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2. To grateful adoration
(What debtors are we to the grace of God, that grace that chose us, that grace that treasured up a fulness for us in Christ Jesus! What do we owe to him, who, when he might justly have driven us beyond the hope of mercy, has placed us beyond the fear of condemnation! Surely, if we pour not out our hearts in devoutest gratitude before him, the very stones may well cry out against us.
But while we render to him the tribute of a thankful heart, let us also glorify him by a holy life. Let us walk worthy of our high calling: let us cultivate all the dispositions of God's elect; and be as studious to avoid all grounds of condemnation, as to escape the miseries of condemnation itself.]
DXCIX. PAUL'S ASSURANCE OF PERSEVERING.
Rom. viii. 38, 39. I am persuaded that neither death, nor
life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
AS there is a typical resemblance between that good land which was promised to the Jews, and that better country which is reserved for us in heaven, so is there a striking resemblance between those, whether Jews or Christians, who have looked forward to the accomplishment of the promises. We see Moses while he was yet on the other side of Jordan, and Joshua soon after he had arrived on the borders of Canaan, appointing the boundaries of the twelve tribes, settling every thing with respect to the distribution of the land, and ordering va. rious things to be observed, just as if they were already in full possession of the whole country without one enemy to oppose them. This appears at first sight presumptuous; but they knew that God had given them the land; and therefore, notwithstanding the battles which were yet to be fought, they doubted not in the least out that they should obtain the promised inheritance. Thus also the apostle, in the passage before us, speaks in the language of triumph on behalf of himself and of all the Christians at Rome, and that too even while they were sur
(599.) PAUL'S ASSURANCE OF PEASEVERING.
487 rounded with enemies, and conflicting on the field of battle.
It will be profitable to consider
[“ The love of God” is that which God has manisested to us“ in Christ Jesus," not merely in sending his Son to die for us, but in forgiving our sins, and adopting us into his family for his sake.
From this love the apostle says, Nothing shall ever separate us: and, to strengthen his assertion, he calls to mind the various things which might be supposed capable of effecting a separation; and declares concerning each, that it shall never be able.
He mentions four distinct couplets. First, “neither death nor life" shall be able. Death is that which is most of all dreaded,a and life that which is most of all desired:6 more especially, if the one be attended with bitter agonies, or the other with all the pleasures of sense, their influence over us is exceeding great. But neither the one with all its terrors, nor the other with all its comforts, shall ever dissolve the union that subsists between God and his believing people.
Next, “neither angels, nor principalities nor powers" shall be able. By angels must certainly be meant the evil angels, since the good angels are employed in ministering to the heirs of salvation, and would rather confirm them in the love of God than separate them from it: whereas the evil angels, like a roaring lion, are constantly seeking whom they may devour. “Principalities and powers” are civil magistrates, who hold dominion over the visible, as the devils do over the invisible, world: and who, alas! too often unite their influence with that of Satan to destroy the church. But neither the one nor the other, nor both combined, shall ever separate a believer, how weak soever he may be, from the love of God.
Moreover “ things present or things to come” will be found alike impotent in this respect. Present things may be so embarrassing as greatly to perplex us; and things future may appear so formidable as to make us think it almost impossible for us to maintain our ground against them; but they shall never prevail to destroy a child of God.
Lastly, “neither height nor depth” shall be able. To some the height of earthly prosperity is a dreadful snare; to others the depth of adversity and distress. But the believer may defy them both: for not only they shall not be able, but
a Hcb. ii. 15.
b. Satan for once spake true, Job ii. 4,
“nothing in the whole creation” shall be able, to separate him from the love of God.
This confidence of the apostle being so extraordinary, let us consider II. The grounds of his persuasion
These were two-fold; general, as relating to others; and particular, as relating to himself; the former creating in him an assurance of faith; the latter an assurance of hope. We notice 1. The general grounds
['These are such as are revealed in the holy scriptures, and are common to all believers.
