Romans 9:1

If our Christianity is genuine, it will not destroy our natural affections, but will purify and ennoble them. Domestic affection is all the stronger and the brighter under the influence of Christianity. The Christian patriot is the truest patriot. So it was with St. Paul. Because he had embraced, so to speak, a new religion, he does not turn in bitterness against his former coreligionists. Because he has become wiser than they, he does not look down upon them with scorn and contempt.

I. HIS SORROW FOR THE LOST. He says that he has "great heaviness and continual sorrow" for Israel, his kinsmen according to the flesh. This sorrow is intensified by many considerations.

1. He thinks of their great privileges. "To whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the Law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came" (vers. 4, 5). It was indeed a saddening reflection to think that a people so highly honoured by God should depart from him. They had the Law for their guidance; the fathers for their example; Christ Jesus, God's own Son, for their Messiah and Deliverer; and the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the promises for their encouragement and inspiration. Yet they crucified their King, and hardened their hearts against God's messages of mercy. Great privileges make our guilt the greater if we reject Christ.

2. He thinks of the world's obligation to them. The Jewish people have been the benefactors of the whole world. They have been the channel through which blessings have come to other nations. How sad that they themselves should forfeit the Divine blessing by their impenitence and unbelief! So also it would be sad if our British nation, which by its missionary enterprise has brought so many blessings to other nations, should itself depart from the truth as it is in Jesus, and fall into the depths of materialism and infidelity.

3. He thinks of his own relation to them. "My brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh." Those who are connected with us by ties of blood or common nationality should be the objects of our special solicitude and sympathy. Many Christian people are full of sympathy for the heathen in India, or China, or Africa, who never think - except, perhaps, with indifference or contempt - of the poor and ignorant and oppressed among their own countrymen at home. The strikes among working men in England, the discontent among the crofters of Scotland, disaffection and outrage in Ireland, - does not much of the responsibility for these things lie at the door of the Christian people of these nations? Thoughtlessness and indifference with regard to those around us bring their own retribution.

II. HIS SELF-SACRIFICING SPIRIT. St. Paul did not confine himself to mere sentiments or words. "I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh" (ver. 3). He had already given proof, in a very practical way, of his desire for the salvation of Israel. Wherever he went, "he preached Christ in the synagogues" (Acts 9:20) as he had opportunity, thereby subjecting himself more than once to bitter persecution and attack. The true Christian patriot will sacrifice himself for the good of his country and fellow-countrymen. He will sacrifice his prejudices of class and creed, he will sacrifice even the favour and friendship of those of his own rank, if by so doing he may better reach the poor and degraded and ignorant. Have we ever known what it is to have heaviness and continual sorrow of heart for our fellow-countrymen, and to bear reproach and opposition in our efforts to do them good? - C.H.I.

I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost.
I. Should be SPOKEN ALWAYS, and under all circumstances.

II. Should be spoken in CHRIST.

1. As a Christian duty.

2. As in Christ's presence.

3. In Christ's Spirit.

4. For Christ's honour.


1. Enlightened.

2. Influenced.

3. Approved by the Holy Spirit.

IV. May only be CONFIRMED by direct appeal to God under very solemn and extraordinary circumstances.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

"In Christ." This was one of the apostle's favourite expressions. All Christians according to him are "in Christ." They have been "baptized in Christ" (Romans 6:3), i.e., they have been united to Christ by the baptism of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13); so that they are in Christ as if they were parts of His person, members of His body. When the apostle thinks of this union, he sometimes allows the relations of time past and time future to interpenetrate, so that to his eye believers have not only been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20) and buried with Him (Romans 6:4), but also raised with Him (Colossians 2:12; Colossians 3:1), and glorified with Him in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). Christians have their Christian being in Christ. They are justified (Galatians 2:17), sanctified (1 Corinthians 1 ), triumph (2 Corinthians 2:14), speak in Christ ( 2 Corinthians 2:17; 2 Corinthians 12:19). The personality of Christ had, to his transfiguring conception, become the sphere of his spiritual being and activity, so that what he did, in the express consciousness of his Christian state, he did in the realised presence of Christ, and thus all the nobler elements of his spiritual being were intensified and exalted. In such a mood how could he stoop to wilful misrepresentation? Realising that he was, so to speak, "interred" in Christ, he felt that in his ethical acts he was dominated by the power that ensphered him,"

(J. Morison, D.D.)

