Romans 6:16
The knowledge of a truth is not synonymous with its practical recognition in our daily life. "Know ye not? ' calls plain attention to the consequences of behaviour. It is the business of Scripture and preaching to emphasize the importance of our personal acts. We are not really masters in any condition. The curbed or uncurbed steed of our desires is working in some service, be it of sin or of God.

I. THE ALTERNATIVE. 'We yield to the motions either of "sin unto death" or of "obedience unto righteousness." No middle course is possible. Though the notorious transgressor may do a kind action, and the distinguished saint disappointingly err, yet the distinction is real. Characters are only of two sorts; they verge to good or evil. It is not for others, but ourselves, to estimate our position and tendency. Men are deluded by the imaginary difficulty of drawing a boundary-line because of the way in which apparently the good shades off into evil. In the one service or the other we are actually enlisted.

II. THE FREEDOM OF CHOICE. There is the option of the two careers; we are not compelled to either. Motives, longing, circumstances, do not amount to constraint. The apostle pictures men as voluntarily yielding themselves, presenting themselves to the chosen employer. This does not mean that men willingly elect sin as such. The moral bent, the image of God, is shown in their use of terms to hide the viciousness of actions; "a gay life" instead of debauchery; "embellishing a story" instead of a perversion of the truth. Milton describes sin as leaping from the head of the arch-fiend, a form that struck the rebel host at first with horror, "but familiar grown she pleased." That is the death of the soul when evil is deliberately selected: "Evil, be thou my good." And the freedom of choice does not imply the absence of obligations to serve God. To delay is to adhere to sin.

III. THE SERVICE OF SIN A DISOBEDIENCE TO GOD. The statement of the alternative, by its sharp antithesis of "sin" and "obedience," indicates the essential nature of sin. Disobedience is the wanting our own way in opposition to some command of a rightful authority. God's government being moral, to elect a course of life which violates his laws is to give one's self to the service of God's enemy. As compliance with some small order evinces the loyalty of the soldiers; so with us, like our first parents, it may be a so-called trifling matter which tests our disposition. To sin is to disobey a physical, moral, or religious commandment, and this transgression is not merely an individual concern; it affects the Ruler of the universe. Treason is the worst crime against the state, and no man can be allowed to become a centre of infection to the body politic. The disobedience may be in thought, affection, or will, apart from any outward act. Human laws can rarely take note of the inner man; but it is the perfection of Divine laws to regard the heart of the agent.

IV. THE HAPPY RESULT OF OBEDIENCE. Obedience to "the highest we know" is justified by its consequences, "righteousness" and "life." Men are often afraid lest, by keeping the commandments, they may be debarred from gain and enjoyment; yet is it obedience which augments true power and satisfaction. The laws of God were framed and written upon the heart of man to secure his well-being; to break them is to mar the working of the beautiful machine. If conscience warn you of danger, only folly will silence the monitory voice and darken the beacon-light. Note the work of Christ in removing hard thoughts of the Lawgiver, and exhibiting the beauty of a blamelessly obedient life. He manifested the goal of obedience to be peace, joy, triumph. Our obedience is not the life of despotism, where to reason is illegal; nor of slavery, where is work without a recompense; nor of penance, where merit is sought by righteous deeds as a title to heaven; but Christian obedience is rendered as the joyous intelligent outcome of salvation through Christ, bringing us righteousness and life. Persevering obedience begets a habit of virtue, and surrounds us with a holy environment, wherein it is easier to do right than wrong. Conscience as the approving faculty ministers constant delight. This, at least, is the ideal, to which we may increasingly conform. Compare the lines, spoken by Adam to Michael, in the 'Paradise Lost' -

"Henceforth I learn that to obey is best,
And love, with fear, the only God, etc.
; and the angel's reply-

"This having learnt, thou hast attained the sum
Of wisdom: hope no higher," etc. S.R.A.

Know ye not that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey.
I. THE CRITERION OF BOTH — obedience. A disobedient servant is a contradiction in terms. Disobedience vitiates service and ensures formal dismissal from it. By obedience to the behests of sin sinners are to be distinguished. Sin's code is the ten commandments with the "nots" omitted; and the world swarms with men and women who yield the most constant and earnest obedience to each. From these the servants of righteousness are distinguished not by their profession, garb, postures, ritual, and shibboleth of righteousness, but by their obedience to the commands of righteousness. Many will present themselves before the Great Tribunal on other grounds, but the King of Righteousness will judge them exclusively by this criterion. "Not everyone that said unto the Lord, Lord," etc.


1. The service of sin is —(1) Wrong. A usurper is served in a way which wrongs the lawful master and the rightful law; and inasmuch as men were made for righteousness they wrong themselves.(2) Fruitless (ver. 21). Sin's service is disappointing, and sinners are deluded in it. Apart from what it ends in, "the way of transgressors, is hard."(3) Ruinous — "sin unto death" (see also ver. 23).

