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For if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the
death of his Son.
The apostle, from the beginning of the epistle, to the beginning of this chapter, had insisted on the doctrine of justi. fication by faith alone. In this chapter he goes on to consider the benefits that are consequent on justification, viz. Peace with God, present happiness, and hope of glory. Peace with God is mentioned in the first verse; Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. In the following verses he speaks of present blessedness, and hope of glory. By whom also we have access by faith into this grace, wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And concerning this benefit, the hope of glory, the apostle particularly takes notice of two things, viz. the blessed nature of this hope, and the sure ground of it.
1. He insists on the blessed nature of this hope, in that it enables us to glory in tribulations. This excellent nature of true Christian bope is described in the following words, (ver. 3-5.) And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also knowing that tribulation worketh patience ; and patience experience, and erperience hope ; and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us. As if he had said, Through hope of a blessed reward, that will abundantly more than make up for all tribulation, we are enabled to bear tribulation with patience; patiently bearing, and patiently waiting for the reward. And patience works experience, for when we thus bear tribulation with patient waiting for the reward, this brings experience of the earnest of the reward, viz. the earnest of the Spirit, in our feeling the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost. So that our hope dors not make us ashamed: it is not disappointed; for in the midst of our tribulation, we experience those blessed incomes of the Spirit in our souls, that make even a time of tribulation sweet to us; and is such an earnest as abundantly confirms our hope; and so experience works hope.
2. The apostle takes notice of the sure ground there is for this hope; or the abundant evidence we have, that we shall obtain the glory hoped for, in that peace we have with God, by our justification through Christ's blood. For while we were without strength, in due time Christ died for us; even while we were ungodly and sinners, enemies to God and Christ. (See ver. 6–10.) The apostle's argument is exceeding clear and strong. If God has done already so great a thing for us, as to give us Christ to die and shed his precious blood for us, which was vastly the greatest thing, we need not doubt but that he will bestow life upon us. It is but a small thing for God actually to bestow eternal life, after it is pur. chased; to what it is for him to give his own Son to die, in order to purchase it. The giving Christ to purchase it, was virtually all : it included the whole grace of God in salvation. When Christ had purchased salvation at such a dear rate, all the difficulty was got through, all was virtually over and done. It is a small thing, in comparison, for God to bestow salvation, after it has been thus purchased at a full price. Sinners who are justified by the death of Christ, are already virtually saved; the thing is, as it were, done: what remains, is no more than the necessary consequence of what is done. Christ when he died made an end of sin: and when he rose from the dead, he did virtually rise with the elect: he brought them up from death with him, and ascended into heaven with them. And therefore, when this is already done, and we are thus reconciled to God through the death of his Son, we need not fear but that we shall be saved by his life. The love of God appears much more in his giving his Son to die for sinners, than in giving eternal life after Christ's death.
The giving of Christ to die for us is here spoken of as a much greater thing, than the actual bestowment of life; because this is all that has any difficulty in it.- When God did this for us, he did it for us, as sinners and enemies. But in actually bestowing salvation on us after we are justified, we are not looked upon as sinners, but as perfectly righteous persons : be bebolds no iniquity in us.
We are no more enemies, but reconciled. When God gave Christ to die for the elect, he looked on them as they are in themselves; but in actually bestowing eternal life, he looks on them as they are in Christ.
There are three epithets used in the text and context, as appertaining to sinners as they are in themselves, verse 6-8.
They are without strength, they cannot help themselves.They are ungodly or sinners, and they are enemies : as in the text.-NATURAL MEN ARE God's ENEMIES.
God, though the creator of all things, yet has some enemies in the world. Men in general will own, that they are sinners. There are few, if any, whose consciences are so blinded as not to be sensible they have been guilty of sin. And most sinners will own that they have bad hearts. They will own that they do not love God, so much as they should do; that they are not so thankful as they ought to be for mercies ; and that in many things they fail. And yet few of them are sensible that they are God's enemies. They do not see how they can be truly so called; for they are not sensible that they wish God any hurt, or endeavour to do
But we see that the scripture speaks of them as enemies to God. So in our text, and elsewhere; And you that were sometime alienated, and enemies in your minds by wicked works. Col. i. 21. The carnal mind is enmity against God. Rom. vii. 7. -And that all natural or unregenerate men are indeed such, is what I shall endeavour now particularly to shew. Which I propose to do in the following method. Particularly in what respects they are enemies to God.—To how great a degree they are enemies—and why they are enemies. Then I shall answer some objections.
In what respects Natural Men are God's Enemies.
1. Their enmity appears in their judgments, their natural relish, their wills, affections, and practice. They have a very mean esteem of God. Men are ready to entertain a good esteem of those with whom they are friends: they are apt to think highly of their qualities, to give them their due praises; and if there be defects, to cover them. But of those to whom they are enemies, they are disposed to have mean thoughts; they are apt to entertain a dishonourable opinion of them : they will be ready to look contemptibly upon any thing that is praise-worthy in them.
So it is with natural men towards God. They entertain very low and contemptible thoughts of God. Whatever honour and respect they may pretend, and make a shew of towards God, if their practice be examined, it will shew, that they certainly look upon him as a Being, that is but little to be regarded. The language of their hearts is, Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice? Exod. v. 2. What is the Almighty, that we should serve him, and what profit should we
hare if we pray unto him? Job xxi. 15. They count him worthy neither to be loved nor feared. They dare not behave with that slight and disregard towards one of their fellowcreatures, when a little raised above them in power and authority, as they dare, and do towards God. They value one of their equals much more than God, and are ten times more afraid of offending such, than of displeasing the God that made them. They cast such exceeding contempt on God, as to prefer every vile lust before him. And every worldly enjoyment is set higher in their esteem, tban God. Å morsel of meat, or a few pence of worldly gain, is preferred before him. God is set last and lowest in the esteem of natural men.
2. They are enemies in the natural relisk of their souls. They bave an inbred distaste and disrelish of God's perfections. God is not such a being as they would have. Though they are ignorant of God; yet from what they hear of him, and from what is manifest by the light of nature, they do not like him. By his being endowed with such attributes as he is, they have an aversion to him. They bear God is an infinitely holy, pure, and righteous Being, and they do not like him upon this account; they have no relish of such qualifications: they take no delight in contemplating them. It would be a mere task, a bondage to a natural man, to be obliged to set himself to contemplate those attributes of God. They see no manner of beauty or loveliness, nor taste any sweetness in them. And on account of their distaste of these perfections, they dislike all his other attributes. They have greater aversion to him because he is omniscient and knows all things; and because his omniscience is an holy omniscience. They are not pleased that he is omnipotent, and can do whatever be pleases; because it is a holy omnipotence. They are enemies even to his mercy, because it is a holy mercy. They do not like his immutability, because by this he never will be otherwise than he is, an infinitely holy God.
It is from this disrelish that natural men baye of the attri. butes of God, that they do not love to have much to do with God. The natural tendency of the heart of man is to fly from God, and keep at a distance from bim, as far off as possible.--A natural man is averse to communion with God, and is naturally disinclined to those exercises of religion, wherein he has immediately to do with him. It is said of · wicked men, Psal. x. 4, God is not in all their thoughts. It is evident, that the mind of man is naturally averse to thinking about God: and hence if any thoughts of him be suggested to the mind, they soon go away ; such thoughts are not apt to rest in the minds of natural men. If any thing is said to them of God, they are apt to forget it: it is like seed that falls upon