ROMANS, viii, I.
"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."

THE term 'now' may be understood in two senses - one of them a more general, and the other a more special. It may be understood as it respects the present economy of the gospel. Now, since that economy has been instituted - now, since the first covenant has passed away, and the second has been substituted in its place - now, that Christ hath borne the vengeance of the law upon His own person, and, having thus disposed of its threatenings against the guilty, can now address the guilty with the overtures of a free pardon and a finished and entire reconciliation -

Now is it competent for sinners to embrace these overtures; and there is now no condemnation to those, who, having so complied with them, are in Christ Jesus. It is thus that the term now may be made to respect the current period in the history of God's administration - the reign of grace under which we at present are, in contradistinction to the former regimen of the law which has been superseded. Or it may be understood more specially, as referring to the present moment in the history of an individual believer. He is now freed from condemnation - not as if the sentence of acquittal were still in dependence, but as if that sentence had already passed - not as if he had to look, perhaps doubtfully and ambiguously, forward to some future day, when a verdict of exculpation shall be pronounced upon him; but as if he stood exculpated before God even now, and even now might rejoice in the forgiveness of all his trespasses. We think that, in the clause before us, the term now reaches the full extent of this signification. When a sinner closes with Christ, God takes him on the instant into reconciliation; and from that time are his sins washed out in the blood of the Lamb. I will remember them no more. I will make no more mention of them; and they are among the things that are behind, and which ought to be forgotten.

The believer should feel his conscience to be relieved from the guilt and from the dread of them; and, instead of being any longer burdened with them as so many debts subject to a count and reckoning on some future day, he has a most legitimate warrant for looking on the account as closed, and that there is a full settlement and discharge because of them between him and God. We have heard that it is wrong in a believer to live beneath his privileges, and we fully agree in so thinking. We know not how the spirit of bondage is ever to be done away, or the joy of the gospel ever made to spring up in the heart, if, still beset with the entanglement of his scruples and of his fears, he shall suspend the remission of his sins on any thing else than on the blood of Jesus. Now all that is told of that blood should assure him of a present justification; and this should send an instant peace into his bosom; and, like the jailor of old, should he on hearing of the power and property thereof, forthwith and from that moment rejoice.

Be translated then into the sense of God being at peace with you. Receive the forgiveness of your sins, through Him whom God hath set forth as a propitiation. Look unto Christ lifted up for the offences of the world; and be encouraged in the thought, that the whole weight of your offences has indeed been borne away from yourself, and indeed been laid upon another. It is on the strength of this simple exhibition, that I should like to assure you of pardon; nor would I embarrass the matter with any conditions, or hang it on any dark and uncertain futurities that may lie before you. Christ hath made atonement, and with it God is satisfied; and if so, well may you be satisfied - delighting yourselves greatly in the abundance of peace, and going forth even now in the light and the liberty of your present enlargement.

But the verse further proceeds to inform us, who they are that have this inestimable privilege and the first circumstance of description which it brings forward respecting them, is, that they are in Christ. There are some, who actuated by the distaste of nature towards gospel truth in all its depth and all its peculiarity, understand this phrase in a way that is but vaguely and feebly expressive of its real meaning. They have no tolerance for the doctrine of a vital and mystical union between Christ as the head, and Christians as the members who receive from Him both their guidance and their nourishment; and they fear lest fanaticism should betray them into some of her illusions, by carrying too far the analogy between a vine and its branches; and so they get over the phrase of being in Christ, and get quit of all that special intimacy of alliance with the Saviour which it is fitted to convey, by the very general interpretation that to be in Christ is just tantamount to being a Christian.

