Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. ZEAL WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE.
1. Israel's zeal was an element of strength. "I bear them record that they have a zeal of God" (ver. 2). The apostle does them the justice of recognizing their zeal for God. Here he could speak with sympathy, the sympathy of personal experience. He knew how, before his conversion to Christianity, he himself had been influenced by the same sincere, though mistaken, desire for God's glory. "I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the Law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day" (Acts 22:3). Here is the same sympathetic recognition of Jewish zeal. This quality, when rightly applied, was their strength. It well fitted them to be the bearers of God's message, and the channel of his blessings, to the world. A people without zeal will never accomplish anything permanent or great.
2. Zeal without knowledge was their weakness. They had a zeal of God, "but not according to knowledge." Zeal is not necessarily an unmixed blessing. Yet there are many who commend earnestness, utterly irrespective of the motives from which it proceeds, the methods it adopts, or the ends it has in view. On this principle the doctrines held or the character exhibited are of small importance, provided only there is earnestness and zeal. Mohammedanism and the Inquisition would therefore be both laudable, because they exhibited zeal. Zeal without knowledge may become the opened floodgate for a torrent of evil. Zeal in religion may lead to any excesses if it is not restrained and tempered by the wisdom which God's Word imparts.
II. WORKS WITHOUT FAITH. "For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God" (ver. 3). Thus it is plain that sincerity and morality will not save the human soul or procure acceptance with God. The essential condition of salvation is faith. Faith will lead us to accept God's plan of salvation, and to be guided by his Word in our efforts to obtain it. St. Paul's description of the Jews here might be appropriately applied to our Roman Catholic and ritualistic brethren. They too have a zeal for God. Their zeal and earnestness cannot be questioned. But their zeal is often not according to knowledge. They too are "going about to establish their own righteousness." They substitute works for faith, and by legal observances, by rites and ceremonies, by lastings and penances, they seek to work out's righteousness for themselves. Christ and his Word are too much set aside, and Church and priest and the commandments of men are set up in their place. Let us admit their strength, let us imitate their zeal, while affectionately "speaking the truth in love" we point out and avoid their weakness. - C.H.I.
I. THE ERROR OF THE JEWS.
1. Ignorance. "Of God's righteousness." That is, of the fact that the justification of a sinner can only come of God's free grace. Surely their Law might have taught them this: negatively, for it should have made them realize their own utter imperfectness and impotence; positively, for had they not read (Genesis 15:6) that Abraham was counted righteous through faith in God? and (Habakkuk 2:4) that all just ones shall live by faith?
2. Self-sufficiency. "Seeking to establish their own." That is (see Godet), as a monument, raised, not to God's glory, but to show forth their own achievements. Here was the pride of man, which must be brought down before any way can be made towards God (Matthew 5:3).
3. Disobedience. "Did not subject themselves." For the very faith whereby we receive God's free forgiveness is an act of submission, an abnegating of our false pride, a yielding to a way which is higher and better than our own (see Romans 1:5; Romans 6:17).
4. Frustration of the very purport of their own Law. "For Christ is the End of the Law." All was designed to lead to him; the holy commands were to make them know their guilt and weakness, and crave for pardon and grace; the sacrifices and ceremonies were at once to stamp the fact of sin more deeply into their consciousness, and to give them a glimmering hope of propitiation and purifying. To Christ all these things directly and indirectly tended; but the veil was on their eyes, that they "should not look steadfastly on the end of that which was passing away" (2 Corinthians 3:13).
II. THE TRUTH OF GOD.
1. "The righteousness which is of the Law was, that it should be done by man's efforts, conjoined with the grace of God. For, according to God's intent, grace was with the giving of the Law: pardon, for realized imperfection; help, for realized frailty; the coming of Christ, as the end of all its precepts and ceremonial. But if man would ignore this element of grace, there was nothing for him but a perfect fulfilling of an impossible righteousness! Doing it, he should live by it. They tried; the world has tried: the end thereof is death!
2. The righteousness which is of faith hath taught us better things.
(1) Not the severe effort of the soul, by ecstatic contemplation, to attain to communion with Heaven: the Buddhist, the Christian mystic. For Heaven has come down to earth; we have but to confess the Sonship of Jesus, and live a life in him who has hallowed all life. (Consider the Incarnation, and the gift of the Spirit, as illustrating the Word is nigh thee.") So, "the trivial round," etc.
(2) Not the painful anguish of the soul, as by a crucifixion, to make atonement for its guilt: the devotee, the ascetic. For the atonement is made, and, to testify its completeness, he has risen from the dead. We have but to believe this in our heart, and then, "there is now no condemnation." Yes, the faith which works by love: accepting with all our heart the free forgiveness which is through Christ's death, and acknowledging him with our whole life as our true Lord and King. So no shame, but perfect liberty and perfect love. - T.F.L.
I. WHY DID THE APOSTLE LONG SO ARDENTLY FOR THEIR SALVATION? He could not forget that the Saviour died to draw all men unto himself. A sinner unsaved lessens the reward of the "travail of his soul" and detracts from the possible glory of the atonement. But further, these men were his fellow-countrymen. Surely the condition of our "kinsmen according to the flesh" must be uppermost in our thoughts, and each man's efforts naturally commence at his own house, his own neighbourhood, his own nation. Then, they were the descendants of men signally honoured in the past. Their lineage was so distinguished, that Paul could not calmly witness the exclusion from the kingdom of God of these sons of patriarchs and prophets. They were in a special sense the "brethren" for whom Christ died. What more affecting today than to witness religious apathy in the families of the godly, to see the place of the fathers unoccupied by the children in the house of faith? And the apostle had visions of the splendid results that would ensue if the veil were removed from their hearts, and they should recognize in the Nazarene their wished-for Messiah. What should the receiving of them into the Church be but "life from the dead"? The same reason impels us to seek the conversion of many around, whose talents and earnestness might be of such signal service in our ranks. As Saul the persecutor became Paul the missionary, so we may look upon a bigoted opponent as a potential future enthusiast in the cause of Christ.
