For with your heart you believe and are justified, and with your mouth you confess and are saved.
I. THE TWO ESSENTIALS TO ENJOYMENT OF THE BENEFITS OF THE GOSPEL. Belief and confession.
1. Belief naturally precedes confession, if the latter is not hypocrisy. Speech on religious questions that is not the utterance of a deep-seated conviction is like Ahimaaz running without tidings to deliver. An untimely avowal should be deprecated; the confession should stream forth from the fountain of belief; otherwise the want of correspondence between the outward declaration and the inward assurance will work deadly mischief. Let not the child's Catechism be heavily laden. To sensitive minds the gap will seem to widen with growing intelligence, and they will deem the alienation from the early standard greater than it is, leading perhaps to a position of ultimate antagonism.
2. The essentials are few in number. Unlike the minute details of the Mosaic ritual, the law of Christ is short and easily comprehended. This apostolic declaration judges our own preaching and creed, showing that we are in danger of making the gate narrower and the road longer to the kingdom than Christ ordained them. The tendency of hoary Christianity is to multiply the requisite articles of doctrine and observance, making the initiation burdensome, the novitiate cumbrous.
3. On the other hand, less than the apostle insists on cannot prove a bond of Christian fellowship. Occasional communion there may be between those who differ respecting the fact of Christ's resurrection, each recognizing the other's sincerity and desire to press forward to the light; but experience attests the impossibility of enduring religious co-operation on a slighter basis than that laid down in the text. Fundamental divergence of opinion curbs free utterance, checks the fervour of prayer, makes all parties uncomfortable in their association.
II. THE PRODUCT OF FAITH. "Righteousness." Distinguish between the assent of the understanding and the trust of the heart. "Believing with" or "in the heart" not only accepts the resurrection of Christ as an historical fact, but sees in this a spiritual truth, that Christ is the Mediator, the Redeemer, able and willing to work an ethical resurrection in all who commit themselves to his care and tuition. Such a faith rejoices in the great verity; the will gladly submits to Jesus Christ as God's approved Agent of reconciliation. And thus faith imparts righteousness, connecting the sinner with the Saviour, the weak with the Strong One, the ignorant with the All-wise.
III. THE RESULT OF CONFESSION. "Salvation" As human nature is constituted, the expression of a sentiment in word or deed lends it distinctness and potency. What the orator does for the multitude, when he translates into growing language their vague aspirations and inarticulate feelings, clothing, fixing, clarifying, and intensifying them, is what an open avowal of his religious faith often effects for the individual. It discloses what was wrapped up in the inner being, and the embodiment gives place and form to the idea. Sentiment unexpressed is liable to fade away like vapour uncondensed. Confession is a real act; it makes the man commit himself definitely to a certain course of behaviour, and assists him to realize his ideal. Most are deficient in moral courage, and all that strengthens determination makes for salvation, it is easier for an avowed than for a secret disciple of Christ to refuse to yield to the solicitations of the worldly, to join them in unprofitable amusements and practices. Then, too, confession redounds to the glory of God, who honours them that honour him. In heaven it will be no signal tribute to own him, for all there sing his praise. On earth is a sphere of distinction possible by standing up for the true, the right, the good. And so Christ promises to confess those who have confessed him. A manly declaration may confirm the faith of wavering brethren, and thus save ourselves and others. Timidity which seals the lips is a sower retaining the seed in his bag, and allowing the waiting soil to go unblessed with golden crops. - S.R.A.
With the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.1. The heart and the mouth.
2. Faith and confession.
3. Righteousness and salvation.
(J. Lyth, D.D.)1. It was a saying of Dr. Johnson, that "classical quotation was the parole of literary men," and we can understand how a sympathy similar to that existing among scholars would obtain between Paul and the Jews to whom he wrote, and they found him adapting the words of the law in his exposition of the gospel. A comparison of vers. 6-8 with Deuteronomy 30:11-14 will show clearly that they are adapted rather than quoted.
2. In ver. 9, confession comes before believing, there being a play upon the words quoted in ver. 8; but in ver. 10 we have, more logically, belief coming before confession.
