Thomas Chalmers

Lectures on Romans
Lecture LXIV
Romans 8:31

"What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us ?"

THE apostle, in the utterance of these words, evidently proceeds on the belief that God is upon his side; and it is a belief grounded on certain things which may be found in the preceding context: What shall we then say to these things? And surely it concerns us to search what the things were, that we too, if possible, may realise the same glorious confidence; and be raised to that highest vantage-ground on which a creature can be exalted, even the vantage- ground of the Divine favour, whereupon he stands secure amid the shock and the conflict and the hostility of all those subordinate elements which be in the universe - and just because he can count on the greatest Being of the universe as his friend.

In taking a retrospect then of this epistle, with a view to ascertain the footing upon which our apostle rests the assurance of God being for him, we shall find that there are two distinct considerations upon which the assurance turns. The first consideration is that of God's truth in His promise - a consideration which lays hold on those who have faith, and which lays no hold on those who want it. (ie those who are without it).What first then led the apostle to count upon God as his friend, was faith in God - a faith that counted Him to be faithful - a faith that hung direct upon the promises of God. Of this an example was given by Abraham, and is quoted. by Paul, in the preceding argument. The patriarch relied upon God, from the time of his very first communication. He did not wait the experience of God's truth - he believed in it from the outset. He did not ground his confident anticipation of the whole promise being fulfilled, from the fulfilment of one or any part of it. He trusted from the moment of its utterance. He reckoned upon God's friendship, so soon as God had made any overture to him at all. He believed, ere he set out from his native country; and prior to all the subsequent tokens that he obtained of God's faithfulness, in the course of his journeying over distant lands. He believed in Him the first time, and before that he met with Him a second time. The truth of God's whole promise was more unlikely to the eye of nature, before that Abraham had got any part of it made good to him, than after that part of it was verified by an actual accomplishment.

But it was at the time of greatest unlikelihood, that his faith made its brightest display, arid was most acceptable to God. It was because that against hope he believed in hope - it was because he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief - it was because fully persuaded that what God had promised He was able also to perform - It was because of all this that his faith was well-pleasing to God, and because of all this that his faith was imputed unto him for righteousness.

Now this very footing upon which Abraham placed reliance upon God as his friend, is a footing furnished in the gospel of Jesus Christ to one and to all of us. "It was not written for his sake alone that it is imputed to him, but for ours also, to whom it shall be imputed if we believe on him that raised up Jesus from the dead."

The very first address of the gospel message to your understanding, should be met by your faith. You should not postpone your belief in the promises contained there, till one or more of them have been accomplished. You might see a truth and honesty in all the promises from the first; and, anterior even to the very least experience, confidently wait for the fulfilment of them all. Man's faith should come immediately on the back of God's utterance; and my reason for insisting upon this is, if possible, to convince one and all of you - that even now you may step over to the place on which the apostle is standing in our text, and join him in the triumphant affirmation that God is upon your side. The most alienated of God's rebellious creatures has a warrant in the gospel for changing sides, and that immediately, from a state of variance with God to a state of friendship and peace with Him. With the uttermost stretch of our charity we cannot believe, that all of this congregation are within the bond of the covenant - that all have entered into reconciliation, and are now encircled within the limit of God's adopted family. Of more importance then is it that you should be told, that, among other grounds for the assurance of God being indeed your friend, there is one of which the most hopeless of outcasts might instantly avail themselves - one which brought Abraham out from the land of idolatry, and which should now bring out you from amongst the idolatries of a present evil world - one upon which the patriarch of old entered forthwith into the friendship of God, and upon which you also might forthwith enter into the same friendship, and that without the intervention of any given period during which you have to wait for signs and fulfilments and for more of the reiteration of the gospel testimony in your hearing. There is warrant and warrant enough for your proceeding upon the gospel testimony now. It is addressed to you as well as unto others. The voice of "Abram Abram," heard from the canopy of heaven by the patriarch, as not a more specific call - than the voice of "whosoever will let him come," read in your bibles, is a specific call on each who is here present to proceed upon this invitation; and to set out, not on that journey by which he describes a great physical distance from the land of his fathers, but most assuredly to set out on that journey by which he describes a great moral distance from the vain conversation of his fathers: And with the very first footstep we contend, and it is a footstep that should be taken now, might there be this delightful confidence to urge and to animate the whole movement - even that God will receive him and will be a Father unto him, and that he shall be as one of His sons and daughters as saith the Lord Almighty.

