Romans 8
Biblical Illustrator
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
1. Few words are oftener on our lips than the word law. But we are in danger of using the word as though laws were impersonal forces, independently of a controlling mind.

2. But a law is not a force. It is only the invariable manner in which forces work. Better still, it is the unvarying method in which God is ever carrying out His infinite plans. How wise and good it is that God generally works in this way, so that we are able to calculate with unvarying certainty on natural processes.

3. And when He wills some definite end He does not abrogate the laws that stand in His way, but cancels their action by laws from higher spheres which counterwork them, e.g., The flight of birds is due to very different causes from a balloon's. Balloons float because they are lighter, but birds are heavier. The law of the elasticity of the air sets the bird free from the law of gravitation that would drag it to the ground. In the autumn fields the children, in gathering mushrooms, unwittingly eat some poisonous fungus which threatens them with death. Some antidote is given, which, acting as "the law of life," counterworks the poison, and sets the children "free from the law of death," which had already commenced to work in their members. So the law of the spirit of life in spring sets the flowers free frown the law of death of winter. And "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus," set Lazarus "free from the law of sin and death" which imprisoned him in the tomb. And, similarly, the law of life communicated through the Holy Spirit will set us "free from the law of sin and death" which reigns in our hearts.


1. This evil tendency is derived from our connection with the human family. Races and children alike are affected by the sins and virtues of their ancestors. In every man there is a bias towards evil, just as in the young tiger there is predisposition to feed on flesh, and in the duckling to swim.

2. That tendency survives conversion. "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh." Its strivings may be suppressed; but it is still there, only waiting till His repressive influences are withdrawn to spring up in all its pristine vigour. Conversion is the insertion of a new principle of life, side by side with the old principle of death. Consecration is simply the act by which we put the culture of our spirit into the blessed hands of Jesus. There is nothing, therefore, in either of these acts to necessitate the crushing out of any principle of the old nature.

II. GOD DOES NOT MEAN US TO BE ENSLAVED BY SIN. What a contrast between Romans 7:23, 24, and the joyous outburst of this text! The one is the sigh of a captive, this the song of a freed bond slave.

1. Captivity: you have its symbol in the imprisoned lion, or royal eagle; you have it in the disease which holds the sufferer down in rheumatism or paralysis. But there are forms of spiritual captivity equally masterful. Selfishness, jealousy, envy, and ill will, sensual indulgence, the love of money.

2. But it is not God's will that we should spend our days thus. We were born to be free; not, however, to do as we choose, but to obey the laws of our true being. When we free an eagle we never suppose that he will be able to dive for fish as a gull, or to feed on fruits as a hummingbird. But henceforth it will be able to obey the laws of its own glorious nature.

III. WE BECOME FREE BY THE OPERATION OF "THE LAW OF THE SPIRIT OF LIFE." "The law of sin and death" is cancelled by "the law of the Spirit of life." Life is stronger than death; holiness than sin; the Spirit than man. The mode of the Holy Spirit's work is thus —

1. He reveals to us that in the intention of God we are free. So long as you consider captivity your normal state and expect nothing better there is little hope of deliverance.

2. He makes us very sensitive to the presence of sin.

3. He works mightily against the power of evil.

4. He enables us to reckon ourselves "dead indeed unto sin" (chap. Romans 6:11). This is the God-given way of overcoming the suggestions of sin. When sin approaches us we have to answer: "He whom thou seekest is dead, he cannot heed or respond."Conclusion:

1. "Walk in the Spirit"; "live in the Spirit"; yield to the Spirit. Do not be content to have merely His presence, without which you could not be a Christian, but seek His fulness. Let Him have His way with you. And in proportion as the law of the Spirit becomes stronger, that of the flesh will grow weaker, until "as you have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity," you will now yield them to righteousness unto holiness.

2. And as you find the Spirit of life working within you you may be sure that you are in Jesus Christ, for He only is the element in whom the blessed Spirit can put forth His energy. He is "the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus."

(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)


1. The word "law" taken properly is the edict of a person in authority, wherein he orders something to be done, backing his or their commands with promises of rewards, as also their prohibitions with threatenings of punishment. In this sense there is a law of sin. For —(1) A law is a commanding thing: it lays its imperative injunctions upon men and expects their obedience (Romans 7:1). Now, in this respect sin is a law; therefore you read of the reigning of sin, of obeying sin, of the dominion of sin (Romans 6:12, 14). The subject is not more under the law of his Sovereign, nor the servant of his master, than the sinner is under the laws of sin. As there is this domination on sin's part so there is subjection on the sinner's part; no sooner doth it command, but it is presently obeyed (Matthew 8:9). And where it commands and is obeyed there it condemns, which distinguishes it from all other laws. It rules of itself properly, but it condemns as it lays the foundation of condemnation by another — the law of God. And this speaks the inexpressible misery of the unregenerate.(2) A law is backed with rewards and punishments for the furtherance of men's obedience. Answerably now to this, sin will be pretending to rewards and punishments, which, though in themselves they are but sorry things, yet they have a great power. For instance, sinner, saith sin, do but obey me, and pleasure, honour, profit, shall be thine. But if these enticing arguments will not do, sin then threatens derision, poverty, persecution, and what not. But note — That sin considered as simply commanding is not a law, but it then becomes formally and completely a law when the sinner obeys; so then he owns the power of it. The laws of usurpers, merely as imposed by them, are no laws, because not made by persons in lawful authority; but if a people freely own these usurpers and willingly put themselves under subjection to them, then, to them their laws become valid and obligatory.

2. The word "law" is taken improperly for anything that hath an impelling virtue in it. It hath the force of a law, and doth that which a true law uses to do. And, therefore, when sin is the principle which efficaciously excites a person to those things which are suitable to its own nature, there sin may be called a law.


1. Sin exerts its powers in its vehement urging to what is evil. Sin in the habit is altogether for sin in the act; indwelling sin is wholly for dwelling in sin. Though there was no devil to tempt the graceless sinner, yet that law of sin which is in himself would be enough to make him sin. Corrupt nature is continually soliciting and exciting the unsanctified man to what is evil; it will not let him alone day or night unless he gratify it. What an instance was Ahab of this. Sin put him upon the coveting of Naboth's vineyard, and this it did with such violence that he would eat no bread because he could not have his will (1 Kings 21:5; see Proverbs 4:16).

2. This law of sin shows itself in its opposing and hindering of what is good. It is a law which always runs counter to God's law. Doth that call for such and such duties? Are there some convictions upon the sinner's conscience about them? Doth he begin a little to incline to what is good? How doth sin now bestir itself to make head in the soul against these convictions and good inclinations!

III. ITS MISERABLE BONDAGE. Such being under the law of sin, it follows that they are under bondage the very worst imaginable. We pity those who live under tyrants. But, alas! what is that if compared with this. The state of nature is quite another thing than what men imagine it to be; they think there is nothing but freedom in it, but God knows it is quite otherwise (2 Peter 2:19). To better convince you of the evil and misery of this bondage, and excite to the most vigorous endeavours to get out of it, note —

1. That bondage to sin is always accompanied with bondage of Satan. The devil's reign depends upon the reign of sin; he rules in the children of disobedience, and takes men captives at his will. Shall a damned creature be thy sovereign — he who will be thy tormentor hereafter?

2. What sin is.(1) Look upon sin in itself. It is the vilest thing that is: the only thing which God never made. It is the only thing that God cannot do.(2) Look upon sin in the management of its power. Usurpers often make good laws; and indeed they had need use their power well who get it ill. The philosopher tells us that the intention of the legislator is to make his subjects good; but sin's intention is only to make its subjects bad. Then, this sin is not only out of measure sinful in the exercise of its power, but it is also out of measure tyrannical. All the Neros, Caligulas, Domitians, etc., that ever lived were nothing to it. This first acted the part of a tyrant in them before they acted the part of tyrants over others. The tyranny of sin appears in many things. Its commands are —


(b)Contrary. Lust clashes with lust (Titus 3:3).

(c)Rigorous. It must have full obedience or none at all (Ephesians 2:3).

(d)Never at an end.

(e)So imperious and cruel that its vassals must stick at nothing.

3. That it is a soul bondage. The bondage of Israel in Egypt was very evil, yet not comparable to this, because that was but corporal and external, but this is spiritual and internal. There may be a servile condition without and yet a free and generous soul within; but if the soul itself be under servitude then the whole man is in servitude.

4. That of all bondage this is the most unprofitable. As to ether bondage the master may be cruel enough, but then he makes some amends by giving good wages; but the sinner serves that master which pays him no wages at all — death excepted (Romans 6:21).

5. That the worst of this bondage is that they who lie under it are altogether insensible of it. Where it is external and civil bondage men groan under it, would fain be rid of it (Exodus 2:23). But the poor deluded sinner, like some distracted persons, plays with his chains.

6. That it is the most hurtful and most dangerous bondage: for it makes way for and most certainly ends in eternal death. Death puts an end to other bondage (Job 3:18, 19); but the worst of spiritual bondage follows after death. You have in the text the law of sin and the law of death coupled together (see also Romans 6:16, 21, 23).

(T. Jacomb, D. D.)

1. Men of the world think that the gospel has to do only, or chiefly, with death, and that its atmosphere is generally repressive. But the fact is the reverse. The gospel gives life for death, joy for sorrow; a conquering power of soul to meet the disability of the flesh; an abounding sphere beyond this world.

2. Every life force is mysterious. We cannot explain the forces of nature. Nor can we explain the mystery of this unique transformation, but we may study its effects and ask ourselves if they are realised in us. Contemplate the change wrought —

I. IN HUMAN ACTIVITIES. I will not select one whose life has been abandoned, but who is no stranger to religion, and who has led an outwardly correct life under the guidance of self-respect, and with regard to the good opinion of others. When renewed by the Spirit of God and freed from the law of sin and death he comes under the control of new influences. The love of Christ constrains, not prudence or sagacity. The charm of the Scriptures and of the sanctuary is something never known before. Resistance to sin is not, as before, a feeble, prudential avoidance, but a vehement hate. Love for holiness is ardent, and Christian work not a burden, but a joy.

II. ON ONE'S MENTAL CONVICTIONS. I would not refer to the scoffer, but rather to one who regards himself orthodox. He accepts Christianity as the most rational interpretation of nature. He accepts also the historic Christ, and redemption as well. But when such a person is born again, and sees God as his own Father, and the Saviour as his own Redeemer; when he sees the atonement, not as a philosophic scheme, but as a transcendent fact, involving greater resources than those of creation, a patience and love that shrunk not from the Cross, then a flood of light bursts on epistle, gospel and apocalypse, and a glory in the future rises on his view which is unspeakable. This intellectual elevation comes not from a study of the catechism, from a course of eloquent sermons, or from mere reflection upon the Word of inspiration, but as the result of that transforming power called "the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus."

III. ON THE TEMPER OF HIS HEART. The ordinary attitude of a thoughtful mind toward the realities of religion is one of wonder and admiration. Yet all this sentimentality is inert and inoperative. There is no personal affection for the Saviour. Sometimes the character of an acquaintance is dim and commonplace, until some critical exigency arises which gives beauty and worth to that character. Then a personal and passionate attachment is roused. So with the waking of the new life in the soul, Christ appears in new and alluring loveliness. He seems no more afar off, but near at hand, in closest fellowship day by day. With such a Saviour, daily duties are delights however humble. The temper of heart is changed toward Christ's followers as well. The Christian loves his brethren for the Master's sake. His love is not founded on social or intellectual considerations, but grows out of spiritual unity and kinship, because of likeness to Christ. This change of temper and taste is the result of the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus alone.

IV. IN THE EXPECTATIONS OF THE FUTURE. All men, pagan as well as Christian, look forward to a future existence. Unconverted men hope to be Christians before they die, but their ideas of the future are dim. With the believer death is seen to be but a transitional step, the mere portal to the shrine. While the world's law is death in life, the gospel's law is life in death. So the gospel fronts the world. Which is the better? Conclusion: Learn —

1. That it is in this gospel that life asserts its freedom. All departments of thought and effort, religious and secular, are alike ennobled and quickened.

2. This is a life which tends to consummation and perfection. The snow-bound field lies bare beneath the fetters of frost. It seems dead and barren, but with the melting warmth of spring there comes a verdure in place of ice and snow. All things are changed. So when this spiritual life force is allowed to exert its renewing and transforming energy on the soul of man, life is perfected and crowned.

(R. S. Storrs, D. D.)

The "therefore now" does not introduce an inference from the immediately preceding argument — which could not warrant it — but one grounded on the previously affirmed effectiveness of the gospel to accomplish that for believers which the law never could. The justifying ground of this discharge from condemnation was set forth in Romans 3:21-26. The principle upon which it proceeds was illustrated in Romans 5:12-21. The persons to whom it is extended, and the new life of which they become the participators was specified in Romans 6:1-11. The reason for the impotence of the law was stated in Romans 6:14, and this impotence had supplied the theme for illustration in Romans 7:6-25, and the power of the gospel which had been distinctly stated in ver. 6, with an eye to which the apostle had penned (ver. 25). Note —

I. THE LAW OF SIN AND DEATH FROM THE POWER OF WHICH BELIEVERS OBTAIN DELIVERANCE IN CHRIST. It will be observed that the apostle does not speak of two laws, but of the one. Not that the two things are one, but that the one "law" pervades them both, and binds them together (Romans 5:12-21; Ezekiel 18:4; James 1:15; Ephesians 2:1-5; Ephesians 4:17-19). This one law renders it impossible that the sinner can of himself regain the possession of innocence and peace, and evermore impels him onwards and downwards in the fearful descending circle of transgression and punishment. Man in the very act of sinning dies; or, being already dead, plunges into a still deeper death (Hebrews 9:14).


1. In Christ the double necessity of man's case has been provided for; the two-fold difficulty has been solved; the one by the death of the Son of God, the other by His life (Romans 4:25, cf. 5:18, 21).

2. The actual liberation is conferred on men only as they become united to Christ. It is indeed true that there has come a dispensation of grace and renewed probation to all men; but the actual discharge from condemnation, and the liberty from the "law of sin and death," do not come to any but to those who are found in Christ by faith (cf. Ephesians 1).


1. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ": He was condemned on their account, and they were condemned in Him. He died for their sins, and they died in Him (Romans 6:7, 8).

2. The liberation from sin is secured to believers in the active life; "for the law of the Spirit of life," etc.(1) The law of sin is a law of death; and the "law of the Spirit" is a law of life. Sin deals death, and thereby perpetuates both itself and its punishment; but "the Spirit" inspires life, and thereby liberates both from sin and death, and insures everlasting victory and blessedness.(2) But how does the law of this new life in Christ exert within us its liberating power? Does it seize upon us from without, as the Spirit of inspiration seized upon the prophets? Or does it come upon us as a new constituent element of being? Or is it not the law of a new life which is infused into our spirit by the Spirit of God?(3) The new law acts upon the conscience through the medium of the light and truth of the gospel (John 17:3; 2 Corinthians 4:6; 1 Peter 1:23). This living and abiding Word supplies —(a) That precious knowledge of the redemption in Christ which provides peace for the guilty conscience.(b) That knowledge of the royal and perfect law of liberty which is a sure and sufficient guide for conscience in the practical life.(c) That knowledge of God, as a God of love, as our God and Father in Christ, which imparts joyous courage and prevailing power to conscience. Conclusion:

1. Secure this glorious liberty.(1) Ponder well the terrible power of this law, and the dreadful consequences of remaining beneath its dominion.(2) There is now in Christ a perfect liberty from this law available for all who will accept it. Lay hold, by faith, of the hope now set before you in the gospel of Christ.

2. Having secured this inestimable liberty see that you hold it fast.

(W. Tyson.)

I. THE LAW OF THE SPIRIT signifies the power of the Holy Spirit, by which He unites the soul to Christ, in whose righteousness it therefore partakes, and is consequently justified. This law is the gospel, whereof the Holy Ghost is the Author, being the authoritative rule and the instrument by which He acts in the plan of salvation. It is the medium through which He promulgates the Divine testimony; by which also He convinces of sin and testifies of the almighty Saviour. The gospel may be properly denominated a law, because it bears the stamp of Divine authority, to which we are bound to "submit" (Romans 10:3). It requires the obedience of faith (Romans 1:5; Romans 16:26); and when men refuse this submission, it is said that they have not "obeyed the gospel" (Romans 10:16). Although, therefore, the gospel is proclaimed as a grace, it is a grace accompanied with authority, which God commands to be received. Accordingly, it is expressly called a "law" (Isaiah 2:3; Micah 4:2); and in Psalm 110:2, referring to the power exerted by its means, it is said, "The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion. Rule thou in the midst of thine enemies" — namely, by thine almighty power. The gospel, then, is the law of the Spirit by which He rules, and the rod of His strength, by which He effects our salvation, just as, in Romans 1:16, it is denominated "the power of God unto salvation." The gospel is itself called "the Spirit," as being administered by the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:8).

II. THE GOSPEL IS THE LAW OF THE SPIRIT OF LIFE, the ministration of which "giveth life," in opposition to the "letter" or old covenant that killeth (2 Corinthians 3:6; cf. John 6:63; Ezekiel 37:14; 1 Corinthians 15:45). Christ is the life itself, and the source of life to all creatures. But here the life is that which we receive through the gospel, as the law or power of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, which the apostle calls "the life of God" (Ephesians 4:18).

III. THE LAW OF THE SPIRIT OF LIFE IN CHRIST JESUS. Jesus Christ is set before us in two aspects. As God, the Spirit of life resides essentially in Him; but as Mediator, the Spirit of life has been given to Him to be communicated to all who are one with Him. On this account the Spirit was not given in His fulness (John 7:39) till Jesus Christ as Mediator had entered into heaven, when the Father, solemnly receiving His satisfaction, gave this testimony of His acceptance, in pouring out the abundance of the Spirit on His people (John 16:7; Ephesians 1:3). That the Spirit of life is in Jesus Christ, not only as God, but also as Mediator, is a ground of unspeakable consolation. It might be in Him as God, without being communicated to men; but as the Head of His people, it must be diffused through them as His members, who are thus complete in Him. Dost thou feel in thyself the sentence of death? Listen, then "This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life; and this life is in His Son." "I am come that they might have life." "Because I live ye shall live also." This life, then, is in Jesus Christ, and is communicated to believers by the Holy Spirit, by whom they are united to Christ, and from whom it is derived to all who through the law of the Spirit of life are in Him.

(R. Haldane.)

The "law" in the text, whether that of "the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus," or that "of sin and death," is a constraining influence — a moral force, an active power — an agency that acts mightily on the soul. And it is plain from the statements made regarding them, that these laws respectively are paramount at the time; they govern the whole being, either one or the other sits upon the inner throne of a man and governs him. It is a matter of life and death — of happiness or of misery, of freedom or of slavery, of everlasting weal or eternal woe.

I. THE INQUIRY RELATES TO THE LAW OF SIN AND DEATH. This must be an influence or force which is evil, which is the parent of sin, driving us along in the path of transgression, and which is not only of the nature of spiritual death, but which also issues in eternal death.

1. In order that we may ascertain its nature, let some thought be given to the process by which it is first established in the human soul.

2. As a mighty force this law is seen in those ruling passions of mankind which discard the authority of God. What is supreme love of money but self-gratification at the expense of one's allegiance to the Most High.

3. We further discover the might of this law of sin and death in the sins of man against his fellow man. When one overreaches another in trade, does he not gratify his desire for gain at the expense of another?


1. It is often subtle in its actings.

2. It is a law of death as well as of sin.

3. It is slavery. This law of sin and death befools and degrades, and it is an unmitigated despotism. Woe to the soul under its unrestrained power!

4. It has had control universally.


1. It is a Divine implantation. "The Spirit of life" is undoubtedly "the Holy Spirit," who is the Author of spiritual life in the soul. "When He cometh, He shall convince the world of sin." Until He speaks inwardly, the mind seems unaware of the presence and power of the law of sin and death. It is also His gracious office to attract the soul to a vital union with Christ. Under the blessed light which He kindles around and within the heart, the redemption of Christ appears in its true aspect as most full, glorious, and adapted to save.

2. As the other is a law of Sin and death, this is one of obedience and life. Self-love now seeks its gratification in pleasing God and doing His will.

3. Observe throughout that it is in Christ Jesus. To those who receive Him, He gives the privilege to become the sons of God. The Cross of Christ slays the enmity of the heart.

IV. THIS LAW SETS FREE FROM THE OTHER. If it be established as the governing principle the other cannot be. They are in their own nature opposites. Self-love is gratified in the one case, in opposition to the claims of God and the well-being of others; in the other, by obedience and devotion to the supreme law of our being, love to God and man. Conclusion:

1. The adaptation of the religion of Christ to man.

2. We discover where true freedom and true happiness are found.

3. What we all need, and what the world needs, is to be delivered from the law of sin and death by the working in us of this ennobling force. What a glorious object of pursuit! How well worth all self-sacrifice!

(H. Wilkes, D. D.)


1. By nature we are all (chaps. 6, 7) in spiritual bondage. We are "sold under sin," and so necessarily are under death (Romans 5:12). The law of sin and the law of death are one and the same principle disclosing itself in different manifestations and degrees. Poisonous fruit is sap worked up, legitimately developed.

2. This evil principle drives man from God.(1) As it is darkness (1 John 1:5-7; 1 John 2:9), it drives him from the fountain of soul light.(2) As it is death, from the fountain of life (Acts 17:28).

3. From this evil principle believers are made free. Not from death, though its sting is taken away; nor even from sin perfectly. But over against death faith sees the resurrection placed, and over against sin the unblemished perfection of the redeemed.


1. The term "law" may mean —(1) A certain code like the Decalogue and the laws of nations.(2) A principle operating with all the regularity and fixedness of statute — in which sense laws of thought, gravitation, refraction, are laws.

2. The latter is the signification here.(1) The "law of the Spirit" this new victorious law is called. It is contrary to whatever is of the flesh. In its origin, nature, mode of working, it is Divine. From God it comes. For God it moves. To God it leads.(2) It is the law of the Spirit of life. As the same Spirit is named the Spirit of wisdom, counsel, etc. (Isaiah 11:2), of holiness (Romans 1:4), of truth (John 14:17; John 15:26), because He makes wise, holy, leads into all truth, so He is here named the Spirit of life, as He leads into life, and works life. Of all soul life He is the Author, Promoter, Regulator, Perfecter (John 6:63; 1 Peter 3:18). This law of the Spirit of life as the stronger man casts out the strong (Luke 11:22). Water poured into a vessel expels the air.

III. THE SPHERE WITHIN WHICH THIS AGENCY IS SO EFFICIENTLY OPERATIVE. Like laws of nature, it works within certain limits. Iron, not glass, will conduct electricity. Dews, droughts, hurricanes are conditioned by varied zones of atmospheric circumstances; so outside the region of "being in Christ Jesus" the law of the Spirit of life does not effect its hallowing results upon our souls. Within that radius, however, its might is sovereign. It frees believers. Conclusion: Note —

1. The urgent importance of ascertaining which of these laws is supreme in our soul. If not conscious of resistance to the law of sin, we are under its sway. We may even be troubled about the commission of certain sins, and give heed to certain duties, and yet be in utter servitude to it (Ezekiel 33:31).

2. The great need of asking the promised Spirit (Matthew 7:11: Luke 10:13). Regeneration, sanctification only obtainable through His power.

3. The duty of consciously living in this freedom, not confusing liberty with license (Luke 1:74, 75). Carefulness against presumption and despondency alike is indispensable (Ephesians 6:11-13).

4. The strong consolation of knowing that ultimate perfection can be calculated upon with all the certainty of a result of "law." Given the reign of the law of the Spirit of life in a soul, then amid and in spite of all conflicts the beauty of the renewed life will be patent and increase (Psalm 138:8; Hebrews 12:23; Hebrews 13:21).

(J. Gage, B. D.)

Note —

1. The Spirit frees from the law of sin. In reference to this you may consider Him either essentially as He is God, or personally. As it is the Son's proper act to free from the guilt, so it is the Spirit's proper act to free from the power of sin, it belonging to the Son to do all without and to the Spirit to do all within. That which God once said in reference to the building of the temple — "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit" — is applicable here.

2. This is done by the Spirit of life. This refers either to the Spirit as He is a living Spirit, or refers to the time when the Spirit quickens and thus regenerates, or to the method of regeneration itself. The Spirit who renews, when He renews, by renewing, brings sin under.

3. It is the law of the Spirit by which this is done. Here is law against law, the power and efficacy of the Spirit against the power and efficacy of sin (Ephesians 3:20). The law of sin has a moral and a physical power; and so with the Spirit. He hath His moral power, as He doth persuade, command, etc.; and He hath His physical power, as He doth strongly, efficaciously incline and impel the sinner to such and such gracious acts; yea, as He doth effectually change his heart, make him a new creature, dispossess sin of its regency, and bring him under the government of Christ. And herein the law of the Spirit is above the law of sin. Set corrupt nature never so high, yet it is but a finite thing, and so hath but a finite power; but the Spirit is an infinite being, and puts forth an infinite power. For the better opening of the truth in hand, note —


1. The necessity of the power of the Spirit. Omnipotency itself is requisite thereunto; that is the strong man which keeps the palace till Christ, through the Spirit (which is stronger than it), comes upon it and overcomes it. The power of nature can never conquer the power of sin, for nature's greatest strength is on sin's side. That the power of the Spirit is thus necessary if you consider that —

(1)Sin is in possession.

(2)It hath been so a long time.

(3)Its dominion is entire; it hath all on its side.When there is a party within a kingdom ready to fall in with the foreign force that comes to depose the tyrant, he may with more facility be vanquished; but if all the people unanimously stick to him, then the conquest is the more difficult. Christ said, "The prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in Me"; so the poor sinner may say, "The sin-subduing Spirit comes, but He finds nothing in me to close with Him."(4) The natural man likes the power of sin.

(5)Sin is very resolute for and in the maintaining of what it hath; it will fight it out to the last, and die rather than yield.

(6)Satan sets in with it, and upon all occasions gives it all the help he can, as allies do.

2. Its sufficiency. As Christ is able to save to the utmost from sin's guilt, so the Spirit also is able to save to the utmost from sin's power. God once said to Paul, "My grace is sufficient for thee" (2 Corinthians 12:9). Now, as that grace is sufficient to bear up under the heaviest afflictions, so this grace is sufficient to bring down the strongest corruptions. Who is sufficient for these things? Why He, and none but He, who hath infinite power.

3. Its efficacy.(1) He doth not only in a moral way advise, counsel, persuade the sinner to cast off sin's bondage, but puts forth an insuperable strength upon him, and so goes through with the work.(2) When He comes about this or any other saving act, He doth not leave the sinner's will in suspense, but, in a way congruous to its liberty, He overcomes and determines it for God against sin, so as that it shall neither hesitate nor make any resistance to His grace.


1. He effectually works upon the understanding, that being the leading faculty.(1) Whereas He finds it under darkness, He acts as a Spirit of illumination, filling the soul with saving knowledge. It required Omnipotency to say, "Let there be light"; no less a power is requisite to the saving enlightening of the sinner (Ephesians 5:8). But this being done, sin is broken in its power by it; for ignorance is one of its royal forts.(2) Whereas it lies under sad mistakes, therefore the Spirit doth rectify it and makes it to judge aright.(3) Whereas it is full of high and proud thoughts, of strange imaginations and reasonings, He casts them down (2 Corinthians 10:5).

2. He then proceeds to the will.(1) Of all the faculties, sin contends most for the will, which, when it hath once gained, it will not easily part with. And so, too, the Spirit contends most for the will. He puts forth the greatest efficacy of His grace for the setting of that right and straight for God, that it may choose and cleave to His holy commands in opposition to the laws and commands of sin.(2) Yet though He acts thus efficaciously, He doth not at all violate its liberty, but exerts all this power in such a way as agrees with that liberty (Psalm 110:3; Song of Solomon 1:4). He removes that averseness, obstinateness, reluctancy, that is in it against what is holy and spiritual.

3. In acting on the affections, He disengages them from sin, and sets them directly against it, and so freeing the sinner from the love of sin.Application:

1. Let such who desire this mercy betake themselves to the Spirit for it.(1) See that you pray in faith, believing in the sufficiency of His power.(2) Let all other means be joined with prayer. They are but means, and therefore not to be relied upon; yet they are means, and therefore not to be neglected.

2. Let such who are made free from this law of sin own the Spirit of life as the author of their freedom, and ascribe the glory of it to Him.

3. Greatly to love and honour the Spirit.

4. As you have found the law of the Spirit in your first conversion, so you should live under the law of the Spirit in your whole conversation.

5. Set law against law — the law of the Spirit against the law of sin.

(T. Jacomb, D. D.)


1. By the "Spirit of life" we are here to understand the Holy Ghost. Men are spiritually dead; the animal and intellectual life remains; but the spiritual life — the life which connects man with, and qualifies him for the enjoyment of God — was extinguished by the fall, and can only be restored by the "Spirit of life." And hence we are said to be "born again" of the Spirit. And as it is His office to restore spiritual life, so He maintains it. All "good" comes from Him and depends on Him.

2. He is called "the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus." Because —(1) We are indebted to Christ for the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is owing to Christ's meritorious sacrifice that we are enabled and entitled to receive the Spirit.(2) It is the office of Christ to dispense the Spirit. From His "fulness" it is that we are to "receive grace upon grace."

II. THE LAW OF THE SPIRIT OF LIFE IN CHRIST JESUS. By this we are to understand the gospel, applied by the Spirit's power to the hearts of men. The gospel is often called a law — "The perfect law of liberty"; "The isles shall wait for His law"; "The law of Messiah shall go forth from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth." What law ever went forth from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth but the gospel?

1. A law is an enactment or command issuing from supreme authority, fully published and made known, and enforced by sanctions of reward to the obedient, or of punishment against the disobedient. This constitutes, when it is published or made known, the rule of action, the standard of character, and the ground of decision and judgment; this is law in general. The gospel answers to this general definition in every particular.(1) It is an enactment or command. It comes with authority. It is not a statement of historical facts, an exhibition of truth, a collection of promises only; it comes to us with authority, that the facts should be credited, the truths received, the blessings included in the promises sought by us; so it may be said of us that we are God's witnesses that the gospel is a "law." Where there is no knowledge of the gospel there can be no obligation to receive it; but the moment the gospel comes to a man, from that time it becomes binding upon his conscience, and it is at his peril if he neglect or disobey it.(2) It is enforced by sanctions; there is reward to the obedient, punishment for the disobedient.(3) It issues from the highest authority in the universe.(4) It is duly published and made known. Whatever may be said of the condition of those who live in the "dark places of the earth," generally speaking, at least, ignorance of the gospel among ourselves is wilful, and therefore criminal.(5) It constitutes the standard of character and the rule of decision. "God will judge the secrets of all hearts," says Paul, "according to my gospel."

2. But why is it called the Spirit's law? Because it is the instrument by which the Spirit most efficiently operates upon the understanding, the will, the conscience, and the character of the man. By, and with it, he operates with the force and the authority of a law, overcoming and reducing and governing the mind. The power that accomplishes the great work of regeneration is the power of the Spirit; but the instrument He employs is the "Word of truth."


1. By this some understand the moral law considered in its application to fallen man, as the covenant of works. This law, when given to man innocent and holy, in the possession of Divine and spiritual life, was well adapted to his case. But when man became a transgressor, then that which "was ordained unto life" began to operate unto death. It is the "law of sin" to all the unconverted, its very object being to "make sin appear exceeding sinful." By the law is the knowledge of sin. Let a man apply it to his own character, and it will prove, to the conviction of his conscience, that he is a sinner; and, of course, wherever it proves sin it pronounces the sentence of death. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die."

2. But others understand (and the general scope of St. Paul's argument is favourable to the opinion) the sinning principle in the nature of fallen man. Wherever this principle of unsubdued enmity to God and holiness exists in the heart, it will manifest itself in outward acts of sin. And these acts become habits, by repetition; and thus sin becomes master. There his law is "a law of death." Wherever there is sin in the root, there is death in the fruit; "the end of these things is death." "Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death."


1. This is true of the law of sin and death, understood as the covenant of works, the broken moral law. It is in reference to this that the apostle seems to be speaking in ver.

1. Before they were "in Christ," they were condemned by the law for having broken it. But no sooner did they put their souls, by penitence and faith, into the Saviour's bands, than all the mass of transgressions and guilt which rested upon them was removed. And now "there is no condemnation," they are "made free from" the condemnatory demands of the moral law, from the curse of the covenant of works.

2. But true believers are delivered from the sinning principle which contaminates our fallen nature. "Sin shall have no dominion over you."

V. PRACTICAL INFERENCES. The salvation of Christ is —

1. Of indispensable necessity. It is, in fact, "the one thing needful"; "our souls without it die."

2. A present salvation. "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free."

3. That connected with satisfactory evidence of its existence. St. Paul does not speak as if he were at all doubtful; as if it were a business of mere conjecture or probability, of inference or anticipation. He had a consciousness of his freedom.

4. A personal affair. The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free.

(Jabez Bunting, D. D.)

We see this principle at work in the material world. A higher law comes into play and overrides ordinary law. Thus dynamic law subjugates mechanical force, as in the steam engine; chemical law, in turn, annihilates dynamic force; and intellectual power is superior to vital law, and moral to intellectual. The lower laws take effect upon the lower natures. The mechanical law of gravitation affects stones; but let a higher law of affinity come into operation, and those stones will be transformed into other combinations, such as gases, which will be above the laws of gravitation, and will form food for plants, etc. Mechanical law, however applied, cannot convert stones into bread. Chemical law can. If you mechanically pound ice or melt it, you can get nothing but water; but chemistry transforms it into power, and gas, and food. In the text the apostle is presenting to us in the kingdom of grace what is taking place in the kingdom of nature — law conquering law — e.g., a human body subject to chemical law ferments, putrefies, decays; but the vital law holds all these in check. It is only when the higher vital law is gone that the lower law reigns.

(Percy Strutt.)


1. Law is an authoritative code framed by a master for the regulation of his servants. But when we speak of the laws of nature, we denote the process by which events invariably follow each other. The law which accountable creatures are hound to obey is one thing; the law, in virtue of which creatures are always found to make the same exhibition in the same circumstances, is another.

2. It is not difficult, however, to perceive how the same term came to be applied to things so distinct. For law, in the first sense of it, is not applicable to a single command which may never be repeated. True, like all the others, it is obeyed, because of that general law by which the servant is bound to fulfil the will of his master; yet it does not attain the rank of such a denomination unless the thing enjoined be habitual. Thus the order that doors shall be shut, or that none shall be missing after a particular hour, or that Sabbath shall be observed, may be characterised as the laws of the family — not the random orders of the current day. Now this common circumstance of uniformity has extended the application of the term "law." Should you drop a piece of heavy matter, nothing is more certain nor more constant than its descent — just as if constrained so to do by the authority of a universal enactment on the subject, and hence the law of gravitation. Or, if light be made to fall on a polished surface, nothing more mathematically sure than the path by which it will be given back again to the eye of the beholder, and hence in optics the law of reflection. Or if a substance float upon the water, nothing more invariably accurate than that the quantity of fluid displaced is equal in weight to that of the body which is supported; and all this from a law in hydrostatics. But the difference lies just here. The one kind of law is framed by a living master for the obedience of living subjects, and may be called juridical law. The other is framed by a living master also, for it is God who worketh all in all; but obedience is rendered by the force of those natural principles wherewith the things in question operate in that one way which is agreeable to their nature. This kind of law would by philosophers be called physical law.

II. IN WHICH OF THESE TWO SENSES SHALL WE UNDERSTAND "LAW" IN THE TEXT. To determine this, we shall begin with the consideration of —

1. The law of sin and death. It is quite obvious that this is not a law enacted in the way of jurisprudence. It is neither more nor less than the sinful tendency of our constitution. It is called a law because, like the laws of gravitation or electricity, it has the property of a moving force, inasmuch as it incessantly aims after the establishment of its own mastery. Death comes as regularly and as surely in the train of our captivity to sin as the fruit of any tree, or the produce of any husbandry, does by the laws of the vegetable kingdom.

2. The law of the Spirit of life just expresses the tendency and the result of an operative principle in the mind that has force enough to arrest the operation of the law of sin and death. The affection of the old man meets with a new affection to combat and to overmatch it. If the originating principle of sin be shortly described as the love of the creature, the originating principle of the spiritual life might also be briefly described as the love of the Creator. These two appetites are in a state of unceasing hostility. The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh.


1. Is called —(1) The law of the Spirit, because referable to the Holy Ghost, by whose agency the new moral force has been made to actuate the soul and give another direction to the whole history.(2) The law of the Spirit of life, because he in whom this law is set a-going is spiritually minded; and as to be carnally minded is death, so to be spiritually minded is life. It is like the awakening of man to a new moral existence, when he is awakened to the love of that God whom before he was glad to forget; like a resurrection from the grave when, aroused from the deep oblivion of nature, man enters into living fellowship with his God. It is only now that he has begun to live.

2. When does this visitation of the Spirit descend upon the soul? This is shown by the words "In Christ Jesus." As surely as when you enter a garden of sweets one of your senses becomes awakened to the perfumes; as surely as when emerging from the darkness of a close apartment to the glories of an unclouded day another of your senses is awakened to the light and beauty, so surely when you enter within the fold of Christ's mediatorship, and are united with Him, then there is an awakening of the inner man to the beauties of holiness. We refer to a law of nature, the impression of every scene, in which he is situated, on the senses of the observer; and it is also by the operation of such a law that, if in Christ, we become subject to a touch that raises us to spiritual life, and maketh us susceptible of all its joys and all its aspirations.

3. What have we to do that we may attain this condition. I know of no other instrument by which the disciple is grafted in Christ Jesus, even as the branches are in the vine, than faith. And "the Holy Ghost is given to those who believe." "The promise of the Spirit is unto faith."

(T. Chalmers, D. D.)

Sin and death are partners of one throne and issue one law (cf. vers. 14, 21). To obey the one is to obey the other. In former days Paul was compelled to do the bidding of sin. But the Holy Spirit has set him free by making His own will the rule of Paul's life. Just so a conqueror, by setting up his own laws in a conquered country, makes the former laws invalid. That the country obeys the new laws is a proof of conquest. Similarly, the presence and guidance of the Spirit have made Paul free front the rule of sin. This is not a change of bondage, but freedom from all bondage. For the law of the Spirit is the will of our Maker, and therefore the law of our being. And to obey the law of our being is the only true freedom. "In Christ." Paul's deliverance took place objectively in the human body of Christ (Romans 3:24); subjectively, by Paul's spiritual union with the risen Saviour (Romans 6:11).

(Prof. J. A. Beet.)

I. THE MISERY OF ALL MEN BY NATURE. And that it consists of a state of bondage and captivity, which is here in this Scripture called the law of sin and death. We shall speak of the law of sin. Sin, in those which are unregenerate, does exercise a tyrannical power and authority over them, therefore it hath the denomination of a law given unto it; not that it hath anything which is good or lawful or regular in it, for it is properly the transgression of a law. But it is called a law in regard of that rule which it bears in the hearts of all those that are entangled with it. This is the condition of sin, that it carries with it the nature of a law to the subjects of it. First, in the constant actings of it; sin is like a law so. Things which are acted by law they are acted with a great deal of constancy. The ordinances of heaven and earth, the sun, moon, and stars, they keep their course by a settled decree which is upon them. Even so is it also with those who are carried by this law of sin; it is that which is usual with them, they make a constant course and practice of it as their trade and life. Secondly, it hath the motion of a law in that men are carried to it powerfully and irresistibly without opposition. So is sin to an unregenerate person; it commands him and has power over him, it rules and reigns in him. This is first of all grounded upon that curse which was laid upon man for his first rebellion. But, secondly, sin gets a great deal of power by custom, which has the force of a second nature with it, and in that regard the notion of a law. The Ethiopian may as soon change his skin, and the leopard his spots, as they may cease to do evil that are accustomed to it. Now, for the further illustration of it, we may take notice of the misery of this bondage in these following aggravations. First, in the subject of this thraldom; and that is the soul itself — the immortal soul — that part of man which had the image of God in a special manner imprinted upon it. For this to be in slavery and servitude is a very sad business indeed. We know in the way of the world how bondage is usually aggravated from the quality and condition of the person that is brought into it. Secondly, consider it also in the persons which men are in thraldom to by it, and that is to Satan and his instruments. For a man to be in bondage to a stranger it is not very desirable, but to be in bondage to an enemy or adversary is very abominable. Thirdly, there is an aggravation also in it from the nature and quality and condition of the servitude itself, in all the circumstances of it. Of all servants we count them to be in the worse case that are sold. To this we may further add the insensibleness of this their condition which is usually attendant hereupon. We count them most desperately miserable who discern not the misery which they are in, as mad men that sing in their chains. And so much may be spoken of the first branch of a natural man's captivity, as it is considerable in his thraldom to evil expressed here in the text by the law of sin. The second is as it is considerable in his obligation to punishment: and that is here also expressed by the law of death, which is added and joined to the other and goes along with it. There is a three-fold death which the Scripture makes mention of, and they are all of them the wages of sin. First, natural death, which consists in the separation of the soul from the body (chap. Romans 5:12). Secondly, there is also a spiritual death, which consists in a deprivation of the image of God upon the soul, and the withdrawing of His favour from it. When a man is void of all grace and comfort too, he is then thus far in a state of death (Ephesians 2:1). Thirdly, there is eternal death also, which consists in the separation of soul and body from God forever in hell. Therefore let us accordingly look upon sin and death in this conjunction. Let us not separate or divide these things which God hath thus put together, but in all temptations to the one think of the other.