I. "WITH THE HEART MAN BELIEVETH UNTO RIGHTEOUSNESS."
1. Nature of evangelical faith.(1) It is not a mere intellectual faith, as when men believe in Caesar or Napoleon, for this the devils have when they "believe and tremble " (James 2:19).(2) In belief of the heart, the mind as well as the affections is implied, for the heart, in scriptural language, is said to reason (Mark 2:6), to meditate (Luke 3:15), and to understand (Matthew 13:15).
2. This faith is to be in the resurrection of Christ.(1) Now by this the Divinity of Christ's teaching was demonstrated (chap.1:4).(2) Again, Christ was the "outshining of the Father's glory, and the express Image of His person" (Hebrews 1:3). In Him we see incarnate the Divine perfections.(3) True faith, therefore, in the resurrection of Christ implies a belief in the whole mediatorial scheme, and such a realising sense of God as will lead to holy service.
3. Hence it is a belief "unto righteousness;" i.e.,(1) The forensic righteousness by which the objective difficulty to man's approach to his heavenly Father was taken away (context and Romans 3:22).(2) And also the righteousness wrought in us (subjective) as we imitate Christ's holy life (1 John 2:29; 1 John 3:7, 10).(3) Justification by faith is "the article of a standing or falling Church," but the faith that justifies is the "faith which worketh by love" (Galatians 5:6).
II. "WITH THE MOUTH CONFESSION IS MADE UNTO SALVATION."
1. This has been supposed to have reference to the primitive confession of faith in baptism. If so, the text will correspond to Mark 16:16.
2. We may, consistently with what has been said under
I. 3, take the "confession" to stand for practical Christianity, since confessing Christ with the mouth is but one of the "works" wrought by loving faith.(1) There is a confession with the mouth to which God calls us. If our hearts be full of Christ, we must needs confess Him (Matthew 12:34; Matthew 10:32; see also John 12:42 and 1 John 4:15).(2) But "the Word is nigh us, that we may do it" (Deuteronomy 30:14).(a) The man of the world finds it hard to understand how professing Christians can believe while their actions remain unaffected by their belief. In commerce, a belief in the dishonesty of any one with whom he has to do, leads him to guard and protect himself against possible wrong. The mariner, again, whose charts disclose rocks and shoals, keeps his ship at a safe distance from them — he makes use of his knowledge.(b) But the true Christian must act. His faith brings before him the "things unseen" (Hebrews 11:1), and he no longer walks under the influence of the things of sight, like the children of this world (2 Corinthians 5:7). As spiritual health increases, old ways of sin are thrown off, the heart is cleansed and purified, and the man's daily life has a heavenly fragrance which blesses his fellow-men. Conclusion: The secret of men's unbelief lies for the most part, not in the mind, but in the affections. They cannot bring themselves to forsake their worldliness and sin, and therefore come to the consideration of the gospel message, if they consider it at all, with prejudiced minds.
(J. C. Pilkington, M.A.)n: —
I. "WITH THE HEART MAN BELIEVETH UNTO RIGHTEOUSNESS."
1. Belief and faith are one. In respect to mundane matters, we receive the testimony of men; while in the matters pertaining to the unseen world, we receive the testimony of God. Faith in man sustains the whole fabric of our secular and scientific knowledge, and faith in God is the support of our spiritual and religious knowledge. If, in order to secure the salvation of our souls, we must have the latter faith, even so, in order to the preservation and comfort of our bodies, we must have the former. "Without faith it is impossible to please God"; and without faith, belief, it is impossible to enjoy the advantages of civilised life. And whether it has respect to man or God, faith is belief in testimony (1 John 5:9-11).
2. The apostle clearly intends by "the heart" the inner, as contrasted with the external man; and not the emotional, as opposed to the intelligent man. For the contrast is not between heart and head, but between heart and mouth. The sacred authors often spoke of bodily organs as if they projected mental values into them. With them the "heart" did not specially denote the affections as distinguished from the understanding (Deuteronomy 29:4; 1 Kings 3:9, 12; Mark 7:21; Mark 2:6; Acts 11:23; Proverbs 16:21). The heart stood for the very centre of the person, where thought had its fountain, intelligence its post of observation, and the stores of knowledge and experience were treasured up.
