Thomas Chalmers

Lectures on Romans
ROMANS, x, 10-13. "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek; for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord thall be saved."

BEFORE entering on the consideration of these verses, we would briefly advert to one lesson, which, if not contained in the passage that we have just left, has at least been suggested by it. To bring Christ down from above, or to bring Him up from the dead, would be to present Him to the view of the senses, and make Him an object of sight - after which there could be no doubt of His resurrection. One of the common and current aphorisms which we hear most frequently is, that seeing is believing; yet though thus identified, there is a distinction made in Scripture between them. In the Epistle to the Hebrews, faith is defined the assurance of things not seen. A belief through the medium of the senses is differently regarded, and, we may add far less valued than a belief in a testimony - belief in the word - belief in what prophets "have spoken." It is thus that after His resurrection He upbraids those disciples, not who believed Him not after they had seen, but who be.lieved not the report of those who had seen Him. It was on this principle too that He valued the faith of Thomas, after he had at length given way under the power of an ocular demonstration. "Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen me, and yet have believed."

When faith supports itself under the want of sensible helps and accompaniments - then it is that the "trial of it is precious" - when, though not seeing Christ, yet we love Him; and in whom, "tbough now we see Him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." We meet with the same high estimate of faith in many other places - that is, when it is faith in the naked word, faith without the aid of vision, the faith which maintains its strength and constancy against even the likelihoods of nature and experience, which simply reckons that what God hath said is true, and is "fully persuaded that what he hath promised He is able also to perform."

Now there is another, a third way, in which an absent thing might be viewed by us - not as an object of sight, for we are supposing it so separate or removed as to be unseen by us - neither as an object of faith ; but as an object of conception, an act often conjoined with faith, yet perfectly distinct from it - so distinct as to be referred by certain mental philosophers to a special power or faculty of its own. One might conceive a thing without any belief in its reality; and, on the other hand, though one can scarcely believe without some conception of the object of faith - yet may that conception be so dull and languid and hazy, as almost to justify the expression of our believing in the dark. We should like you to discriminate between a belief in a thing and the conception of that thing. You might believe not only in the existence of an absent friend, but in the reality and warmth of his intense affection for yourself; and this belief might be as strong to-morrow as it is to-day - and yet it is possible, that your conception of all this might not be so lively or strong to-morrow as it is to-day. His benignant smile, his looks of graciousness, his whole countenance and manner and tones of voice, bespeaking the utmost cordiality and kind affection - these may all tell more vividly on the imagination at one time than another; and in proportion to the vivacity and force, wherewith they are thus presented and pictured forth as it were to the eye of the mind, will the spirits be exhilarated, and whole man experience an animation and a comfort, as he dwells on a contemplation which the conceiving faculty has made for the time so bright and joyful to him.

Now it must be obvious to the experience of all that this conception flits and fluctuates, as if dependent on the ever varying mood of the spirit - at one time gleaming forth towards the vivacity of sense, and at another fading- almost onward in deeper and deeper shades of obscuration to extinction and utter vacancy. But the remarkable thing to be observed is, that, under all these varieties of conception, the faith might remain invariable, a constant quantity as it were, an element which abideth stedfastly and substantially the same amid all those changing hues which affect the flavour or representation of the object, but do not in the least affect our belief in its reality. There may be a dimness in the contemplation, without the slightest mixture of a doubt in the object contemplated. The man never lets go his confidence in his friend - though, just as this power of conception is in languid or vigorous exercise, he may sometimes have greater and sometimes less degrees of sensible comfort in the contemplation of his friendship.

What is true of an earthly friend, is true of our Friend in heaven. He is far removed out of sight, but may become the object of faith through the word that is nigh unto us. And he might also become the object of conception, which is a sort of substitute for sight, brightening and clearing as it sometimes does towards the vivacity of a sensible demonstration. But let us never forget, that as faith without sight is all the more pleasing to God in that it subsists on its own unborrowed strength without the aid of the senses - so might faith be in the absence of any lucid or enlivening conception, having nothing to sustain it but the simple credit which it gives to the word of the testimony. Yet we hold these bright and exhilarating views of the Saviour to be unspeakably precious - the manifestation of which He Himself tells us - a most refreshing cordial to the spirit of a believer; and of which we have no doubt that, if analysed into its ingredients, it will be found, that it consists not merely in the greater force of evidence wherewith we are made to behold the Saviour, but in the quickening facility and power of conception where-with we are enabled to set Him more vividly or impressively before us.