II. The second is the HAPPY RECOVERY AND RESTORATION OF BELIEVERS BY GRACE in these words, "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free." First, here is the remedy itself which is mentioned, "The law of the Spirit of life which is," etc. Where, first, of the meaning of the words. First, there are three terms here before us; there is life, and the Spirit of life, and the law of the Spirit. By life here we are to understand the grace of holiness and sanctification. By the word Spirit joined to life we are to understand either the original, because it is wrought by the Spirit, or the activity and intention of it. By the law of the Spirit we are to understand the power and efficacy of it. For law it is a word of command and hath prevalency with it. Now the point which is here observable of us is thus much, that in the human nature of Christ there is a law of the Spirit of life. There is a fulness and sufficiency of all grace and holiness in Christ considered as He was man. This the Scripture doth sufficiently intimate and confirm unto us in sundry places of it, as in Colossians 1:19, "It pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell." This was requisite thus to be upon a two-fold ground and consideration especially — First, in regard of the personal union of His human nature with His Divine. Secondly, as this was requisite in regard of His personal union, so also in regard of His work of mediatorship. First, take it in the preparatory reference; and so the Spirit of life in Christ, it did fit Him and dispose Him and qualify Him for the work of the mediatorship. This we may conceive it to have done in these respects — First, in the sanctifying of the flesh of Christ in the womb of the Virgin. Secondly, it also dignified this nature and advanced it above all other creatures. Thirdly, this Spirit of life in Christ it did also fill His human nature with as much grace as it was capable of, and with all these perfections whereunto the nature of grace doth reach and extend itself. Again, further, it is also considerable in the exertions and transactions of it. Whatever Christ did as mediator, He was more particularly enabled hereunto from this Spirit of life. As first of all, it was this which quickened Him and encouraged Him in His entrance upon it. Secondly, it likewise sustained Him, and upheld Him in the very performance itself. Thirdly, in that moreover it at last revived Him and raised Him from the dead. Adam, he brought down our nature and subjected it to a great deal of disparagement by his transgression; but Christ by His purity and holiness hath set it up, and taken off that disparagement from it which was formerly upon it. Again, further, here is comfort as to the point of continuance of grace and perseverance in it. Forasmuch as that grace and holiness which we now partake of under the gospel, it is in good and safe hands. The grace which we had given us in Adam we lost, but that grace which we have now in the new covenant we have it upon better and surer terms, being such as is now rooted in Christ as the proper subject of it. This law of the Spirit of life it is in Christ Jesus. The second is the efficacy of this remedy upon St. Paul and all other believers, "Hath made me free from the law of sin and death": where the remedy is as large as the disease, and the plaster as broad as the sore. Here is the law of the Spirit in opposition to the law of the flesh, and the law of life in opposition to the law of death in us. First, as to matter of justification. This holiness of Christ it frees us from the law of death and condemnation. But secondly, it holds good in point of sanctification likewise. The pure and holy nature of Christ is the spring and original of all holiness in us. "And of His fulness do we all receive, and grace for grace," as the apostle tells us (John 1:12). The Spirit of God does not bestow grace upon us immediately, but he bestows it upon us through Christ. Let us learn from hence to bless God for Christ, and give Him the glory of His own holiness in us.

(Thomas Horton.)

The word "law" may denote commandment, or the customary habit or state of any creature. In the one sense we talk of the laws of God, or the laws of kings; in the other sense we talk of the laws of nature, of matter, or of mind. It seems much better to understand the verse according to the second or subjective use of the word "law," and then its reference is seen to be to the believer's sanctification.


1. There is a principle of depravity in every human heart (Romans 3:23; Galatians 3:22). The whole work of Christ, as tasting death for every man, is based upon the assumption that all the world is guilty before God; for if not, there must be some for whom Christ has not died, inasmuch as they needed no atonement. Yet where are these to be found? This principle of evil may be described according to its various modes of manifestation. It is —

(1)The love of the creature, in opposition to the love of the Creator.

(2)Self-will, or self-assertion, in opposition to the will of God and the requirements of His law.

(3)Sensualism, in contrast with that which is intellectual and spiritual.

(4)Pride and self-preference.

(5)Selfishness and self-seeking.

(6)A tendency to falsehood and guile.

2. This principle operates with the regularity of a natural law, determining all our volitions and affections. Man sins with the same certainty that an apple, loosened from the tree, drops to the ground. It is natural for the sun to rise and set, for the moon to wax and wane, for the tides to ebb and flow, for the seasons to revolve, and for the generations of men to be born and die: to do otherwise, in any of these instances, would imply a miracle or a violence done to the uniformity of nature. So likewise it is natural and inevitable that men, unrenewed by grace, should sin.

3. This law of sin is likewise a law of death. God by express enactment has appointed death as the wages of sin. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." But in addition to that external decree, there is an internal tendency in sin to fructify in death (James 1:15), and to destroy the life of the soul.


1. There is a principle of life in them that believe. They live, by having their minds enlightened with the knowledge of God, by feeling the burden of their sins removed, and by being able to look up to God with filial confidence and trust, by having the conscience cleansed from dead works to serve the living God, by being inspired with new emotions, animated by new aims.

2. This life is imparted and sustained by the Holy Ghost. It is not self-generated, but it is given from above. He who receives it is born of the Spirit.

3. This principle of life operates with the regularity of a law. The Spirit takes up His residence in the breast of the converted man, and goes on working till every thought is brought into subjection to Christ, and the work of the believer's sanctification is complete.

4. This Spirit of life is realised only by our being in Christ.

(T. G. Horton.)

For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh.
I. THE DIVINE PURPOSE FOR MAN, WHETHER IN THE OLD TESTAMENT OR THE NEW, IS THE SAME. The reader who turns from the one to the other seems to have passed into a new world. The things, such as sacrifices, etc., that seemed of most importance in the one, seem of no importance at all in the other. But under seeming divergence, there is essential unity — a unity that comes to the surface in the text. Here we read of "the righteousness," or better still, "the requirement of the law." Now what was this? Not what it seemed to the great mass of the Jews. Had the Pharisee who prayed, "God, I thank Thee," etc., been asked, he would have given a list of things to be done or avoided. But now and then a prophet caught a glimpse of this purpose. Now it is the Preacher, "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter," etc. Then it is Isaiah (Isaiah 58:6, 7). Now it is Micah (Micah 6:8). Then it is David in the fifty-first Psalm, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit," etc. The end of the law was not to make formalists, but good men. And the purpose of God is the same under the Christian dispensation. What God desires is not certain forms, services, emotions, but the renewal of the whole nature, inner and outer.

II. CHRIST HAS COME THAT GOD'S PURPOSE MIGHT BE COMPLETELY ATTAINED. Attained as it never could have been in any other way — that it might be "fulfilled" in us. 'The architect sees in vision a glorious building. As yet it is empty. The masons labour and it is filled full, completed, realised. The father has a dream for his son just starting in life. When the son lives that life and becomes the pride of his father, he fulfils it. What St. Paul means is that our Father has had a dream for us. And that that dream might be accomplished, that we might become good, "God sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin." And in Christ He did all that was needed. He condemned sin just where it needs condemning, in the sinner's heart. He made a full and complete atonement. He supplied the mightiest of all motives to a new life in the constraining love of Christ. And He promised the most effectual of all help in the gift of His Spirit. Have we, too, a dream? Do we want to be true children of God? Christ is the only Way. Trust, love, and follow Him, and you shall have "the righteousness of the law" fulfilled in you.

III. THERE IS BUT ONE PROCESS BY WHICH THIS PURPOSE CAN BE ATTAINED. The sphere in which it is to be done is that of active, not of contemplative life. In business and home duties and cares we have to decide whether we will yield to the cravings of the flesh or the promptings of the Spirit. And it is as we walk in that Spirit, and take up our cross and deny ourselves, that we grow up into Christ, become like Him, and God's plan — our perfection and happiness — is fulfilled in us.

(J. Ogle.)

The "Laocoon" may serve as an artistic embodiment of Romans 7:14 to end. But the issues of the struggle differ. Laocoon is overcome; St. Paul conquers, in the grace of Christ. Self-effort for righteousness is a hopeless struggle. St. Paul found the "more excellent way."


1. Except for this pursuit of righteousness, it is not worth being a man at all. Without it how is man higher than the beast? No man really lives save as he pursues this. No man can ever be satisfied save as he attains this.

2. But what is righteousness? It is —(1) Conformity of inward conditions and outward conduct. It is of the lack of this harmony St. Paul complains. This he called unrighteousness.(2) Conformity of both spirit and conduct to the revealed will of God. For that must be our standard.

3. Taking these ideas of righteousness then, it appears that men wholly fail to attain it by self-effort. And self-effort ends in a despairing sense of the power of sin. Then arises the question — Can we attain righteousness by any helps we can secure? Try two.

II. THE OFFER OF HELP BY THE LAW. What is law? The plain statement of what is right, made to us with befitting sanctions. This cannot help us to righteousness. Because —

1. Of its nature. It can only disclose sin and condemn. "I had not known sin, but by the law." It cannot give life.

2. Of the corruption of man. He is "weak through the flesh"; he "cannot do the thing that he would." There is no hope of ever making flesh render perfect obedience. It is plain that "law is helpless."

III. THE OFFER OF HELP BY GOD. This help is in no sense intended to set law aside. It is the offer of power to obey. And the offer is made in Christ Jesus, who came into the world bringing a new force of Divine life. How, then, does God in Christ help? Not as law does, trying to shape conduct and force the flesh, but by quickening the spirit, renewing the will, moulding the inclination, inspiring the soul with love to God, and holy desires. And this succeeds. Thus urged and inspired, the spirit can master the flesh, and win the righteousness which the law requires.

(R. Tuck.)

I. OF WHAT LAW DOTH THE APOSTLE HERE SPEAK? God's own law, in its strict and proper acceptation, viz., that revelation which the great Lawgiver hath made of His will, therein binding the reasonable creature to duty. But what law of God? Either that primitive law which He imposed upon Adam (and in him upon all mankind), upon the keeping of which He promised life, upon the breaking of which He threatened death; or else, that law which He gave Israel from Sinai, namely, the decalogue or moral law, which was but a new draught of the law first made with Adam.


1. You read (ver. 1) of exemption from condemnation. Now this the law could not do; the law can condemn millions, but it cannot save one.

2. You read (ver. 2) of being made flee from the law of sin and death. Herein, too, was the law impotent; it might lay some restraints upon, but never bring down the power of sin.

3. There is the blessed empire of the spirit over the flesh, as also the full and perfect obeying of the law's commands; neither of these could the law effect.

4. Reformation of life the law could not do.

5. The text speaks of the condemning of sin; the law can condemn the sinner, but not (in a way of expiation) sin itself.

6. There is the reconciling of God and the sinner, the satisfying of infinite justice, the justifying of the guilty, the giving of a right and title to heaven. Now the law was under an impossibility of effecting any of these.


1. The word is used to set forth any debility, whether it be natural or preternatural, as being occasioned by some bodily disease. The apostle speaks of the weakness of the commandment (Hebrews 7:18), and weak and beggarly elements (Galatians 4:9). Here a higher law was in his eye, and yet he attributes weakness to it also; it could not do because it was weak, and it was weak because it could not do.

2. This weakness of the law is not partial, but total; it is not the having of a lesser strength, but the negation of all strength. A man that is weak may do something, though he cannot do it vigorously, exactly, and thoroughly; but now (as to justification and salvation) the law is so weak that it can do nothing.

IV. WHAT THE FLESH IS HERE BY WHICH THE LAW IS MADE THUS WEAK? The corrupt, sinful, depraved nature that is in fallen man. Observe that the weakness of the law is not from the law itself, but from the condition of the subject with whom it hath to do. When man was in the state of innocency, the law (Samson like) was in its full strength, and could do whatever was proper to it; yea (as to itself), it is able yet to do the same; but the case with us is altered; we cannot now fulfil this law, nor come up to what it requires of us, and therefore it is weak. The strongest sword in a weak hand can do but little execution; the brightest sun cannot give light to a blind eye. The law strengthens sin, and sin weakens the law (1 Corinthians 15:56).

1. The special matter of the law's weakness.(1) With respect to justification (Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16, 21; Galatians 3:11, 21, 22; Acts 13:39).(2) In reference to eternal life. It never yet carried one sinner to heaven. Consider it as the covenant of work, so its language is "do and live" (chap. Romans 10:5). Now man in his lapsed state cannot do according to the law's demands, therefore by it there is no life for him.

2. The grounds or demonstrations of the law's impotency.(1) It requires that which the creature cannot perform. Before the law can do any great thing for a person it must first be exactly fulfilled; for though man hath lost his power the law hath not lost its rigour. Though the sinner be as the poor broken debtor, yet the law will not compound with him, but will have full payment of the whole debt. Now this is impossible.(2) The law doth not give what the creature needs; it asks above his strength and gives below his want.(a) He must have grace, sanctification, holiness, etc., but the law will not help him to these. It is holy itself, but it cannot make others holy; it can discover sin, but it cannot mortify sin. The law is a killing thing, but it is of the sinner, not of the sin; it hath by reason of the flesh a quite other effect; for it doth rather enliven, increase, and irritate sin, as water meeting with opposition grows the more fierce and violent; and the disease, the more it is checked by the medicine, the more it rages (Romans 7:8).(b) The law calls for duty, but it gives no strength for the performance of it, Pharaoh-like, who exacted brick but allowed no straw.(c) Great is the sinner's need of faith; for without this no justification, no peace with God, no heaven. Now the law knows nothing of faith; nay, it is diametrically opposite to it (Galatians 3:12).(3) The law could not do, because it could not heal that breach which sin had made betwixt God and the sinner. It can make no reparation for what is past. Suppose the sinner could for the future come up to a full conformity to the law, yet the law would be weak, and the creature could not thereby be justified, because reparation and satisfaction must be made for what is past, which to make is impossible to the law.Application:

1. Here's matter of deep humiliation to us. How should we lament that sinful nature by reason of which the law cannot do that for us which otherwise it would!

2. It is necessary that I should vindicate the honour of the law, and obviate mistakes and bad inferences.(1) Notwithstanding this weakness of the law, yet give it that honour and reverence which is its due. Remember whose law it is, as also what an excellent law it is in itself (Romans 7:12).(2) Take heed that you do not cast off the law upon the pretence of its weakness, for it is, notwithstanding, obligatory to all (Romans 3:31).(3) Neither must you look upon the law as altogether —(a) Weak. For though as to some things it be under a total impotency, yet as to other things it still retains its pristine power. It cannot take away sin, or make righteous, or give life, but as to the commanding of duty, the directing and regulating of the life, the threatening of punishment upon the violation of it, here it can do whatever it did before.(b) Useless. For though the law be not of use as to justification, yet it is of use as a monitor to excite to duty, as a rule to direct, as a glass to discover sin, as a bridle to restrain sin, as an hatchet to break the hard heart, as a schoolmaster to whip you to Christ (Galatians 3:24).

3. Was the law thus unable to do for the sinner what was necessary to be done? then never look for righteousness and life from and by the law. It highly concerns every man in the world to make sure of righteousness and life; but these are only to be had in Christ in the way of believing, not in the law in the way of doing.

4. See here the admirable love of God, and be greatly affected with it. The law was weak; and now the merciful God finds out another way; He sent His own Son in the likeness, etc.

(T. Jacomb, D. D.)

I. WHAT IS IT THAT THE LAW COULD NOT DO? It could not fulfil in us its own righteousness. It could not cause us to exemplify that which itself had enacted. As to any efficiency upon us, it was a dead letter, and did as little for the morality of the world as if struck with impotency itself, and bereft of all the means or the right of vindication.

1. The apostle introduces a caution, that he might not appear to derogate from the law. The law was not weak in itself, but through the flesh. There is a native efficiency, in all its lessons and enforcements, which is admirably fitted to work out a righteousness on the character of those to whom it is addressed. It is no reflection on the penmanship of a beautiful writer that he can give no adequate specimen of his art, on the coarse or absorbent paper which will take on no fair impression. Nor is it any reflection on the power of an accomplished artist that he can raise no monument thereof from the stone which crumbles at every touch. And so it is because of the groundwork, and not of the law, that the attempt has failed.

2. And it is to be observed that the fulfilment of the righteousness of the law in us was a thing to be desired — not merely that the universe might become richer in virtue, but that the law might in us achieve the vindication of its honour. It could not do the first, through the weakness of the flesh. And as little can it do the second, excepting in those on whom it wreaks the vengeance of its insulted authority.(1) It does not work in the persons of the impenitent the virtues which it enjoins, nor fulfil in this sense its own righteousness upon them. But it wreaks upon these persons the vengeance which it threatens, and in this sense may be said to make fulfilment of its righteousness.(2) In the persons who walk after the Spirit — how can the law, in reference to them, acquit itself of its juridical honours? for they too have offended. Let us see —

II. HOW THE GOSPEL ADJUSTS THIS DEFICIENCY. There was something more than a Spirit necessary to work in us a righteousness — even a sacrifice to make atonement for our guilt.

1. The first step was to make ample reparation for the injuries sustained by the law, and so, by satisfying its rights, making a full vindication of its righteousness. That law which was written on tables of stone had to be appeased for its violated honour ere it was transferred into the fleshly tablets of our heart. The blood of remission had to be shed ere the water of regeneration could be poured forth; and so the Son of God came in the likeness of sinful flesh, and became a sin offering, and sustained the whole weight of sin's condemnation, and, after ascending from the grave, had that Holy Ghost committed unto Him under whose power all who put their trust in Him are enabled to walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Thus, historically, the atonement took place before the more abundant ministration of the Spirit.

2. And so also, personally, a belief in that atonement has the precedency to a sanctifying operation over the sinner's heart. Not till we accept Jesus Christ as the Lord our righteousness shall we experience Him to be the Lord our strength.Conclusion:

1. In order that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, it is not enough that we walk as spiritual men. The more spiritual in fact that you are, the greater will your sensibility be to the remaining deficiencies of your heart and temper and conversation. So that to the last half hour even of a most triumphant course in sanctification, you must never lose sight of Him on whom has been laid the condemnation of all your offences, and count for your justification before God on nothing else than oil Jesus Christ and on Him crucified.

2. However zealously the righteousness of Christ must be contended for as the alone plea of a sinner's acceptance, yet that the benefit thereof rests upon none save those who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

(T. Chalmers, D. D.)

The law of God is perfect. You cannot add anything to it, nor take anything from it, without spoiling it. There is nothing wrong but the law condemns it, and there is nothing right but the law approves it. The soul of it is contained in one word, "love"; but it comprehends every form of duty which springs out of our relationship to God or man.

I. WHAT THE LAW CAN AND CANNOT DO. It cannot save a lost soul. The law, as originally given to Adam, would have produced in him a perfect life. But we have fallen, and this has made the law weak for the accomplishment of God's purpose of justification. The law of England protects honest men, and deters many from committing crime; but it is practically powerless in the case of some habitual criminals. The defect is not in the law, but in the person with whom it has to deal.

1. It sets before us a straight path. Up the mountain side I see the way to the summit. But I have fallen into an abyss, and cannot stir. Now that path, like the law, cannot help me to follow it. Still, it is useful to know the way.

2. It shows us our deflections and stains. It is like the looking glass, which cannot take away a single spot, but can only show where it is.

3. It upbraids us for our sin, but it cannot forgive.

4. It gives no inclination to do the right, but often creates the contrary inclination (chap. Romans 7.). There are some things men would not think of doing if they were not forbidden.

5. It does not lend us any aid towards the fulfilment of its commands.

6. When we have broken the law it brings no remedy. Of mercy the law knows nothing. On one occasion some workmen were quarrying some rocks; and having made all ready for a blast — drilled the holes, filled them with gun cotton, and connected the fuzes — they warned everyone away from the place of danger. Then the fuzes were lighted, and the workmen withdrew; but, to their horror, they saw a little boy, attracted by the lights, running towards them. Those strong men shouted to the boy, "Go back! go back!" But of course the boy, having the same nature as the rest of us, only went the more quickly into the danger. Still the men cried, "Go back! go back!" They were like the law, powerless; not because their voices were weak, but because of the material with which they had to deal. But the mother of the boy heard the call, and seeing his fearful peril, dropped on one knee, opened her arms wide, and called, "Come to mother! come to mother!" The boy stopped, hesitated a moment, then ran to her embrace, and so escaped the danger. What all the shouts of the strong men could not do, the gentle voice of the mother accomplished. Their voices were like the law, which says, "Go back! go back!" Her voice was like the sweet sound of the gospel, "Come to Jesus! come to Jesus!" Note —


1. He sends. He does not wait for us to come to Him.

2. He sends His Son. He had but one, His Only-begotten; but that He might "bring many sons unto glory," He sent that one.

3. He sends Him in the flesh. "Verily He took not on Him the nature of angels." There He is, bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh.

4. He sends Him in the likeness of sinful flesh. His flesh was like sinful flesh, but it was not sinful flesh.

5. He sends Him on account of sin.

6. He sends Him to be a sacrifice for sin. Our sin was laid on Him; and when God came to visit sin He found it laid on Christ, and He smote it there. "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust."

7. He thus condemns sin in the flesh. Christ's death condemned sin. You may find strong words with which to censure sin, and no words can be too strong. But sin was never so condemned as when Jesus died. This blot must put out, not the candles and the moon and the stars, but the sun himself. This poison is so virulent that the immortal must die. Now is sin condemned as the vilest thing in the universe. It has forced the hand of Divine justice to smite down even Christ Himself instead of guilty men.


1. In Christ the righteousness of the law is fulfilled, it is vindicated. I, guilty by God's law, am condemned to punishment. But I am one with Christ. He stands for me. He takes the sin as though He had committed it, and suffers what I ought to have suffered; and so God's law is vindicated. Thus the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in every believer, because his accepted Substitute and Surety has borne the punishment. "Then there is an end of the law," says one. Stay, if a man disobeys, and is punished, he does not thereby escape from the duty of obedience. The law is always our creditor for a perfect obedience. Now, there could not have been such obedience rendered to the law even by sinless Adam as the Christ rendered to it. I take, today, the perfect obedience of my Lord, and appropriating it by faith, I call Him, "The Lord my righteousness."

2. The righteousness of the law is fulfilled in the Christian by the grace of God. When we believe in Christ we not only receive pardon, but also renewal. I speak for all who love Christ. You do long to obey Him. Ay, and you do obey Him. You have laid aside the works of the flesh. You love God, and you love your neighbour. And though not perfectly, yet in a large measure, the law is fulfilled in you. I would try to live as if my salvation depended upon my works alone; and yet I do so knowing all the while that I am justified by faith, and not by the works of the law. Thus present obedience is actually rendered.

3. This righteousness is fulfilled through Christ. The obedience to the law is fulfilled in us out of gratitude to Christ.(1) What the law could not do, the dying Christ has done. His sacrifice makes us hate evil. Naming the name of Christ, we "depart from iniquity"; for we realise that it was not Roman soldiers and rabble Jews alone who nailed Him to the tree, but it was our sins that did it.(2) Gratitude to Christ also incites us to the good. Shall He do all this for me, and I do nothing for Him? If Be gave His life for me, then I will give my life to Him. He has bought it; He deserves it; and He shall have it. I will no longer live to the flesh, since in the flesh Christ condemned my sin. Thus the holy law is cheerfully fulfilled.

4. This righteousness is fulfilled in the energy of the Spirit; "in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." God not only works for us, but He also works in us "both to will and to do of His good pleasure." The Spirit applies the work of Christ to the soul. Why should not everyone receive, by the Spirit, this new life at this moment? Then it will grow, for we "walk after the Spirit"; we do not stand still. As we obey the law of God, we shall receive more and more of His power; for it is written, that He is "given to them that obey Him." He first teaches us to obey, and then, when we obey, He dwells with us in greater fulness; and then "the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us."

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

The voice of Sinai was powerless to save, because our flesh was too weak to throw off the bondage of sin. Just so a rope is powerless to save the drowning man who has not strength to grasp it. Whereas even such might be saved by the living arms of a strong man. If the flesh could do what the mind approves, the law would be able, by revealing the badness of the rule of sin, to dethrone it, and thus save us. But the flesh cannot drive out its dread inhabitant. Consequently the law, which cannot breathe new strength into the flesh, but only knowledge into the mind, is too weak to save us.

(Prof. J. A. Beet.)

Now in this verse we have — first, a defect implied; and secondly, a defect supplied. The defect supplied in these, "God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin," etc.

I. THE DEFECT IMPLIED — "What the law could not do, in that it was," etc. First, to speak of the defect itself, "What the law could not do." What could not the law do? Why it could not justify us, or free us from sin and condemnation. It could not make us perfectly holy and righteous in the sight of God. This is likewise held forth to us in divers other places besides (Acts 18:38, 39; Galatians 3:21; Hebrews 7:18). Now this imperfection and insufficiency which is in it will further appear unto us in these regards: first, because the law does not offer to us any pardon or forgiveness of those things which are done against the law. The law it hath in it an accusing power, but it hath not in it an absolving power; it threatens the curse, but it does not tender the promise. It is the ministration of condemnation, but it is not the ministration of life. And accordingly we meet with divers expressions in Scripture to that effect (Galatians 3:10; James 2:10; 2 Corinthians 3:6, etc.). Secondly, the law, as it does not tender forgiveness, so neither does it give faith whereby to apprehend and lay hold upon forgiveness which is tendered. Now this the law doth not do, but only the gospel; the law does neither reveal faith to us nor work it in us. Thirdly, the law does not give us any power neither, whereby to keep the commandments of God, but leaves us in this point altogether feeble. Why, but if the law be not able to justify us, "wherefore, then, serveth the law?" as the apostle makes the expostulation (Galatians 3:19). To this we answer as the apostle there answers himself, that it serves in regard of transgressions, and so is useful to these following purposes: first, as a looking glass, wherein to see our own ugliness and deformity. When we reflect upon our own lives and ways and then compare them with the law of God, then we see how short they are, and how far from true perfection. Secondly, it serves as a schoolmaster to lead us and drive us to Christ; while it discovers to us our own imperfection it carries us to seek for protection in another, that is, in Him. As the stings of the fiery serpents drove the Israelites to look up to the brazen serpent, so the stings of the law they drive us to look up to Christ; and as the needle makes way for the thread, so does the law make way for the gospel. Thirdly, it serves as a rule of life and new obedience which we are to conform ourselves unto. The second is the occasion of this defect whence the law was thus unable, and that is here expressed to be "by the flesh." It was a thing never yet done that anyone which was a mere man did fulfil the law. And this (to give you some account of it) may be thus demonstrated to us as coming thus to pass. First, from the inbred concupiscence which all men are infected withal: those which have in them a principle which does continually oppose and fight against the law, they are not able to fulfil the law. Now this have all men in this world, even the best that are; therefore they are not able to fulfil it. That this principle it is very much battered and mortified, and in a great measure subdued, but yet it is not wholly removed. The second may be taken from that actual sin which flows from original, as there is in us a corrupt nature which does indispose us to the keeping of the law, so there are also in us many daily transgressions which do plainly take us off from keeping of it. Thirdly, it may be also demonstrated from the weakness and imperfection of grace. Fourthly, it may be likewise shown from the nature of the law itself, and that is that it is spiritual. The law requires more than the outward action, also the inward affection; and not only some imperfect endeavour, but also the perfectest degree of obedience which can be performed. Lastly, it is from hence clear that none can here in this present life fulfil the law from that necessity which lies upon everyone to pray for the forgiveness of sins. Our inability which we have voluntarily brought upon ourselves does not hinder God from exacting that which is His own. The use of this point may be to humble us in the sight of our own insufficiency and misery which is upon us, especially when we shall consider that we have brought it upon ourselves. All evils are at any time so much the more tedious as we ourselves have any hand in procuring them and bringing them about.

II. The second is THE DEFECT SUPPLIED — "God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh," etc. There are three main particulars here observable of us: first, the Author of our deliverance, and that is God. Secondly, the means of our deliverance, and that is Christ. Thirdly, the effect of our deliverance, and that is the condemnation of sin: "God sending forth His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin," etc. We begin with the first, the Author or principal Efficient, and that is here signified to be God. And when we speak of this there are three things here further considerable. First, the goodness of God. And secondly, the wisdom of God. And thirdly, the power of God. All these in this dispensation. First, here was the exceeding goodness and mercy of God, that when He saw and observed into what a condition we had brought ourselves did not now leave us in this condition, but sought out, and found out a way for the delivery of us. This was the exceeding riches of mercy which is here to be taken notice of by us. And this it may be further amplified from divers considerations. First, from the state in which we stood to Himself, and that is of enmity and hatred (ver. 10). Secondly, from the stale in which He stood to us. It was God that was first wronged, and yet it was God that first began to think of the means of reconciliation. Thirdly, His independency upon us: He stood in no need of us, He could have done well enough without us. Fourthly, His preterition and passing by of other creatures who by their creation were more glorious than ourselves. What does all this serve for but to enlarge our hearts more in thankfulness to God who has done so graciously for us and with us? The second is the wisdom of God; God in His wisdom. And that especially in observing this order and method. First, He would suffer us to be miserable before He would make us absolutely and eternally happy. The law must first be "weak through the flesh" before God sends His Son. Thirdly, here was also His power. And whilst here in this text our salvation is reduced to God as the principal Author and Efficient of it, it is hereby made to be strong salvation, especially if we consider in what a case we were before He undertook it. Though the law were unable to save us, yet God for all that is not unable. Hence it is that the Scripture still represents our salvation to us under this notion. "I am the Lord thy God and thy Saviour" (Isaiah 43:3, 12, etc.). "The mighty God," etc. (Isaiah 9:6). If it were in any hands besides His we might jointly fear the miscarriage of it. The second particular branch considerable in the second general of the text is the means of deliverance, and that is here expressed to be the sending of Christ, in these words, "God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin." In which passage we have three things more considerable of us: first, the person sent, and that is the Son of God, God's own Son. Secondly, the manner of sending Him, and that is "in the likeness of sinful flesh." Thirdly, the end for which, and that is "for sin." We begin with the first of these, viz., the person sent, God's "own Son." And there are no less than three main articles of our Christian faith, all at once, which are here exhibited unto us. First, here is the Godhead and Divinity of Christ. Secondly, here is the manhood and incarnation of Christ. And thirdly, here is the union of the two natures of Christ in one person. The second is the manner of sending Him, "In the likeness of sinful flesh." This we may take notice of to this purpose, namely, to show unto us how requisite it is for ourselves, in whatever business we undertake, especially of great consequence, to have our call and mission from God, that He sends us and appoints us thereunto. When He calls us, and designs us, and sets us apart, as He did Christ, we may expect help from Him. Secondly, in order to God's acceptance and approbation. It will from hence be more pleasing to God what we do, and well taken by Him. Thirdly, in order likewise to success. There is likelihood of some good to follow upon that performance which is undertaken by designation from God. The third thing here considerable is the end, and that is expressed to be "for sin." For sin, that is, to be an offering for sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). Now God had herein a regard to a double consideration: first, His own glory, as sin was opposite to that. And secondly, our good, as sin was opposite to this likewise. What does all this teach us? First, from hence to take notice of the grievous and fearful nature of sin. That which could not be helped but by the sending of the Son of God into the world, that was certainly no small grievance, nor to be reckoned so by us. Secondly, let us not set up that which Christ came to take away, lest we thereby make His coming of no effect unto us. The third and last is the effect or accomplishment of it: Christ's obtaining of the end for which He came, and God's obtaining of the end for which He sent Him, in these words — He condemned sin in the flesh. There are two things here considerable of us: first, that which Christ did. And secondly, the state or condition which He did it in. That which He did was the condemnation of sin. The state which He did it in was in the flesh, as it is here expressed unto us. In this dispensation of God, for the condemning of sin by Christ, there were divers things at once remarkable, and so considerable of us: first, God's infinite justice, in that He would not let sin go unpunished. Secondly, God's infinite mercy, in that He would punish sin in the surety, and not in the proper person himself that had offended. Thirdly, God's infinite wisdom, in contriving of a way for the uniting and reconciling of these two attributes together, His justice and His mercy. Perfect justice satisfied, and perfect mercy enlarged. Fourthly, God's infinite power, in that He could do that which none other could do besides. Let us take heed of speaking and pleading for sin which is thus condemned by God Himself; seeing He has passed sentence upon it, let us not open our mouths for it.

(Thomas Horton, D. D.)

I. THE WEAKNESS OF THE LAW. It could not —

1. Give peace to the conscience.

2. Renew the affections.

3. Sanctify the life. Corrupt flesh too rebellious and mighty to be controlled by it.


1. The atonement of Christ gives peace to the conscience.

2. The grace of God renews the heart.

3. The Holy Spirit by His indwelling consecrates the life.

(J. J. S. Bird, M. A.)


1. He has done what the law could not do. This moral law is the great code of holy requirement, enjoined by God upon all His intelligent creatures for the double purpose of forming their characters and regulating their lives. Now the law is found totally unable to accomplish this object by reason of our weakness and depravity. It is the flesh which is too weak to bear the pressure of the law, just as there are pebbles too friable to bear the friction of polishing, or just as there are mirrors too distorted and dingy to reflect any light.

2. "God has sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh."(1) We thus see that what the law could not do no creature in the universe could do. To bring any pure created nature into contact with man's depravity would tend not to remove that depravity, but only to jeopardise the higher nature. Thus, with two streams, the one clear and the other turbid, when they mingle, it is not the clear stream which purifies the turbid one, but the reverse. Only God Himself could be trusted to mingle intimately with mankind, and lay hold upon the seed of Adam to raise it up from defilement and misery.(2) He has sent that Son "in the likeness of sinful flesh." The Saviour shared in our infirmities, but yet He was without sin. Though "born of a woman," He was "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners."

3. This was "for sin." If this be taken in the general sense of "on account of sin," or "with reference to sin," still we must think principally of His great atoning death. It was on the Cross that the Lamb of God took away the sin of the world (1 Peter 2:24).

4. God thus "condemned sin in the flesh," i.e., Christ on the Cross condemned sin to lose its hold upon mankind, and despoiled it of its tyrannous control; or else condemned to destruction the sin which is in our flesh. Here we see how Jesus saves His people from their sins. This word "condemned" suggests a comparison with ver. 1. The condemnation which should have come upon us has come upon our sins instead. And thus, while we are forgiven, we are also delivered from the thraldom of sin, that henceforth we should serve it no more.


1. Nothing is more clear than that Christ intends His people to be actually holy (Titus 2:11, and Titus 3:3-6). Here, then, we see the double glory of the gospel over the law. It can do what the law cannot do, in that it can confer on us a full and sufficient pardon, and also save us from the continued dominion of sin, and cause us to walk in newness of life. If a man hate God and his neighbour, it can make him love them; if he be a drunkard, it can make him sober; if an idolater, it can turn him from his idols; if a liar, it will make him truthful, etc.

2. Let us, then, see how it is that God works this mighty change within us.(1) Our hearts are won to holiness and the love of God by the incarnation and sufferings of His Son.(2) They are set free to a life of holiness by the removal of our guilt and condemnation by the sacrifice of Jesus.(3) They are directly strengthened and vivified for a career of holy living by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, the purchase of Jesus' death, and the gift of His exaltation.

(T. G. Horton.)

I. THE OCCASION OF ITS INTRODUCTION. The inefficiency of the law.

1. What could not the law do? That which man as a sinner required for his salvation. It could neither regenerate nor justify. Man wanted both the nature for and the title to heaven, and the law could give neither.

2. Why the law could not do this?(1) Not because there is anything in it essentially inimical to happiness: law is essentially good. "It was tweak through the flesh," i.e., in consequence of man's depravity. It cannot make man happy, because man is corrupt.(2) This weakness of law is its glory. It is the glory of law that it cannot stoop to human imperfections; were it to do so the order of the moral universe would be destroyed.

II. THE HISTORY OF ITS DEVELOPMENT. "God sending His own Son," etc. Observe —

1. The mission of Jesus. "God sent" Him to do what the law could not do — regenerate and justify. Sovereign love is the primal spring.

2. The incarnation of Jesus. "In the likeness of sinful flesh." Only the likeness. His humanity was necessary as an example and as an atonement.

3. The sacrifice of Jesus. For a "sin offering," etc.

III. THE DESIGN OF ITS OPERATION. He did not come to abrogate, relax, or supersede law, but to fulfil it, that "its righteousness might be fulfilled" in the sinner. The Christian plan does this by presenting law —

1. In its most attractive forms. In the life of Jesus.

2. In connection with the greatest motives to obedience. In Christ you see God's infinite respect for law as well as His love for sinners.

3. In connection with the greatest helper — the Holy Spirit. "It is expedient for you that I go away," etc.,

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

1. The text is a distinct statement that Judaism had come to the end of its influence. It had educated them to a point where, while men had need of more, it had nothing more to give.

2. We hear men speak of the Christian religion like Paul spoke of the Jewish. It is patronisingly said, It has done a good work; but men are so far educated by it now that it is no longer able to meet the want of our times; but from some source we are to expect a latter-day glory, which will be to Christianity what Christianity was to Judaism.


1. It is said that Churchism is wearing out.(1) But, even if that were true, the Church is no more religion than the masonry of the aqueduct is the water that flows in it. Schools are a very different thing from intelligence, though intelligence uses them as instruments. Churches may change without changing in one single iota the substance of religion.(2) But besides this, the spirit of man, in religion, intermits. There has never been a steady growth in anything — neither in science nor government. If, then, there is now a decadence of interest in religion, it might show simply that we are in one of these stages of temporary inactivity.

2. It may be said that the thinking men, particularly in the direction of science, are less and less believers in revelation. And the statement has some truth in it. But in the history of the race we find that one element usually takes precedence of every other, and absorbs everything, cheating the other elements. In some ages it is the religious element; in others it is cold, hard thought; then this has given way to periods of enthusiastic and even superstitious devotion. Just now we are in a period of mere material investigations. But we shall certainly come to another period ere long. If now the spiritual elements are cheated, the time will soon come when these things will begin to balance themselves. So soon as that growth which seems to unsettle the old faith has adjusted itself, the religious wants of the soul reassert themselves, and ere long the old statements are overlaid with new religious developments, and with religious truth in new forms.


1. Is faith giving place to indifference? On the contrary, probably never was there an age in which there was so deep a religious faith as now. What men call a want of faith is oftentimes only unwillingness to accept so little as hitherto has been included in the articles of faith. It is the reaching out of the soul in new aspirations. It is asking for more, not for less.

2. Is the devotional spirit decayed? It is changing and ought to change. As progress in intelligence raises men into a better conception of God, and their own place in creation, there will be a new mode of reverence, a new method of devotion. The element of love has greatly increased, so that there is now far more of the filial spirit. The devotional spirit, though far less ascetic than it was, is more prevalent; and in the community there is far more respect for religion than formerly.

3. Never was there such a spirit of propagation as now. Never were so much pains taken to rear men for teaching the faith. Never was there so large a demand for, and supply of its instruments, in the form of religious books and papers: and, above all, never was there such a spirit of building churches, and supplying them in waste and destitute places.

4. Is the family today less or more under the influence of a true spiritual Christianity than it formerly was? There never was a period when there were so many high-toned and pure Christian families as today.

5. Has the Christian religion shown any signs of failing as a reforming power in its application to the morals of the day? Is there less conscience, less hope, less desire to purify the individual and the community? Religion dying? What, then, mean the execrations of wicked men? The Church losing its power? Why, then, are men so complaining of its intrusion, telling us to stay at home and preach the gospel, and not to meddle with things that do not concern us? It is the light which streams from the gospel which wakes the owls and the bats.

6. Has the Christian spirit lost its power over government and public affairs? I think the conscience of our community never was so high as it is today. Everywhere is the gospel leavening public administrations, and raising up an intelligent Christian public sentiment which is itself as powerful upon governments as winds are upon the sails of ships. If these things be so, are we quite ready yet to assume the condition of mourning? On the contrary, of all periods of the world this would be the last that I should have chosen to lift up my hands in despair and say, Religion is dying out, and must yield to a new dispensation.Conclusion:

1. We may expect some changes, but none other than to deepen religious life and faith in religious truth. There will be a better understanding of the human heart, and better modes of reaching it with religious truth. But no amount of change in these external instrumentalities will affect in the slightest degree the power of the religious element.

2. The instrumentalities of religion hereafter, we may believe, will be more various. Laws, and customs, and instruments, being filled with a religious spirit, will become means of grace to a degree that hitherto they have never done.

3. Many think that preaching is worn out: a great deal of preaching is worn out. Many think churches useless: a great many churches are useless. But would you judge the family in the same way? Would you say that fatherhood is worn out because there are a great many poor husbands and fathers?

4. There never was a time, young men, when you had so little occasion to be ashamed of Christ or of religion. If men all around you, with all manner of books and paper, are telling you glozing tales of the decadence of religion, say to them, "Let the dead bury their dead," but follow thou Christ. It is a falsehood. The glory of religion never was so great. Its need was never more urgent. Its fruits were never more ample. Its ministers were never more inspired by God's ministering angels than now.

