Romans 10:1
Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is for their salvation.
Anxiety for the Salvation of Our FellowsS.R. Aldridge Romans 10:1
Israel's Strength and WeaknessC.H. Irwin Romans 10:1-4
Confession of a Risen SaviourR.M. Edgar Romans 10:1-11
The Freeness of SalvationT.F. Lockyer Romans 10:1-11
A Comprehensive DesireR. S. MacArthur, D.D.Romans 10:1-13
Apostolic PatriotismD. Thomas, D.D.Romans 10:1-13
Barriers Broken DownC. H. Spurgeon.Romans 10:1-13
Blind ZealCawdray.Romans 10:1-13
How to Promote the Salvation of OthersDean GravesRomans 10:1-13
Human Righteousness Only Attainable by Submitting to The Righteousness of GodF. W. Bourne, D.D.Romans 10:1-13
Ignorance of God's Righteousness, the Guilt OfT. Chalmers, D.D.Romans 10:1-13
Lsrael a Lamentable Example of the Blindness of UnbeliefJ. Lyth, D.D.Romans 10:1-13
Man's Tendency to Trust in His Own RighteousnessJ. McCosh, D.D.Romans 10:1-13
On ZealJ. Barr, D.D.Romans 10:1-13
Paul's Chief Desire for His CountrymenD. Jamison, B.A.Romans 10:1-13
Paul's Concern for His PeopleJ. Lyth, D.D.Romans 10:1-13
Paul's Desire and PrayerT. Chalmers, D.D.Romans 10:1-13
Paul's Desire and PrayerElnathan Parr, B.D.Romans 10:1-13
PhariseeismJ. Burns, D.D.Romans 10:1-13
Reasons Why Men Reject the Righteousness of GodJames Hamilton.Romans 10:1-13
Self-Righteousness -- Ruin of ManyC. H. Spurgeon.Romans 10:1-13
The Proper Regulation of Religious ZealW. Smyth.Romans 10:1-13
The Salvation of IsraelDean Graves.Romans 10:1-13
The Way of SalvationJ. Lyth, D.D.Romans 10:1-13
Zeal and KnowledgeElnathan Parr, B.D.Romans 10:1-13
Zeal for the Conversion of RelativesMrs. McLeod Wylie.Romans 10:1-13
Zeal for the Salvation of SinnersG. Burder.Romans 10:1-13
Zeal Without KnowledgeAbp. Tillotson.Romans 10:1-13
Zeal Without KnowledgeJohn Foster.Romans 10:1-13
Zeal Without KnowledgeT. Chalmers, D.D.Romans 10:1-13
Zeal, CautiousCawdray.Romans 10:1-13
Zeal, FalseJ. Goodman.Romans 10:1-13
Zeal, MisguidedJ. Lyth, D.D.Romans 10:1-13
Zeal, TrueR. Cudworth.Romans 10:1-13
Zeal, True and FalseJ. Whitecross.Romans 10:1-13
Zeal, UncontrolledJ. Spencer.Romans 10:1-13
ZealotryPope., W. Penn.Romans 10:1-13
Zealous, But WrongC. H. Spurgeon.Romans 10:1-13

The apostle returns again to the tender solicitude for the spiritual welfare of Israel which he had already expressed in the beginning of the ninth chapter. He was no blind bigot. He could recognize the good qualities even of those from whom he differed. He knew how far Israel had departed from the truth of God, and yet he is quick to perceive that, even amid their errors and sins, there is much that is commendable in their character. What an example for every Christian, and especially in these days, when ecclesiastical divisions are so numerous and so sharply defined, to recognize what is good even in those from whom we differ most widely!


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.

Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
I. PREDESTINATION SHOULD BE NO BARRIER IN THE WAY OF PRAYER. The text derives a special interest from the very position which it occupies. He who saw the farthest into the counsels of the Divinity above, saw nothing there which should affect either the diligence or the devotions of any humble worshipper below. However indelibly the ultimate futurities of man are written in the book of heaven, this should not foreclose but rather stimulate his prayers. Let us quit arduous speculation, and keep by obvious duty — taking our lesson from Paul, who, though just alighted from the daring ascents among the past ordinations of the Godhead, forthwith busies himself among the plain and the present duties of the humble Christian. Theology has its altitudes shooting upwardly to heaven till lost in the cloudy envelopment which surrounds them. Yet there is a clear path which winds around its basement, and by which the lowliest of Zion's travellers may find an ascending way that will land him in a place of purest transparency, where he shall know even as he is known.

II. UNLESS THE DESIRE OF THE HEART GOES BEFORE IT, IT IS NO PRAYER AT ALL. The virtue does not lie in the articulation, but altogether in the wish which prompts it. It is thus that we can pray without ceasing. In the case of prayer, God has committed Himself to the amplest promises of fulfilment; but He is not pledged to the accomplishment of any prayer where the desire of the heart does not originate the utterance of the mouth. The want of such desire nullifies the prayer; and to imagine otherwise would be to countenance the superstition that a religious service consists in mere ceremonial. Be assured of this and of every other ordinance of Christianity, that, unless impregnated with life and meaning, it is but a body without a soul — a mere service which the hand can perform, but which the heart with all its high functions has no share in. It stands in the same relation of inferiority to genuine religion that the drudgery of an animal does to the devotion of a seraph. In one word, if in the doing of any ordinance there be not the intercourse of mind with mind, there substantially is nothing; and yet we fear it to be just such a nothingness as is yielded by many who are regular in prayer, and who walk with decency and order through the rounds of a sacrament.

III. THE SUBJECT OF THE PRAYER. "That Israel might be saved."

1. It is not all desire that will meet with acceptance in heaven, for the same Scripture which holds out the promise of "ask, and ye shall receive," has also held out the warning that many ask and receive not "because they ask amiss."

2. Still, Scripture does furnish the principles by which to discriminate the warrantable from the unwarrantable, and so classifies the topics of prayer. It is written "that if we ask any thing according to His will He heareth us." This does not confer a sanction upon every suit, but certainly upon a vast number of them. Thus, surely, every petition in the Lord's Prayer may be preferred with utmost confidence; and so it is that while we have no warrant to pray for this world's riches, we have a perfect warrant to pray for daily bread. The same principle of agreeableness to the will of God sustains our faith, when praying for the salvation of ourselves or others, being expressly told that God willeth such intercessions to be made for all men, and on this ground too that He willeth all men to be saved.

3. So near does God bring salvation to us that there is no obstacle between our sincere wish for it and our secure possession of it. At least there is but one stepping-stone between them; and that is prayer. And so let us ask till we receive — let us seek till we find — let us knock till the door of salvation is opened to us.


1. Its common acceptance is a deliverance from the penalty of sin. Whereas, additionally to this, it signifies deliverance from sin itself. "He shall be called Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins" — save them from a great deal more than the torment of sin's penalty, even from the tyranny of sin's power. The first secures for the sinner a change of place, the second a change of principle. This last is the constituting essence of salvation; the other more the accompaniment. The one takes place after death. The other takes place now.

2. The legitimate desire, then, which should animate the heart when the mouth utters a prayer for salvation is for a future happiness, but also for a present holiness. Man might like to be put into a state of happiness without holiness; but God does not like that such a happiness shall be conferred upon him. It is most assuredly not God's will that heaven should be peopled with any but those who are of the same family likeness with Himself. He loves the happiness of His creatures, but He loves their virtue more. And so from Paradise all that offendeth shall be rooted out. Now remember that in praying to be saved, you just pray that such a heaven may be the place of your settlement through all eternity. Else there is no significancy in your prayer. It is not enough that you seize by faith on a deed of justification. You must enter forthwith on a busy process of sanctification. Now that a way for the ransomed of the Lord is open, let us forget not that it is a way of holiness. There is a work of salvation going on in heaven, and by which Jesus Christ is there employed in preparing a place for us. But there is also a work of salvation going on in earth, and by which Jesus Christ through His Word and Spirit is here employed in preparing us for the place. And our distinct business is to be ever practising and ever improving ourselves in the virtues of this preparation. This desire for salvation, then, if rightly understood, is desire for a present holiness.

V. BUT THIS IS AN INTERCESSORY PRAYER, and suggests what we ought to do for the salvation of those who are dear to us. Paul had made many a vain effort for the salvation of his countrymen; but after every effort failed, still he had recourse to prayer. The desire of his heart was not extinguished by the disappointment he met with.

1. This might serve as admonition to those whose hearts are set on the salvation of relatives or friends — to the mother who has watched and laboured for years that the good seed might have future in the hearts of her children, but does not find that this precious deposit has yet settled or had occupation there, etc., etc. Let them never forget, that what has heretofore been impracticable to performance may not be impracticable to prayer. With man it may be impossible; but with God all things are possible. That cause which has so oft been defeated and is now hopeless on the field of exertion, may on the field of prayer and of faith be triumphant. God willeth intercessions to be made for all men, and He willeth all men to be saved. These declarations place you on firm and high vantage-ground in praying for souls. This, however, is a matter on which parents may delude themselves. They may be glad to stand exonerated from the fatigues of performance, and take refuge in the formalities of prayer. That prayer never can avail which is not the prayer of honesty, and it is not the prayer of honesty if, even though you pray to the uttermost for the religion of others, you do not also perform to the uttermost.

(T. Chalmers, D.D.)

Notice here —

I. THE APOSTLE. Observe —

1. That ministers are not only to preach against wicked persons, and to exhort their people to obedience, but also to pray for them, as Samuel and Jeremiah did (1 Samuel 12:23; Jeremiah 13:17).

2. When ministers are to speak of a matter that may distaste, they must wisely prevent all offence by preparing the minds of the hearers, and showing that they speak out of love, and a desire of their salvation. As physicians prepare, and nurses sometimes still their little ones with singing, so also must ministers attempt every way which may profit their people.

3. Paul loves the Jews, but tells them plainly of their faults; so must ministers do. The way to get peace among men is not to reprove, but this is the way to lose the peace of God.

4. The condition of ministers is painful. The care to save souls that we may give up a good account is infinite. But our joy is in the conscionable discharge of our duty, and for such as receive the Word with reverence we praise God for the joy wherewith we rejoice on their behalf (1 Thessalonians 3:9).


1. Though the Jews seek Paul's life, yet he loves them. We are Pharisees by nature, loving our friends and hating our foes, but we are Christians by grace, and therefore must love our enemies and pray for them, as our Saviour taught and practised. Every man can love his friend, but only a godly man can love his enemy; and in this doing we do ourselves more good than our enemies. If, then, thou canst so rule thine affection as to love thine enemy and pray for him, it will be a sweet comfort to thy breast.

