak to us, but we are weak to that. The law retains it authority of commanding, but we have lost our power of obeying. No mere man, since the fall, was able perfectly to observe the law of God. None ever could keep the law of God perfectly, but the first Adam; none ever could and did keep it perfectly, but the second Adam.
Observe, 3. The way and means which the wisdom of God found out for relieving the law's impotency, and for the fallen sinner's recovery: He sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh.
Learn hence, 1. That Jesus Christ was God's own Son, the Son of himself, his natural Son, co-equal, co-essential, and co-eternal, with the Father, partaking of his Father's essence by an eternal and ineffiable generation.
2. That Jesus Christ was sent, and sent by God the Father: he was sent, therefore he had a being before his incarnation; for that which was not, could not be sent; he was sent by the Father, therefore he was and is a person, and a person really distinct from the Father; the one sends, and the other is sent.
Both what doth God's sending Christ imply?
Ans. His appointing and ordaining of him before all time to the work and office of a Mediator: his qualifying and fitting him in time for that great work and office; and his authoritative injunction of him to take upon him our nature, and in that nature to make satisfaction for our sin.
3. That Christ, God's own Son, was sent in the likeness of sinful flesh, not in likeness of flesh: it was real flesh that Christ assumed; but like unto sinful flesh he was dealt with and handled, treated and used, just as guilty men are; accused of gluttony, wine-bibbing, sorcery, blasphemy, and what not; arraigned, condemned, executed for an impostor, deceiver, blasphemer, and breaker of the law.
Thus, though no sinner, yet was he reputed a sinner, and appeared in the likeness of sinful flesh.
4. That the end for which Christ was sent by God, was through the sacrifice of his death to condemn sin, that is, to expiate and take away the guilt of sin, so as that it shall never be charged upon believers to their eternal condemnation. For sin he condemned sin in the flesh. Blessed be God, condemning sin is condemned by a condemned Saviour.
Our apostle here assigns another end and cause, for which God sent his Son into the world; namely, to do what the law commanded, as well as to suffer what the law threatened; perfectly to fulfil the righteousness of the law for us, which it was impossible for us to do for ourselves; for the sake of which we are accounted righteous in the sight of God.
Learn hence, 1. That our Lord Jesus Christ, being made under the law, fulfilled the law; whatsoever the law did or could demand, is fully satisfied and fulfilled by Christ.
Learn, 2. That Christ having fulfilled the law on our behalf, whatever can be required of us by way of punishment, is discharged likewise.
Learn, 3. That though the righteousness of the law be fulfilled for us by Christ, yet the gospel-righteousness must be performed by us ourselves.
Christ has answered the demands of the law for us, but will never fulfil the conditions of the gospel for us. We must repent ourselves, obey ourselves, or Christ's obedience will profit us nothing; none can safely or comfortably pretend to an interest in Christ's obedience, either active or passive, but only such who in their course are actuated and influenced by the spirit, and not by the flesh. That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.
Observe here, 1. A difference of persons mentioned. Those that are after the flesh, and them that are after the Spirit.
2. A difference of properties belonging to these persons; the one minds the things of the flesh, the other the things of the Spirit. They mind them; that is, they relish and savour them, they lay out their thoughts about them, and let out their endeavours after them.
Learn hence, 1. That there are but two sorts of men in the world; some after the flesh, and some after the Spirit.
2. That these two different sorts of men have two different objects, which they savour and relish; namely, the things of the flesh, and the things of the Spirit.
3. That all men discover the true temper of their minds, and the complexion and disposition of their souls, by the respect which they give to either of these objects, by minding the things of the flesh, and the things of the Spirit; that is, by minding them willingly and cheerfully, resolvedly and constantly.
In the former verse we had a description of those that are carnal, and them that are spiritual. In this verse we have the end of the one, and the issue of the other; the end of the one is death, the issue of the other is spritual life, joy and peace.
Observe, 1. The end and condition of all carnally-minded persons, so remaining and still continuing, it is death; always demeritoriously, that which deserves death; and sometimes actually, it procures and hastens the sinner's death; but especially it exposeth to an endless and eternal death.
Observe, 2. The sweet fruit and joyful issue of spiritual-mindedness, it is life and peace.
1. It is life, it is eternal life initially, and it leads to eternal life ultimately. Grace is the first degree of glory, and the glory but the highest degree of grace.
2. It is peace; to be spiritually-minded, lays the foundation of peace with God, with conscience, with the world; the fruit of righteousness is peace, quietness, and assurance forever.
By the carnal mind are meant the rational powers corrupted by our sensitive appetite, or a mind enslaved by sensual lust. Such a temper of mind is opposite to, yea, enmity against God and goodness.
Learn hence, 1. That carnal persons are not better than enemies unto God: There is a perfect contrariety in their affections, inclinations, and actions, to the will of God. They are called haters of God: Not that they hate him as a Creator, but as a law giver; they hate his holiness, not his goodness.
Learn, 2. That whilst men remain carnally-minded, there is no breaking off this enmity between God and them; the carnal mind, whilst such, is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be: Not that this impotency and inability will excuse from guilt, because it is not a created, but a self-contracted impotency; not a natural, but a moral impotency; which arises from a perverse disposition of will, is joined with a delight in sin, and a strong aversion from the holy commands of God.
Man must thank himself, and not God for his lame hand: That he cannot be subject to the law of God, is occasioned by his natural enmity and contracted hardness of heart against God.
To be in the flesh, is not barely to have the flesh in us, but prevailing in us: to be wholly possessed by the flesh, to be drenched and drowned in sin; instead of fighting under Christ's banner against sin, to fight under the banner of corrupt nature against Christ. Such cannot please God; nay, they cannot but displease him, both in their persons and in their actions; for none can please him that are unsuitable and unlike unto him, because all liking is founded in likeness, and all complacency is correspondency.
Learn hence, That carnal men neither do, nor can please God, because not renewed by God, nor reconciled to him: Such as are in the flesh cannot please God.
Observe, He doth not say, the flesh in not in you, but ye are not in the flesh, so as to be acted and influenced, guided and governed, misled and carried away by it. Sincere and serious Christians, although they live in the flesh, yet do they not live after the flesh: But ye are in the Spirit, that is, illuminated, inclined, and enabled by the Spirit to do the will of God: And the Spirit of God dwelleth in you, as a spirit of truth to enlighten your understandings, as a Spirit of holiness to renew your will and affections, as a Spirit of love to inspire the soul with divine and unutterable desires after the favour and grace of God; and the phrase, dwelling, imports presence and propriety, fellowship and intimacy, operation and activity, residence and constancy of abode.
Observe here, 1. That the Holy Ghost is called the Spirit of Christ passively, and by way of reception, as being bestowed upon him, and received by him; also actively, and by way of collation, as being bestowed by him, and conveyed from him.