And so it is, if you understand a Christian in the full sense and significancy of that high denomination: But then we must not shut our eyes against the closeness of that personal and substantial attachment, which we every where read of, as subsisting between the Redeemer and those who are the fruit of the travail of His own soul; nor are we jealously to exclude from our minds the impression of that very near relationship, which is suggested by the following passages - " But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption." “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature." “The dead in Christ shall rise first." 'We are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ." “ Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord." “He that abideth in me and I in him the same bringeth forth much fruit." “And be found in him not having my own righteousness." But lest we should wander into a region of mist and of obscurity, let us not forget, that, for the purpose of being admitted into this state of community with the Saviour, the one distinct and intelligible thing which you have to do is to believe in Him. There is nothing mystical in the act by which you award to Him the credit for His declarations; and this is the act by which your are grafted in theSaviour. Whatever this matter of your union with Christ be, it all hinges upon your faith in Him - which faith is the great tie of relationship betwixt you. As you hold fast the beginning of your confidence and persevere therein, the tie will be strengthened - the relationship will become more intimate - the communications of mutual regard will become more frequent, and more familiar to your experience - every day you live might bring you into more intense acquaintanceship with the Saviour, and that on the strength of your faithful applications to Him, and of His sure and faithful responses unto you - And thus, by certain exercises arid feelings which certainly are not recondite in themselves might you arrive at a state of fellowship with Christ; which fellowship, in the description of it, might be very recondite both to those who stand without, and even to those who have got no farther than to the threshold of Christian experience.

By the simple expedients of believing prayer; and the habitual commitment of yourself to the Lord your Saviour, in circumstances of trial or difficulty; and the encouragement of your heart's regard and gratitude, because of all the favours that you have gotten at His hand; and the strenuous maintenance within you of that peace which He hath purchased by His blood, and of that purity by which His will is complied with and His doctrine is adorned - by these you may so overshoot the experience of other men, as to have attained a sense and a discernment of incorporation with the Saviour, wherewith they are not yet prepared to sympathise. All this, though not yet realized by many of you, is surely conceivable by many of you; but meanwhile, and lest you should think of some remote and inaccessible mystery which it were utterly hopeless for you to aspire after, I would have you all to remark, that, though the territory of Christian experience may not be plain to you, yet the way is plain by which you arrive at it - that, more particularly, you are conducted to the state of being in Christ simply by believing in Him.

So, there ought to be nothing more unintelligible in the verse, that there is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus,' than in the verse, “ He that believeth on him is not condemned, but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed on the name of the only-begotten Son of God." But there is another circumstance of description that attaches to those unto whom there is no condemnation. This is the privilege of those who are in Christ Jesus; and further, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.

Now here I must come forth with a special demand upon your attention. We are not fond of those less manageable topics in theology, that call either for an elaborate exposition on the part of the minister, or for a very strenuous and sustained effort of attention on the part of the hearers; and nothing else can reconcile us to them, than their practical bearing upon the comfort or the holiness of Christians. For it is at the same time most true, that a thing may at once be both profound and important. It may lie deep; and yet, like the precious metals, be of use in the familiar currency of the business of religion. The work of godliness presses all the faculties into its service, and lays a tax on the understanding of man, as well as upon his heart and his conscience. Insomuch that we are bidden to give earnest heed, and to hearken diligently, and to search for sacred wisdom as for hidden treasure, and to meditate on these things, and to give ourselves wholly thereunto, and to study and strive and stir ourselves up that we may lay hold of them. And we do think that such passages as these, might mitigate somewhat the prejudice of many against the scholastic air of certain of our theological disquisitions - as leading us to suspect that perhaps in some instances, and more especially in the work of rightly dividing the word of truth, the thing is unavoidable. You will therefore suffer me I trust, when I say, that, of the two circumstances in the description of those who are free from condemnation which are presented to our notice in the verse before us, one of them is the cause of our being so freed; and the other is not the cause but the consequence. Both of these invariably meet on the person of him, who hath been admitted to the pardon and acceptance of the gospel. Every one who is so admitted, is in Christ Jesus; and every one who is so admitted, walketh not after the flesh but after the Spirit. But it is of real practical importance for you to be made aware, that one of these circumstances goes before your deliverance from guilt, and the other comes after it.

Your release from condemnation is suspended on the first circumstance of your being in Christ Jesus. But it is not so suspended on the second circumstance, of your walking not after the flesh but after the Spirit. The first is the origin of your justification - the second is the fruit of it. You secure your hold of the one, by keeping hold of Christ; and you make progress in the other, by walking securely before Him in the light of His friendly countenance, and with the willingness of a grateful and devoted heart that He has emancipated from all its fears. The order of succession which I now announce to you, will not interest those who take no interest in their souls. But it may resolve the difficulty of an anxious enquirer; and be the instrument to him, both of his translation into peace, and of his translation into progressive holiness. For mark the embarrassment of that disciple, who, instead of entering upon forgiveness even now by a league of faith and fellowship with Christ; and so bringing his person under the first of these two cireumstances, - postpones his enjoyment of this privilege until he has accomplished the second of them, and is satisfied with himself that he walketh not after the flesh but after the Spirit.