2. Paul's love was hearty; so let thine be. Some, after a controversy is ended, will promise friendship, but with a reservation of revenge. Judas kissed Christ, and betrayed Him; and Joab saluted Amasa courteously and slew him. Remember thou to mean the truth thou makest show of.

3. Let thy love appear in kind words and salutations, as Paul calls the Jews brethren, which condemns the practice of some, who, if they be offended, show that they are possessed either with a dumb devil — they will not speak; or with a railing devil — if they speak it shall be with taunts and reproaches.

4. Pray for them thou lovest. Thou shalt never have any comfort of his friendship for whom thou dost not pray.

(Elnathan Parr, B.D.)

I. A TITLE WHICH SHOULD NEVER BE FORGOTTEN. "Brethren" has in its surroundings here more than one lesson for us. Did we remember this in the world, what a very much better world it would be; how much more and truer interest we would take in each other; how much less selfishness, how much more sympathy there would be felt and manifested. And, then, if we remembered it in the church, how much liker Christ the Church and Christians would be.

II. A MARRIAGE WHICH NONE SHOULD DIVORCE. "My heart's desire and prayer to God." Let these two always be united. Then our heart's desires shall be right, and our prayers real; and then too our heart's desires shall be granted, our prayers answered. View the phrase for a moment from both sides. First, as it stands. Whatever is our heart's desire, let us make it our prayer to God. For several reasons we should do so; but to mention only two, one is, should our heart's desire be wrong, we shall find ourselves unable to pray for it; or in the very praying for it we shall discover its wrongness; and so praying against it we shall get rid of it, and rid too of the distraction which it causes. And the second is, if on the other hand our heart's desire be right, prayer to God is the true way and the sure way to secure it. Turn also the phrase about, and learn from it another lesson. Our prayer to God should be, and ever, our heart's desire, and we do not pray really until or unless it is so.

III. A PATRIOTISM ABOVE SUSPICION: "FOR ISRAEL." Not all so-called patriotism is above suspicion. Sometimes it is simply partyism, and the interests of a section are sought, not of the nation as a whole. Sometimes, again, patriotism is but personalism; apparently zealous for the country or for the party, some are simply seeking through the party to serve and secure their own individual interests. Such patriotism bears the name, but it is not the thing. The patriotism, however, here exemplified, is of another stamp. It is patriotism of the highest kind and type.

IV. A NEED WHICH IS THE MOST IMPERATIVE. "That they might be saved." Paul tells us elsewhere that he felt this need the most imperative for himself. He says, "I count all things but loss," etc. (Philippians 3:8, 9). And so here he speaks of it in the same way for others. And is it not so? Is this not the principal thing? What about health; what about wealth; what about all the gratification of earthly pleasures, the carrying out of earthly plans, the establishing of earthly prospects in comparison, or rather in contrast, with this? We need to be saved because we have sinned, and because we are already under sentence, and because we are utterly unable to remove or to escape that sentence by any merits or by any efforts of our own.. And let us rejoice that we may be saved. God is not willing that any should perish.

V. AN EARNESTNESS WHICH MAY BE AN ERROR. "For I bear them record," he continues, "that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge." This may be said too about many of our countrymen. They put us to shame by the attention they pay to religious rights and duties. It might be said too about some amongst ourselves. But let us remember religiousness is not always religion. To be saved, we must come to a knowledge of the truth. Mere earnestness, mere sincerity will not avail.

VI. AN IGNORANCE WHICH IS QUITE INEXCUSABLE. "For they being ignorant of God's righteousness." God's righteousness means here, God's method of justification; and this phrase suggesting the question, what is that method? may I not characterise ignorance of it as quite, inexcusable. God has so plainly, and fully, and repeatedly revealed it in His Word, "that a wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err therein." See the succeeding verses here from the 5th to the 10th.

VII. AN EFFORT WHICH MUST ALWAYS BE A FAILURE. "And going about to establish their own righteousness." Many would like to be saved, but they do not like to be beholden to Christ for salvation; or at all events they do not like to be beholden to Him entirely. And so they "go about to establish their own righteousness," wearying themselves for very vanity. The apostles idea or image here would seem to be as if men in this attempt were trying continuously to set up upon its feet that which had no feet to stand upon; or as if they were persevering with stones unsquared, and mortar untempered to raise up, upon an insecure foundation, a wall which, ever as they raised it, tottered and toppled down again.

VIII. AN OBSTINACY WHICH MUST END IN RUIN. That is, it must do so if we continue it. If we wilt not submit ourselves to the righteousness of God; if, in other words, we will not consent to be saved through the redemption and righteousness of Christ; then we utterly shut the door of hope against ourselves, and leave God no alternative but to pronounce our doom. Christ is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God through Him; but there is no salvation in any other.

IX. A DIRECTION WHICH IS SIMPLE AND CERTAIN. "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." In order to salvation men can do nothing; but Christ has done all; He "has made an end of sin and brought in everlasting righteousness."

X. A sine qua non OF SALVATION. Many forget or fail to realise this: and therefore look for salvation to mercy alone. They do not take into account that if the sinner is to be saved, he cannot under the administration of God the righteous judge be so by any suspension of law, or setting aside of it; or by any failure to meet its just demands either of precept or punishment. In the salvation of the sinner, in other words, truth and mercy must meet together; and righteousness and peace embrace each other: and these can only meet, can only embrace in "Jesus Christ and Him crucified."

XI. AN OPPORTUNITY ABUNDANTLY OPEN TO ALL. "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth."

XII. A MEANS SUBLIMELY SIMPLE TO A SALVATION SUBLIMELY SURE AND GLORIOUS. Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.

(D. Jamison, B.A.)

Paul had just spoken with apparent severity of his brethren. To them his doctrines were peculiarly offensive. They must have regarded him as a traitor. Still he loved his kindred, and his loving heart gushes forth in this comprehensive desire. It is —

I. HEARTFELT. "My heart's desire." Not all who are interested in the salvation of men are influenced by this desire. There may be —

1. A professional desire. The evangelist, the teacher, the pastor may have it.

2. A duteous desire. Better this than none.

3. An intellectual desire. Paul's intellect was active, but it was sweetly submissive to Christ. All this gave him power. It gives power to-day. This is true of music, of art, of poetry. No heart, no power. Love evokes love. Heart responds to heart.

II. PRAYERFUL. Genuine desire must voice itself in prayer. Our heart's desire is our prayer. The heart that goes out to men must go up to God. Often the shortest and surest way to reach men is by way of God's throne.

III. FRATERNAL. Paul was a cosmopolitan man; still he was a Hebrew of the Hebrews. The Christian is the true Jew. Judaism is the root; Christianity is the flower and the fruit. Judaism the dawn; Christianity is the splendour of noon. When Paul became a Christian he found that for which he always sought. Now he longs for his brethren. So ought we. There is a sanctified patriotism.

IV. EVANGELICAL. "That they might be saved." This was Christlike. Nothing short of this could satisfy the apostle. Not enough for them to be saved from national disaster; not enough from earthly sorrow. They must be saved from sin here, and death hereafter. Are you saved? Then make Paul's comprehensive desire yours.

(R. S. MacArthur, D.D.)

St. Paul was not more distinguished as a saint and an apostle than as a patriot. His patriotism had a philosophy which discovered the cause of his country's evils, and a policy exquisitely fitted to remove them. Without ignoring its temporal interests, his main endeavour was to raise its benighted intellect to light, and turn the current of its moral sympathies into the channel of truth and holiness. It was not an occasional sentiment passing off in chanting national airs or delivering florid speeches; it was with him a "heart's desire and prayer to God." It was consistent with, and a development of, true philanthropy. The passion that inspires men to ruin other countries in order to aggrandise their own, has no affinity with the apostle's passion. The statesmen, warriors, kings, who violate the eternal rights of man, bring a ruinous retribution upon their country. "With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." The apostle's patriotism —

I. SOUGHT THE HIGHEST GOOD OF HIS COUNTRY. What was that? Augmented wealth, extended dominion, a higher state of intellectual culture? No, salvation. Salvation is the master-theme of the Bible, the great want of the race. It implies deliverance from all evil, and a right state of soul in which every thought shall be true, every emotion felicitous, every act holy, and every scene gleaming with the smiles of an approving God. This "heart's desire" implies a conviction —

1. That his countrymen needed salvation. Their physical blessings were great; his brethren "according to the flesh" lived in a beautiful country. "It was a land flowing with milk and honey." His countrymen had also the oracles of God, etc. Yet in spite of all this the apostle regarded his brethren as lost. He looked into the moral heart of his country, and he found that the soul was dead and dark under sin and condemnation; hence he sought their salvation. Whatever else a country has, if it has not true religion it is lost. This is its great want. Give it this, and every other good will come. All political and social evils grow out of moral causes, and godliness alone can remove these. It is profitable therefore unto all things.

2. A conviction that the salvation of his countrymen requires the interposition of God. Why else did he pray? The apostle believed in the adaptation of the gospel to effect the spiritual restoration of mankind. His triumphs he ever gratefully ascribed to the agency of God, and the co-operation of that agency was the grand invocation of his most earnest prayers. "I have planted, Apollos watered," etc. "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord."

3. A conviction that this interposition of God is to be obtained by intercessory prayer. Hence he prays for others; hence he calls for others to pray for him and his apostolic coadjutors. I know not how prayer influences the Almighty, nor why it should; but I know that it does, and that it must be employed if human labour in His cause is ever to be crowned with efficiency. The true patriot is a man of prayer. Never did David act more truly a patriot's part than when he breathed this prayer to heaven: — "Let the people praise Thee, O God," etc.


1. Corrupt zealotism (ver. 2). He himself had been a Jewish zealot, and was therefore qualified to pronounce a judgment upon it. Zeal is an important element in every undertaking. There is not much success where it is not. But when it is dissociated from intelligence it is fraught with evils. Zeal when directed to wrong objects, when directed to right objects in wrong proportions, and when it cannot assign an intelligent reason for its action, is "zeal without knowledge." This zeal was one of the cardinal evils amongst the Jews. Knowledge and zeal should always be associated. The former without the latter is a well-equipped vessel on a placid sea without the propulsion of steam, billow, or breeze. The latter without the former is like a bark on the billows with propulsion and no rudder. Both combined is like a goodly ship trading from port to port at will, steering clear of dangers, coping gallantly with hostile elements, and fulfilling the mission of its masters.

2. Ignorance of Christianity (ver. 3). By "God's righteousness," here, we understand not His personal rectitude, but that merciful method by which He makes corrupt men right (Romans 8:2, 3). Of this method the Jews were "ignorant." Men perish for the lack of this knowledge. In the case of the Jew it was not only ruinous, but culpable. They had the means of knowledge.

