Thomas Chalmers

Lectures on Romans
ROMANS, ix, 3.

"For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh."

AND first, it may be employed to rectify that meagre theology which is so far satisfied with man as he is, that it would hold a few slight and superficial amendments to be enough of themselves for changing him into man as he ought to be. This is one use to which we should turn what we have just observed of the parental affection. The earthliness of its whole drift proves man to be a creature altogether earthly;. and the very strength of the affection serves to aggravate this lesson the more, and to betray all the more palpably our state of spiritual destitution. That the same parent who is so intent on the preferment of his children in the world, should be so utterly listless of their prospects, nor put forth one endeavour to obtain for them preferment in heaven - that he who would mourn over it as the sorest of his family trials, should one of them be bereft of any of the corporeal senses; and yet should take it so easily, although none of them have a right sense of God or a right principle of godliness - that he, who would be so sorely astounded - did any of his little ones perish in a conflagration or a storm, should be so unmoved by all the fearful things that are reported of the region on the other side of death, where the fury of an incensed Lawgiver is poured upon all who have fled not to Christ as their refuge from the tempest, and they are made to lie down in the devouring fire and to dwell with everlasting burnings - that to avert from the objects of our tenderness the calamities, or to obtain for them the good things of this present life, there should be so much of care and of busy expedient, while not one practical measure is taken either to avert from them that calamity which is the most dreadful, or to secure for them that felicity which is the most gbrious - Why there is indeed such obvious demonstration in all this of time being regarded as our all, and eternity being counted by us as nothing - so light an esteem in it of that God, an inheritance in whom we treat as of far less value for those who are dear to us than that they should be made richly to inherit the gifts of His providence - such a preference for ourselves, and for the fleeting generations that come after us, of the short-lived creature to the Creator who endureth for ever - As most strikingly to mark, even by the very loves and amiable sensibilities of our hearts, how profoundly immersed we are in the grossest carnality - that after all it is but an earthly horizon that bounds us, and an earthly platform we grovel on - that Nature, even in her best and most graceful exhibitions, gives manifest token of her fall, proving herself an exile from Paradise even in the kindest and honestest of the sympathies which belong to her - that, retaining though she does many soft and tender affinities for those of her own kind, she has been cast down and degraded beneath the high aims and desires of immortality - accursed even in her moods of greatest generosity, and evil in the very act of giving good gifts unto her children.

But another lesson than that of rectifying the meagre theology of the general public, is that of rebuking those peculiar few who disown this theology, and hold themselves to be sound in the faith. We greatly fear, that, in many instances, this soundness in the faith is little more than a holding of the form of sound words. The expression of the truth is acquiesced in, but the truth itself is not realised. A mere holding of the dogmata of a creed is not faith. It is not the substance of things hoped for, neither is it the evidence of things not seen. The man who looks onward to some station of emolument for his son, who provides him with the best education to qualify him for its duties, who himself superintends the preparation and strenuously plies him with the fit exercises for his training and future habits, who bestirs himself in the work of securing friends and soliciting patronage - this man may be laudably employed, but he is walking by sight. To look onward for your children to a place in heaven - to enter them accordingly into a process of spiritual education - to watch and examine and labour, until the spiritual principles be established and the spiritual character be formed in them - to besiege in prayer the upper sanctuary, that you may obtain the patronage of the great Intercessor who is there in behalf of your family, and through Him the grace and liberality of the King upon the throne - Let me practically see this, and I would say of it that it was walking by faith.