Observe, 2. That all sincere Christians have the Spirit of Christ, they have him for the blessing of conversion, they have him for the benefit of communion. He dwells in them by his sanctifying impressions, powerful assistance, quickening and comforting influences. He pours in both the oil of grace, and also the oil of joy and gladness into their hearts.
Observe, 3. There are some that have not the Spirit of Christ: Such as are carnal and sensual have not the Spirit; such as are censorious and envious have not the Spirit; such as are malicious and revengeful have not the Spirit; such as are implacable, and of an irreconcileable temper of Spirit, have not the Spirit of Christ.
Observe, 4. That all such as have not the Spirit of Christ, are none of Christ's; they have no spiritual relation to him, they have no special interest in him, and can expect no present consolation or future happiness from him: The proposition is indefinite, and without exception. If any man, prince or peasant, rich or poor, bond or free, have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of Christ's.
If Christ be in you, that is by his Holy Spirit, the body is dead, that is, still subject to death, because of sin, which will never cease to be in us till we die; but the Spirit is life, that is, will give life to it again, because of righteousness, or of that justification which is unto life.
Learn hence, That Christ in believers is a sure pledge and earnest to them of eternal life, both in body and soul; Christ is in believers two ways,
1. Objectively, as the object is in the faculty, or the things we think of, love and delight in, are in our hearts and minds: Thus Christ is said to dwell in our hearts by faith.
2. Effectively, so Christ is in believers by his Spirit, whose gracious influences produce life in them, and likeness unto him.
Learn, 2. That the bodies of believers, in whom Christ dwells, are subject to death as well as other men's, and that because of sin, both original and actual: Sin brought mortality into their natures, death entered the world by sin, and sin goes out of the world by death; true, they are by Christ delivered from the sting, but not from the stroke of death; Their bodies are dead because of sin.
Learn, 3. That believers, though mortal, and subject to death in regard of their bodies, yet they live, and are in a state of immortality, in regard of their souls: The Spirit is life; that is, the spirit of the believer is immortal, yet not exclusively, but emphatically; not as if other men's souls did not live after death, but it is a life worse than death; it is a special immortality that the believer is a partaker of.
Learn, 4. The Spirit is life because of righteousness. If we understand it of Christ's righteousness, that gives us a right and title to salvation; if of our own inherent righteousness, that is a qualification to fit and prepare us for eternal life and salvation; take it in either sense, it teaches us, that without righteousness there can be no hope of eternal life and happiness; we can be neither fit for the employment of heaven, nor for the enjoyment of heaven without it, Col 1:12.
As if the apostle had said, "Although your body must die, yet it shall live again in the morning of the resurrection, and that by virtue of the Spirit of Christ which dwelleth in you, and is the bond of union with him your head; others shall be raised by the power of Christ as their judge, but you shall be raised by virtue of your union with him as your head: They are raised officio judices, you beneficio mediatoris."
Observe here, An happy resurrection promised, the same Holy Spirit of God that raised Christ shall raise you, because the same Spirit dwelleth in you.
Learn thence, That the bodies of the saints are the temples of the Holy Ghost, his dwelling place, living, dying, and dead; if the Holy Spirit dwells in us here, sanctifying our persons, the same Spirit will not forsake our bodies in the grave, but raise them up to glory and happiness. Death dissolves all other unions, except that betwixt the believer and the Spirit of Christ; but the grave itself cannot separate them.
Observe, 2. The condition upon which this promise is made and insured, If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you.
Where note, 1. A blessed relation; the Holy Ghost is called the Spirit of the Father, because the Father is the fountain and original of the Deity, and doth communicate it both to the Son and to the Spirit, to teach us to seek unto the Father, for the gift of the Holy Spirit, he being the donor and dispenser of it.
Note, 2. A glorious operation, the Spirit raised up Jesus from the dead.
Where observe, That the holy scriptures ascribe Christ's resurrection to all the three persons in the glorious Trinity: The Father raised him, Him God raised up the third day Acts 10:40; Christ raised himself, I have power to lay down my life, and the take it up again: Joh 10:18
The Holy Ghost raised up Christ, He was put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit 1Pe 3:18.
Note, 3. A gracious possession, and special inhabitation; He dwelleth in us, in our hearts by his gifts and graces, in our bodies as his living temples, which proves him to be really God, for none but a God possessess a temple; and also to be a distinct person, not an energy or operation, for none but a person can be said to inhabit or dwell; and should teach us to take heed of defiling our bodies by any uncleanness, which are or ought to be the temples of the Holy Ghost: for if any man defile the temple of God, him will God destroy.
That is, seeing the Holy Spirit dwelleth in us, quickening our souls for the present, and raising our bodies for time to come, furnishing the one with grace here, and fitting the other for glory hereafter; therefore we ought to live unto God and not to the flesh; we are not debtors to the flesh, to live after the flesh.
Where note, That the word flesh is not to be taken in the physical, but in a moral sense; not in a physical sense, for the body of man; every one is a debtor to his own body, he owes it food and clothing, nourishment and provision; the beast must be fed, though not pampered, lest it kick and throw its rider: But flesh is here to be taken in a moral sense for sin, for the unregenerate and unsanctified part in man; and then the sense is, that no man owes anything to the service and satisfaction of his sinful lusts, and inordinate desires; none of us owe sin, Satan, or the world, an hour's service; these are not warrantable creditors for any of us to be indebted to.
Learn hence, That believers are not indebted, or owe anything to the flesh, but all to the Spirit; the flesh is a cheater, an usurper, an oppressor; what it calls for, it has no right to demand: but the Spirit is a just creditor, and we are greatly indebted to him, as the author and producer of grace in us, and as he is the preserver and increaser of that grace in us which he has begun.
Oh blessed Spirit! we owe all that we are, and all that we have to thee, all that we have in hand, and all that we have in hope; thou hast a right to all, yea, more than all that we can pay thee, so infinitely are we indebted to thee: But for sin and the flesh, we never promised anything to it, we never got anything by it, nothing but shame and sorrow from it, and, therefore, we are not indebted to it.
Lord, keep us from being debtors to the most cruel and severe creditors in the world, sin and Satan; for the more we are to them, the more we run in arrears with thee, to whose justice we must pay the uttermost farthing.
Our apostle here adds a farther reason why a Christian should not live after the flesh; before, an arguement was drawn a debito, now a damno: He told us in the former verse we owed nothing to the flesh, here he acquaints us what losers we shall be by living to the flesh, If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; which words are a dreadful commination, and severe threatening.
In which observe, 1. The persons threatened, ye, the believing Romans, called to be saints, Rom 1:7. even they are threatened with hell, who were candidates of heaven; he threatens them with death, to keep them from death.
Learn hence, That the ministers of God may use arguments drawn from hell torments, to dissuade the holiest and best saints from sin, and to persuade them to duty; If ye live after the flesh, &c.
Observe, 2. The threatening itself, Ye shall die.