The stability of the covenant, which God has made with us in Christ Jesus, warrants an assurance, that all who are interested in it shall endure to the end. It secures to us not only a new heart, but a divine agency “causing us to walk in God's statutes.” It engages that God shall never depart from us, nor we from him. In short, it promises us " grace and glory.' Now this covenant shall not be broken: if heaven and earth fail, this shall not:f there shall not be one jot or tittle of it ever violated: it is “ordered in all things, and sure.” Consequently the believer shall never be deprived of any of its blessings.
The immutability of God is another ground of assured faith and hope.' Wherefore did God originally set his love upon us? Was it for our own goodness, either seen or foreseen? Alas! we had no existence but in God's purpose: and, from the moment we began to exist, we have never had one good thing in us which we did not first receive from God. If then God loved us simply because he would love us, and not for any inherent loveliness in us, will he cast us off again on account of those evil qualities which he well knew to be in us, and which he himself has undertaken to subdue? This would
change in his counsels: whereas we are told that, “ with him there is no variableness neither shadow of turning, and that “his gifts and calling are without repentance.”
The offices of Christ may also be considered as justifying an assured hope of final perseverence. For our Lord did not assume the priestly, prophetic, and kingly offices merely to put us into a capacity to save ourselves; but that his work might be effectual for the salvation of all whom the Father had given to him: and at the last day he will be able to say, as he did in the days of his flesh, Of those whom thou hast given me I have lost none. If he is ever living on purpose to make intercession for them, and is constituted head over all things to the church on purpose to save them, then he will keep them; none shall ever pluck them out of his hands," nor shall any thing ever separate them from the love of God.] 2. The particular grounds
c Ezek. xxxvi. 26, 27.
d Jer. xxxii. 40.
e Ps. Ixxxiv. 11.
(We need not resort to any express revelation made to Paul, in order to account for his confidence; for he could not but know that he had believed in Christ, and that he was as desirous of being sanctified by his grace as of being saved by his blood; and consequently, he could not doubt his interest in the promises. And wherever conscience testifies that this is the real experience of the soul, there a person may entertain the same assured hope as Paul himself did.
It would not indeed be expedient for young converts to in. dulge too strong a confidence; because their sincerity has been but little tried, and they are by no means sufficiently simple in their dependence on God: in proportion therefore as the evidences of their faith are defective, and the means of stability are overlooked, they must relax their confidence of persevering to the end. As for those who are already in a backslidden state, it would be a most horrible delusion in them to say, that nothing should separate them from the love of God; since they have reason to doubt at this moment whether they be at all interested in his love.
But a humble contrite person, that is living by faith on the Son of God, and maintaining a suitable conversation in all his Spirit and conduct, he may conclude himself to be in the love of God, and be persuaded firmly that nothing shall be able to separate him from it. He then stands in the very situation of the apostle, as far as respects his own personal experience, and therefore may indulge the same joyful hope and persuasion that he shall endure unto the end. Nor need he be at all discouraged on account of his own weakness, since the more weak he feels himself to be, the stronger he is in reality," inasmuch as he is made more dependent on his God.
In a word, an assurance of faith respecting the accomplish. ment of God's promises to believers, should be maintained by all, since his word can never fail; but an assurance of hope respecting our own personal interest in those promises, should rise or fall according to the evidences we have of our own sincerity.)
A 2 Cor. xii. 10.
m 1 Sam. ü.9. i Pet. i. 5. John X. 28. VOL. V.
ADDRESS 1. Those who know nothing of this joyful persuasion
[Do not condemn that of which you are not capable of judging aright: but seek an interest in the love of God; and believe in Christ, through whom the Father's love shall be secured, and by whom it shall be revealed to your soul. When " the love of God has been shed abroad in your own hearts," you will be better able to judge of the confidence which that love inspires.]
2. Those whose persuasion accords with that of the apostle
[Nothing surely can be conceived more delightful than to possess an assured hope of eternal happiness and glory. But let it never be abused to the encouragement of sloth. If we profess that nothing shall separate us from the love of God, let us take care that nothing does separate us from it. Let not the temptations of Satan, or the persecutions of men, not the comforts of life, or the terrors of death, let nothing felt at present, or feared in future, let nothing in the whole creation draw us aside from the path of duty, or retard our progress in the divine life.]
o Jude 20. 21.