There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
In the verses before us three points are touched on regarding the gospel as God's power to sanctify. These are: (1) The preliminary work which had to be done by the coming of Christ, or the basis laid in the life and death of our Lord with a view to our being sanctified. Next, (2) wherein sanctification really consists; it is the substitution of God's Spirit as a source of moral influence in lieu of the congenital tendency or drift towards sin of our own nature. And (3) how this working of the Divine Spirit in a believer must issue in his complete revivification, or the victory of life over death both in soul and body. In other words, we have here the origin, the process, and the issue of a believer's sanctification in Christ.
J. Oswald Dykes, The Gospel according to St. Paul, p. 225.
References: Romans 8:1-17.—Homilist, vol. i., p. 81. Romans 8:2.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 362; Homilist, 3rd series, vol. iv., p. 47. Romans 8:3.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 18; S. A. Tipple, Sunday Mornings at Norwood, p. 22. Romans 8:3, Romans 8:4.—Homilist, vol. vii., p. 124; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 266. Romans 8:5.—W. Gladden, Ibid., vol. xxv., p. 280. Romans 8:5, Romans 8:6.—G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 187; M. Rainsford, No Condemnation—No Separation, p. 28. Romans 8:5-8.—H. D. Rawnsley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxii., p. 100. Romans 8:5-11.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. v., p. 306. Romans 8:6.—Homilist, new series, vol. ii., p. 315; T. M. Herbert, Sketches of Sermons, p. 191. Romans 8:6-8.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvi., p. 148. Romans 8:7.—Homilist, new series, vol. ii., p. 90. Romans 8:7, Romans 8:8.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. x., p. 172; E. Blencowe, Plain Sermons to a Country Congregation, vol. ii., p. 362.
Romans 8:8Man's Inability to Please God.
I. How comes it to pass that man in his natural state cannot please God? We reply that the very fact of our being creatures of God, as we undoubtedly are, places us under an irreversible obligation to consecrate our every power and talent to God, whether or not He may have issued any direct law to which He demanded obedience. Ours is not a case in which there could be debate as to the authority of the lawgiver, neither is it one in which submission may be refused without actual hostility. But who can think it a disputable point, whether a man whilst in the flesh, whilst in his natural state before conversion, submits himself to God's law? Who can be so ignorant of his own native tendencies as not to know that they impel him directly to what the law forbids and away from what the law requires?
II. An unconverted man may endeavour to conform himself to the precepts of his Maker, but there is something so distinct and contrary between that which is to obey and that which is to be obeyed, that the attempt will only issue in fresh proof of the alleged impossibility. It is not a slight change which passes over men when they are converted. Before conversion they are at enmity with God, in a state which makes the pleasing of God impossible, and it is come to pass, as the result of conversion, that they have a mind which is love toward God and which finds its great delight in keeping His commandments; and therefore we may well say that the change is not slight, not such as could take place without being felt or observed. If any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature. We are born heirs of wrath, and we must undergo a great internal radical change before we can become heirs of glory.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2225.
References: Romans 8:8.—M. Rainsford, No Condemnation—No Separation, p. 38. Romans 8:9.—Homilist, new series, vol. ii., p. 348; D. Ewing, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 299; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., p. 281; vol. v., p. 274. Romans 8:9-11.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. v., p. 471. Romans 8:10.—T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. v., p. 131; J. Jackson, Church Sermons, vol. i., p. 185; G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 31.
Romans 8:11The Beginning of the Redemption of the Body Here.
I. The first point which it is needful to consider is the actual degeneracy of the body of man through his yielding it to the uses of sin. What might have been the condition of man's physical frame had Adam remained in a state of purity we have no means of knowing. The human body under its present conditions of sleep, nourishment, and reproduction is manifestly but the temporary tent and workshop of the soul. The shadow which fell on the soul of Adam fell through his senses over all the world. There was a manifest degeneracy of the bodily life; and that was equivalent to the degeneracy of the world, and of all things with which he had to do.
II. Consider next the office of Christianity with regard to the human body, the beginning of the work of its redemption in this present world. The resurrection of the Lord Jesus is set forth as the type and the pledge of the present quickening of the body of the believer. I say, a present quickening: it is not a future resurrection only, though that is plainly involved, but it is a present quickening of the body which is dead by sin to be alive by the Spirit unto God. Because of the Spirit and the life He brings, "He that raised up Christ from the dead, shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit which dwelleth in you." Let us trace the outline of the process. (1) The gospel establishes the true and sovereign principle of rule over the bodily passions and powers. (2) The indwelling Spirit gives new possession of the body and its powers. (3) The indwelling Spirit alone explains the organisation of man's body, and justifies its erectness. (4) The gospel completes its ministry by assuring to the body a share in the life and development of eternity. We are called here to reverence the body, and to work at its redemption, because this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and because this body shall stand crowned and robed in splendour before the eternal throne.
J. Baldwin Brown, The Divine Life in Man, p. 214.
References: Romans 8:11.—G. Calthrop, Pulpit Recollections, p. 147; M. Rainsford, No Condemnation—No Separation, p. 56. Romans 8:12.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 35. Romans 8:12-14.—Ibid., p. 64; G. Moberly, Parochial Sermons, p. 201.
Romans 8:12-16St. Paul is telling us here that there are two masters, either of whom we may serve, but one or other of whom we must serve. Christ is one, sin is the other. Christ is the Lord of our spirits. If we claim Him for our Lord and serve Him, then we must live as if we were spiritual beings, trusting, hoping, loving, holding our bodies in subjection; if we serve sin, then the body becomes the master, and the spirit dies; we eat and drink and sleep; faith, hope, and love perish. "But," says St. Paul, "it need not be so with any of us. Christ, the Lord of our spirits, saw that the spirits of men were dead within them, that they were living as mere fleshly creatures, and He came down and lived on this earth and died on it, that He might deliver these spirits out of death, and bind them to Him."
I. You see, St. Paul declares that there is a spirit in every one of you. Every poor savage on the earth, who has never heard of a soul or of Christ, has strange thoughts within him; he cannot tell whence they have come or whither they are going. These thoughts that stir within us, these feelings and cravings and wants, which all the things that we see and hear do not satisfy, these are worth all the world to us if only we know to whom to carry them.
II. He, into whose name we are baptized, of whose death we are made partakers, He who died that our sin might die, who rose that our spirits might rise and live, He is still with us, the Lord of our spirits, still unchanged and unchangeable. Believing in Him, claiming that right in Him which He gave us in baptism, and which He has never withdrawn from us since claiming our union with Him who has died unto sin once, but who now dieth no more, for death hath no more dominion over Him, our spirits may shake themselves free from this oppressor who is holding them down. With our spirits we can trust in Him, with our spirits we can hope in Him, with our spirits we can rise up with Him, and ascend with Him, and reign with Him. And then if they have tasted this liberty, they would wish to enjoy it continually, and that they may do so they will desire to mortify the deeds of that body which has kept them from enjoying it and would keep them from enjoying it still. They will desire to give up their spirits, to be ruled by His spirit, to be filled by Him with all holy desires and good thoughts, and prompted to all just works.
F. D. Maurice, Christmas Day and Other Sermons, p. 50.
Romans 8:12-17From Present Life to Future Glory.
I. The leading of the Holy Spirit is no leading at all unless it be efficacious. If we are led by the Spirit, that means that to some extent we are day by day amending our ways, exerting ourselves successfully to do right, and making substantial progress in virtue.
II. Wherever you find submission to Divine guidance, you have evidence of a Divine truth. We have no other mark of that sacred and lofty relationship, the noblest belonging to our nature, save character.
III. If on solid grounds a believer has made sure Paul's second arch in this brief bridge which spiritual logic builds from earth to heaven, then he is prepared to go on to the third and last, "If sons, then heirs."
J. Oswald Dykes, The Gospel according to St. Paul, p. 237.
References: Romans 8:13.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 20. Romans 8:13-21.—Ibid., vol. iv., p. 225. Romans 8:14.—G. E. L. Cotton, Sermons and Addresses in Marlborough College, p. 48; W. Hubbard, Christian World Pulpit, vol. x., p. 65; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 113; M. Rainsford, No Condemnation, p. 71; S. Greg, A Layman's Legacy, p. 123. Romans 8:14, Romans 8:15.—H. W. Beecher, Sermons, 1870, p. 280.
Romans 8:15The Thought of God the Stay of the Soul.
I. The thought of God is the happiness of man; for though there is much besides to serve as subject of knowledge, or motive for action, or means of excitement, yet the affections require a something more vast and more enduring than anything created. He alone is sufficient for the heart who made it. We do not give our hearts to things irrational, because these have no permanence in them. We do not place our affections in sun, moon, and stars, or this rich and fair earth, because all things material come to nought and vanish like day and night. Man too, though he has an intelligence within him, yet in his best estate he is altogether vanity. If our happiness consists in our affections being employed and recompensed, "man that is born of a woman" cannot be our happiness, for how can he stay another who continueth not in one stay himself?
II. But there is another reason why God alone is the happiness of our souls; the contemplation of Him, and nothing but it, is able fully to open and relieve the mind, to unlock, occupy, and fix our affections. Created things cannot open us, or elicit the ten thousand mental senses which belong to us and through which we really live. None but the presence of our Maker can enter us, for to none besides can the heart in all its thoughts and feelings be unlocked and subjected. It is the feeling of simple and absolute confidence and communion which soothes and satisfies those to whom it is vouchsafed.
III. This sense of God's presence is the ground of the peace of a good conscience, and of the peace of repentance also. True repentance cannot be without the thought of God; it has the thought of God, for it seeks Him; and it seeks Him, because it is quickened with love, and even sorrow must have a sweetness if love be in it.
J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. v., p. 313.
I. Adoption is that act whereby we are received into the family of God. We are none of us in God's family by nature. It is not a matter, properly speaking, of birth; but we are brought into it from without; literally we are adopted. Christ is the one Son of God. Into the Son God elects and engrafts members. He elects them everywhere, and He engrafts them just as He pleases; but they are all chosen from without and brought in. As soon as the union takes places between a soul and Christ God sees that soul in the relationship in which He sees Christ. He gives it a partnership in the same privileges—He treats it as if it were His own child—He gives it a place and name better than of sons and daughters. In fact, He has adopted it.
II. But this adoption, if it stood alone, would be no blessing. We cannot sufficiently admire the wisdom of the provision, and thank God for the manifestation of His grace, that wherever He gives adoption He follows it by the "Spirit of Adoption." The Spirit seals the union by making the affinity between the Creator and the creature close, happy, and eternal. The Spirit of Adoption cries "Father." A child does not ask a father as a stranger asks him. He does not want wages for his work, but he receives rewards. He does not want them; he works for another motive, and yet he does not know that he has another motive, for he never stops even to ask what his motive is. That "Spirit" has a present possession in the whole universe. All creation is his Father's house, and he can say, "Everything in it—everything that is great and everything that is little, everything that is happy and everything that is unhappy, every cloud and every sun-ray—all is Mine, even to death itself.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 4th series, p. 130.
References: Romans 8:15.—C. Kingsley, National Sermons, p. 216; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 276; D. Moore, Penny Pulpit, No. 3217; M. Rainsford, No Condemnation, p. 80.
Romans 8:16The Evidence of Christian Sonship.
I. The evidence of sonship—its nature. In illustrating this there are two points to be considered—the ground on which that evidence is founded; the manner in which it rises in the soul. In inquiring into the first of these let us carefully mark two things in Paul's words: (1) He draws a distinction between God's Spirit and our spirit: it is not our spiritual life that bears this testimony, it is the Spirit of God bearing witness to the soul; and (2) he implies by the whole contents of the chapter that the evidence is not fitful, but continued and progressive. Consider the manner in which the evidence of sonship rises in the soul. Paul speaks of the action of God's Spirit in three of its aspects, in each and all of which we see the way in which this evidence enters the soul. (1) Deliverance from the carnal. Freedom from this is the first sign of sonship. Here then is the witness when the old affections are being uprooted—a deep desire created after personal purity—when the chains of sin are snapped. (2) The spirit of prayer. Sometimes the Christian prayer transcends all words. The heart's wounded affections, blighted hopes, unexpressed longings—all burn in one deep, impassioned cry: this spirit of prayer possessing you is a sign of adoption. (3) The spirit of aspiration. This is a sign of sonship—life's imperfectness the ground of hope.
II. The necessity for this witness. Take Paul's words, and we shall find he brings out three great results of the witness of the Holy Ghost which show three reasons why every man should possess it. (1) We need it to enable us to enter into perfect communion with God; (2) we need it in order to realise our spiritual inheritance; (3) in order to comprehend the glory of suffering.
III. Its attainment. In order to acquire this witness, carry into action every spiritual power you possess—translate every emotion into life. Remember you have to work together with God. Take care that you grieve not the Holy Spirit. Feel that every point gained in spiritual life is a point to be maintained. Take care that when you are brought nearer to God by suffering, you do not allow yourself to fall back; if you do, the light of the Spirit will fade. "If then ye live in the Spirit, walk in the Spirit."
E. L. Hull, Sermons, 1st series, p. 294.
The Witness of the Spirit.
I. Our cry "Father" is the witness that we are sons. Mark the terms of the passage: "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit." It is not so much a revelation made to my spirit, considered as the recipient of the testimony, as a revelation made in or with my spirit considered as co-operating in the testimony. The substance of the Spirit's evidence is the direct conviction based on the revelation of God's infinite love and fatherhood in Christ the Son, that God is my Father, from which direct conviction I come to the conclusion, the inference, the second thought, "Then I may trust that I am His son." The Spirit's testimony has for form my own conviction, and for substance my humble cry, "Oh thou my Father in Heaven."
II. That cry is not simply ours, but it is the voice of God's Spirit. Our own convictions are ours because they are God's. Our own souls possess these emotions of love and tender desire going out to God—our own spirits possess them, but our own spirits do not originate them. They are ours by property; they are His by source. Every Christian may be sure of this, that, howsoever feeble may be the thought and conviction in his heart of God's Fatherhood, he did not work it, he received it only, cherished it, thought of it, watched over it, was careful not to quench it; but in origin it was God's, and it is now and ever the voice of the Divine Spirit in the child's heart.
III. This Divine witness in our spirits is subject to ordinary influences which affect our spirits. The Divine Spirit, when it enters into the narrow room of the human spirit, condescends to submit itself, not wholly, but to such an extent as practically for our present purpose is wholly, to submit itself to the ordinary laws and conditions and contingencies which befall and regulate our own human nature. Do not think that the witness cannot be genuine because it is changeful. Watch it and guard it lest it change. Live in the contemplation of the Person and the fact that calls it forth, that it may not. To have the heart filled with the light of Christ's love to us is the only way to have the whole being full of light.
A. Maclaren, Sermons in Manchester, 1st series, p. 54.
References: Romans 8:16.—G. Huntingdon, Sermons for Holy Seasons, p. 211; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. vii., p. 23; J. Brierley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxix., p. 181; Preacher's Monthly, vol. v., p. 278; vol. viii., p. 91; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 133; J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 10th series, p. 142; D. Moore, Penny Pulpit, Nos. 3184, 3187.
Romans 8:17I. First, the text tells us, No inheritance without sonship. In general terms, spiritual blessings can only be given to those who are in a certain spiritual condition. Always and necessarily the capacity or organ of reception precedes and determines the bestowment of blessings. The light falls everywhere, but only the eye drinks it in. There is no inheritance of heaven without sonship; because all the blessings of that future life are of a spiritual character.