Learn thence, That Almighty God threateneth all those that live after the flesh, with nothing less than eternal death and damnation: To live after the flesh, is to have the flesh our governing principle, our work and trade, our scope and end; and to die for living after the flesh is to undergo a temporal, spiritual, and eternal death; an everlasting banishment from the blessed presence of him in whose presence is fulness of joy: But if ye, through the Spirit, do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. The former words were a threatening to excite our industry; these are a promise to prevent our dejection.
In which observe, 1. The act specified, or duty enjoined, and that is, mortification; If ye mortify, that is, kill every sin: it is not enough to oppose sin, but we must destroy sin, nothing but the destruction of sin must content us.
Note also, the continuance of the act, If ye do mortify, though they had already mortified sin, yet they are called upon to proceed in the work: The ax must be daily laid to the root, and the knife must still stick in the throat of sin, till it drop down dead.
Mortification must be continual, and it must necessarily be painful; nothing that has life will be put to death without pain and struggling; the longer we delay to mortify sin, the more painful shall we make it to ourselves.
Observe, 2. The proper object of this duty, The deeds of the body, by which all sin is to be understood, relating both to the inward and outward man, though the latter only be mentioned, becuase the body is that which is manifestativum pecatti, it is that wherein sin doth especially shew and discover itself.
Learn hence, Mortification must be universal as well as continual, not one deed, but deeds; not the deeds of the body only, but of the soul also must be mortified; all evil dispostiions, depraved habits, corrupt affections, as well as irregular actions, must be watched against, and the whole body of sin become the object of mortification.
Observe, 3. The agents in this work, and they are two:
1. The more principal agent is the Holy Spirit.
2. The less principal is the Christian himself, If ye, through the Spirit, we can do nothing without him, he will do nothing without us.
Learn hence, That in mortifying sin, the Spirit's assistance and our endeavours must concur: Mortification indeed, is not the work of nature, yet man must be an agent in it, not in his own, but in God's strength; we have brought sin, that rebel, into our own souls, and we must use our own endeavours to cast it out: True, it cannot be done alone by ourselves, but it will never be done without ourselves; we can sin of ourselves, but cannot overcome sin by ourselves; we know how to be slaves, but are unable of ourselves to be conquerors. The believer is principium activum, but the Spirit is principium effectivum.
Observe, 4. The reward promised to the performers and performance of this duty; Ye shall live; namely, a life of grace and holiness, a life of joy and comfort, a life of glory and happiness.
Our life of grace is an evidence and an earnest of the life of glory: Grace is glory in the bud, and glory is grace in the fruit.
Learn, That a life of grace and comfort on earth, together with a life of glory and happiness in heaven, is and shall be the assured portion and privilege of all those, who by the Spirit's assistance, and their own concurring endeavours, do mortify sin, and crucify the deeds of the body: If ye mortify, &c. ye shall live; that is holily, comfortably, and eternally; ye shall live a life of exemplary graciousness, a life of highest delight and pleasure on earth, and of eternal blessedness and glory in heaven.
Observe here, 1. A glorious privilege proclaimed, the being the Sons of God.
2. A description of the persons to whom that privilege doth belong, they are such as are led by the spirit of God.
Learn, 1. That the Holy Spirit of God doth perform the office of a guide and leader to all the children of God, he gives life and motion to them, by infusing gracious habits, ( Ezek 36:26). by exiting the soul to act suitably thereunto, and by assisting it in acting; he gives directions and guidance to them, he directs their actions, by enlightening their understandings, by guiding their inclinations, by influencing and inclining their wills; and where he guides, he governs. A general that leads an army, orders its motions and marches; as Christ was, so the Holy Spirit is, a leader and commander to the people.
Learn, 2. That such as are thus led by the Spirit of God, may know and conclude themselves to be the sons of God, because holiness is a certain evidence of adoption. Such as are led by God's Spirit, are undoubtedly God's children; and such as are not his children, refuse to be led by his Spirit, but live under the uncontrolled activity of their own.
Observe, 1. That there is a spirit of bondage, which the children of God do for some time receive, working fear in them. By the spirit of bondage understand those convictions and terrors of conscience which awakened persons labour under, when the law of God charges them home with the guilt of sin; and layest them under direful apprehensions of the wrath of God. The spirit of bondage is neither to be slighted, nor yet to be rested in; not to be slighted, because it is preparatory to conversion; and not to be rested in because it is like a spark of hell kindled in the conscience; it is as a bearded arrow shot into the conscience, which only the hand of God can pluck out.
Observe, 2. That the spirit of bondage to God's children is succeeded by, and ends in a spirit of adoption; the signs of such a spirit are a child-like love to God, a child-like fear and hope, a child-like trust and dependence, and a child-like obedience to his commands.
Observe, 3. That God's Holy Spirit, after he has once been a spirit of adoption never again becomes a spirit of bondage to the same soul, Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear.
Observe, 4. That one principal work of the spirit of adoption is to enliven and embolden the soul in prayer, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
Observe here, 1. That our adoption into God's family is evidenced by the testimony of the Spirit, bearing witness to and with our spirits; here are two witnesses produced to testify the truth of a believer's adoption, namely, God's Spirit and his own; the Spirit testifies by laying down marks of trial in the holy scriptures, by working such graces in us as are peculiar to God's children, and by helping us to discover this work in our own souls more clearly and evidently; our own spirits testify by reflecting upon our general conversation: the Spirit testifies our adoption by evidencing to us our sanctification: And all this is done, not by sudden impulses, and immediate inspirations, which is the witnessing of the Spirit that enthusiasts pretend to, but the Spirit witnesses in a way of argumentation. Thus, whoever repents, believes and obeys the gospel, says the scripture, shall be saved.
Observe, 2. That a Christian may in this life, without a diving revelation, attain a well-grounded assurance of his adoption and salvation; for the Spirit of God both bears witness to him, and bears witness with him, as touching the sincerity of his heart and life.
Observe lastly, That there is no safe and secure way to prove our adoption, but by testimonies brought of our sanctification; the privy seal of our adoption must be thus attested under the broad seal of our sanctification; the goodness of our state and condition must be evidenced by the holiness of our lives and conversation.
Our apostle having asserted and insured the believer's adoption in the foregoing verse, doth in this verse infer the certainty of his inheritance: If children, then heirs.
Learn hence, That all God's children, by special grace and adoption, are undoubted heirs of a blessed and glorious inheritance.
He next declares whom they are heirs of, and whom they are heirs with; they are heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.
1. They are heirs of God, they do inherit God himself, their Father is their portion; man leaves his heirs what he has, God gives his heirs what he is; he which gives them the inheritance, is the inheritance itself which he gives them, by being not only heirs to him, but heirs of him; they have an interest in all his attributes; his wisdom is theirs to guide and direct them, his power is theirs to sustain and preserve them, his mercy and pity is theirs to relieve and succour them.
Oh happy and blessed privilege of God's adopted ones! they are not only heirs of heaven, but heirs of God himself; they have him for their portion, and exceeding great reward.