3. The testimony to be believed is here spoken of as a "report"; i.e., the thing announced by the witnesses and heard by those to whom it was spoken. It was a report concerning the Saviour, and being given by competent and faithful witnesses, and confirmed by the attesting seal of God, there was no need for any man to go out of or beyond himself for Christ. For the word was nigh him.
4. But why specially believe that God hath raised Christ from the dead? Because the testimony is that He died for our sins, and His resurrection is the proof that the sin is purged; for our Substitute has been discharged and restored to deathless life. Therefore a sure belief that God hath raised Him from the dead carries with it a sure belief that our everlasting life is made certain.
5. But though faith, considered in itself, is simply belief in testimony, it nevertheless serves to awaken various emotions of the heart in accordance with the character of the testimony believed, and the kind and amount of personal interest involved. If we have no conscious interest in that which is the subject of testimony, then no emotion will result from its belief. But if we have, then the belief will give rise to joy or sorrow, hope or fear, triumph or dread, as the case may be. Tidings come of a terrible hurricane in the mid-Atlantic, in which numbers of ships have foundered, and belief of the tidings instantly fills many a hitherto bright and happy home with the gloom of despair and death. But let them presently have the assurance that the particular ships which contained their hopes have escaped and have safely arrived in port, and, believing this, how instantly they find their sorrow and despair give place to gratitude and joy! And here is a poor guilty wanderer, who has long and grievously offended against his heavenly Father. He has come to realise the fearfulness of his danger. Can any one wonder that he should "roar" because of the disquietude of his spirit? But let him now hear and believe that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners," and that "whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life," and of what a change from the terrors of despair to the joy of salvation is he at once conscious!
II. "WITH THE MOUTH CONFESSION IS MADE UNTO SALVATION."
1. The "salvation" spoken of is not already attained, but one for which, or in order to which, confession is made. It is therefore something which is yet future. Though a Christian man is saved here and now, yet this present salvation is but a thing begun, not completed (1 Corinthians 15:2; Philippians 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:8; Romans 8:24; Hebrews 1:14; Romans 13:11; 1 Peter 1:5; Hebrews 9:28).
2. Now it is in respect to this continued and ultimately completed redemption that confession is made with the mouth unto salvation. "The righteousness obtained by faith would, forsooth, fall to the ground again, and would not be attended by salvation, if faith had not the vital force to produce confession of the mouth, which speaks out of the fulness of the heart." For the confession indicated is not that merely of the lip, but true and bold acknowledgment of Christ both in deed and word, Jesus Christ "before Pontius Pilate witnessed s good confession" (1 Timothy 6:13) — one that cost Him His life; and any union with Him which has not in it the spirit of devoted loyalty to Him, even unto death, if needful, is vain (Matthew 10:28-33; Revelation 21:8; Hebrews 11:33).
(W. Tyson.)I. THE OBJECT OF FAITH (ver. 9). There are many who for many a weary month question whether they have the right sort of faith; whereas they would do better if they looked to see whether their faith rested upon a right foundation. Now, soul-saving faith rests upon Christ —
1. As incarnate.
2. In His life. Faith perceives that He is perfect in obedience, sanctified wholly to His work, and although "tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin."
3. But chiefly in His death. Faith hears the expiring sin-bearer cry with a loud voice, "It is finished," and adds a glad Amen, "It is finished! "
4. In His resurrection. Inasmuch as Christ was put into the prison of the tomb as a hostage and bail for His people, faith knows that He never could have come out again if God had not been completely satisfied with His substitutionary work. "He ne'er had been at freedom set." Faith, therefore, perceives that if Christ is risen the soul is justified.
5. In His ascension. Faith beholds Him in His session at the right hand of God, sees Him pleading as the great High Priest, and expecting until His enemies are made His footstool. Mark, not so much as a hair's breadth of faith's foundation is to be found out of Christ. Faith does not build on its own experience, on any knowledge which it has obtained by research, or on merit which it fancies it has procured by long and ardent service.
II. THE NATURE OF FAITH. "With the heart man believeth."
1. We generally attribute the act of faith to the mind, but our text makes it to be a work of the affections.(1) In order merely to state that faith must be sincere we must heartily believe it. It must not be a notional faith which a man possesses, because his mother was of the same persuasion, or because he would be singular if he were to be an infidel.(2) To make a distinction between doctrinal faith and the faith which accepts Christ. I know scores who are well read in divinity, who are orthodox to the last turn of the scale, and who fight like tigers for but one hair of the head of a creed, and yet, they will never be saved by their faith, because it is merely a belief of certain abstract propositions which never affected their nature.