II. No sonship without a spiritual birth. The Apostle John in that most wonderful preface to his Gospel, where all deepest truths concerning the eternal Being in Himself and in the solemn march of His progressive revelations to the world are set forth in language simple like the words of a child, inexhaustible like the voice of a god, draws a broad distinction between the relation to the manifestations of God, which every human soul by virtue of his humanity sustains, and that which some, by virtue of their faith, enter into. Every man is lighted by the true Light because he is a man. They who believe in His name receive from Him the prerogative to become the sons of God. Those who become sons are not co-extensive with those who are lighted by the Light, but consist of so many of that greater number as receive Him, and that such become sons by a Divine act, the communication of a spiritual life, whereby we are born of God.
III. No spiritual birth without Christ. Christ comes to make you and me live again as we never lived before; live possessors of God's love; live tenanted and ruled by a Divine Spirit; live with affections in our hearts which we never could kindle there; live with purposes in our souls which we never could put there. There is but one Being that can make a change in our position in regard to God, and there is but one Being that can make the change by which man shall become a new creature.
IV. No Christ without faith. Unless we are wedded to Jesus Christ by the simple act of trust in His mercy and His power, Christ is nothing to us. Christ is everything to him that trusts Him. Christ is nothing but a judge and a condemnation to him that trusts Him not.
A. Maclaren, Sermons in Manchester, 1st series, p. 68.
Romans 8:17I. Sonship with Christ necessarily involves suffering with Him. This is not merely a text for people that are in affliction, but for all of us. It does not merely contain a law for a certain part of life, but it contains a law for the whole of life. It is the inward strife and conflict in getting rid of evil, which the Apostle designates here with the name of suffering with Christ, that we may be also glorified together. On this high level and not on the lower one of the consideration that Christ will help us to bear outward infirmities and afflictions, do we find the true meaning of all that Scripture teaching that says indeed, "Yes, our sufferings are His," but lays the foundation of it in this, "His sufferings are ours."
II. This community of suffering is a necessary preparation for the community of glory. God puts us to the school of sorrow, under that stern tutor and governor here, and gives us the opportunity of suffering with Christ, that by the daily crucifixion of our own nature, by the lessons and blessings of outward calamities and changes, there may grow up in us a still nobler and purer and perfecter Divine life; and that we may so be made capable—more capable, and capable of more—of that inheritance for which the only necessary thing is the death of Christ, and the only fitness is faith in His name.
III. That inheritance is the necessary result of the suffering that has gone before. The suffering results from our union with Christ. That union must needs culminate in glory. The inheritance is sure because Christ possesses it now. Trials have no meaning unless they are means to an end. The end is the inheritance; and sorrows here, as well as the Spirit's work here, are the earnest of the inheritance. The measure of the distance from the farthest point of our darkest earthly sorrow to the throne may help us to the measure of the closeness of the bright, perfect, perpetual glory above, when we are on the throne; for if so be that we are sons, we must suffer with Him; if so be that we suffer, we must be glorified together.
A. Maclaren, Sermons in Manchester, 1st series, p. 82.
References: Romans 8:17.—Homilist, 3rd series, vol. iv., p. 48; M. Rainsford, No Condemnation, pp. 95, 103; Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 135. Romans 8:18.—H. Wace, Church of England Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 49; Fletcher, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. xvi., p. 221. Romans 8:18-21.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 27.
Romans 8:18-22The Groans of Creation.
I. In trying to understand the several voices which make up this chorus of expectation, we must commence with the dumb companion of our hope, the physical creation.
II. Deep in the constitution of our present earth, and continuous along its whole past history, I think we may trace the subjection of all its animated beings to a law of vanity. We are in a world which has not yet attained, neither is already perfect, but which yearns and labours in the hope to produce what shall be better than itself.
III. Christ has been delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the Son of God. In His deliverance is contained a pledge of that for which nature groaning waits. The original conditions under which our world was placed and has been kept so long become intelligible when we see that the world, like man, is a redeemed world, on its way to share in the splendid destiny to which Christ conducts redeemed humanity.
J. Oswald Dykes, The Gospel according to St. Paul, p. 246.
References: Romans 8:18-23.—Homilist, new series, vol. iv., p. 154. Romans 8:18-27.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 395. Romans 8:19, Romans 8:20.—W. C. E. Newbolt, Counsels of Faith and Practice, p. 134.
Romans 8:19-21The Freedom of the Regenerate Will.
The plain meaning of this text is, that the whole world, conscious of its disinheritance, is crying aloud for the Spirit of adoption, which is even now about to be shed abroad. The nations are teeming with gifts of secret grace which shall be gathered and compacted, by the power of a new birth, into the mystical body of Christ; they are waiting and breaking forth in impatient desire for the message of life which the Father gave to His Son, and His Son has given unto us, that out of that dark waste shall spring up sons and saints of God. "He will destroy the face of the covering and the vail that is spread over all nations," and the powers of the regeneration and of the resurrection shall work throughout mankind, casting forth the first and the second death and healing the wounds of all creatures. The great gift of the gospel in our regeneration is spiritual liberty, that is, the true freedom of the will.
I. Consider how deep a degradation sin is—above all, in the regenerate. The hatefulness of sin is hardly more appalling than its shame. There is no slavery so great as that of a will which has broken the yoke of Christ, and become, by its own free choice, the servant of its own sinful inclinations; for the will itself is in bondage to its own lusts. Sometimes they appear under forms that the world admires, and become, every one, masters to whom we abandon the glorious liberty of the children of God. There is something very melancholy in the abject and eager servility with which men obey their hard commands; sacrificing health, peace, freshness of heart, conscience, the light of God's presence, the very soul of their spiritual life. They enter again insensibly into the bondage of corruption, and groan under the burden which weighs on them more heavily day by day.
II. We may learn, next, how great is the misery of an inconsistent life. It forfeits the true grace of Christian obedience. To be religious from mere sense of necessity, that is, against our will, is a contradiction and a yoke. It is much to be feared that many whose lives are pure, who appear devout in all the outward usages of the Church, serve God with a heart that has no pleasure in obedience. Their free will is given to another, and it is but a constrained homage they render to Christ. The glorious liberty of the children of God turns to a forced, necessary observance of commandments. They are under a law, and have retrograded in the scale of spiritual perfection; from sons, they have turned back again to be servants; and their whole temper of heart towards God is infected by a consciousness of indevotion and of a lingering, undutiful will. It is because we do not realise the blessedness and the power of a free will; because we will not do God's will as sons, out of a loving and glad obedience, therefore we cannot stand against the world. It takes us captive and puts out our eyes, and sets us blinded to the mill to labour in darkness, in an involuntary and shameful servitude.
H. G. Manning, Sermons, vol. iii., p. 114.
References: Romans 8:19-22.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxviii., p. 186; J. Owen, Ibid., vol. xxix., p. 376.
Romans 8:19-23I. The groaning creation. We are surrounded by the evidences of a conflicting existence, a state of being—not all evil, certainly; certainly not all of God. All things about us show the wrestlings of two orders of things—two orders of spirits, who find on our earth their battle-ground and arena of conflict. "The whole creation groaneth." Time is the great school of suffering, and life is the great teacher. My text points me to a suffering world, but this is God's pathway to restitution. Christianity associates Divine ends and aims with suffering and my text points to them.
II. The earnest expectation. All the agitations of the world are the earnest of its need of rest. All things are in their prison or their grave, and beauty blooms only as the plant of a southern clime might bloom in Iceland. And what foundation has the groaning world for its expectant waiting for a time of restitution? The foundation is in the fact that the ransom has been paid and peace has been proclaimed to a revolted universe. We have heard in the groans of creation the tones of wailing over the fall of man, and in this restitution there is a threefold blessing: (1) There is reconciliation; (2) by that reconciliation Scripture assures us that the salvation of all mankind is made possible and the salvation of an immense multitude is certain; (3) this reconciliation was effected by one Mediator, and by one only, even our Redeemer Jesus Christ.