2. They are heirs with Christ: as Christ is God's heir, so are they heirs with Christ; Christ is God's heir by nature, as he is the Son of God by nature; whatever is God's is his, and they are heirs with Christ; they are members of him, and shall be heirs with him, 1Cor 3:21-23. All his yours, and ye are Christ's, Eph 1:11. In him we have obtained the inheritance; we are heirs in his right.
Oh blessed Jesus! how endearing are our obligations to thee! All that we have is from thee, by thee, and in thee: We are chosen in thee, justified by thee, sanctified through thee, and shall be glorified with thee; For if children, then heirs: heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ. It follows,
Here we see what accompanieth our adoption, namely, present affliction; we are now to suffer, but not alone, we suffer with Christ; If so be that we suffer with him. This if is not a word of ambiguity and doubting, but a word of certainty and assurance and signifies as much as seeing that we suffer with him.
Learn hence, 1. That a state of suffering and affliction on earth is one condition of obtaining our glorious inheritance in heaven; we must suffer that God may be glorified, our graces improved, our love to the world mortified, our longings for heaven increased.
Learn, 2. That the sufferings of believers are the sufferings of Christ; they suffer with him, and he with them; they suffer with him in a way of conformity, he with them in a way of tender sympathy; they are sensible of any indignity offered to him, and he is sensible of any injury offered to them: the suffering saint pledges Christ in his own cup.
Farther, they suffer with him when they suffer for him, when they suffer in his cause, and for his sake; that is, for doing their duty.
Finally, they suffer with him when they suffer by an assistance derived from him, when by his enablement, and by a power communicated from him, they suffer hard things for his name and truth.
Learn, 3. That as sufferings go before, so glory shall certainly follow sufferings; If we suffer with him, we shall be also glorified together. Suffering is the beaten path to glroy, and that which makes it so much the more glorious; suffering fits us for glory, and disposes us for the reception and fruition of it; by the cross we are fitted for the crown.
Learn, 4. That suffering members shall not only be glorified, but be comformable to their glorified Head in glory; as they have here suffered with him, they shall hereafter be glorified together, not with equal glory, but with the same kind of glory.
Three things are implied in our being glorified together with Christ:
1. Conformity; we shall be like him in glory.
2. Concomitancy: we shall accompany him, and be present with him in glory.
3. Conveyance or derivation; we shall be glorified with him; that is, our glory shall be derived from him; his glory shall be reflected upon us, and we shall shine in his beams.
Oh happy condition of God's adopted and afflicted children! The supports which you have under suffering, the benefits which you have by suffering, and the glory which will follow after suffering, render it not only tolerable but desirable; well may they glory in tribulation, which expect such a glory after it.
Observe here, 1. The nature and property of the saints present sufferings; they are short and momentary; The sufferings of this present time. If sharp, they shall yet be short; though great, they cannot be long; for their afflictions cannot last longer than their lives; the one shall end when the other ends.
Oh blessed condition of the righteous! your afflictions are only for this present time, the grave will set you beyond the reach of trouble.
Ah, wretched condition of the wicked! your sufferings are not only for this present time, but for eternal ages; your worm will never die, your fire never be quenched, but you shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord.
Observe, 2. The nature and property of the saints future glory: 'Tis hidden, 'tis a glory that shall be revealed.
Learn hence, That the glory which God has prepared for his suffering saints and children, is an hidden glory; it is hidden from the eye of the world, and lies altogether out of their sight and view; and it is in a great measure hidden from the saints themselves; it is now the object of their faith, but ere long it shall be the object of their sight.
Observe, 3. The vast disproportion between the Christian's present suffering and his future glory and happiness; the one is not worthy to be compared with the other: The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed.
Learn hence, That the weight of the saint's cross is not comparable with the glory of their crown; the happiness of their future glorified state doth infinitely outweigh the misery of their present afflicted state, they are not to be named in the same day.
Observe, 4. The apostle's judgment or determination about this matter: I reckon, I have cast up the matter, as if the apostle had said, and have had my share of sufferings; but I make light of them, they are not worth speaking of, compared with the glory I shall receive as the reward of my sufferings.
Learn hence, That such of the saints of God as have been exercised and tried with the heaviest sufferings, make lightest of them, having the highest account of heaven's glory: I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory, &c.
Observe here, 1. That there is a time indeed a-coming, when all the sons of God, all his adopted children, shall be made manifest:
1. In their persons: It shall then appear who are God's sons, and who are Satan's servants; they shall then be made manifest to themselves, to one another; yea to the very consciences of the wicked.
2. In their actions 1Cor 3:13. Every man's work shall be made manifest of what nature it is, what they have done, whose interest they were in.
3. In their condition, their glory and happiness shall be made manifest: When Christ their life shall appear, they shall appear with him in glory.
Observe, 2. That the creature, or whole creation, expecteth, waiteth, and longeth, for the time of this manifestation.
Some by the creature, and the whole creation, here understand the Gentile world; and then the sense is, "That the heathens shall, by the preaching of the gospel, be rescued from their idolatry, unto which they have been long enslaved, and be brought into the glorious condition of Christ's redeemed ones, to whom the glorious inheritance of heaven doth belong."
But others, by the creature, and the whole creation, understand this miserable world, sensitive and rational, animate and inanimate; and then the sense is, "That the whole frame and course of the creation is so ordered and disposed of by God, as that it carries in it a vehement desire and earnest longing for the full manifestation of God's glory in and towards his children."
Observe, 3. The present condition which the creature is subjected to through the sin of man, it is made subject to vanity; that is, to corruption and mortality, to servitude and servility: the sin of man did not only stain the glory of man, but marred and spoiled the beauty of the whole creation; all creatures are fallen from the first perfection by the fall of our first parents.
Observe, 4. The restlessness and uneasiness of the creature under this vanity and servility: it groans like a man under a burden, or like a travailing woman in labour.
Learn hence, That the sin of man is burdensome to the senseless creature: it is in continual labour to serve man's necessity; it is ofttimes punished together with man for the sin of man; witness the old world and Sodom; and as they are oft-times constrained and compelled by men to serve the lust of men, thus the whole creation groaneth under the burden of man's sin, when he himself groans not: and accordingly the groans of the creature are upbraiding groans, they upbraid our stupidity and unthankfulness; they are accusing groans as they will witness against us at the bar of God; they are awakening groans to excite and stir us up to sigh and long for a better state; and they are instructive groans, to teach us our sins, and their vanity.
5. The expectation which the creature is under of a state of liberty and freedom from the vanity and corruption which they are now subject to for our sin: it has an earnest expectation of being delivered from this bondage.
But how can the senseless and inanimate part of the creation be said to have an earnest expectation?
Not properly, as if the creature was able to put forth such an act directly; for then it must be supposed to have not only life and sense, but reason and grace: but the meaning is, That there is a vehement inclination in the creature to be restored to that first condition which it was in before the fall; and accordingly it is said to wait for the manifestation of the sons of God; that is, for that liberty and freedom from servility and corruption, which, according to their capacity, the creatures hope for and expect, when the full privileges and dignities of the sons of God shall be manifested.
