Thomas Chalmers


ROMANS, iv, 23 - 25.

"Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offenees, and was raised again for our justification."

THESE things were written for our admonition on whom the latter ends of the world have come. The circumstance of Abraham's faith being proposed as an example to us, should bring up our confidence to the same pitch of boldness and determination which are ascribed to his in the preceding verses. He against hope believcd in hope; that is, he trusted in the face of unlikelihood. So ought we, however unlikely it is to the eye of nature, that sinners should be taken into friendship with that God whose holiness is at irreconcilable variance with sin. We just do as Abraham did before us, when we rest and rely upon God's friendship to us in Christ Jesus; and that simply on the ground that we judge Him to be faithful who has promised. It ought to encourage our faith, when we read of him who was the father of the faithful, staggering not at the promise of God through unbelief, but being strong in faith, and thereby glorifying God by his persuasion that what He had promised He was able also to perform. When we read that it was this very resolute and unfaltering reliance on the part of Abraham, which God counted to him for righteousness; and that the same faith upon our part will bring down upon us the benefit of a like imputation - this ought to overrule the fears of guilt. It should rebuke all our doubts and apprehensions away from us. It should rivet our souls on this sure foundation, that God hath said it, and shall He not perform it? It should clear away the lowring imagery of terror and distrust from the sinner's agitated bosom: And if the most characteristic peculiarity in the belief of Abraham was, that it was belief in the midst of staggering and appalling improbabilities - should not this just stimulate to the same belief the spirit of him, who, feeling that by nature he is in the hands of a God in whose sacred breast there exists a jealousy of all that is evil, is apt to view with incredulity the approaches of the same God when He proffers reconciliation even to the worst and most worthless offenders; and protests in their hearing, that, if they will only draw nigh in the name of Christ, He will forgive all and forget all?

Ver. 25.
The circumstance that is singled out in this passage as the object of the faith of Christians, is that of God having raised up Jesus from the dead. In other parts of the Bible the resurrection of the Saviour is stated to be the act of God the Father; and, however much the import of this may have escaped the notice of an ordinary reader, it is pregnant with meaning of the weightiest importance. You know that when the prison door is opened to a criminal, and that by the very authority which lodged him there, it evinces that the debt of his transgression has been rendered; and that he now stands acquitted of all its penalties. It was not for His own but for our offences that Jesus was delivered unto the death, and that His body was consigned to the imprisonment of the grave. And when an angel descended from heaven and rolled back the great stone from the door of the sepulchre, this speaks to us that the justice of God is satisfied, that the ransom of our iniquities has been paid, that Christ has rendered a full discharge of all that debt for which he undertook as the great Surety between God and the sinners who believe in Him. And could we only humble you into the conviction that you need the benefit of such a redeeming process - could we only show you to yourselves as the helpless transgressors of a commandment that cannot be trampled on with impunity - could we thoroughly impress you with the principle that God is not to be mocked, and that the sanctions of that moral government which He wields over the universe He has thrown around Him are not to be treated as things of no significancy - could we reveal to you your true situation as the subjects of a law, that still pursues you with its exactions, while it demands reparation for all the indignities it has gotten at your hands - Then would the topics which we are now attempting so feebly to illustrate, and which many regard as the jargon of a scholastic theology that is now exploded, rise in all the characters of reality and truth before the eye of your now enlightened conscience and gladly would you devolve the burden of your guilt on the head of the accepted sacrifice, that you may be rescued from the condemnation of those offences for which He was delivered, that you may be lightened of all that fearful endurance which He has borne.

'And raised again for our justification.' We are not fond of that repulsive air which has doubtless been thrown around Christianity, by what some would call the barbarous terms and distinctions of schoolmen. But it will, we think, help to illustrate the truth of the matter before us, that we shortly advert to the theological phrases of a negative and positive justification. The former consists of au acquittal from guilt. By the latter a tithe is conferred to the reward of righteousness. There are two ways in which God may deal with you - either as a criminal in the way of vengeance, or as a loyal and obedient subject in the way of reward. By your negative justification, you simply attain to the midway position of God letting you alone. He does not lay upon you the hand of retribution fur your evil deeds ; but neither does He lay upon you the hand of retribution for any good deeds. You are kept out of hell, the place of penal suffering for the vicious. But you are not preferred to heaven, the place of awarded glory and happiness for the virtuous. Now the conception is, that the Saviour accomplished our negative justification by bearing upon His own person the chastisement of our sins - He was delivered for our offences unto the death. But that to achieve our positive justification, He did more than suffer, He obeyed. He accumulated as it were a stock of righteousness, out of which He lavishes reward on those whom He had before redeemed from punishment. It was because He finished a great work that God highly exalted Him; and from the place which He now occupies does He shed on His disciples a foretaste of heaven here, as the earnest and the preparation for their inheritance hereafter. He does something more than work out their deliverance from the place of torment, and thus bring them to the neutral and intermediate state of those who are merely forgiven. He pours upon them spiritual blessings; and, by stamping upon them a celestial character, does He usher them even now into celestial joy - so as that, with their affections set upon things above, they may already be said to dwell in heavenly places with Christ Jesus our Lord: And thus while it was by His death, that He delivered them from the guilt of their offences - it is by His rising again that He obtained for them the rewards of righteousness, the privileges of a completed justification.