III. To that hour of restitution all things are pointing. What is our Lord doing now in His high and holy place? He is expecting till His enemies become His footstool; looking out, looking forward. There is no ignorance implied in this, but a pausing until the fulness of the time shall come. No, from His intercessory throne, while He takes an interest in His friends, He is expecting. The turpitude and the crime of His enemies will only be His threshold to more illustrious and exalted power. He beholds all the hosts of evil tramping on their mad and foredoomed way. He is expecting till—they become His footstool.
E. Paxton Hood, Sermons, p. 249.
References: Romans 8:19-23.—M. Rainsford, No Condemnation, p. 171. Romans 8:19-25.—E. Johnson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xii., p. 177. Romans 8:20.—C. J. Vaughan, Words of Hope, p. 221; Homilist, new series, vol. ii., p. 350. Romans 8:20-22.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 122. Romans 8:21.—Homilist, vol. vii., p. 123; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. vi., p. 345; Parker, City Temple, vol. i., p. 62; G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 334.
Romans 8:22-23Groans of Unrenewed and Renewed Nature.
I. All things bear about them strange tokens of good and evil. Each pictures to us some part of the glory of their Maker, each of our vanity. They minister to us, only by their corruption; they live, only to die. Seeds grow not, but by perishing; when grown they are our food through their destruction. Flowers turn not to fruit but by the fading of their glory. All seems to toil, all changes, all decays, all, in one weary and restless round, seem to say, "We abide not for ever, here is not thy rest." The creature, then, is subject to vanity, through outward decay; itself perishable, and serving to perishable ends.
II. But more! It was all formed "very good" to its Maker's praise; and now, through which hath He not been dishonoured? If beautiful, man loves and admires it without or more than God, or worships it instead of Him. If any bring outward evil, man on occasion of it murmurs against its Maker. All around us and in us bears sad tokens of the Fall. As then to us death is to be the gate of immortality and glory, so in some way to them. Whence Holy Scripture says elsewhere, "The earth shall wax old like a garment"; and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner. As then we, so many as are in Christ, perish not utterly, but put off only corruption, to be, by a new and immortal birth, clothed with incorruption, so also they.
III. The taste of heavenly things kindles but the more burning thirst to have them. How is it that we have so few of these heavenly longings? In two ways is the longing for God attained, and neither will avail without the other. First, unlearn the love of self and of the world and of its distractions; secondly, contemplate God, His lovingkindness and His promised rewards. Dedicate, morning by morning, the actions of the day to God; live in His presence, do things or leave them undone, not simply because it is right or kind, much less according to mere natural temper, but to God. If we make God our end, He who gave us the grace thus to seek Him will give us His love; He will increase our longing desire for Him; and whom in all we seek, whom in all we would please, whom in all we would love, Him shall we find, Him possess, here in grace and veiled, hereafter in glory.
E. B. Pusey, Sermons, vol. ii., p. 304.
References: Romans 8:22, Romans 8:23.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 193; T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. i., p. 94; W. J. Keay, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 340; A. C. Tait, Church Sermons, vol. i., p. 305.
Romans 8:23The Aspirations of a Christian Soul.
I. The nature of Christian aspirations. There are two points to be illustrated here. (1) The fact that the firstfruits of the Spirit are groaning for our full adoption. The Spirit reveals to us our adoption (a) by revealing the love of God, (b) by the gift of spiritual power, (c) by the gift of Divine peace. (2) The groaning reaches to a prayer for the redemption of the body. The power of the body to perpetuate the influences of past sin renders it an awful hindrance to the man who feels the firstfruits of the Spirit of God. And thus it is that we who have the firstfruits of the Spirit must incessantly cry for the redemption of the body from its weakness and pain and evil, because we know that until then we can never reach the heavenly love and power and blessedness which belong to us as sons of God.
II. Their prophetic hopes. I say "prophetic" advisedly; for in the term "firstfruits" Paul has distinctly implied that these aspirations are not mere dreams, but real prophecies—not fanciful expectations, but actual foreshadowings of the beauty and blessedness that shall be when God makes perfect the redeemed. (1) We hope for the redeemed body; for as we said just now, the body is the grand hindrance to the aspirations of the soul. And now mark the prophetic cries which lie hid in that hope. Because it is a firstfruit of the Spirit, it foretells that every bodily power shall come forth, not crushed, but made stronger and brighter from the touch of death. (2) We hope for the redeemed world. Paul in the context has dared to affirm that the pain and death of the creature form one loud prophetic wail for the redemption of the earth. Take then your hopes, and believe that in their highest intensity they are literally prophetic of the age when the new Jerusalem shall come down from God like a bride adorned for her husband.
III. Their present lessons. (1) We need them all. The very loftiest of these aspirations are absolutely needful to guard us against the very lowest and meanest of the temptations of the everyday world. (2) We must live them all. If we simply treasure them in the soul as beautiful feelings, and do not strive to carry their influence into life, they will fade; for every aspiration which has not practical power is absolutely injurious to a man's spirit, and destined to wither into an idle sentiment.
E. L. Hull, Sermons, 1st series, p. 234.
References: Romans 8:23.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. x., p. 92; J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 6th series, p. 253; Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, pp. 176, 231, 341.
Romans 8:23-27Waiting in Hope.
I. The unintelligent creatures wait, but not in hope. They travail as in pain with the burden of a future birth, of which they themselves are ignorant. We know what we wait for. The sons of God possess already an earnest of their coming inheritance.
II. Sober this hope of Christian men in the final regeneration of all things may always be; confident it should be, for it is built on Divine facts. But how seldom can it reach a buoyant or cheerful tone! But the Christian, oppressed with the world's load, is not alone at his solitary prayers. A mystic comrade is near, who tempers the natural cry of one in pain into dutiful and gracious submission, and above another Paraclete or Intercessor, who likewise, touched with the feeling of our infirmity, makes prayer for us in His own name on high.
J. Oswald Dykes, The Gospel according to St. Paul, p. 256.
Romans 8:24Eternal Life.
I. "We are saved by hope," says St. Paul: "but hope that is seen is not hope." This is the great contrast which runs through the New Testament. Indeed, scientific proof is just what, in the very nature of the case, religion does not admit of. What we mean by scientific proof is the verification, by event or experiment, of some calculation or reasoning or interpretation of facts, which has pointed to some particular conclusion, but not as yet actually reached it. Before this verification there is a direction in which things plainly go, a disposition of facts one way, but there is only probability; after, and by this verificacation, there is certainty. To have scientific proof of a future state is to have found out by having died and actually passed into that state and found yourself in it, that the reasoning on which you had previously in life expected and looked forward to that state was correct reasoning, and that you had made a true prophecy. But this proof, in the nature of the case, we cannot have now.
II. There is one great distinction between the current probabilities of life and the expectation of a future state. The probabilities of life pass in rapid succession into their state of either verification or falsification; they do not, for the most part, keep us long waiting: when it is evening, we say it will be fair weather, for the sky is red; and in the morning we say it will be foul weather, for the sky is red and lowering; the morning soon fulfils or refutes the presage of the evening, and the evening soon refutes or fulfils the prognostic of the morning. It is the same with respect to the transactions of life. But the great prophecy of reason has not yet received its verification. A future life is not proved by experiment. Generation after generation have gone to their graves, looking for the morning of the resurrection; the travellers have all gone with their faces set eastward, and their eyes turned to that eternal shore upon which the voyage of life will land them. But from that shore there is no return; none come back to tell us the result of the journey; there is no report, no communication made from the world they have arrived at. No voice reaches us from all the myriads of the dead to announce that the expectation is fulfilled, and that experiment has ratified the argument for immortality.