Observe lastly, That the liberty which God's children are reserved for, and appointed to, is a glorious liberty; that is, a liberty which shall be attended with unspeakable glory: The creature shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
And not only they; that is, all the creatures in this visible creation, join in this, they groan together; they do not some groan, and others sing; some travail in pain, and others in pleasure. But they all groan and travail together in pain until now, that is, until the glorious manifestation of the sons of God; but not only do they groan, but we ourselves also, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, &c.
Observe here, 1. A special description of God's adopted children; they have the first-fruits of the Spirit; that is, they have the Holy Spirit in its sanctifying gifts, and graces, and comforts, in some measure; called here first-fruits, because of the smallness of their quantity.
The first-fruits were but an handful, a little portion in comparision of the whole crop; yet was it an evidence and pledge that God would give them the full crop. Thus grace is an earnest of glory, it is a pledge of everlasting life; the beginnings of grace here are certain forerunners of the accomplishment of glory hereafter.
Observe, 2. The actions attributed to the fore-mentioned persons: they groan, they wait.
1. They groan, We who have the first-fruits of the Spirit do groan; they groan under the burden of sin and affliction:
the guilt of sin, the pollution of sin, the sad remains of indwelling sin, make them groan;
their proneness and inclination to evil, their backwardness and indisposition to good, make them groan;
their too frequent backslidings, their daily infirmities make them groan;
their sufferings also from God, and from man for God's sake, cause them to groan;
but it is added, We groan within ourselves; that is, secretly to ourselves, undiscerned by the world, and in a manner peculiar to ourselves, as persons influenced by religion and grace: as Christians have joys and comforts, so have they griefs and groans, peculiar to themselves.
2. For the redemption of their bodies; that is, for their resurrection, for their redemption from mortality and corruption, for the redemption of their whole man, soul and body, do believers wait; their bodies were members of Christ, temples of the Holy Ghost, instruments of, and companions with the soul in holy duties; and accordingly, the hour is coming, when the complete redemption both of soul and body shall be fully and finally perfected; but in the mean time they groan and wait for it.
Learn from the whole, That all sanctified Christians, who have received the first fruits of the Spirit, do groan and wait for a much better state than what they do at present enjoy.
We are saved by hope; that is, we are at present supported by hope, our present expectation of our future glorious condition beareth up our spirit under its sufferings, and carrieth us joyfully through all difficulties; or,
We are saved by hope, that is, all the salvation which we have at present is in hope, not in hand; in expectation, not in possession;
heaven in hope, is more worth than the whole world in hand; and seeing there is a certainty of hope, there is a certainty of salvation: We are saved by hope.
Observe next, The nature of hope declared: 'Tis an expectation of good things promised but not enjoyed; vision and fruition put an end to hope; none hopes for that he already enjoys: Hope is conversant about things unseen as well as faith: Faith is the evidence of things not seen, and hope is the expectation of those things: The object of hope is a future good, a possible good, a promised good, a good promised by God, and believed by us.
Observe, lastly, The necessary adjunct, and the inseparable companion of hope, and that is patience, and waiting for the good hoped for: If we hope, &c. then do we with patience wait, &c.
Learn hence, That they only hope for eternal life aright, who continue in the pursuit of it with patience and perseverance; there must be found with us a waiting patience, a working patience, a bearing and forbearing patience, with a persevering continuance in well-doing, if we hope for glory and immortality, and eternal life.
Learn hence, 1. That the holiest and best of saints labour oft-times under great infirmities in the work and duty of prayer, not knowing what to pray for, or how to manage that important affair as they ought.
Hence it was that the apostles themselves, being sensible of their own disability in this kind, made their addresses to Christ himself to teach and instruct them how to pray, Luke 11:1.
Learn, 2. That it is the work and office of the Holy Spirit of God to help our infirmities in prayer, or, as the word signifies, to help together with us, to set his shoulder to ours, and lift with us at the same burden: the Spirit of Christ and our own spirit must both do their part in carrying on this work; if ever we expect the Spirit of Christ and our own spirit must both do their part in carrying on this work; if ever we expect the Spirit's assistance, we must exert our own endeavours.
More particularly; the Spirit helps us in prayer, by working in us a deep sense of our spiritual wants, by giving us an insight into the promises, and enabling us to plead them at the throne of grace, by creating and stirring up desires in our souls to have our wants supplied by encouraging and emboldening us to come to God in prayer as to a father, with an humble reverence and child-like confidence.
But though the Holy Spirit be our guide and assistant in this duty, yet not so as to give us occasion to think that the words of prayer are immediately inspired and dictated to us by the Holy Ghost: let us have a care that we mistake not an idle and foolish loquacity, a frothy eloquence and affected language, outward vehemency and boldness of speech, a natural fervency, or an acquired fluency of expression, for the Spirit's help and assistance in prayer.
Implore the Spirit's help, and he will help thy infirmities: he will show thee thy sins, to give thee matter of confession; he will show thee thy wants, to give the matter of petition; he will show thee the mercies and blessings of God, to yield thee matter of thanksgiving; he will show thee the church's miseries and necessities, to furnish thee with matter of intercession.
Thus the Spirit will assist thee, but never expect that he should act without thee.
Learn, 3. What is the proper work and office of the Holy Spirit in prayer: it is to make intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
But how is the Spirit our intercessor? Is not that Christ's office?
Ans. Christ is an intercessor for us, the Holy Spirit is an intercessor in us.
Christ, in respect of his meritorious sufferings, is an advocate, mediator, and intercessor with the Father for us.
The Holy Spirit intercedes in us, by enabling us for, and assisting us in, the duty; by quickening our affections, and enlarging our desires; by setting us a-groaning after the Lord.
Groaning notes the strength and ardency of desire, which through the fervency of it puts the soul to pain, and an holy impatience till it be heard.
Lord, how flat and dead are our hearts sometimes in prayer! How much are our spirits straitened! But, if we want words, let us not want groans; let thy Spirit help us to groan our a prayer, when we want ability to utter it; for silent groans proceeding from thy Spirit shall be heard in thine ears, when the loudest cries shall not be heard without it.
Observe here, 1. The title or attribute given and appropriated unto God: He searcheth, or knoweth, the heart. He was the maker of the heart, and is the disposer of the heart, and will judge every man according to his heart; and therefore he must know the heart thoroughly and perfectly, certainly and infallibly; and it is the joy of an upright person, that God knoweth and searcheth the heart.
When the world condemns him for insincerity, he rejoiceth that God knoweth his integrity; and when he has it in the purpose of his heart to do good, but wants power in his hand to accomplish and effect it, this is his consolation, That God accepts as done, what he did desire and resolve to do, 2Chr 6:8.