1. St. Paul does here a most difficult thing. He distinguishes two voices within, and his own voice from either. Conscience — the Holy Ghost — bearing me witness. These distinctions are important. Some confuse conscience and the Spirit, others leave the Spirit altogether out, and conscience alone recognised as the guide of man.

2. Conscience — which is, literally, co-knowledge — is a natural faculty. Like intellect, affection, or any other department of the man, conscience is rather a state than an ingredient of the person. We introduce confusion when we speak of the unit being as split into parts. Memory, will, conscience, and the rest, are, in reality, only so many conditions or moods of the one man.

3. Conscience is that state of the man in which he reviews and judges his own actions. It is natural to every man to ask of himself, Of what complexion is this thing which I have thought, spoken, or done, in regard to right and wrong? We cannot help it — it is a sign, therefore, neither of good nor evil — we must sit in judgment upon ourselves. Who is so happy as never to have passed an unquiet night in the remembrance of word spoken or deed done during the day? And yet there was no one to reproach him! The thing itself was unknown to the world. No matter! He was his own accuser, witness, judge, and executioner. But conscience also exercises a legislative as well as a judicial function. It says, This is right, do it — this is wrong, shun it — as well as, This was wrong, and thou hast done it, etc.

4. This conscience was without the gospel, and is still with it. See the case of Paul (Acts 23:1, of. 24:16; 2 Timothy 1:3, cf. 1 Timothy 1:19). As much towards man's nature, as towards the law, Christ's office was to elevate, to deepen, to perfect, not to abolish. Just as Christ took the instinct of patriotism, and turned it into a world-wide benevolence, or the love of those that love us (Matthew 5:46), and consecrated it into a universal charity; so He took the natural instinct which we call conscience, and both instructed it in the Divine law of which before it had but the dimmest conception, and also enabled it with that preventing grace which is the presence of the indwelling Spirit.

5. It is a great thing to be conscientious, but it does not make a man a Christian. St. Paul was conscientious, so were some Pharisees, and in these days of grace and the gospel there are conscientious lives which are both un-Christian and anti-Christian. But I am well assured of this, that for one man who lives a good life out of Christ, a hundred thousand are wallowing in the sty of sin for lack of Him. Even in those men who think them. selves able to dispense with Him I can always notice some damaging deficiency, self-conceit, coldness, exclusiveness, or uselessness. All this makes me understand why St. Paul and the Master should make so much of that superadded gift, which is the presence of God's Holy Spirit. There are those amongst us who have bitterly felt the powerlessness of conscience. They have suffered, resolved, hoped, struggled, but again and again they have found themselves no match for the strong man armed. We may blame, but the weak by nature may be made strong by grace. A man whose conscience has failed to give him the victory may find victory in Christ. It will be hard work for him; but prayer can prevail where resolution has faltered; the man whose conscience has been blunted may bare it set again and edged and made powerful by grace; he who knows what it is to have stifled and all but silenced the inward voice, may yet hear it again in new tones, but with new powers also, speaking of Christ crucified and the love of the Spirit.

