Thomas Chalmers

Lectures on Romans
ROMANS, 8: 31, 32.

"What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?"

VER. 31. What shall we then say to these things'? If God be for us who can be against us?'
In this verse the apostle makes a special application of what he had said immediately before to himself and his disciples. 'What shall we say to these things?' What inference shall we draw for ourselves from this train of reasoning? He takes encouragement from it you will observe. It is both to him and to his followers a cheering contemplation, - which it only could have been on the presumption that they had part and interest in that election of which he had spoken already, and to which he afterwards recurs in the course, of, his argument. 'If God be for us who can be against us?' - is a consideration that: stands obviously allied in the mind of the apostle, with the question of 'Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? He must have believed then in his own election, and that of the converts whom he addresses; or, if he did not know it as a certainty, he at least grasps at it as he would at a strong and pretty confident probability. Now how is it that any man arrives at this conclusion? And while all have a warrant to rejoice in that offer of salvation which in fact is universal - while any of our world may look unto Him who is set forth, as a propitiation for the world's sins and be lightened thereby - while each and every of our species may respond unto the gift of eternal life, that is held out for the acceptance of as many as will; and may, without let or hindrance, draw nigh and touch that sceptre of forgiveness which now hath been made to stand forth in the sight of the whole human family - while thus it is, that all without exception are invited to take comfort in that redeeming love which prompted God to send His Son into the world, that whosoever receiveth Him might along with Him receive peace and pardon and reconciliation - Whence comes this peculiarity in th case of Paul and of his correspondents, that they here take comfort, not in the redeeming, but in the electing love - that they indulge in strains of gratitude not because of the part they have in that book of revelation which circulates at large among mankind and is addressed unto all, but because of the part they have in that book of life where the names of the blest have been enrolled from before the foundation of the world - not because they have been spoken to in that language of welcome, which under the economy of the gospel, hath gone forth among the sinners of all degrees and of every denomination; but because they have been singled out as the objects of a favoured and friendly destination, that was coeval with the first purpose of the Eternal Mind, and reaches from everlasting to everlasting!

This is an assurance which they, and which no man, can gather from a direct perusal of those secrets that are written in the book of destiny. This is a book which is never unsealed to the eye of any mortal here below. Paul, and his brethren in the church, had access to none other truths than those which are made accessible to all in the book of God's testimony to the world. They simply dealt with the matters of that book, just as I would have you to deal with them. They made the plain and the practicable use of all that is revealed in the preceding chapters of this epistle, before they felt themselves on the vantage-ground whence they could pour forth the utterances of confidence and joy, wherewith the apostle brings the present chapter to its triumphant conclusion. They felt the conviction of their own sinfulness, and this I would labour that you might be convinced of - ” There is none righteous - no not one.”

They felt their exposure to the wrath of the Lawgiver, and this I would have you to feel - ” How shall we escape the judgment of God !" They felt the preciousness of a satisfying atonement, and this too I would have you all to rejoice in - ” to joy in God through the Lord Jesus Christ by whom you have received the atonement.” They, in the face of nature's fears and nature's difficulties, kept fast their confidence even as you should - "staggering not at the promise because of unbelief, but being strong in faith and giving glory thereby unto God." They, in the exercise of this faith, felt not only a peace but a power, "because the love of God was shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost;” and you also, upon the same belief, will most surely be made to realise the same experience. And then, and not till then, it is that the evidence of one's election dawns upon the mind. It is only upon your obtaining the earnest of your inheritance, that you should ever quote this doctrine as any argument for the inheritance being yours. It is only because now upon the stepping-stone of grace in time, that you infer your preference by the destination of God to glory in eternity. It is not till you have dealt aright with the humble and schoolboy elements of the Christian faith, with the first principles of the oracles of God, that you have any right to associate this sublime mystery at all with the question of your everlasting prospects. This election, in fact, warrants no prospect to any in heaven, but as seen by him through the medium of his preparation on earth. It is only in as far as you have laid hold on the link of a present holiness, that you can infer of the chain of your history that it is to terminate in paradise. No one can read in the book of God's decrees, that he has been predestined unto glory; but all may read in the book of His declarations, what be the marks of those who travel thitherward. These he can compare with the book of his own character and experience, and he can count upon his own special destination to an eternity of bliss - only in as far, and in no farther, than as he is sanctified.

