Great Texts of the Bible
The Heart and the Mouth
For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.—Romans 10:10.
1. St. Paul’s singularly free, but deeply inspired, manner of applying texts from the Old Testament is especially illustrated in this passage. The passages quoted from Isaiah about the Stones, which St. Paul applies to Christ (see Romans 9:32-33), refer originally to Jehovah simply in one case (Isaiah 28:16). Jewish tradition had possibly already referred them to the Christ; and certainly our Lord’s use of Psalm 118:22—“The stone which the builders rejected”—as applying to His own rejection, made the reference more obvious. It is indeed in deepest accordance with the spirit of Isaiah; and St. Peter (1 Peter 2:6), we notice, follows St. Paul in the use of them. Another passage (Isaiah 52:7) quoted in Romans 10:15, about the feet of those who preach good tidings, is transferred, with added meaning, from the heralds of the redemption from Babylon to the heralds of the greater redemption. Again, a passage from Psalms 19 quoted in Romans 10:18 is transferred very beautifully from the witness of the heavens to the witness of the Gospel; as if St. Paul would say, grace is become as universal as nature.
In the same way the language of this passage, cited from Deuteronomy, is taken from the Law to express the spirit of the Gospel. The calling upon Jehovah in Joel becomes in St. Paul’s quotation the calling upon Christ. All this free citation, uncritical according to our ideas and methods, rests on a profoundly right apprehension of the meaning of the Old Testament as a whole. The appeal to the Old Testament, even if not to the particular passage, is justified by the strictest criticism.1 [Note: Bishop Gore.]
We can look upon the whole passage (Romans 10:5-10) in the light of the view held by St. Augustine, that the words of Moses, understood in their true spiritual sense, describe a righteousness which is essentially the righteousness of faith (de Nat. et Gratia, § 83). Moses is in fact describing a religion of the heart: “The Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.” To one who thus turns with heart and soul to the Lord, obedience is easy: “The word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart.” This, says St. Paul, is in substance “the word of faith, which we preach.” St. Paul’s explanation is not allegorical but spiritual; it penetrates through the letter of the Old Testament to its spirit, and that is the spirit of the Gospel.
2. The text contains two parts: Belief and Confession. This is the order—belief with the heart first, and confession with the mouth afterwards. But if we compare this verse with the preceding one, it is noticeable that St. Paul has reversed the order. In Romans 10:9 it is confession with the mouth first, belief with the heart afterwards. Romans 10:9 explains the quotation used in Romans 10:8, “The word is very nigh thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart.” The order is suggested by literary association, not by theological formulation. As “mouth “is mentioned before “heart,” St. Paul speaks of confession of Christ before belief in Christ, but in Romans 10:10 he rearranges his statement in true logical sequence. Belief with the heart must come first, confession with the mouth is the natural resultant.
“With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.”
There are three things to keep before our minds in considering this section: (1) Belief is with the heart. (2) Belief must have a definite object or centre. The centre of our faith is Christ and His Resurrection. (3) Belief is productive of righteousness.
i. Belief is with the Heart
1. It is important that we should lay particular stress upon St. Paul’s meaning when he speaks of the “heart”; for if we are to understand this difficult passage, we must try to analyse the meaning of the terms used. When we talk about the heart of man we usually mean the affections or emotions, but to the Jew the heart represented the whole spiritual man. We gather from the Old Testament that the heart was the source of all moral action, the source of the affections and purposes, and a symbol even of the mind and the will. The whole moral nature was represented by the term. And so St. Paul practically affirms that man believes with the whole of his nature. Not only his intellect and emotions and affections, but the whole nature in all its scope and powers—all are taken up into this “righteousness of faith.”
The believing heart is indispensable to the discovery of truth. I do not say that it is indispensable to the discovery of all truth, although there is a sense in which it is true that no truth can be discovered without it. I do say that the truth he needs cannot be discovered by any man unless one of the organs by which he sets about perceiving it is the heart of trust and faith. No man by mathematical reasoning can get at the whole truth. We know that no man arrives at all that range of truth which is personal by his mathematical reasoning; that he gets at that, if he ever gets at it at all, by quite other faculties. That is what Tennyson declares in his protest in “In Memoriam”:
If e’er when faith had fall’n asleep,
I heard a voice “believe no more”
And heard an ever-breaking shore
That tumbled in the Godless deep;
A warmth within the breast would melt
The freezing reason’s colder part,
And like a man in wrath the heart
Stood up and answer’d, “I have felt.”
He does not mean to shut out any one set of faculties; he simply means to assert on behalf of another set its rights in our search after and discovery of truth.1 [Note: R. E. Speer, The Master of the Heart, 35.]