6. The Church and the Church's Lord can compassionate the feebleness which man never pities. The Physician came not for the whole but for the sick. This it is which makes His gospel so inestimably precious, and makes us weep for surprise and joy when we find Jesus sitting at meat with publicans and sinners, bidding welcome to sinful women, and drawing His loveliest parables from the history of prodigals, etc. Cry out to Him for the Spirit of adoption — and where nature fails, and conscience, prayer and the Spirit shall prevail and conquer yet! Most of all do I commend this to those who have sunk the deepest. But the gospel is a voice for all men. It addresses the moral man as well as the sinner. It says to him, St. Paul was no libertine; yet even he found his righteousness of no avail in the day of his trial. In the brightness of heaven's light his fabric of self-assertion melted like snow. He cast away all trust in himself, and began to build quite afresh upon the one foundation which is Jesus Christ. How should it be otherwise with you?

7. Let so many of us as have risen into this higher life of grace and the Spirit see that we seek therein a liberty, not of sin, but of God. St. Paul himself exercised himself day by day to have always a conscience void of offence. Conscience in him was still the law; only it was a conscience not bounded by law, but enlarged and illuminated by the Spirit. When he described himself, for a moment, as without the law, he yet was careful to add, lest any should misinterpret him, being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ.

(Dean Vaughan.)

In order to do justice to the Greek idea it is necessary to cord together mentally the two words "conscience" and "consciousness." In the usage of New Testament and Stoic philosophy the term almost always throws out into relief its moral import. Hence we read of a good and pure, and also of an evil, defiled and seared conscience, of a conscience toward God, and one void of offence. The moral character of the conscience in this acceptation of the term is strikingly represented by the derivation "conscientiousness." In Hebrews 10:2 the psychological idea of conscience is predominant, and is strong in 2 Corinthians 1:12. Here it must not be lost sight of, but the moral idea is predominant. The conscientious principle within the apostle attested the veracity of his utterance when he said, "I am not lying." It is worthy of note that the apostle allows himself the use of a popular representation of the conscience — viz., as if it were distinct from himself — reminding us of Adam Smith's phrase, "the man within the breast." Paul makes his appeal to this "man." He had referred simply to himself when he said "I lie not." That was his own proper testimony concerning himself. But either deliberately or instinctively realising that men often falsify even when they say "We lie not," he turns to the "man within," and listens till he hears him say, "True, thou liest not." Of course the Romans could not look within the apostle's breast and verify the concurrent testimony. There was but one person in the witness box, the apostle himself. But the apostle had not merely to satisfy the Romans; that might or might not be possible. He had to satisfy himself; and that was possible if he was honest. Thus it is that after his outward affirmation he turns in, and receiving inward confirmation, he, as it were, reaffirms. To all who know the man, such a solemn reaffirmation would render "assurance," if that were possible, "doubly sure." Once more, the apostle's conscience bore witness "in the Holy Spirit." Like the rest he "was a man full of the Holy Ghost," so that at every point of his spiritual being he was touched and energised by the heavenly influence. There was still, it is true, the unimpaired principle of moral freedom in the centre of his being, in virtue of which it devolved on himself, as a real self-contained person, to welcome and cherish the hallowing influence. The man's individual manhood was not absorbed into the infinite essence. Neither was his moral accountability merged or superseded. But he in his freedom had made his choice. "To him to live was Christ." And hence all the avenues to the very centre of his being were habitually left open to the ingress of the Holy Spirit whom he neither resisted nor grieved. And when, therefore, his inward conscience bore concurrent testimony with his outward declaration, there was more than itself in the voice of that conscience. There was the echo of the voice of God's Spirit.

(J. Morison, D.D.)

That I have great
l: —


1. Sincere.

2. Divinely inspired.


1. Great.

2. Continual.

3. Self-sacrificing.


1. Their high privileges.

2. National affinity with Christ.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)


1. His worst enemies. If any of you in following Christ should meet with opposition, avenge it in the same way. Love most the man who treats you worst.

2. His kinsfolk according to the flesh. Charity must begin at home. He who does not desire the salvation of those who are his own kith and kin, "how dwelleth the love of God in him?" Is thy husband unsaved? Love him to Christ! Next to your homes let your own neighbours be first of all considered, and then your country, for all Englishmen are akin.