It were doing injustice to the gospel, did we not hold it forth as charged with friendly overtures, and that for the instant acceptance even of the worst and most worthless among you. Even now, are you offered the justification that is by faith. Even now, the sceptre is held out to you of peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Even now, could we only awaken your confidence, - even now, did the message wherewith we are entrusted but call forth a responsive trust in your bosom, might you rejoice in the conscious possession of that grace or favour wherein the believer stands, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. It is well to open up the way of your direct translation into the friendship of Heaven; and, for this purpose, to insist both on the perfect freedom and the perfect universality of Heaven's invitations. They are to you who are afar off, as well as to you who are nigh. There is an offer of forgiveness of which you shall be held to have accepted, simply by your reliance on the honesty of the offer. There is a proposal made to you for an exchange of conditions, even that you shall exchange your present condition of hostility for that of entire peace and amity with God; and a faith in the reality of this proposal on your part, will be sustained on His part as the valid signification of your having acceded to the proposal.

It is thus that the agreement which had been broken between Heaven and earth is restored. It is thus, if I may so speak, that the knot of reconciliation is tied. Your belief is the ligament that binds together the parts which had been dissevered. And there is not a surer concatenation in the whole expanse of Nature or of Providence, than that which obtains between man's faith and God's faithfulness. It is upon your believing in the testimony of God regarding His Son, that you pass from the ground of condemnation to the ground of acceptance; and we again repeat, that there is not an individual amongst you who lies without the scope of this generous and widelysounding call - so that however much God is against you at the present because of your unrepented of and unexpiatcd sins, even now, upon the instant of your moving from sin unto the Saviour, God at once will be for you, God at once will be your friend.
And now that I have said of this transition from a state of enmity to a state of peace with God, how it is a transition competent to one and all of you at this moment, - let me but make one short utterance on the blessedness of the transition itself - even of that wide and momentous difference which there is between what by nature you are, and what by grace you might be - between being the objects of God's wrath, and the objects of His good-will between the Sovereign of creation, and having all its energies at command, looking towards you with all the displeasure of His broken law and His incensed dignity; and that same Sovereign looking to you with as much complacency, as if His Son's unpolluted obedience had been rendered personally by you, or as if His splendid righteousness had been all your own - and so rejoicing over you to do you all manner of good. Let God be your enemy, and He is the enemy of all who have not laid hold of the great propitiation; and what, I will not say is your condition in time, but what are your prospects for eternity? In time you may be comfortable, and along with this you may be careless; and, amid the busy engrossments of a little day, forget the dreadful reckoning and the dreadful retribution that await you. But the danger is not less real, that you have shut your eyes against it; and, amid the tremors of your approaching dissolution, you may be visited with the fears and the forebodings of that which is to come - or, as often happens, the agonies of the perishing body might only cradle the soul into a deeper lethargy about the interests which are imperishable: And, falling asleep amid the profound insensibilities of nature, - not till the spirit is sisted in the presence of its offended God - or not till the risen man comes forth at the sound of the last trumpet and stands before the judgment-seat, will you have full understanding of those dread realities by which you are now encompassed. And therefore it concerns you now, to cleave unto the propitiation which God Himself has set forth, and for the very purpose that peace may be made with Him and that from your enemy He may become your friend - that it may be possible for Him the just God to be at the same time your Saviour; and, sinner as you are, to fill your heart with the satisfaction and the triumph of those who know that God is upon their side. The very greatness of such a consummation is a barrier in the way of your believing it. The incredulity of nature is fostered into strength and obstinacy, by the very largeness of the offers wherewith nature is addressed. The narrow and suspicious heart of man cannot find room in it, for the generosity of Him whose thoughts are not as our thoughts and whose ways are not as our ways. He cannot bring himself to believe, that heaven, with all its glories, is indeed so open to him - or that the gospel is indeed so free - or that eternity, in all the richness of its promised blessings, is indeed so much within his reach - or that there is nought but the one step of his own confidence in the message of peace that has come down from the upper sanctuary, between the sinner's soul and the loving-kindness of that God who waiteth to be gracious. And therefore it behoves every minister of the New Testament, to be loud and frequent and importunate in knocking at that door, by which the tidings of grace and pardon may enter in; and often to repeat the testimony in the sinner's car, that unto him a Saviour hath been born; and to protest on the side of Heaven that nought but good-will to earth is the feeling there, if earth would only respond thereunto, and not keep at so sullen and impracticable a distance away from it; and to spread abroad the assurance among all its rebels, of the God whom they now imagine to be shrouded in darkest ire and severity against them, how soon and how certainly they might have Him for their friend.