The heart has reasons which the reason does not know. It is the heart that feels God, not the reason. There are truths that are felt, and there are truths that are proved, for we know truth not only by reason but by the intuitive conviction which may be called the heart. The primary truths are not demonstrable, and yet our knowledge of them is none the less certain. Principles are felt; propositions are proved. Truths may be above reason and yet not be contrary to reason.1 [Note: Pascal.]
2. It is essential to this heart-faith that we have genuine love to God. In the absence of goodwill towards God, there can never be this faith of the heart. You remember how Cecil taught his little daughter the meaning of gospel faith. She came to him, one day, with her hands full of little beads, greatly delighted, to show them. He said to her calmly, “You had better throw them all into the fire.” She was almost confounded; but when she saw that he was in earnest, she trustfully obeyed, and cast them in. After a few days, he brought home for her a casket of jewels. “There, my daughter,” said he; “you had faith in me the other day, and threw your beads into the fire; that was faith; now I can give you things much more precious. Are not these far better?” So you should always believe in God. He has jewels for those who will believe and cast away their sins.2 [Note: C. G. Finney.]
A Christian lawyer from Cripple Creek told me once, as we talked over the question of how a man might get his life righted, of an experience of his own years ago, when, in a great deal of perplexity, he had gone to his old pastor to ask him for help as to how he might get his life directed aright. He said the old man simply turned to the 32nd Psalm and read him these two verses: “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go; I will counsel thee with mine eye upon thee. Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose trappings must be bit and bridle to hold them in, else they will not come near unto thee.” Then, my friend said, the old man shut up his Bible and turned away. At first he felt no little resentment at his pastor for this curt way of replying to his inquiry; but when he went away and thought it over he saw that the whole secret of a right life lay just here, that the only way in which God could ever guide a man was not by some mechanical instruction, not by fitting a bit into a man’s mouth and pulling him this way and that with a rein, but by planting in his heart His own Spirit and letting that Spirit guide him.3 [Note: R. E. Speer.]
ii. The Centre of Belief is in Christ and His Resurrection
1. The argument of the preceding verses is that to confess Jesus as Lord implies a true faith in the incarnate, risen, ascended Christ. It is the proof of the faith that it manifests itself in confession. Now it is impossible to suppose for a moment that St. Paul is speaking of a merely intellectual assent to the doctrines of the Incarnation and Resurrection of our Lord. It might appear that he inserted the words “with the heart” to prevent such a misconception. But, on the other hand, we must beware of completely sundering “heart” and “head” beliefs, according to modern phraseology. St. Paul, on the contrary, unites them, for the “heart” must be understood to include the intellect, since it embraces the whole spiritual and moral being. It is the entirety of our nature that must be absorbed in a living, active, personal faith in Christ as our risen Lord and Saviour.
There can be no doubt that the belief in a historical Christ and a historical resurrection is the only basis on which a living certainty of life beyond the grave can be placed.1 [Note: John Stuart Blackie, Life, ii. 321.]
2. This belief was not an act of the intellect alone; it was scarcely even a conscious act of the individual. For we must keep in mind, in considering this message to the disciples of Christ at Rome, the vast difference between their age and the age in which we live. There was a feeling produced among the early believers in Christ by the common atmosphere which every member of the society breathed. The individual rarely detached himself from the community of which he was a part, weighed the evidences for himself, and formed his own creed. There was such a community of belief amongst them that the creed was in reality common to all, the only difference, perhaps, being that some felt it with greater intensity, than others, were more influenced by its power and warmth. But the belief was common. They had one mind, and one heart. The power of the Spirit of Christ and the belief that He rose from the dead possessed them.
The contrast between the religion of Jesus and that organized and enforced by Moses was not greater than the contrast between the people in St. Paul’s time and the people of to-day. These Christians felt the power of the Spirit of Christ, and as a consequence they believed in His resurrection. The whole position has been reversed, and the polemical reasoners of to-day first set about proving the fact of the resurrection in order that men may feel Christ’s power. They build up their arguments, and then say that men ought to be conscious of the influence of Christ.1 [Note: A. H. M. Sime.]
When I heard the learned astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.2 [Note: Walt Whitman.]
iii. Belief is productive of Righteousness
1. The conviction of the heart, which is inevitably confessed with the mouth, is no barren creed. It is a spiritual force within us making always for righteousness.
2. Two conditions of morality are secured to us by the Resurrection of our Lord: (1) Grace to enable effort. (2) Hope to inspire effort.