It is thus, and thus only, that I would have you to reach the settlement of your creed on the high topic of predestination. Many do not reach it on this side of death. Many a humble and genuine Christian feels himself baffled and bewildered thereby; and many such there are, who fall short of the blessed assurance that God hath so signalised them. I would have you go to school upon this doctrine - not in the hall of controversial debate - not around the pulpits of an abstract theology - not among the mighty tomes that have handed down to us the ponderous erudition of other days. I want no other school than that of your own individual experience - no other preparation than that of a heart smitten by the contrite sense of its own' deceitfulness, and heaving its aspirations towards Him who alone can comfort and can heal - no other expedients than those of which the very simplest enquirer would bethink himself, when, touched and awakened by the importance of eternal things, he is made to know the guiltiness of sin and the grace of, an offered Saviour. Should you come to repent of the one and to rejoice in the other - that transition is all which I want, and all which I care for. After that you have really and historically made it, it is possible that you may review the way by which you have been led; and that you may:recognise both the finger of Providence and the power of grace, in that you are what you are. There is many a Christian who refuses the doctrine in the general but seldom do you meet with a thoroughly christianised man, who refuses that, it is altogether a higher hand which hath made him what he is - that it was in the counsels of God to have brought him within reach of that preacher's voice, 'whose demonstration first arrested,him by the conviction of his danger - that it wasHe who directed his eye to that bible passage; which told with deciding efficacy upon his conscience - that the volume which first evangelised all his feelings met him upon his else heedless way, by a direction impressed on it from Heaven - that the family bereavement which for a season dispossessed the world of its power, and laid him open to an influence from above, was the preparative by God Himself for that mighty change on which hang the issues of his eternity - Above all, that it was the Spirit from on high which gave enforcement to all that he heard, and all that he experienced - Insomuch that he has positively nothing which he did not receive; and all the faith and all the fruits of righteousness which belong to him, he of all men is the readiest to say, "Nevertheless not me but the grace of God that is in me"

This man, whatever his general notion may be, is a predestinarian in all that relateth unto himself. He recognises the power and the will of God, in every footstep of his own spiritual history. He may not dogmatise on the case of others; but, in his own case, it is one of the firmest articles of his faith; and it ministers nought but humility and thankfulness to his bosom. He rejoices in the tokens of a blessed ordination, that he already hath obtained; and the more that these evidences of God's electing love multiply upon his observation, the more intensely does he feel a close and endearing relationship with his Father in heaven It is not on the foundation of an imagined decree, but on the foundation of a felt and actual experience, that he grounds his confidence in God and joins the apostle in exelaiming - 'If he be for us, who can be against us! Hitherto the Lord hath helped us, and now he will not abandon the objects of' His care. He hath begun the good work, He will carry it on unto perfection. He hath granted the earnest, He will not withhold the fulfilment. We have experienced the supplies of his grace in time, and they are the pledges to us of our coming glory.

This is the period of your Christianity, an advanced and an elevated period, at which your thoughts on predestination may be profitable and may be safe. To take up with it sooner, is cutting before the point. It is bewildering yourselves among initial perplexities, that only serve to darken the outset of your religious course. Insomuch that I have often been tempted to wish, that it had no place in the Bible at all; or, at least, that it never met the eye of an enquirer, on his first attempts to understand or to realise the salvation of the gospel. But the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men; and I must confess, that, in a goodly number of instances of spiritual distress which I have seen, it was this very doctrine of election which first shook the soul out of its lethargies - that it was the instrument for unsettling the natural man out of the listlessness of nature; and thrown agog by it, as it were, from the deep and fatal unconcern that might else have terminated in the sleep of death; he, alive and alarmed and set on edge by this one obnoxious article, hath gotten an impulse from it upon his spirit, under which he has passed from the state of a careless sinner to that of a hopeful and aspiring disciple. 1n such a case as this, it seems to have served as the projecting hook, by which to fasten the else inert soul to the whole contemplation; and what many, and myself among the number, may at one time have wished to be expunged from the field of a sinner's vision altogether, has occasionally been the very word that startled him as it were into spiritual life, and whence, he may date the time of his having become awake and at length intelligent about the things of salvation.