III. It is forgotten, in the charge of self-interestedness against the motive of a human life, that this motive is not only a desire for our happiness, but a desire, at the same time, for our own higher goodness. The two wishes are essentially bound up together in the doctrine of a future state, as not only a continuation of existence, not only an improvement in the circumstances of existence, but as an ascent of existence. In the Christian doctrine of a future state we have this remarkable conjunction, that the real belief in the doctrine goes together with, and is fastened to, the moral sublimity of the state. In the pagan doctrine both of these were absent; the life itself was poor, shadowy, and sepulchral on the one hand, and the belief in it was feeble and volatile on the other. In the Christian doctrine both are present together, the glorious nature of life itself and the reality of the belief in it. Besides, the desire for immortality is not a lonely one; no human being ever desired a future life for himself alone; he wants it for all for whom he entertains an affection here; all the good whom he has known, or whom he has only heard of. Christianity knows nothing of a hope of immortality for the individual alone, but only of a glorious hope for the individual in the Body in the eternal society of the Church triumphant.
J. B. Mozley, University Sermons, p. 46.
References: Romans 8:24.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 115; Ibid., vol. iv., p. 121; Ibid., vol. xi., p. 193; Ibid., vol. xii., p. 301; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 93; A. Murray, The Fruits of the Spirit, p. 323; G. Litting, Thirty Children's Sermons, p. 213; E. Bickersteth, Church Sermons, vol. ii., p. 129; M. Rainsford, No Condemnation, p. 135.
Romans 8:26The Spirit the Help to Prayer.
The highest gift of God is that which is for all alike. We need the Spirit for all the works we have to do. We can speak no true, honest, sound word unless we ask Him to teach us what we shall say and how we shall say it.
I. What are we to do when we feel as if we could not pray? as if that were the greatest difficulty of all? It is the Spirit who helps us, not only to think and to do, but also to pray—who draws out our desires towards God, who speaks more for us and in us than we know. It is very wonderful, but yet it must be so. We could not pray if God Himself were not stirring up prayer in us. It is not we who first seek for fellowship with Him; He seeks to have fellowship with us. The children begin to ask for their Father because the Father has been first seeking His children.
II. Is it not a blessed thought that the Spirit is uttering His groans for the deliverance of this world of ours from all its sin and slavery and wretchedness? Should we not rejoice that God knows what is the mind of the Spirit, for it is His own mind? Should we not trust, with all our hearts, that His will should at last be done on earth even as it is in heaven? And do not think that those who have prayed that prayer here on earth pray it less fervently when they leave the earth. Then their tongues are loosed; then they can pray for us and all their friends fighting here below, as God's Spirit would have them pray; then they begin to know that no prayer or groan that has been uttered in the lowliest chamber or in the darkest dungeon shall be in vain. God's Spirit inspired these prayers and groans, and His new heaven and new earth will be the answer to them.
F. D. Maurice, Sermons in Country Churches, p. 80.
References: Romans 8:26.—Homilist, vol. vi., p. 410; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 12; W. Harris, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 320; J. Silcox, Ibid., vol. xxxii., p. 104; H. W. Beecher, Sermons, 9th series, p. 296; D. Moore, Penny Pulpit, No. 3149; M. Rainsford, No Condemnation, p. 122; F. Paget, Anglican Pulpit of Today, p. 447; T. Birkett Dover, A Lent Manual, p. 27; G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 217.
Romans 8:26-27The Intercession of the Spirit.
I. We have here the reality of prayer confirmed. Paul was a man of truth and soberness, free from superstition and fanatical weakness. He knew of what he was speaking, and he was sure that the Romans would know it too. It was for no inner circle of enthusiasts he was writing here, but for all that were in Rome, called to be saints. The Church in the metropolis, the busy, active society of Rome, is bidden. Mark the care God takes to help the infirmities and educate the spirit of His children. Those prayers of yours, He is saying, are oftentimes the truest and devoutest in which you can say nothing. Feeling and desire—in these, as well as in thought and purpose, God can recognise the spirit of the worshipper.
II. The Divine origin of these unutterable longings is here confirmed. Consider the solemn blessedness of these words: "The Spirit helpeth our infirmities." In the solemn hour of prayer, on which our life and activity so much depends; when, as we ask we receive, and if we ask not we receive not; in the solemn hour of prayer, that leaves us refreshed and strengthened, or wearied and yet more perplexed; in the solemn hour of prayer, when we are desiring from God what shall be the bane or blessing of many days, we cannot dispense with the Spirit's intercession.
III. God fully understands the meaning of these longings that are not fully understood by the subject of them. In the unutterable cry for God, He reads a desire for communion with Him fuller than has yet been satisfied. In the struggle of the soul that knows not "what to pray for as we ought," in the shaking sobs of him who is torn by distracting feelings between personal wishes and the feeling that there may be something higher and nobler far than these, He recognises the spirit striving to conquer the weakness of the flesh, the passion for submission, however hard it may be. to submit.
A. Mackennal, Christ's Healing Touch, p. 203.
I. What is prayer? (1) Look upon it as grounded upon the office and work of our adorable Saviour. It is not merely feeling, earnestness, fluency of utterance, confession of sin and want. It is the eye fixed upon the blood and the High Priest. We come boldly to the throne of grace, because we have a great High Priest before the mercy seat. (2) But there is another view of prayer, connected with the work of the Spirit. The quickening power of this Divine agent brings life into the soul and life into our prayer. It is not the exercise of any particular grace, but the combined energy of all. Confidence is linked with humility, contrition, love; all the meek and lowly fruits, so adorning, so necessary to the completeness of Christian consistency, find their place here when the heart is poured out before the mercy seat. And yet what a mass of infirmities! Look at—
I.. The matter of our prayers. We know not what to pray for. Left to ourselves we are as likely to be ruined by our prayers as the ungodly by the neglect of prayer. Yet we are not left here in despondency. We are led to mark—
I.I. Our assistance in prayer. Great as our infirmities are, our assistance is fully equal to meet them. We have not only an Almighty Surety, but an Almighty Supporter. The blessed Spirit of God condescends to our need, and brings abundant supply, apart from all other sources of encouragement. (1) He excites in us intense desires, groanings unuttered and unutterable—perhaps too big for utterance—desire venting itself in sighs. Nothing but experience can explain this exercise. It is the warmth, life, and vigour of prayer. It is the breathing of Divine supplication, as if the Spirit of God was joining His own soul with ours. (2) Again we observe this Divine help in moulding these unutterable desires in subjection to the will of God. Never are we likely to receive a blessing unless we are willing to go without it.
IV. The acceptance of prayer. Often we do not thoroughly know it. But not a breath is lost before God. When the fire seems to go out, have we never found the living spark underneath the heap of embers? And so does the great Searcher see under this mass the spark of His own kindling—the mind of His own Spirit. So does He spell out the ill-printed letters, the disordered and confused matter, and brings them out to be the desires framed by His own Spirit making intercession—moulding them to His own will.
C. Bridges, Family Treasury, Dec, 1861.
Romans 8:26-27The word "likewise" with which my text begins institutes a comparison between what is set forth in the text and what had been said before. To grasp this comparison fully we must go back to the eighteenth verse. The Apostle there sets out with a declaration, the peculiar wording of which is meant to show that he is speaking, not with the exaggeration of eloquent appeal or excited feeling, but with the sobriety of simple and deliberate calculation. "For I reckon that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us hereafter." Yet few men have had richer experience of the sufferings of the present life than Paul. The thought to which the word "likewise" in my text goes back is this. Creation, so far as we are concerned with it, sympathises with us, but its sympathy is unavailing; it cannot aid us: on the contrary, the aid is to come from us to it; it looks to our deliverance as the beginning of its own. We want, therefore, something else. We want a sympathy not merely of weak creature fellow-feeling, but of powerful creative aid, and this sympathy my text sets forth. "Likewise," in like manner, but with far different result, "the Spirit also" not merely sympathises with us, but "helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." The effectual, omnipresent sympathy of the third Person in the ever-blessed Trinity is the wondrous fact which these words disclose.