(H. Ward Beecher.)

God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin.
Emphatic to mark —

1. The greatness of His love.

2. The adequacy of the means for the salvation of men.

(T. Robinson, D. D.)

1. Christ was God's Son. Notice the several attestations of this great truth. That of John Baptist (John 1:34); of Nathaniel (John 1:49); Peter (Matthew 16:16); the Centurion (Matthew 27:54); the Eunuch (Acts 8:37); Martha (John 11:27); the devils themselves (Matthew 8:29; Mark 3:11). Christ often asserted His Sonship; and the Father in a most solemn and open manner attested it (Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5).

2. But Christ is here said to be God's "own Son." In the original it is "the Son of Himself," or His "proper Son" (as ver. 32). God is Christ's proper Father (John 5:18). He is not barely a son, but a son in a peculiar manner.Consider Him —

I. COMPARATIVELY. And so He is thus styled to distinguish Him from all other sons. For God hath sons —

1. By creation, as e.g., the angels (Job 1:6; Job 38:7), and Adam (Luke 3:38).

2. By the grace of regeneration and adoption (John 1:12, 13; James 1:18; Galatians 4:3; Ephesians 1:5).

3. By nature; one that is a son of another rank and order. In this respect God hath but one, namely, Christ. Upon which account He sometimes appropriates the paternal relation in God unto Himself (Luke 10:22; John 14:2). And elsewhere He distinguishes betwixt God as being His Father and being the Father of believers (John 20:17).

II. ABSOLUTELY, and abstractedly from all other sons, so He is God's own proper Son. The expression points to His being eternally begotten, and to His being begotten in the Divine essence. As to the latter, the Son was begotten in that essence rather than out of it. And some tell us that here we are not to consider Christ essentially as He is God, but personally as the Divine essence subsists in Him as the second person. In the first consideration as He was God He had the Divine essence in and of Himself, and so He could not be begotten to it, for He was God "from Himself." In the second notion, as He was God personally considered, or as He was the second person and the Son, so He was of the Father and not of Himself; for though He was God of Himself, yet He was not Son of Himself (see John 7:29; Psalm 2:7; Proverbs 7:22-30; Micah 5:2; John 1:14, 18; John 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9). There are three properties belonging to Christ in His Sonship which are incommunicable to any other.

1. He is a Son co-equal with His Father (John 5:18; Philippians 2:6).

2. He is a Son co-essential with the Father (John 10:30; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3).

3. He is the co-eternal Son of God the Father (Revelation 1:8; Revelation 2:8; Hebrews 1:5, 8).Application:

1. Is Christ thus God's own Son? I infer then —(1) That He is God. Not a God by office only, not a made God, but God truly, properly, essentially (1 John 5:20). Generation is always the production of another in the same nature; like ever begets like; as it is said of Adam he begat a son in his own likeness after his image (Genesis 5:3), and must it not be so here in the Father's begetting of Christ?(2) That He is a very great and glorious person. Though Christ's dignity and preeminence is not the ground of His Sonship, yet His Sonship is the ground of His dignity and preeminence.(3) That the work of redemption was a very great work, for God sent His own Son about it. The greater the person who is employed in a work the greater is that work.

2. Was Christ God's own Son? Let me from hence urge a few things upon you.(1) Study Christ much in this relation, that you may know Him as the proper, natural, essential Son of God (1 Corinthians 2:2; Philippians 3:8). But —(a) In all your inquiries be sure you keep within the bounds of sobriety (1 Corinthians 4:6). Do not pry too far into those secrets which God hath locked up from you; content yourselves with what He hath revealed in His Word and stay there.(b) Join study and prayer together. He studies this mystery best who studies it most upon His knees. This is not savingly to be known without special and supernatural illumination from Christ through the Spirit (Matthew 16:16, 17; John 1:18, John 5:28).(2) Believe Him to be such, and believe on Him as such. The first we call dogmatical, the second justifying and saving faith.(3) How, then, should all honour and adore Him? Certainly upon this Sonship the highest, yea, even Divine adoration itself is due to Him (John 5:23). Give Him —

(a)The honour of worship (Hebrews 1:6).

(b)The honour of obedience (Matthew 17:5).(4) Admire and wonder at the greatness of God's love in His sending of Him.

(T. Jacomb, D. D.)

Before close handling this subject note —

1. This sending of Christ strongly implies His pre-existence. That which is not cannot be sent. And one would think the Scriptures are so clear in this that there should not be the least controversy about it. For they tell us that Christ was in Jacob's time (Genesis 48:16); in Job's time (Job 19:25); in the prophets' time (1 Peter 1:11); in Abraham's time, yea, long before it (John 8:56, etc.); in the Israelites' time (1 Corinthians 10:9); Isaiah's time (John 12:41). How fully and plainly is His pre-existence asserted in John 1:1-3; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:16, 17; Hebrews 1:2; John 17:5; Philippians 2:6.

2. His personality, by which I mean He existed before He took flesh, not as a thing, quality, dispensation, or manifestation, but as a proper, personal subsistence. And He must be so, or else He could not be the subject of this sending. For He is sent to take the likeness of sinful flesh upon Him.

3. The distinction that is betwixt the Father and Christ. One sends and the other is sent. The Father and the Son are one in nature and essence, yet they are distinct persons. The apostle had spoken of the Spirit in the former verse; in this He speaks of the Father and of the Son, thus teaching the Trinity. I will endeavour now: —


1. Negatively. This sending of Christ was —(1) Not His ineffable and eternal generation, or sonship grounded upon that. He was sent who was the Son of God, but He was not the Son of God as He was sent; His Sonship was the result of His generation, not of His mission.(2) Not any local secession from His Father, or any local motion from the place where He was, to some other place where He was not. The Father sent Him to this lower world, yet here He was before; the Father sent Him from heaven, yet, as to His Godhead, He remained in heaven still (1 John 3:13). So when He ascended, He went from earth, and yet He was on earth still as to His spiritual presence (Matthew 28:20). Man He went from us, but as God He is as much with us as ever.

2. Affirmatively, this sending of Christ lies —(1) In God's choosing, appointing, ordaining Him from everlasting to the office and work of the Mediator (1 Peter 1:20).(2) In God's qualifying and fitting of Him for His great work. God never puts a person upon any special service but first He qualifies him for that service. Christ must have a body to fit Him for dying and suffering, that God provided for Him (Hebrews 10:5). And whereas He must also have the Spirit, that too the Father doth furnish Him with (Isaiah 42:1; John 3:34).(3) In God's authorising and commissioning Him to what He was to be and to do. Christ had a commission from God under hand and seal (John 6:27). As princes when they send abroad their ambassadors or appoint their officers, they give them their commissions sealed to be their warrant for what they shall do; so God the Father did with Christ.(4) In the Father's authoritative willing of Him to take man's nature upon Him, and in that nature so to do, and so to suffer (Hebrews 10:7; John 10:18; Philippians 2:8).(5) In God's trusting of Him with His great designs. When we send a person about our affairs, we repose a trust in him, that he will be faithful in the management of our concerns.

II. TO ANSWER AN OBJECTION AND REMOVE A DIFFICULTY. That which hath been spoken seems to derogate from the greatness and glory of Christ's person: for if God sent Him, then, argue some, He is inferior to the Father. But —

1. Sending doth not always imply inferiority or inequality; for persons who are equal upon mutual consent may send each the other. And thus it was between God the Father and Christ. When the master sends the servant, he goes because he must; but when the Father sends the Son He goes readily, because His will falls in with His Father's will (John 10:36, cf. 17:19; Romans 8:32, cf. Galatians 2:20).

2. We must distinguish of a two-fold inferiority, one in respect of nature, and one in respect of office, condition, or dispensation. As to the first, Christ neither was nor is in the least inferior to the Father. In respect of this He thought it not robbery to be equal with God. As to the second, Christ being considered as Mediator, it may be said of Him that He was inferior to the Father (Philippians 2:7, 8; John 14:28).

III. TO INQUIRE INTO THE GROUNDS AND REASONS OF CHRIST'S MISSION. In the general, some must be sent. Since neither the law, nor anything else, could operate to any purpose towards the advancing of God's honour and the promoting of the sinner's good, it was necessary that God Himself should interpose in some extraordinary way; which thereupon He accordingly did in the sending of Christ. But more particularly, suppose a necessity of sending, yet why did God pitch upon His Son? Might not some other person have been sent, or might not some other way have been found? I answer, No; Christ the Son must be the very person whom God will send. And Him He pitched upon because —

1. He was the person with whom the Father had covenanted about this very thing.

2. God saw that was the very best way which could be taken. He had great designs to carry on, as, e.g., to let the world see what an evil thing sin was, how impartial His justice was, what an ocean of love He had in His heart, and to lay a sure foundation for the righteousness and salvation of believers. Now there was no way for the accomplishing of these comparable to this of God's sending His Son.

3. As this was the best and the fittest way, so He was the best and the fittest person to be employed. This appears from, and was grounded upon —(1) His two natures, the hypostatical union of both in His person. He was God (John 1:1; Philippians 2:6; 1 John 5:20; Romans 9:5; Isaiah 9:6; Titus 2:13). He was also man (1 Timothy 2:5); then, too, He was God-man in one person (Colossians 2:19). Now who could be so fit to bring God and man together as He who was Himself both God and man?(2) His glorious attributes; His power, wisdom, mercy, goodness, faithfulness, holiness, etc.(3) His Sonship and near relation to God. Who so fit to make others the adopted sons of God as He who was Himself the natural Son of God?(4) The glory and dignity of His person as the image of God (Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3). Now who so fit to restore man to God's image as that man who was the essential image of God?

4. He was the only person that could be sent, for none but He could accomplish man's redemption.(1) There were evils to be endured, which were above the strength of any mere creature to endure.(2) There were evils to be removed — the wrath of God, the guilt of sin, the curse of the law — which no mere creature was able to remove.(3) There were also blessings to be procured, as reconciliation with God, justification, adoption, eternal salvation, which no such creature possibly could procure.Practical improvement:

1. Was Christ sent? and did God thus send Him? What doth this great act of God call for from us?(1) To admire God. Here is the greatest thing that ever God did, or ever will do; it was much that He should make a world, but what is the making of a world to the sending of a Son?(2) To admire the love of God the Father, and alway to entertain good thoughts of Him (Ephesians 1:3-5). Some gracious persons lie under the temptation that they can with more comfort think of the Son than of the Father. But surely God is love, and this very sending of His Son represents Him as full of mercy, goodness, and grace.(3) To love Christ greatly. God sent Him, but how willing was He to be sent upon the errand of your salvation l(4) To imitate Christ with respect of His being sent. Thus, never go till you be sent, then go readily.(5) To take heed that you do not rest with the external sending of Christ. There is a two-fold sending of Him —

(a)To be man.

(b)Into man. He that would hope for salvation by Christ must have the latter as well as the former sending.(6) To believe in Him (1 John 3:33; John 17:3).

2. It affords abundant matter of comfort to all sincere Christians. Did God send Christ?(1) Surely, then, great was His good will towards you (Luke 2:14).(2) Then He is in good earnest in the matters of salvation.(3) Then you need not fear but that the work of redemption is completed. When such a person sends, and such a person is sent, the thing shall be done effectually and thoroughly.(4) Know to your comfort He hath not yet done. As to His own satisfaction He hath no more to do, but as to your glory and happiness He will yet do more. His first sending was to make the purchase, His second shall be to put you into possession.(5) Set this against all.

(a)Against the weakness of the law. That which the law could not do, Christ did.

(b)Against the guilt of sin. Upon Christ's sending presently you read of the condemning of sin.

(T. Jacomb, D. D.)


1. He is God's own Son.

2. Sent by God.


1. He sustains.

2. Magnifies.

3. Fulfils it.


1. He visits him.

2. Assumes his nature.

3. Dies for him.


1. He atones for it.

2. Condemns it.

3. Destroys it.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

Condemned sin in the flesh
1. Ever since man has fallen, two things have been desirable. The one, that he should be forgiven; the other, that he should be led to hate the sin into which he has fallen, and love the holiness from which he has become alienated. It were impossible to make a man happy unless both be equally realised. If his sins were forgiven, and yet he loved sin, his prospects were dark, If he ceased to love sin, and yet were lying under the guilt of it, his conscience would be tortured with remorse. By what process can man be both justified and sanctified?

2. Human reason suggests that a law should be given to man which he should keep. This has been tried, and the law which was given was the best law that could be framed. If, therefore, that law should fail to make men what they should be, the fault will not be in the law, but in the man. As the text says, it was "weak through the flesh." It could not do what God never intended it should do. The law cannot forgive sin, nor create a love of righteousness. It can execute the sentence, but it can do no more. Now, in the text we are told how God interposed to do by His grace what His law could not do.

I. WHAT GOD DID. He sent His Son.


1. The very fact that God was under necessity, if He would save men and yet not violate His justice, to send His Son, condemned sin.

2. The life of our Lord Jesus Christ on earth condemned sin. You can often condemn an evil best by putting side by side with it the palpable contrast. There was a condemnation of sin in Christ's very look. The Pharisees and all sorts of men felt it. They could not fail to see through His life what crooked lives their own were.

3. God condemned sin by allowing it to condemn itself. Most men deny that their particular transgressions are at all heinous. But God seemed to say, "I will let sin do what it can; and men shall see henceforth what sin is from that sample." And what did sin do? Sin murdered the perfect man, and thus convicted itself.

4. God condemned sin by suffering Christ to be put to death on account of sin. Its heinousness demanded no lesser expiation. "But why did not God exercise the sovereign prerogative of mercy, and at once forgive sin?" How, then, could God have condemned sin? "But if the righteous law be really so spiritual, and carnal man so weak, why not alter the law and adapt it to the exigency?" I reply again, because such a procedure would not condemn the sin. On the contrary, it would condemn the law.

III. HOW THIS DOES WHAT THE LAW COULD NOT DO. There were two desirable things, you will remember, that I started with.

1. That the offender should be pardoned. You can clearly see how that is done. If Jesus did suffer in my stead, henceforth it becomes not only mercy that absolves me, but justice that seals my acquittal.

2. But how does this tend to make men pure and haters of sin? When the Holy Spirit comes with power into a man's heart, and renews his nature, forthwith the impure are made chaste, the dishonest are made honest, and the ungodly are made to love God. And by the same means there comes into the heart an enmity against the sin which caused the suffering of Christ.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

"The law" here means that law of constraint, acting from without as precept and motive, which came to a head, in the dispensation of Moses. It is singular that this law — called "the ministration of condemnation" — could not condemn sin in the flesh, or secure the fulfilment of its own righteousness. This unfitted it to become an instrument of salvation. It could give us no help to get free from that very evil to which it was itself most opposed.

I. THE GREAT REQUIREMENT. Condemnation of sin in the flesh signifies —

1. That the condemnation should pass from a mere threatening to an actual punishment in human nature. Condemnation can exist as a threatening, and if so, sin may be condemned in the law; but when sin is condemned in the flesh, there must be the actual infliction of punishment.

2. Such a condemnation as shall issue in the accomplishment of the righteousness of the law. The great problem is how to condemn sin effectually, and yet save the sinner.

II. THE INSUFFICIENT PROVISION. The law was unable to do this. It could not condemn sin in the flesh through the weakness of the flesh. If terror could frighten man out of sin, the law has terror. If the relation of duty could secure the performance of duty, the law reveals duty. If the exhibition of holiness could allure to the law of holiness, the law exhibits that picture. But the corruption of the flesh is too strong for the law to conquer.

III. THE PERFECT ACCOMPLISHMENT. The gospel condemns sin in the flesh.

1. By the incarnation of Jesus. Sin cannot be adequately condemned (i.e., punished) as an abstraction, but only in human nature, i.e., in the same nature in which it was committed, otherwise the threatening remains a dead letter.

2. By the sacrifice of Christ. "For sin" means "an offering for sin." God laid on Christ the condemnation of the law. But how could Christ more effectively bear the punishment of the law than any other man?(1) By virtue of His headship of His people. If the head suffers, the whole body being identified with that head, suffers also. A nation makes peace or war by the minister who is in power. So Christ bare our sins in His own body.(2) By virtue of His innocence. He had no sins of His own to atone for, Thus He could be accepted instead of sinners.(3) By reason of His divinity. The blow of justice must have destroyed any merely human being, but it could not destroy Christ. He was able to exhaust the penalty, and yet to survive.

(P. Strutt.)

How did God condemn sin in the flesh, i.e., in human nature generally?

1. By exhibiting in the person of His Incarnate Son the same flesh in substance but free from sin, He proved that sin was in the flesh only as an unnatural and usurping tyrant. Thus the manifestation of Christ in sinless humanity at once condemned sin in principle. For this sense of condemnation by contrast see Matthew 12:41, 42; Hebrews 11:7. But —

2. God condemned sin practically and effectually by destroying its power and casting it out; and this is the sense especially required by the context. The law could condemn sin only in word, and could not make its condemnation effectual. Christ coming "for sin" not only made atonement for it by His death, but uniting man to Himself "in newness of life" (Romans 6:4) gave actual effect to the condemnation of sin by destroying its dominion in the flesh through the life-giving, sanctifying power of His Spirit.

(Archdeacon Gifford.)

The flesh in Him was like a door constantly open to the temptations of pleasure and pain; and yet He constantly refused sin any entrance into His will and action. By this persevering and absolute exclusion He declared it evil and unworthy of existing in humanity. This was what the law, "because of the flesh," which naturally sways the human will, could not realise in any man. The law could undoubtedly condemn sin on paper, but Christ condemned it in a real living human nature. Hence the reason why He must appear in flesh. For it was the very fortress where sin had established its seat that it behoved it to be attacked and conquered. Like the hero spoken of in the fable, He required Himself to descend into the infected place which He was commissioned to cleanse. Thus from the perfectly holy life of Jesus there proceeds a conspicuous condemnation of sin; and it is this moral fact, the greatest of the miracles that distinguished this life, which the Holy Ghost goes on reproducing in the life of every believer, and propagating throughout the entire race. This will be the victory gained over the law of sin (ver. 2). Thus we understand the connection between the "condemned" of ver. 3 and the "no condemnation" of ver. 1. In His life He condemned that sin, while by remaining master of ours, would have brought it into condemnation. The condemnation of sin in Christ's life is the means appointed by God to effect its destruction in ours.

(Prof. Godet.)

That the righteousness of the law might he fulfilled in us.
I. THE DESIGN OF GOD IN THUS, BY CHRIST, CONDEMNING SIN IN THE FLESH. The penalty of the law is fulfilled in us when, as members of Christ's body by spiritual union, we are freed from condemnation; but it is in sanctification that the righteousness of the law is fulfilled — i.e., when we have the law written in our heart, and obedience, flowing without constraint, is the inward instinct and law of life. Bear in mind that "Love is the fulfilling of the law." In this respect the law and the gospel are one. But as two dispensations or modes of treatment they differ in toto. The action of the law is by precept and constraint — it seeks to guide from without — urging its minute details upon a reluctant heart. The gospel frees us from this bondage of verbal precepts and details, and by the manifestation of God's love awakens love, thus beginning where the law left off, with love, which was the end of the commandment. There is nothing in the way of obedience that we cannot by love accomplish. Note —

1. That the gospel does not destroy the law. "Do we make void the law through faith? — nay, we establish the law." We are free from the law only that we may be under the law to Christ.

2. That the salvation of the gospel is not only a salvation from wrath, but from sin.

3. That however imperfectly this salvation is realised by us it may be fully accomplished — a righteousness fulfilled.


1. Only in proportion as the spirit works within can we take full possession of our privilege as believers in Christ, as free from the bondage of the law. Hence it is that character becomes the test of our Christian state.

2. Character is determined by the prevailing principle (or law) which governs the life. Two such principles divide all mankind — the flesh and the spirit.

3. Christian experience is a practical realisation of the spiritual life. It is not thinking or feeling, but walking after the spirit. They who sit down in spiritual sloth are not walking after the spirit, and therefore we have no evidence of their acceptance with God. Examine yourselves. Is your life Christ-like, or worldly?

(P. Strutt.)

In this verse the apostle lays down the end of God's sending His Son in the flesh for the condemnation of sin, and that is, "that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us." There are two general parts which are here observable of us. First, the benefit itself which is conveyed by Christ, and that is, a fulfilling of the righteousness of the law in us. Secondly, the qualification of the persons who have particular interest in this benefit, and those are they "who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit."

I. We begin with the first, viz., THE BENEFIT ITSELF. "That the righteousness of the law," etc. Where first we are to explain the words, and then to come to the doctrine observable from them. That whatsoever the law could demand and require of us, the same is fully satisfied and fulfilled by Christ. He hath fulfilled the righteousness of the law in our behalf. For the opening of this present point unto us, we must know that the righteousness of the law may be taken two manner of ways. There is a double right which the law of God does challenge in us — a preceptive or commanding right, and a vindictive or avenging right. Now both these rights has Christ satisfied and discharged for us. First, He hath satisfied the right of obedience, in that He hath fulfilled the whole law of God in our stead. Secondly, He hath satisfied the right of punishment, in that He hath endured all the wrath which was due unto us for our transgression of this law. Thirdly, Christ's satisfaction of the law, as concerning obedience unto it, is accounted as ours; insomuch as the righteousness of the law is said to be fulfilled in us. Fulfilled in us; how is that? Not in our persons, but in our Surety. In regard of the intention and purpose of God Himself, who does bestow Christ upon us to this end; Christ was given by God for righteousness, and for righteousness in this explication, namely, of full and perfect observation of the whole law. The use and improvement of this point to ourselves in a way of application comes to this —

1. As a word of singular comfort to all the true servants of God which groan under the burden of their own failings and omissions.

2. We may hence also take notice of the infinite wisdom and goodness of God which hath made such a happy repair of that righteousness which we lost in Adam; and that upon two considerations it is more full and complete.(1) It is more full and complete. For Adam's obedience to the law, it could at the most have been no more than just answerable and adequate to the law. Yea, but now Christ's obedience, through the excellency and infiniteness of the person, is transcendent and far above the law. As for a King's Son to pay our debt for us is a more transcendent and meritorious act than our own payment of it would be, from the dignity and transcendency of the person; even so is it here.(2) As this righteousness of Christ is more full and complete, so it is also more certain and sure. The second follows, that whatever could be required of us for punishment is discharged likewise. This must needs be so upon this account — First, God's acceptation of Christ for a full and sufficient redemption. Secondly, Christ's suffering itself, which was of the whole anger and wrath of God, expressed in all particulars. Thirdly, the infiniteness of the person.

II. Now the second is THE QUALIFICATION OF THE PERSONS. "Who walk not," etc. From hence observe, first in general, that all men indifferently have not a share in the comforts of the gospel. Therefore let none too rashly and over-hastily apply them to themselves. Secondly, in particular observe this, that justification and sanctification must go together; they only who walk after the spirit have Christ's righteousness imputed to them, and have the law fulfilled in them. Secondly, because Christ came by water as well as by blood; there is His spirit as well as His merit. Thirdly, because God is exact and complete in His works in us; and so as He justifies, so also will He sanctify. It shows the vanity of those who hope to be saved by Christ, while they live in all manner of sin. Those that walk in the spirit, they have here an evidence of their justification from their sanctification. We see here that it is not enough to abstain from evil, but we must also do good.

(Thomas Horton, D. D.)


1. Emanating from a Being infinitely perfect, it follows —(1) That the law, designed to be a transcript of God, must be in every respect perfect. "The law of the Lord is perfect."(2) That the law being perfectly holy, all its requirements must be equally so. It cannot compromise, nor soften down a single enactment.

2. In requiring this, the creature shall have no ground for impeaching the Divine goodness. As if fearful of perplexing the mind with a multitude of enactments, our Lord has presented one precept, the perfect keeping of which involves a virtual fulfilment of all (Matthew 22:37). What an unfolding of the wisdom of God is here! In securing to Himself the supreme love of His creatures, He wins a willing obedience to every precept of His law.


1. Not in our own persons. Where, then, would be the weakness of the law? The law has never yet received a complete fulfilment in any fallen creature. Where is the creature who can assert his plea of perfect love to God?

2. The Lord Jesus fulfilled the righteousness of the law in the behalf of His people. He only could do so who was Himself "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners." The first step in this wondrous achievement was His being made under the law. Having made Himself amenable to the law, He then proceeds to its fulfilment. Trace the outline of His obedience. Is the grand moving spring of the law, love? Where was ever seen such love to God as our Surety displayed? And did not that affection constrain Him to a supreme consecration to His Father's glory? In addition to supreme love, was there not the most perfect sanctity of life? Accompany Him to the baptismal waters, and hear Him exclaim, "Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness." Then follow Him to Calvary, and behold His obedience unto death — was there ever such a law fulfiller as the Son of God?

III. IN WHAT WAY ARE WE TO RECONCILE THE HONOURING OF THE LAW BY CHRIST AND THE FULFILMENT OF ITS RIGHTEOUSNESS IN US? The difficulty is solved by a reference to the federal union of Christ and His Church. Standing to His people in the relation of a covenant Head, the law being fulfilled by Him in a legal sense, it was virtually a fulfilment of the law by us, His obedience being accepted in lieu of ours (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 5:19). Thus every humble sinner who, feeling the plague of his own heart, breaking away from his dependence upon a covenant of works, and reposing in simple faith beneath the righteousness of the Incarnate God, shall never come into condemnation.

IV. THE RIGHTFUL CLAIMANTS OF THIS PRIVILEGED STATE ARE DESCRIBED AS THOSE WHO WALK, etc. A Christian may be ensnared and stumble, but he walks not after the flesh. "A just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again." An unrighteous man falls, but where he falls he lies. "He that is unrighteous is unrighteous still." But those in whom the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in their Surety, and in whom a gospel righteousness, an evangelical obedience, is performed by themselves, "walk after the Spirit." Conclusion:

1. Behold, what an open door does this subject set before the humble, convinced sinner. The law, now honoured as it never was — think you that the Lord will reject the application of a single sinner who humbly asks to be saved?

2. Saints of God, keep the eye of your faith immovably fixed upon Christ, your sole pattern. Our Lord did not keep that law that His people might be lawless. The "righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us" when we "walk after the Spirit," in conformity to Christ's example.

(O. Winslow, D. D.)

For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh.
The word "flesh" is here to be taken not in the natural sense, but in the moral; and the word "Spirit" is here to be taken for the Spirit of grace and regeneration. First, the universality of these two states and conditions of men; and secondly, the contrariety. First, to take notice of the universality of these two states and conditions, as they do divide and make up the whole world; for so they do. All men living are one of these two. Therefore let us everyone search and examine ourselves in this particular, and observe how the case is here with us; whether we are such as are after the flesh, or which are after the Spirit. As there is not a middle place betwixt heaven and hell, so there is not a middle state neither betwixt sin and grace. This it may be much discovered by us according to the principles that prevail in us; by what we most delight in and give ourselves to. The second is in reference to the contrariety, in that they are opposed here one to the other (Galatians 5:17). The contrariety of these two sorts of persons one to the other is considerable in sundry particulars; as, first, the contrariety of their principles which they are carried by, and that is, of flesh and of Spirit (Galatians 5:17). There is a different law and rule and principle, which does act and move the servants of God than does other persons. Secondly, the contrariety of their aims and projects and designs. Those who have different and contrary ends which they do set down and propound to themselves, they must needs be contrary to one another. Thirdly, the contrariety of their courses and actions and conversations. This is another thing which makes up this contrariety to us as observable in them. The consideration of this point is thus far useful to us. First, as it gives an account of that enmity which is in the one to the other (Galatians 5:29; John 15:19). Secondly, we see here also how unsuitable it is for those who are good to have intimate society and familiarity with those who are evil. Thirdly, we have from hence a discovery likewise of the excellency of the kingdom of Christ, and of the efficacy and power of the gospel, which makes such an admirable change and alteration as we may observe it to do. This is the nature of conversion, to deliver us from the power of darkness, and to translate us into the kingdom of Christ, as the apostle expresses it to us there in that place in Colossians 2:13. The second is the difference of properties as belonging to these persons, and that is, that the former do mind the things of the flesh, the latter the things of the Spirit. First, to speak of the former, which is the property of all carnal and unregenerate persons, such as are yet abiding and continuing in the state of nature, and here expressed to be after the flesh. This is that which is here declared of them, as proper to them, that they do mind the things of the flesh. When it is said here that carnal persons do mind carnal things, and they that are after the flesh the things of the flesh, this minding it may admit of a various explication to us. First, they mind them in a way of apprehension, that is; they understand them, and know what belongs unto them; they are well skilled and expert in them. This is one property of carnal and worldly persons, that they are best seen and knowing in such things as these are. Worldly men are best able to judge of worldly matters; as for the things of the Spirit, matters of grace and holiness, here they are plainly ignorant and unlearned. Everyone is still most capable and apprehensive of such kind of matters as he hath a proper genius for and inclination to; now this have carnal persons to worldly things. Secondly, in a way of affection. They mind them, that is, they favour them and relish them and take delight in them. Worldly persons, their hearts are set upon the world, and it is the most delightful thing to them of anything else. Thirdly, in a way of contemplation. They mind them, that is, they think upon them; such things as these are the chiefest study and meditation, and which their thoughts are most exercised about. Fourthly, in a way of activity and contrivance. They mind the things of the flesh, that is, they lay out chiefly for it. They bend their chiefest study and endeavour to promote such things as these are. They seek opportunities for the flesh, and they seek how to accomplish and to improve these opportunities. Now, the ground of all this is two fold. First, that inward principle which does act in them and prevail in them. This is a sure rule, that everything doth after its kind. Nature it is a most certain principle wherever it is. Secondly, there is Satan also who has a further stroke and influence hereupon. He is the spirit that works in the children of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2). He makes it his business to promote these things in them, by his suggestions and instigations and concurrences and assistances of them. The consideration of this point may be thus far useful to us. First, as a sad discovery to us of the state and condition of the generality of people in the world. Secondly, we may learn from hence the necessity of regeneration and the work of the new creature, in order to a holy life to be led by us, and the freeing of us from the power and dominion of sin in us, because so long as men are carnal they will be sure to do carnal things. The second is the property of those who are spiritual and regenerate, and that is, that such as these they do mind the things of the Spirit; that is, heaven and heavenly things, grace and holiness. First, spiritual persons, they have their minds enlightened to discern of spiritual things. The reason why most kinds of people do so little regard the things of the Spirit, is indeed because they do so little know the things of the Spirit, nor understand that excellency which is in them. That which men do not know, they do not desire. Secondly, as spiritual persons have an enlightening of their understanding to discern these things; so they have a touch also upon their hearts to suit with them, and to correspond unto them. Thirdly, they have, moreover, the Spirit of God Himself dwelling and abiding in them, who is a faithful monitor to them and exciter of them to that which is good. The use of this point to ourselves may he drawn forth into sundry particulars. First, as it calls us to search and examination of our estate in this respect, and to see how it is indeed with us. There is nothing more necessary for Christians, and those that profess religion, than to be able to make it out to themselves that they are such as are truly regenerate and after the Spirit. So again, as for the affection to these things; let us examine that. Men are then said to mind those things indeed when they savour them, and have some relish of them. Now, how is it to this? Alas! there are a great many people that do it not at all. The Word and the sacraments and prayer and the communion of saints, it may be they are present at them, and in a formal and customary manner partakers of them, but they relish no sweetness in them at all. And so likewise for contemplation. What are the things which we chiefly meditate and think upon in our greatest retirements, when we are solitary and alone by ourselves? Is it these things of the Spirit; yea, or no? "O how I love Thy law!" says David, "it is my meditation all the day" (Psalm 119:97). Again, for counsel and contrivance and design. How is it here? What is the business which we do most of all study, and endeavour and beat our brains about? Is it the great things of the world, how to improve ourselves and enlarge ourselves here; or is it to get grace into our hearts?

(Thomas Horton, D. D.)

I. "THE THINGS OF THE FLESH" are the bodily appetites, sympathies, and propensions. These are its great forces moving its members and organs. These are —

1. Good when subordinated to the interests of the soul. When they are controlled by a holy intelligence they are blessed handmaids to the Spirit.

2. Bad when they are allowed to hold empire over the soul. This they do in all unrenewed natures; the curse of humanity is when the body rules the intellect and conscience too. "What shall we eat; what shall we drink?" etc.

II. THE THINGS OF THE SPIRIT are its moral intuitions, rational dictates, intuitive longings, and varied powers of thought and sentiment. These are —

1. Good when they control the things of the flesh, when they hold the body in absolute subjection — use it as an instrument.

2. Bad when they are devoted to the things of the flesh. They are often thus devoted; souls are everywhere prostituted to animalism.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

I.AS HUMAN TO DIVINE (Matthew 16:23).

II.AS EARTHLY TO HEAVENLY (Philippians 3:19; Colossians 3:2).

III.AS SIN TO HOLINESS (Galatians 5:19-23).

(Archdeacon Gifford.)

It is not necessary that you mind all the things of the flesh in order to constitute you carnal man. It is enough to fasten this character upon you, that you have given yourself over to the indulgence or the pursuit even so far as one of these things. A sinner may not be a debauchee, and neither the one nor the other may be an aspiring politician. But whatever the reigning passion may be, if it have the effect of attaching you to some one object that is in the world, and which with the world will terminate and perish — then still your mind is in subjection to an idol, and the death of the carnally minded is your inheritance and your doom. Be not deceived, then, ye men, who, engrossed with the cares, and observant of all the sobrieties of business, are not addicted to the influences of dissipation; nor ye, who, heedless of wealth's accumulations, can mix an occasional generosity with the squanderings of intemperance and riot; nor ye, who, alike exempted from sordid avarice or debasing sensuality, have yet, in pursuit of an ascendency over the mind and the measures of your fellow men, made power the reigning felicity of your existence; nor yet even ye, who, without any settled aim after one or the other of these gratifications, fluctuate in giddy concern from one of the world's frivolities to another. None of you mind all the things of the flesh; yet each of you mind one or the other of these things, and that to the entire practical exclusion of the things of the Spirit from the preference of your habitual regards. We do not charge you with a devotion of heart to all these things in the world which are opposite to the love of the Father, any more than we charge you with idolatrously falling in obeisance to all the divinities of a heathen polytheism. But still, if only one of these divinities be your God, there were enough to constitute you an idolater, and to convict you of a sacrilegious disavowal of the King who is eternal and immutable. And so, your one earthly appetite, though free from the tyranny of all the others; your habit of ungodliness, though it be the only one that breaks out into visible expression in the history of your life — of itself renders you a carnal man; of itself drives you from the spiritual territory; of itself proves that you are still one of the children of this world; and that you have not passed from death unto life.

(T. Chalmers, D. D.)


1. They "mind the things of the flesh." The "flesh" is the body, man's animal nature, the seat of sensual appetite and passion. It is through the organs and the senses of the flesh that we engage in the activities of the world, and participate in its enjoyments or sorrows. "The things of the flesh," therefore, are all the things of this present life, apart from any connection with that which is unseen and eternal. These are summed up in chap. Romans 1, as "the creature," which is worshipped and served rather than the Creator. They are spoken of by John as "all that is in the world" (1 John 2:15, 16). This "all" is further defined as "the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" — covetousness, sensuality, and ambition. To "mind" these things is to think a great deal about them, to set our affections upon them, and to satisfy our souls with their possession (Luke 12:16-20).(1) The things of the flesh may be guiltily minded, even when the objects of our pursuit are such as may be lawfully desired. Who can complain of our addicting ourselves honestly to the toils of business, or enjoying in moderation the pleasures of the table and the home? To the Christian man they are blessings and means of holiness; to the carnally minded they are curses and snares.(2) It is not necessary to mind all the things of the flesh in order to be carnally minded. There may be pursuits and pleasures which you hate; but if there be others in which you immerse yourself, it is enough to stamp you as a carnal man. You need not sail on every sea to be a voyager on the water; and so you need not follow after every wickedness to be a child of the devil.(3) Carnally mindedness refers not to occasional impulses or feelings, but to the habitual bent and disposition of the soul. The carnal man may be, at times, the subject of good desires, and may form good resolutions; while the spiritual man may often have to struggle with the lusts of the flesh, and be for a moment cast down by them. Our real character may be determined by —

(a)Our secret meditations (Proverbs 23:7).

(b)The crises of our history. There are times which compel us to show whether we love God or the world most.

(c)The practical outgrowth of our principles and disposition. We are known by our fruits (1 John 3:7, 10).

2. "To be carnally minded is death."(1) Their present state is one of death. The soul is devoid of those affections, experiences, joys, in which the true life of a spirit consists.(2) Hence their doom in the future is to be banished from God forever. They sow to the flesh, and of the flesh reap corruption. This is the "second death."

3. "The carnal mind is enmity against God." True, there may be no full consciousness of this, but still it is there ready to be brought out when occasion arises. A man may hate his neighbour and yet not discover his resentment for years; but at length that neighbour may confront him in some such form as shall instantly bring it out.

4. "It is not subject to His law, neither indeed can it be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God." And why? Because they are still unforgiven as to past offences; and because also, in all seeming goodness, there is the total lack of a true and acceptable purpose.


1. They mind the things of the Spirit.(1) The things which He has revealed, or the spiritual gifts which He has imparted — all that concerns us spiritually and in relation to eternity, in contradistinction from all that concerns us only materially and temporally (1 Corinthians 2:9-16).(2) All the joys, states, and experiences of our spiritual nature which are produced within us by the realising contemplation of those sublime and enduring realities. Justification, forgiveness, the sense of that forgiveness, sanctification, advancement in the knowledge of God, the peculiar privileges of Divine sonship, together with all the gladdening prospects of ultimate glory.

2. He who minds the things of the Spirit shows it by making constant efforts to acquire them. He takes pleasure in meditating upon them, in conversing about them, and in listening when others describe them. Then he must needs read about them in the Word of God, and must be frequently found in closest communion with God. "To be spiritually minded is life and peace."(1) It is "life," inasmuch as it quickens the soul in its nobles attributes, awakens it to its highest functions, and fills it with its purest pleasures. Not to be spiritually minded leaves the mind of man but partially developed, and shuts up its most Godlike faculties in darkness, torpor, and neglect.(2) Must not such a state be one of "peace"? The carnal mind can have no peace. It is troubled from both within and without.

(T. G. Horton.)

I. THE TEXT DIVIDES MEN INTO TWO CLASSES AND ONLY TWO. The test of these two classes is the bent and inclination of their minds towards carnal or spiritual things. It is important to determine to which we belong. We cannot do so by any conventional test.


1. It is "minding" the things of the flesh or spirit that determines character; what a man is rather than what he does. God looks at the heart, and no outward act can deceive Him.

2. "Minding the things," etc., includes the exercise of the affections.

III. MAN REALLY IS WHAT HIS NATURE IS. The prevailing instincts of the heart determine the external habits of life. Character is determined from within, not from without. A man may live in a church all his life. This will not make him a saint. You may sow wheat and barley and flax in the same soil and under the same conditions, softened by the same shower, warmed by the same sun; but these influences only lead to the development of the different species according to their own intrinsic natures. Circumstances may repress the outward manifestation of character as a man may avoid worldly amusements from a sense of impropriety, etc.; but such abstinence does not prove him to be a spiritual man.


1. Prayer.

2. Reading the Bible.

3. Christ.

4. The world and the things of the world.

5. The unseen world.

(P. Strutt.)


1. The contrasted classes.(1) They that are after the flesh. "The flesh" means the body (Job 4:15; Job 21:6); the present life (Philippians 1:24); all that in religion is outward (chap. Romans 4:1; Galatians 3:4); corrupt, vitiated human nature with all its sinful habits (John 3:6; Romans 7:18). This last is its signification here. To be after the flesh —(a) We need not live in profligacy. Passions may be dormant, while not provoked. Dynamite is harmless till fired. The particles of clay may temporarily subside from muddy water till the liquid is agitated again: then fresh discolorations arise.(b) Nor indulge in every form of evil. In the mountain range of a man's iniquity certain peaks may start sheer above the general level of the chain.(c) Nor flagrantly wicked in any one thing. If only the mind be steeped in frivolities, forgetful of anything but self-gratification, we are in the flesh.(d) We may even experience longings after nobler soul attainments (Matthew 19:16-22). Just as there are manifold depths of complete submersion, at six or sixty fathoms, so there are souls not far from the kingdom of heaven (Mark 12:34), others as whited sepulchres (Matthew 23:27), others "of your father the devil" (John 8:44).(2) They that are after the Spirit.(a) Such are renewed in heart. The change they have experienced is deeper than reformation. They are not like irised minerals whose surface is made gleam with all rainbow colours while the centre is lustreless, opaque.(b) They desire unreserved consecration to God's service.(c) Their portrait is drawn in the Beatitudes.

2. Their different conduct.(1) Those after the flesh mind worldly advantages, honours, pleasures. Deeds often beautiful adorn them. The soldier dies, leading a forlorn hope for his country. A daughter withstands temptation, and toils herself into a premature grave that her aged parents may have a roof and bread. But no nature can transcend the principles of its own life. Water cannot rise naturally above its own level.(2) Those after the Spirit mind what is holy, despite many impulses of disposition and training. Like the sunflowers, which turn after the light, they try to keep looking to Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). Note —(a) We may know our spiritual position by observing what things we mind. A bar of steel, by what it "minds," will show whether it is magnetised or not. Our conduct, like the hands of our watches, tells out the unseen movements within.(b) The old nature cannot be sanctified, it must be crucified (Galatians 5:24).