Let me now advert, but advert briefly, to another ground on which Paul affirmed both for himself and for his converts, that God was upon their side. The first ground is the ground of a direct faith in the promises and invitations of the gospel - a ground placed before the feet of one and all who now hear me - and on which every one of you is free, nay is entreated, nay more is commanded, and last of all is threatened, that he might be persuaded to step over upon it even now and be safe. The second ground is distinct from the first, the ground of experience - that ground which is occupied by those who arc not merely infant believers, but who have been believers for some time; and so, in addition to their first faith in God's faithfulness, can now allege their actual finding of this faithfulness. The distinction between the one ground and the other, is exceedingly well marked by the apostle in his epistle to the Ephesians: "He whom also ye trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation."

Here was the trust of those who simply counted the word to be true - a trust competent to you all at this moment. But then he goes on to say - " In whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise which is the earnest of our inheritance." Here was the experience of those on whom the promise had been in part fulfilled; and who esteemed that part, as a pledge or an earnest of the fulfilment of the remainder; and who could therefore now look forward to the purchased possession, not merely because the promise of it had been sounded in their cars, but because the pledge of it had been put into their hands. They were like men who had gotten a first instalment punctually made good to them, and so were confirmed in the hope of the whole engagement being liquidated. Agreeably to the promise, they had received grace in time; and therefore they confided the more on that which was also included in the promise, even glory in eternity. Now Paul and his disciples had been preferred to this additional vantage-ground. Their experience was added to their faith. It was this experience which confirmed to them the hope which made them not ashamed. They looked the more confidently to the promised joys of heaven, that they actually felt the love of God to be already shed abroad in their hearts. They had brighter hopes of a place being prepared for them there, that they were conscious within themselves of a preparation for the place going on in their own souls here. They believed when they first heard of a promised grace on earth and a promised glory in heaven. But now that they had been visited by the grace - now that this part of the promise, instead of being merely counted on with faith, had been verified and made good to their own present finding, there was superadded one ground of trust to another; and they could say with the Psalmist "As we have heard so have we seen in the city of our God,"