II. HOW DID THE APOSTLE'S CONCERN EXPRESS ITSELF? We answer - In his preaching. He ever visited first the Jews and the synagogue in his tours. It was God's design that the gospel should be first preached to his ancient people, that by rejecting or receiving the message they might either fill up the measure of their iniquity and crucify the Saviour afresh, or free themselves from the guilt of their nation and welcome the breaking down of the partition wall between Jew and Gentile. And the writings of the apostle evince his unabated regard and anxiety for the Jews. He declared that he could wish himself "anathema" from Christ, if that self-sacrifice could procure their redemption. We are reminded of the supreme act of self-abnegation by Moses on the mount, when rejecting Jehovah's offer to create from him a new people in the stead of that corrupt and obstinate generation. The apostle's language breathes the spirit of the cross of Christ it is an emanation to the disciple from the Master's self-immolation for the good of men. The prayers of the apostle showed the genuineness of his affectionate solicitude. Prayer is a thermometer that gauges the warmth of our desire to save men from misery and ruin. Does not the teacher bring the members of the class before God in earnest petitions, and the parent his children? We care little for those who are never mentioned in our supplications. Let us remember them where it most avails.
III. WHAT CONTRIBUTED TO MAKE THIS DEEP CONCERN SO NOTEWORTHY? It was prayer for men who hated and maltreated him. With rancorous unceasing enmity did the Jews pursue the apostle. They were the chief cause of his imprisonments and tortures, they did their utmost to mar his success and embitter his labours, and at last secured his death. Thinking of their attempts to overthrow the faith of Christian converts, the apostle could use strong language for their discomfiture; but on his knees, in the solemn presence of the God and Father of all, larger and more generous thoughts possessed his soul, and he forgot all his personal annoyances in the o'ermaster-ing impulse to seek their salvation. If wronged by any, take the matter to the throne of grace, and you shall begin to pity and then pray for him that did the wrong. It was prayer for those who had proved obstinate, and whose salvation seemed little likely. No acquaintance with the decrees of God, nor the fact of God's forethought and foreordination, could hinder the apostle's entreaties. What a lesson for us not to despair, not to faint! Our mistrust too often paralyzes our intercessions, our human reasonings "limit the Holy One of Israel." This was a benefit conferred which they had no power to refuse. Prayer is a kind office which we may render to men who would accept nothing else at our hands. This they cannot hinder. - S.R.A.
I. THE MISDIRECTED ZEAL OF THE APOSTLE'S COUNTRYMEN. (Vers. 1-3.) The apostle's desire and "supplication" (so Revised Version) for the Jews was that they might be saved. But, alas! their misdirected zeal was preventing their salvation. For instead of submitting to the righteousness which is of God, instead of making their way to Christ, who is the End to whom the Law when properly understood leads, they were going about with the one object of establishing their own righteousness. This zeal Paul knew himself experimentally. For years he also had aimed at Law-keeping, and in his self-ignorance he thought that "touching the righteousness which is in the Law" he was "blameless" (Philippians 3:6). But the Law-keeping may be in the letter and not in the spirit. The spirit of the Law is love; yet Paul and the Pharisees tithed mint and anise and cummin, while they lived lives of hate, and hesitated not to persecute Christ-like people even to the death. To keep self-righteousness before the soul as the end of life is simply misdirected zeal. It keeps us away from Christ and all the bliss which his fellowship implies. And so a day came when Paul saw that his roundabout way, going about to establish his own righteousness, was a delusion, a snare, a loss, and not a gain, for it kept him long years from Christ. Let us be clear that we are not under a similar delusion. Let us give up self-righteousness and take God's better way.
II. A RISEN SAVIOUR IS THE END OF THE LAW AND OBJECT OF FAITH. (Ver. 4.) Now, the moment we are led to take a spiritual view of God's Law, to see that it demands perfect motive as well as decent outward morality, we see that we cannot keep it in its length and breadth; and therefore, instead of living by Law-keeping, we are condemned by the Law as its transgressors. Self-righteousness is seen to be self-deception. Condemnation is seen to be our natural state. Then is it that Christ and his perfect righteousness dawn upon our condemned and polluted souls. We see that he has done for us what we cannot do for ourselves, and so the Law serves its purpose when it lays us down at the feet of Christ, to be justified by faith. Instead of trusting our own righteousness, we see in our risen Saviour the true Object of faith and Source of righteousness. We pass out of shame into confidence in his finished work.
III. THIS RISEN SAVIOUR IS EASILY FOUND. (Vers. 6-9.) The idea of the human heart is that by some prodigious effort salvation must be secured. Abana and Pharpar are further off, as well as likelier rivers, than this brawling Jordan hard by, and so Naaman cries out, "May I not wash in them, and be clean?" Only ask us to do some great thing in order to salvation, and our self-righteousness will be secured, and we shall be satisfied (cf. 2 Kings 5:12, 13). A far-off salvation suits man's taste the best. Set it in heaven, and he will rack his brains for some ingenious device by which he will fly away and be at rest. Set it beyond the sea, and boats will be built and the voyage undertaken with alacrity (cf. Deuteronomy 30:11-13). Make salvation to consist in a bringing of Christ down from above, and men like Titans will try to scale Olympus. Make salvation to consist in a descent to the lower world to bring Christ up from the dead, and many will try a journey like Orpheus after the lost Eurydice, to bring the Saviour from the shadows. But we have got to see that the risen Saviour is not so far away or so hard to find as this. As Charles Kingsley once wrote to a lady, "My object has been and is, and I trust in God ever will be, to make people see that they need not, as St. Paul says, go up into heaven, or go down to the deep, to find Christ; because he, the Word whom we preach, is very near them, in their hearts and on their lips, if they would but believe it; and ready, not to set them afloat on new and untried oceans of schemes and projects, but ready to inspire them to do their duty humbly and simply where he has put them - and, believe me, the only way to regenerate the world is to do the duty which lies nearest us, and not to hunt after grand, far-fetched ones for ourselves." In the Word of the gospel the risen Saviour comes near to every one of us. We do not require any prodigious effort to reach him. We have simply to open the eye of faith, and there he is.
