« PreviousContinue »
the present; from the past, because while we were yet sinners Christ died for us ;- from the present, because we feel the love of God towards us in that aid of His Holy Spirit, which is day by day supporting us amidst every cross and care, which keeps our trust in God strong, and our love to Him and to man ever lively. Well, then, says the Apostle, “If when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more being reconciled shall we be saved by His life.” By His life?-how? Because having died as man, He lives for ever as God, because He visits us not as man, but as God. Not showing Himself to our eyes, but touching our hearts and enlightening our minds,-being thus with us according to His promise to the end of the world; and His presence thus by His Spirit being, as He said Himself, more expedient for us than when He was present on earth in the flesh.
But, perhaps, this acquittal, this full mercy, these abundant promises of God are to be confined to a certain portion of mankind only, as was the covenant made by God with Israel. It is, I think, to a supposed doubt of this kind, that the remaining verses of the fifth chapter, from the twelfth verse to the end, are meant to be an answer. “You see," he says, “ how far the mischief has spread; be sure that God wishes the cure to be no less general. We see that since the first transgression of Adam, all men die. Eren those have died, who, either by reason of their tender age, or of their extreme ignorance of right and wrong, have not sinned as Adam did. Yet over all has the triumph of death been equal. Doubt not, then, that God designs the triumph of everlasting life to be no less wide; that
as many died who had not sinned like Adam, so shall many not only live, but live for ever in glory, whose righteousness has been far unlike that of Christ. Those who by reason of age have had no means of showing their new and changed hearts, those whom ignorance has kept in an imperfect state of moral principle and practice, far short of Christ's perfection, these are acquitted, and eternal life is given them, for the obedience unto death of one man, Jesus Christ.” And look over the world, amidst those who form the great mass of mankind, those who sin against knowledge, or because they carelessly refuse to gain it, are condemned indeed, and justly; but to those who have sinned much, and do sin much still, yet, if their hearts be sincere, and their desire to please God, and to become daily more like Him be real and earnest, all their many transgressions are forgiven. And whilst on the one side we see only the punishment of obstinate guilt, we see on the other, not the reward of innocence for where is the innocent man to be found ?-but the pardon and the blessing of guilt as soon as it ceased to be obstinate, and with humility and shame, and true contrition, threw itself on the mercy of the Judge. So, then, where sin abounded, grace, or the free goodness of God, did much more abound. If the law, whether of reason or of God's word,- if the growing knowledge
mankind, from the times of Adam onward, served to make the offences of each new generation darker than those of the former one, yet God by promising His free pardon, by speaking to the heart and feelings, and teaching us by His Spirit not only to know good, but to love it, has taken away the sting and the condemnation of the law, and has made the full knowledge
of the world's riper manhood only serve the purpose that it ought to do, in guiding the willing heart to a more full and Christlike perfection.
September 16th, 1827.
Note, added in 1833. ROMANS, v, 12 ad fin.
The Apostle's object seems to be, to urge that the Gospel must fitly be universal, because the evil which it was to remedy was universal ; that as those who were not Jews had shared in the consequences of Adam's sin, 50 those who were not Jews would fitly share in the consequences of Christ's righteousness.
I think, with Origen, that the eighteenth verse, is properly the apodosis to the twelfth, and that all between is parenthetical ; one parenthesis, after St. Paul's manner, growing out of another. The main proposition, then, is this:
Therefore, because we are reconciled to God, we see, that just as one man brought sin into the world, and death came by sin, and this death extended to all, because all sinned, even so by one Man righteousness has come into the world, and life by righteousness, and this life has extended to all, because all will be righteous.
[Compare this with the words in 1 Corinth. xv. 22 : “ For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” Words which had been written about a year before the present passage.]
But to this statement, it may be objected that sin is a breach of the law, and its punishment belongs only to those who had the law; and that in like manner, righteousness and its reward can belong only to those who keep the law.
In answer to this implied objection, St. Paul maintains his original statement thus :
All have sinned, and therefore all have died, before the law was given, no less than since. For it is a clear matter of fact, that from the Creation to the time of Moses death reigned even over those who never sinned like Adam; and Adam in this is a pattern of Christ. (But sin is not reckoned to any man's account unless there is a law.)
[ That is, sin is not exclusively a breach of the law, for there was moral evil in the world before the law; and unless there be some law there can be no guilt. But here there was guilt, for not only was there evil
, but there was also death, and that shows that there was sin; and those died who had not sinned like Adam, i. e. had never broken a positive revealed command, so that there is sin apparently without a breach of the law of Moses. And thus there being sin without a breach of the law of Moses, so also may there be righteousness without keeping the law of Moses.]
But* now is not the gift of the same extent as the offence? For if, without respect of the law or of revelation, men died because of sin, and that sin came from their corrupt nature, not that nature which God made, but which Adam marred, much more may we be sure that God's mercy has reached to all without respect of the law also, and that men shall live because of righteousness, and they will be righteous because of their regenerate nature, not that nature with which they were born, but that better nature which Christ has given, because He died for their sins, and rose again that they might rise also to righteousness and life through that same Spirit by which He had risen.
And as the evil of one man's sin came upon all, does not so also the gift? For as by one sin of one man, the world was condemned, so now after many offences of many men the world is pardoned. For if it were not so, God's severity would go farther than His love; for if one man's sin made all to die, can one Man's righteousness, and that one JESUS Christ be less effectual to make all men live?
So it is, then, as I said, All shall be restored, even as all fell; one man's righteousness cannot do its work less extensively than one man's sin had done.
As for the law, that came but to make sin worse. Guilt was aggravated by greater knowledge; yet God's grace is mightier to save than the law, through sin, to kill. Sin reigned while men only knew their duty, and so death reigned also; but God's Spirit, pointing to Christ crucified, will make men not only know their duty, but love it; so shall righteousness reign unto eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
* It will be observed, that here and in the following paragraph, by a different punctuation, a negative sentence has been changed into an interrogation.
ROMANS, v. 7, 8.
For scarcely for a righteous man will one die, yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
We have now carried on the Epistle to the Romans as far as the end of the fifth chapter; so far, that is, as to have endeavoured to state, as clearly as possible, the sense and the connexion of the Apostle's words. In doing so we necessarily passed over much that was of the greatest practical use, without doing more than briefly mentioning it; for had we dwelt fully on every subject that it might have been useful to enlarge upon, we should have been stopped at almost every verse. In particular, it is in the early chapters of the Epistle to the Romans that the great truth of the Atonement is mentioned most fully as the foundation of the Chris
* This Sermon, as will be seen, treats only of one part of the subject, which is spoken of as a whole in the 24th Sermon in the fourth volume.