It is not the mere verbiage of an orthodox phraseology that constitutes you a believer. You believe substantially only if you do. It is not by the professing of these things that you show faith. It is by proceeding on the reality of these things. The man upon whose work and upon whose walk the futurities of the unseen world have the same deciding power, as the futurities of the seen arid the sensible world that is before him - he it is who has the substance and not the shadow, the faith unfeigned. It will show itself in the regulation of the family, as much as in any other of his personal affairs. The man whose heart is set on the conversion of his children - the man whose house is their school of discipline for eternity - He it is, and we fear he only of all other parents, who lives by faith. If you love your children and at the same time are listless about their eternity, what other explanation can be given than that you believe not what the Bible tells of eternity You believe not of the wrath and the anguish and the tribulation that are there. Those piercing cries that here from any one of your children would go to your very heart, and drive you frantic with the horror of its sufferings, you do not believe that there is pain there to call them forth. You do not think of the meeting-place that you are to have with them before the judgment-seat of Christ, and of the looks of anguish and the words of reproach that they will cast upon you, for having neglected and so undone their eternity. The awful sentence of condemnation - the signal of everlasting departure to all who know not God and obey not the gospel - the ceaseless moanings that ever and anon shall ascend from the lake of living agony - the grim and dreary imprisonment whose barriers are closed insuperably and for ever on the hopeless outcasts of vengeance, these, ye men who wear the form of godliness but show not the power of it in your training of your families - these are not the articles of your faith. To you they are as the imaginations of a legendary fable.

Else why this apathy? Why so alert to the rescue of your young from even the most trifling of calamities, and this dead indifference about their exposure to the most tremendous of all? 0, the secret will be out. The cause bewrayeth itself. You, have not faith; and, compassed about though you be with sabbath forms and seemly observations and the semblances of a goodly and well-looking profession, yet, if you labour not specifically and in practical earnest for the souls of your children, your doings short of this are we fear but the diseased and lame offerings of hypocrisy - your Christianity we fear is a delusion.
Let me therefore, in the third place, charge it upon parents, that they make proof of their own Christianity by looking well to the Christianity of their children. They profess the rewards and the glories of Paradise to be the noblest objects which an immortal being can aspire after. To these objects then, let them guide the ambition of those young immortals who are under their own roof; and, instead of regarding them as the inmates of a habitation that is to last for ever, let them be treated as passengers in the same vessel with themselves - as fellow-voyagers to an eternal home. In the work of their common preparation for such a home, let them never cease to ply the household with their precepts, or to ply heaven with their prayers. Paul travailling in birth that Christ may be formed in his converts, is fit to image forth the effort, the assiduity, the intense moral earnestness, wherewith parents should long and should labour for the conversion of their children. Be assured that this is an object for which one and all may be instant in season and out of season; and that no application, however pointedly directed and however urgently borne home on the consciences of any of your offspring, if under the guidance of that wisdom which winneth souls, is too much for an achievement so precious. 0 remember that under the roof of your lowly tenement, there might happen an event which shall cause the high arches of heaven to ring with jubilee; and that surpassing far the pomp of this world’s history, is the history of many a cottage home - at which a son or a daughter turned unto righteousness becomes the reward of a parent’s faithfulness, the fruit of a parent’s prayers.

But - fourthly - let me not forget that the affection of Paul, as expressed in the passage before us, was not that of a Christian parent for his children, but that of a Christian man for his kinsmen in general. It was in love for the souls of all his relatives, that he could have endured any sacrifice by which he might have procured salvation to them. It was an affection which went round the whole circle of his relationship; and, under the impulse of which, we would not confine our apostolic zeal and activity to the single object of. Christianising the young of our own family, but would lay ourselves out for the souls of others of our kindred - whether they lived with us under the same roof; or exchanged with us the visits of a familiar and frequent hospitality. And we cannot look upon this extension of the duty, without adverting to a most powerful and a most peculiar obstacle in the way of it - a certain mysterious delicacy, most deeply felt in many a bosom, though most difficult to be analysed - a repugnance so much as to talk of Christianity in the hearing of parents or brethren or more distant relatives, in the spirit of religious tenderness - and a repugnance that would almost strengthen into a moral impossibility, did we propose to urge upon them the Christianity of their own souls. However undescribable this antipathy is, yet we are confident of our speaking to the inward experience of many, when we affirm the existence of it; and that in truth it is often stronger and more sensitive far in reference to our own kindred, than in reference to any of our more distant and general companionship. The solitary Christian of that household, where all but himself are yet carnally-minded and of the world, feels as if spellbound among the entanglements of an insuperable delicacy; nor can he find utterance at all for the things of sacredness, among the parents and the sisters and the other inmates and daily familiars even of a much-loved relationship; and the seriousness, wherewith his heart has of late been visited, lodges there in solitude and in silence - as if ashamed to disclose itself in the midst of a now uncongenial society; and, marvellous to tell, it can experience a greater freedom and facility of religious onverse with the irreligious neighbours, than it can with the religious members of his own family.