Ver. 32. 'He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things!'
It is with great satisfaction that I now clear my way to a topic the most salutary, and I will add the most sacramental, within the whole compass of revealed faith - even to the love wherewith God so loved the world as to send His Son into it to be the propitiation for our sins. I fear, my brethren, that there is a certain metaphysical notion of the Godhead which blunts our feelings of obligation, for all the kindness of His good-will, for all the tenderness of His mercies. There is an academic theology, which would divest Him of all sensibility; which would make of Him a Being devoid of all emotion and of all tenderness; which concedes to Him power and wisdom and a sort of cold and clear and faultless morality, but which would denude Him of all those fond and fatherly regards that so endear an earthly parent to the children who have sprung from him. It is thus that God hath been presented to the eye of our imagination as a sort of cheerless and abstract Divinity, who has no sympathy with His creatures, and who therefore can have no responding sympathy to Him back again. I fear that such representations as these have done mischief in Christianity - that they have had a congealing property in them towards that affection, which is represented as the most important, and indeed the chief attribute of a religious character, even love to God - And that just because of the unloveliness which they throw over the aspect of our Father which is in heaven - whereby men are led to conceive of Him, as they would of some physical yet tremendous energy, that sitteth aloft in a kind of ungainly and unsocial remoteness from all the felt and familiar humanities of our species. And so it is, we apprehend, that the Theism of Nature and of Science has taken unwarrantable freedoms with the Theism of the Bible - attaching a mere figurative sense to all that is spoken there of the various affections of the Deity; and thus despoiling all the exhibitions, which it makes of Him to our world, of the warmth and the power to move and to engage, that properly belong to them. It represents God as altogether impassive - as made up of little more than of understanding and of power - as having no part in that system of emotions which occupies so wide a space in the constitution of man, made after His own image and according to His own likeness. It is true that this image in us is wofully defaced; but can you think that, after we are restored to it, all feeling and all fervency, whether of desire or of fond affection, shall be extinguished within us - that we shall not then, compassionate the sufferings of others; and feel the kindlings of a seraphic fire in the contemplation of excellence; and have all the indignancy of pure and holy spirits at the sight of worthlessness; and be actuated by the kindest regards and the most affectionate longings of charity towards all whom we can soothe by our simple regards, or benefit by our zealous and devoted services? But if all these emotions be ingredients of the renewed character, and it be after the image of the Godhead that the renewal is actually made, does it not prove that the Eternal Spirit hath emotions also - a characteristic of the Divinity indeed, which beams upon us from almost every passage in the history of the Saviour, who, though the brightness of His Father's glory, and the express image of His person, yet fully partook in all the sensations and all the sympathies of man; who wept, and who rejoiced, and who was angry, and who was exceeding sorrowful, and who with all His meekness and gentleness still delivered Himself with impassioned energy when denouncing the hypocrisies of the worthless - Surely if he who hath seen the Son hath seen the Father also, then ought we to conceive of Him not as of some frigid and desolate abstraction; but that in the bosom of the High and the Holy One who inhabiteth eternity, there live and move and have their busy operation - all thor sentments of perfect virtue against the sinner - all the regards of perfect love and of infinite compassion towards the righteous who obey, and the penitent who turn to Him.