1. The consequences are —(1) That to be carnally minded is death. This is —(a) Alienation from all godliness and spiritual movements, as physical death is separation from activities of bodily existence. The heart chords of the carnally minded never respond to the Spirit's touch, as no plays of thought or feeling flit over the pallid face of a corpse though touched by the friendliest hand. Yet the spiritually dead are neither incapacitated for, nor insensible to, sensual pleasures (Philippians 3:9; 2 Peter 2:13).(b) Not so much negation of spiritual comforts as positive hunger of unsatisfied desires, desolations consequent on indulged passions. Cain (Genesis 4:13), Esau (Genesis 27:34), Judas (Matthew 27:3), felt it to be so.(c) Always takes hold on eternal perdition. The tap root of the sin tree strikes into the inmost recesses of human nature (Romans 6:23). Present soul death is prophetic of future.(2) To be spiritually minded.(a) Life, the complete opposite of death (Ezekiel 37:1-7), including delight in God, power for good, conformity to Christ's character, holy activity, and eternal felicity. At present this life is subject to many fluctuations, dishealths, languors; but as given of the Spirit and hid with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3) it is deathless (Romans 5:17; John 14:19).(b) Peace. This is not exemption from all disquietudes, but in spite of them; like a river flowing amid dark cliffs with its curves lit up, and its ripples glancing in the sunlight, the peace of the believer, luminous in the shining of God's reconciled countenance, courses on, diffusing comforts, serenities, joys. In contrast with the wild tumult of fleshly lusts this peace signifies the harmony grace establishes between the sinner and his God, his fellow men, and the several parts of his own being. It counterworks the soul's anxieties on the chief grounds whence they arise. It is a peace the world knows not of (Isaiah 59:8), and cannot take away (John 14:27). It is a distinct fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). It passeth all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

2. Why the consequences are so.(1) Carnal mindedness is death, "because the carnal heart is enmity against God." The hatred quiescent for a time may be very intense, as Saul's against David (1 Samuel 26:4). The flame lies latent in flint till the applied steel evokes it. Vesuvius is not always in active eruption. The strength of this enmity is evidenced from the fact that the only time when man got an opportunity of striking at God he struck at Him in the person of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:23). The carnal heart "is not subject to the law of God." From the very necessity of its nature it "cannot be" (Romans 7:14), and such enmity against the God of all life can mean nothing else than death.(2) Since they that have their habitat within the sphere of fleshly influences as fishes have theirs within the waters — cannot please God. Neither in their more manifestly sinful ways, nor the common transactions of daily life (Proverbs 21:4), nor their most solemn services (Psalm 15:6; Isaiah 1:13-15; Isaiah 66:8; Genesis 4:5). What can the Divine displeasure mean but death? Note —(a) The primary cause of man's indifference to gospel truth and ordinances. The dead are deaf. Scientists love to hear of inventions, social reformers of philanthropies, merchants of commerce, because they are alive to these things.(b) Heaven would be no felicity for any unregenerate soul. Its sorest misery is in meeting with God in the glory of His holiness (Revelation 6:16).(c) The believer's peace will be proportionate to his minding the things of the Spirit. The growing stream floats more and larger burdens on its bosom.(d) The unmitigated dogmatism of ver. 8 should lead us to repentance. Better that a man should not be born than not please his God (Matthew 26:24).(e) The measure of our pleasing God is the measure of our Christianity (Hebrews 11:5; John 8:29; 1 John 3:22).

(James Gage, B. D.)


1. To be "carnally-minded," to "walk after the flesh," to "live after the flesh," to "mind the things of the flesh," are plainly convertible terms, all meaning, not a proper care for the welfare of the body, but the practical exhibition of that evil principle of fallen man which in the following verse is said to be enmity against God — not to be subject to His law; nay, to be necessarily hostile to it. Carnal-mindedness, therefore, consists in the presiding love and pursuit of those sinful objects of time and sense which alienate the heart from God, subdue it to the powers of death, and deliver it into the snare of the enemy of mankind, to be led captive at his will.

2. But "they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts." Spiritual-mindedness is a principle decidedly opposed to that which I have described — to pass through things temporal as not to lose the things eternal — to walk by faith, not by sight — to slight and scorn the pleasures of sin, animated by that sanctified ambition which seeks, through undeserved mercy, the recompense of an eternal reward — this is spiritual-mindedness.

II. Such is the great contrast between the characters I have described; and vast as is the difference of these states of heart will also be that of THE ENDS TO WHICH THEY INFALLIBLY LEAD.

1. To be carnally-minded is death. To live after the flesh is a present death — a moral incapacity for the pursuits and duties of a heavenly and immortal life; it is to be dead in trespasses and sins. One thus minded is an alien from the commonwealth of the true Israel, a stranger to the covenant of evangelical promise, having no Scriptural hope, and without God in the world. He may be a living treasury of knowledge, capable of many impressions from religious objects, capable of performing many external duties: he may have a form of godliness, a name to live; but holy and spiritual things, in their predominant importance, strike not his mind nor possess his heart.

2. But to be spiritually-minded is life and peace. Carnal passions are subdued and mortified, and the Spirit is life, because of righteousness; it is capable of a spiritual existence." The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made the spiritually-minded man free from the law of sin and death. Like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so he is enabled to walk in newness of life." He is sensible of all the privileges and delights of a spiritual life. He is passed from the death of sin to the life of grace; and the death of the body shall be but the gate and entrance of endless being, both to body and to soul.Conclusion:

1. Learn we then from this Scripture the necessity of an entire renewal of the heart. To be carnally-minded is present death; and as well might the lifeless corpse gift itself with the powers of being and motion, as unassisted man restore himself to spiritual existence, and live by the exertion of his own energies to God and goodness.

2. Learn, also, how ill they judge, and how idly they dream of happiness, who prefer living after the flesh to living after the spirit.

(R. P. Buddicom, M. A.)

We have here depicted —


1. Their moral state and character. They are in the flesh. Hence they "mind the things of the flesh," The flesh has bound down the mind to its sole service (Philippians 3:19; Colossians 3:2; Romans 13:14). Under the dominion of this law they walk (Ephesians 2:2), What, then, is this strangely fascinating power? The term (σάρξ) properly denotes the fleshy part of living animal bodies. It is also sometimes used for the whole human person. And it is clearly used here and elsewhere for fallen and sinful human nature (John 3:6, 7; Romans 7:18; Galatians 5:17-21). But why?(1) Not because our Lord or His apostles held our physical nature to be in itself sinful. In Adam the flesh was as spotless as the spirit, and Christ, "who was made flesh," was nevertheless sinless (Romans 1:3; John 1:14; 1 John 4:2, 3; Hebrews 7:26).(2) Not because sin was supposed to affect the physical constitution only. For it is obvious that the physical part of man, by itself, is altogether incapable of sin. A mere animal cannot transgress a moral law. Sin properly pertains, not to the body, but to the soul (Micah 6:7).(3) But because —(a) Sin first found its access to the human will through the medium of bodily sense.(b) By means of this it still maintains its dominion within the soul.(c) Man suffers his spiritual faculties, by which the animal nature ought to be governed and transformed, to be delivered over in servitude to the flesh.

2. To be in this sinful condition "is death" (Romans 7:9; Luke 15:24; 1 John 5:12; John 5:40; John 6:53; Ephesians 2:1-5; Romans 6; Colossians 3:1-4; Romans 7:9-13, 24). Man's true life is not animal, but spiritual. If he attains not to this, or by transgression forfeits it, he does not really live. And so long as he is content with earthly good, he is perpetually sinking down into the "second death."

3. This state, with its consequent course of life, is death because it is "enmity against God" — is directly subversive of His appointment and order. The true life of intelligent beings must consist in conformity to the Creator's purpose and arrangements. The carnal mind being of necessity the very antithesis of God's order, it is not, it never can be, subject to God's law.


1. Their whole course of life is determined and regulated by the Spirit. The new Spirit of life, imparted to them in Christ, has set them "free from the law of sin and death." They are, indeed, still in the body, but the flesh is but a tabernacle and organ of the spirit. For they now live in the Spirit — "mind" the things of the Spirit, and "walk" according to the Spirit. Not, indeed, that they neglect the body, or despise all earthly good, but even while occupied with mundane things they learn to make them helpful to their true spiritual interests.

2. To be thus spiritually minded —(1) Is life. It not only tends to, but springs from, and promotes life.(2) Peace. The carnal mind is at war with God — with all the Divine plans, purposes, and arrangements — and is therefore evermore fruitful of discord and misery. But the "spiritual" mind brings man into harmony with God, and with nature, physical, intellectual, and moral. Then, too, the things with which the spiritual mind is preoccupied, are so serenely Steadfast and sure, as to communicate something of their own placid character to the soul of him who thus lives in familiar fellowship with them.Conclusion: Observe —

1. That there is no hope of securing the salvation of any man while he continues contented with "the things of the flesh." The first thing needful is to work in him a living conviction that his present course of life is vain, foolish, and wicked.

2. That the new life in the Spirit can be sustained only by continued attention to its interests. "They that are after the Spirit" do mind "the things of the Spirit," and such "minding" is "life and peace."

(W. Tyson.)

I. EXTERNAL. Two classes of character evident.

1. The one busied about earthly things, and governed by their corrupt inclinations.

2. The other caring for heavenly things, and therefore denying themselves that they may please God.

II. INTERNAL. This difference is essential; in the heart.

1. The one is spiritually dead.

2. The other is alive unto God, and enjoys His unspeakable peace.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

appears —


1. The one is sensual.

2. The other spiritual.


1. The one experiences death and misery.

2. The other life and peace.


1. The one is an enemy, and cannot please God.

2. The other a friend, and enjoys communion with God.


1. The one must perish, for he is none of Christ's.

2. The other shall live forever, for he shall be quickened from the grave.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

Whatever these words may mean one thing is clear — the apostle does teach a radical difference between the physical and the spiritual natures of man. Some philosophers teach that there is no difference between matter and mind; that the operations which we call mental or spiritual, and those which we recognise as physical, are all produced by the same forces, This denial of the distinction between the physical and the spiritual realms, which makes thought only a chemical function, and conscience nothing but a hereditary affection of the nervous system, Paul does not justify. Which is nearer right? Let us hear what a philosopher (Mr. W.T. Harris, of Concord) says about —

I. THE LAW OF NATURAL THINGS. "The world of nature, to which man is enslaved by his bodily wants and necessities, is a world of selfishness and cruelty. The means of gratification for one body are obtained and used at the expense of another." Is not that true?

1. Every natural thing grows at the expense of something else. The sand of the beach is worn from the rocks of the shore by the action of the waves. But what the beach gains the cliffs lose. The corn grows out of the earth, but only at the expense of the soil in which it grows, and of other plants, that stand stunted under its shadow. Just so the body of the animal lives and grows at the expense of other living things.

2. The law of natural growth is the law of all movement or manifestation of physical power. Every force that is expended is borrowed. If I drive one croquet ball against another, the force imparted to the second one is lost by the first one. The fire burns, but it is only as the wood gives up the heat that was latent in it. The oxygen of the air and the carbon of the wood unite to produce the flame; and whatever force is in the flame existed before the fire was kindled.

3. The great physical law which the philosophers call the law of the correlation of forces, or the conservation of energy, governs all these changes. Every steam engine is an example of the conversion of heat into motion; every hot axle is an instance of the conversion of motion into heat; every machine belt from which the spark flies to the knuckle shows heat converted into electricity; every building set on fire by lightning shows electricity converted into heat. What is lost by one form is gained by another.

II. THE LAW OF SPIRITUAL THINGS. "The law of spirit is harmony, and not mere contention. All spiritual struggle must have reconciliation for its object. The equal shall look in the face of equal, and through mutual recognition each shall reinforce the other. Thus each is doubly strong; strong in himself and strong in his friend. Combination is the great principle of spirit, and its forms are numerous in the practical and in the theoretical world." This statement will also be verified by your experience.

1. You and I sit down hungry to a scanty meal. There is barely enough for one. If my needs are satisfied you get nothing; if you are filled I must go hungry. But you and I sit down with eager minds to talk about some moral or spiritual truth. It is a truth known to me, but unknown to you, and in our conversation you gain from me this truth. Have I deprived myself of anything in imparting to you this truth? On the contrary, I have gained by giving.(1) I have a stronger hold upon the truth than I had. If I give a man my coat I have one coat the less; but if I give a man my thought it is less likely now that I shall part with it. I have not only a stronger hold upon it, but a greater joy in it. Two faggots burn more freely than one; and my enthusiasm, in the pursuit and possession of this truth, is rekindled when you take fire.(2) Truth grows in the mind itself by communicating it. Not only do the mental, like the bodily powers, gain strength by exercising them; there is a kind of increase here to which the body affords no analogy. The most productive mind is the most prolific mind. Production fertilises the intellect. It is when the mind is paying out its wealth most lavishly that its revenues are largest.

2. Other spiritual gifts besides knowledge follow in their growth the same law.(1) Hope is increased by imparting it. If I have strong confidence in the success of any enterprise, and if I succeed in inspiring others with my confidence, it is not at any expense to my own expectation. The same thing is true of —(2) Courage. A brave man inspires others to heroism, but his own courage is not diminished when it enters into other souls; it is stimulated and invigorated.(3) The one central element of the spiritual life, love — the love that is the fulfilling of the law.

3. We say sometimes in our prayers that God is not impoverished by giving nor enriched by withholding. That is true of Him because He is a Spirit, and because the law of His nature and of His action is a spiritual law. But man is a spirit also; and the saying is therefore true of man. By giving man is not impoverished — by giving spiritual gifts. A man's temporal possessions may sometimes be diminished by bestowing them, but the man's true self is enlarged by every bounty that it disposes.

III. Have we not verified the doctrine taught by the Concord philosopher? And in doing so HAVE WE NOT FOUND THE STRONGEST REASON FOR BELIEVING WITH PAUL THAT THERE IS A RADICAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE PHYSICAL AND THE SPIRITUAL WORLD. Do not the body and the spirit belong to different kingdoms? Is there not a higher nature in man which is not subject to the law of the conservation of energy, and of which physical science knows absolutely nothing? And is there not, therefore, reason for believing that the death of the body, which is under physical law, is not the death of the higher nature, which is not under physical law; that the spirit of man may continue to exist after the body has ceased to exist?

1. Man is not wholly mortal, but neither is he wholly immortal. He is flesh as well as spirit. In which of these realms does he chiefly live? Is his ruling love given to the things of the flesh or to the things of the Spirit? If the former is true of him, then the law of his nature is the law of the lower realm. The things on which his heart is chiefly set are things which he can only have by depriving his fellows. The very condition of his life is warfare, and the warfare into which his ruling choice enlists him is fierce and fatal; sooner or later the devourers themselves must be devoured. The minding of the flesh is death.

2. It is a sad and bitter life that any man leads who sets his chief affections on the possessions and goods of the material world. Because he is a spiritual being his ruling choice ought to take a higher range. The gains that are most precious to him are those that fall to him while he is enriching others.

3. It is quite possible for man to carry this spiritual force down into the lower realm, there to subjugate the devourers. It is possible to substitute the principle of communion and combination for the principle of competition in the getting and the using of material things. That, indeed, is the very law of progress in civilisation. And the thousand wars of old will never cease, and the thousand years of peace will never come, till men stop putting their trust in the methods of competition and begin to build the fabric of their industrial and social life on the principle of cooperation — till they walk no longer after the flesh, but after the Spirit. That day will not be hastened by disputing or fighting or legislating, any more than the growing of the grass will be hastened by firing cannon over your lawn, or marching troops across it, or making speeches to it. But you and I, in our time, can have something of the light and glory of it in our homes and in our lives if we will only treasure the truth we have found today.

(W. Gladden.)

He that delights in God doth not much delight in anything else. The world appears in an eclipse. The astronomer saith, if it were possible for a man to be lifted up as high as the moon, the earth would seem to him as a little point. If we could be lifted to heaven in our affections, all earthly delights would seem as nothing. When the woman of Samaria had met with Christ, down goes the pitcher; she leaves that behind. He who delights in God, as having tasted the sweetness in Him, doth not much mind the pitcher — he leaves the world behind.

For to be carnally minded is death.

1. The disposition.(1) The expression is an abstract one. The apostle touches a principle which he finds at work, and laying hold of it says, "I wish you to look at it so that you may see its nature and tendency," just as a physician might describe the symptoms of a disease.(2) This disease is named the mind of the flesh. This "minding" is like other verbs in which the organ gives the name to the act. When we put our hand to a thing we handle it, the eye, to eye it, the affections, to affect it. "Minding the flesh" is not gross vice, but simply worldly mindedness.

2. The consequence. To be carnally minded is —(1) Death.(a) It is the forerunner of eternal death. For such a disposition could never find a home in heaven.(b) A sign of present spiritual death — a deadness to spiritual things,(2) Enmity against God — a condition which men do not realise. Only conscious of indifference or ignorance, they resent the charge of enmity. But the apostle describes a tendency, ready at any moment, at any pressure of God's demands, to break out in hostility.(3) Is not subject to the law of God. "Law" here is equivalent to "will." The law which worldly mindedness follows is what it and not what God likes. It must be taken away.(4) Cannot please God.


1. How it is produced. "If so be that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you." No man is spiritually minded by nature. Respecting this Holy Spirit, note —(1) His importance. The dispensation under which we live is called the "dispensation of the Spirit." While Christ is our only hope, upon the Holy Spirit depends our entire success.(2) His mystery (John 3:8).(3) His position. It is safer to honour Him too much than too little when we know that the sin of neglecting Him will never be forgiven either in this world or in the world to come.(4) The privileges He introduces — regeneration, help, comfort, sanctification.

2. Its characteristics.(1) Life. Material life is union of body and soul. True life in the mind is contact with the objects which draw out all its susceptibilities, On becoming spiritually minded we cater on a new world of spiritual realities. As experienced here, it is spiritual life; as experienced here. after, it will be eternal life. All other life is death because it is in union with perishing things and all its elements are dying.(2) Peace. Life in sunshine. In proportion as we become spiritually minded is our peace secured. And that peace rests not upon a foundation which may be disturbed by conscience, poverty, or bereavement. "Nothing can separate us," etc.

3. The privilege of which this mind is the seal — Christ's Spirit. A man may have much that bears the semblance of piety — a head stored with knowledge, a mouth full of argument, a life full of work. "But if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." As a matter, then, of fact, every man may test his condition and state by this proof.

(P. Strutt.)

I. THE DEATH HERE SPOKEN OF is something more than penal death.

1. It is not future, but present, and arises from the obtuseness or the extinction of certain feelings and faculties which, if awake to their corresponding objects, would uphold a life of thoughts and sensations and regards, altogether different from the life of unregenerate men. Just figure an affectionate father to have all the domestic feelings paralysed. Then would you say of him that he had become dead to the joys and the interests of home. And the death of the carnally minded is a death to all that is spiritual — a hopeless apathy in all that regards our love to God and righteousness.

2. And such a death is not merely a thing of negation, but of positive wretchedness. For with the want of all that is spiritual about him, there is still a remainder of feeling which makes him sensible of his want, and a remorse and a terror about invisible things, even amid the busy appliance of this world's opiates. And there are other miseries which spring up from the pride that is met with incessant mortification — from the selfishness that comes into collision with selfishness — from the moral agonies which essentially adhere to malice and hatred, and from the shame that is annexed to the pursuits of licentiousness. All these give to the sinner his foretaste of hell on this side of death.

II. From what we have said of the death of those who are carnally, you will be at no loss to understand what is meant by THE LIFE OF THOSE WHO ARE SPIRITUALLY MINDED. We read of those who are alienated from the life of God, and to this it is that they find readmittance. The blood of Christ hath consecrated for them a way of access; and the fruit of that access is delight in God — the charm of confidence, of a new moral gladness in the contemplation of God's character, an assimilation of their own character to His, and so a taste for charity and truth and holiness; and a joy, both in the cultivation of all these virtues and in the possession of a heart at growing unison with the mind and will of God. These are the ingredients of a present life, which is the token and the foretaste of life everlasting.

III. THE PEACE OF THOSE WHO ARE SPIRITUALLY MINDED. There are two great causes of disturbance to which the heart is exposed.

1. A brooding anxiety lest we shall be bereft or disappointed of some object on which our desires are set. The man who is spiritually minded rises above this, for there is an object paramount to all which engrosses the care of a worldly man; and so what to others are overwhelming mortifications, to him are but the passing annoyances of a journey. To him there is an open vista through which he may descry a harbour and a home, on the other side of the stormy passage that leads to it; and this he finds enough to bear him up under all that vexes and dispirits other men.

2. There is nought in the character of the spiritually minded that exempts them from the hostility of other men; but there is the sense of a present God in the feeling of whose love there is a sunshine which the world knoweth not; and there is the prospect of a future heaven in whose sheltering bosom it is known that the turbulence of this weary pilgrimage will soon be over; and there is even a charity that mellows our present sensation of painfulness, and makes the revolt that is awakened by the coarse and vulgar exhibition of human asperity to be somewhat more tolerable.

(T. Chalmers, D. D.)

To be spiritually minded is life and peace.

1. The objects which a spiritually minded man regards. There is a spiritual as well as a material, an intellectual, and a moral world — a world the existence and contents of which are not ascertained by the exercise of the senses, nor by the mere exercise of intellectual energy; "for eye hath not seen," etc. They are, however, graciously revealed to us by the Spirit in the Scriptures; they comprehend the existence, character, and government of God; the responsibility, guilt, and depravity of man; the person, character, and mediatorial work of the Redeemer; the instructions and influences of the Holy Spirit; the graces which adorn the Christian character; and the glory to which the believer is graciously destined.

2. The manner in which a spiritually-minded man regards these objects. He has a spiritual discernment, in the exercise of which he regards spiritual things in a totally different way than he did before. The things themselves remain the same, but he is changed. He regards them now —(1) Devoutly. He meditates on them not as matters of mere speculation, but as the means of holiness and of eternal life. You may think of religion in all its aspects and yet he as far from all spiritual contact with religion itself as the astronomer is from the star he contemplates. But if you think of them devoutly, your thoughts will be accompanied with such feelings as correspond with their character and importance.(2) Supremely. Not that he disregards those which are secular and temporal, but to him their importance is secondary; "he seeks first the kingdom of God and His righteousness."(3) Habitually. It is no uncommon thing for a worldly-minded man, under the influence of strong excitement, to direct his attention to spiritual things, and with some degree of anxiety. But his regard is as transitory as the excitement by which it was occasioned. But spirituality is the law of the mind of a spiritually-minded man, and it displays itself both by its resistance to evil and by its pursuit of good.(4) Practically. Its internal influence on the heart is indeed invisible, but this is always connected with visible effects, like the sap which secretly circulates through the tree, and then exhibits its existence by the fruit. "By their fruits ye shall know them."

3. The general principles by which a spiritually-minded man's regard to these objects is regulated.

(1)A firm belief in the existence of spiritual things.

(2)A solemn conviction of the Divine presence.

(3)An obedient regard to Divine authority.

(4)A holy love to the Divine character.

(5)A penitential conviction of guilt.

(6)The prospect of standing before the judgment seat of Christ.


1. To be spiritually minded is life. This life is —(1) Real. A speculative knowledge of the gospel is not life; nor is a performance of the ceremonies of religion; nor a visible union with the Church. These things may adorn the worldly-minded professor, as fragrant flowers adorn the lifeless corpse. There is no life, unless you live by the faith of the Son of God.(2) Is of the highest and noblest character. The lowest degree of life is vegetable life; the next is animal; the next is intellectual. But beyond all these is spiritual life, which assimilates its possessor to its Divine source.

2. To be spiritually minded is peace. This peace arises from —(1) Pardon, for, "being justified by faith we have peace with God."(2) Confidence in God; "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee."(3) The smile of God, when we walk in the light of His countenance.(4) Peace in affliction; for "in the world ye shall have tribulation, but in Me ye shall have peace."(5) Peace in death; for "mark the perfect man, and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace."


1. Carefully avoid everything which is opposed to spirituality of mind.

2. Contemplate the Word of God in the exercise of faith.

3. Pray without ceasing.

(J. Alexander.)


1. Renewal of the mind by the Spirit (John 3:6, 7).

2. Abstraction of the mind from the world.

3. Exercise of the mind on spiritual objects.

II. WITH WHAT THIS STATE OF MIND IS IDENTIFIED. "To be spiritually minded," according to "the wise men after the flesh," is to be mad; according to the votaries of sensual pleasure, is to be melancholy; according to the Word of God, "life and peace." Spirituality of mind is —

1. The evidence of spiritual life. It is not natural to nor acquired by man. No cause is adequate to the production of it but the Holy Ghost. He, therefore, who is "spiritually minded" has the witness of the Spirit that he is "born of God." In the feelings of life experienced, and the functions of life performed, there is the evidence of life.

2. The element of a happy life. "To be spiritually minded is life and peace." It yields pure and permanent enjoyment when all other sources fail, and in every variety and change of circumstance, and is productive of perfect felicity in heaven.

3. The earnest of eternal life — both as a pledge that it shall be given, and as a part already given (vers. 29, 30; John 4:14).


1. Dependence on the Spirit of God.

2. Attendance on the means of grace. The Spirit ordinarily works by means, the chief of which are the study of the Scriptures, private devotion, and public worship.

3. Seclusion from the world. Not that lawful occupation is incompatible, but there is in the world much that has tendency to sensualise the mind; and the further we remove from the sphere of its attraction, the better for the cultivation of this grace.

4. Christian converse. When Christ talked with two of His disciples by the way, their hearts burned within them.

5. Meditation on death and the world to come.The subject may be viewed and improved —

1. As a test of character.

2. As an excitement to joy.

(G. Corney.)

I. WHAT IT IS. The mind which the Holy Spirit infuses into the regenerate, and which desires and pursues after spiritual things. In its more advanced and perfect form, it is the enthronement of the Divine will over the human; the voluntary subjection of the whole man to a Divine influence, whereby Christ is formed in us.


1. Its efficient cause is the Holy Spirit. To awaken conscience from its sleep, to turn the will from its waywardness, to eradicate the seeds of evil, and to fill the heart with love for whatever is holy, is the province of the Holy Spirit, and of Him only: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh," etc.

2. The instrumental means is "the Word of God," which by the Spirit, is made "effectual in them that believe." "Sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth," go together. The Spirit uses the truth to obtain influential access to man's soul, in all its parts — to the understanding, that it may be opened; to the judgment, that it may be convinced; to the will, that it may be subdued; to the conscience, that it may be restored to its rightful supremacy; to the affections, that they may be set on God and heaven.


1. In the quickened condition of the religious sensibilities; the transformation of "the heart of stone into the heart of flesh." "To be carnally-minded is death." While a man is in this state, he is dead to all the objects and interests of the spiritual world. Of "the beauty of holiness" he has no knowledge. The favour of God has no part in his aspirations, and the eternal and unseen never occasion a serious thought. Hence, awakened sensibility is the first sign of an inner life. We feel spiritually. There is a keen sensitiveness to the presence of evil. The favour of God is life to us. True, it may be "life" without "peace." But life it is, and must be. Spiritual emotions, be they painful or be they joyous, can come only from a spiritual mind. A tear is as good a sign of life as a smile. But remember that this awakened sensibility is a thing of degrees. The mind of the Spirit belongs as truly to "the babe in Christ" as to "the perfect man"; to the awakened sinner, in his first convictions, as to the triumphant saint just entering on his rest. There must be life in us, while we are manifesting any of the functions of life.

2. In the increasing prevalence of religious thoughts and affections. "They that are after the Spirit do mind the things of the Spirit." The thoughts make the man, and the thoughts are the man. He is "carnal," if he gives the first and largest place in his heart to the things of the world; he is "spiritual," if he gives that preeminence to the exercises of faith.

3. In the centering of its best affections in a personal Saviour, as the medium through which the soul orders all its intercourse with the heavenly world.

IV. ITS FRUITS AND EXPERIENCES. "Life and peace." There is the life and peace of —

1. The resting and settled heart. The life of carnal-minded men is one of miserable unrest, which comes of their doing violence to a law of their being. They have taken up with something below that which their souls were made and fitted for. But the spiritual man in the midst of a conflicting, shifting, uncertain, and unstable world, rests in the Lord.

2. The resigned and submissive will, walking confidently after Divine guidance. In the embarrassments of moral choice, in the oppositions of conflicting duties, we look to have the mind of the Spirit.

3. Spiritual liberty. There is a service which may be laborious, exact, and costly, but it is the service of a bondsman — of one who is labouring to obey, before he has been fully brought to believe. But the spiritual mind changes constraint into cheerfulness, and duty into happiness, and the restless activity of a self-devised and legal worship into the calm repose of a commanded and accepted sacrifice.

4. Devotion. For, having the Spirit, we have in ourselves an agency for helping our infirmities. He moulds us into the praying form, suggests to us praying thoughts, forms in us the praying habit.


1. Prayer for the influences of that Spirit through whom this great gift comes to us. The most eminent effusions of the Spirit were not only afforded to prayer, but appear to have taken place at the very time these sacred exercises were being performed (Ezekiel 36:37; Acts 2:1).

2. The cultivation of such tempers as are most congruous with His revealed character, and calculated to invite His gracious presence in our souls. "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God." A Spirit of "love," He is grieved at the indulgence of envious and malignant passions. A Spirit of "supplication," He is grieved when we grow remiss in the exercises of devotion. He cannot, as a Spirit of "holiness," remain in a heart to be the companion of unforsaken sin. And as we retest not grieve the Author of the spiritual mind, so we must be careful not to "quench" His sacred influences. The gifts of the Spirit are not bestowed upon us to lie idle. Their fruitfulness depends upon their being kept in constant exercise.

3. All those tendencies which the apostle includes under the name of the "carnal mind," must be brought into subjection. The flesh and the Spirit cannot reign together. Hence we are required to "mortify the deeds of the body." And this we do by denying them indulgence.

4. The observance of stated seasons of religious retirement.

5. Making subservient thereto things which are not spiritual — pressing into a sanctified service every turn in the lot of life. "It is a great art," as Bishop Hall says, "to learn the heavenly use of earthly things." As the raging fire turns everything which is cast into it into its own nature; or as the flower makes common use of the rain and the snow drift, the sunbeam, and the dew, to minister to the nourishment and support of its own vitality; so, by the power of a Divine affinity, does the spiritual mind assimilate all things to itself.

6. The study of those practical models of Christian character which are given to us in the Holy Scripture.

7. Above all looking to Christ, the great Exemplar, as in all things, so in this.

(D. Moore, M. A.)

We often hear it said of one or another individual, "He is a very spiritual person," or "He is very unspiritual." What is meant by these expressions? In the first place, the passage informs us that "to be spiritually-minded" is opposed to being "carnally-minded." The sensual thought, the eyes that rove after, the imagination that shapes, the soul that hankers for, forbidden pleasures, are anti-spiritual. Again, while the spiritual is opposed to the carnal mind, we learn from other passages of Scripture it is more than what we commonly signify by morality. A man may be honest in his worldly affairs, blameless in every earthly relation, without being truly spiritual; for, besides the earthly and human relations in which we stand, we sustain relations heavenly and Divine. A supreme, uncreated excellence must sanctify and draw us on to another citizenship than that we hold amid these clay-built abodes, before the spiritual mind, with its "life and peace," can be unfolded within us. Once more, "to be spiritually-minded," while standing in opposition to what is "carnal," and completing what is "moral," is also the significance of what is "formal." The outward observances and institutions of our religion have no sense but to express and awaken the exercises of our spiritual nature. According as we go through these punctual rites of prayer and praise, communion and consecration, with a worldly or a spiritual mind, they will be a mechanical and unmeaning mockery to us, or the very reflections of the gates of heaven. But the spiritual mind, while opposed to what is carnal, completing what is moral, has of course a position and intrinsic quality of its own, which we must go beyond all terms of negation and comparison to set forth. To be spiritually-minded, then, is to have a sense, a conviction, and inward knowledge of the reality, solidity, and permanent security of spiritual things. It is to believe and see that there is something more in God's universe than outwardly appears; something more than this richly compounded order of material elements, with all its beauty; something beyond the sharply defined glittering objects that crowd the landscape. It is to understand that day and night, seed time and harvest, summer and winter, are not the only facts possibly subject to the notice of the undying soul. It is to be aware that even the broad streets and mighty pathways which the astronomer descries, laid out from globe to globe, do not embrace the whole or highest survey of God's creation. But beyond, within, or above all, there verily is a scene, a society of lofty, intelligent existence, where are brighter displays of God's nearness and love. The spiritual mind not only sees, as in cold vision, the inner or upper world gloriously triumphing in its stability over the passing kingdom of earth and sense, but enters into relation with it, feels surrounded by it, bows to it, and realises an inspection from the living firmament of its power. Mortal creature, spirit of Almighty inspiration, clothed in flesh! believest thou only in what comes to thee through these five windows of the senses, so advantageously placed to let in the notices of material things; or wilt thou credit that thy Maker also fashioned thy heart to yield for the entrance of Himself and retinue of attending spirits? Breather of earthly air, yet partaker of a heavenly privilege; birth of yesterday, yet heir of immortality; mystery to thyself, definite figure, illimitable being! thy feet do not more surely gravitate to the earth than thy inward nature holds of a loftier sphere. Awake to thy spiritual relations; live up to their solemn dignity.

(C. A. Barrel.)

To be thus minded is life and peace; or the life of true piety is a life of peaceful pleasure.

1. A life of holiness is calculated to fill the mind with the richest enjoyment, and raise it to its highest state of improvement. The objects of contemplation that lie before the believing mind are dignified and worthy its occupancy.

2. A life of piety furnishes the heart with those affections which give it the highest pleasure, and best promote its improvement. There is no small object in God's kingdom. If He is not the immediate object of the affections of His people, still they have a noble object. If they love His law, His gospel, His government, His Church, or even the humblest individual in His household, there is no one of these affections of which angels would be ashamed.

3. Piety cultivates a better conscience than can be found in the carnally-minded. Other things being equal, he is far the happiest man who has the purest conscience, who most promptly applies for its decision, and most cheerfully obeys its dictates. Still, in every good man, conscience is more or less honoured and cultivated, while in the opposite character it is hated and neglected as Heaven's unwelcome sentinel.

4. A life of piety promotes happiness. To be spiritually-minded is life and peace. This is a point that will generally be con. ceded. It is said, however, that there are some whom religion has made unhappy. They are cut off from the pleasures of sense, while their hopes of glory and their enjoyment of God are too inoperative to render them happy. That in many cases this appears to be true there is no doubt; but there can be as little doubt that the failure is chargeable, not to religion, but to its absence.

5. There is opened before the believer a vast resource of comfort. He has joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, whom having not seen we love, and in whom though now we see Him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. He has fellowship with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. He enjoys the ministry of angels. He is conscious of penitence, and has ordinarily a hope of forgiveness. He is permitted through rich grace to cast an eye forward toward heaven as his everlasting home.

6. The covenant that binds him to his Lord is an everlasting covenant, well ordered in all things and sure. Hence, while he is assured that to live is Christ, he is equally confident that to die would be gain. What he shall be it does not yet appear.

(D. A. Clark.)

1. Two of the sublimest words in the language, expressing two of the sublimest facts of our experience; but What is life? What is death? The answers take us far out of our depth. Life presents itself to us in a series of activities, governed by purpose; and, in the case of conscious life, it exhibits the delightful forms of intelligence and feeling. Life, then, as we generally see it, is bright, beautiful, and attractive. But of the inner springs which regulate these activities, of the essential nature of life we are ignorant. So with death. The aspect in which it presents itself to us is dark and repellent. We know it as the cessation of the cheerful activities of life, the dissolution and decay of the fair material form. It appears to us, therefore, as a great enemy.

2. But the way we look at both death and life is partial and illusive. This verse gives us the views of one occupying a point of view different to the one we are accustomed to take.


1. That death is the cessation of activities which befalls the living body, is a natural, but cannot even we see it is a partial way of viewing it? For what we deplore when our friends die is not chiefly the disappearance and decay of their bodies, but the withdrawal of that mind and heart from our society of which the body was but the instrument.

2. The answer which these words give to the question, What is death? speak of what it means to the conscious soul. A soul which finds its aims and expends its energies in catering for the needs and pleasures of its bodily instrument, is virtually dead. And why? First, if the aims of the soul be confined to its perishing tenement, it follows that the soul's occupation and pleasures will be gone when the body dies. And, besides, there is the ignoble procedure of making it the chief employment of the higher powers of our nature to cater for the lower. Now, the Scriptures are very far from countenancing neglect of the body; they exalt it as the instrument of Christian service, the temple of God. And a body in cheerful health is no small aid to the attainment of health of soul. What is called death of the soul here, is not such minding of the body as promotes its efficiency for worthy work, but such minding of it as makes the soul the slave of the body, its chief object to minister to its indulgences and pleasures.

3. That, I need not say, is a very different thing from death as we understand it. Is there any reason why things so different should be called by the same name? What is the death of the body? When the constant changes which go forward in the body nourish and preserve its life, it lives; but when they cease to do that, then it dies. But, observe, a dead body does not cease to be the subject of changes; on the contrary, they go forward; they consist of the repulsive changes of lingering decay and corruption. Now does not that justify the parallel of the apostle? The death of the soul is not its ceasing to think, to feel, to will, but its thinking, feeling, willing in base unworthy ways, as unlike its proper ways of acting as the odious processes of bodily corruption are unlike the fair processes of life.

II. LIFE CONSIDERED AS THE MINDING OF THE SPIRIT. The soul's occupying itself mainly with aims and efforts belonging to its higher nature. It recognises its duties to others and to God, and its endeavours are made to discharge these though at cost of self-denial to the body. To follow Christ is its life task. To be approved of Christ its reward; to see Christ, and to resemble Him, its eternal happiness. These are the things it "minds," and the body is the servant which aids it in doing so. The ideal, indeed, is not reached here, but the ceaseless and earnest effort after the ideal is the conflict of the Christian life. He who engages in it minds the things of the Spirit. And in proportion as it is attained, and the soul, rising superior to the claims of the flesh, feasts its powers on the things unseen and eternal, and labours at its task here with reference to them, and to Him who dwells there, in that proportion the soul lives; occupies itself in a way which trains it for immortality, and prepares it to see God.

(T. M. Herbert, M. A.)