IV. THE RISEN SAVIOUR MUST BE CONFESSED WHEN FOUND. (Vers. 10, 11.) Faith in a risen Saviour who is waiting to be found of us must prove its genuineness by the confession of his Name. It is when we take the Lord's side deliberately that we have tested the reality of our faith. There is a cowardly tendency to believe, but not confess; to get the benefits of salvation without running a single risk for our Saviour. But such a selfish, easy-going faith is mere delusion. Whoever really believes in Jesus will not be ashamed to confess him. And consequently we are encouraged first to believe that God raised Jesus from the dead, and then to confess him as our risen Saviour before men. There is undoubtedly a disposition to separate salvation from confession of Christ. It is thought to be wise and prudent to accept of the benefits Christ can offer, and at the same time to be silent about them. "Secret discipleship" is thought to be a masterpiece of wisdom. Everything is thus gained, and nothing risked or lost. But is everything gained? Is nothing risked or lost? Is the secret disciple ever likely to become a man of nobility and courage? Does he secure even self-respect? Must he not feel very much as a debtor who is always trying to shirk his obligations and ignore the debt? Or take the matter in the concrete. Was Nicodemus noble as he visited Jesus by night, and kept his discipleship a secret from the Sanhedrin? Was Joseph of Arimathaea noble as he gave his heart to the despised Saviour, but continued afraid to confess him? Neither man became noble until the Crucifixion brought decision, and they vied with each other what respect they could show to the remains of their great Master. Or would Saul of Tarsus have ever become the noble apostle of the Gentiles if he had sneaked into Damascus after his conversion, and resolved to risk nothing for his new-found Saviour? The manly character which Saul cultivated by confessing Christ was an infinite gain. It thus appears that confession of Christ is the wise test of the reality of our faith in him. May we all stand the test, and not be ashamed of him! - R.M.E.
I. CHRIST THE TERMINATION OF THE LEGAL ECONOMY. The rending of the veil at the Crucifixion indicated the passing away of the old dispensation, with all its gorgeous rites and external splendour. There arose another order of priesthood, from which the exclusiveness of the former caste was absent. Jesus the High Priest came not of the tribe of Levi. It is no longer necessary to become a Jew in order to reap the privileges of access to God. Christ has released men from the yoke of the Law, with its fasts and feasts, its observance of days and seasons. He has changed our state from pupilage to manhood; from slavery to a "reasonable service." Wherever a Christian is found, there is a spiritual priest and a living temple; wherever Christians meet, there is a holy convocation. The tabernacle disappeared when the temple was erected, and the earthly temple is no longer needed when the glorious building rises, reared without hands. The Jews who would not receive this teaching had to be convinced, by the capture of Jerusalem and the burning of their "beautiful house," that "the old order changed, giving place to new." The forerunner of Christ was the last of the Old Testament prophets.
II. CHRIST THE DESIGN AND SCOPE OF THE LEVITICAL DISPENSATION. We cannot understand the Law unless we regard it as pointing unmistakably to the coming Messiah, preparing his way; a preliminary education of mankind and of one nation in particular; like a stock on which a new rose is to be grafted. The sacrifices, the moral and ceremonial precepts, were predictive, were prophecy acted in symbol and type. The chrysalis displays tokens of the winged perfect insect. "The Law hath been our tutor to bring us unto Christ." So that when men inquire, "To what purpose was all this cost of legislation and ritual?" the reply is that it paved the way for something better; it was the "shadow of good things to come."
III. CHRIST THE REALIZATION OF THE MOSAIC IDEAL. The holiness which the Law ever kept in view, endeavouring to raise men to its standard of righteousness, has been exemplified in Jesus Christ. Wherein the Law was weak, Christ was strong. His condemnation of sin was thorough and effective, and the perfection of his sacrifice renders any subsequent atonement needless. To enter into the spirit of his offering is to "purge the conscience from dead works" and to give rest and peace to the troubled - the region in which the Law was inoperative. The message of Divine love sounding from the cross has a constraining influence over the affections and life of the Christian, which the Law aimed at and failed to achieve. New Testament saints have frequently attained to an enlightenment of mind and conformity to the Divine will which was sighed after in vain by patriarch, psalmist, and prophet. Christ bring his followers into communion with God, and by faith in him are they sanctified. Love is proved a stronger principle than terror, knowledge than ignorance, example than precept. In abrogating, Christ fulfils the Law.
CONCLUSION. See, then, what faith does. It looks at Christ instead of a Law of ordinances. It is no longer tied by enactments and fearful of non-compliance, for it beholds the face of Jesus, "the Lamb as it had been slain." We may trust Christ as our Redeemer and Guide, without understanding or acknowledging all these points of superiority over the former covenant; as a woman knows she will be benefited by a certain medicine, though she could not name its ingredients, nor state the method of its working; or as a man may journey on the railway who comprehends little of the application of steam to locomotives, etc. And faith is content to submit to God's righteousness, instead of seeking to establish its own. It relies not upon personal desert, but upon the provisions of mercy furnished in Christ. It is humble, and tries not to patch together a human garment to hide deformities and deficiencies. Accepting the gracious offer of God, faith discovers new elements of strength and joy in the very position assumed. - S.R.A.
I. NOT BY OUR OWN GOOD WORKS. "Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the Law, That the man who doeth those things shall live by them" (ver. 5). If this were the condition of salvation, how hopeless would our condition be! None of us could say that we had made ourselves free from sin, or that our works were perfect and faultless, or that we had fully and faithfully kept all the commandments of God.
"Not what these hands have done II. NOR BY MIRACULOUS INTERVENTION. "Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) or, Who shall descend into the deep?" (vers. 6, 7). The desire which is here expressed still survives. Not content with the Word of God and the invisible, but real, spiritual presence of Jesus with his Church, and the power of the Holy Spirit, many zealous Christians think it is necessary to have a more visible manifestation of the supernatural. Hence we have the doctrine of the real presence; alleged appearances of the blessed Virgin at Lourdes and at Knock; and, on the other hand, an undue stress laid upon the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead." III. BUT BY THE PERSONAL RECEPTION AND CONFESSION OF JESUS CHRIST, 1. The Holy Scriptures are the means used to bring this salvation near to us. "The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach" (ver. 8). In contrast with ceremonial or legal observances, in contrast with all miraculous appearances, the apostle here magnifies the reading and preaching of the gospel as the Divine method for the salvation of souls. "The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith unto salvation." 2. Faith, which is the condition of salvation, is an act of the human mind. Not by bodily labours or sufferings, not by appearances to our bodily senses, but by the Spirit of God and the Word of God working upon our spirits, and producing faith in us, do we receive salvation. "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness" (ver. 10). It is to the spiritual and not to the bodily nature that the appeal of religion is to be made. It is the spiritual and not the bodily nature that we must cultivate if we would see the kingdom of God. 3. Yet this faith will have an outward manifestation,. "With the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (ver. 10). If our faith in Christ is real, it will show itself. We shall not be ashamed to make public acknowledgment of him. 4. Thus salvation is brought within the reach of every one. "The same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved" (vers. 12, 13). This plan of salvation brings the gospel to the Gentile as well as to the Jew. "For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek" (ver. 12). Wherever there is a heart seeking after God, that soul need not wait to work out a righteousness for itself. "Whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved." What a contrast the simplicity of the gospel is to all human systems of religion and all man-made methods of salvation! The more we keep to the Word of God, and the less we mingle with it human tradition and ecclesiastical shibboleths, the more shall we be blessed in bringing souls to Christ. - C.H.I.