2. What is this believing with the heart?(1) The first work of the Holy Spirit in man is not to teach him doctrines, but to make him feel a great hungering and thirsting after a something, he scarcely knows what. His heart, like the needle, touched with the magnet, cannot rest, because it has not found its pole. Now, when Christ is set forth as a complete Saviour, able to give salvation now, then the heart says, "Why, that is just what I have been wanting." Just as the flowers which have been shut up all night, as soon as the sun is up, open their cups as if they felt — "There! that is what we were wanting!" The heart stretches out its arm to Christ, and Christ comes into that heart, and the heart presses Him close to itself. Believing with the heart is the heart's own conviction that Jesus Christ is just what it wants. Many of you have a true faith in Christ and yet you have never read "Paley's Evidences," nor "Butler's Analogy." You hardly know upon what ground the Bible is accepted as true, and hence, cunning infidels give you a good shaking when they get hold of you upon that point. But there is one thing upon which you can never be shaken, you feel the gospel must be true, because it just suits the wants of your heart. If any man should say to you when you are thirsty, "Water is not good," by a process stronger than logic, you could prove that water is good because it quenches your thirst. When you are hungry, if a philosopher should say to you, "You do not understand the ground upon which bread nourishes the human frame," you would say, "One thing I know, bread is good to eat if I am hungry, and I will show you." So the believing heart is hungry, therefore feeds upon Jesus; is thirsty, therefore drinks the living water.(2) Again, is it not man's heart which is led to perceive the difficulty of reconciling the Divine attributes? Do you not remember when your heart said, "God is just; it is right He should be. Yet I know He is merciful, but I cannot understand how He can be both, for if He is just, He has sworn to punish, and if He is gracious, He will forgive." You came up to the sanctuary when your heart was thus perplexed, but you heard the preacher show clearly that Christ became the substitute for man, you understood how God had all His justice satisfied in the death of His beloved Son, and your heart said, "There, this is the very answer I have been wanting." Now, "I see how righteousness and peace have kissed each other." Oh! the joy and gladness with which your heart laid hold upon a crucified Redeemer, saying, "It is enough, my trouble is removed."(3) Believing with the heart implies a love to the plan of salvation. As you are thinking it over, something whispers, Why, such a plan as that must be true." Then, the sweet promise flashes across your mind, "Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed"; and your heart says, "Then, I will believe on Him; that plan so magnificent in its liberality is worthy of my loving acceptance."
3. What is true of us when we commence our spiritual career is true all our lives long. Soul-saving faith is always the belief of the heart. I think I see some grey-headed man rise up and say, "In my young days I gave my heart to Christ, and I had a peace and joy such as I had never known before. Since that time, this brow has been furrowed with many cares, but the Lord has been my heart's stay and confidence. When trouble has come in upon me, I have been able to sustain it.
4. This is the right way to believe in Jesus, because this is the way in which you can believe in Him when you come to die. You have heard of the renowned bishop on his dying bed. His friends said to him, "Do not you know us?" There was a shake of the head. Next, the children beg him to remember them. But he shakes his head. Last, came his wife, and he had forgotten her. At last, one said in his ear, "Do you know Jesus?" The response was instantaneous. "Know Him?" said he, "yes, He is all my salvation and all my desire." Though the heart may know the wife and the child, yet never can the heart know the dearest earthly object as it knows Christ. He that believeth with his heart hath Christ in him, not on him, the hope of glory.
5. It is a very blessed thing that "with the heart man believeth"; because some of you might say, "I have not head enough to be a Christian." Even fools may still believe. "The wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein."
III. THE RESULT OF FAITH. "Unto righteousness." The man who believes in Christ is righteous; he is righteous at once, in a moment; he is righteous in the germ.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(J. Calvin.)1. The popular impression is that argument produces belief, and that no justly founded belief can be entertained unless the man has had clear intellectual reasons for that belief.