Nevertheless we should distinguish between the conception and the faith - because while the one may be a minister of sensible comfort, it is the other which is the guarantee of our salvation. The man who, to repair the insufficiency of the word, would bring down Christ from heaven, but exemplifies the man, who, as if to make up for the same insufficiency, strains but ineffectually to frame some graphical or picturesque idea of Him there. The danger is, that he may compass himself about with sparks of his own kindling, or walk in the light of his own fancy or his own fire. Let him keep then determinedly by the word which is nigh, rather than by the imagery wherewith he peoples the distinct and lofty places which are away from him. He who has conception but not faith, will at length lie down in sorrow. He who has faith, but from the want of conception walketh in darkness and has no light, is still bidden trust in the name of God and stay upon His word. He who conceiveth may have sensible comfort; but, with or without this, he who believeth is safe. Faith and conception may be so disjoined, that the one maybe strong and never give forth a stronger exhibition of itself, than when the other, faint and feeble, is utterly unable to figure aught of the unseen and eternal things which are above. It may trust in the name of the Lord, even when the Lord Himself is shrouded in darkness from its view. It may stay upon God, even when the light of God’s endearing and paternal countenance is not shining in its wonted force of manifestation upon the soul. The light of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ may be hid for a season in deepest obscuration - yet during the whole of that season may the spintual mourner, even in the midst of heaviness and discomfort, be fixed and settled on the certainties of the word; and this he may prove, if not by the raptures of a seraph, at least by the obedience of a servant - evincing by the toils and the sufferings and the aacrifices of his daily and devoted walk, that he can stake the world and every interest he has in it on the truth of Christ, that he could give up all for Him, that He could die for Him.

Yet while the primary and most essential requisite is our belief in the objects of faith, let us not undervalue the enjoyment and the spiritual good which lie in the luminous conception of them. Conception may lead astray, bringing us into converse with mere things of fancy. But conception deals with the true as well as the fictitious, brightening and enhancing our view of unseen realities, and thus bringing us into clearer and more intimate converse with the things of faith. To be gifted with such a faculty, even to be visited though only at times and intervals with such illumination, is an inestimable privilege to the Christian wayfarer - as conveying to his soul the glimpses and foretastes of his coming glory in heaven, and so yielding him a refreshment and strength for the fatigues of his journey through this lower world. There is a felt ecstacy in this transcendental light, like that which the apostles experienced when they beheld the transfiguration of our Saviour, and exclaimed it is good to be here. How to attain or find our way to this light is a question therefore of deepest practical interest to all who make a real business of their eternity; nor are we aware of aught more interesting in the economy of the gospel, than that connection which it reveals between the plain duties of the Christian life, and the highest attainments, be it in grace or in knowledge, of the Christian experience. The way to get at the light after which we aspire, is to work for it. It is to deal aright with the word which is nigh unto us, and to do aright with the things which are nigh unto us. Whatever the sublime mysteriousness may be of these higher manifestations which shine on the soul of the advanced Christian, there is no mystery in the initial footsteps of the path which leads to them. It is not by the transcendental flights of an imagination labouring to realise Christ in heaven, and failing as signally in the enterprise as if the attempt had been to bring Christ down from heaven. It is by a humbler, but more solid pathway - an everyday walk with God in the bidden obedience of the gospel - that part of the upright which as the shining light which shineth more and more unto the perfect day.’