Now my reason for treating of the one ground distinctly and separately from the other, is that the first may even now be entered upon by all - the second, I fear, may have only yet been entered upon by few. The word of the promise may be addressed to all, and it is the part of all to believe it. An experience of any of the things promised may have only yet been realised by a very small number. Now I should like not to discourage those who have never yet been on the second ground, and to assure them that this ought not to check the instantaneous entrance of themselves on the first ground. They must not wait for the experience of the gospel, till they shall have the fajth of the gospel; but they should enter upon the faith immediately, and from that they will be conducted to the higher platform of experience. The apostle and his disciples had been elevated to this platform, and let me fondly trust that some at least who are here present may now be standing upon it - some who have had a finding and a foretaste of heaven in their souls - some who can look forward to the good work being perfected upon them, and that not merely because of their faith in the promise, but because of their finding within themselves a performance in that a good work is actually begun - some who can compare their memory of the past with their consciousness of the present; and can now vouch for a hatred to sin, which they wont not to feel; for a discernment of Scripture, which they wont not to have; for a distaste of worldly concerns and worldly companionship, the very opposite of that tendency which wont to reign and have an ascendant over them; for a love to the people of God, whom perhaps before they nauseated as the dullest and the weariest of all society; and, if not for a love to God Himself as their reconciled Father in Jesus Christ, at least for a grief and a self-reproach in their hearts that they do not love Him more and serve Him better. Now these are the first-fruits of the Spirit of grace, and the symptoms of a coming glory - the goodly evidences of your movement towards a destination of final and everlasting blessedness - the marks and the recognitions of that very path which leads through the pilgrimage of time to the - promised land of eternity. They constitute a most precious addition to the argument of God being on your side - for, over and above His promises which you rely upon by faith, they are His gifts which you have realised by experience. They are to you the satisfying pledges of a friendship in which you have trusted ever since you knew the gospel, but of which you have now tasted the fruits and the actual verifications in your own person. You can now affirm that God is for you, on the ground not merely of what He has promised for you, but on the ground of what He has done for you; and, while I would have all to shake off their distrust, and join even now in our apostle's exclamation - yet it is for you to feel a peculiar assurance, and with peculiar emphasis to say, ‘If God be for us, who can be against us?'

Having thus stated as simply as I could, the two main grounds on which it is that man may count upon the friendship of God; or, in the language of my text, upon God being for him - let me now proceed shortly to the inference which the apostle derives from this blessed relationship, ‘If God be for us, who can be against us?'

It is evident, that, over against the conception of God being his friend, he raises the conception of some other Being as his enemy; and the question is, With a friendship so powerful as that of the Creator, what have we to dread from a hostility so feeble as that of the most formidable of His creatures? It is tantamount to the sentiment which he expresses in his epistle to the Hebrews, " The Lord is my helper and I will not fear what man shall do unto me." The sentiment however might be so extended as to include every species of adversity, though it should not proceed from the malice or ill-will of any being whatever. It might fairly be translated into this more general form, ‘If he be for us what can be against us?' There are many of the evils of life, though not the most severe and overwhelming certainly, that cannot be traced to any mischievous intent on the part of a living and willing enemy. There is the death of relatives, and there are the accidents of misfortune, and there are the misgivings of fond and promising speculation - And in the walks of merchandise some of you must oft have experienced, how crosses and disasters accumulate upon you, and give a dreariness and dismay to the earthly prospect; and, did you look no further than to what is visible or to what lies before you on the region of sense, all might appear to be dark and menacing; and you might figure yourself to be a deserted creature, against whom all the chances of fortune and all the elements of nature seem to have entered into a conspiracy for your ruin. And this is just the triumph of faith over sense - when you can be upheld in the thought, that, after all, the evils of life are but the shadowy spectres of a passing scene that will soon flit away; and that, behind all which the eye of man can reach, there is a good and an all powerful Spirit who smiles propitiously upon those only interests which are worth the caring for; and that all the energies of this world, which look as if they stood in battle-array against your prosperity or your peace, are nought but instruments in the hand of a presiding Deity, who, for the trial of your confidence in Himself, might brandish them over your head, but only to discipline and not to destroy you - driving in all the props of your earthly confidence, that you might lean the whole weight of your dependence upon Himself, and prove how firmly your soul is anchored upon its God by the very strength and violence of those agitations which still cannot turn you away from Him.