3. Self-righteousness (ver. 2). They considered their own righteousness to consist in their patriarchal descent, and their conformity to the letter of the law. In this they gloried as that which distinguished them from all the nations of the earth, and which met the righteous claims of Heaven. The apostle himself once felt this to be his glory (Philippians 3.). The Pharisee in the temple was a type of the leading religious sect, and his language is expressive of its spirit.

4. Gospel rejection. "Have not submitted," etc. This is the grand result of all other evils, and the crowning sin of all. They refused the only Physician who could heal their diseases; the only Liberator that could break their fetters, the only Priest whose sacrifice could atone for their guilt. Such are some of the evils which Paul as a patriot discovered and deplored in his country. He is no patriot who shuts his eyes to his country's crimes, and pours into her ears the most fulsome eulogies. Call not this patriotism; call it moral obliquity.


1. That righteousness is essential to the well-being of the people. There is no true happiness without righteousness. All the social, political, religious, moral evils under which all men and nations groan, spring from the want of righteousness. As no individual can be happy until he has been made thoroughly right in heart, so no people or country can. This rectitude is the only element that can work off all the evils that afflict mankind, and give them the tone and blessedness of a vigorous health. This is the only key-note that can set the discordant elements of the world to music. The righteousness which is essential to the salvation of a soul, is that which alone "exalteth a nation."

2. That the grand aim of the moral law is to promote righteousness. Righteousness is the end of the law. The law was holy, just, and good. Conformity to it is righteousness in the creature (ver. 5).

3. That the righteousness which the law aimed to promote is to be obtained by faith in Christ (ver. 4). Christ did not abolish law, on the contrary He fulfilled it. He wrought out its principles in a grand life; He demonstrated its majesty in a wonderful death. Instead of releasing His disciples from obligation to the law, He brings the law to them with a mightier aspect and a greater force of motive. And the apostle's method of making the sinner righteous is by faith in Christ.

(D. Thomas, D.D.)

I. ITS OBJECT — their salvation.

II. THE CAUSE OF IT (Romans 9:32).


1. Heartfelt.

2. Inspired by the Spirit of God and belief of the truth.


1. Prayer to God.

2. Effort.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

I. CONTEMPLATE THE HISTORY OF THE HEBREW PEOPLE, and judge whether it deserves our respect and veneration. And first, reflect on its antiquity. Before the empire of Persia was founded, when Greece was overrun by a few barbarian hordes, and Italy was an unpeopled wilderness, the race of Abraham was chosen by the Divine Founder of all empires as one distinct and peculiar people; incorporated by an inviolable charter from the Supreme Monarch of the universe, no human power has been able, for four thousand years, to dissolve its union, or shake its stability. But if this nation is venerable, as the grand depository of historical truth and ancient wisdom, much more is it distinguished and consecrated as the chosen instrument which the Divinity has employed for the religious instruction of mankind, the guardians and witnesses of every sacred truth; the hallowed fount which, springing from the sanctuary of God, has poured forth in unceasing and abundant profusion its healing and holy waters, to purify and bless the surrounding regions of the earth. But, beyond all this, in considering the blessings derived to us and all mankind from the Jewish law and the Jewish people, we never should forget the clearness and solemnity with which the great rules of moral conduct are promulgated in the Decalogue, and the two grand principles of love to God and love to our neighbour inculcated by the Jewish law. What a powerful claim to the respect, the gratitude of every man who values virtue or reveres religion must such a people possess, if we consider them merely as the depositaries and guardian of natural theology, the preservers and teachers of moral principle; but they are connected with us by ties much closer, they possess claims on our regard far more sacred: they were the instruments employed by God to prepare for the dominion of the gospel of Christ.

II. LET US NEXT PROCEED TO ENQUIRE HOW HAVE CHRISTIANS ANSWERED ALL THESE CLAIMS, how have they repaid this debt of gratitude? Alas, almost incredible to tell, their conduct towards this chosen nation has been one almost uninterrupted series of cruelty and calumny, of oppression and persecution. I do not mean to say that such cruelty and persecution were unprovoked and gratuitous; but I contend that however great the provocation, such cruelty and persecution were unjust and criminal. Would we vindicate our holy religion from the foulest reproach that ever stained its character, we will atone for the past oppressions heaped upon this ancient though unhappy race, by straining every nerve to promote from henceforward their happiness both temporal and eternal.

III. But what, you ask, are THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES WHICH ENCOURAGE US NOW TO HOPE FOR SUCCESS in attempting the conversion of the Jews rather than at any preceding period of the world.

(Dean Graves.)


1. Our most earnest desire.

2. Our constant prayer.


1. Appreciating what is good.

2. Discriminating what is defective.


1. Error.

2. Ignorance.

3. Self-righteousness.

4. Unbelief.


1. The end of the law.

2. Through faith.

(Dean Graves)

True religion consists chiefly in love to God and love to man; and wherever one of these is found, there is the other also. Observe —


1. Their openly living in sin.

2. Their carelessness about religion.

3. Their formality in religion.

4. Their reception for truth of great and fundamental errors as to the doctrines of religion.


1. We tremble to think of their future misery (Romans 1:18).

2. As we wish to prevent their future destruction, so we earnestly desire that they may share with us in the joys and glories of the heavenly world.

3. We wish them to know and enjoy the present pleasures of true religion.

4. We wish the salvation of others on account of the glory of God, for which we feel ourselves concerned, and which will be promoted thereby.

5. Beside all, we have some view to our own peace and happiness. The conversion of a soul is the greatest honour and happiness, next to our own salvation, that we can enjoy.


1. By prayer.

2. By urging our friends to come and hear the gospel.

3. By the Christian education of children — our own and our neighbour's.

4. By personal exhortation.

5. By a holy life.

(G. Burder.)

"I can't die till I see my brother converted." So said a very aged Karen chief to Mr. Mason. He had just returned from a last visit to this brother, who lived a long day's journey from him. Too feeble to walk, he had made the journey on the back of a grandson, a fine intelligent Christian, whose willingness to perform the laborious service was worthy of the zeal with which the old man forgot his aching bones in the delight he felt at having once more exhorted his brother, and seen in him some evidences of Divine grace.

(Mrs. McLeod Wylie.)


1. Pitiable (ver. 1).

2. Ignorant (vers. 2, 3).

3. Ruinous, because misguided (ver. 4).


1. Relying on their own unavailing effort (vers. 5-7).

2. Refusing the word of faith (vers. 8-9).

3. Denying the salvation of the gospel.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

The conversion of Paul did not cool the ardour of his affection for his countrymen. Fidelity impelled him to expose their errors, but charity inclined him to notice what was commendable. They were honest in their zeal; but honesty can make no atonement for dangerous errors or perverse abuses. They were ignorant, but they shut their eyes to the light.

I. The apostle here ascribes to the Jews AN ESSENTIAL AND MOST VALUABLE PROPERTY OF THE CHRISTIAN, AND MORE ESPECIALLY OF THE MINISTERIAL CHARACTER. Two things seemed to be included under it — ardour, as opposed to lukewarmness, and activity, as opposed to remissness. It implies that the object which has called it forth is held in the highest estimation by us; that our hearts, engaged in the love and animated by the desire of it, prompt us to make every effort to secure its attainment. Christian zeal consists in the warm exercise of the graces of the Spirit, issuing in the decided and growing production of the fruits of the Spirit. It is founded on an enlightened and firmly-rooted conviction of the truth of the gospel. In its exercise, zeal, like charity, must begin at home. The man who searches abroad for evils to remedy, and overlooks those which attach to himself, is either a hypocrite or a fool, or both. But zeal, though it begins, does not terminate with ourselves. It feels for the honour of God and the souls of men, and endeavours to advance the one and save the other. When this principle is wanting, religion is an empty name, a lifeless carcass. But though there cannot be religion without zeal, there may be zeal without religion. Note some of the defects of that zeal which the apostle condemns.

1. It was exerted in contending for matters of inferior moment, and neglected those which were of supreme importance. The Jews expended the strength of their zeal on points of form and ceremony, and overlooked the weightier matters of the law. Those who are most ignorant or indifferent in regard to what is essential are invariably the most violent and tenacious in regard to what is circumstantial. Liberality, it is true, may be carried to a dangerous extreme, but so may intolerance, and it is better to err on the side of charity than to incur the imputation of bigotry. The object of zeal is to make converts, not proselytes; to bring accessions to the Church from the world, not to transfer the members of one religious denomination to another.

2. It was ostentatious and presuming. They wore broad phylacteries, said long prayers at the corners of the streets, etc. Our Lord saw through the disguise of their fair professions and their hollow sanctity, and inculcated a course of conduct quite the reverse of theirs. The zeal of which He approves is not that which assumes useless singularities, and is ever urging its claims to public admiration. It is not the men that make the most noise that do the greatest good.

3. It was overbearing and uncharitable. They excluded from the pale of the Church all who did not think as they thought and do as they did. It would have been well had the intolerant spirit of the Jews died with themselves; but it has, in this enlightened age, made its appearance in a most offensive and injurious form. When we see individuals setting themselves up as the only true Christians on earth, denouncing the religion of the whole world, except their own, we know not whether most to pity or to blame. As perfection is not attainable here, neither probably is uniformity.

II. FROM THEIR DEFECTS LET US NOW LEARN WHAT OUGHT TO BE THE DISTINGUISHING FEATURES OF ZEAL IN US. To escape the charge which the Jews deservedly incurred, ours must be —

1. An enlightened zeal formed and regulated by clear, comprehensive, and correct views of truth and duty. Without this, zeal is a most dangerous principle. There are no extravagances which it will not practise; there are no cruelties which it will not perpetrate. Before his conversion Paul had zeal, but it was not according to knowledge (Philippians 3.).

2. Pure zeal; a zeal influenced by gospel motives and animated by Christ's Spirit. Jehu boasted of his zeal for the Lord; but he had no higher aim than the gratification of his own ambition. In requesting our Lord to command fire from heaven for the destruction of the Samaritans, the disciples discovered an impure zeal, and spake under the influence of national prejudices and irritated feelings.

3. Prudent zeal: guarding against every avoidable occasion of offence to others; displaying all the wisdom of the serpent in selecting means and opportunities of doing good, and employing them with a tender regard to the feelings and prejudices of others. Destitute of this property, zeal is calculated to do far more harm than good, and awakens aversion where it should conciliate love.

4. Peaceable; calm in its exercise; prompting to no foolish extravagances; disposed to put the most favourable construction on others, and discovering a sincere regard for their welfare.

5. Decided zeal; above the meanness of all temporising accommodations; disregarding the fear of man; determined to pursue the path of duty; prepared to stand by the consequences.