And here we may remark, that by the simple bestowmcnt of holiness upon His people, does He in fact infuse into their spirits the great and essential element of heaven's blessedness. It is a mistake to think, that it is either the splendour or the a music of paradise, which makes it a place of rejoicing. It is because righteousness will flourish there, that rapture will be felt there. It is because heaven is the abode of purity, that it is also an abode of peace and pleasantness. It is because every heart thrills with benevolence, that in every heart there is beatitude unspeakable. It is love to God that calls forth halleluiahs of ecstacy which ring eternally in heaven. In a word, it is not an animal but a spiritual festival, which is preparing for us in the mansions above; and in these mansions below, a foretaste is felt by those, who, through patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory and immortality and honour. The real disciples of the Saviour on earth, can testify, that if they had holiness enough they would have happiness enough; and a still more affecting testimony to the truth, that the atmosphere of goodness is of itself an atmosphere of gladness and of light, may be seen in the mental wretchedness of those who mourn some deadly overthrow from that purity of heart which at one time guarded and adorned them - who have fallen from peace, and that simply because they have fallen from principle - and feel in their bosoms the agonies of hell, and that without another instrument of vengeance to pursue them than a sense of their own native and inherent worthlessness.
The following is the paraphrase of this short passage.

"Now it was not for the mere sake of Abraham that righteousness was reckoned to him because of his faith - but for us also to whom it shall ho reckoned, if we believe on Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead - who was delivered up unto the death as an atonement for our offences; and was then raised that He might confer upon us the fruits of His own achievement, the rewards of His own obedience."

We have little more than time to remark that the faith of Christians, is as little an inert or merely speculative principle, as the faith of Abraham - that it is followed up by a practical movement just as his was, and has its footsteps just as his had - that if the outset of his was marked by a violent separation from all the habits and attachments of nature, the outset of ours is marked by a separation from our old tastes and our old tendencies in every way as violent - that if in the progress of his he had to obey the requirement which laid upon him the sacrifice of his dearest possessions upon earth, in the progress of ours we may be called upon to cut off a right hand or to pluck out a right eye - that if he was bidden to wander afar from the scenes of his infancy, and to abandon all the endearments of his wonted society; so also we, without having to describe one mile of locomotion, are bidden to enter upon a new spiritual region, and by so doing, to be deserted by the congeniality and approbation of all our ungodly friends and all our worldly companionships. In a word, the faith of Christianity, like the faith of the patriarch, is not a mere metaphysical notion - neither are the blessings of Christianity a reward for the soundness of it. The faith both of the one and of the other is just such a practical sense of the reality of unseen and eternal things, as leads us to go in actual request of them according to a prescribed course; and, in so doing, to renounce present things whatever be the force and whatever be the urgency of their allurcments. The faith that was in the patriarch's heart, originated such doings in the history of his life, as declared plainly that he sought a country. And our faith is nothing, it is but the breath of an empty profession, but the utterance of a worthless orthodoxy, if it be not followed up by such measures and such movements as plainly declare that immortality is the goal to which we are tending - that the world is but the narrow foreground of that perspective which is lying at our feet - and, with the eye stretching forward to the magnificent region beyond it, that we are actually keeping on the straight but single path which conducts to this distant heaven, though set at every footstep with thorns, and hemmed on the right and on the left with difficulties innumerable.

Go forth with this text upon actual society, and make a survey of that nuighty throng that moves upon our streets, and frequents in thousands our market places - behold every individual in the busy and anxious pursuit of some object which lies in the distance away from him - meet him at any one hour of his history, and ascertain if possible whether the thing on which his heart is lavishing all its desirousness be placed on this or on the other side of death: And if, in every instance, the character of the occupation shall plainly declare that the region of sense which is near engrosses every feeling, and that the region of spirit which is distant is not in all his thoughts - then, if faith, instead of a barren dogma, be indeed the substance of things hoped tbr and the evidence of things not seen - on this very day might not the question and complaint of our Saviour be preferred, "verily when the Son of man cometh shall he find faith upon the earth? "

It just occurs to us before we are done, that we may gather from the history of Abraham, and that by no very circuitous process of inference, the efficacy of affliction in promoting the conversion of a soul to God. For any thing that appears, he, at the call of Heaven, left a happy home, and a smiling circle of relationship, and a prosperous establishment, and a neighbourhood that esteemed him. This added to the violence of the separation. But conceive that, previous to the call, his family had been wrested from him by death; or that his wealth had gone by misfortune into dissipation; or that that most grievous of all misfortunes had befallen him, he had incurred disgrace by some violent departure from rectitude - then the ties which bound him to the place of his nativity had been broken; and, instead of a painful banishment, he would have felt it as a refuge and a hiding place to have gone a solitary wanderer from the place of his nativity. And in like manner may affliction loosen even now the bonds that attach us to the world; and that love of it which is opposite to the love of the Father, may receive a death-blow from some great and un looked-for calamity; and the heart, bereaved of all its wonted objects, may now gladly close with the solicitations of that voice "which speaketh from heaven," and would woo us to the abiding glories of eternity; and we may now find it easier to give up our disengaged attachments unto God - seeing that it has pleased Him, by the infliction of His chastening hand, to sever away from them all those objects on which they wont so fondly to expatiate; and thus it is, that, from the awful visitations of death, poverty or any other dreadful overthrow from some eminence which at one time was occupied, there may at length, after a dark and brooding period of many agitations, emerge the light of newborn prospects ; there may at length spring up the peaceable fruit of of righteousness.
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