And thus, by an explicable peculiarity of temperament, do the nearest of relatives often maintain on that topic which most nearly concerns them, a dead and immovable silence, and which for the world they cannot break; and though posting on to eternity together, yet on all the prospects and all the preparations of eternity their lips are sealed; and while on every other partnership, whether of interest or of feeling, there is the frankest and the easiest Communication - yet, on this mightiest interest of all, each wraps himself in his own impregnable disguise, and positively dares not lay it open. It is so very singular, that it almost looks like a satanic influence - a sorcery by which the prince of darkness obstructs this sort of reciprocal interchange in families, lest his kingdom should suffer by it - a device by which he guards the very approaches of religious conversation; and so scares even the devout and desirous Christian away from it, that he stands speechless and awe struck even in the presence of his own brother. It is indeed a curious anomaly of our nature, and might well excite to philosophic speculation; but it has a higher claim upon our notice, in that it stays the operation of the gospel leaven among men, and forms one of the sorest impediments to the growth of Christianity in the world.

We feel the whole difficulty of advising in a matter which so many have found to be unconquerable, I and yet, formidable as the difficulty is, we cannot help being assured of this as of all other temptations - that if you resist the devil he will flee from you. We are persuaded that had you only courage to break the accursed incantation, a most cheering and triumphant result would often come out of it. It is our conjecture that by a frank and intrepid management of the case, it would in many instances have an issue more pleasing and more prosperous than we at first do apprehend. We believe, that, did you openly avow to your kinsman according to the flesh the recent awakening that had come upon you, and did you pour into his ear the affectionate urgency of your now Christianised regards for him - there might ensue a gratitude and a confidence that to your old and previous fellowship was altogether unknown. We are hopeful, that, by taking the direct way with that relative whom you want to associate with yourself on the path of heaven, and telling him plainly both of sin and of the Saviour - that in his kindliness to you, and perhaps in the conversion of his own soul, your fearlessness and your faithfulness would have their reward. We have no doubt, that, did every Christian come forth in the bosom of his own household with more bold and explicit testimonies, we should at length have vastly more of Christianity in our land; and that, did our love for souls and our sense of the worth of eternity so far prevail as to force a way for us through the tremors and the delicacies of this our mysterious nature, we should at times realise within the precincts of home the noblest achievements of the missionary. That there would be a frequent, and even perhaps on occasions a fierce resistance, is unquestionable; and then the generous adventurer for human souls would be put upon his charity and his wisdom. "Give not that which is holy unto dogs," and "cast not your pearls before swine," these are the precepts which might afterwards have their turn when he had acquitted himself of the duty to confess Christ before men, and proved himself not to be ashamed of His testimony. Yet even in suffering and in silence he would preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and perhaps more emphatically than if with all eloquence and all argument.