6. Fruitful; not evaporating in words, but abounding in deeds of usefulness.

(J. Barr, D.D.)

For I bear them record that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge
We ought to have an intense longing for the salvation of all sorts of men, and especially for those that treat us badly. We shall see more conversions when more people pray for conversions. We should earnestly pray for the conversion of the kind of people who are here described: self-righteous people, people that have done no ill, but, on the contrary, have laboured to do a great deal of good.


1. They are so zealous. You see plenty of zeal where politics, fashion, art, etc., are concerned; but we are not overdone with it in religion. If anybody is a little zealous above others, great efforts are made to put him down. Therefore, when we do meet with zealous people, we take an interest in them, however mistaken their zeal may be. We like to associate with people who have hearts, not dry leather bottles. It does seem a pity that any zeal should be wasted, and that any one full of zeal should yet miss his way. And when we meet with any who are zealous in a wrong cause, they become peculiarly the object of a Christian's prayers.

2. They may go so very wrong, and may do so much mischief to others. Those who have no life nor energy may easily ruin themselves, but they are not likely to harm others; whereas a mistaken zealot is like a madman with a firebrand in his hand. What did the Scribes and Pharisees in Christ's day? And Saul afterwards? Take heed that none of you fall into a persecuting spirit through your zeal for the gospel, like zealous mistresses who will not have a servant in their house who does not go to their place of worship, and zealous landlords who turn every Dissenter out of their cottages.

3. They would be so useful. The man that is desperately earnest in a wrong way will be just as earnest in the right. See what Paul himself was.

4. It is so difficult to convert them. It requires the power of God to convert anybody; but there seems to be a double manifestation of power in the conversion of a downright bigot.


1. Ignorant. "For they, being ignorant of God's righteousness," etc. you may be brought up under the shadow of a church, you may hear the gospel till you know every phrase by heart, and yet be ignorant of the righteousness of God. There are many who are ignorant as to —(1) The natural righteousness of God's character, and those who are satisfied with their own holiness are ignorant of this.(2) The righteousness of the law. You may hear the ten commandments read every Sabbath-day, but you will not know anything about them by merely hearing or reading them. There is a depth of meaning in those commandments of which self-righteous persons are ignorant. For instance, "Thou shalt not commit adultery" — even a lascivious look breaks that. Let me stretch out the line before you for a moment. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart," etc. Who among us has ever done that?(3) God's righteous requirements, viz., not only that thou shouldst do, but that thou shouldst think, love, and be that which is right. He desires truth in the inward parts.(4) That God has prepared a better righteousness for us in Christ.

III. WHAT THEY DO. They go about to establish their own righteousness, but, like a statue badly constructed, it tumbles down. They use all manner of schemes to set up their righteousness upon its legs, but to no purpose. Or they have bad foundations for a house, and bad materials, and bad mortar, and they are by no means good workmen; and when they have built up enough wall to shelter themselves, it tumbles down. They are determined, somehow or other, to build up a righteousness of their own, which is worthless when it is built. At first the man says, "I shall be saved, for I have kept the law. What lack I yet?" Now, a very small hole will let enough light into the man's heart to force him to see that this pretence will not answer. No one of us has kept the law. When driven from this foolish hope, the man readily sets up another. If he cannot work, then he tries to feel. Or else he cries, "I must join a bit of religion to my pure morals. I will pray regularly, etc. And when I have done all this, do you not think it will come pretty square?" If a man's conscience is awake, it will not come square, and the man will say, "No, I do not feel righteous after all! There is something amiss." Conscience begins to call out, "It will not do." Peradventure the man is taken ill. He thinks that he is going to die, and he must keep his wretched pretence afloat somehow; and so he cries, if he is rich, "I will endow an almshouse." According to the church to which he belongs, the zealous person becomes a determined partisan of his sect. Now suppose that you were to get to heaven in your way, what would happen? You will throw up your cap, and say, "I have managed it after all!" You will glorify yourself, and depend upon it sinners saved by grace will glorify Christ. But our Lord is not going to have any discord in heaven; you shall all sing His praises there, or never sing at all.

IV. WHAT THEY WILL NOT DO. "They have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God."

1. Why, there are some that have not submitted even to hear it! Our law does not judge any man before it hears him, but these people both judge and condemn the gospel without giving it an hour's attention. Are they not good enough of themselves? What can you tell them better than they know already? But it is always a pity not to know even that which we most despise. It will not hurt you to know. And yet there is such prejudice in the mind of some that they refuse to acquaint themselves with the verities which God has revealed. "Sinners saved by grace! It is all very well for the commonalty; but we were always so good." Very well, then; there is a heaven for the commonalty, and it is highly probable that you ladies and gentlemen are too good to go there. Where will you go? There is but one way to heaven, and that way is closed against the proud.

2. And then there are others who, when they hear it, will not admit that they need it. "What, sir! Must I go down on my knees and plead guilty?" Yes, you must, or else you will never be saved. "They that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick."

3. There are others who will not submit to the spirit of it, to the influence of it, for the spirit of free grace is this: if God saves me for nothing, then I belong to Him for ever and ever. If He forgives me every sin simply because I believe in Jesus, then I will hate every sin, and flee from it. I will love Him with all my heart, and for the love I bear Him I will lead a holy life. The virtue I aimed at before, in my own strength, I will now ask for from His Holy Spirit. Many will not submit to that; yet they can never be saved from sin unless they yield themselves as the blood-bought servants of Christ.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

As all zeal without discretion is as an offering without eyes, which was by God forbidden, so likewise all blind zeal is a blind offering, which God will never accept.


As Minerva is said to have put a golden bridle upon Pegasus, that he should not fly too fast, so our Christian discretion must put a golden bridle upon our Pegasus — that is, our zeal — lest, if it be unbridled, it make us run out of course.


There is a sort of men who seem to be mighty zealous for religion; but their heart breaks out wholly in this way: that they fill the place wherever they are with noise and clamour, with dust and smoke. Nothing can be said in their presence, but instantly a controversy is started, scarcely anything is orthodox enough for them; for they spin so fine a thread, and have such a cobweb divinity, that the least brush against it is not to be endured, and yet withal they are as positive and decretal in their assertions that the Pope himself is nobody to them. One would think they were privy counsellors of heaven. They define with so great confidence what will and what will not please God.

(J. Goodman.)

I. ITS FEATURES. It errs in —

1. Its motives.

2. Its objects.

3. Its means.


1. In the world.

2. In the Church.


1. Delusion.

2. Disorder.

3. Hatred.

4. Contention.

5. Ruin.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

I. IT MUST BE FOUNDED UPON KNOWLEDGE OF AND JUDGMENT ABOUT THE MATTER WHICH ENGAGES OUR ZEAL. It is for wanting this that the apostle blames the zeal of the Jews. The necessity of such knowledge is, one would think, obvious, for without it our zeal may, for aught we know, be engaged in a bad cause. The man who, designing to make great haste, either shuts his eyes or takes no notice whither he goes, is the likeliest to stumble or go astray. Let us, then, take care that, before we suffer our zeal to grow warm for or against any cause, we get as thorough a knowledge of it as we can. And yet, as history shows, most of those in every age who have shown the warmest zeal have discovered the greatest ignorance, and where there has been most knowledge there has been most candour and forbearance towards those of a different opinion.

II. MUST RE FREE FROM PREJUDICE AND PARTY VIEWS, and PROCEED FROM A SINCERE REGARD TO TRUTH AND VIRTUE. It is not my being thoroughly acquainted with a cause that will justify my zeal in it. If, knowing a thing to be false or unlawful, I strenuously insist upon it, all the zeal I express is faulty. Nay, though it be truth or duty, if my zeal is occasioned by prejudice, it is not of the right kind. We ought therefore to be very careful about the springs from whence our zeal flows. When the heart glows with an ardent love to God and for the cause of truth and virtue, there will be very little danger of running into extremes.

III. MUST ALWAYS BE PROPORTIONED TO THE MOMENT OF THE THINGS ABOUT WHICH IT IS ENGAGED. The more important the thing is, the warmer may our zeal be, either for or against it; and the less important, the less need is there of being much concerned about it. That zeal is very irregular which is equally warm upon every occasion. It would be endless to tell you what trifling matters have given occasion to the most furious contests in the Christian Church.

1. Since it is of vastly greater importance to us that we should judge right in matters of doctrine and behave well in matters of practice ourselves than that others should do so, it follows that our zeal ought principally to be employed this way. Nothing is more common than to see the same men who express a great concern that others should think and act just as they do in matters of religion shamelessly careless in their own searches after truth, and in regulating their own conduct.

2. Plain duties are of more importance than matters of speculation, and therefore regular zeal will be more solicitous about the former than about the latter. And yet, as if mankind were resolved to act preposterously, they have generally acted from the opposite principle. Observe how contentedly some of the warmest zealots can let a drunkard, a swearer, etc., live peaceably by them, and yet take fire immediately on the utterance of a contrary opinion. But will not God much more easily pardon an error in judgment than badness of life?

3. Peace and love among Christians are of unspeakably more importance than any particular form of church government or any religious rites, and therefore if our zeal be regular, we shall be much less concerned about imposing these than for the securing peace and love among all good men.

IV. MUST RE ATTENDED WITH CHRISTIAN CHARITY, and must never break in upon those rights which all claim in common as men and Christians. Nothing has been more common than for intemperate zeal to do the greatest mischiefs and commit the most bare-faced violations of justice and humanity, under the pretence of charity to men's souls and a hearty concern for their everlasting welfare.

V. MUST BE UNDER THE CONDUCT OF CHRISTIAN PRUDENCE, by which I mean the prudence that will direct to the choice, and in the use of the properest methods, and the fittest seasons for promoting these good ends.

(W. Smyth.)

True zeal is a loving thing, and makes us always active to edification, and not to destruction. If we keep the fire of zeal within the chimney, in its own proper place, it never doth any hurt; it only warmeth, quickeneth, and enliveneth us; but if once we let it break out, and catch hold of the thatch of our flesh, and kindle our corrupt nature, and set the house of our body on fire, it is no longer zeal — heavenly fire, but a most destructive and devouring thing. True zeal is an ignis lambens, a soft and gentle flame that will not scorch our hand; it is no predatory or voracious thing; but carnal and fleshly zeal is like the spirit of gunpowder set on fire, that tears and blows up all that stands before it. True zeal is like the vital heat in us that we live upon, which we never feel to be angry or troublesome; but though it gently feed upon the radical oil within us, that sweet balsam of our natural moisture, yet it lives lovingly with it, and maintains that by which it is fed; but that other furious and distempered zeal is nothing else but a fever in the soul. To conclude, we may learn what kind of zeal it is that we should use in promoting the gospel by an emblem of God's own — those fiery tongues that on the Day of Pentecost sat upon the apostles; which sure, were harmless flames, for we cannot read that they did any hurt, or that they did so much as singe a hair of their heads.