II. NOR BY MIRACULOUS INTERVENTION. "Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) or, Who shall descend into the deep?" (vers. 6, 7). The desire which is here expressed still survives. Not content with the Word of God and the invisible, but real, spiritual presence of Jesus with his Church, and the power of the Holy Spirit, many zealous Christians think it is necessary to have a more visible manifestation of the supernatural. Hence we have the doctrine of the real presence; alleged appearances of the blessed Virgin at Lourdes and at Knock; and, on the other hand, an undue stress laid upon the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead."
III. BUT BY THE PERSONAL RECEPTION AND CONFESSION OF JESUS CHRIST,
1. The Holy Scriptures are the means used to bring this salvation near to us. "The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach" (ver. 8). In contrast with ceremonial or legal observances, in contrast with all miraculous appearances, the apostle here magnifies the reading and preaching of the gospel as the Divine method for the salvation of souls. "The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith unto salvation."
2. Faith, which is the condition of salvation, is an act of the human mind. Not by bodily labours or sufferings, not by appearances to our bodily senses, but by the Spirit of God and the Word of God working upon our spirits, and producing faith in us, do we receive salvation. "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness" (ver. 10). It is to the spiritual and not to the bodily nature that the appeal of religion is to be made. It is the spiritual and not the bodily nature that we must cultivate if we would see the kingdom of God.
3. Yet this faith will have an outward manifestation,. "With the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (ver. 10). If our faith in Christ is real, it will show itself. We shall not be ashamed to make public acknowledgment of him.
4. Thus salvation is brought within the reach of every one. "The same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved" (vers. 12, 13). This plan of salvation brings the gospel to the Gentile as well as to the Jew. "For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek" (ver. 12). Wherever there is a heart seeking after God, that soul need not wait to work out a righteousness for itself. "Whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved." What a contrast the simplicity of the gospel is to all human systems of religion and all man-made methods of salvation! The more we keep to the Word of God, and the less we mingle with it human tradition and ecclesiastical shibboleths, the more shall we be blessed in bringing souls to Christ. - C.H.I.
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.
I. THE UNIVERSALITY OF THE GOSPEL IS EVIDENT FROM ITS VERY FREENESS. If the Law had been able of itself to justify, it might have seemed as though the Gentiles were without hope. But when it is perceived that the Law only leads to Christ, and that in Christ a free forgiveness is granted to sinful man, at once the conclusion is forced upon us - then to every sinful man. And the conclusion is just; even as Joel had foreseen, "Whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved." There needs but that faith which is involved in true repentance, a willingness to be saved by grace alone, and the salvation is ours. Let, then, the true cry for help go up from any human heart, and it is answered. But it follows that if, according to God's grace, salvation is such that it is, in itself, possible to every man, he must design that it shall be brought within the reach of every man. Hence the succession of questions which Paul asks, arguing that God's design to save sinful man, when calling upon him in truth, implies a design that it should be possible for man to believe in him as God the Saviour, which again implies the hearing him proclaimed, which again implies a preacher of the glad tidings, which again implies the sending of the preachers. Yes, if such is the salvation for sinful man, God must have instituted a universal apostolate for the nations. This indeed was so (Matthew 28:19; Acts 1:8). But Paul argues it, that he may justify his own mission, partly; and partly also, we may suppose, to remind them that they, the Jews, should have been the nation of apostles, that this was indeed the very intent of their election, had they not made the counsel of God of none effect. O glorious calling! O grievous forfeiture of high blessing!
II. THIS UNIVERSALITY OF THE GOSPEL WAS ANTICIPATED BY THE LAW. What had Moses said to them? "I will provoke you to jealousy," etc. They had provoked God by following after other gods; God would provoke his people by seeking other peoples (see Deuteronomy 32:21). Isaiah stated boldly what in the earlier words was more obscurely hinted at, "I was found of them," etc. (see Isaiah 66.). Here also a repetition of Romans 9:30-33. These, however, are but samples; there was enough in their Law, had not the veil been on their eyes, to show that they were but trustees for the world, and that one of their peculiar glories was that the Gentiles should come in the fulness of time to do homage to their God (see Isaiah 60). Israel "did know," or at least might have known.
III. THIS UNIVERSALITY OF THE GOSPEL WAS NOT INCONSISTENT WITH THE EXCLUSION OF ISRAEL FROM ITS BLESSEDNESS. The terms were, for them as for all, "Whosoever shall call," etc. And, it being impossible to call on One whom they had not heard, the hearing was certainly not withheld from them. It was true even of gospel preaching, as of the voices of the heavens (Psalm 19.), that the sound had gone into all the earth. For everywhere the gospel had been preached "to the Jew first." Yes, God had not cut them off from the blessing, but they had cut themselves off. It was true, as Isaiah had said, "All the day long," etc. So the parables of Jesus (Matthew 21., 22.). They might have been the chosen people for the glorious work of the world's salvation; but the election was broken by their unbelief. So, then, though God might surely choose or lay aside instruments as he would, in the carrying on of his work, he did not act without reason. It was because the Jews, being exalted to heaven, cast themselves down to hell, that they might not be the heralds of his grace. They would not receive it; therefore they could not show it forth. - T.F.L.
I. SOME ERRORS CORRECTED.
1. Polytheism. We might infer the truth of monotheism from the unity of structure visible in the world - its inhabitants, animals, and plants; from the analogy observable in different kingdoms of nature; and from the existence of the same laws operating to the remotest star. And the Mosaic Law distinctly enforced the truth, "The Lord our God is one Lord." Nor is the doctrine of the Trinity in unity contradictory. There is the historical fact that wherever Christianity has prevailed, idolatry has been doomed. The preaching of the fishermen effected what the most potent arguments of Greek philosophy and the keenest shafts of ridicule failed to accomplish.