3. Persons of great privileges.(1) They had privileges by birth — "Who are Israelites." Many of you have the privilege of being born in the midst of gracious influences. Those poor gutter children start in the race of life under terrible disadvantages. And some of you have had everything in your favour; yet we tremble for you, lest you should be cast out, while many come from the east and from the west and sit down at the banquet of grace.(2) They had the adoption, and enjoyed national advantages; and God has been pleased to adopt this nation, giving it special liberty, an open Bible, and the free proclamation of the gospel.(3) They had the glory, i.e., God had revealed Himself in their midst from the mercy-seat in the bright light of the Shekinah. And in this very house of prayer the Lord has manifested His glory very wonderfully. Many hundreds have been turned from darkness to light in this place!(4) They had the first hold of all spiritual gifts. They had seen God revealing His Son to them by types; but Christ is not so well seen in bleeding bullocks and rams and hyssop, etc., as He is seen in the preaching of the gospel.

4. Yet Paul had a great solicitude for these people because he saw them living in the commission of great sin. Although many of them were exceedingly moral and religious. The greatest of sins is to be at enmity with God. The most damning of iniquities is to refuse Christ. So many now value their external religiousness above faith in Jesus.


1. Very truthful. There was no sham about it, "I say the truth in Christ." He did not fancy that he felt, but he really felt. He did not sometimes get up into that condition or down into it, but he lived in it. "I lie not," he says. "I do not exaggerate." For fear he should not be believed he asseverates as strongly as is allowed to a Christian man. Do we feel the same, or is it only a little excitement at a revival meeting? You must feel deeply for the souls of men if you are to bless them.

2. Very gracious. It was not an animal feeling, or a natural feeling; it was "in Christ." When he was nearest to his Lord, then he felt that he did mourn over men's souls. It was truth in Christ that he was expressing, because he was one with Christ. It is of no use to try to get this feeling by reading books, or to pump yourself up to it in private; it is the work of God.

3. Spiritual. The Holy Spirit bore witness with his conscience. I am sometimes afraid that our zeal for conversion would not stand the test of the Holy Ghost. Perhaps we want to increase our denomination, or enlarge our church for our own honour, or get credit for doing good. None of these motives can be tolerated; our concern for souls must he wrought in us by the Holy Ghost.

4. Most deep and depressing he had great heaviness, and he tells us that this did not come on him at times, but that he always felt it whenever his thoughts turned that way: I have "continual sorrow in my heart." In his very heart, for it was not a superficial desire; a continual sorrow, for it was no fitful emotion.

5. Most intense (ver. 3). Of course the apostle never thought of wishing that he could be an enemy to Christ, but he did sometimes look at the misery which comes upon those who are separated from Christ, until he felt that if he could save his kinsmen by his own destruction, ay, by himself enduring their heavy punishment, he could wish to stand in their stead. He did not say that he ever did wish it, but he felt as if he could wish it when his heart was warm. His case was parallel with that of Moses when he prayed the Lord to spare the people and said, "If not, blot my name out of the Book of Life." When the heart is full of love even the boldest hyperboles are simple truths. Extravagances are the natural expression of warm hearts even in ordinary things. What the cool doctrinalist pulls to pieces, and the critic of words regards as altogether absurd, true zeal nevertheless feels. Christ "saved others, Himself He could not save." Men are extravagantly prudent, dubious, profane; they may therefore well permit the minister of Christ to be extravagant in his love for others. Such a text as this must be fired off red hot; it spoils if it cools. It is a heart, not a head business. The apostle means us to understand that there was nothing which he would not suffer if he might save his kindred according to the flesh.