I. This is, perhaps, one of the deepest, as it is surely one of the most comforting passages in Holy Writ. It takes us at once into those dark mysteries of self-consciousness, hidden from all others, half hidden even from ourselves, clear to none but our Creator, which go down to the foundations of our being, nay, to the very depths of the Being and operation of God Himself. For we can, indeed, easily conceive the impossibility of clearly knowing at every instant what we ought to pray for other than in the most general terms. We can also, and still more easily, conceive the impossibility of knowing how to pray as we ought; we all experience it. The wandering of the mind, the listlessness, the absolute blank of thought and feeling which sometimes seems to engulf it when we kneel down to pray; the mere unconnected rhapsodical ejaculations in which the most fervent prayer, like the celebrated ecstasy of Pascal, so often loses itself. All these are so many instances of the not knowing how to pray. The mind sinks in the attempt to rise to God. And so, too, with our ignorance of what we ought to ask. Prayer is the desire of man laid before his Maker. But what shall we desire? Knowledge of His truth in this world, in the world to come life everlasting, seem pretty nearly to exhaust all we are sure we ought to ask. Yet, were our prayers always limited to these two simple but sublime petitions, should we not feel as though much was omitted? True, we can have no knowledge of God's truth unless we have the will to do it: a pure heart is therefore implicitly involved in this petition: and a pure heart, again, involves a right conscience in all the affairs of life; but these things, however sweeping, are things we have or seek to have in common; they are general, not individual needs. Each of us has his own station, his own position, his own character and constitution, mental and bodily; each one of us has, more or less, abused that position, that character, that constitution; each, therefore, has his own burden, known, beyond himself, to God alone. All these differences demand different treatment in each individual case; each has, in consequence, his own individual difficulties. The effort of prayer must be made much in the dark. We know not what to pray for any more than we know how. And here comes in the full comfort of my text. For, strange and paradoxical as it may sound, it is here that the Divine and human seem to touch; on this borderland of ignorance and powerlessness they meet. For though the Spirit Himself helpeth our infirmities by interceding for us when we know neither what to ask nor how, it is only by groans or sighs inarticulate and unutterable, beyond all language to express, beyond all thought distinctly to conceive.
II. Many, perhaps I ought to say most, Christians do not really believe the presence of the Holy Spirit in themselves, because of the imperfections of which they are conscious. They cannot take to themselves the things of God in all their fulness because they intimate things so far transcending their own condition and feeling, that they think it impossible they should really apply to them in their literal sense. The comfort which this deep and wondrous passage is meant to give resides not merely in the statement that the Spirit does actually help our infirmities by pleading for us, but in the assurance that the imperfection of our present state and progress, of our religious experience, in a word, need be no bar to our thankfully believing that we, too, have the Spirit, since the Spirit dwelling in each shares, so to speak, our imperfection; limits Himself by the capacities of each, accommodates Himself to the character of each. Let us not deny the Christ that liveth in us, because that life is hid even from ourselves with Christ in God. Let us not ignore the Spirit that dwelleth in us, because we do not as yet see all things conquered by Him, all our thoughts pervaded by Him; remember that if there is but one good aspiration, one wish to do and be that which is right and pleasing to God; one upward look, one sign of the heart and mind to that infinite and eternal Good which alone can satisfy, we have evidence of the Divine existing in us, since it is of His alone that we can give unto Him; since without His Spirit we could neither desire nor conceive beyond the circle of those earthly things within which our earthly life is banned and confined. Solemnise, then, and purify, as well as cheer, your hearts and minds with these thoughts. It would seem that in all God's universe there is no being, after God, so august as man, because no other being's nature did God take in the person of His Son, in no other being does God vouchsafe to dwell by His Spirit. Lift up your hearts, then, to that state, that place, that presence which alone are adequate to the wants and desires we feel within us; and as you lift them up to the Eternal and to that heaven of heavens which yet cannot contain Him, take courage, and learn endurance from the thought that the Spirit Himself helpeth our infirmities, ever making intercession for us out of the depths of His own being with sighs and plaints that cannot indeed be uttered, and must for ever remain unknown to us, but which are perfectly understood by Him to whom they ascend, because it is according to His own will that the Spirit thus maketh intercession for all who are dedicated unto Him.
C. P. Reichel, Oxford and Cambridge Journal, p. 883.
The Intercession of the Spirit in Prayer.
I. The necessity for a Divine inspirer of prayer. (1) To ask rightly we must realise the solemnity of asking. We utter our little thought to the Everlasting thought—our poor cry to the Sustainer of the worlds. To feel this is profoundly difficult. We are such slaves to the visible and the apparent. But when touched by the Divine Spirit, we rouse all the powers of our being to realise the Divine presence as an overwhelming reality—not a cold faith in the mere existence of the Deity, but the conviction that He is the sublime reality before which all visible things are shadows—that He is a presence nearer to us than friend or brother—a presence in actual contact with our spirits. (2) To ask rightly we must ask with persevering earnestness. We ought always to pray and not to faint. Do we verily believe God will hear us, and do we pray as though He were hearing? When we possess the abiding spirit of prayer, when the whole aspect of the spirit's life is seeking, then will our direct petitions have a power that amid all hindrances shall persevere.
II. The manner of the Spirit's inspiration. (1) The awakening of inexpressible emotion "with groanings that cannot be uttered." All deep emotions are too large for language—they outsoar the narrow range of human speech. (2) The certainty of Divine response. We dare not ask absolutely for any particular blessing, but the Spirit inspires the cry "Thy will be done," and the right blessings are given. God alters not His order, and because He alters it not we win blessings by spiritual prayer which would not have been bestowed without it.
E. L. Hull, Sermons, 3rd series, p. 1.
References: Romans 8:26, Romans 8:27.—M. Rainsford, No Condemnation, p. 197. Romans 8:27.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxx., p. 145.
Romans 8:28I. St. Paul believes that there is a purpose, an end, towards which events are tending. It looks at first sight like a faith rather than the conclusion of an argument. Reason alone, it has been said, might arrive at an opposite conclusion. How can we see a providential guidance, a Divine plan of any kind, in the bloody game which chiefly makes up history? How can we trace it in the conduct of generations, of races, who successively appear upon the surface of this planet to make trials one after another of the same crude experiments, as if the past had furnished no experience with which to guide them? It is true enough that the purpose of God in human history is traversed—that it is obscured—by causes to which the apostles of human despair may point very effectively; and yet here, as ever, we Christians dare to say that we walk by faith where sight fails us, as elsewhere, and we see enough to resist so depressing a conclusion as that before us—to know that the course of events is not thus fatal, thus desperate. "All things work together for good."
II. By "good" the Apostle does not mean material, visible prosperity. Success in life is not linked to the love of God even in the majority of cases. The good of which the Apostle is speaking is real, absolute, eternal good. It is the good of the soul rather than of the body. It is the good of the eternal world rather than of the present world. It may be that a man's circumstances have no very marked character one way or another. It may be that they are a tissue of crushing misfortunes. It may be that they are a succession of conspicuous successes. The love of God is the magician which extracts the ore alike from each, and which makes each and all promote man's final, man's absolute good. No life whatever is made up of such commonplaces that each cannot be made, by this love, to sparkle with the very highest moral interest. No misfortunes are so great that they cannot be built into the very steps of the staircase by which souls mount up to heaven.
H. P. Liddon, Penny Pulpit, No. 647.
How are we to regard this certitude of the Apostle? Must we not look upon it as a rational conviction, strengthened and confirmed by an experience ample, varied, and wonderful; established by a faith in the Christian verities, and made immovable by the spiritual visions of a heart disciplined by trial and purified by affliction? And this is a certitude open to us all, if we seek it; for though it may seem impossible to our reason, it is easy of attainment to the obedience of faith, and yet faith is not blind. Let us contemplate the source of its light, that our reason be not confounded at the confidence of our heart.