Ver. 10. ‘For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.’ Because in the Old Testament passage whence the quotation is taken, Moses makes mention both of the heart and mouth, Paul does the same, attributing to each such functions as are severally proper to them - as belief to the heart and confession to the mouth. It is true, that by our modern idea, the heart is the seat of the affections; and we should ascribe belief rather to the mind, which with us is the seat of the intellect: And hence the inference of many commentators is, that the belief of the New Testament - unlike to what it is in the common sense of the term, - is a thing of feeling as well as mere faith; and that the consent of the will as well as of the judgment, formed a constituent part of it. We, however, are more inclined to think that the ancients, whether Hebrew or Greek, did not proceed on the discriminations of our recent philosophy; and that the heart with them being equivalent to the whole of the inner man, might be the seat of all that proceeded therefrom, and so both of the emotions and the intellect - and this without merging the two into one, although they should emanate from the same fountain; and so we read of men understanding with their heart, nay of laying up in their hearts - making the heart the seat of memory, even as is done by ourselves in the vulgar phrase of learning by heart. Still in point of just and sound metaphysics, we hold faith to be an act of the understanding alone; and that though affection may be both an immediate cause, and as immediate a consequent of the same, it is never properly an ingredient thereof. We confess ourselves not partial to this confounding of the various functions and faculties of the mind which are really distinct from each other; and we confess our preference for the views of those, who conceive of faith that, however it may have sprung beforehand from the desirousness of a heart visited with moral earnestness and prompting both to prayer and to enquiry; or, however it may issue afterwards in the feelings and desires of holiness - yet that faith in itself is an act of the mind purely intellectual, the judging of certain testimonies or certain propositions that they are true, the simple credence of such statements as are laid before us. We fear of any view different from this, that it tends to embarrass or to darken the freeness of the gospel salvation - while the view that we contend for is the only one which does full honour to the grace of God as all in all, and is at the same time eminently subservient to the practical righteousness as well as comfort of the believer. Though faith should be regarded as belief and nothing else, this is not to hinder but that it may have originated in a virtuous or good affection, or that the affections and deeds of virtue might follow abundantly in its train.

‘For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness.’ Yet neither is it the personal but the judicial righteousness that is here spoken of - the righteousness of faith - that righteousness which is unto all and upon all who believe - not the righteousness here which is wrought in us by the Spirit; but that righteousness of Christ which is reckoned to us, and in virtue of which we are invested with that right to heaven which He by His obedience hath won for us, or are presented with a part and a lot in that inheritance which He purchased in behalf of a guilty world. It becomes ours on believing. We believe unto righteousness - this righteousness being the object in which our faith terminates, the landing-place to which it carries us.

‘And with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation.’ The apostle proceeds from an inward sentiment to the expression or manifestation thereof in an outward act; and such an act, as, in those days, was, very generally speaking, the sufficient token or pledge of a universal obedience. For then it held pre-eminently true, that he who confessed Christ forsook all, gave up all, made surrender or (which, as a manifestation of principle, was equivalent thereto) exposed themselves to the surrender and loss of all, by following after Christ. We read, "that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue" and this was but a specimen or sample of that larger excommunication which every man underwent, or at least hazarded, in the act of becoming an ostensible and declared Christian - an excommunication from all that was dear to nature - becoming liable thereby not merely to be put out of the synagogue, but to be put out of society; to incur the loss of all which they had; to renounce or be renounced, to forsake or be forsaken of, house and brethren and sisters and father and mother and wife and children and lands, yea of their own lives also, for the sake of Christ and of His gospel. No wonder then that confession was so honoured in these days, it being the exponent in fact and symbol of a universal discipleship. It gave evidence, that even as Christ suffered in the flesh, so these ready and resolved followers of His had armed themselves likewise with the same mind - and prepared not only to suffer in the flesh but to cease from sin, that they should no longer live the rest of their time in the flesh to the lusts of men but to the will of God. Well may it be said of every spirit who thus confesses Jesus Christ, that he is of God; and we may now understand, whenever such a confession is meant, how no man could say that Jesus was the Lord but by the Holy Ghost. All who were so actuated were in full readiness to drink of the cup which Christ drank of, and to be baptized with the baptism, that baptism of deep affliction which He was baptized with; and we may well conceive of this fixity of principle and purpose, that, impossible to mere nature, it could not be attained unto but through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost. The confession of these days in fact, as being the best evidence and pledge of a man’s sincerity, was an effectual guarantee for his good works as well as his good words; and was therefore held in as great honour and demand, as obedience itself was. And as we read of those unworthy disciples who in works denied God - so may we learn from this expression that by works too we may confess Him; and though it be only the confession of the mouth that is spoken of in our text, yet when we consider the actuating spirit in which it originates, we are not to wonder though the same high ascriptions should be given to it, as we find given to the conformity of the whole man with the will of God and the prescriptions of the gospel. "‘Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess before my Father which is in heaven." It was because of their confessing Christ, that they had to endure a great fight of afflictions; but he that maintained his stedfastness notwithstanding, had the truth of our text literally fulfilled upon him. The confession he made was unto salvation - for "he that endureth to the end shall be saved."