Look, I pray you, to the heavy disadvantage under which he toils and travails at the work of new obedience; and how the spirit of bondage is sure to be perpetuated within him, so long as he persists in his wrong imagination; and how still the conditions of an impracticable law must continue to oppress his conscience, and to goad him onward in a service, where he labours in the very fire and wearies himself for some vanity ; and how working, as he in fact must do, for his justification before Cod, he cannot advance a single footstep without a despairing eye on some new and unsealed heights of virtue, the very aspect of which takes all heart and all energy away from him. And thus, with the burden upon his inner man of all the fears and disquietudes which attach to the old legal economy, will he either spend his days in a grievous servitude which fatigues but never satisfies; or be driven from very weariness to a compromise between his conscience and his conduct, between the law of God and his own garbled conformity thereunto - bringing down the high requisitions of heaven to the corrupt standard of earth; and offering, in the sight of men and of angels, a polluted obedience as a rightful equivalent for the rewards and the honours of eternity.
He must either do this, or be haunted and pursued to the end of life, by all the perplexities of a yet unsettled question between him and God; and the sense of his manifold deficiencies will never cease either to pain or to paralyse him; and still much of the drudgery of obedience may reluctantly be borne, but nought of the delight of obedience will be there - there may be the outward compliance of a slave, but none of the inward graces or aspirations of a saint. The truth is, that if this immunity from condemnation, instead of being a thing given to us because we are in Christ, is a thing purchased by us because of our walking not after the flesh but after the Spirit - then will conscience ever be suggesting to us that, the purchase has not been made good; and all the jealousies of a bargain will ever and anon rise up between the parties; and a cold or mercenary feeling will put to flight the good will, and the confidence, and the spontaneous regard, which are the alone worthy ingredients of all acceptable godliness; and, after all the offerings that may have been rendered by the hand, the sterling tribute of the heart will be withholden. God will be feared, or He will be distrusted; but He cannot be loved under such an economy; so that, through out the whole of this strenuous and sustained exertion after a righteousness which is by the law, the law is dishonoured at every breath in the first and greatest of her commandments.

There is a better way of ordering this matter; and it is a way laid down by Him, who is the wisdom of God unto salvation. The gospel carries in it a full and immediate tender of pardon unto sinners. Deliverance from condemnation is not the goal, but the starting-post of the Christian race; and, instead of labouring to make good the remote and inaccessible station where forgiveness shall be awarded to him, he is sent forth with the inspiration of one who knows himself forgiven on the way of all the commandments. All are invited to come unto Christ, and to be in Christ; and from that moment the believer's guilt is washed away; and a full deed of amnesty is put into his hand; and, lightened of all his fears, he goes forth upon his course rejoicing. The tenure of his discipleship, is, not that with him there is some future chance of pardon, but unto him that now there is no condemnation; and this, like the loosing of a bond, sets him free for all the services of new obedience. It opens an ingress to his heart for affections, which never else could have found company there; and the creature knowing himself to be safe, and delivered from the engrossment of his before slavish apprehensions, can now with new-born liberty walk afterthe Spirit on the path of a progressive holiness. It is because he knows the truth that the truth has now made him free. It is not a regeneration originating with himself, that has reconciled him unto God - but it is a sense of his reconciliation, it is this which has regenerated him. His new walk is not the cause of his agreement with God. It is the consequence winch has emanated therefrom.