There can be no doubt, however, that the apostle in the text, sets over and in opposition to the actual friendship of his God, the conceived malice of some living and designing enemy. From such he and his fellow-disciples suffered in the persecutions of that era; and from such, all of us are still exposed to suffer in the manifold collisions of human passion and human interest that obtain throughout society. It is hard to believe, that there should be in any of our fellow-men, a spirit that is truly diabolical - a fiendish delight in all the pain and mischief and dissension and disgrace which it can be the instrument of scattering - a restless activity in the pursuit of evil, and of cruel suffering to others - and a satanic satisfaction in the success of their hateful and hated enterprises. Such a character, it is thought, might do for some deep and darkly aggravated romance; but is never realised among the familiarities of living and daily experience. Yet we do hold it to be a real, though perhaps a rare and occasional phenomenon in human life. We think that for the purposes of a secret discipline, a scourge of this kind is at times permitted to appear, who might be the terror of his relationship, and the torment of all with whom he has ever had closely or intImately to do - a being, though in human shape, yet in the whole purpose and policy of his mind infernal; and, in the hidden chambers of whose breast, the very counsels are brooding that give their hellish occupation to the spirits which are below - a being whom it is unsafe to approach, lest we should be implicated in his wiles; and lest, among the mysteries of his fell iniquity, some infliction or other should be preparing for us - a being of whom the patriarch of old might have said, "0 my soul, enter not thou into his secret," recoiling from all fellowship with such a spirit just as he would from the pandemonium for which it is ripening. ‘When the apostle exclaims ‘Who can be against us?' - we are not to imagine that a Christian, in his progress through the world, is to be exempted from the hostility of such characters as these. ‘When fully understood the apostle says, ‘If God be for us who can be against us and prevail?' - There will ever in this world be a hostility that shall bruise the heel of the Christian, though its own head shall be bruised under his feet shortly. For trial and for exercise, the tares must grow along with the wheat - the good and the evil must live together - the path of the redeemed through time must be beset by the contempt or the calumnies of an evil world - and perhaps in the way of sanctifying him wholly, or of bringing upon him some signal chastisement, an enemy may be raised, in whose every word there is deceit, an,d the very tenderness of whose mercies is cruelty. Yet if the Lord be upon his side, he most assuredly has nothing to fear. The short-lived triumph of every earthly foe will speedily come to an end. The day is posting, when the secrets of all hearts shall be laid open; and when there shall be a right allotment both of the vengeance and of the vindication.

But perhaps it is f more Christian importance, to advert to another md of living adversary than the most fierce and formidable of our fellow-men. We think that Paul had such an adversary in his eye; for in the enumeration of a few verses below, he speaks not of earthly plagues and persecutions alone, but of angels and principalities and powers as being against him. He reminds us here of what he says elsewhere, that we wrestle, not against flesh and blood, but against principalities against powers against the rulers of the darkness of this world against spiritual wickedness in high places. However much the doctrine of a great moral warfare between the Captain of our salvation on the side of righteousness, and the arch enemy of all that is good on the side of rebellion - however much this doctrine is slighted and has become now-a-days the topic of an infidel scorn - yet, among the Christians of' the New Testament, we find that a reference to Satan and to his wiles is constantly mingling itself with the concerns of their sanctification. They speak of themselves as being personally implicated in the warfare; and well they might - for the very field of contention is human nature, and an ascendancy over it is the prize of victory. Practically and really, it cannot be a thing of indifference to us, if there be an actual and a busy competition at this moment between the powers of light and of darkness for a mastery over our species. There must be a something incumbent upon us, and that we are called on to do surely, in connection with a struggle of which the object to each of the parties is the possession of ourselves, and the sway of a superior over the powers and the principles of our constitution. We are not to sit, and merely look on as passive and unconcerned spectators, during the pendency of a contest, by which our own interests are so momentously affected. And, accordingly, we are called upon to resist the Devil, and he ‘will flee from us' - to resist not the Spirit of God, and He will take up His abode in our hearts - to put away from us every instigation of evil, as coming from the evil one - to cherish every instigation of good, as coming from the Holy One and the Sanctifier - Thus to view ourselves as engaged in a warfare of which we are the subjects; and unseen but lofty and supernatural beings are the principals: And, to encourage us the more in the prosecution of this warfare, we are told that Satan shall be bruised under our feet shortly, and that greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world, and that Christ came to destroy the works of the Devil, and finally as in the text that if God be for us, there is none who can successfully be against us.

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