(R. Cudworth.)

Andrew Melville, Professor of Divinity at St. Andrews in the reign of James VI, was a very bold and zealous man for the cause of God and truth. When some of his more moderate brethren blamed him for being too hot and fiery, he was wont to reply, "If you see my fire go downwards, set your foot upon it and put it out; but if it go upwards, let it return to its own place."

(J. Whitecross.)


1. That our zeal be right in respect of its object; viz., that those things which we are zealous for be certainly good, and that those things which we are zealous against be certainly evil. Otherwise it is not a heavenly fire, but like the fire of hell, heat without light.

2. That the measure and degree of it must be proportioned to the good or evil of things about which it is conversant. That is an ignorant zeal which is conversant about lesser things and unconcerned for greater. A zealous strictness about external rites and matters of difference, where there is a visible neglect of the substantial duties of religion, is either a gross ignorance of the true nature of religion, or a fulsome hypocrisy.

3. That we pursue it by lawful means and ways. No zeal for God and His glory, for His true Church and religion, will justify the doing of that which is morally evil.


1. That is mistaken in the proper object of it; that calls good evil, and evil good.

2. That is manifestly disproportioned to the good or evil of things about which it is conversant, when there is in men a greater and fiercer zeal for the externals of religion than for the vital and essential parts of it.

3. That is prosecuted by unlawful and unwarrantable means, that, e.g., which warrants the doing of evil that good may come.

4. That is uncharitable, and is an enemy to peace and order, and thinks itself sufficiently warranted to break the peace of the Church upon every scruple.

5. That is furious and cruel, that which St. James tells us tends to " confusion and every evil work."

6. A zeal for ignorance. This is a zeal peculiar to the Church of Rome, which forbids people the use of the Holy Scriptures in a known tongue.


1. If it be so necessary that our zeal be directed by knowledge, this shows us how dangerous a thing zeal is in the weak and ignorant. Zeal is an edge-tool, which children in understanding should not meddle withal. Zeal is only fit for wise men, but it is chiefly in fashion among fools. Nay, it is dangerous in the hands of wise men, and to be kept in with a strict rein, otherwise it will transport them to the doing of undue and irregular things. Moses in a fit of zeal let fall the two tables of the law which he had but just received from God. A true emblem of an ungoverned zeal, in the transport whereof even good men are apt to forget the laws of God.

2. From hence we plainly see that men may do the worst and wickedest things out of a zeal for God and religion. Thus it was among the Jews, who engrossed salvation to themselves, and denied the possibility of it to all the world besides, and the Church of Rome have taken copy by them.

3. Zeal for God and religion does not alter the nature of actions done upon that account. Persecution and murder are damnable sins, and no zeal for God and religion can excuse them.

(Abp. Tillotson.)

There are two sorts of men hereby to be apprehended.

1. They which have a defect not of zeal, but of knowledge for the ground of their zeal.

2. They which have a defect not of knowledge, but of zeal answerable to their knowledge. Of the first of these may be verified the proverb, they set the cart before the horse. The second may be likened to Pharaoh's chariots when the wheels were off, so slowly do they express their knowledge in their lives. The first are like a little ship without ballast and freight, but with a great many sails, which is soon either dashed against the rocks or toppled over. The second are like a goodly great ship, well ballasted and richly freighted, but without any sails, which quickly falleth into the hands of pirates because it can make no speed, sooner making a prey for them than a good voyage for the merchant. Separate zeal and knowledge, and they become both unprofitable, but wisely join them, and they perfect a Christian, being like a precious diamond in a ring of gold. Let not zeal outrun knowledge or lag behind it, but let it ad equale agree, going hand in hand with the same. For even as in an instrument of music there is a proportion of sound wherein is the harmony, beyond which, if any string be strained, it makes a squeaking noise; and if it be not strained enough it yields a clagging, dull, and unpleasant sound. So is it in our zeal if it be either more or less than our knowledge.

(Elnathan Parr, B.D.)

Phaeton took upon him to drive the chariot of the sun; but through his rashness set the world in combustion. What a horse is without a rider, or a ship without a rudder, such is zeal without knowledge. St. Bernard hits full on this point. Discretion without zeal is slow-paced, and zeal without discretion is strongheaded; let, therefore, zeal spur on discretion, and discretion rein in zeal.

(J. Spencer.)

The first good use of some texts is, to endeavour to prevent a bad one.

I. THE TEXT HAS OFTEN BEEN CITED FOR THE PURPOSE OF DEPRECIATING GENUINE ZEAL. Think on how many excellent designs it has been quoted against, and what would have become of home and foreign missionary enterprise had certain interpretations ruled! With men of indifferent, frozen temperament, the text has been a great favourite. So it has with timid, cowardly men, with the parsimonious, with idolaters of custom, and of everything established, and with that class which is content with mere speculation, regarding scarcely anything as worth attempting. With most of these, however, it is not zeal itself that is contemned, for "none would be more zealous than they — on a proper occasion." But when can that occasion come? Is it to be expressly brought on by Providence to enable them to show this virtue? Or is it to be when all things are mended, so that there shall be less to be done? But who, then, is to do all this in the meantime?


1. Indeed, if we take it in its general sense, persevering ardour in prosecution of a purpose, it has been, in its depraved operation, the animating demon of every active evil. And, many that are comparatively harmless, let but this fire be kindled by a torch from hell applied to the brimstone that lies cold and quiet in their nature — and we should see.

2. But not to dwell on these terrible operations of zeal, we see its effect in numberless things of a more diminutive order, e.g., long and earnest exertions for excellence in some most trifling attainment; unremitting efforts in prosecution of inquiry into something not worth any cost to know; an intense devotion to add particle after particle to the little sum of worldly possession; the earnest vying in little points of appearance, consequence, precedence. Zeal is an element that will combine with any active principle in man; it is like fire, that will smoulder in garbage, and will lighten in the heavens.

III. ZEAL thus has its operation in all the active interests of men. But it is MOST USUALLY SPOKEN OF AS BELONGING TO RELIGION, and it is in this relation that we have here to consider it. "Zeal of God."

1. And who can help wishing that there were a thousand times more zeal directed this way? Of the whole measure that there is being constantly expended what proportion might well be spared, nay, destroyed, to advantage? Nine parts in ten? Perhaps more. Now think, if one or more of these portions misapplied could be devoted to God! Look at an ambitious man's zeal; an avaricious man's zeal; an indefatigable intellectual trifler's zeal! nine parts in ten misapplied; wasted at the best; a large portion worse than wasted! So it is going — while there is here what deserves it all — like clouds, heavy with rain, passing away from gardens and fields languishing under drought, to be discharged on mere deserts or marshes or sea. Or suppose a great city on fire in a severe winter; what a blessing so much fire would be if distributed into all the abodes of shivering poverty and sickness!

2. After such a view of the immense proportion of zeal altogether lost to God, we are reluctant to consider that a share even of the zeal that is directed to God may be "not according to knowledge." The necessity of knowledge to religious zeal is fearfully illustrated by(1) The mighty empires of superstition — Pagan, Mohammedan, Popish. It is true that many go no further than a stupid, slavish acquiescence; and that some are sceptics, only preserving appearances; but countless legions of them are burning with fanatic zeal — they know no better.(2) The direful history of persecution. For, though some persecutors have only been politic, infernal hypocrites, yet the mighty host of them have really believed that they did God service.(3) The wild novelties of fanaticism that have occasionally sprung up in the Christian community. In view of all this the good man has still to exclaim, "Oh for knowledge! for knowledge!"


1. That which the apostle here speaks of, namely, men's zealously maintaining the sufficiency of a righteousness of their own, which God will not accept (ver. 3). Fatal ignorance in zeal! Knowledge here would reveal to them the holiness, justice, and law of God; would reveal themselves to them; and then their zeal would go another way, as when a convinced pagan perceives his god to be a worthless idol.

2. Zeal when accompanied by no desire of knowledge, rather aversion to it. Horror of free reasoning. A notion that all religious speculation is necessarily destructive to religious feeling, insomuch that the very reasons for being zealous are not to be clearly defined. Whatever the strong impulse may be, it plainly is not "zeal according to knowledge" when a man does not know why he is zealous.

3. A capricious and fluctuating zeal, and what we have just described is likely to be such. It shall blaze at one time and seem sunk under the ashes at another, varying with the changeable recoil of the man's mind. It is true that there will be in most minds considerable variations of feeling, of which zeal will in a measure partake. But a most important counteracting and sustaining principle is a clear, decided knowledge of the object and reasons of the zeal.

4. The zeal which consists in a considerable degree of mere temper, where a man's irritability or impetuousness and restlessness goes into the zeal for the object, and is mistaken by him as all pure zeal respecting the object itself. So that, in this one point especially, it is not "according to knowledge," for he knows not himself. "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are off"

5. That zeal which is less concerned about the object itself than about the man himself. Jehu's zeal was, in mere point of fact, for the "Lord of hosts," but he did not really care much for that sacred cause itself. It was a fine thing that he should be exhibited as a conspicuous vindicator in the ranks of the Lord's "hosts."

6. A great zeal for comparatively little things in religion. Now knowledge gives the scale of the greater and the less. There are minor points of doctrine, form, and observance. These have often been magnified and enforced as if they were the very life and essence of Christianity.

7. Zeal for great things for little reasons. Thus Christianity has been zealously advocated just on the ground that it is conducive to the temporal well-being of a state! By innumerable persons some one model of Christian faith is zealously maintained, chiefly because it has been maintained by their ancestors. We have known persons zealously holding some important doctrine because it has happened to coincide with some particular fancy or impression of the person's mind; not from a consideration of its own great evidences. This is a gross desertion of the rule — that zeal should be "according to knowledge."

8. A zeal for single points in religion, especially the most controverted ones, as if the whole importance of religion converged to these, as we see in the most strenuous Calvinists and Arminians. Such zeal miserably impoverishes the interest for religion as a grand comprehensive whole, and for all the parts of it but the one. And thus the very "knowledge" itself will dwindle from taking account of the whole.

9. The excessive zeal for a religious sect or party, a mere worldly spirit of competition and jealousy. This indeed is " according to knowledge," the "wisdom" that James describes as coming from below.

10. The zeal which is expended in some one way of attempting to serve religion when it might be applied to better purpose in another. Thus able men have exhausted their talents and labours upon comparative trifles when, with the same exertion, they might have served the greatest interests. And ordinary Christians have been invincibly set on serving God in ways foreign to their attainments and situations when there were plainly before them other ways of certain usefulness.