2. The service of righteousness is(1) As the name implies, right. That should settle the matter. Only when a man yields to it does he put himself right with God, the law, his own conscience, the universe.(2) Fruitful. Its "ways are ways of pleasantness," etc. Even in this life it is worth all it costs. Righteousness is a good master and pays as it goes along.(3) Eternally profitable — life is the guerdon of righteousness.


1. All men are servants. Man was not made, and will never become independent. Servitude is the law of his nature, and of the two masters he must serve one.

2. All men have been the servants of sin. They are born in it and continue in it; some all their lives, others up to a certain point.

3. All men may become servants of righteousness.

(1)By a definite act of self-devotion.

(2)By a precious act of Divine acceptance.

(J. W. Burn.)

Christian Journal.
One day a Mr. Charles was about to start from home to fulfil a preaching appointment, when rough weather set in, and he hesitated whether he ought to brave the storm. He consulted a Mr. John Evans on the point. "Tell Mr. Charles," was the message returned, "that if he is a master he may stay at home, but if a servant he ought to keep his appointment."

(Christian Journal.)

Come to Him. "I do not know what it is to come," says one. Well, coming to Christ is simply the trusting Him. You are guilty, trust Him to save you. "But if I do that," says one, "may I then go on and live as I did before?" No, that you cannot. If a ship at sea needed to be brought into harbour, and they took a pilot on board, he would say to the captain, "Captain, if you trust me I will get you into the harbour all right; let that sail be taken down." But they do not reef it. "Here," says he, "attend to the tiller and steer as I bid you." But they did not attend. "Well," says the pilot, "I thought you said you trusted me." "Yes," says the captain, "and you said that if we trusted you you would get into port and we are not into port." "No, but I understood if you trusted me you would do as I bade you. It cannot be a true trust that is disobedient to my command." If then you trust Christ you must do as He bid you, take up His cross and follow Him, and then that trust of yours shall surely have its reward. You shall be saved now, and saved forever.

If a pirate, or, worse, the master of a slave ship, has made a good thing of his unlawful traffic, I do not see why he should reluctate about going into a lawful traffic on the ocean, because he does not know what the ocean will do to him. If a man is safe in sailing against God's laws and everything that is good, how much more will God prosper him if he applies to legitimate commerce the same skill and enterprise and industry that he is now applying to that which is illegitimate. I have seen men work ten times as hard to be villains as they would have been obliged to work to be honest men. The greatest slaves I know anything about are those whom the devil has got the upper hand of, and whom he is compelling to dodge between the supreme law of God and their worldly prosperity. They may secure some sort of prosperity, but, you may depend upon it, they work hard for it.

(H. W. Beecher.)

James II, on his death bed, thus addressed his son, "There is no slavery like sin and no liberty like God's service." Was not the dethroned monarch right? What think you of the fetters of bad habits? What think you of the chains of indulged lust? The drunkard who cannot resist the craving for the wine — know you a more thorough captive? The covetous man who toils night and day for wealth — what is he but a slave? The sensual man, the ambitious man, the worldly man, those who, in spite of the remonstrances of conscience, cannot break away from enthralment — what are they, if not the subjects of a tyranny than which there is none sterner, and none more degrading?

(H. Melvill, B. D.)

Ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine.




(J. Lyth, D. D.)

1. The question, Whose servants are ye? resolves itself into a matter of fact. The apostle, on looking to his disciples, pronounces them by the test of obedience to have become the servants of righteousness. And he not only affirms this change, but he assigns the cause of it. They obeyed from the heart. There might have been the form of a yielding; but some latent duplicity brought a flaw unto it by which it was invalidated, Now God be thanked, says the apostle, this is not the way with you. I look at your fruit, and I find it the fruit of holiness. I look at your life, and I find it to be the life of the servants of God.

2. But what is it that they are said here to obey from the heart? The term "doctrine" in the original may signify the thing taught, or the process of teaching — a process which may embrace many items, and consist of several distinct parts, to obey which from the heart is just to take them all in with the simplicity and good faith in which a child believingly reads its task book. This last view is very much confirmed by the import of the Greek equivalent for "form," viz., a mould that impresses its own shape to the yielding substance whereunto it is applied. And it would be still more accordant with the original if we render the whole sentence. The mould or model of doctrine "into which ye have been delivered." Christian truth, in its various parts and various prominences, is likened unto a mould, into which the heart or soul of man is cast that it may come out a precise transcript.