It is the free grace of the gospel, which awakens every man who receives it, to the charm of a new moral existence. Faith is the quickening touch, whereby the before dormant energies of our nature are put into motion. It is faith which ushers love into the heart, and love gives ilnpuise to the inert and sluggish mechanism of the human faculties. With the despairing sense in his bosom of a good wholly unattainable, the man feels himself weighed down to inaction and to apathy. But when the good is offered to him freely and he by faith lays hold of it - then, delivered at once from the cold and creeping spirit of bondage. does he break forth in the full vigour of his emancipated powers. What before was a matter of anxious uncertainty, and without either hope or affection to animate, becomes a matter of confidence and alacrity and good will. And this is the great secret of that promptitude and that power wherewith the gospel urges on its disciples to the cultivation of its heaven-born virtues, to the faithfulness and the activity of its bidden services. Make the transition, my brethren, from death unto life, by simply laying hold on the gospel offer of reconciliation. After placing your full reliance upon this, then run with all your might on that heavenward path of righteousness and purity and love which leadeth unto the upper paradise. First trust in the Lord, and then be doing good. A workman to whom a tool is indispensable - you would never bid him work for the tool, hut you would put the tool into his hand and bid him work by it. Faith is the alone spiritual tool, by which you can accomplish any right spiritual preparation. low can I love God - how can I maintain the gentleness of my spirit, under provocations the most artful and the most galling - how can I keep up the serenity of the inner man, while the voice of calumny is abroad; or a visible alienation sits upon every countenance; or plans misgive and prospects howr and look dreary on every side of me; or, forsaken by all that is sweet and soothing in human companionship, I have nought to lean upon but God as the friend whom I have chosen and heaven as the home of my fondest expectations? The answer of the New Testament is - ' Only believe - all things are possible to him that believeth.'

This is the tool for all the high moral achievements of Christianity; and thus it is that your being now in Christ, with a present freeness from condemnation, forms an essential stepping-stone to your walking no more after the flesh but after the Spirit. But - mark it well, my brethren. This distinction between the consequence and the cause, though it gives to the obedience of a believer its proper place, does not make that obedience less sure. What the worldly or hypocritical professor thinks to be faith, is nought but fancy or something worse, if it be not followed by the walk of godliness. It is just as true as if your virtue were the price of your salvation - that there will be no salvation for you, if you have no virtue. There will be a personal distinction between those in the last day who stand on the right, and those who stand on the left of the judgment-seat; and the distinction will be, that, whereas the one abounded in good, so the other abounded in evil deeds done in their body. All that we have said was not with a view to supersede the moralities of practical righteousness, hut to set you on the proper way by which to arrive at them. The ultimate design of the gospel economy is to make those who sit under it zealous of good works; and the reason why we should like the sense of your deliverance from guilt to be introduced even now by faith into your bosoms, is, that we esteem it the only instrument for reviving within you the hove of God, or for causing to break forth upon your visible conduct the efflorescence of all that is virtuous and pure and praiseworthy. To conclude my remarks upon this verse which has detained us so long, I would have you to be aware of this most important consideration - that the same believer who is represented here as walking not after the flesh, is the very individual who would take up the soliloquy of the last chapter; and have full share and full sympathy, with the toil, and the conflict, and all the inward bitterness because of sin, that are represented therein. The same man who feels the motions of the flesh, walks not after the flesh.

The same man who is harassed with the instigations of sin, resists and refuses to follow them. He who was burdened, even to a sense of wretchedness, with the hateful presence of his wayward and licentious desires, would not submit to their tyranny; and while kept in a state of constant vigilance and alarm because of the warring elements in his bosom, yet does he so fight as that the evil which is in his heart shall not have the mastery over his conduct - So that, amid the opposing tendencies and inclinations which beset his will, still his walk is the walk of new obedience - not being after the flesh but after the Spirit. Every man is tempted," says the apostle James, “when he is drawn away of his own lusts and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived it bringeth forth sin, and sin when it is finished bringeth forth death."

The believer is often so tempted, and even to his own sad grief and humihiation may he have described the previous steps of this process; but never is the process so finished as to terminate in death. He struggles against sill, and he prevails over it. There may be a sore and a desperate contest in the inner man ; but the result of it is a body kept under subjection, whose hands are made the instruments of righteousness, and whose feet are found in the way of all God's commandments. Take my brethren the patent and accessible way that lies so openly and so invitingly before you. Wash out your sins even now in the blood of God's everlasting covenant. Come and taste of the sure mercies of David. Receive the forgiveness of your sins ; and, when delivered from the weight and oppression of your guilt - that sore spiritual palsy, then arise and walk. Tidings of great joy should make you joyful; and the tidings wherewith I am fraught are of that remission from sin which I now preach unto you, and which may be preached to every creature under heaven. The effect it had on believers of old was an instantaneous joy; and so should be the effect on all now who believe the same gospel. And joy my brethren carries a vigour and an inspiration along with it. There is a might of practical energy in the impulse which it communicates; and it is when the heart is enlarged thereby, that the feet run with alacrity in the way of all the commandments.
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