Understanding then, that, for reasons now given, confession was placed in the same rank, and had the same powers and consequences ascribed to it, with general obedience - it follows, that the apostle who tells us so often throughout his writings that we are saved by faith, in effect tells us at this place that we are saved by works. You must all have heard of the alleged contrariety between Paul and James upon this subject; but here there appears to be almost as strange a seeming contrariety between Paul and himself - not a real opposition of course in either instance, but the mere semblance of one, and which has been so often and so successfully disposed of by the explanations of those who undertake to effect a reconciliation, as they term it, between the two apostles, that we shall not at present repeat any of them. We shall only call attention to a distinction in the language of the apostle, when he expresses the several effects of faith upon the one hand, and of confession upon the other. When man believeth it is unto righteousness - whereas when he confesseth, or confession is made by him, it is unto salvation; and understanding righteousness, as it unquestionably ought to be in this place, in its forensic or legal meaning, we learn from the first clause of the verse before us, that by faith we are justified - while understanding confession as the equivalent of a universal obedience, we are told in the second clause that by works we are saved. The truth is, that justification and salvation are not perfectly synonymous. The former is part of the latter, but not the whole of it. To complete one’s salvation, there must be deliverance from the power of sin as well as from its punishment; and accordingly, while reconciled by the death of Christ, we are saved by his life - that is, because He lives, we shall live also; or because He hath overcome, we shall overcome also; or because of the grace dispensed upon us from the hands of a risen Saviour, He, through the work of His Spirit in us effectuates our sanctification - even as by His work in the flesh for us, He hath effectuated our acceptance with God. In like manner, if no man in these days could say that Jesus is the Lord but by the power of the Holy Ghost, then to be saved by the confession of the text, which is really tantamount to our thus saying, is to be saved by the operation of this heavenly agent - in perfect keeping with another declaration of the apostle, when he tells us that we are saved by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.

Ver. 11. ‘ For the Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.’ That is either - First, Shall not be ashamed by the nonfulfilment of that which is the object of their confident expectation. It is a confidence which they might well cherish and avow - secure as they are from the mockery of any failure or disappointment in their hopes. All the promises of God in Christ Jesus are yea and amen; and it is because of their certain and punctual accomplishment, that the hope which they inspire is a hope which maketh not ashamed.’ When the verse is regarded in this view, its reference is to the distant future - not to the time past when the promises were made, not even to the present time when the promises are believed, but to that future time when in act and by performance the promises will all be made good. When found in very truth that the glory, now only revealed, and looked forward to but in perspective or by anticipation, is fully realised - then will the believer lift up his head and rejoice. Otherwise, ashamed of the vain and illusory imagination on which he had before rested, he would sink into despair.

Or, secondly, the text may be understood in reference to the present time, when the promises are only as yet believed, and the fulfilment of them is still in reserve. Even at this earlier stage, might faith have a present and powerful effect in repressing shame, and more especially the shame of making the avowal of itself, and so of testifying for Christ. Like every other principle of strong and felt urgency within, it may delight in the vent and forthgoing of its own utterance, and in bearing down the restraints whether of shame or of fear, which might have otherwise intercepted the expression of it. "I believed, therefore have I spoken." "My heart was hot within me, and the fire burned - then spake I with my tongue." "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." These verses point not to the future vindication and triumph of our faith by the verification of its object; but to the present antagonism and victory, so to speak, of the principle of faith over the principle of shame - as exemplified by our Saviour, who, for the joy that was set before Him, but was only yet in prospect, endured the cross and also despised the shame. Thus too the apostle was not ashamed, and that because of the certainty he felt in Him whom he believed, and the firm persuasion he had of His ability to save him. And so he bids Timothy not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, who Himself tells us - that whosoever shall be ashamed of Him and of His words, of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when He cometh in the glory of His Father. It is therefore a present feeling, a present sensibility, that is spoken of in all these passages; and of which it is required that in the strength of our faith it should be overruled, and not given way to. We like this view of the text. It binds so together the belief of its first clause with the confession of its second - making them, if not so identical, at least so inseparable, as fully to explain the common virtues or common effects which are ascribed to each of them; and fully to harmonise the saying, that ‘confession is unto salvation,’ with the saying, that "the end of onr faith is the salvation of our souls."