Observe, 2. The action here attributed to the heart-searching God: he knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit; that is, he knoweth the workings of the Holy Spirit, and of our own spirits also, in the duty of prayer. It is a great comfort to the children of God, that the Lord knoweth what is the mind of our spirits in that matter. God doth not only hear his people's prayers, but he hears their desires: and grants not only the desires of our lips, but the desires of our hearts, which have not been expressed by our lips.
Observe, 3. Who the persons are whom the Holy Spirit intercedes for in prayer: they are saints, He maketh intercession for the saints; for them exlusively, and none but them; for them inclusively, for all and everyone of them: the Spirit sanctifies all those in whom and for whom he intercedes: he is first a spirit of regeneration, before he is a spirit of intercession; he first puts gracious dispositions into us, and then stirs up holy desires in us.
Observe, 4. The qualification necessary to render our prayers acceptable to God, they must be according to God; that is, according to the will and mind of God.
And that, 1. In respect of the matter of them: we must pray only for things lawful and warrantable.
2. In regard of the manner of them: we must pray in faith, with fervency, and in the name of Christ.
3. In respect of the end of them, and what we propound to ourselves in them; which is, the glory of God.
Notwithstanding Christ's mediation, and the Spirit's intercession, we may ask, and not receive, if we ask amiss; that is, for bad ends, that we may consume it upon our lusts.
That is, "All dispensations of providence whatsoever, whether they be ordinary afflictions, or extraordinary trials, which do befall the children of God in this life, shall certainly be directed by his wisdom, and overruled by his power and goodness, for the temporal, spiritual, and eternal good of his children and people.
Observe here, 1. What those things are, which are especially installed in that comprehensive term, All things.
By all things here, we are to understand, Omnia tristia, non Omnia turpia; "All the saints' afflictions, not their sins;" for then they might rejoice in their sins and wickedness, which is damnable impiety, as well as in their sufferings for Christ, seeing they may rejoice in tht which by God's designation tendeth to their good.
But by all things, the apostle means all providential occurrences and dispensations, all stations and conditions whatsoever; be it prosperity or adversity, health or sickness, liberty or captivity, life or death, God's glory and his children's good shall be certainly furthered and advanced by it.
Observe, 2. In what sense all things may be said to work for good to good men; namely, as they shall promote and further the temporal, spiritual, and eternal welfare, of the children of God.
If it be good for them to be rich, to be in honour, to be at liberty, they shall be so; if it be better for their souls, and more conducive to their eternal welfare, to be low in the world, to be frequently under the rod, to be harassed with afflictions, and assaulted with temptations, they shall have them.
Nothing that is needful shall be kept from them, only God must be judge what is needful and when 'tis needful.
He that thinks he can cut better for himself than God can carve for him, makes himself wiser than God, and has not only lost his faith, but his wits too.
Observe, 3. That all things are said to work together for good; not singly, separately, and apart, but as coadjutors, and adjuvant causes, and mutual helps.
Afflictions and temptations seem to work against us; but being put into the rank and order of causes, they work together with other blessed instruments, as the word and prayer, to an happy issue.
More particularly: they work together with God, they work together with us, and they work together one with another, for our good, sooner of later.
Observe, 4. How can all things be said to work for good: particularly evil things? sufferings from God, and sufferings from man for God's sake?
What! must we call evil good? pain pleasure? torment ease? and loss gain? Must we disbelieve our senses that we may believe the scriptures?
Answer, Though affliction, which is evil in its own nature, cannot bring forth good; yet surely God can bring forth good out of evil, light out of the way to their triumph, and every cross providence a step to the accomplishment of his promise.
God suffers evil things to befall us, to keep out worse things, and causes evil things to prepare us for better things; the cross makes way of the crown.
For affliction, there is glory; for light affliction, a weight of glory; and for light affliction, which is but for a moment, a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
Observe, 5. The character of the persons to whom this privilege doth belong: they are described by their Christian affection, they love God, and by their effectual vocation, they are called according to his purpose.
They love God, and evidence their love to him by an high estimation of him, by their delight in him, by their desires after him, by their longings for the full fruition and final enjoyment of him.
And as they love God, so are they called of God; externally by the dispensation of the gospel, internally by the operation of his Holy Spirit: they are called out of darkness into light, out of bondage into liberty, and all this efficaciously and powerfully, yet sweetly, and freely, in a way congruous to the will's liberty.
Observe, 6. The certainty and evidence of this proposition and assertion, That all things work together for good; it is not built upon conjecture, or bare probability, but upon certain knowledge, We know; partly by divine revelation, God has told us so; partly by experience, we find it so. And when the apostle speaks it out, We know, it is a word of confidence and assurance, it is a word of comfort and encouragement: all the saints of God to the end of the world, as well as the apostle himself, may depend upon it, live in the faith and assurance of it, and draw all that consolation from it, which may render their lives in some sort an heaven upon earth.
And now if this be an indubitable and undeniable truth, That whatever sufferings and afflictions a saint meets with shall work together for good: then we may infer, that a suffering condition is not so bad a condition as the world supposes it. The lion of affliction is not so fierce as he is painted. Times of difficulty and trial bring serious thought of God into our minds, who are too prone to forget both him and ourselves in affluence and quiet.
Blessed be God, the time of affliction is no unprofitable time, nor uncomfortable time neither. 'Tis a thinking time, an awakening time, a teaching time, a repenting time, a weaning time; therfore blessed is the man whom God correcteth and teacheth.
St. Paul in these verses, lays before us a chain of the causes of salvation inseparably linked together, the first of which was before all time, namely, God's foreknowledge of us from all eternity, and his predestinating and appointing of us to eternal life: Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate.
But what were we predestinated unto?
He tells us in the next words, To be comformed to the image of his Son; That is, to be made like unto our Lord Jesus in affection and disposition, in life and conversation, in the temper of our minds, and in the actions of our lives; like unto him in his sufferings, in the cause of his sufferings, righteousness-sake and well-doing; in the kind of his sufferings, reproach, hatred, outward violence, and death itself; and in the manner of his sufferings, with meekness and patience; and like unto him in his glory; suffering with him, we shall be glorified together.
The second privilege we are partakers of, is in time, namely, effectual vocation: Whom he did predestinate, them he also called. They are called out of a state of ignorance and darkness, of sin and wickedness, of slavery and bondage, unto knowledge, grace and holiness; and the Holy Spirit of God, inclines and enables them to obey this call.
The third privilege is justification: Whom he called, them he also justified; That is, absolved from guilt, and freed from condemnation; discharging them from their obnoxiousness to wrath, and the severity of divine displeasure.
The last privilege we are partakers of, is after time, namely, glorification; Whom he justified, them he also glorified. They are already glorified in Christ their head, they have already the earnest and first-fruits of glory, namely, the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, and they shall ere long partake of the same glory which Christ himself is in possession of; Father, I will that those whom thou hast given me, may be with me, where I am, to behold my glory. Joh 17:24.