2. Life contradicts this view by the wholesale. Men believe thousands of things of which they have had no demonstration, and there are multitudes of things which men can demonstrate that they do not believe. What is evidence? It is that which satisfies intellect, conscience, taste, and the emotions. Some men want evidence that touches the intellect; some evidence that touches the imagination; some evidence that touches the taste; some evidence that strikes the moral sense. The evidence that convinces one man has no effect upon another.
3. Now, in regard to evidence, belief has a wide range. In things material, a man believes upon sense-evidence. But in regard to scientific things, there are no evidences that are less reliable than the obvious operations of what are called the five senses. That Huxley and Tyndall will tell you. Here a trained intellect is the master of evidence. An impassioned investigator is carried away. Men insist upon it that you must discharge all feeling, lay aside all pre-conceived notions, and come with your mind as transparent as crystal to the investigation.
4. But the range of truth that is thus brought within the scope of our investigation is relatively small. The truths that work to manhood, to character, and conduct, are innumerable and immensely more important. The great bulk of the questions about which men are to believe or not have reference to a kind of truth that you can never judge by pure cold intellect. All social and moral truths depend upon the affections. A man who carries a purely mathematical mind to the reading of Milton is a fool. A man who should read Tennyson as a microscopist would examine an insect, how preposterous his conduct would be! In the largest department, then, belief depends upon the feelings. I do not mean that it excludes the intellect, but that the investigating intellect is obliged to be in harmony with the feelings that dominate the department where the truth lies. Truths of beauty — and that takes in the whole realm of art — cannot be conceived of by a purely speculative intellect. The intellect must be struck through and through with the elements of the beautiful in order to appreciate it. There is a great deal of mathematics in the science of music; yet music itself cannot be appreciated by the mere man of science without the sense or faculty of music in him.
5. The great religious truths which determine conduct and character cannot be understood except through the state of the heart. The baser animal passions indulged in so cloud the moral feeling and the intellect as to preclude the truth and investigation of it. The natural man cannot discern the things of the Spirit. A man in a rage cannot understand the emotions of peace. A man that is grasping and unfair is not in a state to consider justice and equity. How can a man who is puffed up with self-conceit have any adequate comparison within himself of his moral states? Selfishness so distorts and disturbs the light of the reason that it cannot form a just judgment of truths nor understand them even when they are expounded by others. Recently, at Cornell University, a professor said, "I hope they will never establish an observatory here." "Why?" "Because the locality is utterly unfit for celestial observations. Cayuga Lake every night fills the atmosphere with so much vapour that it is not until late in the day that you can get a clear view of the sky, and hardly three nights in the whole year have been fit for a critical observation of the heavens." The clouds that go up around the human observatory prevent men from seeing clearly. They cannot make observations of celestial things.
6. Notice how careful men are in forming their beliefs on scientific subjects. Although the truths of science are material, largely, yet men feel the necessity of good health, of a clear eye, and of all conditions which render them secure from various adverse interruptions. So far is this carried that men do not trust themselves; there is what is called a "personal equation" among them. When a star in transit passes a given line, and a man records the time exactly of its striking the line, it will happen that a dull brain did not see it for a measurable period of time after a sensitive and quick brain; and the astronomer has a personal equation of his own peculiarities of quickness or slowness, according to rules that have been established, so that in making the additions or subtractions, he always takes it into account as a part of his calculations. This is for the sake of physical observations. Whoever thought of making a personal equation in the judgment of men on great moral questions? Look at the way in which a judge feels himself bound to come to the consideration of facts, law, and reasoning. If he is a naturally obstinate man, and has the shadow of a previous idea in the case, it will take twice as much evidence and coercive logic to dislodge him from his prejudices. An honourable man would refuse to sit on any case in which he was conscious that he had a foregoing disqualification. Now, see how in regard to justice, science, and every department, men are conscious of the disturbing forces felt in one way or another; and see how they prepare themselves to arrive at right judgments and to correct them as much as possible by review and restatement. But compare the way in which men approach these tremendous themes of religion and sit in judgment upon Divine equity, and upon questions of right and questions of duty. See how young men, being somewhat unsettled from their old foundations, plunge into unbelief. They read their evidence in the newspaper, going from their house to their business. "Oh, I have read on that subject; I know all about it." How little have men read, how little have they pondered, how little have they ever had the slightest idea that their judgments have been influenced by their dispositions, by their conduct, by their wishes and longings, by their self-indulgence — how little have they come to form a judgment against the pulling-down influences that act upon them!