First, the subject, the carnal mind. This we may see made good in the several branches of it. As, first of all, take it in the mind and understanding, which is the higher part of the soul, that which should rule all the rest. This is corrupted, and so tending to death (thus Romans 1:22, and Ephesians 4:8). And we may see it in these several distempers, as — First, there is ignorance of the things of God and which concern our own eternal salvation (Jeremiah 4:22; 1 Corinthians 15:54). Secondly, as there is ignorance in the mind, so there is also a curiosity and an affectation of the knowledge of such things as belong not to us. Again, darkness of apprehension when we are taught, as the disciples, slow of heart (Luke 24:2, 5; Mark 16:14). Thus we see the carnality of our reason and higher part. This may serve to humble us, and lay us low in our own thoughts. That which is best of us, it is by nature tainted in us. This shows us what ill judges of the things of God and the matters of religion such persons are as are merely carnal, and have no more but the light of reason in them, which is so much dimmed and obscured by sin, is as if blind men were to judge of colours, which is very improper and impertinent. Secondly, as there is corruption in the understanding, so likewise in the will and affections. "The flesh lusts against the Spirit" (Galatians 5:17). And (ver. 24) the affections and lusts they are both joined together, as who should say lustful affections. This first of all teaches us how impotent and unable anyone is by nature to his own conversion, while we are depraved in every part of us. Secondly, we see here also God's goodness in His powerful and victorious grace, in that He suffers corruption to break out no further sometimes than it does, if not by wholly removing it, yet at least by restraining it. Now further, secondly, here is considerable of us the predicate, what is declared concerning it as to the evil and mischievousness of it, and that is, that it hath the name of death fastened upon it. The Spirit of God makes choice of such an expression as might most of all terrify us, and move all such persons as are yet remaining in their natural condition to labour to come out of it. First, it is in sort and in a certain sense temporal or natural death. This is not always presently, or actually, or in effect, as experience does many times show. First, it is so originally, and as the first occasion of this death. Secondly, it is death also demeritoriously. It is that which does deserve death. Thirdly, this carnal mind is oftentimes also temporal death actually and in the consequence of it. There is many a man who by his sin and wickedness does hasten and procure his own end. "Be not over much wicked; why should'st thou die before thy time?" says the preacher in Ecclesiastes 7:17. Secondly, it is death also spiritually, which is somewhat further here intended. It is enmity against God, as it follows in the next verse to the text, and it is a deprivation of the life of God which should be in us. Thirdly, it is also death eternal. And this is that which is principally intended here in this place, as the worst and greatest of all. "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). There are divers persons who have great need to this purpose to be awakened out of this dead condition. First, all worldlings, who savour of nothing but of the earth and of the things of the earth. Secondly, here may likewise be warned and admonished occasionally from this present truth, all such persons as content themselves in a mere abstaining from grosser sins and the outward acts of the flesh. Thirdly, hereby also are admonished all vain glorious and Pharisaical persons, who have nothing in them but a form of godliness. To set home this further upon us, let us take in these considerations with us. First, that this carnal mind perverts the greatest human excellences and perfections which are considerable in any; the wits, and parts, and understandings, and such things as these. A man that has these without grace, he is but a dead man for all that. Secondly, this carnal mind corrupts even the best duties; it makes those performances which being considered in their own nature are good, yet coming from such a person that performs them to be turned to sin unto him, because the principle from which he performs them is not right in him (Proverbs 21:27). This carnal mind envenoms the greatest comforts, and takes away the profitable use of all the creatures that are for us. Hence it is that it is expressed indefinitely, "to be carnally-minded is death"; namely, whatever condition a man be in, in regard of the world, whether rich, or noble, or powerful, or whatever we can think of. The second is the end of the spiritual, which is expressed in two terms to us, in life and in peace. Each of these is such as is consequent to spiritual-mindedness in those who are the subjects of it. First, spiritual-mindedness is life. That is one thing which is attributed to it as a privilege attending upon it. Secondly, for spiritual life. This spiritual-mindedness is life in sundry regards. First, originally, as proceeding and springing from this life. Those that are spiritually-minded, they are so from the Spirit of life which is in Christ Himself, and communicated to them who are members of Him. Secondly, objectively. Spiritual-mindedness is spiritual life so also. Forasmuch as the matter of it, it is conversant about things of that nature, as grace, and conversion, and regeneration, and such things as these. Thirdly, operatively. Spiritual-mindedness is spiritual life likewise so. Forasmuch as it does very much tend to the preserving, and strengthening, and nourishing, and increasing of this spiritual life in us. The third and last notion of life which is here signified, and that indeed which is mainly intended, is that it is life eternal. The second is peace, which may be taken either in the generical notion or in the specifical. If we take it generically and comprehensively, so it does imply in it all kind of happiness at large, it being usual with the Hebrews to express all kinds of good whatsoever under this name, so as when they wished to any persons peace, they did under that expression pray for their absolute welfare and success. If we take it specifically and restrictively, so it does point out that blessing which is properly and peculiarly so-called, and that in all the several kinds and distributions of it. And thus, indeed, do I rather take it here in this place, the blessing of peace, as it is called, and which God hath promised to bestow on His people (Psalm 29:11; Psalm 119:165; Proverbs 3:17; Romans 2:10; Galatians 6:16), etc. And peace, as I said, in the full extent. First, with God Himself (Romans 5:1), etc. Secondly, with man's own self. Peace of conscience, tranquility of spirit, quietness of mind. Grace it is of a calming and composing nature, it puts all things into a state of quietness. Thirdly, with others (Proverbs 16:7). The ground of all this is, first, the gift and legacy of Christ. Secondly, the nature of grace itself, and the manner of the working of it; for it composes the passions of the mind, and scatters the distempers of it; and from thence occasions peace unto it. This may serve to show us the great difference betwixt the children of God and other men; betwixt those that are spiritually-minded and those that are carnal. As for this latter, they have no share in peace as belonging unto them (Isaiah 57:20, 21).

(Thomas Horton, D. D.)

Because the carnal mind is enmity against God.

1. Enmity.

(1)Hating the thought of God.

(2)Resisting the grace of God.

2. Insubordination — transgressing the law of God.

3. Utter incompatibility with His nature.


1. He can only regard it with displeasure.

2. This is evident from His Word, procedure, and threatenings.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

Biblical Treasury.
I. ITS OBJECT. God who is —

1. The kindest of beings; from His —

(1)Creative goodness.

(2)Sustaining care.

2. The most lovable.

3. The greatest. He is infinite in wisdom, power, etc.


1. The mind — the noblest part of man, because —



2. The carnal mind — carnal because of its —





1. Aversion from communion with God.

2. Wilful disobedience to His known commands.

3. Opposition to Him.

4. Hatred to His followers.Conclusion: This teaches us —

1. That all mankind are naturally degenerate.

2. That an entire change of mind is necessary to salvation.

3. That this change should be our serious concern.

(Biblical Treasury.)


1. We are not to suppose that the unregenerate man is at enmity with God according to the character which he usually forms of Him, He commonly thinks of God only as a great, wise, and good Being; and he feels no sentiment of opposition to the attributes of wisdom, greatness, or goodness. But His supreme authority as the governor of the world, His infinite purity and holiness as hating, and His justice as avenging, sin are kept out of sight; a being is framed in their imagination very much resembling themselves.

2. This enmity is not to be considered as personal, but rather as a dislike of the government which God exercises, and of the laws which restrain us from any course we are desirous to pursue, or require from us what we feel no disposition to perform; and enmity against them may be properly said to be enmity against God, for it resists His authority. Hence the carnal mind "is not subject to the law of God."

3. Again, we are not to understand that the carnal mind is totally destitute of everything that is good. It is sufficient to say that there is in all a natural tendency to approve and do things which it has pleased God to condemn and forbid, and a natural dislike of many duties which He has thought fit to enjoin.

II. WHAT PROOFS OF THIS DO WE EXPERIENCE IN OURSELVES OR SEE IN OTHERS? Do we, upon the careful review of our lives, perceive that the love of God has been our first and ruling principle, that our chief desire has been to glorify His name, and to fulfil His commands? And do we find the same disposition in others? Are the sins committed in the world committed through ignorance? Does the sinner repent of them and forsake them as soon as he hears they are contrary to the Divine will? Do our children discover a bias, even from their early infancy, to what is right? Alas! I need not proceed in an inquiry which begins already to assume the air of sarcasm. Let us, however, press the matter home upon our own consciences. Do not we find it a labour to do what is right? Does not even self-interest lose its efficacy? And when our fears of misery, or our desires of happiness, induce us to attempt God's service, how numerous, how powerful are the difficulties which arise to deter us! Conclusion: Let us learn —

1. Humiliation. To be at enmity with God is indeed a deplorable state of mind, for it is enmity with perfect truth, justice, goodness, purity.

2. The unspeakable value of an atonement. Great as our vileness may be, there is a way in which we may have access to God, and in which He will receive us graciously.

3. The necessity of Christian vigilance, of self-denial, and earnest supplication for the influence of the Holy Spirit.

(J. Venn, M. A.)

This enmity involves —


1. This necessarily comes out of the very definition of the carnal mind. If the law of God be a law of supreme love toward Himself, how is it possible for that mind to be in subjection to such a law whose affections are wholly set on the things of the world? It not only is not subject to this law, but it cannot be so — else it were no longer carnal.

2. But this is not only logically true, it is also true physically and experimentally. There is no power in the mind by which it can change itself. It can, e.g., constrain the man in whom it resides to eat a sour apple rather than a sweet. But it cannot constrain him to like a sour apple rather than a sweet; and it has just as little power over the affections toward God as it has over the taste. There are a thousand religious-looking things which can be done; but, without such a renewal of the Spirit as the Spirit itself cannot achieve, these things cannot be delighted in. We can compel our feet to the house of God, but we cannot compel our feelings to a sacred pleasure in its exercises. We can bid our hands away from depredation, but we cannot bid away covetousness.

3. And when I charge you with enmity against God you may be ready to answer, that really we are not at all aware of it. On which we have to observe, that your greatest enemy will excite no malevolent feeling so long as you do not think of him. When one is in a deep and dreamless slumber his very resentments are hushed into oblivion. And so of you who are not awake unto God — are you no judges of the recoil that would come upon your spirits did He but stand before you in all His truth, justice, jealousy, and holiness. The manifestation of God as He actually is would call forth of its hiding place the unappeasable enmity of nature against Him.

II. IF WE CANNOT PLEASE GOD WE NECESSARILY DISPLEASE HIM; nor need we to marvel why all they who are in the flesh are the objects of His dissatisfaction. We may do a thousand things that, in the exterior of them, bear a visible conformity to God's will, and yet cannot be pleasing to Him. They may be done from the dread of His power, or to appease the restlessness of an alarmed conscience, or under the influence of a religion that derives all its power from education or custom, and yet not be done with the concurrence of the heart. And however multiplied the offerings may be which we laid on the altar of such a reluctant obedience, they will not and cannot be pleasing to God. Would my father amongst you be satisfied with such a style of compliance and submission from your own children? So the frown of an offended Lawgiver resteth on everyone who lives in habitual violation of His first and greatest commandment. That enmity which now perhaps is a secret to himself will become manifest on the great occasion when the secrets of all hearts shall be laid open, and the justice of God will then be vindicated in dealing with him as an enemy. Conclusion: It is only by taking a deep view of the disease that you can be led adequately to estimate the remedy. There is a way of transition from the carnal to the spiritual; from the enmity to the love of God, and that is through Christ. The trumpet giveth not an uncertain sound, for it declares the remission of sin through the blood of Jesus, and repentance through the Spirit which is of His giving; and your faith in the one will infallibly bring down upon you all the aids and influences of the other.

(T. Chalmers, D. D.)

Essex Congregational Remembrancer.
An enemy may be reconciled, a carnal man may become spiritual; but "enmity," in the abstract, cannot be reconciled, and therefore the carnal mind must be crucified and destroyed. Consider —


1. He possesses every perfection, and in Him every perfection is infinite.

2. He stands to us in the important relations of Creator, Preserver, and Benefactor.

3. He has so loved the world as to give His only begotten Son for its salvation.

4. His requirements are reasonable. Can He require anything less than the supreme love of Himself? Is He not worthy of our unlimited confidence?


1. Disobedience of the commands of God.

2. Neglect of communion with God.

3. Dislike to the image of God, as reflected upon His people.

4. Aversion to the method of salvation which God has revealed in the gospel.

5. Delight in the society of persons who are alienated from God.


1. How deplorable is the state of man compared with what he was when he came out of the Divine hands.

2. That those persons are much mistaken who, whilst they are severe in condemning all offences which affect society, think little of the evil of such sins as are committed principally against God.

3. The necessity of regeneration.

(Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)

I. THE MIND OF MAN IS CARNAL. By the "mind" we are to understand all the powers of the soul, and the affections. It is called carnal, because its desires and delights are fleshly (John 3:6).

1. The understanding of man, however rational, is carnal (Colossians 2:18).(1) In its conceptions of the Divine Being, of His worship, and of the way of acceptance with Him (Romans 1:23).(2) In its ideas of the holy law of God (Romans 7:14).(3) In its views of the gospel. Some understand by it nothing but the history of Christ; others only a set of good precepts; others a kind of new law, offering us salvation on easier terms than the old law. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God." Many hear the truths of the gospel plainly preached for years, and never understand them. To many others its great doctrines seem nonsense, and they revile them accordingly. And the apostle says it cannot be otherwise (1 Corinthians 2:14).

2. The will is also carnal. "It is not subject to the law of God." It rejects those things which are truly good and excellent, while it chooses those things which are bad and hurtful (John 5:40).

3. The affections, such as hope, desire, and love, are also carnal (ver. 5). "What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?" These are the inquiries of carnal persons; not, "What shall I do to be saved?" not, How shall I please and glorify God?

II. MAN, BEING CARNAL, IS IN A STATE OF ENMITY AGAINST GOD. This is the very essence of sin; the transferring that love, which is due to God, to His creatures, and to sin. It is turning our backs upon Him, as if He whom angels adore were not worthy of our notice. The carnal man —

1. Takes no pleasure in the perfections of God. That glorious attribute, holiness, is peculiarly obnoxious to him.

2. Greatly dislikes the spiritual worship of God. That which constitutes the joy of angels and the redeemed, is a burden: and therefore wholly omitted, or very carelessly performed.

3. Is in opposition to the law of God. The law is holy, and just, and good; it requires only that we should love Him supremely, and our neighbour disinterestedly. God certainly has a right to require this; and it is our most reasonable service; but the carnal mind refuses submission. Nor is the enmity of the carnal mind against the gospel less than that against the law. The proud Pharisee disdains to submit to the righteousness of Christ; the carnal worldling, intent upon his land, his oxen, etc., begs to be excused; the vain philosopher, puffed up with his mental acquirements, cavils at all its humbling doctrines.

4. Contemns or hates God's people.

(G. Burder.)

I. ITS MANIFESTATIONS. Enmity against God.

1. In His truth. This is shown (Psalm 50:17; Hosea 7:12) —(1) In men's unwillingness to believe any Divine truth, or to meditate upon it. Men shun the thoughts of what they do not love. It is hard to believe Divine truths; because they are against the interests of our lusts, and the more Divine, the more unwilling are we to close with them. If the Word lays hold upon a man, he endeavours to shake it off as a man would a serjeant who comes to arrest him (Romans 1:28). Have not men often had secret wishes that some truths were blotted out of the Bible; because they face their consciences, and damp their pleasures? When men cannot shake off a truth, but it sticks fast in them, yet they have no pleasure in the consideration of it, which would be if there were a love to God; for men love to read over the letters which are sent by them to whom they have an affection.(2) In their opposition to it. God's truths cast against a hard heart are like balls thrown against a stone wall, which rebound the further from it. Sin, as a garrison in a city, is up in arms upon any alarm from its adversary (1 Kings 22:8; John 3:19, 20).(3) If men do entertain truth, it is not for truth's sake, but for some other by-end. Judas follows Christ for the bag.(4) If men do entertain truth, it is with unsettled affections, and much mixture. The Jews cry Hosannah to Christ one day, and crucify Him the next. Some were willing to rejoice in John's light, which gave a lustre to their minds, not in his heat, which would have given warmth to their affections. Our hearts are like lute strings, changed with every change of weather, with every temptation.(5) In a carnal improvement of truth. Some endeavour to make truth subservient to lust, as when men hear of God's willingness to pardon they will argue from hence for deferring their repentance (Psalm 94:7). Wicked men father their sins upon God's Word. A liar will find a refuge in Rahab's lie for preserving the spies. Some will venture into all kind of wicked company, from Christ's example. As the sea turns fresh water into salt, so a carnal heart turns Divine things to carnal ends.

2. In the duties God doth enjoin.(1) Unwillingness to it. If men do come to God, it is a constrained act, to satisfy conscience. If conscience, like a taskmaster, did not lash them to duty, they would never perform it. If we do come willingly it is for our own ends (Isaiah 26:16). This unwillingness is a wrong to His providence, as though we stood not in need of His assistance, and a wrong to His excellency, as though there were no amiableness in Him to make His company desirable.(2) Slightness in the duty.(a) In respect of time. As men reserve the dregs of their life, their old age, to offer up their souls to God; so they reserve the dregs of the day, their sleepy times, for the offering their service to God.(b) In respect of frame. We think any frame will serve God's turn. In worldly business you may often observe a liveliness in man; but change the scene into a motion towards God, and how suddenly does this vigour shrink.(3) Weariness in it. How tired are we in the performance of spiritual duties, when in the vain triflings of time we have a perpetual motion! How will many force themselves to dance and revel a whole night, when their hearts will flag and jade at the first entrance into a religious service (Malachi 1:13).(4) Neglect of expecting answers to prayer. They care not whether their letters come to God's hands or no, and therefore care not much for any returns from Him; whereas if we have any love for a person we send to, or value of a thing we send for, we should expect an answer every post. If God does not answer us, naturally we cast off the duty, and say with those in Job (Job 21:15). They pray not out of conscience of the command, but merely for the profit; and if God makes them wait for it, they will not wait His leisure, but solicit Him no longer.


1. Dissimilitude between God and a natural man. As likeness in nature and inclinations is a cause of love, so dissimilitude and unsuitableness is a cause of hatred. God is infinitely holy, man corrupt. Darkness and light, heaven and hell, are directly contrary, so is Christ and Belial. The remedy, then, will be to get a renewed nature, the image of God new formed in the soul.

2. Guilt. Men fly from God out of shame; they consider the debts they owe God are great, and naturally debtors fly from their creditors. Terror is essential to guilt, and hatred to a perpetual terror. The remedy, then, is to labour for justification by the blood of Christ, which is only able to remove that guilt which engenders our hatred.

3. God's crossing the desires and interests of the flesh. All hatred arises from an opinion of destructiveness in the object hated. And a sinner being possessed that his darling sin is inconsistent with the holiness of God's law, hates God for being of a nature so contrary to that which he loves. The Jews expecting an earthly grandeur by the Messiah was the cause that they were the more desperate enemies to Christ. The remedy, then, is to have a high esteem of the holiness and wisdom of the law of God, and the advantages He aims at for our good in the enjoining of it (1 John 5:3).

4. Love of sin. The more we love that which hath an essential enmity against God, the more we must hate that which is most contrary to it. Light must be odious when darkness is lovely. The remedy, then, is to endeavour for as great a hatred of sin as thou hast of God; to look upon sin as the greatest evil in itself, the greatest disadvantage to thy happiness.

5. Injury we do to God. Whereas the person injured might rather hate, yet the person injuring hath often the greatest disaffection. Joseph's mistress first wronged him, and then hated him. Saul first injured David, and then persecuted him. The remedy, then, is to endeavour a conformity to God's holy will; to think with thyself every morning, What shall I do this day to please God?

6. Slavish fear of God. Men are apt to fear a just recompense for an injury done to another; and fear is the mother of hatred. A fear of God as an inexorable judge that we have highly wronged will nourish an enmity against Him. Then, be much in communion with God; strangeness is the mother of fear; we dread men sometimes, because we know not their disposition. Consider much the loveliness and amiableness of His nature, His ardent desire that thou wouldst be His friend more than His enemy.

7. Pride. Men lift up the pride of reason against the truth of God, and the pride of heart against the will of God. Then endeavour after humility.

8. Love of the world (1 John 2:15; James 4:4). Despise the world, and the devil hath scarce any bait and argument left to move thee to an enmity against God.


1. The information to be derived from the subject.(1) How desperate is the atheism in every man's heart by nature! The desperateness of this natural enmity will appear —(a) In that it is as bad, and in some respects worse, than atheism. An atheist does not so much affront God as a man who walks as if there were no God. The atheist barely denies God's being, the other mocks Him (Jeremiah 32:38).(b) In that it is of the same nature with the devil's enmity. Natural men have a diabolical nature (John 8:44; Matthew 16:33), and every natural man is a friend to the devil. There are but two sovereigns in the world, one rightful, and the other usurping. If we are enemies to the right sovereign, we must be friends to the usurper (2 Corinthians 4:4).(2) What an admirable prospect may we take here of God's patience! (Romans 3:4).(3) Hence follows the necessity of regeneration. This division between God and His creature will not admit of any union without a change of nature.(4) Hence follows the necessity of applying to Christ. It is Christ only that satisfies God for us, by the shedding of His blood, and removes our enmity by the operation of His Spirit.

2. Exhortation.(1) To sinners. Lay down thy arms against God. Lament this enmity, and be humbled for it.(2) To regenerate persons.

(a)Possess your hearts with great admirations of the grace of God towards you, in wounding this enmity in your hearts and changing your state (Romans 5:10, 11).

(b)Inflame your love to God by all the considerations you can possibly muster up. Outdo thy former disaffection by a greater ardency of love.

(c)Watch against the daily exertings and exercises of this enmity.

3. Motives.(1) Consider the disingenuity of this enmity.

(a)God hath been good to us. He is love, and we are out of love with love itself (1 John 4:8).

(b)God hath been importunate in entreaties of us.(2) This enmity is the greatest folly, because God —

(a)Is the most lovely object.

(b)Is the chiefest good, and the fountain of all goodness.

(c)Cannot possibly do us wrong.

(d)Cannot be hurt by us. It is a folly among men to show their enmity where they cannot hurt.

(e)But though thou canst not hurt God, yet thou dost mightily wrong thyself. Thy shot will fall before it reach Him, but His arrows will both reach thy heart and stick in it.(3) Consider the misery of such a state.

(a)Thou canst not possibly escape vengeance.

(b)Thou dost even force God to destroy thee.

(S. Charnock, B. D.)


II. MAN HATES THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD. God is the Supreme Being; all things being made by Him and for Him. His right to accomplish His own desires. But what if the plans of a sovereign God require the abandonment of our most beloved objects? Must we then cordially submit? Yes, you must either love, or hate a sovereign God.

III. THE CARNAL MIND HATES THE MERCY OF GOD. Here we seem to be in even more glaring inconsistency with consciousness than in any former assertion. If the mercy of God consisted in the mere direct gratification of the wants of men, our position were then false. This vague notion is wonderfully prevalent in the world, but is infinitely removed from the sublime and holy attribute called mercy in the Scriptures. It was mercy that bowed the listening ear to Abel's prayer; it was grace that inclined him to make the acceptable offering. What was the effect of that display of grace to fallen man? It kindled the passions of hell in the bosom of Cain, and the hatred, which could find no vent toward the God of mercy, fell in murderous stroke upon an innocent brother. At last the Son of God came, the Messenger of mercy. From the cradle to the tomb, He drew forth the rage and malice of men. The relations of life are such, that the religious principles of one person may very greatly interfere with the schemes of profit or pleasure formed by another; and these religious principles are the fruits of God's mercy. But the carnal mind, thwarted and checked, feels a hatred of those principles, and thus of the mercy which caused them. That renovated power of conscience is from the blessed Spirit. But how is it treated? We have reason to fear that the greater part who hear the gospel, dread and detest those very feelings and conditions of the mind. God has no other mercy than a holy mercy; no other merciful treatment of thee than to make thee holy. If this please thee not, it is because thou hast the carnal mind which hates God. Remarks:

1. The supreme love of the creature is a dreadful evil.

2. "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."

(E. N. Kirk, A. M.)

The apostle does not say it is opposed to God merely, but it is positive enmity. It is not black, but blackness; it is not rebellious, it is rebellion; it is evil in the concrete, sin in the essence. It is unnecessary, therefore, to explain that it is "enmity against God." It does not charge manhood with an aversion merely to the dominion, laws, or doctrines of Jehovah; but it strikes a deeper and a surer blow.

I. THE TRUTHFULNESS OF THIS GREAT STATEMENT. It needs no proof since it is written in God's Word. But did I need witnesses, I would conjure up —

1. The nations of antiquity, and tell you of the awful deeds of mankind.

2. The delusions of the heathen. I would drag their gods before you; I would let you witness their horrid obscenities, the diabolical rites which are to them most sacred things. Then after you have heard what the natural religion of man is, I would ask what must his irreligion be?

3. The best of men who have been always the readiest to confess their depravity.

4. Your conscience. Didst thou never hear the heart say, "I wish there were no God"? Have not all men at times wished that our religion were not true? Now suppose a man wished another dead, would not that show that he hated him? Or has not thine heart ever desired, since there is a God, that He were a little less holy. Has it never said, "Would to God these sins were not forbidden"?


1. As to all persons. There is in the carnal mind of an infant, enmity against God; it is not developed, but it lieth there. Young lions when tamed and domesticated still have the wild nature, and were liberty given them, would prey as fiercely as others. So with the child. And if this applies to children, equally does it include every class of men.

2. At all times. "Oh," say some, "it may be true that we are at times opposed to God, but surely we are not always so." Yes, but mark, the wolf may sleep, but it is a wolf still; the sea is the house of storms, even when it is glassy as a lake; and the heart, when we perceive not its ebullitions, is still the same dread volcano.

3. The whole of the mind is enmity against God. Look at —(1) Our memory. We recollect evil things far better than those which savour of piety.(2) The affections. We love a creature, but very seldom the Creator; and when the heart is given to Jesus, it is prone to wander.(3) The imagination. Only give man something that shall well-nigh intoxicate him, and how will his imagination dance with joy!(4) The judgment — how ill it decides.(5) The conscience — how blind it is. I might review all our powers, and unite upon the brow of each, "Traitor against God!"


1. What is God to us? He stands to us in the relationship of a Creator; and from that fact He claims to be our King. He is our Legislator, our Lawmaker; and then, to make our crime still worse and worse, He is the ruler of providence; for it is He who keeps us from day to day; and I ask, is it not high treason against the Emperor of heaven that we should be at enmity with God?

2. But the crime may be seen to be worse when we think of what God is. God is the God of love. Do you hate God because He loves you?

IV. THE DOCTRINES TO BE DEDUCED FROM THIS. Is the carnal mind at enmity against God?

1. Then salvation cannot be by merit, it must be by grace.

2. Then an entire change of our nature is necessary.

3. This change must be worked by a power beyond our own. An enemy may possibly make himself a friend; but enmity cannot.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

It is no contradiction to the statement of the text, and no proof of love to God —

I. THAT WE DO MANY THINGS THAT ARE AGREEABLE TO HIS LAW WITH THE WILLING CONSENT OF THE MIND. Propose the question, Would not I do this good thing, or abstain from this evil thing, though God had no will in the matter? If you would, then put not down what is altogether due to other principles to the principle of love to God or a desire of pleasing Him. You may have a very large share of estimable principles: but an enlightened discerner of the heart may look unto you and say, "I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you." For when He puts in for that share of your heart which you give to wealth, or pleasure, or reputation, then is not God a weariness? How would you like the visit of a man whose presence broke up some arrangement that you had set your heart upon? or marred the enjoyment of some favourite scheme that you were going to put into execution? Now, is not God just such a visitor? Yes; and to admit Him, with all His high claims and spiritual requirements into your mind, would be to disturb you in the enjoyment of objects which are better loved and more sought after than He. It is because your heart is occupied with idols that God is shut out of it. There is nothing monstrous in all this to the men of our world; but how must the pure eye of an angel be moved at such a spectacle of worthlessness! That the bosom of a thing formed should feel cold or indifferent to Him who formed it — that not a thought or an image should be so unwelcome to man as that of his Maker — that the creature should thus turn round on its Creator — there is a perversity here, which time may palliate for a season, but which must at length be brought out to its adequate condemnation.

II. THAT A GOD DIVESTED OF ALL WHICH CAN MAKE HIM REPULSIVE TO SINNERS SHOULD BE IDOLISED AT TIMES by many a sentimentalist. It would form no deduction from our enmity against the true God that we give an occasional hour to the worship of a graven image; and it is just of as little significancy to the argument that we feel an occasional glow of affection or of reverence towards a fictitious being of our own imagination. If there be truth in the Bible, it is there where God has made an authentic exhibition of His nature; and if God in Christ be an offence to you — if you have no relish for spiritual communion with such a God — then be assured that, amid the painted insignificancy of all your other accomplishments, your heart is not right with God.

III. THAT WE DO MANY THINGS WITH THE DIRECT OBJECT OF DOING THAT WHICH IS PLEASING TO GOD. Why, I may both hate and fear the man whom I may find it very convenient to please. I may comply by action; but I may abominate the necessity which constrains me. A sovereign may overrule the humours of a rebellious province by the presence of his resistless military; but you would not say that there was any loyalty in this forced subordination.

IV. THAT WE DO WHAT GOD WILLS BECAUSE HE WILLS IT. The terror of His power may constrain you to many acts of obedience. Thieves, and swearers, and Sabbath breakers may, under the fear of the coming vengeance, give up their respective enormities, and yet their minds be altogether carnal. There may be the obedience of the hand, while there is the gall of bitterness in the heart at the necessity which constrains it.

(T. Chalmers, D. D.)

This must needs be so, because man hath fallen from God through his first transgression in Adam, and so broken that sweet peace and league which was betwixt God and him. Now, till this be repaired and made up again in Christ, there must needs be enmity following thereupon. "Their iniquities have separated betwixt them and their God." For this purpose we must know thus much: First, that as friendship does properly consist in willing and nilling the same things, so enmity does properly consist in willing and nilling the contrary. But then, again, secondly, carnal men are said to hate God, according to that notion and apprehension which they have of Him, and that is, indeed, very opposite and contrary to themselves. And so now I have done with the first general part of the text, which is the doctrine or proposition itself in these words: "The carnal mind is enmity against God." The second is the proof or confirmation of this doctrine in these words: "For it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." These words may be considered of us two manner of ways: either, first of all, simply and absolutely, as they lie in themselves; or, secondly, respectively and argumentatively, in their inference and textual connection. First, here is the simple pravity and disparagement of the carnal mind. It is not subject to the law of God. Corrupt nature it is a rebel against God's law, as it is enmity against God Himself (Genesis 6:5; Psalm 53:1, 23; 58:3-5). This is so, and will appear to be so, upon these considerations: First, from the prevalency of another law in such persons in whom this carnal mind is. Secondly, another ground of this point may be taken from the spirituality of the law of God. Thirdly, there is likewise, moreover, observable such a perverseness in man's heart by nature, as that the law of God it rather makes him worse than makes him better. This point which we are now upon, first, serves to give us an account of so much transgression of the law as there is; namely, from hence, that men's carnal-mindedness does still remain in them. Secondly, we learn from hence also how to come to be conformable to God's law, and to be obedient to the commands of it; and that is, by denying and contradicting our carnal reason. Thirdly, this gives us also an account of that wickedness which is sometimes observable even in persons of great parts, and wits, and natural accomplishments; namely, because they are as yet but carnal. One thing more before I pass this branch; and that is the phrase which is here used for subjection. The word in the Greek signifies such a kind of subjection as is after an orderly manner, as of soldiers in battle to their commander, which, being here denied to the wisdom of the flesh, does intimate thus much to us: that carnality it is an irregular business, and such as is much out of order; from whence it comes not to be so obedient as it should be to the law of God. Where there is nothing but confusion, there cannot be expected subjection, but every evil work. The second is the additional amplification, as it is not, so it cannot be neither. A carnal-minded person, he cannot be subject to the law of God. This is grounded upon those following considerations. First, the blindness which by nature is in man's mind. He that cannot see, cannot practise, because he wants light to direct him. Secondly, the will, that is likewise out of frame; that has a particular perverseness upon it, and is obstinate against that which is good. Thirdly, the affections. They are out of order too in all the kinds of them — love and hatred, and fears and grief, and anger and joy, etc., all out of course. To all these we may add some further considerations besides, as, first of all, custom in sinning. This makes the impotency of doing good to be so much the more, and the impossibility to be so much the greater. Secondly, it cannot likewise from the just judgment of God Himself towards it, while He gives up some persons above the rest to a reprobate mind and to a hard heart, whereby sin is made in some manner and in some sense necessary to them. But if they cannot, why, then, there is no hurt done. This seems to make for their excuse. To this we answer, That this does not excuse, for all that, because it is such an impotency and inability as man hath voluntarily brought upon himself. Now further, secondly, we may take them respectively and argumentatively in the force of their connection; for it is not subject. The Apostle Paul does from hence prove that the carnal mind is an enemy to God, because it keeps not God's law. From whence we may observe thus much: That disobedience to God is a conviction of enmity against Him. The ground whereof is this: because the law of God is that which is most near and dear unto Him. His will is Himself, and His sovereignty is that which He most stands upon of anything else. Secondly, let us hereby also judge and estimate, and take account of ourselves, and see how far we are God's friends, which is not so much by pretences as by obedience.

(Thomas Horton, D. D.)


1. Men may be unconscious of their opposition, and hence infer that it has no existence. Many circumstances may conduce to this unconsciousness.(1) Men generally are without any habitual and strong impression of the reality of the Divine existence; and, therefore, their enmity has little opportunity to exhibit itself.(2) Opposition may also be kept in check by a sense of our own weakness and God's power. But conscious impotence is no indication of a heart friendly to the Most High; for give to the sinner the means of successful opposition, and then his disposition will begin to exert itself, unawed and unrestrained.(3) Mere carelessness may keep the sinner in ignorance of the interior operations of his depravity to the holiness and sovereignty of God.

2. The homage of respect paid by many to religion and its institutions may be alleged as an evidence that they are not enemies to their Maker. But the force of education, the power of conscience, the beneficial influence of Christian institutions, the love of human estimation, the energy of servile fear, are sufficient to account for all the religion of unregenerate men.

3. Nor is the glow of imaginary love to the Divine Being, sometimes felt by unconverted men, any proof that they are not His enemies. They may form erroneous conceptions of His character, contemplating Him as devoid of all those attributes which are terrible to the unholy. The most sordid and malignant beings may conceive of a God to whom their hearts would feel no repugnance.

4. The social sympathies and the decencies of life are regarded by many as proofs of some innate sparks of love to God. The mistake here arises from confounding mere instincts and the refinements of enlightened self-love with real benevolence, and from overlooking that system of restraints which Divine Providence is pleased to employ as essential to a dispensation of mercy. A sufficient evidence of the radical deficiency of these social virtues is that they often exist in conjunction with manifest indifference or open opposition to any practical acknowledgment of God. Many a polite and even humane man would blush more deeply to be found on his knees in prayer than to be seen at the gaming table or the race ground.

II. MORE DIRECT PROOFS IN ITS SUPPORT. The native enmity of the human heart against God maybe inferred from —

1. Its entire selfishness. The popular philosophy maintains that ultimate regard to self is the grand law of our being, and ridicules the notion of disinterested goodness. If it be so, love to God is impossible. For against the Divine requisitions, selfishness arises, exasperated and alarmed. It can love nothing which does not secure the gratifications it covets. In the same proportion as it sees its plans thwarted, itself condemned and exposed to hell, its enmity is roused against God.

2. The erroneous and preposterous views which have been commonly entertained by mankind respecting God's character and government.(1) Look at those destitute of the light of revelation. The religious rites of the great body of mankind have been degrading and impious, as the objects of their religious veneration were impure and cruel.(2) Look at those who sit under the sunshine of the gospel. Do we not observe among nominal Christians a strong tendency to error and practical unbelief?

3. The general conduct of mankind to God.(1) "God is not in all their thoughts." Every trifle can engross the mind; but a place within it can scarcely be found for musings on the adorable attributes of Him by whom it was made. The Scriptures are neglected, or read only as the record of curious facts, and fervent prayer is odious. This general reluctance to spiritual duties is unaccountable, if there be no repugnancy in the human heart to intimate communion with God.(2) Do we not observe everywhere a disregard and resistance of the authority of God? A dislike of the law, in its spirituality and strictness, involves opposition to Him by whom it was given, and of whose moral purity it is a transcript. "The carnal mind is...not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." Sinners are "enemies to God by wicked works." To please the unholy, He must abandon His sceptre, or rule only for their benefit.(3) How can we account for the treatment which God's messengers have received from an ungodly world, unless there is naturally a strong aversion to pure religion, and consequently enmity against that God from whom it proceeds? Unkindness to an ambassador, who acts simply in accordance with his instructions, is universally accounted an insult to the court from which he derived his commission.(4) How has Christ been treated by sinners?

4. Experience. Every real Christian is ready to charge himself with rebellion. And is this universal consent of such as are most deeply imbued with spiritual Christianity, and have noticed most faithfully the interior actings of their depravity, to be accounted nothing?

5. The Scriptures have settled the question. Deny the native enmity of the heart to God, and its leading doctrines become wholly unintelligible. What will you make of regeneration? Does not reconciliation import a previous state of variance between the parties?Conclusion: This humiliating subject teaches us —

1. The importance of those restraints which a wise and benevolent Providence is pleased to employ in the government of mankind. Conceive of all restraints withdrawn from a world like this, full of the enemies of God. No tongue can describe, no fancy can paint, the complicated scenes of guilt and misery which would ensue.

2. The mysterious love of God to our apostate world.

(J. Woodbridge, D. D.)


1. It is to be understood of nature and not of actions only. Every action of a natural man is an enemy's action, but not an action of enmity. And as waters relish of the mineral vein they run through, so the actions of a wicked man are tinctured with the enmity they spring from. Godly men may do an enemy's action, but they are not in a state of enmity. They may fall into sin as a man into a ditch, but they lie not in it. But a natural man is in a state of universal contrariety.(1) All times. It is Called a "root of bitterness," for while it remains a root, it will remain bitter.(2) In every sinful act. Though the interest of particular sins may be contrary to one another, covetousness and prodigality cannot agree, but they are all in league against God. As all virtuous actions partake of the nature of love to God; so all vicious actions are tinctured with inward enmity.(3) Against all the attributes of God. For sin being an opposition to the law of God, is consequently a contrariety to His will, and His understanding, and therefore to all those attributes which flow from His will, as goodness, righteousness, truth; and His understanding, as wisdom, knowledge.

2. This enmity is habitually seated in the mind (Ephesians 2:3; James 3:15). The mind thus infected is like those eminent persons that spread the contagion of their vices to all their attendants. The other faculties, like common soldiers, fight for the prey and booty; but the mind, the sovereign, fights for the superiority, and orders all the motions of the lower rout. There is —(1) As opposed to desire. Thus man hates God, because he turns from Him. By sin we stand indebted to God, and therefore have an aversion from Him; as debtors hate the sight of their creditors, and are loath to meet them. God's purity is too dazzling for sinful men, and therefore they cannot look upon God, but are like sore eyes that are distempered with the sun.(2) A detestation opposite to love (Colossians 1:21). This is —(a) Natural, which we call antipathy. Sin being the greatest evil, is naturally most opposite to God, who is the greatest good. So that God can never be reconciled to sin, or sin to God.(b) Acquired, which is grounded upon diversity of interests. The interest of a sinner as such consists in gratifying the importunities of his lusts; and the interest of God lies in vindicating the righteousness of His commands. This is either direct (John 15:24) or implicit. Men love not the things that God loves, and therefore may be said to hate Him.


1. Negatively. We hate not God —(1) As God. Which is impossible, because God, absolutely considered, hath all the attractives of love; as a man cannot will sin as sin, because it is purely evil, and therefore cannot be the object of the desire. We never yet met with any so monstrously base as to hate a creature as a creature, or man as man; not a serpent as a creature, but as it is venomous.(2) As Creator and Preserver. Hatred always supposes some injury, or the fear of some; and our hatred doth evaporate when we find our supposed injuries recompensed by benefits. What servant can disdain his master for feeding him? or what child hate his father for begetting and maintaining him?

2. Positively. We hate God —(1) As a Sovereign. Man cannot endure a superior; he would be uncontrollable (Psalm 12:4; Exodus 5:2). We hate God as a lawgiver, as He prohibits sin (Luke 19:27). It is impossible that man should do otherwise, because it is as natural to us to abhor those things which are troublesome as to please ourselves in things agreeable. The sea foams most, and casts up most mire, when restrained by some rock, or bounded by the shore:(2) As a Judge. Fear is often the cause of hatred. All men have a fear of God, not of offending Him, but of being punished by Him. Corruption kindles this enmity, but fear, like a bellows, inflames it. This hatred of God is stronger or weaker, according as the fear is, and therefore in hell it is in its meridian and maturity.(3) In His very being. When this fear rises high, or men are under a sense of punishment. All men are actuated by a principle of self-preservation, and when men look upon God as a punisher of their crimes, if they could, by the undeifying of God, rescue themselves from those fears, there is self-love and enmity enough against God in them to quicken them to it. Did none of you ever please yourselves in the thoughts how happy you should be, how free in your lustful pleasures, if there were no God? Now all hatred includes a virtual murder. If he who hates his brother is a murderer, he that hates God is a murderer of God. Man would have God at the greatest distance from him, and there is no greater distance from being than not being (Job 21:14; Psalm 14:1).

(S. Charnock, B. D.)

I. THE BREACH OF GOD'S LAWS. If obedience be a sign of love, disobedience is an argument of hatred (John 15:14). Then in the breach of it all those attributes are despised. This enmity appears in —

1. Unwillingness to know the law of God. Men hate the light, which would both discover their spots and direct their course (Zechariah 7:11; Romans 3:10; Isaiah 28:12; Isaiah 30:10, 11). And when any motion of the Spirit thrusts itself in to enlighten them, they "exalt themselves against the knowledge of God" (2 Corinthians 10:5) and resist the Holy Ghost. Men are more fond of the knowledge of anything than of God's will.

2. Unwillingness to be determined by any law of God. When men cannot escape the convincing knowledge of the law, they set up their carnal resolutions against it (Jeremiah 44:15; Malachi 3:13; Psalm 78:10). Men naturally affect an unbounded liberty, and would not be hedged in by any law (Jeremiah 2:24). Hence man is said to make void the law of God (Psalm 119:126; Matthew 15:6).

3. The violence man offers to those laws which God doth most strictly enjoin, and which He doth most delight in the performance of. The more spiritual the law, the more averse the heart (Romans 7:8, 14). Men will grant God the lip and the ear, but deny Him that which He most calls for, viz., the heart.

4. Hatred to conscience, when it puts a man in mind of God's law. This is evidenced by our stifling it when it dictates any practical conclusions from the law. Now, since men hate their own consciences it is clear that they hate God Himself, because conscience is God's officer in them.

5. Setting up another law in him in opposition to the law of God (Romans 7:23). This men do when they plead for sins as venial, and below God to notice.

6. In being at greater pains and charge to break God's law than is necessary to keep it. How will men rack their heads to study mischief, wear out their time and strength in contrivances to satisfy some base lust, which leaves behind it but a momentary pleasure, attended at length with inconceivable horror, and cast off that yoke which is easy and that burden which is light, in the keeping whereof there is great reward.

7. In doing that which is just and righteous upon any other consideration rather than of obedience to God's will, i.e., when men will obey Him only so far as may comport with their own ends.

8. In being more observant of the laws of men. The fear of man is a more powerful curb to retain men in their duty than the fear of God. What a contempt of God is this; it is to tell God I will break the Sabbath, swear, revile, revel, were it not for the curb of national laws, for all Thy precepts to the contrary.

9. In man's unwillingness to have God's laws observed by any. Man would not have God have a loyal subject in the world. What is the reason else of the persecution of those who would be the strictest observers of God's injunctions?