3. It should be obedient to every touch, and yield itself to every character that is graven thereupon. It should feel the impression, not from one of its truths only, but from all of them, else, like the cast which is in contact with the mould bat at a single point, it will shake and fluctuate, and be altogether wanting in settled conformity to that with the likeness of which it ought to be everywhere encompassed. You know how difficult it is to poise one body upon another when it has only got one narrow place to stand upon, and that, to secure a position of stability, there must at least be three points of support provided. There is something akin to this ere the mind of an inquirer is rightly grounded and settled on the basis of God's revealed testimony. How it veers and fluctuates, when holding only by one article and fails of a sufficiently extended grasp on the truths of Christianity! How those who talk, e.g., of the bare fact of faith vacillate and give way in the hour of temptation. How those who admit both the righteousness of Christ and the regeneration of their own characters to be alike indispensable, have nevertheless been brought to shipwreck; and that just because, though adhering in words to these two generalities, they have never spread them abroad over their whole history in the living applications of prayer and watchfulness. They need the filling up of their lives and hearts with the whole transcript of revelation. One doctrine does not suffice for this, for God in His wisdom has thought fit that there shall be a form or scheme of doctrine. The obedience of the heart unto the faith is obedience unto all that God proposes for the belief and acceptance of those who have entered on the scholarship of eternity; and for this purpose there must be not a mere assent of the understanding to any given number of articles, but a broad coalescence of the mind with the whole expanse and magnitude of the book of God's testimony.

4. A scheme of doctrine, then, implies more truths than one; and St. Paul has now gone beyond the announcement of his one individual item. He was very full on Christ as the propitiation for sin, and on the righteousness of Christ as the plea of acceptance for sinners; and then, when he came to the question, Shall they who are partakers of this benefit continue in sin that they may get still more of the benefit? he pronounces a negative. Here there was not one truth, but a compound of truths; a mould graven on both sides of it with certain various characters, and the softened metal that is poured therein yields to it all round and takes the varied impression from it. And so of him who obeys from the heart the form of doctrine into which he is delivered. He does not yield to one article and present a side of hardness and of resistance to another article. He is thoroughly softened and humbled under a sense of sinfulness, and most willingly takes the salvation of the gospel on the terms of the gospel. He does not, like the sturdy controversialist, cull out from the Word his own favourite position; but, like the little child, he follows on to know the Lord, just as the revealed things offer themselves to his docility and notice on that inscribed tablet which the Lord hath placed before him.

5. The way for you to make good the transition from sin to righteousness is to have the same obedience of faith. It is to spread out the tablet of your heart for the pressure thereupon of all the characters that are graven on the tablet of revelation; it is to incorporate in your creed the necessity of a holy life, in imitation and at the will of the Lord Jesus, along with a humble reliance on His merits as your alone meritorious plea for acceptance with the Father; it is to give up the narrow, intolerant, and restrictive system of theology which, by vesting a right of monopoly in a few of its favourite positions, acts like the corresponding system of trade in impeding the full circulation of its truths and of its treasure through that world within itself, which is made up of the powers and affections. Be your faith as broad and as long as is the record of all those communications that are addressed to it — and be very sure that it is only when you yield yourselves up in submission to all its truths that you can be made free from sin by sharing in the fulfilment of all its promises.

6. You often hear of the power of the truth. It is a just and expressive phrase, and is adverted to in the text. But this power of the truth is the power of the whole truth. Mutilate the truth and you cripple it. Pare it down and you paralyse its energies. And thus, as you hope to be rescued from the tyranny of sin by the power of Christian truth, you must foster the whole of it. Divide, and you darken. The whole of that light which one truth reflects upon another is extinguished when the inquirer, instead of looking fearlessly abroad over the rich and varied landscape of revelation, fastens his intent regards on one narrow portion of the territory and shuts out the rest from the eye of his contemplation. Yet let us not think that we, of our proper energy, can supply as it were the first condition on which our deliverance from sin is made to turn. The glory of this is due to grace, which has softened your hearts under the impression of the truth, which has moved you to an aspiring obedience thereto, which will lead you, I trust, to carry out the principle into practice, which will vent itself upward to the sanctuary in prayer, and bring down that returning force which can unchain you from the bondage of corruption and give you impulse and strength for all the services of righteousness.

(T. Chalmers, D. D.)

There is room for difference of opinion as to what Paul precisely means by "form" here. It signifies originally a mark made by pressure or impact; then a mould, pattern or example, then the copy of such an example or pattern, or the cast from such a mould. It also means the general outline which preserves the distinguishing characteristics of a thing. Now we may choose between these two meanings in our text. If the apostle means type in the latter sense of the word, then the rendering "form" is adequate, and he is thinking of the Christian teaching which had been given to the Roman Christians as possessing certain well-defined characteristics which distinguished it from other kinds of teaching — such, for instance, as Jewish or heathen. But if we take the other meaning, then he is, in true Pauline fashion, bringing in a vivid and picturesque metaphor to enforce his thought, and is thinking of the teaching which the Roman Christians had received as being a kind of mould into which they were thrown, a pattern to which they were to be conformed.