7. Now, it is often the case that a true-hearted, simple-minded man, believing the gospels without a particle of intellectual evidence, but with a hungry heart and with a real love of things that are spiritual, is led to believe, I had almost said, without the operation of his reason at all. He is not able to give a reason for the faith that is in him any more than an artist is able to give the reason why he puts in a bit of red there, except that his eye was hungry for it. It is possible for a man pure in heart to come to a just conclusion in regard to mighty truths, that involve time and eternity, in such a way that he will be the laughing stock and the derision of eminent philosophers, or even eminent theologians. But such simple men believe with their heart. The temperature of the heart was such that it inclined them to accept these things, and, accepting them, they believed in God and felt good.
8. See how this is the doctrine of the Bible. Take, e.g., John 1:1-5, "The light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." Turn to John 1:20-25. Our Saviour bears testimony again and again in St. John's Gospel, which records His controversies with the conceited, scholarly men of the temple, when He declared to them that He made known to them the invisible truths of God, which ought to be appreciated by moral sensibility, but that they could not see them, and even denied them, on account of the condition of their hearts. This is the Scripture testimony, and it corroborates the experience of men. In secular life men have come to understand that they must prepare themselves before they come to a judgment or appreciate a thing accurately. But in religion men are still asking for intellectual proof that shall come like a mathematical demonstration. They are believing this and disbelieving that, on evidence which does not belong to the subject at all. "Blessed are the pure in heart; they shall see God." Men of distempered heart, unclean and impure, shall never see Him. Beware, then, of the disturbance of your own hearts. Beware of all those judgments that are merely abstract, or factual, as in science. Accept those judgments that come to you from the heart, and report themselves to you irresistibly as true, springing from the highest moral conditions, from conscience, reason, hope, faith, love.
(H. W. Beecher.)
(W. G. Horder.)
(Handbook to Scripture Doctrines.)
(H. Melvill, B.D.)I. THE DIVINE ORDER OF SALVATION.
II. THE RESULT OF THIS ORDER.
1. These requisites are a matter of present duty.
2. Unbelief and silence are sinful.
(W. W. Wythe.)1. There must be no confession where there is not a believing. To profess what you have not, is to make yourself a deceptive trader, who pretends to be carrying on a very large business, while he has no stock and no capital. To make a profession, without having a possession, is to be a cloud without rain — a river-bed without water, a mere play-actor, a rotten tree, green on the outside, but inwardly, as Bunyan puts it, "only fit to be tinder for the devil's tinder-box."
2. True faith, however, produces works; and, among the rest, confession of Christ. Faith, without works, is a dead root., yielding no fruit; a well filled with deadly vapour; a tree twice dead, plucked up by the roots, like some of those forest monsters which block up the navigation of the Mississippi, upon which many a goodly vessel has been wrecked. As you are to flee from profession without faith, so equally flee from a faith which does not bring forth a good profession.
I. TO CONFESS CHRIST WITH THE MOUTH EMBRACES THE WHOLE LIFE-WORK OF THE CHRISTIAN. It consists in —
1. Uniting in acts of public worship. As soon almost as the two distinct seeds of the woman and of the serpent were discernible, "Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord," while those who feared not God went away to their various occupations. When Jeroboam set up the calves at Bethel, the act of standing with the multitude around the courts of the temple was a distinct confession of allegiance to Jehovah. In the apostolic times, those who believed were constant in the apostle's doctrine, and in breaking of bread, and in prayer. In the early Christian days, you may see a picture something like this: There is a low arch, like the opening of a sewer. Yonder comes a maiden, who stoops beneath and emerges into one of the catacombs of Rome. A torch renders darkness visible, and some watchful brother observes her; asks for her pass-word. Her being there proves her a Christian. She would not have been there to worship God among those pariahs of society if she had not loved the Lord. Very much so was it in later times. When the Lollard preached to the handful in some remote farmhouse, with a watcher outside; or in the days of the Covenant, while the dragoons of Claver-house were scenting out their prey, you might be clear that they were for the Lord of Hosts, who met at peril of their lives. To-day it is so to very few. There are some, perhaps, whose husband's last words were, "If you go to church you will never enter my house again"; but it is not so with nine hundred and ninety-nine out of a thousand. We mingle together saint and sinner. And if this were the only profession, it would not fulfil the intention of my text. In persecuting times it would; but now it is little or no confession to most of us to sit comfortably in our seats and listen to the preacher, and then go our way.