10. In the pleasure we take to see His laws broken by others (Romans 1:32).

II. IN SETTING UP OTHER SOVEREIGNS IN THE STEAD OF GOD. If we did dethrone God to set up an angel, or some virtuous man, it would be a lighter affront; but to place the basest and filthiest thing in His throne is intolerable.

1. Idols.

2. Self. This is properly the old Adam, the true offspring of the first corrupted man. This is the greatest anti-christ, the great anti-god in us, which sits in the heart, the temple of God, and would be adored as God; would be the chiefest as the highest end (2 Timothy 3:2). Sin and self are all one; what is called a living in sin in one place (Romans 6:2) to self in another (2 Corinthians 5:15).

3. The world. When we place this in our heart, God's proper seat and chair, we deprive God of His propriety, and do Him the greatest wrong (Colossians 3:5). The poor Indians made a very natural and rational consequence, that gold was the Spaniards' god, because they hunted so greedily after it.

4. Sensual pleasures (2 Timothy 3:4). A glutton's belly is said to be his god, because his projects and affections are devoted to the satisfaction of that, and he lays in not for the service of God.

5. Satan. Every sin is an election of the devil to be our lord. As the Spirit dwells in a godly man to guide him, so doth the devil in a natural man, to direct him to evil (Ephesians 2:2, 3). What a monstrous baseness is this, to advance an impure spirit in the place of infinite purity; to effect that destroyer above our preserver and benefactor.


1. In challenging titles and acts of worship due only to God.

2. In lording over the consciences and reasons of others. Whence else springs the restless desire in some men, to model all consciences according to their own wills and their anger.

3. In prescribing rules of worship which ought only to be appointed by God.

4. In subjecting the truth of God to the trial of reason.

5. In judging future events, as if we had been of God's privy council when He first undertook any great action in the world.

6. In censuring others' state (Luke 12:14).

(S. Charnock, B. D.)

Against —


1. In sinning under a pretence of religion. Many resolve upon some ways of wickedness, and then rake the Scripture to find out at least excuses for, if not a justification of their crimes. Many that have wrung estates from the tears of widows and heart blood of orphans, think to wipe off all their oppression by some charitable legacies at their death. It is abominable when men sin for God's glory.

2. In charging sin upon God.

3. In prescribing rules of worship, which ought only to be appointed by God (Genesis 3:12; Genesis 4:9; 2 Samuel 11:35). If we find a way to lay our sins at God's door, we think then to escape His justice. But it is a foolish consideration; for if we can fancy an unholy God, we have no reason to think Him a righteous God.

3. In hating the image of God's holiness in others. He that hates the picture of a prince hates the prince also. He that hates the stream hates the fountain; he that hates the beams hates the sun.

4. In having debasing notions of the holy nature of God. God made man according to His own image, and we make God according to ours. It is a question which idolatry is the greatest, to worship an image of wood or stone, or to entertain monstrous imaginations of God. It provokes a man when we liken him to a dog or a toad.

5. In our unworthy and perfunctory addresses to God. God is so holy, that were our services as refined and pure as those of the angels, yet we could not serve Him suitably to His holy nature (Joshua 24:19); therefore we deny this holiness when we come before Him without due preparation.

6. In .defacing the image of God in our own souls (Ephesians 4:24).


1. In slighting the laws of God. Since God hath no defect in His understanding, His will must be the best and wisest; therefore they that make alteration in His precepts practically charge Him with folly.

2. In defacing the wise workmanship of God. The soul, the image of God, is ruined and broken by sin. If a man had a curious clock which had cost him many years' pain and the strength of his skill to frame, for a man to break it would argue a contempt of the workman's skill.

3. Censuring His ways (Isaiah 45:9; Job 40:2). A reproof argues a superiority in authority, knowledge, or goodness.

4. Prescribing rules and methods to God (Jonah 4:1; Luke 2:48).


1. In secret thoughts of meriting by any religious act. As though God could be indebted to us, and obliged by us. In our prosperity we are apt to have secret thoughts that our enjoyments were the debts God owed us, rather than gifts freely bestowed upon us. Hence it is that men are more unwilling to part with their righteousness than with their sins, and are apt to challenge salvation as a due, rather than beg it as an act of grace.

2. Trying all ways of helping ourselves before we come to God. Having hopes to find that in creatures which is only to be found in an all-sufficient God.

3. In our apostasies from God. When, after fair pretences and devout applications, we grow cold and thrust Him from us, it implies that God hath not that fulness in Him which we expected.

4. In joining something with God to make up our happiness. Though men are willing to have the enjoyment of God, yet they are not content with Him alone, but would have something else to eke Him out; as though God had not in Himself a sufficient blessedness for His creatures, without the additions of anything else. The young man in the gospel went away sorrowful because he could not enjoy God and the world both together (Matthew 19:21, 22). If we would light up candles in a clear day, what do we imply but that the sun has not light enough in itself to make it day l


1. When we commit sin upon the ground of secrecy.

2. When men give liberty to inward sins. God "trieth the heart, and searcheth the reins." Manasseh is blamed for setting up strange altars in the house of God; much more may we for setting up strange imaginations in the heart, which should belong to God. Hypocrisy is a plain denial of His omnisciency. Are we not more slight in the performance of private devotions before God than we are in our attendances in public in the sight of men.

3. When men give way to diversions in a duty. It wrongs the majesty of God's presence that when He speaks to us we will not give Him so much respect as to regard Him; and when we speak to Him we do not regard ourselves. What a vain thing is it to be speaking to a scullion when the king is in presence t Every careless diversion to a vain object is a denial of God's presence in the place.


1. In the severe and jealous thoughts men have of God. Men are apt to charge God with tyranny, whereby they strip Him of the riches of His glorious mercy. The worship of many men is founded upon this conceit, whereby they are frighted into some actions of adoration, not sweetly drawn. We hate what we fear.

2. Slighting His mercy and robbing Him of the end of it. The wilful breaking of the prince's laws, upon the observance whereof great rewards are promised, is not only a despising his sovereignty, but a slighting his goodness. Often this enmity rises higher; and whereas men should fear him, they rather presume to sin (Romans 2:4; Ecclesiastes 8:11).


1. In not fearing it, but running under the lash of it.

2. In sinning under the strokes of justice. Men will roar under the stroke, but not submit to the striker.

3. In hoping easily to evade it (Psalm 50:21; Psalm 10:11).

(S. Charnock, B. D.)

"After all, I do not hate God. No, sir; you will not make me believe that. I am a sinner, I know, and do many wicked things; but, after all, I have a good heart — I don't hate God." Such was the language of a prosperous worldling. He was sincere, but sadly deceived. A few months afterwards that God who had given him so many good things crossed his path in an unexpected manner. A fearful freshet swept down the valley and threatened destruction to this man's large flour mill. A crowd was watching it, in momentary expectation of seeing it fall; while the owner, standing in the midst of them, was cursing God to His face, and pouring out the most horrid oaths. He no longer doubted that he hated God. But nothing in that hour of trial came out of his mouth which was not previously in his heart.

I. TO DISCOVER THIS ENMITY. The carnally-minded man is enmity against God —

1. As a servant.

2. As a subject.


1. What an injustice it is!

2. What an infamy it is!

3. What an injury is this to yourself!


1. It can never be done but by the Holy Ghost.

2. It can only be done by deliverance from the great guilt of not having loved God. Nothing but the love of Jesus can soften your heart and do away with its enmity.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
Men's happiness is to please them upon whom they depend, and upon whose favour their wellbeing hangs. It is the servant's happiness to please his master, the courtier's to please his prince. Now certainly all creatures depend upon the Creator, "for in Him we live, and move, and have our being." Then of all things it concerns us most how to please Him, and if we do so we shall assuredly be happy, and it will not matter whom else we displease (Psalm 31:19; Psalm 36:7). But, on the other hand, how incomparable is the misery of them who cannot please God, even though they did both please themselves and all others for the present! Now, if you ask who they are that are such, the words speak it: "They that are in the flesh," not they in whom there is flesh, for there are remnants of that in the most spiritual man in this life. The ground of this is chiefly two fold.

I. BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT IN JESUS CHRIST IN WHOM HIS SOUL IS WELL PLEASED (Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5). Whoever are not in Jesus Christ certainly cannot please God, do what they can, because God hath made Christ the centre, in which He would have the good pleasure of sinners meeting with His good pleasure; and therefore "without faith it is impossible to please God," not so much for the excellency of the act itself as for the well-pleasing object of it, Christ. God's love is well pleased with the excellency of His person, and His justice with the sufficiency and worthiness of His ransom, and without this compass there is neither satisfaction to the one nor to the other. Therefore, if you would please God, be pleased with Christ, and you cannot do Him a greater pleasure than believe in Him (John 5:23).

II. SUCH AS ARE IN THE FLESH CANNOT FRAME THEIR SPIRITS, AFFECTIONS, AND WAYS TO GOD'S GOOD PLEASURE, for their very mind is enmity to God, and cannot be subject to His law (Jeremiah 2:34).

1. It is not the business you have undertaken to please God, but to please yourselves, or to please men. The very beginning of pleasing God is when a soul falls in displeasure at itself and abhorrence of himself (Isaiah 66:2; Psalm 51:17). God never begins to be pleasant to a soul till it begins to fall out of love with itself. Therefore you may conclude this of yourselves, that with many of you God is not well pleased, though you have all Church privileges (1 Corinthians 10:2-5), not only because these works of the flesh that are directly opposite to His own known will, such as fornication, murmuring, etc., abound among you, but even those of you that may be free from gross opposition to His holy will, your nature hath the seed of all that enmity, and you act enmity in a more covered way. Certainly, though now you please yourselves, yet the clay shall come that you shall be contrary to yourselves, and all to you (1 Thessalonians 2:15), and there are some earnests of it in this life. Many wicked persons are set contrary to themselves, and all to them; they are like Esau, their hand against all, and all hands against them; yea, their own consciences continually vexing them; this is a fruit of that enmity between man and God, and if you find it now, you shall find it hereafter.

2. But as for you that are in Jesus Christ, who, being displeased with yourselves, have fled into the well-beloved, in whom the Father is well pleased, to escape God's displeasure, I say unto such, your persons God is well pleased with in Christ, and this shall make way and place for acceptance to your weak and imperfect performances. But I would charge that upon you, that as you by believing are well pleased with Christ, so you would henceforth study to walk worthy of your Lord into all well pleasing (Colossians 1:10). If you love Him, you cannot but fashion yourselves so as He may be pleased.

(Hugh Binning.)

I. THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF A CARNAL MIND PLEASING GOD. This springs from the necessity of the case.

1. As dwelling in a nature, every faculty of which is in hostility to His government and being, it is impossible that it can please Him.

2. There being no personal acceptance of those who are in the flesh, whatever they do cannot be accepted of God. First the person, and then the gift, is God's order (cf. Queen Esther's interview with Ahasuerus and Jacob's meeting with Esau). How can you do that which is well pleasing to a holy God while your person is to Him an object of just abhorrence?

3. The absence of faith in the unregenerate must render all the religious doings of the sinner displeasing. "For without faith it is impossible to please Him." How can he please God whose whole existence is a direct denial of God? "He that believeth not hath made God a liar!" Your unbelief is a practical denial of His existence. And, in your non-subjection to His law, you exclude Him from the government of His own world.

4. And what is the entire absence of love to God but another confirmation of the same truth? the great constraining motive of the sacrifice with which God is pleased is love, and "love is the fulfilling of the law."


1. A spiritual people, and God, who is a Spirit, must delight in that which harmonises with His own nature.

2. They are an accepted people, and therefore their persons are pleasing to Him. The delight of the Father in Christ reveals the secret of His delight in us. "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

3. But it is a universal pleasing of God which the Scriptures prescribe and enforce (Colossians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:2; 1 John 3:22).

4. But what are some of the footprints of this walk?(1) Unreserved obedience.(2) Walking by faith. As unbelief is most dishonouring, so faith is most honouring to the Lord Jesus.

(O. Winslow, D. D.)

The designation of the persons that is in these words — "They that are in the flesh." The discovery of their condition in these cannot please God. We begin with the first. The designation of the persons, those that are in the flesh. Now to be in the flesh, according to the language of Scripture, is taken two manner of ways, either in a good or in an indifferent sense, or a bad and unwarrantable sense. First, to be so in a good or in an indifferent sense, and so to be in the flesh is no more than to partake of human nature. Thus, "The life which I now live in the flesh" (Galatians 2:20). But, secondly, there is also being in the flesh in a bad and corrupt sense, by taking flesh metonymically for sin, as it is oftentimes taken in Scripture. The second is the predicate, in the discovery of the condition belonging to such persons, and that is, that they cannot please God, viz., whilst they so remain and continue. This may be taken by us two ways, either as denoting the state or the life, the condition or the conversation. First, take it in the first sense, "They that are in the flesh cannot please God" — that is, such persons as are yet remaining in a state of nature and unregeneracy; these are loathsome and displeasing to God. Now it remains that we should show what is here declared of such persons, that they cannot please God. First, take it for their persons. They are unpleasing to Him in reference to them (Psalm 54:5; Psalm 7:11; Habakkuk 1:13). There is no leprous or contagious person that is more displeasing in the eyes of man than a carnal and unregenerate person is displeasing to the eyes of God. The ground of this unpleasingness may be thus far accounted to us: first, because they are out of Christ, who is the primarily Beloved (Ephesians 1:6; Matthew 3:17). In Him as the termination of His well pleasing, and in Him also as the conveyance; in Him for Himself, and in all others for His sake. All men are so far well pleasing to God as they are in Christ. Now carnal persons are not incorporated into Christ, therefore they cannot be well pleasing to God in such a condition. They are in themselves and in their own nature unlovely. Secondly, unregenerate persons cannot please God, because they want faith. Thirdly, they are altogether unlike God, and so cannot be pleasing to Him in that respect likewise. We know that liking is founded in likeness, and complacency in correspondency. Fourthly, we need go no further for the proof of this point than the text itself, if we look upon it in the coherence of it, and how these carnal persons are therein described as are after the flesh, as do mind the things of the flesh, are in a state of death, in a state of enmity, in a state of impotency, and inability of subjection to the law of God. How is it then possible that such as these should be pleasing to God? The second is in reference to their actions. They cannot please Him so neither. The actions of carnal men are unpleasing to God considered in themselves, because they proceed not from a right principle in them, nor are directed to a right end by them. Sweetness of nature, and ingenuity, and moral accomplishments are very commendable in themselves, and do make men acceptable in their converse one with another, but yet they are not sufficient alone to make men acceptable in the eyes of God. Men are sensible sometimes of their actual sins, and have cause so to be — of their murders, and adulteries, and drunkenness, and thefts, and such courses as these, which now and then do a little astonish them and work some kind of horror in them. But what may they then think of the sin of their nature, which is the occasion of all these to them? For a man to be of a sickly constitution is more than to have a particular distemper or fit of sickness upon him. For this purpose, and to aggravate this so much the more unto us, consider these things further. First, that this corrupt nature, where it remains unchanged in any person, it does expose him to all kind of sin, considered at large, of what nature or kind soever. There is no sin which a man is secure of who is still remaining in his unregenerate condition, but he is not only capable of it, but inclinable to it. Secondly, where men are yet in the flesh and unchanged in their nature, they are exposed to the return of sin again, after some temporary forbearance of it and abstinence from it. There is nothing which is a principle of mortification but only sanctifying and saving grace. Thirdly, this state of nature does make men to commit sin with more delight and eagerness of prosecution. Those that are in their natural condition, they are in a sad and miserable condition. And they are so especially upon this account which is here expressed in the text, because they cannot please God, which carries a great deal more in it than we are presently sensible of, or do easily apprehend. They do not or cannot please God; their case is very terrible and dangerous. Thus it is, and will appear to be so according to sundry explications. First, as it is an obstruction to prayer and the receiving of that. "We know that God hears not sinners," said the blind man in the gospel (John 9:31), and "he that regards iniquity in his heart, the Lord will not hear his prayer" (Psalm 66:18). Secondly, it deprives men of blessings and the comfortable influences of God's providence. God will curse his very blessings and turn his comforts into the greatest crosses unto him; as we see it was with the Israelites, when God was offended and displeased with them: He gave them quails and manna in wrath. Thirdly, it exposes to temptations and the assaults of the spiritual enemy. "Whoso pleaseth God shall be kept from many snares," But he that does not so, he shall be given up to them. Lastly, it excludes from heaven and eternal happiness and salvation at last.

(Thomas Horton, D. D.)

The phrase notes a man drowned in corruption. We say of a man overcome of anger: he is in heat; of a drunkard: he is in beer or wine. So Simon Magus is said to be in the gall of bitterness. They cannot please God. Nor their persons, nor their thoughts, words, or actions, till they be renewed. Snow can never be made hot while it is snow. Fire will dissolve it into water; then it may be made hot. So the carnal man in that estate cannot please God, but change him into a sanctified estate, and then he can. A man may be prudent, learned, liberal, do many beautiful things in nature, and yet not please God. An evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit. Velvet is good matter to make a garment, yet it may be so marred in the cutting that it shall never obtain the name of a good garment. Pieces of timber are good matter for a house, but they must be artificially framed. An unregenerate man gives alms, and in giving sins: not because he gives, but because he gives not in the manner he should.

(Elnathan Parr, B. A.)

To please God is of infinite importance. Since He is omniscient and omnipresent, we cannot escape His observation: since He is Almighty, He has our life, and all things belonging to us, continually at His disposal, can make us happy or miserable in a thousand different ways. He is, therefore, the most dreadful enemy or the most beneficial friend we can have. Of what infinite consequence, then, to be in His favour.

I. WHAT IS MEANT BY BEING "IN THE FLESH." This expression is often used to signify being in the body (Philippians 1:22, 24; 1 Timothy 3:16; 1 Peter 4:1, 2, 6; 1 John 4:2, 3); but this is not its meaning here, for many in the body have pleased God. Nor is the living merely in sensuality and the sins of the flesh referred to (Galatians 5:16-21), though undoubtedly such cannot please God. But what is intended is the being in our natural state (Genesis 6:3 compared with Genesis 8:21; Ephesians 2:3). This implies —

1. The being unpardoned, or in a state of condemnation in consequence of not being "in Christ" (Romans 7:4-6; Romans 8:1).

2. Unregenerated (John 3:6).

3. Under the power of our animal and corrupt nature, the "law in our members" leading us captive to sir?

4. "Carnally minded"; minding the body rather than the soul; visible and temporal things rather than invisible and eternal; preferring nature to grace, and the creature to the Creator; being governed by carnal maxims; actuated by carnal views; influenced by carnal desires; engaged in carnal pursuits.


1. While thus in the flesh, such persons are not in God's favour.(1) They are not humbled and penitent, without which none can be accepted (Isaiah 57:15; Isaiah 66:2; 1 Peter 5:5, 6; James 4:10).(2) They are not believers; and without faith there is no justification, nor can we please God (Hebrews 11:4-6; John 3:36; Romans 4:23-25; Romans 5:1; 2 Corinthians 13:5).(3) Their carnal mind is not subject to His law. Nay, is enmity against Him. That we should be spiritually minded is for our good; but the carnal mind opposes this good, and "to be carnally minded is death."

2. Hence it follows that their services are not accepted of God, and that their ways do not please Him. Not being justified, they have not love to God (Romans 5:5), and without love no service is, or can be, pleasing to God.

3. But perhaps it will be objected —(1) "Cannot they pray, hear the Word?" etc. Yes; but not "worship God in spirit and truth," which, while destitute of the Spirit, they cannot do, and not doing, they are incapable of pleasing Him: they do not mix faith with the word that is heard, "receive the truth in love," and obey it from the heart.(2) But "cannot they preserve an unblamable conduct, give alms," etc.? Certainly; but this does not please God, as not being done from a right principle, "faith working by love": to a right end, the glory of God; in a right spirit, humility, purity, benevolence, zeal, etc.; and by a right rule, the will of God, and out of conscience toward Him (Galatians 5:6; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17).


1. By receiving the Spirit we pass from a carnal to a spiritual state (John 3:6).

2. By the Spirit dwelling in us we continue in that state (text; Galatians 5:16-25). Hereby we know that we are in the Spirit (1 John 3:24).

3. But we must receive and keep this Spirit as a Spirit of —

(1)Adoption (vers. 15-16; Galatians 4:4);

(2)Regeneration (Titus 3:5; John 3:4-5); productive of its proper fruits.

(J. Benson.)

I. THE CONDITION of man's well-being. To "please God," which implies —

1. That God is a pleasable Being. The Eternal is neither callous nor morose.

2. It is possible for man to please Him. It is wonderful that any creature, however high, should be able to please a Being so infinitely happy in Himself; but it is more wonderful that insignificant, fallen man should have this power.

3. How can man please God? Not by singing eulogistic hymns, or offering complimentary prayers, or observing ceremonial ordinances. "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto Me?" How then?(1) By loving supremely what He loves most. We are pleased with those who love the objects most dear to our hearts.(2) By devotion to those objects which interest Him most.

4. In the pleasing of Him is man's well-being.(1) Is man's happiness in a peaceful conscience? Then the conscience must have a sense of God's approval. The fear of His displeasure terrifies it, the assurance of His approval is its heaven.(2) Is man's happiness in gratified love? The loving heart is in anguish until it hears the "well done" of the loved one.(3) Is man's happiness in full development of his active powers? Then where can these powers have such stimulus and scope as it endeavours to please the Infinite?

II. The OBSTRUCTION to man's well-being. Being "in the flesh." What is meant by this? Not merely existing in the flesh: thus we all exist; but having the flesh for our master instead of our menial. The man who thus dwells in the flesh gets —

1. Fleshly views of the universe. All above, around, beneath him is materialism. His eyes are too gross to discern the spiritual significance of things; his ear too heavy to catch the spiritual melodies of the world.

2. Truth. "He judges after the flesh." If he has a theology, it is a sensuous thing.

3. Greatness. He has no idea of greatness apart from splendid costumes, magnificent dwellings, and brilliant equipages.

4. Happiness. He associates happiness with whatever pleases the tastes, charms the senses, satisfies the appetites, and gratifies the lusts.

5. God. He makes God such an one as himself, and gives Him human thoughts and passions. Now the soul in such a state has lost the desire and the power to please God. But the gospel comes to enfranchise the soul from the flesh and to restore to it its absolute sovereignty over the body. This deliverance is a new birth. "He that is born of the flesh is flesh," etc.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit.
"A boat has been sailing on the salt ocean, it has come through many a storm, and, half full of briny water, it is now sailing on the fresh water of the river. It is no longer in the salt water, but the salt water is in it. The Christian has got off the Adam-sea forever. He is in the Christ-sea forever. Adam is still in him, which he is to mortify and throw out, but he is not in Adam." First, take it simply in itself, "ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit"; where we have signified to us the state and condition of the children of God and the opinion which St. Paul has of them; and that is, not to be "carnal, but spiritual." That is, they are not wholly swayed by their own corruption, but by the Spirit of God in them. This is so far considerable of us as it teaches how to judge both of ourselves and other men. First, for ourselves. It is a point which may be very well improved by the children of God under temptation, when as Satan, joining with their own misgiving hearts, would go about to persuade them that they have no grace at all in them, because they have it in them mingled with some corruption. They should not hearken or give heed to such suggestions as these are. Again, secondly. This also teaches us how we should look upon other men who are the saints and servants of God, in the midst of those weaknesses and infirmities which they are sometimes compassed withal. There are many malicious persons in the world who, if at any time they do by chance espy anything which is amiss in God's children, they can commonly see nothing else. If they see some flesh in them, they can see nothing of the spirit; and they are apt both to account of them and to call them according to that which is worst in them. Now secondly. We may also look upon it reflexively, as coming from the apostle. He gives this testimony of these believing Romans to whom he wrote for their particular, that they were spiritual. And here two things more. First, his knowledge of their state and condition in grace for the thing itself. While he sees it, he does intimate that he knows it, and discerns it, and takes notice of it, to be so indeed with them, that they were such as were in the state of grace. Now here it may be demanded, How he came to do so? To this we answer: Divers manner of ways. First, by the judgment of charity. Secondly, by a special spirit of discerning which was vouchsafed unto him. Thirdly, the apostle speaks not here to the Romans at large, but only to the believers amongst them: "To all that be at Rome, beloved of God and saints," as it is Romans 1:7. Now farther, secondly, he signifies this his knowledge and apprehension of them. Why does he so? For two reasons; First, I say, hereby to testify the good opinion which himself had of them. He had in the verse before declared the sad estate of carnal persons. Now, lest they should think that he had mentioned this in reference to them, he now adds this unto it by way of exception. Secondly. For their further encouragement and progress in goodness. It is a good incentive to any to be better when they are commended for what already they are. The second is the proof or argument for the confirmation of it, in these, "If so be the Spirit of God dwelleth in you." First, take it absolutely in itself: "The Spirit of God dwells in you." This is spoken not only of the Romans, as belonging to them alone, but as common to all believers, who have likewise a share in it. When it is said both here and in other places, "That the Spirit of God dwells in the children of God" there are three things which are implied in this expression. First, I say, here is implied presence. He dwells in them — that is, He is in them. There is a special and peculiar presence which the Spirit of God doth take up in the children of God. Secondly, when it is said that the Spirit of God dwells in us; hereby is signified not only His presence, but His activity and operation. And this does express itself in sundry performances of His towards us. First, of instructing and teaching us. Secondly, as the Spirit of God dwells in us to teach us what is to be done, so to provoke and stir us up to the doing of it upon all occasions. Thirdly, He dwells in us also to restrain, and mortify, and subdue sin in us. Fourthly, He dwells in us so as to improve and to set home upon us all the ordinances and means of grace. Fifthly, in a way of comfort and special consolation, while he evidences to us our state and condition in grace, and gives us hope of future salvation, which is that which He likewise does for us. Sixthly and lastly, He dwells in us so as to repair us, and to reform us there where we are amiss, and have any decays of grace and goodness in us. The Spirit of God is a good landlord and inhabitant in that soul in which He dwells, who will not suffer it to run to ruin. The consideration of this point, thus explained, may be thus far useful to us — First, as it teaches us accordingly to suffer Him to dwell largely in us, we should give up ourselves to Him, as rooms and lodgings to Him. Secondly, it should teach us to give all respect that may be to Him. Take heed of grieving Him, of resisting Him, of vexing Him, of despising Him, and the like. Thirdly, we should from hence give all respect to the saints and servants of God, upon this consideration amongst the rest. Is it so indeed that the Spirit of God dwells in His children? Then let us take heed of wronging or injuring any such persons as these are, either by word or deed. And that is the second thing implied here in dwelling, to wit, activity and operation. The third and last is abode and continuance. Dwelling it is an act of daily and constant residence. And this is further observable in the Spirit of God in reference to His children. He is in them, not only as in an inn, but as in a mansion house; nor as a lodger only, but as an inhabitant who is resolved not to remove from them (John 14:16). This is so upon these grounds. First, the unchangeableness of His nature. Secondly, the love of God towards His children. Thirdly, the power of God. This is conducing hereunto likewise. There is none who is able to dispossess Him or turn Him out. Now further, secondly, we may look upon it argumentatively, and in connection with the words immediately preceding, "Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit; because the Spirit of God dwelleth in you." So that the Spirit's inhabitation, it is an argument and proof of regeneration.

(Thomas Horton, D. D.)

If so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you
There used in old times to be a controversy respecting the divinity of the Spirit of God. But this has died out. It is, in fact, a question almost without meaning. We might as well deny the humanity of man, or the divinity of God. But more. As the spirit of man is the inmost essence of man, so the Spirit of God is the inmost essence of God — the holy of holies in the Divine nature. There are only two definitions of the Divine essence in the New Testament, and both agree with this — "God is a Spirit," "God is love."

I. MANY DIFFICULTIES ARE REMOVED BY DEALING WITH THIS SPIRITUAL ASPECT OF THE DIVINE NATURE. As when, for instance, we ask, "What is man?" The answer is — not his body, but his spirit, his inward affections; as further, when we ask what it is that distinguishes man from the brute? we still answer — his inward affections. So also, when we ask, what God is? whilst we know there is much which we cannot answer, yet when we think of Him as a Spirit, it is then that we can best understand Him. No man hath seen God at any time, but there is a true likeness of God in Christ, because Christ is one with God, through the Spirit of goodness and wisdom. And with that same Spirit bearing witness with our spirits, we also may be, in our humble measure, one both with the Father add with the Son.

II. THIS PLACES IN THEIR PROPER LIGHT ALL THOSE WORDS AND PHRASES WHICH ARE USED TO DESCRIBE THE DIVINE NATURE. In proportion as they describe the Divine Being under the form of goodness, truth, and wisdom, as the breath which is the animating life of our souls and of religion, in that proportion they describe Him as He is. In proportion as they describe Him under the form of impressions taken from nature or man, in that proportion they are but parables and figures. Rock, fortress, shield, champion, shepherd, husband, king, and the great name of Father, these are all admirable words, so far as they express the spiritual relations of the Almighty towards us, but they would mislead if they were taken in gross, literal sense. And so, much more it is true of the anthropomorphic expressions, such as fear, jealousy, anger; or the metaphysical expressions, each of which taken separately would lead us away from the spiritual, which is the essential nature of God.


IV. IT IS THIS WHICH MAKES THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE VARIOUS OFFENCES AGAINST DIVINE THINGS. Whatever mistakes a man may make concerning the outward form in which the Divine truth is manifested shall be forgiven, even though he blaspheme the Son of Man Himself. For every earthly manifestation must be liable to misunderstanding, and therefore blasphemy against the Son of Man is not against the holy and loving Jesus, but against some false conceptions we have formed of Him in our own minds. For such blasphemies the Son of Man has assured. He has Himself asked the Father to "forgive them, for they know not what they do." But if there be anyone who hates goodness because it is goodness, who closes his heart against purity and holiness, because they are pure and holy, such an one has blasphemed not the mere outward form, but the essence of God Himself. For this sin against the Holy Ghost there is no forgiveness.

V. IT IS THE ETERNAL SPIRIT OF GOODNESS AND TRUTH WHICH MUST WRITE HIS COMMANDS ON OUR HEARTS. The letter killeth, it is the Spirit that gives life. Signs and ordinances of religion derive all their force from the directness with which they are addressed by the Spirit of God to our intelligence, conscience, and affections.


1. The "holy universal Church." The old heathen religions did not tend to raise the thoughts of men to holiness, and therefore they were not holy. The old Jewish religions was confined to a single nation, and therefore it was not truly spiritual. The Christian Church is intended to make men good, and therefore it is holy and the work of a holy God. It is universal, and therefore is the work of a universal Spirit.

2. "The communion of saints." The fellowship and friendship which good men of the most diverse opinions and characters have or ought to have for one another, is the most powerful means whereby the Spirit of God works, and gives the most decisive proof of the existence of a Holy Spirit.

3. "The forgiveness of sins" is realised by the witness of the Spirit.

4. "The resurrection of the body" is directly attributed to this same Spirit (ver. 11).

5. "The life everlasting "is the undying vitality of those affections and graces which are part of the essence of the Holy Spirit of God. These have their immortality from the same source as the eternal existence of God Himself.

(Dean Stanley.)

God the Son has graciously vouchsafed to reveal the Father to His creatures from without; God the Holy Ghost, by inward communications. The condescension of the blessed Spirit is as incomprehensible as that of the Son. He has ever been the secret Presence of God within the creation: a source of life amid the chaos, bringing out into form and order what was at first shapeless and void, and the voice of truth in the hearts of all rational beings, tuning them into harmony with the intimations of God's law, which were externally made to them. The Holy Spirit has from the beginning pleaded with man (Genesis 6:3). Again, when God took to Him a peculiar people, the Holy Spirit was pleased to be especially present with them (Nehemiah 9:20; Isaiah 63:10). Further, He manifested Himself as the source of various gifts, intellectual and extraordinary, in the prophets and others (Exodus 31:3, 4; Numbers 11:17-25). These were great mercies; yet are as nothing compared with that surpassing grace with which we Christians are honoured; that great privilege of receiving into our hearts, not the mere gifts of the Spirit, but His very presence, Himself by a real not a figurative indwelling. When our Lord entered upon His ministry, He acted as though He were a mere man, needing grace, and received the consecration of the Holy Spirit for our sakes. He became the Christ, or Anointed, that the Spirit might be seen to come from God, and to pass from Him to us. And therefore the heavenly gift is called the Spirit of Christ, that we might clearly understand that He comes to us from and instead of Christ (Galatians 4:6; John 20:22; John 16:7). Accordingly this "Holy Spirit of promise" is called "the seal and earnest of an Unseen Saviour." He has some, not merely in the way of gifts, or of influences, or of operations, as He came to the prophets, for then Christ's going away would be a loss, and not a gain, and the Spirit's presence would be a mere pledge, not an earnest; but He comes to us as Christ came, by a real and personal visitation (Romans 8:9, 11; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Romans 5:5; Romans 8:16). Here let us observe, before proceeding, what indirect evidence is afforded us in these texts of the divinity of the Holy Spirit. Who can be personally present at once with every Christian but God Himself? This consideration suggests both the dignity of our Sanctifier and the infinite preciousness of His Office towards us. To proceed: The Holy Ghost dwells in body and soul, as in a temple. Evil spirits indeed have power to possess sinners, but His indwelling is far more perfect; for He is all-knowing and omnipresent, He is able to search into all our thoughts, and penetrate into every motive of the heart. Therefore He pervades us as light pervades a building, or as a sweet perfume the folds of some honourable robe; so that, in Scripture language, we are said to be in Him, and He in us. It is plain that such an inhabitation brings the Christian into a state altogether new and marvellous, far above the possession of mere gifts, exalts him inconceivably in the scale of beings, and gives him a place and an office which he had not before (2 Peter 1:4; John 1:12; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 John 4:4; 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20; 2 Timothy 2:21). This wonderful change from darkness to light, through the entrance of the Spirit into the soul, is called regeneration, or the new birth. By His coming all guilt and pollution are burned away as by fire, the devil is driven forth, sin, original and actual, is forgiven, and the whole man is consecrated to God. And this is the reason why He is called "the earnest" of that Saviour who died for us, and will one day give us the fulness of His own presence in heaven. Hence, too, He is our "seal unto the day of redemption"; for as the potter moulds the clay, so He impresses the Divine image on us members of the household of God.

II. Next, I must speak briefly concerning the manner in which the gift of grace manifests itself in the regenerate soul.

1. The heavenly gift of the Spirit fixes the eyes of our mind upon the Divine Author of our salvation. By nature we are blind and carnal; but the Holy Ghost reveals to us the God of mercies, and bids us recognise and adore Him as our Father with a true heart. He impresses on us our Heavenly Father's image, which we lost when Adam fell, and disposes us to seek His presence by the very instinct of our new nature. He restores for us that broken bond which, proceeding from above, connects together into one blessed family all that is anywhere holy and eternal, and separates it off from the rebel world which comes to nought. Being then the sons of God, and one with Him, our souls mount up and cry to Him continually (ver. 15). Nor are we left to utter these cries in any vague uncertain way of our own; but Christ left His sacred prayer to be the voice of the Spirit.

2. The indwelling of the Holy Ghost raises the soul, not only to the thought of God, but of Christ also (1 John 1:3; John 14:23). The Spirit came especially to "glorify" Christ; and vouchsafes to be a shining light within the Church and the Christian, reflecting the Saviour. First, He inspired the evangelists to record the life of Christ; next, He unfolded their meaning in the Epistles. He had made history to be doctrine; He continued His sacred comment in the formation of the Church, superintending and overruling its human instruments, and bringing out our Saviour's words and works, and the apostles' illustrations of them, into acts of obedience and permanent ordinances, by the ministry of saints and martyrs. Lastly, He completes His gracious work by conveying this system of truth, thus varied and expanded, to the heart of each individual Christian in whom He dwells. Thus He vouchsafes to edify the whole man in faith and holiness (2 Corinthians 10:5). St. John adds, after speaking of "our fellowship with the Father and His Son": "These things write we unto you, that your joy may be full." What is fulness of joy but peace? Joy is tumultuous only when it is not full; where He is, "there is liberty" from the tyranny of sin, from the dread of an offended Creator. Doubt, gloom, impatience have been expelled; joy in the gospel has taken their place, the hope of heaven and the harmony of a pure heart, the triumph of self-mastery, sober thoughts, and a contented mind. How can charity towards all men fail to follow?

(J. H. Newman, D. D.)

I. The FACT. The law of progress obtains in all the dispensations. The old was grandly material, appealing to our sensuous nature, and preparatory, adapted to the childhood of the race. The coming of Christ introduced a better state of things, and substituted realities for symbols. But although He performed mighty works and "spake as man never spake," yet a more glorious dispensation was to succeed (John 1:50; John 14:12), which is to ultimate in the reign of grace on earth, in heaven itself, and in the finished glory of the saints. But does the Spirit in this His peculiar dispensation dwell in man? Read John 14:16, 17; the text; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Timothy 1:14; 1 John 4:4.


1. Is it a real dwelling, or are those Scriptures to be understood in a figurative sense? We believe in the omnipresence of the Spirit (Psalm 139:7). But omnipresence is an attribute; the indwelling of which we speak is that of a person, a voluntary presence — a presence that may be withdrawn — that is circumscribed and conditioned — that has no affinity with sin, and consequently is never realised in an unbelieving heart. It is a presence that may be grieved, offended, and driven away, and is therefore not an attribute, but a person.

2. Neither is this presence to be regarded simply as a Divine influence. Person is the being who acts; influence is the effect of the action, and the question is, Is it the influence or the person of the Holy Spirit that dwells in the heart of believers? Practically, it is both; for wherever the Spirit in His personal presence is, there will His influence be felt. He does not stand or send His messages; but He enters within, instructing us by His wisdom, making us happy in the consciousness of His fellowship and protection.


1. A more accurate and discriminating understanding of the Scriptures. The more practical portions of God's Word are level to the capacity of children. Still there are "some things hard to be understood," things into which even the angels desire to look — the deep things of God. To the unbelieving the Scriptures are a sealed book. It is not learning nor genius that breaks the seal; its Divine Author is its true interpreter, even the Spirit of truth that dwells within us (1 Corinthians 2:11). Could you entertain in your family the most scholarly man of the age, have familiar access to his mind and heart, thus becoming more and more initiated into hit style and spirit, such acquaintance would give a quickened impulse to your mind, a keener relish for his writings, and a key to their true exposition. The believer is supposed to entertain One of boundless intelligence, who is continually unfolding the sublimest truths, and arousing his mental energies by new and startling discoveries of the great Christian verities; and it is impossible for him to be under such tuition without greatly enlarged mental capacities for knowing and interpreting the Scriptures, whose author is the Holy Spirit.

2. A greater unity among Christians. Strife and division were among the earliest developed evils in the apostolic Church (1 Corinthians 3:4). This was a most undesirable state of things, marring the beauty and symmetry of Christianity. But Christ anticipated this evil (John 17:21). Unity among Christians is a desirable thing in itself, and nothing so wins the world to a believing reception of the gospel, and nothing so effectually works scepticism as strifes and divisions. And if Christ's prayer is to be answered, there will be a drawing together of Christian hearts — One Lord, one faith, and one Spirit. To hasten a result so devoutly to be wished, we may employ outward and visible means; we may hold "union conventions"; but a real heart union, finding its expression in visible fellowship, in cooperative labours, will be realised, just as the Holy Spirit finds indwelling in believers and in the Church.

3. Purity of life. The Spirit is holy, and will not dwell in a heart that harbours even the thought of sin. But when He does enter He brings every thought, power, and passion into cordial obedience to Christ. His presence is a continual corrective and restraint, an abiding stimulus to a right life. Were you entertaining a highly honoured guest, everything in the domestic arrangement would be ordered to suit his taste. Sinning in a believer is something more than transgression; it is sacrilege.

4. A more attractive Christian life. Persons intimately associated become assimilated; and if the Holy Spirit should assume form or expression, it would be the most attractive conceivable. He is sometimes represented in the form of a dove, because of His grace and beauty. A palace enriched with all works of art, surrounded by all natural beauties, may well symbolise the regenerated human heart where the Spirit dwells, making the life not sad but songful.

5. A more effective Christian life.

(S. B. Burchard, D. D.)