11. That zeal which, in attempting to do good, takes no account of the fitness of season and occasion. Knowledge would show the adaptation of means to ends — the laws and working of human minds — the favourable conjuncture. Knowledge, too, would point to consequences. And zeal should not fancy itself the more noble and heroic for setting all consequences at defiance.

12. That zeal which seems willing to let its activity in public plans and exertions to serve religion be a substitute for personal religion. In such zeal where is the man's knowledge if it does not strike him with irresistible conviction how indispensable is religion to his own self?

(John Foster.)

I. THE ISRAELITES HAD ONE GOOD QUALITY while they wanted another, AND THE APOSTLE MAKES THEIR POSSESSION OF THIS THE REASON OF HIS PRAYER — "For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God." One would think that, if they wanted both, they would stand in greater need of his prayers; and the mystery is, how their having something good should be the moving cause why Paul should pray for their salvation, an intimation that if they had not been in the possession at least of this he would not have prayed for them.

1. The explanation is this. It is only the prayer of faith that availeth, and in proportion as this faith is staggered or weakened prayer loses its efficacy — e.g., you have not the same heart in praying for some unlikelihood as in praying for what is agreeable to the will of God. You cannot pray so hopefully for a confirmed reprobate as for a man in whom you perceive some lurking remainders of good. Paul was not yet discouraged about the Jews. He still observed one good point, even that very zeal which once actuated himself. And so he still could hope and pray for them.

2. From such an argument there may be constructed a powerful appeal to arrest the headlong way of that moral desperado, who, hastening on from one enormity to another, is fast losing all the delicacies of conscience, and whom the Spirit, tired and provoked by stubborn resistance, is on the eve perhaps of abandoning. Know, then, that your friends behold the progress of this impenitency, and supplicate Heaven on your account. But the time may arrive when your impiety shall look so desperate that to supplicate in faith is beyond them. And is it not time to retrace your footsteps, unknowing as you are how soon the very parents who gave yea birth may weep but cannot pray for you!

II. That must have been a valuable property, in virtue of which the Jews could still be prayed for. But THAT MUST HAVE BEEN A MOST IMPORTANT PROPERTY FROM THE WANT OF WHICH THEY EVENTUALLY PERISHED. Had they added knowledge to their zeal they would still have remained the favourites of Heaven.

1. From their actual history we may learn what a serious want this is. That day of their visitation, in the prospect of which our Saviour shed tears, came upon them just because they "knew not the things which belonged to their peace." It is true that the extermination came upon them because they had killed the Prince of Life. But it was, as Peter and John testify, through ignorance that they did it, and had they known, Paul says, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. Let us not, then, underrate the importance of knowledge in religion, nor be under the imagination that ignorance is not a responsible or not a punishable offence.

2. But in addition to the historical proofs of the importance of religious knowledge, there is abundance of still more direct proof. The knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ is said to be eternal life, and many are said to perish for lack of knowledge. Christ shall come "to take vengeance on those that know not God." Knowledge and ignorance in fact are dealt with, even as righteousness and sin are dealt with.

3. Now the question is, ought this in moral fairness to be? The difficulty is to conceive on what ground the views of the understanding should be made the subjects of reckoning. Man is held to be responsible for his doings, which he can help; but not for his doctrines, which they say he cannot help. But we affirm that his belief in certain circumstances (and Christianity is in these circumstances) is that which he can help. It is by an act of the will that you set yourself to the acquisition of knowledge. It is by a continued act of the will that you continue a prolonged examination into the grounds of an opinion. It is at the bidding of the will, not that you believe without evidence, but that you investigate the evidence on which you might believe. It is in no way your fault that you do not see when it is dark. But it is in every way your fault that you do not look when either the light of heaven or of heaven's revelation is around you. It is thus that the will has virtually to do with the ultimate belief, just because it has to do with the various steps of that process which goes before it. Where there is candour, which is a moral property, the due attention will be given; when there is the opposite of candour — moral unfairness — the due attention will be refused, and the man will be landed in the state of being wrong intellectually, but just because he is wrong morally.

4. You find a most impressive exemplification of this in the history of those very Jews. During the whole of our Saviour's ministry upon earth they were plied with evidences which, if they had but attended to, would have carried their belief in the validity of His claims. But the belief was painful to them, and at all hazards they resolved to bar the avenues of their minds against the admittance of it. Theirs was not the darkness of men whom no light had visited, but of men who obstinately shut their eyes.

5. And this for our admonition. In this our day the want of faith is still due to the want of a thorough moral earnestness.

(T. Chalmers, D.D.)

The worst of madmen is a saint run mad.

(Pope.)To be furious in religion is to be irreligiously religious.

(W. Penn.)


1. Consists in zeal for God ignorantly directed.

2. Terminates in self-righteousness and unbelief.

3. Utterly fails, because Christ is the end of the law, and the law requires absolute obedience (vers. 2-5).


1. Requires —

(1)Despair of our own efforts.

(2)A humble reception of the gospel.

(3)Confession and faith.

2. Terminates in salvation.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own... have not submitted... unto the righteousness of God.
The ignorance here spoken of is something more than the mere passive blindness of those who cannot help themselves because of the total darkness by which they are encompassed. It was very much the ignorance of those who would not open their eyes. There was an activity, a will in it, as much as there was in the other things ascribed to them in the "going about" to establish a different righteousness from that which they would not submit to. This forms the true principle on which the condemnation of unbelief rests. "They love the darkness rather than the light." Even as the Gentiles "liked not to retain God in their knowledge" — even so the Jews liked not in this instance to admit God into their knowledge, or give entertainment in their minds to that way of salvation which He had devised for the recovery of a guilty world. It is the part which the will has in it that makes ignorance the proper object of retribution; and so, when Christ cometh, He will take vengeance "on those who know not God and obey not the gospel."

(T. Chalmers, D.D.)

1. "The righteousness of God" is His truth, justice, holiness, wisdom, and love blended in eternal perfection, and embraces infinite hatred to sin with infinite love to the sinner. It is at once the terror of every guilty conscience, and the hope of every true penitent.

2. The world before and since the days of Luther has been making the same mistake as he at first made. It has so felt the need of righteousness as to make desperate efforts to attain unto it, now soaring to inaccessible heights, and then delving to unknown depths, while the blessing itself has been ever within reach.


1. If it had been possible for any man to succeed, surely it had been Paul. Constancy, conscientiousness, self-denial, lofty motives, a blameless life, etc.; and yet, when viewed in relation to the object sought, how utterly vain! Solomon's experiment ought to have been sufficient to satisfy all voluptuaries of the vanity of earthly things, and Paul's failure ought to convince all self-righteous moralists that righteousness is not attainable by "the deeds of the law."

2. But the truth can only be known, or wisdom taught, by experience. And so Paul's experiment, in all its essential features, has been made again and again. Luther in his way repeated the experiment with the same result. These men remind one of the old alchemists, who, vary their experiments as they might, and imitate the colour of gold as they did, yet the base metal remained base metal after all.

3. And yet multitudes continue to "go about to establish their own righteousness." It is impossible to avoid a feeling of mingled respect and pity for them. This feeling filled Paul's heart (ver. 1). "Going about to" is old English for "trying at." They were eager, restless, painstaking, ready to employ every means in order to secure it. But an April day might sooner establish its character for constancy, and the wide ocean its character as a refuge; the raven with its croak, and the owl with its hooting, establish theirs for melody; the farthing rushlight its right to rule the day; every little pool its claim to be considered a fountain; the bramble its pretensions to be king over the forest, than these misguided souls succeed in establishing their own righteousness. They are endeavouring to forge a key to unlock the grave, to build a lifeboat to swim in a sea of fire, to construct a ladder to scale the skies, to hush the thunders of Sinai by filling their ears with wool, to stop the lightning of God's wrath by gossamer threads of human goodness, to arrest the course of Divine justice by piling up little heaps of stones in their path. God pronounces "our righteousness" — not our wickedness — to be "filthy rags."

4. No man ever established his "own righteousness" to his own satisfaction. This sky was never without a cloud, this sun without a spot, this life without a defect. It was the consciousness cf this that quickened the steps of Saul of Tarsus in his persecution of the early disciples, and prompted him to a deadlier revenge. In proportion to a soul's consciousness of what sin is will be its misery at the sight of it. God has set our sins "in the light of His countenance"; and when we remember that there may be impurity in a look, and murder in a desire, the very thought of "establishing our own righteousness" is the wildest of fancies, the wickedest of delusions!

5. And men thus court failure, because they are "ignorant of God's righteousness," both of what it is and what it requires. The whiteness of the snow, the morning light, the blue heavens, are figures that inadequately represent the righteousness of God. "The heavens are not clean in His sight." God is so "glorious in holiness" that the angels cover their faces and their feet with their wings. Being thus essentially and absolutely righteous, what mere outward propriety or thin crust of goodness could satisfy Him? Motives as pure as the light, and ways as straight as a mathematical line, do but indicate what God requires of men if He enter into judgment with them. This they do not understand nor realise, nor that if God's love is holy, His righteousness is tender, merciful, long-suffering to the vilest offender. If men knew that they had only to ask of Him, and He would cover them with the robe of His righteousness, they would desist from all their vain efforts to "establish their own righteousness." His righteousness is unknown by men, and hence —


1. For the very reason, in most instances, that "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." And yet this glorious fact is the very essence of saving truth. Salvation by faith in Christ is taught in type, prophecy, history, promise, and doctrine. The same God "who lights one world by another, and sustains one life by another," purposes to save all who truly repent and believe by Christ's obedience, death, resurrection, and intercession. And yet infidels stigmatise the doctrine of salvation by Jesus Christ as absurd, cruel, immoral, and many professedly Christian teachers speak of justification by the righteousness of another in disparaging terms. And if it were true that men might be saved by faith in Christ without a change of heart and life; if the caricature of this doctrine of justification set forth by its enemies were correct, then nothing more monstrous could be conceived.

2. Let, however, the apostles term rebuke their ignorant presumption. Men have to "submit themselves to the righteousness of God." Is God or man to be Supreme? When man submits to God the cause of difference is removed, the moral distance between man and God is annihilated. A revolution has taken place. Repentance, justification, regeneration, conversion, reconciliation, adoption, sanctification are words which represent the various aspects of the one great reality, and do not exaggerate the greatness of the change that is experienced. The understanding is enlightened, the conscience rejoices in God's righteousness in condemning sin and sinners, the will returns to its true allegiance, and the heart casts away its idols and loathes its sin.

3. It should not be lost sight of that it is to the righteousness of God that men have to submit — not to His caprice, nor to His will, divorced from purity and goodness. And so in the very act of submission man acquires a nobleness which in his condition of wilful independence had been impossible. It never can be degrading or injurious to submit to righteousness. As righteousness is the glory of God, when man submits to it it becomes his also.

