Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:…
1. There are many who cannot see the difference between criticising a weak argument and attacking the thing it purposes to prove. St. Paul had here been saying severe things of that spurious morality which consists simply of obedience to outward rules; and there were foolish auditors who concluded that he was assailing the moral law, the thing expressed in these rules. His answer is, that he was attacking not law, but legalism. St. Paul maintains that, by trying to substitute the principle of faith for that of blind obedience to an external rule, so far from making void the law he was really establishing the law.
2. The question here discussed, from a modern point of view, is one as to the relation between religion and morality. Can a man be virtuous who is not pious, or, if he can, does his virtue lack a quality which only piety can infuse into him? There are few who would maintain that the Christian religion has had a bad influence on virtue; they only contend that virtue is independent of religion. And I think there are many plausible considerations which lend, at least, a colourable pretext to this contention.
(1) No one, e.g., will question that there are not a few of blameless lives who entertain grave doubts as to the Christian faith. Are we to deny the reality of these men's virtue; or, if not, are we to conclude that it makes no difference whether a man is a religious man or no? Again, it has been often urged, that whilst conduct is a test, religious character and belief is not. Sometimes religious belief is a mere accident. Bow many of those who conform to the faith and worship of our country would have given an equally firm adherence to the faith and worship of another country?
(2) On the other hand, do we never find that religion may exist without morality? Is there not some ground for the assertion that it is in the religious and not in the secular world that intolerance, uncharitableness, and the like often attain their rankest growth?
3. Are we Christians, then, driven to the admission that there is no connection between our Christian faith and our goodness of life? Or, at least, are we driven to the confession that morality gains nothing from religion? No. All the apparent incongruities notwithstanding, I maintain that religion and morality are inseparably united; that that morality is at the best a poor, shallow thing which is not fed from the fount of a genuine Christian faith. Whenever, in its power and reality, the faith of Christ takes possession of a soul, we find that it transfigures into new beauty and nobleness all the higher elements of our nature, expanding the horizon of intelligence, kindling the spiritual imagination by a vision of a fairer than earthly beauty, infusing a new and keener sensitiveness into the conscience, a new tenderness into the affections, arming the will with a new commanding power over the passions, breathing, amidst all our struggles and efforts in this passing life, a sweeter, serener peace into the heart, and shedding over all the dim, dark future the light of a diviner, heavenlier hope.
4. There are many ways in which the influence of Christian faith on the moral life may be shown, as, e.g., by pointing out the influence of the sense of God's redeeming love in Christ Jesus, and of the hope of immortality on the moral life; but passing by these I fix attention on the fact that —
I. THE FAITH OF CHRIST REVEALS TO US A NEW AND INFINITE IDEAL OR STANDARD OF GOODNESS.
1. Eighteen hundred years ago there broke upon the world a vision of human perfection, a revelation of the hidden possibilities of our nature, transcending far all that the race had ever witnessed or conceived; and if we ask today what is the secret of the wondrous power over the hearts and lives of men the Christ-life has had, shall we answer that Christ set us simply a perfect example of human virtue? Had it been nothing more, I believe that there are dim aspirations in these breasts of ours which had never started into life; that there are secret anticipations of an immortal destiny which would never have awakened within us. But I believe that the secret of the transforming power of the life of the Son of God lies simply in this, that it calls us to be sons of God.
2. I can well conceive that to many this conception of the religious life may have an air of extravagance. When one thinks of the multitudes who are sunk in ignorance and vice, and of the dull routine of commonplace respectability, which is the best that most of us can boast of, it may seem the excess of fanaticism to talk of such a nature that its proper destiny is nothing less than sharing in God's life. And yet think for a moment. Outside of the sphere of religion there are in souls indications of infinitude — a sense of a nature that is one with God.
(1) When, e.g., the book of nature becomes intelligible, when beneath seemingly orderless confusion, or contingency and accident in the phenomena and facts of the world, the man of science begins to comprehend the presence of unseen but eternal laws shedding the light of design, of order, of reason over the visible world, what is the meaning of all this? What but this: that in the study of nature I am simply thinking God's thoughts after Him; I am simply proving that the mind within me responds to the mind that is impressed on all things without me.
(2) What, again, is the meaning of that even deeper sympathy with nature which finds expression in what we call the sense of the beautiful, the feeling of sensitive persons, with a kind of ecstasy when they look upon the grander scenes of this glorious world? What but this, that man cannot merely observe the glory and beauty of nature but, as face answers to face in a glass, the soul of man is strung in sympathy with the very mind that made it.
(3) So in the sphere of a higher and diviner art, in the life of endeavour after goodness. How shall we explain this, that the better a man is the less content is he with himself? Why is it that in the moral life our aspirations become more elevated, and ever as we ascend we see the moral life unsealed rising before us? Why, but for this reason, that the soul of man was made for God, that with nothing less than a Divine perfection can it ever be satisfied?
II. The religion of Christ not only reveals to us an infinite ideal of goodness, but it ASSURES US OF THE POWER TO REALISE IT. It says to you not merely, "This is what you ought to be," but, "This is what you may and can be." Apart from this, the gospel would be no good news. As you know that the first ray of light your eye catches, gilding the eastern horizon in the morning, is to you the sure pledge and prophecy of the coming perfect day; or, as you know, that the future plant is potentially contained in the little seed or germ, so the first movement in a human breast of true spiritual life, the first throb of genuine self-devotion to Christ is fraught with the newborn perfection and beauty of the life that is hid with Christ in God. The religious life indeed, like other life, is progressive, and here, as elsewhere, effort, struggle, conflict are the inevitable conditions of progress. Here lies the power over evil, the conquering impulse of the Christian life, that if only we be true to God and ourselves the final victory is sure. The sun and rain and dew, all the genial influences of nature, will not make a stone grow, but the tiniest germ, the fragile plant, just peeping above the soil, has in it a secret principle which can transmute air, earth, sunlight, moisture into means of its development, and so the heaven born life has in it the vitalising, the assimilating forces that will make "all things" in this our earthly existence, "all things" in the moral atmosphere, "work together for its good," and bear it onward to perfection. If the Spirit of Christ dwell in your heart today and mould your life, nothing in heaven or earth or hell can ever, ever baulk you of your Christian hope.
Parallel VersesKJV: Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: