ROMANS vi, 15 - 18.
"What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law. but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death or of obedience unto righteousness? Let God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness."

You will perceive that in the 15th verse, the apostle reiterates the objection that was made at the outset of the chapter, where it is said "What! shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?" the same objection, but grounded on a distinct consideration, or on a consideration differently expressed at least in the 15th verse, where it is said, what then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? It strikes me that the apostle, when treating this question as put at the first, has in his eye the grace that pardons; and, in his reply, he urges the inconsistency of creatures, who for sin had been adjudged to die, but through the death of another had been recalled to life again, ever recurring in the habit of their practice to that which brought upon them so sore a condemnation.
By the time he arrives at that point in the progress of his argument where we now are, he had asked them to resist the power of sin, and to give themselves up unto the service of God; and was encouraging them with the prospect of success in this new plan of life, on the assurance that this power of sin was not unconquerable, but that, instead of its prevailing over them, they should be enabled to prevail over it - because, instead of being now under the law, they were now under grace. And we have no doubt that there was here a reference, not to grace as it pardons, but to grace as it purifies. There is another passage in his writings, where he tells us what that circumstance is, which denotes a man to be not under the law. "But if ye be led by the Spirit ye are not under the law." To be taken under the leading of the Spirit is to be taken under grace - even that grace which paid the debt of our souls and is now upholding them in spiritual subsistence.

What is the consequence of the Spirit’s leading, or what is the fruit of it - why that we are led to the preference and the practice of all those virtues which enter into the composition of true moral excellence, of which the apostle gives us the enumeration by such specific terms as love and peace and joy and gentleness and goodness and long-suffering and faith and meekness and temperance, against which, says he, there is no law. The grace which delivered us from the reckoning of the law because of our past delinquencies, delivers us also from the future reckonings of the law, by introducing us to such a character and such a conduct as even the law has nothing to allege against; and so the circumstanceof being under grace, so far from leading us to sin, leads us just in the opposite direction - leads us to that domain of righteousness which is not under the law, and that because there the law finds no occasion on which it might put forth its authority to condemn; and there its authority to issue orders is not called for, because it is in fact anticipated by the heaven-born affection which does not wait for its commands, by the heaven-born taste which delights in the doing of them.

Ver. 16. There may appear a sort of unmeaning and uncalled-for tautology in this verse - a something not very close or consequential, and which it is difficult to settle upon. The apostle had already asked them not to yield themselves unto the obedience of sin, but to yield themselves unto the obedience of God. If it were a real and effectual yielding of themselves to the obedience of God, an actual course of obedience to God would emerge from it. If it were but the semblance of thus yielding, or the putting forth of a warm but unsteadfast purpose which was not adhered to and not followed up - then would they still continue in the obedience of sin. Now, says the apostle, you are the servants of him whom you indeed obey - not the servants of him whom you only profess to obey. You may have engaged yourselves to one master - you may have gone through the form of yielding yourselves up unto him - you may perhaps have deluded yourselves into the imagination, that you have made good your surrender unto his will and unto his authority; but still, if, in the fact and in the real history, you obey another - you prove by this that you are indeed the servants of that other. He who sins is the servant of sin; and the effect of that service is death. He who obeys is the servant of obedience ; and the effect of that service is personal righteousness, or personal meetness for the realms of life everlasting. You may have made a dedication of yourselves unto one of these masters ; but you are the servants of the other master, if him you actually serve.

And perhaps the best way of seizing on the sense of the apostle in this verse, is just to substitute "whomsoever" for "whom" in the first clause of it, when the whole would run thus ‘ Know ye not that to whomsoever ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are whom ye do actually obey, whether of sin unto death or of obedience unto righteousness?’ I have already told you of your release from condemnation by the death of Christ; and I have told you how monstrously out of all proper character it were, that, after readmittance into the bosom of that accepted family from which sin and sin alone had exiled you, you should again recur to the service of sin, and, under the impression of this sentiment, I have bidden you yield yourselves up unto the service of God. And, to encourage you the more, I have proclaimed in your hearing the helps and the facilities which grace hath provided, for speeding you onward in the accomplishment of this service; and when, after all this, you ask me shall I sin then because of this grace - I answer, No. If you do so, it will prove that the yielding not unto sin but unto God, to which I have just enjoined you, has in fact been no yielding at all - that you have made perhaps a form of dedication; but it is by your after doings,and by these alone, that we are to estimate the truth and the power of it. The grace which you allege, as the plea of exemption from God’s service, is the very argument on which I found my expectation, that the path of His service is the very place on which I shall now be sure to meet you - for it is this grace which gives the power.

There would be no wanting of it to substantiate your dedication, if the dedication itself were a heartily sound and sincere one. For a man to say, shall I sin because I am under grace? - is in every way as preposterous, as it were for a sick servant that had long been disabled from work but was now recovered, to say, shall I spend my time in idleness or mischief now that I have gotten health for the labours of my employment? Such a use of his newly-gotten health, would prove that he had not honestly engaged for the interests of that master, whose servant he professes himself to be; and just so of the application to which it is proposed that grace, that mighty restorer of health to the soul, shall be turned - if you are not actually in the service of God but of sin, it proves that you have not honestly yielded yourselves unto God.

Ver. 17, 18. Thus the question, Whose servants are ye, resolves itself into a matter of fact; and is decided, not by the circumstance of your having made a dedication of yourselves unto God, but by the way in which this is followed up by the doings of obedience Whosoever he may be to whom you profess that you are servants, you are the real servants of him whom you obey; and the apostle on looking to his disciples, pronounces them by this test to have become the servants of righteousness. He knows what they were in the past, and he compares it with what they are now. They were the servants of sin - they are now the servants of righteousness. They not only made a show of yielding themselves up in obedience unto this new master; but they make him to be indeed their master, by their in deed and in truth obeying him. And he not only affirms this change of service on the part of his disciples; but he assigns the cause of it. They obeyed from the heart. There might have been an apparent surrender, but which the inner man did not go along with. There might have been the form of a yielding; but some secret reservations, some tacit compromise of which perhaps the man was scarcely if at all conscious, some latent duplicity, that marred the deed, and brought a flaw unto it by which it was invalidated.

There may have been something like a prostration of the soul, to the new principle that now claims an ascendancy over it; but there must have been a failing or drawback somewhere. All had not been sound at the core - some want of perfect cordiality about it, that explains why there should have been the semblance of a yielding unto one master, but the actual service of another. Now God be thanked, says the apostle, this is not the way with you. I look at your fruit, and I find it the fruit of holiness. I look at your life, and I find it to be the life of the servants of God. I compare you now with what I know you to have been formerly; and I find such a practical change as convinces me, that, whereas sin was formerly your master, righteousness is now your master in deed and in truth. And the account he gives of this is, that the yielding which they made of themselves was a sincere and honest yielding. The great master act ofobedience, which they rendered at that time, was obedience from the heart; and thus it turned out,that what was truly and singly transacted there, sent forth an impulse of power upon their habits and their history.But what is it that they are said here to obey from the heart? It is called in our translation the form of doctrine.

Now we know that the term doctrine in the original may signify the thing taught, or it may signify the process of teaching. In the last sense it is synonymous with instruction; and instruction, or a process of it, may embrace many items, and may consist of several distinct parts, and be variegated with lessons of diverse sort - to obey which from the heart, is just to take them all in with the simplicity and good faith, in which a child reads, and believingly reads, the exercises of its task-book. And this view of the matter is very much confirmed, by the import of the Greek word corresponding to form in our English translation. It is the same with a mould, that impresses its own precise shape however formed, and conveys its own precise devices however multiplied, to the soft and yielding substance whereunto it is applied. And it is further remarkable, that it would be still more accordant with the original - if, instead of its being said that they obeyed from the heart the form of doctrine which had been delivered to them, it had been rendered, that they obeyed from the heart the mould or model of doctrine, into which they had been delivered. The image seems taken from the practice of casting liquified metal into a mould; and whereby the cast and the mould are made the accurate counterparts of each other. Christian truth, in its various parts and various prominences, is likened unto a mould - into which the heart or soul of man is cast, that it may come out a precise transcript of that which has been applied to it. Did the melted lead only touch the mould at one point, it would not receive the shape that was designed to be impressed upon it - or if the surface of the one adhered to the surface of the other only throughout a certain extent, and not at all the parts, neither yet would there been accurate similitude between the copy and the model. it is by the closeness and the contact of the two all over, and by the yielding of the one softened throughout for the whole impression of the other, that the one takes on the very shape and the very lineaments which it is the purpose of the other to convey.

And such ought to he the impression, which the heart of man receives from the word of God. It should be obedient to every touch, and yield itself to every character that is graven thereupon. It should feel the impression, not from one of its truths only, but from all of them - else, like the cast which is in contact with the mould but at a single point, it will shake and fluctuate, and be altogether wanting in settled conformity to that with the likeness of which it ought to be everywhere encompassed. You know how difficult it is to poise one body upon another when it has only got one narrow place to stand upon; and that even another will not afford a sufficient basis on which to rest; and that, to secure a position of stability, there must at least be three points of support provided - else the danger is that it may topple to an overthrow. We think that we have seen something akin to this, ere the mind of an enquirer was rightly grounded and settled on the basis of God’s revealed testimony - how it veers and fluctuates, when holding only by one article and regardless of all the others - how tossed about it is apt to be by every wind, when it fails of a sufficiently extended grasp on the truths of Christianity - how those who talk for example of the bare act of faith, vacillate and give way in the hour of temptation, and that just because they have not stuck to the testimony of the Bible about the whole duty and discipline of holiness - how those who admit both the righteousness of Christ as their plea, and the regeneration of their own characters as their preparation for heaven, to be alike indispensable, have nevertheless been brought to shipwreck; and that just because, though adhering in words to these two generalities, they have never spread them abroad over their whole history in the living applications of prayer and watchfulness. They need the filling up of their lives and hearts with the whole transcript of revelation.

One doctrine does not suffice for this - for God in His wisdom, has thought fit that there shall be a form or scheme of doctrine. The obedience of the heart unto the faith, is obedience unto all that God proposes, for the belief and acceptance of those who have entered on the scholarship of eternity; and for this purpose, there must be, not a mere subscription or assent of the understanding to any given number of points and articles - there must be a broad coalescence of the mind, with the whole expanse and magnitude of the book of God’s testimony.A scheme of doctrine, you will observe, implies more truths than one; and St. Paul had actually gone beyond the announcement of his one individual item by the time that he reached the verse which is now submitted to you. He was very full on Christ as the propitiation for sin, and on the righteousness of Christ as the plea of acceptance and reward for sinners - and then when he came to the question, shall they who are partakers of this benefit continue in sin that they may get still more of the benefit, he is very strenuous in pronouncing a negative thereupon. Here there was not one doctrine, but a form of doctrine, not one truth but a compound of truths - a mould graven on both sides of it with certain various characters; and the softened metal that is poured therein, yields to it all round,and takes the varied impression from it. And so of him, who obeys from the heart the form of doctrine into which he is delivered. He does not yield to one article, and present a side of hardness and of resistance to another article. He is thoroughly softened and humbled under a sense of sinfulness, and most willingly takes the salvation of the gospel on the terms of the gospel. He does not like the sturdy controversialist, or the eager champion of system and of argument, call out from the word his own favourite position, with the light of which He would overbear and eclipse the whole remaining expanse of the law and of the testimony; but, like the little child, he follows on to know the Lord - just as the revealed things offer themselves to his docility and notice, on that inscribed tablet which the Lord hath placed before him.

This was the way in which the disciples of Paul seemed to have learned their lessons at his hand; and this way of it, it would appear, brings forth the testimony from their apostle, that they had obeyed from the heart the form of his doctrine. Their obeying of it from the heart marks their obeying of it truly and in the inward parts; and their obeying a form of doctrine marks not their exclusive adherence to one doctrine, but their broad and entire coalescence in his summary of doctrine. A most important step this, for it forms the very nodus of concatenation, between what the apostle says they once were and what he says they now are. They were the servants of sin : They are the servants of righteousness, and why; what was it that took place at the interesting moment of transition, or rather what was it that gave rise to it? They obeyed from the heart the form of doctrine into which they were moulded or cast; and then was it that they were made free from sin - then was it that, loosed from its power as well as from its condemnation, they gave their emancipated faculties to the service of righteousness. I therefore know not a more pertinent and more efficacious advice, that I can give for those who are desirous of being made free from sin, and so of being translated into the service of another master beside him who heretofore has domineered over them, than that they should spread open their whole mind to the whole testimony - than that they should render that obedience of their hearts unto the faith, which consists, not in the confinement either of their attention or belief to one of its articles, but in the freeness of their walking survey over the whole platform of revelation, and in their ready appropriation of all the truths which lie extended thereupon.

"Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and ye shall be saved," is a quotation from Scripture; and indeed one of the most precious and memorable of its sayings - but "repent and believe the Gospel," is the complex announcement of Jesus Christ Himself; and you must treasure up the saying that " unless ye repent ye shall all likewise perish." There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, is a weighty and well-laid doctrine - but another is subjoined; and out of the two we have this scheme or form of doctrine, that "there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit." The belief of the truth as it is in Jesus, will be the salvation of one and all who embrace it; but mark how this one announcement has another added to it, which is hinged to it as it were, and may be made to close into a mould for impressing the heart of God’s children - " God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth." To have the blood of Christ sprinkled upon you, is indeed to be furnished with a sure defence against the angel of wrath - when he cometh forth in his avenging mission against the children of iniquity; but within the compass of a single clause, does the apostle Peter tack obedience to the sprinkling of the blood of Christ. And then, to use his expressions, do you obey the truth," and are indeed "obedient children not fashioning yourselves" according to the errors and the ignorance of former days, when you submit to both the articles of this clause, and proceed upon them both. Paul went about preaching everywhere faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; but this forms only one part of his summary, according to his own description of it - and so he tells us of his "testifying, both to the Jews and also to the Greeks, repentance towards God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ".

In one place he could say of himself and of his disciples, that, "being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ;" and in another place he says to his disciples "that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God." And he told them that such they once were, but they had made it seems the very transition spoken of in our text; and he could now say, "but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God."And the way for you, my brethren, to make good the same transition - is to have the same obedience of faith - it is to spread out the tablet of your heart, for the pressure thereupon of all the characters that are graven on the tablet of revelation - it is to incorporate in your creed the necessity of a holy life, in imitation and at the will of the Lord Jesus, along with a humble reliance on His merits as your alone meritorious plea for acceptance with the Father - it is to give up the narrow, intolerant, and restrictive system of theology, which, by vesting a right of monopoly in a few of its favourite positions, acts like the corresponding system of trade, in impeding the full circulation of its truths and of its treasure, through that world within itself, which is made up of the powers and affections and faculties that reside in a human bosom. But do you, my brethren, obey the whole form of Christian doctrine, as well as each and sundry of its articles - be your faith as broad and as long, as is the record of all those communications, that are addressed to it and be very sure that it is only when you yield yourselves up in submission to all its truths, that you can be made free from sin by sharing in the fulfilment of all its promises

You often read in Christian authors of the power of the truth; and by which they mean its power, not merely to pacify the sinner’s fears, but its power - to sanctify his character. It is a just and expressive phrase, and is adverted to in the passage before us, where it is said that the being made free from sin, and becoming servants unto righteousness, turns on the obedience of the heart to doctrine. But it is not one doctrine only, be it the entire form of doctrine, to which the heart is obedient; and so this power of the truth, is the power of the whole truth. Mutilate the truth and you cripple it. Pare it down and you paralyse its energies. The Spirit is grieved with the duplicity and the disingenuousness of men, when they offer to divide that testimony, which, if they would but treat it fairly, He would turn into the mighty engine of their conversion, and so pass them over with the strength of His own right hand, from the service of sin to the service of righteousness. The obedience must be sincere, or it is not obedience from the heart; and it must not be partial, or it is not obedience to the whole form of doctrine that is delivered.

And at the sight of this flaw, the Spirit takes His flight from the heart that is deformed by it; and leaves the owner thereof in the thraldom of nature’s corruption and nature’s carnality. And thus, my brethren, as you hope to be rescued from the tyranny of sin by the power of Christian truth, you must fan and foster the whole of it. There must be the submission of a whole faith to a whole testimony. Divide and you darken. The whole of that light, which one truth or one portion of the record reflects upon another, is extinguished - when the inquirer, instead of looking fearlessly abroad over the rich and varied landscape of revelation, fastens his intent regards on one narrow portion of the territory, and shuts out the rest from the eye of his contemplation. The Spirit will not lend Himself to such a man - one who does not choose to see afar off; and is sure to forget some capital truth or other, in that finished scheme of doctrine which the gospel has made known to us. And of all the things which he is apt to forget - perhaps the most frequent is, that every true Christian is purged from his old sins and thus, in the language of Peter, the person who is thus blind, lacketh righteousness, and is both barren and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord.Jesus Christ. The reason why you remain in the fetters of sin is, that you refuse your consent to some part or other in the scheme of truth. You would fain have orthodoxy, and perhaps think that you are in the actual possession of it, when, without power and without spiritual discernment, you only strain at a few of the literalities of Christian doctrine, and sit down in the unmoved lethargy of nature, with the word upon your lips that there is salvation by faith, and forgiveness through the blood of a satisfying atonement.

Could we only get you to admit the necessity of a personal surrender, in all holy obedience unto God - could we prevail upon you to believe that Christ came, not merely to redeem you from guilt, but to redeem you from the vain conversation of the world - could we, under the power of this incipient conviction, only persuade you to make a beginning, and to move a single footstep in the way of transition from sin unto righteousness - could you understand, that, even the remission of sins must be had, so repentance must be accomplished, ere you be admitted into heaven, and the honesty of this your understanding approved itself by your forthwith acting upon it - could we only get you thus to set forth on this measure of incipient light, the light would grow with the incipient obedience; and, ever brightening as you advanced, would the principle of forsaking all for Christ become more decided; and your decision for Christ would grow with the growth, and strengthen with the strength of your dependence upon Him. The justification and the sanctification, these two mighty terms in Christianity, would be alike clearly apprehended as essential to the completion of the scheme of that doctrine, by the obedience of the heart unto which it is that you are saved. And I again repeat it, my brethren, take in the whole of gospel truth - lay hold of its offered pardon, and enter even now upon its prescribed course of purification. The Spirit will not look indifferently on your day of small things; but if you, casting yourself into the mould of the whole truth, shall labour to realise it and seek to be renewed as well as to be forgiven - He will come down with the might of His creative energies upon you, and, breaking asunder the chains of your captivity to sin, will cause you henceforward to be the servants of righteousness.

This practical change, stands connected with the obedience of your heart to the form or scheme of Christian doctrine - for it is upon this being rendered, that you are made free from sin and become the servants of righteousness. Yet let us not think therefore, that we, of our own proper energy, supply as it were, the first condition on which our deliverance from sin is made to turn; and that then the Spirit comes down and gives full and finished accomplishment to it. The truth is, that He presides over the initial, as well as over all the successive movements of this great transformation; and accordingly, in the 17th verse, the primary circumstance of your obeying from the heart the form of doctrine, is made matter of thanksgiving to God. It is through grace, in fact, that you are made to embrace the whole form of doctrine. If any of you feel so disposed in consequence of our imperfect explanations - the glory of this is due to grace, which has revealed to you the necessity of holiness as well as pardon - which has touched and softened your hearts under the impression of this truth - which has moved you to an aspiring obedience thereto - which will lead you, I trust, to carry out the principle into practice and daily conversation - which will vent itself upward to the sanctuary in prayer, and bring down that returning force, which can unchain you from the bondage of corruption, and give you impulse and strength for all the services of righteousness. It is grace that begins the good work, and it is grace that perfects it - and to sin because we are under this grace, carries in it just the same contradiction, as to be in darkness because the sun has arisen; or to be in despair because an able friend has come forward to support us; or to be in disease because an infallible physician has taken us in his charge, and is now plying us with a regimen which never misgives, and with medicines the operation of which never disappointed him.
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