I. All things are at work and subject to constant change. The fact is obvious. Ceaseless change conditions everything on earth. And what an air of sadness this self-evident fact gives to our life! As years wear on confidence becomes broken, expectation lessens, hope declines, a trust in creatures is found to be vain, a feeling of insecurity steals over us, which denies us peace, and so fills the mind with fear of foreboded evil, that even in laughter the heart is sad.
II. All things work together. The addition of this one word alters everything. It introduces design where there appeared to be no aim, order where all seemed chaos, and a matured plan where there seemed no purpose; so that now "nothing walks with aimless feet." Everything has its appointed way, occupies a given place, and exercises a prepared and regulated influence. The Divine purpose embraces all. They are but spheres and co-operative agencies carrying out the one purpose which runs through all ages. "Of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things," "Who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will."
III. But to what purpose, to what end do all things work together? Our text answers, "All things work together for good." This is no mere conjecture, nor simply the assertion of an inspired apostle, but a necessary deduction from the fact we have been considering. If all things work together, then good must be the result. For evil has no power of co-operation. Evil elements cannot be combined, they are antagonistic to each other. The way of goodness carries its security, for the attainment of its end, in its own moral power. The purpose of goodness cannot fail of accomplishment, for the true nature of everything is in accordance with the will, the way, and the work of God. But evil is vanity, and the way of evil a vain show, and the end less than nothing, and vanity.
IV. But if all things work together for good, then also for the best. Divine goodness has but one end for the same creature, and that is the best possible. His mind can only purpose the best in relation to the creature concerned. And to reach this end He has but one way, and that is the best. Science knows that there is but one way of doing anything truly, just as there is but one straight line between two points. How impossible, then, that the only wise God should have for His children any end or any way to that end but the best!
V. But for whom will this co-operation of all things work out its highest good? "For those that love God." The highest good can only be received by rightly directed affections. Only love can take up the issue of this universal co-operation, which is working out what the eternal love has purposed.
W. Pulsford, Trinity Church Sermons, p. 93.
I. "All things." We may say literally and without exception all things; for there is a sense in which a human being is related to everything. He is related supremely to God, and by that relation he touches the whole universe. There is a strain of truth as well as a lofty tone of poetry in that old war hymn which makes the stars in their courses fight against Sisera. All things, high and low, fight for or against a man continually. But probably the "all things" here meant are those things which more nearly and constantly affect men. There are things which gather round each person; things which are distributed over the field of his life; things which touch him so immediately, that they give him daily help or daily hindrance as the case may be.
II. "All things work together." That explains, in a considerable measure, the great changes that take place, and the great progress that is sometimes made very quickly. Things work together. A man is over-matched sometimes by the weight and pressure of the things he has to do, when a new circumstance occurs, a new thing is born, and as it were instantly yokes itself into harness with the rest, and the object is attained. All things work together, not in an aimless and capricious manner, for this end and that, now in one way and now in another, as though a stream should one day flow seawards and the next back towards its fountain among the hills, but in one volume, along one channel, in one direction, towards one end. Everything is held as in one despotic bond, and gathered up and hurried along the one inevitable channel.
III. The greatest question in life to a man is this, "Of what character is the supreme influence of all the things which work together in my life? I am being educated—in what nurture? I am being moved forward to something—what is that something? I am growing—in whose image, and towards the measure of what stature?" The true test is this, "Is there love to God?" It is not, "Am I strong enough to vanquish or successfully resist the forces of life?" because no man is nor ever will be. To say nothing of the buffetings that must come and the changes to which the most obstinate must yield, there is to each at last, and to one as much as to another, the grand defeat—every man, soon or late, is laid on the bed of death, is buried in the grave. The question is this, and no other, "Do I love God?" What we love, or rather, whom we love, and how much, will tell far more regarding our inward state, our real character, than anything else in the whole circle of our experience, will therefore also tell what moral position we occupy in relation to all outward things. If we love God, this is the position—surely, although we are not accustomed to apply grand epithets to such things, yet surely, in sober earnestness, a splendid position!—that all things work together for our good. We thus stand higher than conqueror or king; the world is our chariot, and we don't even need to hold the reins; the universe with all its wide-lying and progressive heavens our estate. "We are heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ."
A. Raleigh, The Little Sanctuary, p. 213.
Consider the argument sometimes so triumphantly alleged, namely, that since precisely the same troubles fall upon him who believes and him who disbelieves, it becomes absurd to say that these trials work in one direction for a man of prayer and in another for the man that never prays, and that circumstances, good or evil, work together for the advantage of the righteous in any sense which is not equally true of others.
I. I apprehend, however, that the regular and consistent life of a Christian man—the temperance, the integrity, the self-control, the good repute which will result from his convictions—will tend to obtain for him many temporal comforts which they will not absolutely insure, and will at least tend to alleviate for man many evils from which they cannot guarantee an absolute immunity. While it is literally and undeniably true that the same calamities come alike upon the good and the evil, it is a transparent fallacy to infer that the same ulterior results will follow in both cases. It is a fallacy, practically speaking, that the same visitation retains its nature and character under totally different circumstances and applied to different objects. It is on the temper of the recipient that the result depends, and whether or not all things good and evil concur to his advantage.
II. Of the grand maxim that he has bequeathed to us, St. Paul was himself the living illustration. Surely he had enough suffering to teach him that the chariot of God rolls onward along its imperial way, without any stoppage for inquiry about the several circumstances of the poor travellers that it passes on the road! But no: there is not even a momentary symptom of any such misgiving. The Apostle had learned the secret of distilling the sweetest essences from the most repulsive ingredients. From every trial he extracts nutriment for sustaining a more steadfast faith, a more fervid hope, a more expansive charity.
W. H. Brookfield, Sermons, p. 146.
References: Romans 8:28.—G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 110; Church of England Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 145; Homilist, 3rd series, vol. ix., p. 84; E. Cooper, Practical Sermons, vol. ii., p. 289; E. Garbett, Experiences of the Inner Life, p. 279; H. P. Liddon, Christmastide Sermons, p. 306; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p. 115; W. Hay Aitken, Ibid., vol. xxix., p. 26; J. P. Kingsland, Ibid., p. 123; Preacher's Monthly, vol. i., p. 423; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 272; C. Garrett, Loving Counsels, p. 63; M. Rainsford, No Condemnation, p. 153; J. Wells, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 48; G. Bersier, Sermons, 1st series, p. 269; Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. viii., p. 9; Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 218.
Romans 8:28-30I. Five Divine acts, through each of which in regular succession the purpose of salvation advances to its accomplishment, are linked by St. Paul into one golden chain, of which one end is let down out of the unknown past, and the other returns to lose itself in the unknown future.
II. From first to last this magnificent chain of redemptive acts permits neither halt nor rupture. The secret counsel of His will holds in its bosom all those whom the future glory shall receive. This is the thought on which, by the structure of his sentence, St. Paul intended to lay stress, and with reason, since it is the thought which pledges to faith the security of the believer and the concurrence of all things for his final good.
J. Oswald Dykes, The Gospel according to St. Paul, p. 265.
References: Romans 8:28-39.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 93. Romans 8:29, Romans 8:30.—Homilist, vol. vi., p. 177. Romans 8:29.—H. Drummond, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxii., p. 263; R. S. Candlish, The Fatherhood of God, p. 162. Romans 8:30.—M. Rainsford, No Condemnation, p. 267; Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 149. Romans 8:30.—Ibid., Evening by Evening, p. 287. Romans 8:31.—Ibid., pp. 185, 189; Bishop Lightfoot, Church of England Pulpit, vol. v., p. 233; Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. viii., p. 95.
Romans 8:31-39There are Three Stages in this Challenge of Faith.
I. Who shall our accuser be? Nothing will stop the accuser's mouth, but the one mighty act of God's sovereign grace by which He acquits and justifies the sinner.