4. As Christ was hated by Scribes and Pharisees on account of His goodness and purity, and as the Jews who searched the Scriptures for eternal life had no sooner discovered that it centred in Christ than they refused to come to Him that they might have life, so submission to the righteousness of God seems more difficult because it involves an acknowledgment of and delight in the fact that "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." Yet this exactly meets man's case as a sinner. Christ has satisfied every requirement. God's righteousness is established. His vindication is complete, and in the act of showing mercy "His truth and justice receive their brightest manifestation."

5. The blessing which is received is also retained by faith. Faith first joins us to Christ, and by faith the union is perpetuated. We set no limits to God's power, but the eternal inheritance is reserved for those who are kept by it through faith. "The just shall live by faith." The righteousness of Christ is not only appropriated and retained by faith, but it must also be attested, shown, illustrated. And thus, while sinners become righteous through the righteousness of another, yet, as the Apostle John says, "He that doeth righteousness is righteous." This, by His indwelling Spirit, He enables believers to do.

(F. W. Bourne, D.D.)

1. The position of the apostle was a very affecting one. He was in plenary possession of the great saving truth. He had submitted to the righteousness of God, and was persuaded that nothing could separate him from the love of God. But to an unselfish mind personal security is not always perfect felicity. Suppose that a man has found refuge in a fortress on the alarm of a sudden invasion, but has not succeeded in carrying all his kindred with him, the first emotion, as he realises the commanding position of the castle, will likely be assurance, exultation, gratitude. But, alas! out on the open plain he descries a brother who has thus far escaped, but who, by some infatuation, is running past the castle gate in quest of some other inlet. In such a case the brother saved would only eye with the more lacerating anguish the wilfulness of that brother who was fleeing from the door of safety. This was the apostle's situation. He had found the refuge. He was looking over the ramparts of salvation — so far, a happy man. But there, in: the open field of danger, were his kinsmen according to the flesh. Some blindness had happened to them, for scarcely one of them made for the door of hope; and though, in the fulness of his fraternal affection, he had lifted up his voice and directed them to the open door, scarce one believed his report.

2. The reason given in this chapter for his sorrow was not merely his patriotic love of his countrymen, but his respect for the motives and character of many among them. They were not atheists; they had a zeal of God. They were not infidels, reprobates, or libertines, for they had a great regard for the law, and a real anxiety to establish a righteousness for themselves,

3. Unhappily, the very same thing which wrung the apostle's heart is still going on in the world. Multitudes of people, the facsimiles of these zealous Jews, are falling short of heaven for the same reasons which proved so fatal in the days of Paul. Let us consider these reasons: —


1. It is the glory of heaven that there is nothing unholy there. A perfect righteousness is the only passport into the presence of a holy God.

2. But in this world of ours there is no such thing as a spotless soul. The only real righteousness on earth is a righteousness which came down from heaven. The Word was made flesh. He bare our sins, and in His own body on the tree made ample satisfaction for them. His blood cleanseth from all sin. But it is not enough that the guilt be cancelled. The rebel's attainder may be removed, but he may not be restored to his place beside the sovereign's person, nor put anew in his patrimonial possessions. A creature may be cleansed from the pollution of actual sin, and remain in all the insipidity of no positive righteousness. Now herein consists the completeness of the great redemption. During the thirty years which preceded His directly expiatory work the sinner's Representative was living a life of vicarious obedience. Year by year He was accumulating that merit which He needed not for Himself, but which was needful for every one that would enter heaven. Now observe these two things go together; the neutralising and the positive ingredients make up one righteousness — the sin-cancelling atonement and the heaven-claiming merit — the sufferings which shut the sinner's hell and the obedience which opened the ransomed sinner's heaven. But Christ was God. His obedience had a Divine virtue in it, and His sufferings had a Divine virtue in them. And therefore His obedience and satisfaction are called "the righteousness of God."

3. Now many are ignorant of the existence of such a righteousness. This righteousness is so hid in its notoriety, so puzzling in its plainness, so overlooked in its studious obviousness, that people who, in their anxiety after acceptance with God, would give all that they had for the least scrap of unquestionable merit, never dream that the righteousness of God — neither Adam's righteousness, nor an angel's righteousness, but God's own righteousness — was that which they might appropriate as their own. We have heard of scholars who could speak many tongues, but who did not know the meaning of Jehovah Tsidkenu. We have known chronologists who could tell most of the remarkable events of history, but who could not tell the year which "brought in everlasting righteousness." And we have listened to acute reasoners and metaphysicians who could discourse eloquently on the powers of human nature, and high-souled moralists who described the beauty of true virtue, and divines full of zeal for God, but who never adverted to that righteousness which alone the apostle deemed worthy of the name.


1. They say in their heart, "Who shall ascend into heaven? By what process of self-elevation shall I render myself worthy of this righteousness? Or who shall descend into the deep? How humbled must I become before I be in a fit state for God to impart this righteousness?" Now the righteousness of God is brought so near that nothing which the sinner can do can bring it nearer.

2. The Lord Jesus did not purchase pardon and then deposit it in some far island of the sea, so that it would be needful to undertake a tedious and hazardous voyage in order to arrive at it. Nor did He perch it on some cloud of the upper firmament, so as to rack the anxious invention in finding out the aerostation which would soar up to it, or the spell which would charm it down. And yet the intricacy of system has conveyed some such idea to many minds. You may perfectly perceive that the righteousness of Jesus is the righteousness of God, but you may fancy that faith is the ship which you need to float you over this abyss, or the wings you need to waft you up to the airy elevation where this righteousness dwells. But the righteousness is not only wrought out, but brought so near that not a moment of time nor a point of space intervenes between you and its present possession. If you have such affection for the Lord Jesus as to confess Him before men — and this you will have if you really believe that God has raised Him from the dead as your Redeemer — "thou shalt be saved."

3. A welcome from the King (as our Lord taught in the parable) depends entirely on having on "a wedding robe," and none who is willing need want it, for it is gratuitously given to all. That robe is righteousness — not man's, but Jehovah's (Philippians 3:8, 9). Be persuaded — put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ. Ye poor and blind! step in to the feast — ye halt and maimed! creep in. When at heaven's gate they ask in whose right you come, make mention of Jesus' righteousness, and the everlasting doors will open to receive you. The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth; speak it out. Avow your faith in Him by the life and language of discipleship. The Lord has not bid you do some great thing, not even sent you to wash in Jordan seven times.


1. "I have broken God's law times without number, but I see that it is good, and it would be a real satisfaction to myself if I could do anything to atone for my transgressions; and if you could only prescribe what I should do — if it were only revealed from heaven how many prayers I should offer, how many fasts I should keep, etc., I would grudge no sacrifice." When to a soul so convinced of sin you say, "Believe and live — accept the righteousness of God and nothing more is needed," the simplicity of the prescription is almost provoking. The soul wants to do some great thing. Bent on establishing a righteousness of its own, it is not easy to "submit to the righteousness of God."

2. In this state of mind there is a just feeling, and there is also a strong delusion. It is a just feeling that the law should be vindicated, and that sin should receive its commensurate punishment. But it is a delusion to imagine that a sinner can atone for sin. But the greatest delusion of all is that you think yourself wiser than God when you prefer your plan to His, and mightier than Immanuel if you consider your work more perfect than His. Believe in Christ, who is the end of the law, and you are righteous in Him.

IV. YOU FEAR LEST SO FREE AND PROMPT A FORGIVENESS SHOULD BE FATAL TO FUTURE OBEDIENCE. You find, by experience among men, that a pardon too easily obtained is apt to be abused, and you fear lest this scheme should encourage men to sin because grace is so abundant.

1. Remark, however, that the gospel pardon, though so prompt and free to the sinner, is not a cheap nor easy pardon to Him who first of all procured it; owing to the darkness of the human understanding and the perversity of the human will, it is seldom too suddenly or lightly attained by the sinner, who eventually finds it his own. And I think it might be commended to reason that real obedience begins only where slavish terror ends, and that the principle most prolific of loyalty and unwearied services is love.

2. But the gospel puts the matter beyond all question by its express declarations. It assures us that the faith which receives the Saviour is the first step of new obedience — that the moment when God's righteousness is accepted is the moment when morality begins.

V. SOME EARNEST SEEKERS MISS SALVATION BECAUSE THEY GO TOO FAR TO FIND IT. There was a small colony planted on a creek of a vast continent. Their soil was very fertile, but its limits were somewhat narrow. On the landward side it was enclosed by rocky mountains, on the other it looked out on the immeasurable main. A pestilence broke out, which made fearful havoc all through the population, and the doctors declared that it was beyond their skill. Just at the time the plague was raging worst a stranger appeared and told them of a plant which healed this disorder, and left a paper in which, he said, they would find a full description of it and directions how to find it. The tidings diffused considerable activity. A plant of such efficacy deserved the most diligent search. Almost all agreed that it must be far away, but a discussion arose whether it lay beyond the cliffs or across the sea. Most thought the latter, and a ship was launched, which they christened Ecclesia, and sent in search of the famous plant, and all who wished to escape the plague were invited to take passages in this good ship. A few others, however, thought that they would have better success by trying to get over the cliffs. This was an arduous enterprise, for the precipices were steep and extremely high. A few attempts were made, and, after many weariful efforts, the climbers either grew dizzy and fell back, or allowed themselves to slide down again. But others, more inventive, busied themselves constructing artificial wings and serial engines of various kinds, Imitatio Christi, asceticism, penitential prayers, and such like; and some of them answered exceedingly well for a little, and rose so high that their neighbours really thought they would reach the top; but, after getting a certain height, they uniformly found themselves again on the spot from which they first ascended. A long time had now passed on, and multitudes had died of the plague, when a poor sufferer who had already gone a fruitless expedition in the ship, and from the severity of his anguish was eager in trying every scheme, lay tossing on his bed. He got hold of a large paper roll which lay on a shelf beside him. It was very dirty, and the ink was faded. He at once suspected that it was the book which the stranger had left. It gave a full description of the Plant of Renown, and as he advanced in his feverish earnestness, hoping that it would tell him the very spot where he should look for it, he found the plant itself! There it lay in the heart of the long-neglected volume, and Luther's eye glistened as he read "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." "But where is Christ to be found? Must I ascend the height or descend into the deep? Oh, no! Christ is here — nigh me — God's present gift to me conveyed in the volume of this book. I accept Him. I believe." The apologue has prematurely betrayed itself, but no matter. The cure for a plague-stricken, dying world was long concealed in the Bible, till, led by the Spirit of God, Luther found it there. You have only to go where Luther went.