I. PAUL'S GOSPEL WAS A DEFINITE BODY OF TEACHING. The gospel in its first form as it comes to men fresh from God is not a set of propositions, but a history of deeds that were done upon earth. And, therefore, is it fitted to be the mould of every character. Jesus Christ did not come and talk to men about God, and say to them what His apostles afterwards said, "God is love," but He lived and died, and that mainly was His teaching about God. He did not come to men and lay down a theory of atonement or a doctrine of propitiation, or theology about sin and its relations to God, but He went to the Cross and gave Himself for us, and that was His teaching about sacrifice. He did not say to men, "There is a future life, and it is of such and such a sort," but He came out of the grave and He said, "Touch Me, and handle Me. A spirit hath not flesh and bones," and therefore He brought life and immortality to light, by no empty words but by the solid realities of facts. He did not lecture upon ethics, but He lived a perfect human life out of which all moral principles that will guide human conduct may be gathered. And so, instead of presenting us with a botanic collection of scientifically arranged and dead propositions, He led us into the meadow where the flowers grow, living and fair. His life and death, with all that they imply, are the teaching. Let us not forget, on the other hand, that the history of a fact is not the mere statement of the outward thing that has happened. Christian teaching is the facts plus their explanation; and it is that which differentiates it from the mere record which is of no avail to anybody. So Paul Himself in one of His other letters puts it. This is his gospel: Jesus of Nazareth "died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and He was buried, and rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures." That is what turns the bald story of the facts into teaching, which is the mould for life.

II. THIS TEACHING IS IN PAUL'S JUDGMENT A MOULD OR PATTERN ACCORDING TO WHICH MEN'S LIVES ARE TO BE CONFORMED. There can be no question but that, in that teaching as set forth in Scripture, there does lie the mightiest formative power for shaping our lives, and emancipating us from our evil. Christ is the type, the mould into which men are to be cast. The gospel, as presented in Scripture, gives us three things. It gives us the perfect mould; it gives us the perfect motive; it gives us the perfect power. And in all three things appears its distinctive glory, apart from and above all other systems that have ever tried to affect the conduct or to mould the character of man. We have in the Christ the one type, the one mould and pattern for all striving, the "glass of form," the perfect Man. And that likeness is not reproduced in us by pressure or by a blow, but by the slow and blessed process of gazing until we become like, beholding the glory until we are changed into the glory. It is no use having a mould and metal unless you have a fire. It is no use having a perfect Pattern unless you have motive to copy it. If we can say, "He loved me, and gave Himself for me," then the sum of all morality, the old commandment that "ye love one another," receives a new stringency, and a fresh motive as well as a deepened interpretation, when His love is our pattern. The one thing that will make men willing to be as Christ is their faith that Christ is their Sacrifice and their Saviour. Still further, the teaching is a power to fashion life, inasmuch as it brings with it a gift which secures the transformation of the believer into the likeness of his Lord. Part of "the teaching" is the fact of Pentecost; part of the teaching is the fact of the ascension; and the consequence of the ascension and the sure promise of the Pentecost is that all who love Him, and wait upon Him, shall receive into their hearts the "spirit of life in Christ Jesus," which shall make them free from the law of sin and death.

III. THIS MOULD DEMANDS OBEDIENCE. By the very nature of the teaching, assent drags after it submission. You can please yourself whether you let Jesus Christ into your minds or not, but if you do let Him in, He will be Master. There is no such thing as taking Him in and not obeying. And so the requirement of the gospel which we call faith has in it quite as much of the element of obedience as of the element of trust. And the presence of that element is just what makes the difference between a sham and a real faith.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The gospel here is compared to a mould into which the soul is delivered. We take our character from the truth we receive. Our affections are moulded, formed, fashioned, directed by the gospel we obey. Sometimes it is compared to a mirror (2 Corinthians 3:8). The gospel reveals to us Jesus, and as we look into that glass the light falls upon our souls and assimilates us to Him. Here it is a mould. We are cast into the mould of the truth which from the heart we obey. The gospel is not only a directing power, but a transforming influence; you cannot believe it without being moulded by it. Any man who says he believes it, whose character is not moulded by it, is deceiving himself. How, then, can this be corrected? Not by poring over the thoughts and feelings of our own poor hearts, but by examining the testimony God has given us concerning Christ, by mixing faith with the promises given us, that by them we might be partakers of the Divine nature. The entrance of His Word will not only give light to our understandings, but it will transform us into His image; and as we receive the doctrine into our hearts, we shall be delivered into it as into a mould, and our tastes and character and desires and ways and aims, will be fashioned thereby. This is the constant teaching of Scripture (Ephesians 2:10; Luke 1:74; Titus 2:11).

(M. Rainsford, B. A.)

It was the custom to impress a distinctive mark or brand on the slaves belonging to different masters. A slave might thus, by no uncommon metonymy, be spoken of as belonging to a certain mark, the mark being put for the master whose mark it was; and when a slave was transferred from one master to another, as being delivered over to a new mark or brand, that is, to a new proprietor or master, to whom, or, by the same figure, to whose mark he was then to consider his person attached and his service and obedience due. This is probably the true meaning, "Ye have obeyed from the heart that mark [or brand] of doctrine to which ye have been delivered over"; this translation giving every word its full and proper effect. They passed from one service to another, distinguished by a new mark, to which, as reminding them of their new master, and the appropriate symbol of his property in them and his power over them, they were thenceforward to render their obedient service. The "doctrine" of Christ is the distinguishing badge, or appropriate mark, of all His servants. They bear the profession and impress of His truth; and, under the influence of that truth, they serve Him as the Master who has stamped its impression upon them, in a spirit of reverential love.

(R. Wardlaw, D. D.)

A short time ago the manufacturers of lighting gas were puzzled to know how to dispose of the coal tar left in the retorts. A more useless, nauseous substance was hardly known to exist. Chemistry came to the rescue, and today not less than thirty-six marketable articles are produced from this black, vile, sticky slime — solvents, oils, salts, colours, flavours. You eat a bit of delicious confectionery, happily unconscious that the exquisite taste which you enjoy so keenly comes from coal tar; you buy at the druggist's a tiny phial of what is labelled "Otto of Roses," little dreaming that the delicious perfume is wafted, not from "the fields of Araby," but from the foul gas retort. Christianity is a moral chemistry. Well were it for nations if it held a higher place among their social economics. Tar saving is all well enough, but soul saving is better. Grace transforms a villain into an honest man, a harlot into a holy woman, a thief into a saint. Where foetid exhalations of vice alone ascended, prayer and praise are to be found; where moral miasmata had their lair, righteousness and temperance pitch their tent. Every sort of good thing is produced by godliness, and that too in hearts once reeking with all manner of foulness. Should not this stay every persecuting hand, hush every railing tongue, and incite every sanctified spirit to continued and increasing energy.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
I. THE BONDAGE SUPPOSED. Those only can be made free who were the subjects of bondage. Many resent this charge and exclaim, as the Jews did, "We were never in bondage to any man." And so long as men remain under the infatuation that they are free, they will never welcome the tidings of a deliverance. We are in bondage —

1. To a law which we have violated. A perfect nature was capable of performing the requirements of a perfect law; but an imperfect nature never can meet these requirements. Those, therefore, who are seeking acceptance with God by the works of the law, are under the curse — bound and sentenced by it.

2. To a God whom we have displeased. Perfectly sensible that "God is love," we also believe that He is a God of justice. God's character, regarded as a whole, demands that He should maintain the honour of His law; and therefore He is bound by every principle of His nature, and by every qualification of His office as the Ruler of the universe, to punish the sinner.

3. To corruptions which he has indulged.(1) Man has fallen under the government of the passions, of which there are three classes — the animal, which lead to all manner of impurity; the malevolent, which lead to all manner of cruelty; and the secular, which go to make men altogether base and sordid.(2) There are also intellectual sins under which men are bound, and even sold — pride, a presumptuous obtrusion into things sacred and prohibited, and infidelity in rejecting the testimony which God has given of His Son. But whether men are bound by the intellectual or sensual sins, they are alike slaves.

4. To the world which we have idolised. There are some who would not for worlds rebel against the laws of fashion. They would rather commit an enormous sin against God than they would violate the etiquette of this world. The man who is devoted to the love of money is just as much bound as ever one who was fastened to the galleys for life. The man who loves the pleasures of this world, though he turns from them with disgust again and again, yet tomorrow it is just the same thing over and over again. And as to the ambitious, see what slaves they are — how servile when they have an object to accomplish; how insolent when that object is once attained; and how dissatisfied with the highest pinnacle to which human ambition can soar.

5. To a death which we cannot shun. Some "are all their lifetime subject to bondage through fear of death," either the act itself or the consequences.


1. From the guilt of sin by virtue of the expiatory death and all-atoning sacrifice of the Divine Redeemer.

2. From the punishment of sin. The chain is broken — the debt is cancelled — the indictment is rebutted, and the justified believer can say, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?"

3. From the dominion of sin. How can I love that which crucified the Saviour?

4. Ultimately from the presence of sin. There shall in no wise enter into the heavenly Jerusalem anything that defileth or that worketh abomination.

III. THE SUBSEQUENT SUBJECTION OR SUBORDINATION. "Ye became the servants of righteousness!"

1. By faith in the doctrine of righteousness (ver. 17). All the doctrines of the gospel are according to godliness. They fix salvation on the great principles of eternal rectitude; for God does not forgive merely by an act of clemency; but by an act of equity.

2. Love to the principle of righteousness.

3. Submission to the rule of righteousness — God's will — not our opinion — not the laws of our fellow creatures.

4. Studious determination and constant aim towards the practice of universal righteousness.

(C. Bradley, M. A.)