II. The adversary may accuse; condemn, he dare not. For Jesus, the Judge, is in His own person a threefold, fourfold answer to every charge against His people.
III. The Apostle flings down his glove to the forces of the world. What is his challenge but an echo to the calm strong words of the King?—"In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
J. Oswald Dykes, The Gospel according to St. Paul, p. 273.
References: Romans 8:32.—Homilist, vol. vi., p. 341; W. Cunningham, Sermons, p. 174; T. J. Crawford, The Preaching of the Cross, p. 23; Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvii., p. 256; H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 3114; G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 8. Romans 8:33.—Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 210.
Romans 8:34Mysteries in Religion—The Ascension.
I. Christ's Ascension to the right hand of God is marvellous, because it is a sure token that heaven is a certain fixed place, and not a mere state. That bodily presence of the Saviour which the apostles handled is not here; it is elsewhere—it is in heaven. This contradicts the notion of cultivated and speculative minds and humbles the reason. Philosophy considers it more rational to suppose that Almighty God, as a Spirit, is in every place, and in no one place more than another. What is meant by ascending? Philosophers will say there is no difference between down and up, as regards the sky; yet, whatever difficulties the word may occasion, we can hardly take upon us to decide that it is a mere popular expression, consistently with the reverence due to the Sacred Record. When we have deduced what we deduce by our reason from the study of visible nature, and then read what we read in God's inspired Word, and find the two apparently discordant, this is the feeling I think we ought to have in our minds: not an impatience to do what is beyond our powers, to weigh evidence, to sum up, balance, decide, and reconcile, to arbitrate between the two voices of God, but a sense of the utter nothingness of worms such as we are, of our plain and absolute incapacity to contemplate things as they really are, and perception of our emptiness before the great Vision of God.
II. Consider the doctrine which accompanies the fact of the Resurrection. Christ, we are told, has gone up on high "to present Himself before the face of God for us." Christ is within the veil. We must not search curiously what is His present office, what is meant by His pleading His sacrifice, and by His perpetual intercession for us. The Intercessor directs or stays the hand of the Unchangeable and Sovereign Governor of the world, being at once the meritorious cause and the earnest of the intercessory power of His brethren.
III. This departure of Christ and coming of the Holy Ghost leads our minds with great comfort to the thought of many lower dispensations of Providence towards us. He who according to His inscrutable will sent first His Co-equal Son, and then His Eternal Spirit, acts with deep counsel, which we may surely trust, when He sends from place to place those earthly instruments which carry on His purposes. This is a thought which is particularly soothing as regards the loss of friends; or of especially gifted men who seem in their day the earthly support of the Church. For what we know, their removal hence is as necessary for the furtherance of the very objects we have at heart as was the departure of our Saviour.
J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. ii., p. 206.
References: Romans 8:34.—R. Tuck, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 278; E. Johnson, Ibid., vol. xxv., p. 282; A. D. Davidson, Lectures and Sermons, p. 55; Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 112. Romans 8:35-39.—Church of England Pulpit, vol. viii., p. 113; Parker, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxix., p. 344; M. Rainsford, No Condemnation, pp. 205-26. Romans 8:36.—Sermons for Boys and Girls, p. 44; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 250.
Romans 8:37The Gain of the Christian Conquerors.
I. Its nature. "We are more than conquerors." As I have said, the phrase implies that in the conquest itself is something greater than mere conquest—it is its own reward. To overcome temptation is better than to have had no temptation to grapple with, for the conquest, however hardly won, leaves the soul greater, stronger, and more blessed. (1) Every conquered temptation deepens our love to Christ, and thus we are more than conquerors. We come here on the track of that great law of the human soul, of the action of which all life is full—the law that the trial of principle is its true strengthening. Passion catches fire by antagonism, difficulties waken it into stormy majesty, and it makes them its servants. Men speak of the power of circumstances to hinder a Christian life; of course they have a power, but it is none the less true that a strong love makes the most adverse circumstances the grandest aid to its own progress. (2) The love of Christ to us is a pledge that our conquests will become our gains. The living Christ is watching the temptation, and He will take care that its issue is a greater glory than that which could have come from a life of perpetual repose. God will open hereafter the marvellous book of the human soul, and show how each struggle left its eternal inscription of glory there.
II. Its attainment. How shall we know that we are becoming more than conquerors? When the love of Christ is the strongest power in life and a progressive power.
E. L. Hull, Sermons, 1st series, p. 268.
Romans 8:37The keynote of Easter is victory. The Church still strikes it in the services of the day. It may be very difficult for some of us to reach it. But it is so hard, that all other conquests, whatever they are, are by this victory vanquished. "We are more than conquerors."
I. Every miracle of Christ was done overflowingly. The lame men not only walked, but leapt. The wine which Jesus made for the wedding feast was more than almost any company could have consumed. The very fragments of His feeding are twelve basketsful. He supplies all wants, and then He is at all costs besides—"Whatsoever thou spendest more." Now, apply this to our Easter theme. Christ has placed our life far above the level of the life we had lost. We lost a garden, we have gained a heaven. "More than conquerors." Then, too, His seeming absence is only a more ubiquitous presence. He is richer, and none are poorer; He is exalted, and none are orphaned. The problem is solved—how there can be distance without separation—how the communion can be invisible and yet be more real than when eye meets eye and hand clasps hand, for He is more than conqueror.
II. The very same principle which is thus embodied in the death and sufferings of Christ operates in the experience of every believer. Every man who is in earnest about his salvation has found, and the more earnest he is the more he has found it, that he is placed to contend not only with flesh and blood, but also with Satan. In this great contest, what is God's undertaking for His people? That they shall overcome? More than that. The power of Christ that is in you shall do what the presence of Christ always did when He walked the earth. Whenever walking this earth, an evil spirit met Christ, the evil spirit was afraid. And they shall be afraid of you. "More than conquerors."
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 5th series, p. 99.
References: Romans 8:37.—Homilist, 3rd series, vol. ii., p. 107; M. Rainsford, No Condemnation, p. 249; Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 114; G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 112.
Romans 8:38-39I. To live by the doctrine of Easter is to make that foresight of another world the standard by which we measure this world. Think of all pleasures, of all solicitations, of all pursuits as you will think of them then. A few years more, and how utterly indifferent you will be to the chief enjoyments of this world! You will be standing in the presence of Christ: how little you will care how successful you may have been, how rich you may have been, how admired, how delighted with abundance of applause! How absolutely nothing will seem the most important concerns of this life! But will all that has happened here seem nothing? No, indeed; Christ will remind us of the work which He gave us to do. A new mode of measuring all things shall then be taught us. A new balance shall be put into our hands. Nay, it is put into our hands now if we will but use it; but then we shall have no other. To live by the memory of the Resurrection is to begin at once to use this new estimate; to begin at once to declare ourselves soldiers of Christ, of Christ our conquering Captain, who shall lead us at last into the kingdom of light, and enable us to overcome whatever bars our passage.
II. Once more, to live by the doctrine of Easter is to have done with cowardice and half-heartedness. We make our victory a great deal more difficult than it ought to be by our want of courage. We shall meet with many failures between this and the grave, but we shall meet with fewer failures in proportion to our courage, for this kind of courage is but another form of faith, and faith can work any miracle whatever.
III. Lastly, to live by the doctrine of Easter is to fill your service with happiness. We often make our duties harder by thinking them hard. Cheerfulness in the service of Christ is one of the first requisites to make that service Christian.
Bishop Temple, Rugby Sermons, p. 14.
References: Romans 8:38, Romans 8:39.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 9; A. Maclaren, The Secret of Power, p. 145; M. Rainsford, No Condemnation, pp. 256-63. Romans 9:3.—Homilist, 3rd series, vol. iii., p. 331; Church of England Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 109.
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.
For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,
Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?
But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.
Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.