III. ITS EXCELLENCES. What would be the result if we felt as Paul did?

1. It would make us like Christ. After that manner he loved. He became a curse for us. He did what Paul could wish, but could not do. I want you to feel that you would pass under poverty, sickness, or death, if you could save those dear to you. I heard of a dear girl the other day who said to her pastor, "I could never bring my father to hear you, but I have prayed for him long, and God will answer my request. Now you will bury me, won't you? My father must come and hear you speak at my grave. Do speak to him. God will bless him." And he did, and her father was converted.

2. It will save us from selfishness. The first instinct of a saved soul is a longing to bring others to Christ. Yet, lest there should grow up in your spirit any of that Pharisaic selfishness which was seen in the elder brother, ask to feel a heaviness for your prodigal younger brother, who is still feeding swine.

3. It will save you from any difficulty about forgiving other people. Love man. kind with all your soul, and you will feel no difficulty in exercising patience, forbearance, and forgiveness.

4. It will keep you from very many other griefs. You will be delivered from petty worries if you are concerned about the souls of men.

5. It will put you much upon prayer. That is the right style of praying — when a man prays because he has an awful weight upon him, and pray he must.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)


1. Heartfelt compassion.

2. Earnest prayer.

3. Self-sacrificing zeal.


1. Our brethren.

2. Specially privileged.

3. Dear to Christ.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

The fervency of affection professed by Paul in this passage is all in behalf of his own countrymen; and yet none more zealous than he in the labours of a Christian missionary among the distant countries of the world. What gives more importance to this remark is the tendency in our own day to place these two causes in opposition to each other. It might serve as a useful corrective to look at Paul and at the one comprehensive affection which actuated his bosom, cleaving with all the devotedness of a thorough patriot to the families of his own land; and yet carrying him beyond the limits of a contracted patriotism among all the families of the earth. The truth is, that home and foreign Christianity, instead of acting upon the heart like two forces in opposite directions, draw both the same way, so that he who has been carried forward to the largest sacrifices in behalf of the one, is the readiest for like sacrifices in behalf of the other. The friends of the near being also, as they have opportunity, the most prompt and liberal in their friendship to the distant enterprise; recognising in man, wherever he is to be found, the same wandering outcast from the light and love of heaven, and the same befitting subject for the offers of a free salvation. We cannot therefore sympathise with those who affect an indifference to the Christianisation of the heathen till the work of Christianisation shall have been completed at our own door. Let them be careful, lest there do not lurk within them a like indifference to both, lest the feelings and the principles of all true philanthropy lie asleep in their bosoms; and they, unlike to Paul, who found room for the utmost affection towards the spiritual well-being of his own kinsfolk and the utmost activity among the aliens and idolaters of far distant lands, shall be convicted of deep insensibility to the concerns of the soul, of utter blindness to the worth of eternity.

(T. Chalmers, D.D.)

We were going from Camden to Philadelphia some years ago very late at night after a meeting. It was a cold winter night, and we stood on the deck of the ferry-boat, impatient to get ashore. Before the boat came to the wharf, a man who stood on the outside of the chains slipped and dropped into the water. It is the only man that we ever saw overboard. It was a fearful night. The icicles had frozen on the wharf, and they had frozen on the steamer. The question was how to get the man up. The ropes were lowered, and we all stood with feverish anxiety lest the man should not be able to grasp the ropes, and when he grasped it and was pulled up on to the deck, and we saw he was safe, although we had never seen him before, how we congratulated him! A life saved! Have we the same earnestness about getting men out of spiritual peril? Do we not go up and down in our prayer-meetings, and our Christian work, coldly saying, "Yes, there is a great deal of sin in the world; men ought to do better. I wish the people would become Christians. I think it is high time that men attended to their eternal interests"; and five minutes after we put our head on the pillow we are sound asleep, or from that consideration we pass out in five minutes into the utmost mirthfulness, and have forgotten it all. Meanwhile there is a whole race overboard. How few hands are stretched out to lift men out of the flood! how few prayers offered! how earnest opportunities! how little earnest Christian work!

(T. De Witt Talmage.)

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