1. Man was made to rule. He was intended for a king, who should have dominion over the beasts of the field, etc. Yet is it equally true that he was made to serve. He was placed in the garden to keep it, and to dress it, and to serve his Maker. Throwing off his allegiance to his rightful Master, he has become the slave of evil passions.

2. When God of His infinite mercy visits man by His Spirit, that Spirit does not come as a neutral power, but enters with full intent to reign. Man cannot serve two masters, but he must serve one. Alexander conquered the world, and yet he became the captive of drunkenness and his passionate temper. Rome had many slaves, but he who wore her purple was the most in bonds. High rank does not save a man from being under a mastery: neither does learning nor philosophy. Solomon, the most sagacious ruler of his age, became completely subject to his fleshly desires.

3. Who, then, shall be man's master? Our text speaks of "being made free from sin," and in the same breath it adds, "Ye became the servants of righteousness." There is no interregnum. Man passes from one master to another, but he is always in subjection. Consider —


1. In describing this revolution we will begin with a word or two upon our old master "sin." We were not all alike enslaved, but we were all under bondage.(1) Sin has its liveried servants. If you want to see these dressed out in their best or their worst, go to the prison, or to the places of vicious amusement. Many of them wear the badge of the devil's drudgery upon their backs in rags, upon their faces in the blotches born of drunkenness, and in their very bones in the consequences of their vice.(2) But great folks have many servants who are out of livery, and so has sin. We were not all open transgressors. Selfish caution restrains from overt acts of transgression. Hypocrites are worse slaves than others, because they are laid under the restraints of religion without their consolations, and practise sins without their pleasures.(3) The servants of sin are not all outdoor servants. Many keep their sin to themselves. They are excellent in their outward deportment; but they are the indoor servants of Satan for all that.(4) There are, however, many who were once outdoor servants, sinning openly and in defiance of all law.

2. Believers are made free from sin.(1) From the condemnation of sin (Romans 8:1).(2) From the guilt of sin. As you cannot be condemned so does the truth go further, you cannot even be accused. "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?"(3) From the punishment of sin.(4) From its reigning power.

3. How came we to be free?(1) By purchase, for our Saviour has paid the full redemption money.(2) By power. Just as the Israelites were the Lord's own people, but He had to bring them out of Egypt, so has the Lord by power broken the neck of sin and brought us up from the dominion of the old Pharaoh of evil and set us free.(3) By privilege. "Unto as many as believed Him, to them gave He the privilege to become the sons of God." His own royal, majestic, and Divine decree has bidden the prisoners go forth.(4) By death. If a slave dies his master's possession in him is ended. "He that is dead is free from sin."(5) By resurrection. A new life has been given to us; we are new creatures in Christ Jesus.

4. Ye became the servants of righteousness. A righteous God has made us die to sin; a new and righteous life has been infused into us, and now righteousness rules and reigns in us. The text says we are enslaved to righteousness, and so we wish to be.


1. We changed our old master because we were illegally detained by him. Sin did not make us, does not feed us, has no right to us whatever. Besides, our old master was as bad as bad could be. We ran away from him Because we had never any profit at his hands. "What fruit had ye then?" Ask the drunkard, the spendthrift, any man that lives in sin, what he has gained by it, and we will find it is all loss. Beside that, our old master brought shame. "Those things whereof ye are now ashamed." Moreover, its wages are death.

2. But why did we take up with our new Master? In the first place, we owe ourselves wholly to Him; and in the next place, if we did not, He is so altogether lovely, that if we had a free choice of masters we would choose Him a thousand times over. His service is perfect freedom and supreme delight. He gives us even now a payment in His service.


1. That you belong wholly to your Lord. Numbers of professing Christians seem mostly to belong to themselves, for they never gave God anything that cost them a self-denial. But if you are really saved, not a hair of your heads belongs to yourselves; Christ's blood has either bought you or it has not, and if it has, then you are altogether Christ's. You are the slave of Christ; you bear in your body the brand of the Lord Jesus, and your glory and your freedom lie therein.

2. Because you are Christ's His very name is dear to you. You are not so His slave that you would escape from His service if you could; you want to be more and more the Lord's. Where there is anything of Christ there your love goes forth. Haydn one day turned into a music seller's, and asked for some select and beautiful music, and was offered some of his own. "Oh," said Haydn, "I'll have nothing to do with that." "Why, sir, what fault can you find with it?" "I can find a great deal of fault with it, but I will not argue with you, I do not want any of his music." "Then," said the shopkeeper, "I have other music, but it is not for such as you." A thorough enthusiast grows impatient of those who do not appreciate what he so much admires. You can be no friend of mine if you are not a friend of Christ's.