That which gives being to a Christian is the Spirit of Christ dwelling in him. He is to a Christian what the soul is to a man. Consider what a thing the body is without the soul, how defiled and deformed a piece of dust it is. Truly the soul of man by nature is in no better case till this Spirit enter; it hath no light in it, no life in it (Ephesians 4:18). The eye of the mind is put out, and if it be darkness, how great is that darkness! And from this woeful defect flows the alienation of the whole soul from the life of God, that primitive light being eclipsed, the soul is separated from the influence of heaven. Man was once the dwelling place of princely and Divine graces, the Lord Himself was there; and then how comely and beautiful was the soul! But now it is like the desolate cities, in which the beasts of the desert lay, and their houses are full of doleful creatures, where owls dwell, and satyrs dance, where wild beasts cry, and dragons in the pleasant places (Isaiah 13:21, 22; Jeremiah 50:39). The Bethel is become a Beth-aven, the house of God become a house of vanity; by the continual repair of vain thoughts, the house of prayer is turned into a den of thieves and robbers. Now, judge if there be not need of a better guest than these. Now, when the Spirit of Christ enters into this vile, ruinous cottage, He creates a new light within, which makes a man behold the light shining in the gospel; and behold all things are new, himself new, the world new, and God new. And as the Spirit enlightens, so He enlivens; He kindles a holy fire in his affections to consume his corruption. This Spirit makes a Christian soul move willingly toward God; it is an active principle that cannot rest till it rests in its place of eternal rest and delight in God. And then the Spirit reforms this house by casting out all these wild beasts that lodged in it, the savage and unruly affections that domineered in man. There are idols in the heart, and these must be cleansed out. And all this the Spirit will not do alone, but honours you with the fellowship of this work; and therefore you must lay your account, that the reformation of this house, for so glorious a guest, will be laborious. How infinitely is that compensed! When He shall take up house fully in you, it will satisfy you to the full. In the meantime, as He takes the rule and command of your house, so for the present He provides for it, and oh, how sweet and satisfying is it! (Romans 14:17). What a noble train doth the Spirit bring along with Him to furnish this house! Many rich and costly ornaments hang over it and adorn it, to make it like the king's wife, all glorious within; such as the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit (1 Peter 3:4); the clothing of humility, simple in show, but rich in substance (1 Peter 5:5). And being lodged within, what sweet fruits is the Spirit daily bringing forth to feed and delight the soul withal! (Galatians 5:22, 23). And He is a Spirit of consolation, and therefore of all the most worthy to be received into our hearts, for He is a bosom comforter (John 14:16).

(Hugh Binning.)

As Jerusalem was the glory of the world, because of the temple of God, so are the regenerate of all mere most glorious, because they are the temples of the Holy Ghost. In matters of the world, an unregenerate man may be before us; but in this he cannot. He may have gold in his purse, but we have God in our hearts, the right owner of them, which is the top of our happiness. Tenants make havoc and suffer all things to fall to ruin, but owners are always repairing; when the devil held our hearts all was out of frame; ignorance ruled in our mind, rebellion in the will, disorder in the affections; but the coming of the Holy Spirit enlightens, leads into all truth, certifies of the favour of God, fashioneth to every good work, and enricheth with all spiritual grace, all those in whom He dwelleth. Even as fire makes iron fiery, so the Spirit makes us spiritual. This is that Spirit which is the Comforter, which cheereth and sustaineth the desolate and despairing conscience, and feedeth it with heavenly manna. Surely the conscience of a regenerate man is a very paradise in which God's good Spirit dwelleth not for a short time, but forever.

(Elnathan Parr, B. A.)

How often and how simply it is said, "The Holy Ghost dwelleth in you" (ver. 11; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:9). This is the normal Christian state.

1. The Holy Spirit lifts us out of and above ourselves; the very flesh is not like the flesh of those who are its slaves. Physically it is the same, but it is more spiritual, less clamorous in its appetites; as iron, glowing with the fire wherewith it is penetrated, has other qualities, and is flexible as it was not before. In the case where long-lived sensualism has done its work, you see in the bloated countenance that the flesh has changed for the worse. Where the spiritual life has long transformed the soul, you see, as in some pictures of great saints, the flesh spiritualised.

2. We speak of having talents, attainments, possessions, as things which, more or less, men dispose of as they will. St. Paul speaks of another possession. God the Holy Ghost so puts Himself at the command of His creatures that we may have Him for our own, or, alas! alienate, grieve Him away, quench His light. Nay, so does He will to put Himself at the disposal of God's redeemed that His holy inspirations await their invitations. His Divine thoughts inform their human thoughts, so that they can hardly or not at all tell what are their thoughts what His; only they know that all which is good is His; they are but the harp whose strings vibrate as His breath passes over them, and yield what harmony He wills.

3. He acts from within. They are not merely the motions of grace, as they fell on Saul, or now, too, touch every heathen heart which will respond to His touch. It is not only a voice like that to Socrates, withholding him from what God in His providence willed him not to do. It does not merely strengthen man's natural generous feelings, such as made Scipio a greater conqueror when he gave back to her betrothed the captive virgin of intense beauty than when his earthly glories were crowned at the field of Zama; for, by the unknown grace of God, he had conquered himself. Nor is it only like that overpowering grace to which the long-resisting soul at length yields and ends its weary rebellions, and casting itself at its Father's feet, is again enfolded in His arms; "the dead is again alive, the lost is found." The office which God the Holy Ghost vouchsafes to take towards Christians is indwelling.

4. To communicate Himself is the being of God. Inseparable is the Trinity. Where one person is there is the whole. For the Son dwells in the Father and the Father in the Son, and the Holy Ghost reposes and habitates in the Father and the Son. And so our Lord expresses the loving communication of the Father and the Son to those who do His commandments and love Him (John 14:23). Yet in some special way it is God the Holy Ghost who dwelleth in us. His presence within us is the pledge of our resurrection to life eternal (ver. 11), and is our bond of union with Christ. If He dwelleth in us our prayers are not our prayers only, but His prayers in us. God, informing our thoughts, suggesting our longings, pleads with God (ver. 15; 1 John 4:16).

5. What the soul is to the body that God is to the soul. The life of the body is, the soul, the life of the soul is God. We know not where the soul is, but through it we live, we think, we love. So through God indwelling the soul we have our spiritual, eternal life begun in us; we think all the good thoughts we have. Our good is not chiefly or primarily ours, but His who, dwelling in us, worketh in us to will and to do, and rejoiceth in His works in us.

6. What an existence, awful for the very greatness of the love of God! What a tingling closeness of God! (Colossians 1:27). Holy is this church, because consecrated to God, because where His own are gathered in His name there is He. Holy to us is any picture of our Redeemer, because it images to us, as man can conceive, His countenance of tender love. But all these are material things; you are the living image of God; you are the living temples of God. As then you would not defile this temple, as you would not tread and trample under foot a likeness of your Redeemer, reverence yourselves. Bring not defiling thoughts into your souls; it is to bring them into the very presence of God. Utter not polluting words with the tongue, wherewith God the Holy Ghost enableth you to call God your Father, Jesus your Lord. And, what follows from this, defile not those living temples wherein He dwells. When Satan tempts you, remember what a greatness God has given you, to have in the hostelry of your souls God as your guest, to abide there, if you will, forever. Give yourselves anew this day to Him who gave Himself to you. He alone knows what an intolerable loss it is to lose Him, our God, forever!

(E. B. Pusey, D. D.)

Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His
Note —

I. THE REMARKABLE TITLE HERE GIVEN TO THE HOLY SPIRIT — "the Spirit of Christ." He is so called because —

1. He especially rested upon Christ. The manhood of Christ was begotten of the Spirit of God. When our Lord was baptized the Spirit descended upon Him like a dove, and then was "led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil." Then He returned into Galilee in the power of the Spirit. When He began to preach His first words were, "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me." His ministry stood in the power of the Spirit. All through His life the Spirit of God rested upon Him in fulness of power, for God "giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him."

2. He is given to us by Christ. "He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire." Jesus spake of giving to men living water, and this spake He of the Spirit. After His resurrection Ha breathed on His disciples, and said, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost," and having procured Him by His ascension poured Him out at Pentecost.

3. Christ lived peculiarly in the Spirit. "Spirit" in the text is in opposition to the "flesh." Never did the flesh rule Christ. Nay, He even forgot to eat bread, finding meat to eat which even His disciples knew not of. Never was He moved by any sensuous passion, or by a motive of fleshly tendency. Some have high ambitions, but not He. The flesh that lusteth for vengeance had no rule in Him, but the Spirit of holiness and love. The objects He aimed at were all spiritual.

4. He quickens the entire mystical body of Christ. All the members of that body are distinguished by this — that they are spiritual men, and seek after spiritual things. The true Church being in herself a spiritual body, acts in a spiritual manner, and strives after spiritual objects. True religion consists not in outward forms, peculiar garbs, or modes of speech, or anything that is ritualistic and external. "The kingdom of God is...righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost."


1. This is needful in every case. "If any man." It may be urged that some have an especially amiable disposition. True, but the fairest flowers, as surely as the foulest weeds, are none of Christ's if they are not of the Spirit's own planting. This one lack is fatal to the noblest character, and Christ disowns utterly every man who has not His Spirit in him. This must be said concerning the ministers and officers of churches.

2. This is put in opposition to everything less than itself. For instance, there are some who glory in the name of Christians, as if the name were some great thing. It is not wearing the name of Christ, but having the Spirit of Christ, which will prove us to be accepted.

3. But the text is expressly in opposition to "the flesh." We are either in the flesh or in the Spirit. He who is in the flesh —(1) Is ruled by the flesh, but the man who is in the Spirit labours to keep it under.(2) Trusts to the flesh. He looks to his own works for salvation; but the man who has the Spirit of Christ counts all his good works to be dross, and trusts in Jesus.(3) Worships in the flesh, but the man who has the Spirit desires not to see but to believe, not to smell but to think. The sound of truth is better to the spiritual man than tinkling bells and the noise of pipes and bellows.


1. He has led you to Christ.

2. You will honour Christ, for the Spirit delights to glorify Christ by taking of the things of Christ and showing them to us.

3. He will make you like Christ, who lived for God, who was in constant communion with the Father, was always spiritual, always true, and always ready to do good to all.

4. He will show Himself by His open actions in the heart, making us hate everything that is evil, making brave for God and truth, and joyful and hopeful in God.

IV. THE SAD CONSEQUENCES OF NOT HAVING THE SPIRIT. He is none of Christ's. Ah, if I am none of His whose am I? The devil's. And where are you if you are not Christ's? On the way to judgment and eternal condemnation.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

The antecedent is in these words, "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ." The consequent in these, "He is none of His." We begin with the first general, viz., the antecedent, "If any man hath not the Spirit of Christ," where there are divers points observable. And first of all, for the Spirit of Christ, to speak to that, what we are to understand by this. The second is in reference to Christ as He is Mediator, God and man. The Holy Ghost is called the Spirit of Christ in this respect also, and that for two reasons more. First, He is called the Spirit of Christ, as He is in a special manner bestowed upon Him and received by Him (John 3:34; Luke 4:1; John 1:14; Colossians 1:19). Second, He is called the Spirit of Christ not only as bestowed upon Him, but as bestowed by Him. And of His fulness we do all receive grace for grace. The consideration of this point may be thus far useful to us, as it may teach us a special ground for the honouring and extolling of Christ. A second term which we may take notice of in this first part of the text is the having of the Spirit of Christ, which is here implied to be such as Christians are indeed capable of. Now this it relates especially to the work of grace and holiness in their hearts. This having of the Spirit of Christ is considerable in two particulars. Firstly, take it as to matter of conversion, and the working of grace in them at first. Those who are true believers, they have the Spirit of Christ in them thus, as they are changed in the spirit of their minds. Every man by nature has an evil spirit in him. This Spirit of Christ has gracious and holy desires and inclinations which do belong unto it; a spiritual favour and a spiritual delight, and an affecting of spiritual things above all other things besides. Where this Spirit of Christ comes it brings every thought into captivity unto the obedience of Christ. Secondly, take it as to matter of communion. A third thing which we may here observe from this present passage before us is the word of uncertainty or ambiguity, "If any man hath not," etc., as implying that there are some that have not, and that even also of those sometimes who pretend to have. And so now I have done with the first general part of the text, viz., the antecedent, "If any man have not," etc. The second is the consequent, in these words, "He is none of His" — none of His; that is, belongs not to Him, has no interest in Him, is no member of Him. This is the state and condition of all those who want the Spirit of Christ. But it may be illustrated to us from sundry considerations, as first, because they have nothing whereby to knit them and unite them to Christ. Whosoever they be that are Christ's they must be knit and united to Him, and made one with Him. By His Spirit Christ dwells in our hearts and makes us also to dwell in Him, which accordingly those persons that want do not belong unto Him, nor are any of His. Secondly, those which have not the Spirit of Christ they are none of Christ's, because they have not faith whereby to apprehend and lay hold upon Him. Thirdly, those who have not the Spirit of Christ they are none of His, because they have not a principle of spiritual life in them whereby to bring forth fruits unto Him. Fourthly, those who have not the Spirit of Christ they are none of His, because they are altogether unlike Him and different from Him, yea, indeed contrary to Him. While it is said here that if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His, this is to be taken by us as exclusive of anything else which might be conceived to make up this defect. We will instance some few particulars which do sometimes deceive many people in this regard. First, strength of parts, or common and ordinary illumination in spiritual and Divine truths. Secondly, sweetness of nature and temper and constitution; it is not this which will suffice neither. Thirdly, common morality and civil righteousness. It is not this which will serve neither without the Spirit of Christ. Fourthly, the outward badge of religion, and the privileges of the visible Church. It is not this neither which does entitle to Christ without His Spirit. Lastly, it is not Christian alliance, or relation to those who have grace and godliness and goodness in them. The consideration of this point may be drawn forth into this following improvement. To this purpose we may take notice of a three-fold spirit in men, which is exclusive of this Spirit of Christ in them, and so separating of them from Him. First, their own spirit. Secondly, the spirit of the world. Thirdly, the spirit of Satan. This exclusion of relation to Christ, and of interest in Him as His members, is very grievous and prejudicial. And that in the consideration of three particulars especially. First, in point of grace; and secondly, in point of comfort; and thirdly, in point of salvation. Whether have we His Spirit or no? Those who have Christ's Spirit do very much relish and favour the truths of Christ. Again, how stand we affected to sin and evil ways, either in ourselves or others? The Spirit of Christ wherever it is is a mortifying Spirit (Galatians 5:24). And so for others, who are the children of God, and are members of Christ, how stand we affected to them likewise? And finally, for our lives and conversations and outward man, this Spirit of Christ, where it is, it will have an influence upon this also. If we live in the Spirit we shall also walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:25). This Spirit will actuate and regulate us in every performance. Thirdly and lastly, in a way of excitement. Here is that which may stir us all up to labour for this Spirit of Christ, as being that whereupon depends all our interest in Him and benefit by Him. First, take it more largely, and which seems here principally to be intended in the text, and as we have handled it all this while, that Spirit of Christ which does animate all His members, and does express itself in them. We should be persuaded from hence to endeavour after it, and to labour for it, that we may be able to find it in ourselves. But secondly, take it more emphatically. The Spirit of Christ for that Spirit of His, which did more eminently, and in a special manner, put forth itself in His own person, while He lived here upon earth as a pattern and example to us. We may consider it in sundry particulars. First, it was a Spirit of meekness and humility and lowliness of mind. Secondly, a Spirit of patience in the wrongs and injuries which He endured. Thirdly, a Spirit of pity and compassion and tenderness of heart, especially to the souls of men, and in reference to their eternal salvation. Fourthly, a Spirit of love and condescension, and sweetness of carriage towards all that He conversed withal. And yet fifthly also, a Spirit of zeal. Last of all, a Spirit of fruitfulness and communicativeness and edification. He went about doing good. The sum of all comes to this, that we endeavour for our particulars to have the like in some degree and measure infused into us; and that so much the rather that we may be assured of His owning of us another day.

(Thomas Horton, D. D.)

To have the Spirit of Christ is to be possessed by the Holy Spirit, who directs and sanctifies the believer in Jesus by the Word of God.


1. Begets and forms a Christlike character. "We are created in Christ unto good works." The Spirit changes the bias of a man. Christianity is Christ in you.

2. Gives a Christlike devotion. This is not a prayerful age. But holy lives ever have been much in communion with God. If Jesus needed prayer, much more do we.

3. Leads to Christlike obedience. Christ's life motto was, "I come to do Thy will, O God." Obedience to God is the Spirit of Christ, and this obedience Jesus made the test of discipleship. This Spirit puts Christ before creeds, the truth before traditions, principle before policy, faith before feelings. It puts piety into practice, devotion into duty, love into labour, grace into giving, and power into prayer.


1. Was full of sympathy with man. Sympathy means to suffer with another. As a substitute Jesus suffered with man in his sins; He "Himself bare our sins in His own body on the tree." And if any man have the Spirit of Christ he will have something of that vicarious sympathy for man's redemption. Men of God have felt at times this soul burden; the Church of God has seasons of agonising for the salvation of sinners.

2. Labours to save men. Labour is the expression of Christ's sympathy for man. The Spirit of Christ is not exclusive, but aggressive. Our devotion to Christ is ever measured by our sacrifice and toil to save men. Christ suffered to provide redemption, and the Christian must suffer to apply it. Thus it is "the Church fills up that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ."

(J. P. Thoms.)


1. There is a sense in which all men are His, by right of —

(1)Creation (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16).

(2)Preservation (Colossians 1:17).

(3)Redemption (1 Corinthians 6:20).

2. But Christ's true followers belong to Him, as —

(1)Subjects to a prince (Psalm 2:8; Matthew 22:11; Philippians 2:11).

(2)Servants to a master (Romans 14:7-9; 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15).

(3)Friends (John 15:13-15).

(4)BRETHREN and sisters (Hebrews 2:11, 12).

(5)Children to a father (Hebrews 2:13).

(6)A spouse to a husband (Romans 7:4; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:25-32; Revelation 19:7).

(7)Branches to a tree (John 15:1).

(8)Members to the head of the body (1 Corinthians 12:12, 27; Romans 12:5; Ephesians 1:22, 23).

II. WHAT IS MEANT BY THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST. Not, as some think, merely the mind of Christ, but the Spirit of God, is here intended (see context).

1. This is called the Spirit of Christ because —

(1)He had it, and has it without measure (John 3:34; Revelation 3:1).

(2)He has purchased it for His followers by His death.

(3)He has received it for them (Psalm 68:18; Acts 2:33).

(4)He has promised it to them.

2. As the Holy Spirit is the promise of the Father, emphatically (Acts 1:4), so also of the Son (Luke 24:49; John 14:1; John 15; John 16.). He actually confers it (John 4:10; John 7:38; Acts 2:38, 39).


1. Know Him (John 10:14, 27), but we cannot know Him without the Spirit of Christ (Matthew 11:27; Galatians 1:16; John 16:14).

2. Love Him (1 Corinthians 16:22), but we cannot love Him without that Spirit, the fruit of which is love (Galatians 5:22; Romans 5:5).

3. Obey Him (2 Corinthians 5:15; Romans 14:7; John 15:14; John 14:21; Hebrews 5:9), but we cannot obey Him without the inspiration and aid of His Spirit (John 15:5; 2 Corinthians 3:5).

4. Have an interest in Him, and are able to say, "My beloved is mine and I am His," but this interest in Him we cannot have without His Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13).

5. Are united with Him, members with their head; but this we cannot have without His Spirit.

6. We have His mind in us; but this we cannot have without His Spirit; meekness, long-suffering, goodness, etc., being fruits of the Spirit.

7. Are new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:21-24), and it is impossible we should be so without His Spirit (Titus 3:5).

(Joseph Benson.)

Ignatius, the martyr, used to call himself Theophorus, or the God bearer, "because," said he, "I bear about with me the Holy Ghost." And truly every Christian is a God bearer. That man is no Christian who is not the subject of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit — he may talk well, he may understand theology — he will be the child of nature finely dressed, but not the living child. He may be a man of so profound an intellect, so gigantic a soul, so comprehensive a mind, and so lofty an imagination, that he may dive into all the secrets of nature, may know the path which the eagle's eye hath not seen, and enter into depths where the ken of mortals reacheth not, but he shall not be a Christian with all his knowledge; he shall not be a son of God with all his researches, unless he understands what it is to have the Holy Ghost dwelling in him and abiding in him, yea, and that forever.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Nothing is more desirable than a pleasant disposition. Without it we cannot be happy ourselves nor make others happy. When we have lost our temper we wake up to new appreciation of proper equipoise of nature. But a man says, "I can't help it." You can help it by having His disposition. The Spirit of Christ was a Spirit of —

I. GENTLENESS. True, He scathed the hypocrite; but for the most part His words and demeanour were inoffensive. This is remarkable when we bear in mind His omnipotence. Little children, who always avoid a rough man, rushed into His presence. Invalids, who shuddered at any other touch, asked Him to put His hand on their wounds. His footstep would not have woke up the faintest slumber. The calmness of His look shamed boisterous Gennesaret into placidity. How little of that gentleness we have! My sister's arm was put out of joint and the neighbours came and pulled till her anguish was great, but to no purpose. When the surgeon came with one touch it was all right. So we go down to our Christian work with so rough a hand that we miserably fail. The dew of one summer night does more good than ten whirlwinds.

II. SELF-SACRIFICE. Suppose by one course of conduct you could win a palace, while by another you might advantage men at the cost of your life, which would you choose? Christ chose the latter. How little of that spirit we have! Two children went out on a cold day; the boy with hardly any garments at all, and the girl in a coat that she had outgrown, and she said, "Johnny, come under my coat." He said, "It is too short." "Oh," she said, "it will stretch." But the coat would not stretch enough, so she took it off, and put it upon the boy. That was self-sacrifice. When the plague was raging in Marseilles, the College of Surgeons decided that there must be a post-mortem examination, in order that they might know how to meet and arrest that awful disease. And there was silence till Dr. Guion rose and said, "I know it is certain death; but somebody must do it. In the name of God and humanity I will." He accomplished the dissection and died in twelve hours. That was self-sacrifice that the world understands.

III. HUMILITY. The Lord of heaven and earth in the garb of a rustic. He who poured all the waters of the earth out of His hand begging a drink. Walking in common sandals, seated with publicans and sinners. How little you and I have of a spirit like that! We gather a few more dollars than other people, or get a little higher social position, and how we strut and want people to know their places!

IV. PRAYER. You cannot think of Jesus without thinking of prayer. Prayer for little children: "I thank Thee, O Father," etc. Prayer for His friends: "Father, I will that they be with Me where I am." Prayer for His enemies: "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." Prayer for all nations: "Thy kingdom come." How soon our knees get tired! We want more prayer in the house, in the social circle, in the Church, in the legislative hall, among the young, among the old. The moment when the Diet of Nuremberg were signing the edict that gave deliverance to Protestants, Luther was praying in his private room about it. Without any communication between the two Luther rose from his knees, rushed out into the street, and cried, "We have got the victory! The Protestants are free! " That was prayer getting the answer straight from the throne.

V. WORK. Christ was always busy. Hewing in the carpenter's shop. Helping the lame man to walk. Curing the child's fits. From the day on which they found Him "about His Father's business," to the time when He said, "I have finished the work," etc., it was work all the way. We want the work easy if we are to perform it, the religious service short if we are to survive it. Oh for more of that better spirit which determines a man to get to heaven and to take everybody with him. Busy in the private circle, in the Sabbath school, in Church, busy everywhere for God and Christ, and heaven.

(T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)

Note —


1. The Spirit here spoken of is the Holy Ghost. But He is variously described as "the Spirit of God," "the Spirit of Christ," and "the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead." Beside all which, it is intimated that for the Spirit to dwell in us, is the same thing as for "Christ" to be in us. This mode of speaking is quite accordant with Paul's common habit (Ephesians 3:16-19). To be "strengthened with might by the Spirit in the inner man," and for "Christ to dwell in our hearts by faith," and for us to be "filled with all the fulness of God," are descriptions of one and the same experience. So also Ephesians 2:18, 22. Compare our Lord's discourses (John 14:10, 11, 15-21; John 15:26; John 16:7-15). These strange and involved expressions imply how distinct the personality, and how intimate the unity, between Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and how completely all conspire in every part of the redeeming plan. The Holy Ghost, then, may be called the Spirit of God, inasmuch as He cometh forth from God. He is also the Spirit of Christ, inasmuch as He represents Christ, and is sent by Him to do the Saviour's work. Further, to have the Spirit is to have Christ, because it is only through the Spirit that Jesus can take up His residence within. It follows, accordingly, that to have the Spirit of Christ in us, means something more than merely to have a disposition resembling Christ's. It means that we have God Himself to dwell within our breasts. Let us not shrink from the full avowal of this momentous truth (1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Isaiah 57:15).

2. This possessing God's Spirit is essential to our salvation. "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ," he may have many virtues and much seeming religion, but he is none of Christ's. The reason of this is evident; for without the Spirit no man can truly repent. Believe in Christ. Love God and keep His commandments.


1. What are "the deeds of the body?" (Colossians 3:5-10; Ephesians 4:22-32; Romans 13:12-14; Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Peter 4:3).

(1)The grossest immoralities of gluttony, drunkenness, revellings, and debauchery.

(2)The envious and vindictive passions of our selfish nature.

(3)The sins of the tongue.

(4)The evil coverings of the heart.

2. What is meant by mortifying them? To mortify the flesh is to wage war against it, and to cross it instead of indulging it. This is the constant battle of the believer's life; and in its full extent it is not the battle of life to any but a Christian.

III. THE HAPPINESS OF SUCH. "They shall live." And further, "if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness." Though the conflict be hard and painful, it is not in vain or without an adequate reward (Galatians 6:8). This "life," which belongs to spiritual-mindedness, is a life of joy, which begins on earth, and then is consummated in heaven.


1. We owe it no allegiance, and need no longer be in subjection to its imperious bidding. We are emancipated from its tyranny by the power of the Son of God, who is able to make us "free indeed."

2. On the other hand, you are debtors to the Spirit, to live after the Spirit. You owe your own soul much, both to make up for past neglects and injuries, and to bring it up to that high standard of excellence, in which alone it can find its perfection. And remember that the Spirit of God dwells within you, and if you surrender yourself to Him He will work in you" all the good pleasure of His goodness" (Ephesians 1:17-20; Colossians 1:9-13; 1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24, 28).

(T. G. Horton.)

I. IS IDENTICAL WITH THAT OF THE GREAT GOD. "The Spirit of God" and "the Spirit of Christ" are identical. "I and My Father are one." Christ's temper was —

1. Essentially benevolent. "He came not to destroy men's lives, but to save them." His severest reproofs were but the bass notes in the harmonies of His loving nature. The blows He struck at the stoner were but to break his chains and set him free.

2. Forgivingly benevolent. Examples are numerous: the woman in Simon's house; the paralytic; His prayer for His enemies.

3. Earnestly benevolent. His benevolence was a burning passion. "Come unto Me all ye that labour," etc., "O Jerusalem," etc. Now all this is identical with the moral temper. Do you want to know how God feels towards you as a sinner? The biography of Christ will answer.


1. Man is preeminently adapted to receive it. He is not formed to receive evil; it is repugnant to his conscience. The soul is made to live in love as its vital atmosphere.

2. Man is preeminently in want of this. It is the only Spirit that can expel the demon passions of evil that reign within, that can light up his soul with truth and blessedness.

3. Man has preeminent helps to this. The Scripture, the life of Christ, the ministry, etc.

III. DETERMINES THE CONDITION OF MAN. "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His."

1. None of His loyal subjects. All who have this disposition delight in His law. All others are miserable vassals. They serve Him, but against their will.

2. None of His docile disciples. Love is essential to Christian knowledge. Without it men may be speculators, cavillers, dogmatists, but not teachable disciples.

3. None of His loving friends. The want of this is enmity to Christ.

4. None of His co-heirs. From this subject we learn that Christianity is —

(1)A life, not a creed or form.

(2)A Divine life. The true Christian is one with the Infinite.


And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

1. From that nature, however, it is removed. For "if Christ be in you,...the Spirit is life because of righteousness" (1 John 5:12). But on account of what "righteousness"? Surely not our own, for apart from Christ we have none. Under law, indeed, being alive, we should have continued to live, if we had maintained a perfect righteousness (Romans 10:5). But under the gospel, being found dead, we must first be made to live, in order to become holy. This "righteousness," therefore, is that "righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ" (Romans 3:22; Romans 5:17, 18). That one thing which of necessity precedes our life in Christ is justification in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 4:1-13, 22-25), which is hence called a "justification of life" (Romans 5:18).

2. The new life, however, does not as yet extend beyond the spirit. "The body is dead because of sin," and for the furtherance of the great mediatorial purpose. The postponement of the completed "adoption, to wit, the redemption of their body" (ver. 23), is made, not on account of any sin yet remaining in believers (ver. 1), but on account of the sin of the world, in so far as the deferring of their redemption from death promotes the world's salvation. And how needful and wise that it should be so! How obviously inconsistent with a state of probation it would have been for believers to be exempted from death! If only these at the end of their probation were translated to heaven, how completely would the free exercise of the human will, in respect to matters of religion and the free development of human character, be fettered or overborne! Not to insist upon the anguish which would come into every stricken household if death were known to be the precursor of hell; nor to think how dark and dreary this world would become if there were in it no cemeteries in which were to be found the treasured remains of those who sweetly sleep in Jesus, awaiting the call to a deathless life. Let anyone try to imagine what possible advantage there could accrue from such an arrangement. Therefore Christians must continue to die, that they may "fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ...for His body's sake, which is the Church" (Colossians 1:24).

II. THE REMOVAL OF THE DOMINION OF DEATH FROM THE BODIES OF BELIEVERS IS BUT DELAYED TILL THE SAVIOUR'S SECOND COMING (Cf. Hebrews 9:28; John 6:39, 40; Romans 8:19-23; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 15:42-54). Of this believers have a double earnest.

1. The objective fact that God raised the body of Jesus. So strongly did the apostle feel upon this point as to maintain that the whole fabric of Christianity stands or falls with it (1 Corinthians 15:12-23).

2. The subjective fact of the indwelling of the resurrective Spirit. "If the Spirit of Him who raised up Jesus...dwell in you."(1) If we are entitled to that Spirit as the life of our souls, we have an equal title to the same Spirit as the life of our bodies.(2) This assurance is made still stronger by the fact that the indwelling of this Spirit sanctifies and marks out for the Lord these very bodies in which He dwells. The living temple claimed by Him, consecrated by His glorious presence, and made to become, even here and now, the instrument of His purposes, can never be suffered to remain a permanent prey to corruption. This "is the earnest of our inheritance" (Ephesians 1:14). Therefore, professed Christians, —

1. Abjure the flesh and its debasing service. You are in no sense such debtors to the flesh as to be required to live according to its desires. Either you must slay the sinful flesh, or it will slay you (ver. 18).

2. Remember that the Spirit of Christ is yours. Say not that you are unequal to the work (Philippians 4:13).

3. When called to endure suffering and death, shrink not as though they were tokens of God's displeasure, but rather be comforted that herein you are called to share the sufferings of your Lord, and to further His redeeming work (Philippians 3:10, 11).

4. And bear in mind that the state of suffering on account of sin is but for a time (Romans 6:5 Timothy 11, 12).

(W. Tyson.)

I. THE SUPPOSITION. "If Christ be in you" (2 Corinthians 13:5; Colossians 1:27).

1. Christ is in us —(1) Objectively. As the things we think of and love are in our hearts and minds, so Christ is in us, as He is apprehended and embraced by faith and love (Ephesians 3:17; 1 John 4:18).(2) Effectively. So Christ is in us by His Spirit and gracious influence. Now, the effects of His Spirit are —

(a)Life (Galatians 2:20).

(b)Likeness or renovation of our natures (Galatians 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

(c)Strength by the continued influence of His grace to overcome temptation (1 John 4:4; Philippians 4:12; 1 Corinthians 15:10; Hebrews 13:21).

2. None are Christians but those who have Christ in them.(1) Because we must be partakers of Christ before we can be partakers of any benefit purchased by Him (1 John 5:12).(2) Where Christ once enters, there He takes up His abode, not to depart thence (1 John 3:24; John 14:28; John 15:5).(3) Where Christ is, He rules and reigns (Colossians 2:6).

II. THE CONCESSION. "The body is dead because of sin." Because —

1. The sentence is passed (Genesis 2:17; Hebrews 9:27). As we say of a condemned man, he is a dead man.

2. Sin is the cause of death.(1) The meritorious cause. Death is not a natural accident, but a punishment; we die not as the beasts die, or as the plants decay (chap. Romans 5:12; 6:23). Sin procured it, and the law ratifies it. As regards the faithful, though their sins be forgiven, yet God would leave this mark of His displeasure and teach the world the sure connection between death and sin.(2) Its end and use.

(a)To finish transgression and make an end of sin.

(b)To free us from the natural infirmities which render us incapable of that happy life in heaven which is intended for us.(3) Had it not been for sin, we had never had cause to fear dissolution.

III. THE ASSERTION OR CORRECTION, "The Spirit is life because of righteousness." In which observe —

1. That believers have a life, notwithstanding death (John 11:25). Though the union between body and soul be dissolved, yet not their union with God.

2. This life is to be understood of body and soul (ver. 11).(1) The soul, being the noblest part, is most happily provided for; being purified from all her imperfections, is brought into the sight and presence of God (Luke 20:38; Hebrews 12:23).(2) At the resurrection the soul shall assume its body again (Philippians 3:21; John 6:40).

3. The grounds are —(1) The Spirit is life. He doth not draw His argument from the immortality of the soul, for that is common to good and bad; but from the new life wrought in us by the Spirit, which is the beginning and earnest of a blessed immortality (1 John 3:15; 1 Peter 1:28).(2) The meritorious cause is the righteousness of Christ. When once forgiven, we are out of the reach of the second death (1 Corinthians 15:56; Hebrews 2:14, 15).Conclusion: To enforce the great things of Christianity.

1. To live holily.(1) The comforts of Christianity are not common to all indifferently, but suspended on this condition, "if Christ be in you," by His sanctifying Spirit (Ephesians 1:4; 2 Corinthians 5:5).(2) From the concession, "the body is dead"; sentence is passed, and in part executed; this awakeneth us to think of another world, and to make serious preparation (Romans 6:12; Galatians 6:8).(3) The corrective assertion that there is the life promised for body and soul, breedeth the true spirit of faith (2 Corinthians 4:13, 14), true diligence and godliness (1 Corinthians 15:58), and patience (Romans 2:7).(4) It is the effect both of the Spirit's renewing, and the righteousness of Christ.

2. To die comfortably. Christianity affordeth the proper comfort against death, as it is a natural and penal evil (Hebrews 9:27). Heathens could only teach them to submit to it out of necessity, or as a debt to nature, or an end of the present miseries; but for us the sting of it is gone (1 Corinthians 15:56) and the property is altered (1 Corinthians 3:22).

(T. Manton, D. D.)

I. ITS EFFICIENT CAUSE — Christ in you.


1. The body dies, through sin, preparatory to life.

2. The spirit lives, through righteousness, as the earnest of a better life.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

He dwells in us.


1. By faith.

2. In the power of His Word and Spirit.

3. Producing a new birth unto righteousness.


1. Quickening.

2. Sanctifying.

3. Invigorating the soul.

4. By righteousness.


1. The body is mortal through sin.

2. Shall be raised again in glory.

3. By the same Spirit that now dwelleth in us.

4. By whom also Christ was raised from the dead.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

A gifted poet (Rev. W. Calvert) has feigned a most instructive allegory, to illustrate the connection and history of the body and soul, with respect to the Christian believer. He calls the soul Psyche, and the body Sarx, which are the proper terms in the Greek. These two start forth together on the pilgrimage of life. At the outset of their journey both are equally small, infantile, and feeble. Ere long, however, it is seen that Sarx grows faster than his more delicate companion, and begins to exercise an ascendency over her. Alas! if she were abandoned to his tyranny, she would in time be reduced to the most abject slavery, and finally sink with her despotic lord into the abyss of eternal woe. But the discordant pilgrims are met by a radiant stranger, Christ the Lord. To Him Psyche lends a charmed ear, as He tells her of her heavenly parentage and immortal destiny, and bids her take up arms against her coarse and cruel master, nor rest till she has brought him down to his proper position as her slave. It is only by subjecting him that she can either secure her own freedom or fit him for being her equal and honoured companion hereafter. Fired by the Lord's exhortations, and assisted by His prowess, Psyche asserts her liberty, assumes superiority, and attempts the subjugation of the flesh. When symptoms of this change appear, Sarx, like an insolent giant, is first disdainful, then indignant, and finally takes up cudgels against his fair companion. This opposition calls forth all her strength, and, aided by her Saviour, she at length obtains the victory, binds the strong man with cords and fetters, and compels him to follow her footsteps, obedient to her pleasure. Many a treacherous effort doth he make, if Psyche remits her watchfulness and care, to regain his forfeited dominion; but, by the grace of Christ, she maintains her headship, waxing stronger and stronger as the pilgrimage advances, until at its close she seems endowed with the might of an angel, while her vanquished companion has sunk into the imbecility of an infant. Thus, though the "outward man perish," "the inward man is renewed day by day" (2 Corinthians 4:16). A little longer, the day of trial closes, and their pilgrimage comes to an end. Sarx, exhausted, sinks on the cold strand and dies; while Psyche, released and happy, passes on, to cross the silver stream and enter the flowery land beyond. Yet is not her former companion forgotten. The Lord hath marked the spot where he fell, and will return again, at the last day, to bid him rise from the dust, and rejoin the glorified Psyche in the skies.

(T. G. Horton.)

The work of the Spirit in us does not pour the elixir of immortality into the material frame, however much it may strengthen and prepare the imperishable spirit for its immortal well-being. After Christ hath made a temple of our body, there remaineth a virus in the fabric that sooner or later will work its dissolution. Were the body, by some preternatural operation, to be wholly delivered of its corrupt ingredient, we do not understand why death should interpose between our earthly and heavenly state ever. And accordingly, on nature's dissolution, they who remain alive must, to become incorruptible, at least be changed. And the reason why those in whom Christ dwells have still a death to undergo, is that sin still adheres to them — and the wearing down of the body by disease, and the mouldering of it into dust, and then its re-ascent from the grave — would appear to be the steps of a refining process, whereby the now vile body is changed into a glorious one — the soul's suitable equipment for the delights and the services of eternity. For death, in the case of Christians, cannot surely be because of the judicial sentence on transgression; for those who believe in Christ are delivered from this (ver. 1). It cannot be that by any death of ours we eke out, as it were, the satisfaction which hath been already rendered for sin. A believer's death, then, must be to root out the existence of sin. It is not inflicted upon him as the last discharge of the wrath of God, but is sent as a release from the plague which adheres, it would seem, as long as the body adheres to us. Now this fact that the body is still subjected to death because of sin is the strongest experimental argument for heaven being a place to which sin can find no entry. It is not in the way of penalty that the Christian has to die — for the whole of that penalty has already been sustained. It is not exacted from him as the payment of a debt — for Christ our surety hath paid a full and a satisfying ransom. It is not to help out the justification which is already complete in Him, nor to remove a flaw from that title deed which we have received perfect from His hand. It stands connected, in short, with the sanctification of the believer. The justice of God would have recoiled from the acceptance of a sinner, and so an expiation had to be made; and the holiness of that place where God dwelleth would have recoiled from the approaches of one whose character was still tainted with sin, even though its guilt had been expiated; and so it is, that there must be a sanctification as well as an atonement. For the one, Christ had to suffer and to die; for the other, man has also to die, and so to fill up that Which is behind of the sufferings of Christ. And it is indeed a most emphatic demonstration of heaven's sacredness, that, to protect its courts from violation, not even the most pure and sainted Christian upon earth, can, in his present earthly garb, find admittance therein.

(T. Chalmers, D. D.)

I. THE MORTAL DOOM OF THE FLESH. "The body is dead because of sin."

1. The fact is that Christians die even as others. If Christians were not to die, as other men, what else could be done with them?(1) Imagine the wicked dying at various ages and in the usual way, while the holy lingered on to extreme old age, waiting for the consummation of all things — what then? Why, this detention would be an unutterable disappointment and torture. They wish not to live here always. When they have filled up the ordinary term of human life they have a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better. Better by far, that, having served their generation according to the will of God, they should fall on sleep; that, like a shock of corn fully ripe, they should be gathered into the Master's garner. Besides, so marked a departure from the law of mortality, in favour of believers, would destroy the essential conditions of our present life as a probation for eternity. How could we be said to walk by faith, and not by sight, when we beheld the way in which religion suspended the laws of nature, and placed a most conspicuous difference between the evil and the good?(2) Look, then, at the alternative. Suppose that every believer might expect a miraculous translation like that of Enoch and Elijah; then, plainly, such a translation must be accompanied by a transformation as well, for flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; and such a transformation will take effect on those who are alive at Christ's coming (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). But now such a procedure would be highly impolitic and injurious, for it would constitute a perpetually recurring miracle, and destroy the probationary character of man's career on earth. Belief in Christianity would then be inevitable, and unbelief impossible.

2. The reason is assigned — "because of sin."(1) Our death, like that of other men, is a mark or expression of God's anger at sin; and we are forcibly taught by it how fearful a thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God. It was just in this way that Moses was treated; when, though his sin was forgiven, he was still prevented by it from entering the promised land.(2) Death may possibly stand connected with some special sin. John speaks of a sin unto death; that is, a sin which, though forgiven, demands that our fleshly life should be required of us.(3) We may regard sin as intimately connected with the body; so much so as to render it doubtful whether any believer ever wholly escapes from its virus and contamination so long as he remains in the flesh; and therefore it is better for this tabernacle to be taken down, like an old Hebrew house incurably infected with the leprosy, and destroyed because of sin.