But it may be said,, that one link is wanting in this golden chain of salvation, namely, sanctification: No mention is here made of that.
Ans. Some conceive, that sanctificaiton is couched in effectual vocation; others, that it is included in glorification; for sanctification is gloria inchoata, glorification is gratia consummata; grace is the lowest degree of glory, and glory is the highest degree of grace.
Others answer, That the apostle makes no mention here of sanctification, for this reason, because he was setting down here the causes of salvation.
Now, sanctification being the way to salvation, but not the cause of it, the apostle mentions not that here; though elsewhere he sufficiently shews, that none are now justified, nor can be hereafter glorified, that are not here sanctified and renewed.
From the whole, learn, 1. That there were certain persons, before all time, chosen of God to possess and inherit eternal life.
2. That God's design in chusing of them, was to render them conformable to Christ, in his holiness, in his sufferings, and in his glory.
Learn, 3. That those whom God chuseth before time, he calleth, justifieth, and sanctifieth in time, and will finally glorify, when time shall be no more.
What shall we say to these things? that is, to the forenamed truths and doctrines, to the forementioned privileges and benefits, what comfort doth arise from them? How shall we live up answerable unto them? Neither the tongues of men or angels is sufficient to declare the comprehensive fulness of the foregoing favour of vocation and justification here, and glorification in heaven.
Such love and goodness are beyond expression; it is as much as if the apostle had just said, "What boundless love did our God move?
No tongue can it express: No angel can this mystery scan, nor tell our happiness."
What shall we say to these things? It follows, If God be for us, who can be against us? That is, seeing God is for us, who can, safely and successfully, be against us?
Learn hence, 1. That at all times, but especially in the time of affliction and distress, danger and difficulty, God ever has been, and will be, on his people's side.
2. That those whom God is for, and on whose side he is of, need not fear, either how many or how mighty they be that are against them. God is for his people; that is, he approves and owns them, he assists and helps them, he will succeed and bless them, reward and crown them.
Who then can be against them rationally, against them successfully, against them safely? How dangerous is it to be against those whom God is for? If God be for us, who can be against us? And if God be against us, who can be for us?
Here we have, 1. A proposition laid down, containing matter of the highest consolation to us; namely, that God spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all.
He spared not; that is, he did not spare to give him, or part with him; with Abraham, he did not withhold his Son, his only Son from us.
Again; he did not spare him; that is, he did not spare to punish him; he did not abate him one farthing, nor spare him one stroke, which divine justice did or could demand.
It is farther added, that God delivered him up for us all. Judas delivered up Christ, Pilate delivered him up, and the Jews also; Judas for money, Pilate for fear, the Jews for envy; but none of these delivered him up for us: But God the Father delivered up his Son, and God the Son delivered up himself, as a prisoner by the sentence of the law is delivered up for execution; and his being delivered up for us, denotes the vicegerency of his sufferings, not only for our good, as the final cause, but for our sins, as the meritorious cause, in our room, place, and stead.
Learn hence, That the utmost rigour and severity of divine justice was inflicted and executed upon our Lord Jesus Chrsit in the day of his passion, and that by the pleasure and appointment of God the Father: He spared not, but delivered up his own Son.
Observe, 2. The comfortable inference and conclusion which the apostle draws from the foregoing proposition; How shall he not with him freely give us all things? Intimating, that the greatest mercies and best of blessings shall not be denied to us, or withheld from us.
If Christ be ours, 1Cor 3:21. all things are yours (that is, all spiritual, temporal, and eternal mercies) and ye are Christ's.
For, 1. No other mercy can be so dear to God as his own Son: He was his soul's delight. If, therefore, he spared not the most excellent mercy, he will not withhold any inferior mercy.
2. There is no other mercy we want, but we are entitled to it by the gift of Christ, and it is conveyed to us with Christ; all things (as to right) are ours, if we be his.
3. If God gave us his Son, when we were his enemies, certainly he will deny us nothing that is good for us, now we are reconciled and made friends.
It is our apostle's argument, If when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. Rom 5:9.
Observe here, 1. The apostle's confident and daring challenge: Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?
Where note, The universality of the challenge: It is universal in a double respect:
1. In respect of persons accusing, Who shall? He excepts none in heaven, none on earth, nay, none in hell; neither sin, nor the law, nor Satan, nor conscience, having anything to lay to our charge, in order to our condemnation.
2. In respect of crimes; he excepts no sort of sin, though never so heinously aggravated, and sadly circumstantiated; Justifying grace is their full discharge.
Learn hence, That it is impossible for any charge or accusation to take place against those whom God doth justify, because there is nothing to accuse them of, none to accuse them to, and nobody to frame or make the accusation against them.
Well might the apostle say, Who can, who shall, who may, who dare lay anything to the justified person's charge!
Observe, 2. The ground and reason of this confident challenge, it is God that justifieth, who shall condemn?
Here note, 1. That there is a very gracious privilege vouchsafed to believers, which the scriptures call justification.
2. That it is God that justifieth the believer's person, and pardons his sins, and none but God; he is the person against whom the offence is committed, and he alone it is that absolves us from the guilt contracted.
When the justice of God accuses, when the law of God accuses, when our own consciences accuse, when Satan and wicked men accuse, the mercy and goodness, the truth and faithfulness of God, will for the sake of his Son's satisfaction, acquit and discharge us; for it is God that justifieth.
The apostle here goes on with the triumphant challenge in the foregoing verse begun, Who shall condemn the justified believer?
And here observe, 1. The holy challenge of faith, it is ready for all comers, and bids defiance to all accusations. If the law implead, faith says, Christ, in the likeness of sinful flesh, has condemned sin in the flesh. If death looks the believer in the face, faith saith, Christ has abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light. If Satan roar, faith can scorn, and tell him to his teeth, he is a conquered enemy; that Christ by his death has destroyed him that had the power of death. Yea, if God himself frown upon the believer, faith can bring to God a righteousness that is highly pleasing to him, with respect to which God may be just, and yet the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.
Observe, 2. The ground of this triumphant challenge which faith enables the believer to make, and that is the mediation of Jesus Christ, in the four eminent branches of it, his death, resurrection, exaltation and intercession. Christ died, is risen again, is even at God's right hand, making continual intercession for us.
Thence learn, That a believer's triumphs over condemnation, do eminently arise from the several acts of Christ's mediation. Christ died and rose again; our debt is therefore paid, because our surety is discharged; he sits at God's right hand as a testimony of the completeness of his sacrifice and satisfaction for us, and he continually intercedes, that is, presents himself to his Father in both his nature, and in our names, as our Surety, our Advocate and Mediator: Who then shall lay anything to the believer's charge, or who shall condemn him?
That is, none shall separate, nothing shall separate the believer from the love of Christ; either from the love that Christ bears to him, or from that love which he bears unto Christ; no person shall, no condition of life can separate them, neither outward troubles, nor inward distresses, no evils either felt or feared; the apostle defies and despises them all, because neither of them alone, nor all together, can unclasp the arms of divine love, in which believers are safely enfolded.