(1) Grace to enable effort.—“Howbeit,” writes the Apostle, in days, like our own, of religious controversy and confusion, “the firm foundation of God standeth, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his; and, Let every one that nameth the name of the Lord depart from unrighteousness.” Just because the Resurrection demonstrates the Lordship of Christ, and authenticates His claim to be the Bread from Heaven, by which we may live immortally, so is it inseparably connected with His summons to live righteously.
(2) Hope to inspire effort.—The victory of Christ is seen to carry consequences of the utmost importance. He is bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh; in the indivisible unity of the human race He becomes for us all the pledge of final triumph. In Him we are sharers of that conquering manhood which overcame the very principle of mortality. By Him we are made strong to overcome sin, and assured of immortal life. There is no longer any place for the dreary suspicion that for us, being what and where we are in the world, there is no power to resist evil, that in sad truth the quest of the higher life is not for us. St. Paul bids the weakest and worst of us build boldly on the foundation of Christ’s victory: “If then ye were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God.” There is no place now for that withering sickness of the spirit, aghast at the futility of all human effort, shadowed and menaced and mocked by the inevitable stroke of death. “The things which are not seen are eternal,” and our true life is “hid with Christ in God.” “o death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? The sting of death is sin; and the power of sin is the law: but thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not vain in the Lord.”
The believing heart is ever essential to the living of a consistent and real life. There never was yet in the world an absolutely consistent infidel. Life would break down for the man who did not live practically on faith, however much theoretically he may cast it out of his life. You remember the verses which have been wrongly attributed to Charles Kingsley:
There is no unbelief!
Whoever plants a seed beneath the sod,
And waits to see it push away the clod,
He trusts in God.
Whoever says, when clouds are in the sky,
Be patient, heart, light breaketh by and by,
Trusts the Most High.
Whoever lies down on his couch to sleep,
Content to lock each sense in slumber deep,
Knows God will keep.
Whoever says “to-morrow,” “the unknown,”
“The future”—trusts unto that Power alone
He dares disown.
The heart that looks on when the eyelids close,
And dares to live when life has only woes,
God’s comfort knows.
There is no unbelief;
And still by day and night, unconsciously,
The heart lives by the faith the lips decry,
God knoweth why.
“With the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
The beginning of the Christian life has two sides: internally it is the change of heart which faith implies; this leads to righteousness, the position of acceptance before God; externally it implies the “confession of Christ crucified” which is made in baptism, and this puts a man into the path by which in the end he attains salvation; he becomes one who is “being saved.”1 [Note: Sanday and Headlam.]
At times, the elders of the Hurons, the repositories of their ancient traditions, were induced to assemble at the house of the Jesuits, who explained to them the principal points of their doctrine, and invited them to a discussion. The auditors proved pliant to a fault, responding, “Good,” or “That is true,” to every proposition; but when urged to adopt the faith which so readily met their approval, they had always the same reply: “It is good for the French; but we are another people, with different customs.”2 [Note: Francis Parkman, The Jesuits in North America, i. 150.]
i. A Baptismal Confession
1. There seems to be no doubt that St. Paul has in mind some form of Baptismal Confession of Faith. Such a confession marks the external side of the beginning of the Christian life. The first formal creeds we meet with are Baptismal Confessions. The story of the Ethiopian baptized by Philip is an instance. Philip told him about Christ, and the Ethiopian, impressed by what he heard, asked to be baptized. “Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
2. No idea existed at first of an exclusive creed; indeed, there was no one universal, unvarying form of creed. Each Church, while teaching the same truths as the others, had its own form of expressing them. The candidate for baptism who had been taught the Christian history and doctrine in a class with others, freely and discursively, had no suspicion of the creed with which at length he was entrusted, which he had to commit to memory, but which was never written down. He had no disposition to doubt, nor the Church to be inquisitorial. Men became Christian because they were eager to believe the Gospel message; anxious to know more of it; and to know it soon, before they died a martyr’s death.
The creed in early days was called the Symbolum or symbol. Various meanings have been given to this name. But whether we regard it as meaning a military sign, tessera militaris, or whether it was adopted from the Greek mysteries, which committed a sign to the keeping of the initiated, it was a sign which the Christian carried about with him. By it he gained admission, wherever he might be, to the Christian Church, and by it he claimed the brotherly service of those who shared in the same faith. Their creed was their symbol, their secret, their pride.1 [Note: W. Page-Roberts.]
Think not the Faith by which the just shall live
Is a dead creed, a map correct of heaven;
Far less a feeling, fond and fugitive,
A thoughtless gift, withdrawn as soon as given;—
It is an Affirmation and an Act
That bids eternal youth be present fact.2 [Note: Hartley Coleridge.]
ii. Unto Salvation
“Confession is made unto salvation.”
In what sense is it true that confession is thus closely connected with salvation? Two replies may be given to this question.