2. A dutiful attention to those two ordinances which are intended by Christ to be the distinctive badge of believers. Under the old Mosaic dispensation, ordinances were only for Israelites. And under the Christian dispensation there are no ordinances for aliens. The Ethiopian travelled all the way from the realm of Candace, in order that he might be present at the distinctive worship of the Jew. You remember how carefully the heads of the Jewish houses were that they and all their children were present at the passover.(1) Baptism is the mark of distinction between the Church and the world. It is the crossing of the Rubicon.(2) The Lord's Supper sets forth the distinction of the believer from the world in his life and that by which his life is nourished.(3) Both these ordinances bring a cross with them to some degree, especially the first.
3. An association with the Lord's people. It was so in the olden times. Moses may, if he wilts, live in the court of Pharaoh, but he counts the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. What a touching illustration of this point we have in Ruth 1:16, 17. We find in the early Church, that as soon as a man became a Christian, he went to his own company. Paul was not content with being baptized; and wherever there were people of God, they were always formed into a Church. Those who speak lightly of Church fellowship do mischief. Suppose, instead of the compact phalanx of this one Church, we were broken into individual Christians, some of the warmest-hearted among you would grow cold; the little ones among us would be subjected to false doctrine; while even the strongest here would feel it to be a most solemn bereavement.
4. The taking up of the cross in the family. It may be you are the first one converted. You pray, and there is a ringing laugh within the walls. Persevere! for now it is that you are to make confession unto salvation. Your faith cannot save you unless you say, "I cannot love father or mother more than Christ." This is hard; but remember the example of your Lord, for whom you do it.
5. Bearing witness in time of temptation. Young Joseph's answer was, "How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" The case of Nehemiah is equally to the point. "Can such a man as I flee?" Christian, some dirty trick in business comes in your way. Now, play the man, and say, "I would rather starve than do it." On a Sabbath morning, when you are invited to waste its holy hours, say, "No, I am a Christian."
6. Testifying whenever we are called into trial for Christ's sake. Remember the three Hebrew children, Daniel, Peter, and John. I have noticed that whenever men are likely to lose anything for Christ, that the most timid generally come out at that time. You do not hear of Joseph of Arimathaea while Jesus lives. But when Christ's body is on the Cross he begs His body. And who shall help to wrap Him in spices? Why, Nicodemus, that came to Jesus Christ by night. The stag flies before the hounds, but when it comes to bay, fights with the bravery of desperation. Erasmus said he was not made of the right stuff to be a martyr. So the papists picture him as hanging somewhere between heaven and hell. He had knowledge of the truth, but he had not the courage to avow it; while Luther smote the triple crown upon the Pope's brow. "If the Lord be God, follow Him,"etc.
7. The going out of one's way at times to bear testimony. "Who is on the Lord's side? let him come unto me." Every now and then we shall not be able to confess Christ, unless we do something that shall seem harsh and strange. Surely, God's Elijahs cannot be silent while thousands of Baal's priests are kindling their fires. We shall find it needful to intrude upon the dainties of etiquette, and, like the prophet who came to Bethel, we shall have to cry against altars at which others pay their vows.
8. The using of our position as a method of confession. Joshua is the head of a household. tie uses that position: "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Let the family altar be reared. You have influence, perhaps, where you can help Christ's Church. Esther came to the kingdom "for such a time as this." Some of you are large employers, or members of Parliament. All that influence is so much money given to you to put out to interest for your Lord.