Learn hence, That no troubles, tribulations or distresses whatsoever, can dissolve the union betwixt Christ and believers, or ever separate them from his love.
As if the apostle had said, "The saints of old have endured all manner of suffering, and yet were not separated from the love of God; therefore, the like, or worse suffering shall not be able to separate us now."
Here note, What may be the lot and portion of believers in this life, and that is, killing for the sake of Christ; For thy sake we are killed all the day long. The words all the day long, denote the continuance of the persecution, the unweariedness of the enemy, and the patience of the saints.
Learn hence, That such as resolve upon the profession of Christianity must prepare for killing, if God requires, and be ready to lay down their lives fo their religion, when God calls: For thy sake we are killed; that is, ready to be sacrificed; a readiness of disposition, and a preparation of mind, is found with us, to part with all that is dear unto us, even life itself, for the sake of Christ.
As if the apostle had said, "We are so far from being separated from Christ, by the afflictions and persecutions which we undergo, that we are conquerors by our patience, nay, more than conquerors: we do not only bear our trials, but we glory in tribulations; we conquer by our patience, we are more than conquerors by our cheerfulness."
But because these words, more than conquerors, look big, and sound great, the apostle instantly subjoins, that 'tis by Christ's strength, and not by our own, that we overcome and conquer; More than conquerors through him that loved us, which words are a periphrasis of Christ: It is both a proper description of him, and a comprehensive description.
When the apostle said, he that loved us, he doth in effect say everything else; he that was born for us, that died for us, that redeemed and saved us; all these were the effects and fruits of his love, and they are all comprehended in this saying, Him that loved us.
Note, lastly, how the believer is said to overcome by the help of this person. More than conquerors through him that loved us.
Whence learn, That all a Christian's strength lies in Christ, and not in himself; all his strength for victory over sin, all his strength for victory over suffering, is all received from Christ, is all to be attributed and ascribed to Christ; the strength of every saint, yea, the whole host of saint, lies in the Lord of hosts.
Our apostle concludes this excellent chapter with triumphant expressions, as he had begun it; in the first verse he proclaims, that there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus; here in the last verse he pronounces, that nothing shall separate them from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus; I am persuaded, &c.
Where observe, 1. The proposition positively laid down, nothing shall separate from the love of Christ, his love is like himself, unchangeable and everlasting; he ever loves the same person, and ever loves the same reason: Likeness is the ground of love, the attractive and loadstone of it; now the image of Christ, by the Spirit of Christ, is both preserved and increased in the believer's soul; this engages the heart of Christ towards Christians in such a manner, that nothing shall separate them from his love.
Observe, 2. The enumeration and induction of particulars which the apostle makes use of, for confirming this proposition, that nothing can separate the believer from the love of Christ, nor diminish his interest in him.
Neither life, nor death, that is, neither the hope of life, nor the fear of death:
Nor angels, neither good nor bad; nor the good angels, for they will not attempt it; nor the bad angels, for they can never effect it;
Nor principalities, nor powers; by them understand earthly power, the great and mighty potentates of the world persecuting us for Christ, yet shall never be able to divorce us from him:
Nor things present, nor things to come; neither the things which we enjoy at present, or endure at present, or may hereafter meet with, be it prosperity or adversity; their present and future condition of life shall be sanctified, whatever comes; come what may come, come what will come, come what can come, nothing shall come amiss unto them; whatever has happened, does happen, or may happen to them in this world, shall not frustrate their hopes of future happiness in the world to come:
Nor height, nor depth; that is, neither height of honour, nor depth of ignominy; neither the top of worldy advancement, nor the bottom of worldly debasement; neither the height of spiritual enlargement, nor the depth of spiritual desertions. God can and will keep his saints in an honourable, in a comfortable, yea, in a safe state and condition all at once:
Nor any other creature; that is, if there be any other creature not comprehended, or comprized in the foregoing enumeration, whatever it be it must fall under the rank and denomination of creatures; and no creature either in heaven, or in earth, or in hell, shall separate Christ and us.
Learn hence, That it is a matter of unutterable consolation, and inexpressible triumph to believers, that nothing, though never so great and powerful, though never so amiable or terrible, shall be able to separate them from the love of their Saviour.
Blessed be God, our standing in Christ is not so lubicrous and slippery as it was in Adam: he might stand or might fall; the believer shall stand, the root bears up the branches; we shall be kept by the mighty power of God, with the concurrence of our own careful and continual endeavours, through faith unto salvation.
Observe, 3. The full assurance which the apostle had of the stability of a believer's estate, I am persuaded, or I am fully assured:
But how so?
Not by extraordinary and special revelation, not by rapture into heaven; not by the apparition of an angel to him: but his assurance is built on that which is common to all believers; namely, the same spirit of faith, and the same love of God shed abroad in the hearts of all believers.
Observe, 4. How the apostle having spoken in his own person in the former verse, saying, I am persuaded, changes the number in the last verse: Nothing shall separate us not me.
Where note, How he associates himself with all true believers in the participation of this privilege: They have all an interest in the same love of God, the same promises of salvation, and have felt the sanctifying work of the same spirit.
It is impossible that God should retract his merciful purpose to save believers; he that chose them from eternity, from before all time, and gave his Son to suffer death for them in the fulness of time, will persevere in his purpose; namely, by grace to bring them to glory.
He whose grace prevented them when they were in their pollutions, in a state of enmity, yea, in a state of obstinacy, will he leave them after his image is engraven, and reinstamped upon them?
He that united them to Christ when they were strangers, will not cast them out of his love, now they are his members; their intercessor will preserve them from falling, and present them faultless before the presence of his Father's glory with exceeding joy.
God's love unto his children is everlasting, and the covenant that is built upon it, is more firm than the pillars of heaven, and the foundations of the earth: Well might the apostle then say, Nothing shall separate us from the love of God.
Observe, 5. and lastly, the ground of this love's permanency and duration towards believers; it is the love of God in Christ Jesus that is vouchsafed to us for the sake of Christ Jesus: God looks upon Christ, and loves him, and them in him; he loves all that are members of him, and all that are like unto him.
Oh blessed Jesus! it is for thy sake that the Father smiles upon us; we are chosen in thee justified through thee, sanctified by thee, and shall be eternally glorified with thee; for neither life, nor death, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any creature whatsoever, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Eternal thanks to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for the consolation that flows from hence! May so high and glorious a privilege oblige all that are interested in it, to the exercise of universal holiness, remembering, that as the privileges of the gospel are glorious and great, so the duties it requires are exact and strict.
If we would enjoy the consolation in the last verse of this chapter (here dilated upon) we must perform the duty in the first verse, (there insisted upon) namely, to walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit; otherwise the privilege of non-condemnation there, and of no separation from the love of God in Christ Jesus here, will neither belong unto us, or ever be enjoyed and improved by us.
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