2. Atheism. This is the other extreme; instead of many gods, no God. To attribute to blind force and fortuitous collocation of atoms the order and beauty of design evident in nature and history, is to posit an inefficient cause for the effects noted. So clearly is this seen, that the favourite attitude of many is to avoid definite assertions, and content themselves with saying, "We cannot be sure; we cannot attain to sufficient knowledge of the Unknowable to prompt our worship." This is practical atheism, imitated by multitudes who do not deny the authority of the Scriptures, or reject religion on speculative grounds, yet live "without God in the world." Remember that the non-recognition of the Deity does not absolve from religious responsibility. If there be a "Lord of all," he has claims upon your service which will not vanish because of your pleasant dreams and guilty unconcern.
3. Pantheism. He is Lord "of," i.e. "over all - a living, personal God, above as well as in nature. He is not to be identified with the universe, nor with his operations. He is different from his acts, as we are not our limbs, our deeds, but are conscious of a living will behind these manifestations. The instinct of prayer would be checked at once by the thought of calling upon" an abstraction of humanity or unintelligent matter.
4. Socinianism, or the denial of the Deity of Christ. Few stronger passages could be adduced than those in the context to assure us of the apostle's conviction of the dignity of the Saviour. In the ninth verse we are taught to "confess Jesus as Lord," and following the emphatic language of the text comes the thirteenth verse, where the prophecy of Joel and the title Jehovah are applied to Christ, the express subject of this chapter. All doubt as to the reference is removed by the question, "How shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?" since the object of our faith is ever represented as Christ, the manifested God. The only refuge is to deny the competency and inspiration of the apostle, and then we do not get rid of the other Scripture texts which speak of him as the Creator "by whom all things were made," and the Judge "to whom all authority is committed." No declaration of the relationship of the Son to the Father, more available for explanation of the mystery, can we have than "he is the Image of the invisible God."
5. Sectarianism, or Judaism as a system of rites, the embodiment of the narrow bigoted spirit which will admit only certain classes within its pale. Most scornful epithets did the Jews employ with respect to the unprivileged state of the rest of mankind; they were "the drops of the bucket, the offscouring of all things." But if the whole world may claim the same Lord, one family dares not arrogate to itself all the Divine love and blessing. What is the miserable superiority of the giant to the dwarf in the view of him who gazes from the mountain-top? The regard of God is to quality, not quantity; he wants the pure gold of repentance and obedience, no matter with what ingredients or amid what surroundings it may be found.. Jesus Christ taught us to abolish caste by the petition, "Our Father." In the present condition of religious knowledge and feeling, sects may be convenient, almost necessary, but we need not unchristianize those without our borders, nor confine our view of salvation to those who utter the same party shibboleth.
II. A TRUTH OF COMFORTABLE IMPORT - THE BENEFICENCE OF GOD.
1. His wealth permits him to do good to all. The slowly passing centuries have not enabled men to find out the extent of the Divine riches. The catalogue is exhaustless that is being compiled of the adaptations, combinations, resources, with which the Creator has furnished man's home. Then, whilst the microscope reveals innumerable infinitesimal wonders, the telescope discovers countless worlds. And the apostle delighted in the use of the word "riches" to describe the mercies of God in redemption. He felt he had to publish a purpose of God rich in wisdom, love, and power, dwarfing all human systems of reform. The Lord of Christianity is so supremely glorious, that it was a relief to turn away from human poverty in thought and means, to contemplate "the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden in Christ."
2. He is rich in all that his creatures need. Circumlocution offices abound on earth. The king cannot heal the leper, nor the doctor give legal information to the suitor, nor the lawyer be expected to head the subscription list. But none can seek Christ in vain for spiritual wants. He is rich in mercy to the penitent sinner, and to the believer forgetful of his early vows he is rich in the assurance of forgiveness and succour. The disappointed may find him an unfailing Hope, the bereaved a "God of all consolation;" to the tempted he is the "Way of escape," and to the heated with the struggle of life, "the Shadow of a great rock."
3. A benevolent Lord. "Rich unto all." Many a wealthy man is not "rich unto" anybody else - not even unto himself, poor niggardly soul. God sits not as a miser gloating over his goods, or as a king ensconced in the palace, where no cry of the poor or of the anguished can reach him. He delights to give; the glory of God is revealed in blessing his creatures. Love created, sustains, enriches, the universe. We need not fear coming too often or asking too largely. We shall not weary his generosity, or appeal too late to his exchequer because a more fortunate applicant anticipated our request. Invited to his banquet, he will not thank you for partaking scantily of the rich fare, lest you should trespass on his bounty.
4. The one restriction. Only one condition is to be fulfilled - that we "call upon him." This is but reasonable. We receive daily benefits unasked, but in the concerns of the soul we are treated as intelligent beings, as children whose voice the Father loves to hear. The prayer of mingled contrition and trust purifies and exalts the suppliants, honours and gratifies the Donor of good. The character of the petition manifests the spiritual state of the petitioner. Set the desires not so much upon the promises of physical relief as of spiritual blessing, not so much the removal of the trial as strength to bear it, not so much the extraction of the thorn as grace to submit patiently and to see wise purposes subserved by the infliction. What simpler counsel could be given to the heavy-laden sinner than this, "call upon him"? Like Peter amid the waves, cry out, "Lord, save me!" and Divine help shall respond, and you "shall be saved." And when the hour of death draws nigh, though we may not be surrounded by taunting foes, and no cruel blows may hasten our departure, yet, like the dying martyr, we may pass "calling upon the Lord, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." - S.R.A.
I. THE RISEN LORD IS WITHIN EVERY ONE'S CALL. (Vers. 12, 13.) There is no difference in his accessibility to both Jew and Gentile. "He is rich unto all that call upon him." With the sovereigns of this world court-favourites are the rule, and I suppose there is no exception. Only certain individuals get near the king, and are favoured with an audience. But this risen Lord over all can be rich unto every one that cares to call upon him. Let Jew or Greek only cry to him, and the needful help will come. This suggests the following comforting thoughts.
1. The throne on which our Lord now sits is a throne of grace. He is to sit, indeed, one day on a throne of judgment; meanwhile let us rejoice that he sits on a "throne of grace." It is to help the needy and the lost that he now sits enthroned. We are now under a "reign of grace." We hear a good deal in the present day of a "reign of law:" what consolation it is to think that, so far as Christ is concerned, we are all under a "reign of grace"!