1. First of all, confession of faith is necessary to the salvation of others. It has pleased God to make the saving of men dependent on the work and activity of those who are already saved, and there is no single part of that work more important or more fruitful in results than the open confession “with the mouth” of the authority and love of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is sometimes said that it is harder to live for Christ than to speak about Him, but the statement is far from being universally true. There may be some who find little or no difficulty in speaking for Jesus to those who know Him not, but the greater number of Christian people know only too well how difficult a task it is to say anything to others of what is deepest and most sacred in their own hearts; and the difficulty grows greater and not less when they have to speak to those nearest and dearest to them. Many of us who would find little or no difficulty in speaking for Christ to a stranger are stricken dumb within our own homes.
It is told in the Memoirs of Dr. Chalmers that he spent an evening at Edgarstoun in the house of Mr. Rutherford. “His amiable wife was by the library fire with her sister-in-law, and Mr. Brown, a remarkably large stout man of seventy-two. He had been a parishioner in Cavers when Dr. Chalmers was assistant there, and the greetings and cordial inquiries between them were quite animated. We fell into devout discourse presently, and conversed till late.” At length the company retired to rest, but in the early morning they were roused by a cry. Mr. Brown had suddenly been stricken down by death, and in a moment had been called from time into eternity. Chalmers suffered an agony of self-reproach that he had not spoken to him urgently of Christ. “It was touching to see him sit down on a bank repeatedly with tears in his eyes, and say, ‘Ah! God has rebuked me; I know now what St. Paul means by being instant in season and out of season. Had I addressed that old man last night with urgency it might have seemed out of season to human eyes, but how seasonable it would have been.’ ”1 [Note: Memoirs of Dr. Chalmers, ii. 365.]
2. But the confession is also necessary to our own salvation. It is true we are saved by faith alone, but it is also true we are not saved, and cannot be saved, by faith that is alone. A faith kept to itself, confined within the soul, denied all expression, will soon cease to live. All deep emotion requires some kind of outward manifestation, or the emotion itself will die away. John Stuart Mill said that his father “starved his feelings by denying them expression”; and what is true of human feeling is even truer of those more sacred feelings the heart has for Christ. To believe in Jesus and never to speak to any single soul about Him, to lock up the secrets of faith in our own heart, is not only to imperil the salvation of others, it is to endanger our own. Faithfulness and faith are always closely connected; we cannot retain the one if we refuse the other. “Confession is made unto salvation.”
It is true that the life is the greatest and most impressive witness for Christ, and that without the witness of the life all that the lips may utter for Him is worse than worthless; but this is not all the truth. Christ asks of us all more than the silent and daily witness of a holy life, He asks the testimony of our lips as well. He Himself lived a life that was the sublimest witness for God the world has ever beheld; but He was not content with living for God, He spoke for God as well. He was the Word as well as the Life, and He asks us here, as everywhere else, to follow Him. We are to be “living epistles”—letters which speak—“known and read of all men.”
One of the most serious dangers to the spiritual life is in its silence concerning itself. If there is peril in empty and light speech about sacred things, if there is little or no value in the glibness of a shallow heart that can chatter out all its most sacred experiences as if they were articles in the inventory of an auctioneer, there is even more peril in our never speaking at all of Him who has saved us. Much of the feebleness and depression of the spiritual life of to-day is owing to the fact that so many professed believers in Christ have forgotten that “with the mouth confession is made unto salvation”—their own as well as that of others.1 [Note: G. S. Barrett.]
The Heart and the Mouth
Barrett (G. S.), Musings for Quiet Hours, 49.
Blake (R. E.), Good News from Heaven, 27.
Edger (S.), Sermons Preached at Auckland, New Zealand, ii. 153.
Finney (C. G.), The Way of Salvation, 313.
Gore (C.), The Epistle to the Romans, ii. 51.
Harper (F.), A Year with Christ, 109.
Magee (W. C.), Sermons, 1.
Moody (D. L.), New Sermons, Addresses, and Prayers, 318.
Murray (W. H.), The Fruits of the Spirit, 419.
Newbolt (W. C. E.), Counsels of Faith and Practice, 69.
Newbolt (W. C. E.), The Gospel Message, 104.
Page-Roberts (W.), Liberalism in Religion, 75.
Page-Roberts (W.), Conformity and Conscience, 181.
Skrine (J. H.), Sermons to Pastors and Masters, 35.
Spurgeon (C. H.), Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, ix. (1863), No. 520.
Vaughan (J.), Sermons (Brighton Pulpit), xx. No. 1175.
Christian World Pulpit, lxvii. 273 (Henson); lxix. 356 (Sime).