3. All your members are henceforth reserved for Christ. When Satan was your master you did not care about Christ, you went wholly in for evil. You did not require to be egged on to it. Now you ought not to want your ministers or Christian friends to stir you up to good works; you ought to be just as eager after holiness as you were after sin. As you have given the devil first-rate service, let Christ have the same. Some of you never stood at any expense — I wish we could serve Christ thus unstintedly. The poor slaves of sin not only do not stop at expense, but they are not frightened by any kind of loss. See how many lose their characters for the sake of one short hour of sin. They ruin their peace and think nothing of it. They will lose their health, too; nay, they will destroy their souls for the sake of sin's brief delights. In the same way should we serve our Lord. Be willing to lose character, health, life, all, if by any means you may glorify Him whose servant you have become. Oh, who will be my Master's servant? Do you not see Him? He wears upon His head no diadem but the crown of thorns; His feet are still rubied with their wounds, and His hands are still bejewelled with the marks of the nails. This is your Master, and these are the insignia of His love for you. What service will you render Him? That of a mere professor, who names His name but loves Him not? That of a cold religionist, who renders unwilling service out of fear? Do not so dishonour Him.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

1. The apostle is not content with speaking half the truth; he does not merely say that we are set free from guilt and misery, but he adds, that we have become the slaves of Christ. He has not bought us, and then set us loose upon the world. He has given us that only liberty which is really such, bond service to Himself, lest if left to ourselves we should fall back again to the cruel bondage from which He redeemed us.

2. This needs insisting on; for a number of persons think that they are not bound to any real service at all, now that Christ has set them free. Men often speak as if the perfection of human happiness lay in our being free to choose and to reject. Now we are indeed free, if we do not choose to be Christ's servants, to go back to the old bondage. We may choose our master, but God or mammon we must serve. We cannot possibly be in a neutral state. Yet a number of persons think their Christian liberty lies in being free from all law, even from the law of God. In opposition to this great mistake, St. Paul reminds his brethren in the text that when they were "made free from sin," they "became the servants of righteousness." He says the same in other Epistles (1 Corinthians 7:22, 23; Colossians 3:22, 24; 1 Corinthians 9:21).

3. Religion, then, is a necessary service; of course it is a privilege too, but it becomes more and more of a privilege, the more we exercise ourselves in it. The perfect Christian state is that in which our duty and our pleasure are the same, it is the state in which the angels stand; but it is not so with us, except in part. Upon our regeneration indeed, we have a seed of truth and holiness planted within us, a new law introduced into our nature; but still we have that old nature to subdue, a work, a conflict all through life.

4. Now most Christians will allow in general terms that they are under a law, but they admit it with a reserve; they claim for themselves some dispensing power.

I. WHAT IS THE SORT OF MAN WHOM THE WORLD ACCOUNTS RESPECTABLE AND RELIGIOUS? At best he is such as this. He has a number of good points to his character, but some of these he has by nature, others he has acquired because outward circumstances compelled him to acquire them. He has acquired a certain self-command, because no one is respected without it. He has been forced into habits of diligence, punctuality, and honesty. He is courteous and obliging; and has learned not to say all he thinks and feels, or to do all he wishes to do on all occasions. The great mass of men, of course, are far from this; but I am supposing the best — viz., those who only now and then will feel inclinations or interest to run counter to duty. Such times constitute a man's trial; they are just the times on which he is apt to consider that he has a leave to dispense with the law, when it is simply the law of God, without being also the law of self, and of the world. He does what is right, while the road of religion runs along the road of the world; when they part company awhile he chooses the world, and calls his choice an exception. For instance —

1. He generally comes to church, it is his practice; but some urgent business or scheme of pleasure tempts him — he omits his attendance; he knows this is wrong, and says so, but it is only once in a way.

2. He is strictly honest in his dealings; it is his rule to speak the truth, but if hard pressed, he allows himself now and then to say a slight falsehood. He knows he should not lie, he confesses it; but he thinks it cannot be helped.

3. He has learned to curb his temper and his tongue; but on some unusual provocation they get the better of him. But are not all men subject to be overtaken with ill temper? That is not the point; the point is this — that he does not feel compunction afterward, he does not feel he has done any thing which needs forgiveness.

4. He is in general temperate; but he joins a party of friends and is tempted to exceed. Next day he says that it is a long time since such a thing happened to him. He does not understand he has any sin to repent of, because it is but once in a way. Such men, being thus indulgent to themselves, are indulgent to each other. Conscious of what might be said against themselves they are cautious what they say against others. These are a few out of a multitude of traits which mark an easy religion — the religion of the world; which would cast in its lot with Christian truth, were not that truth so very strict, and quarrels with it — because it will not suit itself to emergencies, and to the tastes of individuals.