2. He can hear directly every one that calls upon him. Of course, such a fact implies that our risen Saviour is indeed Divine. By virtue of his Divinity, he can hear everybody, whether Jew or Gentile, who cares to call upon him, and can deal directly with them. The many-voiced cry of lost and tempted souls reaches his ear and is all interpreted. It is easy to state the case of Christ hearing prayer, but it is overwhelming to imagine what such an arrangement demands from the blessed Being upon the throne. Yet it is sober fact - the whole cry of the race, the bitter cry of lost and tried souls, enters the sympathizing mind of our Divine Saviour and King. 3. He is rich to all the petitioners.
3. He is rich to all the petitioners.Just as when on earth he allowed no one to go empty away, so from his throne of grace on high there is no real petitioner dismissed without relief. He encourages Jew and Gentile alike to call upon him, and then treats us in a way that becomes a King. He does far more "exceeding abundantly for us above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us." If we ask him to save us, he does so with an everlasting salvation. If we ask him to pardon us, he does so with overflowing love. If we ask him to sanctify us, he enables us to die daily unto sin and to live unto righteousness. If we ask him to make us useful, he opens doors of usefulness for us of the most surprising character. In short, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But he hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit" (1 Corinthians 2:9, 10).
II. BUT AN OMNIPRESENT SAVIOUR NEEDS THE BEAUTIFUL FEET OF HIS HERALDS TO BE UPON ALL THE MOUNTAINS IF MEN ARE TO KNOW HIS NEARNESS. (Vers. 14, 15.) We have seen that the risen Saviour is within every one's call. But he is not palpable to sense. He is unseen. His presence is spiritual. Only by heralds going forth to proclaim the glad tidings of his presence are men led to call upon him. And the heralds address the ears of men. By this particular avenue of hearing does the message come. If men never hear of Jesus, they cannot be expected to realize his presence or to trust him. And so a propaganda is necessary, and the missionary enterprise is just such a propaganda to bring before Jew and Gentile the splendid fact that a risen Saviour is within each man's call. The natural history of faith is, then, this: "'Faith' - the faith which, overcoming the world, justifies and purifies and saves - 'cometh by hearing,' cometh in the way of communication from man to man, as distinguished from any natural reflective enlightenment; while that 'hearing cometh by the Word of God,' ariseth out of an express revelation uttered from heaven, in contrast to every system, device, or imagination of unassisted human reason," This being so, we can understand how the apostle quotes the rapturous words of the prophet about the beautiful feet of the heralds of glad tidings. The institution of the preaching of the gospel is the most beautiful now existing among men.
III. THE GLAD TIDINGS HAVE NOT HAD A UNIVERSAL RECEPTION. (Vers. 16-18.) In some cases the heralds have had small success. As Esaias cries, "Lord, who hath believed our report?" so has many a minister lamented his scant success. For, amid the multitude of competing things and persons palpable to sense, an unseen Saviour gets ignored by many. The problem was not, in the missionary age of Paul, as to many not hearing of a Saviour at all - rather was it that so many heard of him, yet gave no heed. For the apostle in this passage quotes what in the nineteenth psalm is applied to nature, as if the gospel message, at least in his day, had been as widely proclaimed as the limits of the world allowed. And when we consider the population of the world in Paul's time, and how it was practically within the grasp of the Roman empire, and that information filtered clown to the distant colonies more surely perhaps than, though not so speedily as, news does nowadays; and when we add to this the magnificent missionary spirit which animated Paul and his associates, he had reason to take up the universal terms and apply them to the propagation of the gospel. So that the gospel was more widely proclaimed in the first century in proportion to the population of the globe than it is as yet in the nineteenth. The contrast which now obtains between the revelation of God in nature and the revelation of God in the gospel in their respective relations to mankind - the one being universal, the other partial in its application - has been largely, if not entirely, due to the lack of enterprise and missionary spirit on the part of the Church. And yet too much may be made of this contrast, and men may fail to see that the proclamation of a revealed religion is the one way in which God is likely to receive attention from his creatures. The following quotation from Archer Butler upon the point will be welcome. "If God were to interfere at all, they [the deists] maintain, it would be by some universal agency, simple, general, and obvious, as the laws of his visible creation. They smile at the notion of God's greatest exhibition of his will to man being acted upon the reduced theatre of a petty province, and made dependent on the chances of human testimony. 'In the moral as in the physical world,' exclaims the leader of the sentimental school of deism, 'it is ever on a great scale, and by simple means, that Deity operates.' But what if we retort that it is those very laws of nature 'on a great scale' - those very 'simple means' - that have caused God to be forgotten? Not justly, we admit; for they ought eminently to have convinced men of his presence and power: but what of that? We are not now speaking of argumentative propriety, but of actual fact; not of man as he ought to be, but of man as he is. And it is an undeniable fact that it is the permanence and uniformity of the natural laws of the creation that have beguiled men into speculative, and, still more, into practical atheism; that it is the very perfection of the laws which has hidden the Legislator. The hand that God has constructed so wondrously can write, 'There is no God;' let it be smit with sudden paralysis, and the notion of an intervening Avenger will arise; nay, let us at any time behold some strange unique in any of the departments of experience, and it startles our habitual slumber. That is to say, as long as the work is perfect, we recognize no worker; but the moment it becomes deficient (the very thing which ought logically to produce the doubt), we begin to conceive and admit his reality. The more apparently capricious the works of nature, the more they resemble man's; and the more they remind us of direct agency analogous to the human. Now, if this be so, could it be expected that, to produce an acknowledgment of his being and attributes, the Deity would continue to employ the same medium of regular and ordinary laws, the same vast and uniform processes in the physical and moral world, which in all ages have tended (such the miserable subjection of man to an unreasoning imagination) to render his agency suspected by some, and practically forgotten by the many? To make himself felt he must disturb his laws; in other words, he must perform or permit 'miracles.' But then he must likewise exhibit them sparingly, as, if they continued to appear on assignable principles of stated recurrence, and in definite cycles, nay, if they appeared frequently, though unfixedly, - they would enter, or seem to enter, into the procession of the laws of nature, and thus lose their proper use and character. What follows? It follows that miracles cannot be presented to every successive age, far less to each individual person; they must, then, be presented only to some particular age or ages, and to some particular personal witnesses. But we have seen that they ought to be publicly and continually known; therefore (there being but one way of transmitting past events to present times) revealed religion and the knowledge of God, which we have seen is only thus to be practically and influentially attained, must he dependent upon human testimony. There is no step of this deduction which might not be made by a man who had never heard of any actual revelation having been given to man; it is purposely built upon the simplest principles of our common nature This seems to me to amount to something not unlike demonstration, that a traditional revelation, built on testimony transmitted from man to man - that is, of a Bible and sermon religion - far from being improbable (as the impugners of an 'historical creed' so eloquently insist), is actually the form of religion imperatively demanded by the very structure of human nature.