From the proposition of this verse, a certain converse proposition might be drawn, that might well be used as a criterion by which to test and to ascertain the reality of our faith. If it be true that whosoever believeth on Him is not ashamed, then it should be true that whosoever is ashamed of Him doth not believe. Or in the terms of the preceding verse, Whosoever maketh not confession of Him with the mouth, believeth Him not with the heart. How comes it then, that Christ and all which is expressly Christian, are so habitually and systematically excluded from society as topics of conversation! What shall we say, even of those who are denominated the professing people, what shall we say of their silence on the sacred themes of the soul and the Saviour and eternity, amid the companionships of this world! When do we ever meet with the free and copious utterance that would flow from the mouth on these subjects, if only the heart was full of them! The general emigration of a whole neighbourhood from one country to another in this world, would be the constant talk of all its parties and throughout all its families, for months before the embarkation, and while the busy work of preparations and outfits was going on. How is it that we meet with nothing like this, on the subject of that universal emigration from one world to another, which, by successive transportations across the dark valley and shadow of death, will so surely and in so short a time, overtake the whole of our living population! Is it because there are no outfits, no preparations, and therefore no prospects to talk about ? - these having no place in the converse, just because they have no place in the business or in the hearts of men! They are seldom or never the subjects of speech, just because they are seldom or never the subjects of thought. Or if there be any who think of them, but are ashamed to speak of them - such we say is the overbearing magnitude of the interest at stake, that it needs but a realising sense of them to put to flight both the fear and the shame of this world. The engrossing affection of the great and the one thing needful would displace and subordinate every inferior affection of our nature; and, on the other hand, the total want of a practical earnestness or concern therein, as evinced by the tenor and talk of almost every company, might well justify the question - Verily, is there such a thing as faith upon the earth!

Ver. 12, 13. ‘For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek; for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ But even a universal apostacy or unbelief would not make the faith of God to be of no effect. He is true, though every man should be a liar; and the precious truth announced in these verses invests with an ample warrant the messengers of salvation, who might go forth the bearers of a full and unexcepted commission, to assail even a whole world lying in wickedness and unconcern, by plying with the overtures of a free salvation, each and every individual of the great human family. God, it is said here, makes no difference between the Jew and the Greek; and there are some, who, in defending the articles of their own scientific theology, would make the universality of the gospel offer lie in this - that, now when the middle wall of partition is broken down, it might be offered to men of every nation. But the Scriptural theology carries the universality farther down than this - and so as that the gospel might be offered, not merely to men of every nation, but to each man of every nation. God is not only no respecter of nations, He is no respecter of persons. It is not only whatsoever nation shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved; but whatsoever man of that nation shall call upon the name of the Lord, he shall be saved. We are not now probing into the depths of the Almighty’s government; or speculating on the counsels of a predestinating God. But on the authority of these verses, we are attempting to give forth the plain and palpable duties of every minister and every hearer - which is for the former to knock at every single door, and crave admittance for the gospel into every single heart, making an honest, and in the most obvious sense of the term, a real tender of salvation to every man; a,nd for the latter to respond with the same honesty and in full confidence, to the call that has been thus sounded in his hearing - So that his call back again shall not be of words merely. For as the confession which availeth is not with the mouth only, but proceedeth from faith in the heart, so the call which availeth is not one of utterance only, but proceedeth from desirousness in the heart; and whosoever so calleth on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Go to Lecture 82
Go back to Romans index

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