With this view of the Godhead, and which we hold to be the scriptural one, let us look unto that great transaction on which all the hopes of our sinful world are suspended. The Father sent His Son for our sake, to the humiliation and the agony of a painful sacrifice. There is evident stress laid in the Bible on Jesus Christ being His only Son, and His only-beloved Son. This is conceived to enhance the surrender, to aggravate as it were the cost of having given up unto the death so near and so dear a relative. In that memorable verse where it is represented that God so loved the world as to send His only-begotten Son into it, I bid you mark well the emphasis that lies in the so. There was a difference in respect of painful surrender, between His giving up another more distantly as it were connected with Him, and His giving up one who stood to Him in such close and affecting relationship. The kin that He hath to Christ is the measure of the love that He manifested to the world, in giving up Christ as a propitiation for the world's sins. What is this to say, but that in this great and solemn mystery the Parent was put to the trial of His firmness - that, in the act of doing so, there were a soreness and a suffering and a struggle in the bosom of the Divinity - that a something was felt, like that which an earthly father feels when he devotes the best and the dearest of his family to some high object of patriotism. God in sparing Him not, but in: giving Him up unto the death for us all, sustained a conflict between pity for His child, and love to that world for whom He bowed down His head unto the sacrifice. In pouring out the vials of His wrath on the head of His only-beloved Son - in awaking the sword of offended justice against His fellow - in laying upon Him the whole burden of that propitiation, by which the law could be magnified, and its transgressors could be saved - in holding forth on the cross of Christ this blended demonstration of His love and His holiness, and thus, enduring the spectacle of His tears and of His agonies and cries, till the full atonement was rendered, and, not till it was finished, did the meek and gentle sufferer give up the ghost - At that time, when. angels, looking down from the high battlements of heaven, would have flown to rescue the Son of God from the hands of persecutors - think you that God Himself was the only unconcerned, and unfeeling spectator; or, that, in consenting to these cruel sufferings of His Son for the world, He did not make of His love to that world its strongest and most substantial testimony?

It blunts the gratitude of, men, when they think lightly of the sacrifice which God had to make, when He gave up His: Son unto the death;, and, akin to this pernicious imagination, our gratitude is further deadened and made dull, when we think lightly of the death itself. This death was an equivalent for the punishment of guilty millions. In theaccount which is given of it, we behold all the symptoms of a deep and a dreadful endurance - of an agony which was shrunk from, even by the Son of God, though He had all the strength of the Divinity to uphold Him - of a conflict and a terror and a pain, under which omnipotence itself had well nigh given way; and which, while it ,proved that the strength of the sufferer was infinite, proved that the sin for which He suffered in its guilt and in its evil was infinite also. Christ made not a seeming but a substantial atonement, for the sins of the world. There was something more than an ordinary martyrdom. There was an actual laying on of the iniquities of us all; and, however little we are fitted for diving into the mysteries of the divine jurisprudence - however obscurely we know of all that was felt by the Son of God, when the dreadful hour and power of darkness were upon Him - Yet, we may be well assured, that it was no mockery - that, something more than the mere representation of a sacrifice, it was most truly and essentially a sacrifice itself - a full satisfaction rendered for the outrage that had been done upon the Lawgiver - His whole anthority vindicated, the entire burden of His wrath discharged. This is enough for all the moral purposes that are to be gained by our faith in Christ's propitiation. It is enough that we know of the travail of His soul. It is enough that He exchanged places with the world He died for; and that what to us would have been the wretchedness of eternity, was all concentred upon Him, and by Him was fully borne. The suretiship was an equivalent for the debt, and the ransom laid down was an adequate price for the redemption that was achieved by it. When this thought takes full possession of the sinner's heart, it lightens him of all his fears. He feels the charm of an entire deliverance; and great are his peace and his joy, as he cherishes the full assurance of all being clear with God. He goes out and in by that way of access, which hath been consecrated by the blood of a satisfying atonement; and there are a light and a gladness in all his approaches unto God in Christ, which the world knoweth not.

And it is well that he rates at its full amount, the expense of that mighty service which has been rendered - that he deems it to have been what it really was, a costly sacrifice; and that he bethinks him solemnly and tenderly of the deep endurance of the cross. He should look unto Him whom he hath pierced, and on whom the heavy chastisement of his peace was laid. It is thus that the gladness and the gratitude keep pace with each other; and that in very proportion as he rejoices because of his full deliverance, does he feel the dovotedness of all his faculties to Him who hath achieved it. Christ gave up His life unto the death for him, so he gives up his life in entire dedication to the will of Christ - living no more unto himself, but unto Christ who died for him and who rose again. And therefore it is, that, as you approach these fables, I would have you look with an intelligent eye on the affecting memorials that are laid thereupon. I would have you light both your faith and your love at this altar; and when you see the symbols of the body that was broken and the blood that was shed for you, I would have you fully to recognise both the service that has been achieved and the suffering that has been borne in this mighty expiation.
Preached on a Communion Sabbath.

Go to Lecture 63
Go back to Romans index

Home | Biography | Literature | Letters | Interests | Links | Quotes | Photo-Wallet