IV. THE RECEPTION OF THE GOSPEL BY THE GENTILES HAS BEEN PROVIDENTIALLY ORDERED AS A STIMULUS TO THE JEWS. (Vers. 19-21.) The faith which has come by hearing the gospel to the Gentile nations was intended to rouse to holy jealousy the unbelieving Jews. The one section of mankind has been and is being played off against the other in the all-wise providence of God. And nothing is more certain than that the Jews shall yet surrender to the claims of our risen Saviour, and enter the Christian Church as obedient followers of the once crucified but now exalted Messiah. Let us, then, have confidence in our Lord, not only regarding our personal salvation, but also regarding the ingathering of the nations. - R.M.E.
I. "HOW SHALL THEY CALL ON HIM IN WHOM THEY HAVE NOT BELIEVED?" In the ordinary dealings of daily life a certain amount of faith in another person is necessary before we can make any request of him. Unless we believe that he hears us, unless we believe that he is both able and willing to give us what we want, we are not likely to ask anything of him. So in spiritual matters, faith in God - the belief that he is, that he hears us, and that he is able and willing to help us - is necessary to successful prayer. It is necessary to salvation. But the heathen cannot call upon this gracious God of ours. As a matter of fact, they do not. No doubt, even amid heathen darkness, there are some earnest seekers after God. Certainly, if they call upon him, they shall be saved. But the vast majority of the heathen are without the knowledge of the true God. They are bowing down to pieces of silver and gold, of wood and stone, which cannot hear, or help, or save. Their very worship is a degradation in itself. Their religious rites are for the most part horrid cruelties, or foul and unspeakable lusts. And as for Buddhism, to quote only one authority, Sir Richard Temple, lately Governor of Bombay, tells us that however excellent and attractive the poetic accounts of it may be, as in the well-known poem, 'The Light of Asia,' the actual Buddhism of India is as degrading as can well be imagined. What they need to know is that there is a God who will hear them when they call upon him. They need to know that God is of purer eyes than to behold evil, that the abominations of their land may be put away. They need to know of the Lamb of God who beareth away the sin of the world, that they may turn from their useless ceremonies and cruel penances. They need to know of a Saviour who gives to all who call on him salvation, holiness, everlasting life. But "how shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?
II. HOW SHALL THEY BELIEVE IN HIM OF WHOM THEY HAVE NOT HEARD?" Even Christians need to have the importance of hearing about God more impressed upon them. Some professing Christians seem to imagine that the heart instinctively turns to God, and that in some mysterious way the heathen who have never heard of God will come to him. This mistake is fallen into because in Christian lands we have been so accustomed to hear about God from our childhood that we can hardly imagine it possible not to know about him. But the simple refutation of this idea is the actual state of heathen nations. St. Paul, in this very Epistle (Romans 1:21, 25, 28), assures us that though the heathen had at one time a knowledge of God from his works of nature, yet they glorified him not as God, but changed the truth of God into a lie, and therefore lost the knowledge of God. This is confirmed by the testimony of travellers in heathen lands. Missionaries often find it very difficult to convey to heathen minds an idea of what God is, so degraded have been their notions. It is a long time before a heathen can grasp the ideas of God's holiness and truth and purity, so accustomed is he to think of gods whose qualities are the very opposite of these. Even in our Christian land, unhappily, there are places in our large cities so neglected and degraded that children have grown up without hearing about God. And in such cases it has been found very difficult to convey at first an idea of God's being - his greatness, his holiness, his mercy, and his love. "How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? Hence, when the heathen learn of the love of God and the salvation which is in Christ Jesus, they often ask the question, Why did you not send and tell us sooner?" No wonder that with sorrowful hearts they ask the question, as they think of loved ones who have passed away without hearing the glad tidings. How sad is the condition of millions of the heathen without the knowledge of the crucified Saviour!
III. HOW SHALL THEY HEAR WITHOUT A PREACHER?" Yes, the preaching of the gospel is still the agency that is to regenerate the world. It was the preaching of the gospel that was the means of converting thousands upon the Day of Pentecost. It was the preaching of the gospel which overthrew the idols of ancient Rome. It was the preaching of the gospel which brought about the Protestant Reformation. "The Word," said Martin Luther over and over again, "it was the Word that did it all." It was the preaching of the gospel that overthrew the idols of Madagascar, and that has already brought civilization and peace and contentment into many of the islands of the sea. It is good to circulate the Word of God in every language. But it is necessary also to have the living preachers. "Go ye therefore into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." It needs the living preacher to be a living witness to the truth and power of the gospel - the full heart overflowing with love to Christ and love to souls; the ripe experience; the fulness of the Spirit. The Ethiopian treasurer had the Word of God in his hand as he returned in his chariot from Jerusalem. But he was not savingly converted until Philip began at the Scriptures which he was reading, and "preached unto him Jesus" (Acts 8:36). But the number of missionaries is still very small in comparison with the millions of heathen who have not yet heard the gospel message. "How shall they hear without a preacher?"
IV. "HOW SHALL THEY PREACH, EXCEPT THEY BE SENT?" This is the intensely practical question. If we realize the darkness and misery of heathen lands, if we are really thankful for the unspeakable blessings which the gospel has brought to us, what are we doing to send the message of salvation to those who sit in darkness?
1. We can help to send out missionaries by our prayers. "The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest."
2. We can help to send out missionaries by our gifts. We need to understand, not merely the duty of giving, but the privilege of giving. Surely it is a glorious privilege to be a labourer together with God. Upon the Christian Church is laid the responsibility of preaching the gospel to all nations. And there is this blessed encouragement: 3. If the last of these parts of mission work
3. If the last of these parts of mission work, of which the apostle speaks, is fulfilled, the rest are all sure to follow. If missionaries are sent, then there will be the preaching, the hearing, and, in God's own good time, the believing and the salvation of souls. His Word shall not return unto him void. Thus by our sending we may be the means of saving. - C.H.I.
Isaiah 52:7) it reads, "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace, as if the reference was to the inhabitants of some beleaguered city looking out for the messengers of peace, and as they behold them appearing, fleet of foot, upon the mountain-top, they exclaim, "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace!" Such a description the apostle here applies to the messengers of the gospel
I. THE GOSPEL IS BEAUTIFUL IN THE TRUTHS IT TEACHES. The truths of the gospel are here called "glad tidings of good things." This, in fact, is the very meaning of the word "gospel" - glad tidings or good news.