(James Hamilton.)

I. MAN FEELS THAT HE IS UNDER LAW TO GOD. He knows that there is a power above him to which he is subject. He may try to deliver himself and claim independence, but ever and anon he is made to see that there is a moral law commanding him to do this and avoid that. He may refuse to obey only to find that it imposes a penalty in the shape of a reproach of conscience, or thwarting of his plans, etc. He may drown it in folly, but it will take its revenge when the hour of reflection comes. Under this feeling every man is made to realise that he "must give an account of himself to God."

II. THERE IS A FEAR IN EVERY ONE THAT HIS CONDUCT CANNOT STAND A SIFTING INSPECTION. So he has an apprehension at times that the power above him may be hostile. Our own consciences condemn us, and we cannot but see that God, who is purer than our conscience, must also condemn us. So we shrink from the law which we have broken and from the lawgiver. "When I remembered God, I was troubled." We are troubled, as the boy is by the presence of his father whose command he has just disobeyed. We strive to press down the thought, but it is unsuppressible. So, in consequence of the pressure of these two feelings on each other, a third feeling is brought forth. This may be one or other of two sorts.

III. WE MAY BANISH GOD AND HIS LAW FROM OUR THOUGHTS. This may be our first impulse. We act as the disobedient child who flees from his father. It was thus with Cain and Jonah. True, there will be times when God appears to allure or warn, but sinners do not wish to be disturbed, and they pray to Him, as the Gadarenes did when Jesus visited them, to "depart out of their Coasts"; and He left them, never to return.

IV. ANOTHER CLASS act in an equally unworthy manner. They GO ABOUT TO ESTABLISH THEIR OWN RIGHTEOUSNESS. They know that God requires His intelligent and responsible creatures to give obedience to His royal law of love. According to the first covenant every man was to work out a righteousness for himself. But man has failed in this; he is not able to present a perfect obedience. He has only to search himself to discover that he has sinned. But then he would in future make amends for the past. See the self-righteous man as he goes about so diligently in working out a righteousness of his own. Listen to him as he talks to himself in the chamber of his thoughts. When he does a smart act, he, as it were, says, "How clever I am!" He relieves distress, and it is followed by the thought, "How tender-hearted I am!" He engages in a religious service, and then feels that he is so pious. This self-righteousness is all along offensive to God, and apt to be offensive to our fellow-men. It shows itself in a haughty manner, and in the perpetual narratives of our ability and prowess. A ploughman, whom Hervey once addressed to the effect that it was our first duty at once to abandon our sins, answered, "There is a prior duty, and that is to abandon the trust in our own righteousness." There was true philosophy in this. As long as we are trusting in our own righteousness we have little motive to search out our sins and destroy them. Let a man feel that his deeds are as filthy rags before God, and then he will be disposed to give them up and seek for a better clothing. This self-righteous spirit is that of the Pharisees, so severely condemned by our Lord. It is embodied in the prayer, "Lord, I thank Thee," etc. It was the spirit of the Stoics which seized on some of the highest minds in Greece and Rome. The meditations of Marcus Aurelius contain very lofty moral precepts, but his ethics are self-righteous throughout; the good man stands before God in the strength of his own merits. This being so, we can understand how the philosophers of this school should have been unwilling to submit to the humbling doctrines of the Cross, which require us to trust in the righteousness of another. What a humiliation must it have been to Saul of Tarsus when he was arrested on the road to Damascus, when not only his person but his pride were cast down to the ground! But his humiliation was a step necessary in order to his exaltation. He gave up trusting in his own righteousness, and went forward in the strength of Him who there and then conquered him, and thereby enabled him to conquer himself, and sent him forth to proclaim a doctrine which conquered the Roman world. Every man needs to pass through such a crisis. As long as the man is cherishing a self-righteous spirit he feels himself restrained on all hands. He cherishes a sense of merit, and yet is not satisfied, He makes now and greater exertions, only to find that they do not come up to the full requirements of the law. And the unforgiven sin will ever trouble the sinner till it is forgiven. Better at once submit, and instead of the prayer of the Pharisee put up the prayer of the publican. When the ground is as it is in winter, we might try to soften the hardness and remove the cold by shovelling away the frost and snow. But there is a better way. Let us have the returning sun of spring, and the coldness will disappear, and the earth will array itself in the loveliest green. So when we feel our hearts to be chilled and hardened, let us seek that the light of God's countenance shine upon us, and the hardness will be dissolved, and the graces of peace and love will flow forth as the streams do in spring.

(J. McCosh, D.D.)

"A gentleman in our late civil wars," says Cowley, "when his quarters were beaten up by the enemy, was taken prisoner, and lost his life afterwards only by staying to put on a band and adjust his periwig; he would escape like a person of quality, or not at all, and died the noble martyr of ceremony and gentility." Poor fool! and yet he is as bad who waits till he is dressed in the rags of his own fancied fitness before he will come to Jesus. He will die a martyr to pride and self-righteousness.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Concerning the Jews, consider —


1. They trusted to their self-righteousness.

2. They sought to establish it

3. They laboured diligently to do this.

II. WHAT THEY DID NOT DO. They did not —

1. Accept God's righteousness.

2. Realise its extent.

3. Bow down to it.


1. Wilful.

2. Persistent.

3. Destructive.

(J. Burns, D.D.)

The text sets forth three difficulties in the way of a man's salvation.


1. Ignorance is the "mother of devotion," according to the Church of Rome; "the mother of error," according to the Word of God.(1) Men do not know what that righteousness is which God requires. If you want to be saved by your own righteousness, know that it must be perfect. If you have committed but one sin, your hope of perfect righteousness is gone. "He that offendeth in one point is guilty of all." If I break one link in a chain of twenty I have broken the chain. Suppose that I should have to give a perfect vase of crystal as a present to the Queen. But it has got chipped a little. What is to be done? I may cement the little pieces in their places; but if it must be perfect before royalty can accept it I must get another vase. Now, while I am talking about a chip here and a chip there in your life, you may be saying, "But we are smashed right up; and as to broken links, why, we have fairly melted the chain." I am glad to hear it. If you have no righteousness of your own, you have got to the half-way house of salvation. When you strip a man you are partly on the way to clothing him.(2) Men do not know that God has provided a righteousness. God came here in human form, and became "obedient to His own law, even to the death of the cross." And His obedience is ours, if we believe. Christ was "made sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." Alas! how many there are who do not know that God justifieth the ungodly; that sinners can be regarded as just, through what Christ has done and suffered.(3) Many are ignorant as to how they are to receive this righteousness. The current notion is, "I must pray so much; I must weep so much; I must feel so much." Ah! this is the common ignorance; whereas men should know that "there is life for a look at the Crucified One."(4) The worst of this terrible ignorance is, that the mass of mankind do not know Him who is our righteousness. "Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?"

2. This ignorance —(1) Is of the facts of the truth. You do not know that in the very midst and heart of London there are tens of thousands who do not know the name of Christ.(2) Of the excellence of the gospel. They do not know the peace, the joy, the rest it brings.(3) With many is wilful. Nobody is so blind as the man that does not want to see; nobody so deaf as the man that does not wish to hear.(4) Some are ignorant despairingly. The devil tells men, first, that they can be saved any day they like; so they may put it off. Then he says, "Salvation is not for such as you." But Christ says that whoever comes to Him He will in no wise cast out.

II. SELF-WILL. Men, ignorant cf God's righteousness, "go about to establish their own."

1. They set up the poor idol of their own righteousness. There is a treasure of gold, and the man says, "No, I will not have that. I think that I could make a sovereign at home out of a bit of brass." If I were at heaven's gate, and a voice should say, "Enter freely," and I replied, "No, I think I prefer the Surrey hills, or a place down by the seaside," what a fool I should be! A human thing at best, how shall that match the Divine righteousness? An imperfect thing at best, how shall I compare that with the perfect righteousness of Christ? A fading, fleeting thing, always apt to be damaged by the next moment's temptation, how can I be so foolish?

2. In what vain efforts they spend their time and strength! You will better understand the text if I read it: "They go about to set up their own righteousness." It is a dead thing. The corpse of our own righteousness has a tendency to fall, and down it goes! "It wants something inside"; for until there is life within, it will not stand. It is like a man trying to patch up an old house which has not been repaired for fifty years. So he puts in a beam there, and a strut there, and another timber there; and, by the time he has spent as much as would have built a house, he has got a very handsome ruin left, and nothing more. Charles the First used to swear, "God mend me." Somebody said it would be an easier job to make a new one of him. When men say, "God mend me," they had better say "God make me new."

3. They "go about" to do this.(1) They set about it with great zeal. When a man says, "I am going about a thing," he means that he is going to take his coat off. I recollect how I set to work in my shirt-sleeves to make a righteousness of my own; and I did very nicely indeed while it was dark. But when a little light from the Cross broke in I began to see the filthiness of it.(2) They have various ways of doing it. I have talked with a person, and said, "Can you trust in your own works?" "Oh, no." "Well, can you come to Christ, and take the righteousness of God?" "Well, no; I do not feel enough my own emptiness." Each time you drive him out of his refuge of lies he hastens back to the old ground again — something of himself. There is a ship out at sea, and one of the crew says, "I know that we shall not drift far out of our course." "Why? .... Because we have such a big anchor on board." Why, an anchor on board is no good to anybody! It is when you "let go" the anchor, and lose sight of it, that it is good for something. So you want to have your anchor on board. You do not like it to "enter into that which is within the veil." You want to feel something, to have something of your own. O self-will! God will have salvation to be all of grace, and man will have it of debt.

4. These efforts of men for their own salvation are deadly efforts. God will save them one way, and they want to be saved another. God says, "There is medicine; take it." Man says, "No, I will compound my own physic." Can he ever get well in such a way as that? God says, "I will forgive." Man says, "I will try and deserve to be forgiven" — as if that could be possible.

III. FLAT REBELLION. "They have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God?' This is —

1. A strange word. Here is a criminal who will not submit to be pardoned; a sick man who will not submit to be made well; a poor beggar who will not submit to be made into a gentleman.

2. A searching word. Do I stick out? Am I such a self-willed fool that I will not submit before my Maker — will not yield even to have salvation for nothing?

3. A true word. There is many a sinner who has nothing to be proud of, and yet he is as proud as Lucifer. A dustman can be as proud as my Lord Mayor. The worse the man, the harder he is to bow before the righteousness of God.

4. A suggestive word. They will not own that God is King. When a man denies the rights of the magistrate to condemn him, how can he be pardoned? You must yield. Submit to the fact that God is God, or else you will not submit to God's righteousness.

5. A very word. All I have to do is to submit myself.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

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