Let but the meekness of wisdom never abandon him - let peace and truth and kindness be at once the guide and the ornament of his walk - let him command that homage to his practice which he failed to obtain for his principles - let him carry that admiration for the virtues of his life which bythe doctrines of his creed he could not carry - And thus what he did not by his oxpostulations, he might do by his example and by his prayers. It were well that we had a conscience altogether clear in this matter - that we stood fully acquitted of what we owe to each other’s souls - that we could lay our hands upon our hearts; and say that we had done all which we ought, for the purpose of rescuing from the delusion that is unto death, him who is ready to perish - that we held faithful and. intrepid discourse with our fellow-pilgrims on the high topics of eternity; and did whatever wisdom could approve, even among those that are without, for awakening them from the lethargy of nature, and impressing that movement upon their spirits by which they might turn from the world unto God. We know that there are difficulties and delicacies in the way; but we also know how gladly it is that many a desirous Christian takes shelter under them. We know that the formal attempt to Christianise has often misgiven; and that there have been occasions, when the whole effect of a rash and misguided enterprise has been just to call forth from the heart the reaction of a stouter and more resolute hostility than before. And, upon this consideration, there are men, even of religious earnestness, who have exonerated themselves from the task of religious conversation altogether. Now there may in this be a guilty cowardice. God knoweth. There may, in this inveterate silence before men, be the cruellest indifference to the fate of their eternity. The benevolence of nature may expatiate among all the kindnesses and courtesies of the life that now is - while the benevolence of faith is most profoundly asleep to the momentous interests of the life that is to come. In a word, because of our criminal reserve, souls may have perished everlastingly; and, just because Christianity is left out by us in conversation, many perhaps there are who have been confirmed in the habit of leaving it out of their concern altogether. Surely that which even the friends of the gospel deem not worthy of a place among the other topics of science or of taste or of .politics or of trade or of agriculture, which take their respective tirns in every party - we may well deem not worthy of any large or very prominent place in the general ‘system’ of our affairs.
It is thus that by our shrinking timidity, a countenance is given to that spirit of worldliness wherewith the earth throughout all its companies is overspread; and, just because Christians are not so free and frequent in their avowals as they should, the mischief is propagated more widely and settled more inveterately than before. We are aware, at the same time, that evil might ensue from unbridled and unreasonable urgencies of talk upon this subject; and that there is a time to refrain, as well as a time to venture forward. It were well, however, if amid the excuses and exonerations of which we are so fain to avail ourselves, we, like Paul, could vouch to our own consciences for the perfect sincerity wherewith we longed after the salvation of those who are around us. He could speak for himself in this matter - his conscience bearing him witness in the Holy Ghost. This heavenly judge is now looking towards us; and, agreeably to that impressive passage from the book of Proverbs, He knows whether to charge us with the barbarity that would neglect the means of averting from others their awful and everlasting condemnation. “If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; if thou sayest Behold we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it! and he that keepeth thy soul doth not he know it? And shall not he render to every man according to his works!"

It were well if what I have said should subserve, not merely its own proper and immediate purpose, but should serve the purpose of a general conviction regarding the state of your own souls. Ere you can be practically in good earnest about the eternity of your children, you must have in your own spirit a sense of the worth of eternal things. Ere you can labour for the good of their immortality, there must be a faith in that immortality - even the faith which is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen. Ere you can make. a distinct and business object of their conversion from sin unto the Saviour, you must be imprest with the guilt and danger of the one, as well as the all-sufficiency of the other. And, on the other hand, your habitual listlessness in the matter of family religion, is an experimental proof-that you are destitute of all these things. From a thing so familiar, as just your domestic and daily habit in reference to those of your own house; and from a thing so accessible, as just the state of your own heart in regard to the affection which it bears for the souls of your children - from these we may gather the evidences, we fear, of the entire spiritual destitution of many who are here present. In urging the Christian duty which lies upon you of watching over their souls, we feel as if we had to go back to a duty more elementary still - that is, of fleeing, for yourselves, from the wrath that shall come upon all those of carnal and unrenewcd nature, who have not yet made the transition from death unto life; nor taken refuge in that Saviour whose blood alone can make atonement for the past, whose Spirit alone can revive and rectify the future.

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