1. Think what the gospel teaches us about the one true God. What a contrast to the helpless idols of heathenism! How beautiful to think that God is a Spirit who is everywhere present, who knows all our circumstances, and to whom we can always draw near in the assurance that he hears us, and is able and willing to help us! What a contrast to the unknown god of even the best forms of heathenism, to the unconscious and unsympathetic Brahm, the god of Hinduism! I heard a missionary to the Red Indians, speaking in Dr. Storrs' church in Brooklyn, mention how the chief of an old Indian tribe, seven thousand in number, had come seven times in fifteen months a distance of a hundred and fifty miles to a mission station, to ask that a missionary might be sent to tell them of "the white man's God." How beautiful to them that sit in darkness is the glad tidings of the true God, the loving and merciful Father in heaven!
2. Think what the gospel teaches us about the human soul. The gospel does not permit us to regard man as one of the beasts that perish, as he is under so many of the heathen religions. Some of these have no idea of the existence of a soul at all; but in the best of them the soul is either annihilated at death, or transferred to some other creature, or absorbed into the universal being as a drop into the ocean. The gospel, on the other hand, teaches that man was made in the image of God; that he has an immortal destiny; and that, when he had destroyed his own present happiness and future prospects by his own sin, so great value did God place upon him, so great love did his heavenly Father cherish for him, that he sent his own beloved Son to live and die for man's salvation. The gospel which proclaims the greatness, the majesty, the holiness, the glory of God, proclaims also the dignity and the immortality of man
II. THE GOSPEL IS BEAUTIFUL IN THE INFLUENCE IT EXERCISES. This we might expect from the beauty and grandeur of the truths it teaches. There is nothing very elevating about the worship of an idol of wood or stone. There is nothing very inspiring. in the thought that life must end at the grave, or that I shall be absorbed into the universe. It may be very poetic to sing, as Shelley did of his departed friend Keats -
"He is made one with Nature. There is heard III. IT IS A BEAUTIFUL THING TO BE A BEARER OF THIS MESSAGE. "How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace!" What share are we taking in this glorious work? "Consecrated capital," says Dr. A. T. Pierson, "is not only potent; it is well-nigh omnipotent. To have and to use money well is to multiply personal power a thousandfold, nay, to multiply one's self a thousandfold.. The giver is potentially wherever his gift is. Sarah Hosmer's frugal savings educated six young men to preach the gospel in Oriental lands, and where they were, she had her representatives and preached through them. A man recently died in New York whose noble benefactions had spread so far, that in not less than two hundred and fifty different places he was represented by a mission Sunday school, a church, an asylum, a hospital, a college or seminary, or some other form of beneficence: his money made him virtually omnipresent as a benefactor." Oh that individual Christians would awake to their opportunities! Oh! that they would realize the moral grandeur and glory of being a bearer of the gospel message, and a helper in the gospel cause! - C.H.I.
III. IT IS A BEAUTIFUL THING TO BE A BEARER OF THIS MESSAGE. "How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace!" What share are we taking in this glorious work? "Consecrated capital," says Dr. A. T. Pierson, "is not only potent; it is well-nigh omnipotent. To have and to use money well is to multiply personal power a thousandfold, nay, to multiply one's self a thousandfold.. The giver is potentially wherever his gift is. Sarah Hosmer's frugal savings educated six young men to preach the gospel in Oriental lands, and where they were, she had her representatives and preached through them. A man recently died in New York whose noble benefactions had spread so far, that in not less than two hundred and fifty different places he was represented by a mission Sunday school, a church, an asylum, a hospital, a college or seminary, or some other form of beneficence: his money made him virtually omnipresent as a benefactor." Oh that individual Christians would awake to their opportunities! Oh! that they would realize the moral grandeur and glory of being a bearer of the gospel message, and a helper in the gospel cause! - C.H.I.
I. IT IS GOD'S PART TO PROVIDE THE OPPORTUNITIES. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (ver. 17). The apostle recognizes that men cannot be condemned for unbelief, if they have not had the opportunity-of hearing the gospel, No person will be condemned in the day of judgment who has not had the opportunity of salvation. And lest any one, applying this rule to the case of Israel, should suggest that they had not such an opportunity, he asks the question, "But I say, Have they not heard?" Can the plea of ignorance be put in on their behalf? Nay. "Their sound" (that is, the voice of God's messengers, referred to in ver. 15) "went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world." God has done his part for the enlightenment and salvation of men. He has revealed himself in his works of nature. He has revealed himself in his Word. He has revealed himself in his Son. Jesus is the Emmanuel, "God with us."
II. IT IS MAN'S PART TO AVAIL HIMSELF OF THEM. The mere possession of gospel privileges is no guarantee of salvation, "But they have not all obeyed the gospel (ver. 16). Israel had the Law, with its types and ceremonies, pointing to Christ; their prophets, who spoke of him. Yet, with all their privileges, they rejected Christ. "He came unto his own, and his own received him not." It will not profit us that we have been brought up in a Christian home, in a Christian Church, or that we have had the Bible in our hands, unless we ourselves "obey the gospel," accept its invitations, respect its precepts, and submit ourselves to Jesus as our Saviour and our King. Yet there are many who are resting entirely upon their privileges, without exercising that living personal faith in Jesus Christ for which these privileges afford the opportunity and the help.
III. OPPORTUNITIES NEGLECTED WILL BE TAKEN AWAY. Israel had been from the beginning forewarned of this. So long ago as the time of Moses it had been said to them, "I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you" (ver. 19). Then Isaiah repeated a similar warning," I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me" (ver. 20). The same lesson in the history of Israel is repeated by Christ more than once in his parables. In the parable of the wicked husbandmen, the lord of the vineyard is represented as letting out his vineyard "unto other husbandmen, who shall render him the fruits in their seasons" (Matthew 21:41). The same lesson is taught in the parable of the wedding-feast, where the invitation, rejected by the regularly invited guests, is sent out to the highways and hedges. We have the same truth in the parable of the talents. "Unto every one that hath shall be given... but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath" (Matthew 25:29). The history of the Jews is a solemn warning against the neglect of opportunities. It is a solemn warning to all those who, though brought up in Christian homes and in a Christian land, make light of the blessings of the gospel, resist its invitations, and set at naught its counsels. - C.H.I.