9. Preaching. There are some of you who have ability to speak. You can talk upon politics and science; but if you love Jesus, are you going to give all your attention to these inferior themes? You tell me you are nervous. Never mind. If you break down half a dozen times, try again; you shall find your talents increase. This confession, then, is a life-work. The Christian man is to be something like a physician. There is a brass plate on his door and a big bell. How else does he profess to be a physician? You do not see a box of lancets hanging at his side, nor see him dress in a peculiar costume. His profession is carried on by his practice. This is how a Christian's profession is to be carried on. When we went to school we drew houses, horses, and trees, and used to write "house" under the house, etc., for some persons might have thought the horse was a house. So there are some people who need to wear a label round their necks to show they are Christians, or else we might mistake them for sinners. Avoid that. Let your profession be manifest by your practice.
II. DO NOT EXCUSE YOURSELF FROM THIS, FOR NO EXCUSE WILL BE VALID. You will lose your business! Lose it, and gain your soul, and you will be unfashionable! What is it to be fashionable? You will be despised by those who love you! Do you love husband or wife more than Christ? If so, you are not worthy of Him. But you are so timid! Mind you are not so timid as to be lost at last, for the fearful and unbelieving shall have their portion in the lake that burneth. In the silence of the sick or dying hour, no excuse, however specious it may appear today, will answer your conscience: and if so answer your conscience, depend upon if it will not satisfy God, Conclusion:
1. Remember how dishonourable it is to say you believe, and yet not to make confession. You are like a rat behind the wainscot, coming out just now and then when nobody is looking, and then running behind again. What! is Christ to be treated as if His name were a thing to be avowed in holes and corners? No, in the face of the sun let it be said, "I do love Jesus, who gave Himself for me." He died in the face of the sun, with mockers round about Him; and with mockers round about us let us declare our faith in Him.
2. How honourable will the confession be to you. If I had to join an army, and found for my comrades the scrapings of the street, I do not think I should like to be a soldier; but if I found my colonel a great conqueror, and that I had for compeers men who had won renown, I should feel honoured by being allowed to be a drummer-boy. So when I read the list, and find Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Daniel, Isaac, Jesus Christ Himself, the apostles, Luther, Calvin, etc., I count it an honour if my name shall be found written with theirs, as the humblest soldier in the army.
3. I urge this upon you, because it will make you useful. A secret Christian is a candle under a bushel, salt without savour.
4. Grace is sufficient. If grace put you upon a pinnacle of the temple, depend upon it, grace will keep you there.
5. The reward is splendid. "He that confesseth Me before men, him will I confess before My Father which is in heaven." There was once a prince who journeyed into a distant part of the king's dominions, where he was little known and cared for. The people said, "This is the heir; let us insult him." Others said he was no heir at all. And they agreed to set him in the pillory. As he stood there they said, "Who dare acknowledge, and stand by him?" One from the crowd, who said, "I dare!" they set side by side with the prince; and when they threw their filth on or spoke hard words of the prince and him, he stood there, smiling, and received it all. Years went by, the king came into those dominions and subdued them; and there came a day of triumph. The prince came to the gates, and the traitors all bound in chains stood before him trembling. He singled out from among the crowd one man only, and he said to the traitors, "Know ye this man? He stood with me in that day when ye treated me with scorn. He shall stand with me in the day of my glory. Come up hither!" And the poor, despised citizen of that rebellious city rode through the streets side by side with his king. This is the parable. Live it out!
(C. H. Spurgeon.)etc. Religion is supposed to be manifest, if it exists at all. It is to constitute the character and to distinguish the man. I point you to the example of Christ. Religion is everything in His life. I point you to the example of Paul. You see nothing else in his life but his religion. I point you to David, and Isaiah, and John, and the holy martyrs. The men were modest men; but their religion was open and bold. And thus it is in all the works and doings of God. Does the sun hide his noontide beams under the plea that pure light should not be ostentatious? Is the moon — that, like the Christian, shines by reflected light — or the stars ashamed to send their rays on a darkened world? Light shines not indeed for display, but for use; not for its own glory, but like the light that should radiate from the Christian's life, to illustrate the glory of the great Creator. The ocean that He has made is not ashamed to roll, the lightning of heaven to play, the oak to spread out its boughs, the flower to bloom. The humblest violet is not ashamed to exhibit its beauty, and display its Maker's praise. And if Christian light does not shine forth in the life, we have the highest evidence that it has never been enkindled in the bosom.
(A. Barnes, D.D.)
(D. L. Moody.)
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