1. He indeed glories in its being such; for, as the happiness of all creatures lies in their performing their parts well, where God has placed them, so man's greatest good lies in obedience to God's law and in imitation of God's perfections. Therefore Paul insists on the necessity of Christians "fulfilling the righteousness of the law." Hence James says, "Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." And our Saviour assures us that, "Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments," etc., and that "Except our righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees," which was thus partial and circumscribed, "we shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." And when the young man came to Him, He pointed out the "one thing" wanting in him. Let us not then deceive ourselves; what God demands of us is to he content with nothing short of perfect obedience — to avail ourselves of the aids given us, and throw ourselves on God's mercy for our shortcomings.

2. But the state of multitudes of men is this — their hearts are going the wrong way, and their real quarrel with religion is not that it is strict, but that it is religion. If I want to travel north, and all the roads are cut to the east, of course I shall complain of the roads. So men who try to reach Babylon by roads which run to Mount Sion necessarily meet with thwartings, crossings, disappointments, and failure. They go mile after mile, watching in vain for the turrets of the city of Vanity, because they are on the wrong road; and, unwilling to own what they are really seeking, they find fault with the road as circuitous and wearisome.

3. But religion is a bondage only to those who have not the heart to like it. Accordingly, in ver. 17, St. Paul thanks God that his brethren had "obeyed from the heart that form of teaching, into which they had been delivered." We Christians are cast into a certain mould. So far as we keep within it, we are not sensible that it is a mould. It is when our hearts would overflow in some evil direction, then we consider ourselves in prison. It is the law in our members warring against the law of the Spirit which brings us into a distressing bondage. Let us then see where we stand, and what we must do. Heaven cannot change; God is "without variableness or shadow of turning." His law is from everlasting to everlasting. We must change. We must go over to the side of heaven. Never had a soul true happiness but in conformity to God. We must have the law of the Spirit of life in our hearts, "that the righteousness of the law may be fulfilled in us."

4. Some men, instead of making excuses, such as I have been considering, and of professing to like religion, all but its service, boldly object that religion is unnatural, and therefore cannot be incumbent. Men are men, and the world is the world, and that life was not meant to be a burden, and that God sent us here for enjoyment, and that He will never punish us for following the law of our nature. I answer, doubtless this life was meant to be enjoyment; but why not a rejoicing in the Lord? We were meant to follow the law of our nature; but why of our old nature and not of our new? Now that God has opened the doors of our prison house, if men are still carnal, and the world sinful, and the life of angels a burden, and the law of our nature not the law of God, whose fault is it? We Christians are indeed under the law, but it is the new law, the law of the Spirit of Christ. We are under grace. That law, which to nature is a grievous bondage, is to those who live under the power of God's presence, what it was meant to be, a rejoicing.

(J. H. Newman, D. D.)

"Is it your opinion," said Socrates, "that liberty is a fair and valuable possession?" "So valuable," replied Euthydemus, "that I know of nothing more precious." "But he who is so far overcome by sensual pleasure that he is not able to practise what is best, and consequently the most eligible — do you count this more free, Euthydemus?" "Far from it," replied the other. "You think, then," said Socrates, "that freedom consists in being able to do what is right, and slavery, in not being able; whatever may be the cause that deprives us of the power?" "I do, most certainly." "The debauchee, then, you must suppose is in this state of slavery?" "I do, and with good reason."


You think the charter would make you free — would to God it would. The charter is not bad if the men who use it are not bad. But will the charter make you free? Will it free you from slavery to ten-pound bribes? Slavery to gin and beer? Slavery to every spouter who flatters your self-conceit, and stirs up bitterness and headlong rage in you? That, I guess, is real slavery; to be a slave to one's own stomach, one's own pocket, one's own temper. Will the charter cure that? Friends, you want more than Acts of Parliament can give. Englishmen! Saxons! Workers of the great cool-headed, strong-handed nation of England, the workshop of the world, the leader of freedom for seven hundred years; men, you say you have common sense! then do not humbug yourselves into meaning "license" when you cry for "liberty." Who would dare refuse you freedom? for the Almighty God and Jesus Christ, the poor man who died for poor men, will bring it about for you, though all the mammonites of the earth were against you. A nobler day is dawning for England — a day of freedom, science, industry. But there will be no true freedom without virtue, no true science without religion, no true industry without the fear of God and love to your fellow citizens. Workers of England, be wise, and then you must be free, for you will be fit to be free.

(C. Kingsley, M. A.)

The liberty of the subject could never be preserved in a lawless state of society, but violence and tyranny would reduce to a slavish obedience the weak and the timid. The palladium of civil liberty is law; law well defined, excluding the fluctuations of caprice on one side, and of aggression on the other; law rigorously executed also, for the best code is a dead letter if it be not accompanied by a living and firm executive. So the liberty of the believer is secured by the law of God, when brought under its guidance and government. While living under the misrule of his fallen nature, he is the sport of every capricious imagination, and successively the slave of his predominant passions (ver. 16.) But let Christ's government be set up, and he becomes Christ's freeman; "sin has no more dominion over him"; he is no longer its wretched captive, but is under gracious law, for "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."

(G. H. Salter.)

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