II. ITS EVENTUAL RESUSCITATION AND RECOVERY (ver. 11). The doctrine of the resurrection is peculiar to the Bible. The peculiarity to be observed is that here our resurrection is ascribed to the operation of the Holy Ghost, and also to the Father. Jesus Himself claims to be "the resurrection and the life." All that is done by any one of the adorable Trinity may, in some sense, be said to be done by the others as well; for Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one. But still there is a reason why the resurrection is here ascribed to the Spirit. The Holy Ghost is the giver of life to the soul of the believer; and the same Spirit, who is the author of our holiness, is also to be the resuscitator of our lower nature. Hence, we learn the connection there is between present holiness and future glory. As sin is the defilement of the flesh, and occasions its consignment to decay and corruption, so holiness sanctifies the flesh, and tends to its conservation and incorruption. The body may be temporarily dissolved, but it is not to be lastingly destroyed. Therefore the surest pledge you can have of a joyful resurrection is the conscious possession of the Spirit of holiness now. Conclusion:

1. If the body be dead because of sin, let us keep it in subjection.

2. Yet, if this body is to rise again by virtue of the Spirit dwelling in it, let us not despise it.

3. Let us have patience under bodily affliction and submission in death.

4. Let us, while seeking to live as long as we can, be also willing, at God's behest, to die and lay this body down.

(T. G. Horton.)


1. It is associated with a moral cause as its explanation. The death of the body, apart from the gospel, could be accounted for only by causes such as a physician could furnish. Its great lesson would, however, thus be lost. To the heathen death was a gloomy necessity, and its only lesson was that men should seize the joys of the passing hour. The gospel associates death with sin, and its removal with the removal of sin. It is intended as a witness for God that sin is an evil thing.

2. Death in the case of believers is limited to the body. There are three classes of death. Spiritual death, which has ceased to exist in the believer. "To be spiritually minded is life." Eternal death, which has been abolished by Christ. "He that believeth on Me shall never die." Bodily death, from which believers are not exempt; but it is limited to the lowest part of our nature. The body is indeed dead, but the spirit is life.

3. Death in this limited dominion is associated with the believer's welfare. Why does Paul say, "because of sin"? Is it that there is some remainder of condemnation for sin which is still to be executed on the believer himself? If so, how can it be said, "There is now no condemnation"? If it be in wrath, why does the apostle say, "All things are yours, whether life or death"? "The body is dead because of sin," in mercy. It shall work good. It shall be a process of refinement, a furnace for gold. Let the captive of sin be redeemed, and the hand of death shall take off his prison dress, and he shall be clothed upon with his house which is from heaven.

4. Death, thus confined to a narrowed dominion, and even then made subservient to our good, is altogether subservient to the higher power which occupies the centre of our being. Death has been forced out of the metropolis of his empire, and now "the spirit is life because of righteousness."(1) As its cause, when righteousness works and produces this life, viz., "the righteousness of faith." "He that believeth in Him hath everlasting life."(2) As its end. "That, being made free from sin, we might have our fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life."

(P. Strutt.)


1. It does not chiefly consist —

(1)In any opinions which he may embrace, however scriptural and correct.

(2)In any modes or forms of piety, however excellent.

(3)In preserving an inoffensive and blameless conduct before men.

(4)In what are termed good works, whether done to the bodies or souls of men.

2. But in being "in Christ," and having "Christ in him." These two phrases are not quite synonymous, yet they imply each other, and cannot be separated (John 14:20).(1) The former is used in Romans 8:1; Romans 16:7; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 Thessalonians 4:14; Revelation 14:13. It implies —

(a)Having an interest in Him, as a woman in her husband (Romans 7:4).

(b)Union with Him, as a branch with the tree in which it grows.

(c)Or a member with the head of the body to which it belongs.(2) The other implies that Christ is in us, as the leaven in the meal, the sap of the root in the branch, as the light of the sun in the air, as the heat of the fire in the coal or the iron. He is in us —(a) As our wisdom, enlightening us in the knowledge of God and ourselves, so as to produce repentance; and of Christ, so as to beget confidence (chap. Romans 15:12; Ephesians 1:12, 13) and love.(b) As our righteousness, producing justification, peace with God, and a hope of immortality.(c) As our sanctification, delivering us from the power, and, at length, from the whole influence of sin, consecrating us to God, and conforming us to His image.(d) As our redemption, that having redeemed our whole persons by price, He may rescue all by power.(3) Christ is thus "formed in us." On our part, by faith (John 17:20-23; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 3:17), and on the part of God by His Spirit (John 14:20; 1 John 3:24; Romans 8:8, 9).


1. The body is under sentence to die (Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 9:27).(1) It is in its own nature mortal, having all the seeds of dissolution, bringing upon us old age and death, even if particular diseases should be escaped.(2) It is encompassed with infirmities and exposed to diseases.(3) It is a constant clog to the soul, impeding its motions and preventing its activity. Hence we "groan, being burdened" (2 Corinthians 5:4).

2. All this is because of sin; the sin of our first parents (Romans 5:12), being seminally one with them, or through the derivation of our nature from them, just as Levi paid tithes to Melchisedec in Abraham (Hebrews 7:9, 10); besides which we have committed actual sins, the wages of which are death (Romans 6:23).

3. Here we have the true reason why "the world knoweth us not" as being the children of God. They only judge by appearance, and hence they conclude that all that is said of Christians as having the Spirit of God, and being new creatures, is mere enthusiasm. For they have no idea of any spiritual change.

III. THIS RELIGION PRODUCES A BLESSED CHANGE IN THE INNER MAN. "The Spirit is life because of righteousness," in which clause the opposition to the former is three fold: spirit is opposed to body, life to death, and righteousness to sin.

1. Man consists of a soul as well as a body, which soul will live when the body dies.

2. This spiritual part is by nature involved in moral death (Ephesians 2:1-5; Colossians 2:13), under wrath (Ephesians 4:18), and "carnally minded" (Romans 8:6). But by "Christ in it" it is made alive from this death (Romans 6:13). Christians live by Him, through His influence; to Him, in fulfilling His will; like Him, a wise, holy, useful, happy life.

3. This spiritual life they have "because of," or through, "righteousness" (John 20:31; John 6:53, 57; John 11:25, 26; Galatians 2:20). Through justifying righteousness they have the favour of God, through sanctifying righteousness they have the image of God; through practical righteousness, or obedience, they walk with God, and obtain more and more of a spiritual mind. Through the same righteousness they have eternal life. Through their justification they are entitled to it; through their sanctification they are tilted for it; through practical obedience they are in the way to it; and through faith (Hebrews 11:1) they have an earnest of it (John 6:47). Happiness is indeed the result of the whole. Justification, and the favour of God, bring peace, hope, and joy; sanctification brings deliverance from restless and distressing lusts and passions; practical righteousness brings the approbation of God, and the testimony of a good conscience.

IV. THIS RELIGION WILL HEREAFTER PRODUCE, OR BE REWARDED WITH, A MOST IMPORTANT CHANGE, EVEN OF THE OUTWARD MAN. For "if the Spirit of Him that raised," etc. Not only is immortality implied, but this mortal body also shall be quickened. The bodies of all, indeed, will rise from their graves (John 5:28, 29), but the righteous only to what is worthy the name of life. For this we have Christ's promise (John 6:39-44, 54), of which we have pledges in His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:12-20) and His Spirit's indwelling. The mortal body shall be quickened.

1. That we may be judged in the body for "the deeds done in the body."

2. That the children of the great King, and the brethren and sisters of the Son of God, may not be found naked, but clothed with an external glory, exactly answering to, and perfectly descriptive of, their internal graces and virtues.

3. That we may be conformable to the Lord Jesus, in body as well as soul, and so fit to dwell with Him (1 Corinthians 15:47-49).

4. In honour of the Holy Spirit, whose temples our bodies now are.

5. That our triumph over Satan may be perfectly complete, no part of us being lost.

6. And with respect to all, that we may rise higher from the ruins of the fall than the state we had been in before (1 Corinthians 15:36-38, 42-44).

(J. Benson.)

For the first, to wit, the evil itself, that is here expressed to be mortality or bodily death, the body is dead. Dead — that is, subject to death. This is the state of the body, and even in the servants of God themselves, in whom Christ Himself dwells by His Spirit, are subject to death as well as others. The bodies of Christians are frail and mortal as well as the bodies of any other men. This is grounded partly upon the general sentence which is passed upon all men (Hebrews 9:27). And partly also upon those frail principles whereof the godly themselves do consist in their natural condition. It is no wonder for dust to return to dust. First, to teach us to be frequently in the thoughts and meditations hereof, we should look upon our bodies as mortal and corruptible, even the best that are here in this world. That they have this treasure in earthen vessels. Secondly, we should hence be persuaded against all inordinate care of the body, pampering of it, and glorying in the excellencies and accomplishments of it; for, alas! it will quickly be dissolved and lie in the dust. Thirdly, let us not from hence be offended at the troubles of the children of God here in this life, that they are in deaths oft. While their bodies are subject to death, it is no marvel that their lives are also subject to affliction. Though Christ be in you, yet the body which you carry about you is dead. And that is the first particular here considerable, which is the evil itself. The second is the occasion of this evil, or the ground whereupon it proceeds, and that is guilt. The body is dead because of sin (Romans 5:12). It is sin which exposes all men, both good and bad, to the stroke of death. First, take it remotely, because of sin; that is, of the first sin and transgression that was in the world. Secondly, because of sin; that is, because of actual sin, and sin considered more immediately and proximately. There is a double influence which sin may be said to have upon death as causal of it. First, it hath sometimes, and in some cases and persons, a physical and productive influence upon it, as immediately and directly effecting it, and bringing it about. There are abundance of persons in the world whose very sins are their death by their luxury, and wantonness, and intemperance — "the body is dead because of sin." But secondly, it is always so in a moral, and considered demeritoriously. So that wherever there is death there is sin antecedent to it. The consideration of this point may be thus far useful to us, as it may serve, first, to convince us of the grievous nature of sin, and to humble us under the guilt and sense of it, as being that which brings so much evil and mischief with it, as consequent upon it. And if we are not sensible of it as it is an offence and dishonour to God, yet let us at least be sensible of it as it is a grievance and annoyance to ourselves, and occasions the greatest evil to us of anything else. And so let us learn to justify God in His dealings with us, and to condemn ourselves as the causes of our own suffering. The second is the qualification, "But the Spirit is life because of righteousness." Wherein, as in the former, we have two particulars more. First, the benefit itself; and secondly, the ground of this benefit. First, for the benefit itself, "The Spirit is life." This, it is life, or lives (as some translations carry it), namely, the life of grace here, and the life of glory hereafter. This is the meaning of the words. And the point which we learn from them is this — that God's children, although they be mortal, in regard of their bodies, yet they are in a state of immortality in regard of their souls: "The Spirit is life." While we say that God's children do live in regard of their souls, this is not to be taken exclusively, but rather emphatically; not exclusively, as denying the immortality of the souls of other men, but emphatically, as fastening a special immortality upon these. But now when it is said here in the text that the souls of God's children live, we are to take it in a two-fold explication. First, for the life of grace. They live such a life as this even when their bodies are in a manner dead, that is, subject or near unto it. "The just shall live by faith" (Romans 1:17). There may be a lively and vigorous soul in a withered and decayed body. Then when the flesh is ready to perish, yet the spirit may flourish (2 Corinthians 4:17). This is so upon this account — first, because they are lives of a several nature and kind. Now thus it is with the flesh and the spirit, with the body and the soul, the life of nature and the life of grace. These are lives of a different kind, and so they do not mutually depend one upon the other. These things which are hurtful to the one, they do not prejudice the other. Secondly, there is this also in it, that the good of one is sometimes so much the more advanced and promoted by the prejudice of the other. Those who are always well and in health, they do for the most part little consider of their latter end, neither are they so careful to provide for a better world; whereas those who are sick, they are often put upon such thoughts as these are. Those tenants who have often warning given them to depart out of their house, they are careful to provide themselves a dwelling somewhere else. The consideration of this point may be thus far useful to us. First, as it may serve for an encouragement to the children of God in the midst of all those bodily infirmities which they are subject to here in this life. What though their bodies decay, yet their souls and spirits may live; and this is that which is chiefly to be looked after by them. There are a good many people in the world whose care is all taken up about their outward man. Secondly, here is that also which calls us to search and self-inquiry. And whether does sickness and weakness and diseases and distempers of body make us better or no in our spirits and inward man? The second is the life of glory. The Spirit is life — that is, it lives such a life as this. This is grounded not only upon the nature of the soul itself, which cannot die, but more especially upon the decree and purpose and promise of God Himself, who hath appointed us to obtain salvation by Jesus Christ, as the apostle elsewhere speaks. The use of this point is very comfortable against the inordinate fear of death. And so as for death in any other way whatsoever, here is that which does serve very much to mollify and mitigate it to them, and the thoughts of it either as to their own particular persons or to their Christian friends dying in the Lord. That though it be a privation of one life, yet it is a promotion of another; and though it separates the soul from the body, and other friends here below in the world, yet it joins it so much the closer to Christ, and makes them partakers of a better estate and condition in a better place. If Christ be in them, though the body be dead, yet the Spirit is life. And that is the first particular which is here observable and considerable of us in this second general, to wit, the benefit itself. The second is the ground of this benefit, and that is expressed in these words, "Because of righteousness." We are to understand two things, either first of all the righteousness of Christ imputed, which gives us a right and title to salvation; or else, secondly, inherent righteousness, as a condition required in that subject which shall indeed be saved: in either sense it is because of righteousness. This shows us, first, what great cause we have, all that may be, to labour to get into Christ, and to endeavour to become members of His body, that so, partaking of His righteousness, we may consequently partake of His salvation and of eternal life itself. Secondly, seeing our souls came to live by virtue of the righteousness of Christ, meriting and procuring at the hands of God this life for us, this, then, shows us how for we are indeed beholden to Christ, and what cause we have to be thankful to Him, even as much as to one who has redeemed us from death itself and hath bestowed life upon us. And so now, according to this interpretation of the words, we have here in this present verse set forth unto us the admirable effects of the being of Christ in believers, and that in two points especially. First, in point of mortification, there is a killing of sin in them; the body is dead because of sin. Secondly, in point of vivification, grace is alive and active in them. The Spirit is life because of righteousness. The ground hereof is taken, first, from the nature of all life in general, which is to be operative and active. Secondly, from the end of spiritual life in particular, which is especially to serve God.

(Thomas Horton, D. D.)

ces: — Some of the hardest burdens which men bear are the consequences of their past weaknesses and sins. There is a certain deep and lasting satisfaction in making expiation for one's offences, and in recognising in one's own soul the evidences of a genuine sorrow; but when the sin, instead of retreating into the background, walks with us day by day in its effects and results, there are times when the bravest spirit grows faint and discouraged in such companionship. One feels in such moments as if the sin ought to be blotted out in its material effects as truly as in its spiritual results. But this cannot be. No such promise is anywhere to be found in the revelation of God's purpose to men. We are delivered from our sins, and that is matter for deep and eternal rejoicing; but we are not and cannot be delivered wholly from the consequences o! our sins. Those offences have become operative causes in the universal order of things, and we must stand by and see results flow from them, no matter how agonising the spectacle may be. But this experience, though often intensely painful, ought not to be crushing; it is from our sins and not from their effects that we care most to be delivered. That deliverance is for eternity; the effects are for time only. But there is in the immutability of the law which preserves the evil that men do in life a sublime and awful vindication of the steadfastness and eternal justice of Him who forgiveth our iniquities — who has, in fact, borne them. Once forgiven for Christ's sake, these iniquities are washed clean from the soul; but there is constant need that he who has gone through this ordeal shall see clearly the awful crime of offending against the laws of life, and that he shall be accompanied perpetually by the witnesses to this great truth. When the consequences of former weaknesses and sins, accompanying us year after year, become to us, not avenging Furies, but angels of Divine justice, this companionship will not dismay us, but will serve as a new inspiration. One may make, even of the consequences of his sins, sources of strength rather than of weakness. He who accepts these things as the inevitable results of his own action, and recognises in them the working of an immutable and righteous law, will be kept humble by them, will be restrained from other departures from rectitude, and will draw from their companionship a deeper and deeper sense of that misery from which he has escaped, and of the permanent joy and peace into which he has entered.

But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus... dwell in you.
The indwelling of God the Holy Spirit is the common mark of all believers in Christ. It is the shepherd's mark of the flock of the Lord Jesus, distinguishing them from the rest of the world. It is the goldsmith's stamp on the genuine sons of God, which separates them from the dross and mass of false professors. It is the king's own seal on those who are his peculiar people, proving them to be his own property. It is the earnest which the Redeemer gives to His believing disciples, while they are in the body, as a pledge of the full redemption yet to come on the resurrection morning. This is the case of all believers.

(Bp. Ryle.)

I. THE INHABITATION OF THE SPIRIT. Dwelling may relate either to a man in his house (1 John 3:24) or of God in His temple (1 Corinthians 6:16). The Spirit buildeth us up for so holy a use, and then dwelleth in us as our Sanctifier, Guide, and Comforter.

1. He sanctifieth and reneweth us (Titus 3:5; John 3:6).

2. He guideth and healeth us in the ways of holiness (Romans 15:14; Galatians 5:25).

3. He comforts us with the sense of God's fatherly love and our eternal inheritance (ver. 16; 2 Corinthians 2:22).


1. To preserve the order of the personal operations.(1) The rising from the dead is a work of Divine power (2 Corinthians 1:10).(2) This Divine power belongeth in common to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, who, being one and the same God, concurred in the same work. We are raised by the Father (text), by Christ (John 5:21), by the Spirit (text).(3) They all concur in a way proper to them. The Holy Ghost is the operative love of God, working from the power of the Father and grace of the Son; and whatever the Father or Son doth, you must still suppose it to be communicated to us by the Spirit.

2. Because the Holy Spirit is the bond of union between us and Christ. We are united to Him, because we have the same Spirit which Christ had; and therefore He will work like effects in you and Him. If the Head rise, the members will follow after.

3. Because the Spirit of sanctification worketh in us that grace which giveth us a right and title to this glorious estate (Luke 20:35, 36; Galatians 6:8).

4. Because the Spirit abides in us as an earnest (Ephesians 1:14).

5. Because of His respect to His old dwelling-place (1 Corinthians 6:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:23).

6. Because the great work of the Spirit is to retrench our bodily pleasures, and to bring us to resolve by all means to save the soul, whatever becometh of the body in this world, and to use the body for the service of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:13, 20; Romans 8:13; Galatians 5:16, 24; Romans 13:14).

(T. Manton, D.D.)

The acceptance of Christ does not prevent the death of the body. The destruction of the body by death is complete; but is it destroyed for ever?

1. Infidelity affirms that when you are dead that is the end of you.

2. Science teaches that the substance of the body can never be annihilated.

3. The Bible declares that the body shall be raised up at the last day.

I. THE AGENT. The same power that raised up Jesus.


1. Regeneration.

2. Sanctification.

3. Resurrection.


1. It justifies us before the law.

2. It includes the redemption of the body.

3. It provides for the reunion of body and soul.

4. It establishes personal identity for ever.

5. It makes certain the reunion and recognition of friends throughout eternity.


1. We should now seek after the only possible antidote to spiritual death, with all its glorious provisions for time and eternity. If the Spirit of Christ dwell in us, we have nothing to fear from sin and death.

2. The Spirit comes only to those who welcome His coming and cherish His indwelling.

(L. O. Thompson.)

Our attention is not directed to the awakening produced by the trump of the archangel, but to the quickening produced by the Spirit of God. We have to consider here the completion of our freedom from the law of sin and death. Observe —

I. THAT BY THE RESURRECTION THE LAST LINK OF THE CHAIN OF CORRUPTION WILL BE FINALLY BROKEN. The work of salvation is an ordered scheme, every step of which is arranged by infinite wisdom. God first uncloses the fingers of sin on the spirit, and at last frees the body from its fatal grasp. "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." What if the order had been reversed? Why, then the spirit would have been placed beyond that discipline through which its purification is now being carried on. A body fit only for heavenly service would not be fit for earthly pain, sorrow, and death.

II. THAT THIS EMANCIPATION IS TO BE EFFECTED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT. It is Spirit operating, not on spirit — as in conversion — but on the body. It is the same Spirit, and it follows that it is even part of the same work. The work is effected by the Spirit dwelling in us. There is in the believer a Divine seed, which is destined to break forth from amidst the corruption of the grave into beauteous life.

III. THAT THE RESURRECTION OF BELIEVERS IS ASSOCIATED WITH THAT OF CHRIST. The relation is that of cause and effect, type and fulfilment, pledge and redemption. "Because I live, ye shall live also."

(P. Strutt.)

First, to speak of Christ's resurrection. If the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead. This is a circumlocution whereby we have described unto us God the Father, under this notion of raising up of Christ. For the first, the Person here signified or implied, that is God the Father. Indeed, the whole Trinity of Persons had a share in this performance. But yet it is here ascribed to the Father, as that Person who is usually expressed to be the Fountain of the Godhead, as from whom all the actions of the Deity do originally flow and proceed. The second thing, which is here chiefly considerable, is the action attributed to this Person, and that is, the raising up of Jesus from the dead. Jesus Christ, He is thus risen. This is a main article of our Christian faith. The ground of this dispensation is first of all taken from the nature and condition of Christ Himself, who was such an One as death could not long keep in bondage to itself (Acts 2:24). Secondly, He is therefore risen to manifest the completeness of that redemption which He had wrought for us, and to declare us absolved and acquitted in the sight and presence of God (Romans 4:25). The use of this doctrine in hand is especially to oppose it to the scandal and reproach of the Cross. The second is the Spirit's inhabitation in those who are the members of Christ. If or forasmuch as this Spirit dwelleth in you. Thus it makes much for the honour and dignity of the servant of God, that He whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain should vouchsafe to take up His residence in such narrow rooms as our hearts. And, further, it also minds us of our duty: so to carry and behave ourselves as fit temples of the Holy Ghost to reside in, and to be continually offering up of sacrifices of praises unto Him. The second, which is principally considerable of us, is the inference in these, "He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you." First, to look upon this passage in its simple and absolute consideration, "He that raised up Jesus Christ from the dead will also quicken and raise up us, who are," etc. And here, again, two things more: first, the state or condition itself which is here propounded. And that is the resurrection of the saints and true believers. "He shall quicken your mortal bodies." Secondly, the conveyance of this state or condition unto them, or the grace of conferring it upon them by or because of His Spirit, which dwelleth in you. First, to speak of the former — viz., the state or condition itself which is here propounded, and that is the resurrection of the saints. "He shall quicken your mortal bodies"; that is, He shall raise you from death to life. It is that which hath been set forth unto us and shadowed under sundry resemblances — of Aaron's dry rod budding forth and flourishing; of the prophet slain by the lion, but not devoured; of Enoch's translation; of Elijah's rapture; of Elisha's sepulchre reviving a dead man that was cast into it. And it is very suitable and agreeable to reason rightly qualified, though it does not depend upon it. First, to reason that it may be so in regard of the possibility. It is no way opposite or repugnant to this. Let us consider what our bodies were made of and fetched out of at first, and then it will be no difficulty at all. He that thoroughly believes the creation need never to doubt of the resurrection. Could God make the body out of the dust? and cannot He then restore it from the dust? Secondly, it is also in the equity of it, as that which should be; that so there may be an execution of the just judgment of God upon either part of man which hath done either good or evil. Thirdly, it is so also in the necessity of it, as that which must be; and here are divers and sundry things considerable of us as very much making for it. First, from the covenant of grace, "I will be thy God," etc. Now to be our God is to be the God of our whole persons; not only of our souls, but of our bodies too (Matthew 22:32). Secondly, from the work of redemption, which extends to the destroying of death as the last enemy, and to get the conquest and victory over that. Thirdly, from the resurrection of Christ Himself: He is risen in His body, therefore we also shall rise in ours. Fourthly, from the work of the Spirit. The Spirit of God, which is in us, He does certify and assure us hereof — namely, by these gracious effects of His wrought in our souls; while He raises us from the death of sin, He will also raise us from the death of the grave. He that hath done the one, He is ready also to do the other for us. Hence is the Spirit of God called the earnest and pledge hereof unto us (2 Corinthians 5:5). This doctrine of the resurrection is more particularly considerable of us in the expression which is here in the text fastened upon it; whilst it is said that "He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies." And here, again, two things more. First, to speak of the cause of it. He that raised up Christ from the dead; where the resurrection of Christians seems to be made an effect, and consequent of the resurrection of Christ. And so indeed it is, and that according to a threefold influence — first, of merit; secondly, of actual efficacy; and, thirdly, of example. The ground and reason of all is this: because Christ is the Root and Head of all believers, as Adam was of all mankind. And so much may be spoken of the first particular which is here considerable of us, and that is the cause of our resurrection: in these words, "He that raised up Christ from the dead." The second is the carriage of it in these: "shall quicken your mortal bodies." He shall quicken our mortal bodies by making them absolutely immortal. And so now I have done with the first branch in this second general — to wit, the state or condition itself which is here propounded; and that is the resurrection of the saints and true believers, in these words: "He that raised up Christ from the dead shall quicken your mortal bodies." The second is the conveyance of this state and condition unto them, or the ground of conferring it upon them, in these words: "By," or "because, of His Spirit that," etc., I read it both ways, either "by" or "because," according to the different translation in the text and in the margin, and each of them different, according to different copies in the original. We may, if we please, take it either way. First, take it in the textual translation: "By His Spirit that dwelleth in you." Where we see how the dwelling of God's Spirit in the children of God is the means and cause and conveyance of resurrection to such as are His children. They rise, but they rise by the virtue of the Spirit of God that dwells in them; and that because they rise in reference to their relation to Christ, as we showed before. But, secondly, we may, if we please, take it also in the marginal translation, which is for, or because, of the Spirit that dwelleth in you, as denoting not only the cause from which, but also the reason for which, this resurrection is conferred upon them. First, I say here is that which is implied: that the Spirit of God dwells in the children of God. The second is that which is inferred: that because and in regard of the Spirit of God dwelling in them, therefore their bodies should be raised and restored again to life. This follows from hence, because the Holy Ghost will not quit His own interest, nor lose anything of that which belongs unto Him, which He should do if the bodies of the saints lay still in their graves, or were wholly annihilated and brought to nothing. The second is conditional, or connective with the words which went before in the beginning of the verse: "If the Spirit of Him that raised up," etc., where resurrection to eternal life is made dependent upon the inhabitation of the Holy Ghost in such persons as shall so rise, The consideration of this point may be useful to us, to a twofold purpose. First, as matter of comfort to the saints and servants of God. Secondly, here is matter of terror to all wicked and reprobate persons in regard of the different dispensation of it from that of the children of God. First, as to the manner of it. Whereof the one shall be with rejoicing, the other with horror. Secondly, in regard of the end of it. The godly, they rise that they may receive their crown and garland. But the wicked, they rise that they may receive their punishment and torment. Thirdly and lastly, in regard of the cause and proceeding of it. The godly, they rise by virtue of their union with Christ as His members, and by virtue of their relation to the Holy Ghost as His temples; but the wicked, they rise by virtue of God's curse upon them and designment to everlasting destruction. The godly, they rise by the power of Christ as a Mediator; the wicked, they rise by the power of Christ as a Judge.

(Thomas Horton, D.D.)

Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh to live after the flesh.

1. To all times.(1) To the past. To such who have preceded us we owe the purity of the Church. Shall we not, in some degree, repay the immense debt of our obligation by seeking to make the future also debtors to us, that our descendants may acknowledge that they owe us thanks for preserving the Scriptures, for maintaining liberty, for glorifying God?(2) To the present. We are living in a most marvellous age. We have around us appliances for doing good, such as never before. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers, and, perhaps, far greater.(3) To the future. Who can tell the fearful consequences to future generations if we now betray our trust? Sow well, for others must reap. You are fountains for coming generations; oh, be careful that your streams are pure.

2. To all classes. There are some that always get well paid for what they do, whose claims, therefore, need no advocacy. I will only mention one class — the poor. Charity to them is a debt, and God requires us to remember the poor. The rich are indebted to them, for while the one hoard wealth the other make it. But in the case of the believing poor, their claim upon us is far more binding. When I think how the poor toil day after day and receive barely enough to keep their souls within their bodies, and how frequently they serve their Church, unhonoured and unrewarded, I cannot but say that we are their debtors in very large degree. We little know how many a blessing the poor man's prayer brings down upon us.

3. To our covenant God; that is the point which swallows up all. I owe nothing to the past, future, rich, poor, compared with what I owe to my God. We are all born God's creatures, and as such we are debtors to obey Him. When we have broken His commandments we are debtors to His justice, and owe him a vast amount of punishment which we are not able to pay. But in the case of the Christian, Christ has paid the debt. I am a debtor to God's love, to God's power, to God's forgiving mercy, and are we not His sons, and is there not a debt the son owes to the Father which a lifetime of obedience can never remove? Remember again, we are Christ's brethren, and there is a debt in brotherhood.


1. A lesson of humility. If we be debtors we never ought to be proud.

2. How zealous we should be for our Master! Though we cannot pay all, we can at least acknowledge the debt, and, if we cannot pay Him the principal, yet to give Him some little interest upon the talent which He has lent to us, and those stupendous mercies which He has granted to us. If we all believed this, how much easier it would be to get our Churches into good order! I go to one brother and say, "There is such and such an office in the Sabbath school; will you take it?" "Well, sir, I really work so hard all the week that I cannot." There, you see, that man does not know that he is a debtor. I take him a bill to-morrow morning, and he says, "Do you come begging?" I say, "No; I have brought a bill." "Oh, yes," he says, "I see; there is the cash." Now that is the way to act. Conclusion: Be just before you are generous, and especially before you are generous to yourselves. Take care that you pay your debts before you spend money upon your pleasures. If it is robbing man to spend the money in pleasure wherewith we ought to pay our debts, it is robbing God if we employ our time, our talents, or our money, in anything but His service, until we feel we have done our share in that service.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

The word "flesh" may be taken in its physical consideration. There is a debt which every man in a sense does owe unto it. We may be said to be debtors to the flesh, that is, to our bodies, in sundry regards: as to feed them, clothe, and to nourish them. No man ever yet hated his own flesh (Ephesians 5:29). And there are some kind of people in the world which are scandalously debtors to it: as, for example, your misers and muck-worms, which pinch and straighten themselves even where God has enlarged them; live poor, that they may die rich. And so likewise not only your covetous, but your superstitious persons, which needlessly, and out of a conceit of merit, macerate their flesh, and put a piece of religion in abstaining from such kind of meats, which God had created to be received with thanksgiving of them that believe and know the truth, as it is in 1 Timothy 4:3. The denial of the flesh, in this sense, is the withholding of a debt from it which is due unto it. Indeed, as to the pampering and inordinate setting out of our bodies, so we are not debtors unto them. A Christian owes his flesh no such special or extraordinary service as this is. And the reasons hereof is taken from the nature and conditions of the body, considered in itself, which, as it is styled in the verse before, is corruptible and mortal. And then, besides, the great impediments which it does cause and contract to the soul, from the inordinate serving of it, whereby it is made so much the more unfit for the duties and exercises of religion, taken in its physical consideration, so far forth as it does denote the body, or outward man. The second is by taking it in the moral. The flesh, that is sin and corruption: and so it seems principally to be understood here in this place. Christians, they are by no means debtors to the fulfilling of their lusts. First, we are not debtors to the flesh, nor have any cause to do service to that, because we have received no answerable benefit from it. A debt it is upon consideration, and does usually and for the most part imply some benefit received. We never got a farthing by sin, any of us, in all our lives. All that we get by sin is nothing but shame and loss. Therefore it is not we that are debtors to it, but it is it, indeed, rather that is a debtor to us, in all those fair promises which it hath some time made unto us, whilst it has performed none. Secondly, as we are not debtors by receipt, so neither are we debtors by promise. That is another way sometimes of coming into debt. Though a man have nothing which he hath received from another, yet if he hath promised him, and bound himself to him, he becomes a debtor to him notwithstanding. There is no man that is a true believer, and that has given up his name to Christ, who has made any promise to sin for the gratifying of it in any particular. Thirdly, there are too many of us who are, as I may say, aforehand with the flesh, in the days of vanity and un-conversion, therefore not debtors to it. If ever they owed anything to it, they have paid it over and over again, and more than enough (1 Peter 4:3). Fourthly, we are not debtors to the flesh, because the flesh and we are at absolute enmity and opposition one to another. We have killed and crucified the flesh, as many of us as belong to Christ, therefore we are no longer debtors to it. "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts" (Galatians 5:24). Now, therefore, we are not to conceive as if we owed anything to it. Why, thus it is now with us in regard of the flesh. It concerns us all we can to spoil it, and to divest it of that which it has, therefore we are not to think that we should owe anything to it. Fifthly, we are absolutely freed and discharged from the exactions of it. It has no part or share in us, nor anything at all to do with us, therefore we are not debtors to it (Romans 6:28). Those who are regenerate and born again they are made free from sin, and so nothing engaged to the services of it. Sixthly and lastly, we are not debtors to the flesh, because the flesh is not a warrantable creditor for any to be indebted unto. Where there is nothing due, there is no man can be said to be a debtor. Now for the flesh, it is a cheater, and an usurper, and an oppressor. The consideration of this point serves to this purpose: First, to discover to us the sad and miserable condition of all such persons as are out of Christ. There is no man so deeply engaged as that man who is in thraldom to his lusts; and he has all the properties of a sad debtor upon him. First, he is a servant to it; this is the property of a debtor; the borrower is a servant to the lender, as Solomon speaks. He that committeth sin is the servant of sin, so says our Saviour. Why, thus now is every carnal and unregenerate person to his lusts; he is a slave and servant to them, and they lead him whither they please. He that is a debtor to one lust, he shall be a slave to many more with it, which will engage him occasionally from it. Thus he who is a debtor to ambition and pride and vain glory in the world, he is a debtor occasionally to flattery and falsehood and sinful correspondences, for the promoting of such ends to himself. He that is a debtor to covetousness, he is a debtor consequently to cozenage and fraud and oppression, and such causes as these for the satisfying of that humour in him. And he that is a debtor to wantonness and lasciviousness and drunkenness and intemperance, and the like, he is a debtor also to other sins which have an affinity and agreement thereunto. Thus lust is not a single debt, but involves many others besides together with itself, which is a special misery considerable in it. Secondly, another misery in a debtor is that he labours all for another many times and not for himself. He is not only a servant but a drudge. Those that are addicted and given up to such affections as these are, they can have time and leisure for little else but the following of them, whereas in the meantime their inward man it lies waste, and those means which God has appointed for the advancing thereof are neglected accordingly. Thirdly, another inconvenience of debtors is restraint and want of freedom. Lastly, he that is a debtor to sin, he is the worst kind of debtor of all, because the more that he pays to it the more he still comes in debt to a greater Creditor, and runs in arrears with Him, who will be sure at last to call him to a most strict account about it. And so now I have done with the first general part of the text, which is the negative in that which is expressed, "We are not debtors to the flesh, to live after the flesh." The second is the affirmative, as that which is implied. But we are debtors to the Spirit, to live after the Spirit. First, for the Creditor: the Spirit. Every Christian is a debtor that is bound and engaged to do this. And first of all, as it denotes the third person in the Trinity, which was spoken of in the verse immediately preceding. Every Christian is a debtor to the Holy Spirit, and that in these respects. First, as the beginner and worker of all grace in him. Secondly, we are engaged to the Spirit, not only as the first beginner, but also as the further increaser of those graces in us which are begun. Thirdly, as our Comforter in afflictions: we are debtors to the Spirit thus. Lastly, as the continual suggester of good thoughts unto us, and restrainer of us from evil. But, secondly, we may take it as denoting the regenerate part in us, in reference to a spiritual life. And thus in this sense are we debtors to the Spirit also. First, we are debtors to the spirit, that is, to the spiritual part in us, in regard of what we have not paid already. There is no man, whoever he be, but he is behind hand, as I may say, to the spirit in this respect. He has not bestowed that time, and pains and endeavour upon his heart, and soul, and spirit as he should, and as it hath become him to do. Secondly, we are debtors to the spirit, in regard of what we ought and are bound to pay unto it, It is a debt which lies upon us to lead a godly and holy life: and that in sundry respects. Thirdly, we are debtors to the Spirit, from the great benefit which does accrue and come to us herefrom, and which we have already had experience of. Let us consider how far we have discharged this debt which we are so much engaged in. Let us cast up our reckonings and see what we have expended answerable to what we have received. Set creditor on one hand and set debtor on the other, as we use to do in other matters. We are debtors to the Spirit, and He will not be put off with such payments as belong rather to the flesh. Were it not a strange thing for a debtor to mistake his true creditor — to run and carry that to one man which belonged rather to another? Why thus it is with many people in regard of their debts for their souls. They are debtors to the Spirit, of their health, of their strength, of their time, of their parts, of their estates, and of all they have. And they offer the payment hereof all to the flesh, What an incongruous thing is this? Therefore I say still, let us be careful to discharge our proper duty in that particular. And to set this so much the more upon us, let us consider these things with ourselves. First, the power of the Creditor. And if we neglect or refuse to pay Him, He knows how to help Himself. No securing or saving themselves from Him who is able to meet with them. Secondly, the strictness of the Creditor. That is another thing considerable likewise. He is one that is exact in His demands, which should make us in our returns to be so likewise. Thirdly, let us further consider to this purpose the great advantage of paying, and the special benefit which comes to us by it, while being debtors to the Spirit we are careful to be payers too. We have a threefold accommodation from it. First, a further entrusting and committing of more unto us. Such debtors as are not careful to pay, there is nobody will trust them with any more. Secondly, further enablement. The more we are careful to pay the more we shall be able to pay. Every new performance is a preparation and disposition to another. To him that thus hath shall be given. Thirdly, peace of conscience and satisfaction and tranquility of mind. Debts they are commonly troublesome, and do much disquiet the minds of those who are entangled with them.

(Thomas Horton, D.D.)

At the time this Epistle was written, and among the people to whom it was addressed, the creditor exercised over the debtor a power which the humanity of modern times has abolished. The unfortunate man who was insolvent was at the mercy of his creditor, and might be treated as he chose. It has long been a question whether, according to the Roman law, the creditors had not the right of cutting the man's body in pieces in proportion to the amount of their claims; and there can be no doubt that the debtor's person as well as his property, his family as well as himself, were liable to be apprehended and disposed of; just as we read in the parable, where the king is found ordering that the servant who owed him ten thousand talents should be sold, with his family and all that he had, that payment might be made. In this sense, therefore, the debtor of the flesh would have been a man over whom the flesh had established an absolute power; whose mind as well as body were devoted to its service, and bound to do its will — who, if he laboured, was to labour that he might make "provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof"; who, if he rested, was to rest that he might indulge it in all its inclinations more freely; who, if he thought, was to be thinking about things to be had in the body, or, if he spoke, was to be speaking of them, and was to show a distaste for thought and conversation of a higher, purer character. There are many who are debtors to the flesh; who acknowledge the obligations, and show no inclination to be released from it. Listen to the voice of the world. Hear how the young are told that they ought to enjoy themselves while they are able, and that no one can condemn them if they do so. Hear how those who are more advanced are told that in dress, furniture, table, amusements, they ought to do what ethers do, and that they ought not to give offence by adopting a more Christian course of life than that which their neighbours lead. And when this language of the world comes to be translated into the words of the text, is it not equivalent with saying, "We are debtors to the flesh, to make provision for its indulgence; we are debtors to the flesh for everything we enjoy or desire; and therefore we are bound to do all we can, in order to fulfil its purposes and gratify its wishes"? "Therefore," as the apostle continues, "if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die." If you have persuaded yourselves that you must owe to the flesh the happiness you wish for, and if, acting under this impression, that you are "debtors to the flesh," you determine to "live after the flesh," death will soon come and put an end to all these dreams you have been cherishing; but long before death comes to chill your mirth, long before those rosebuds are withered with which you have been crowning yourselves, a deadness of heart shall come over you, a deadness to all spiritual things, which shall be the pledge and token of eternal death.

(H. Raikes, M.A.)

I. THE OBLIGATION DUE TO THE BODY. We are in the flesh, and the flesh has claims which rest upon Divine appointment.

1. Observe the form in which the apostle puts the matter. We may be debtors to the flesh, but not to live after it. The duty we owe it is not that of servants to a master, but of a master to his servants. We are debtors in respect to food, medicine, raiment, shelter, temperance and cleanliness. And to those who belong to us after the flesh we are debtors for earthly things; and he that careth not for them is worse than an infidel.

2. Let us go further. Our bodies are the Divine workmanship, and their faculties are of God's malting and giving. Why? Not that they should run away with us or rule us, but that they should be subject to us.

II. THE LIMIT OF THE OBLIGATION. "Not to live after the flesh." Men live after the flesh —

1. When the flesh is made the chief object of care, and this we are not obliged to do by any Divine law.

2. When we allow carnal indulgence to interfere with Christian duty.

3. When we decline bodily suffering in the cause and at the call of God.

4. When we are guided by a carnal policy in the conduct of life.

III. THE DIFFICULTY OF THE OBLIGATION. We shall find the flesh so tyrannical that to keep within the actual limit of obligation is no easy matter. To mortify the deeds of the body thus becomes an important duty. This mortification is evangelical in motive, spiritual in nature, gradual in consummation.


1. The Great Helper. We are not left to ourselves.

2. But a helper implies our own activity.

3. This proclaims the energy and reality of the spiritual life.

(Percy Strutt.)

I. NOT FROM RELATIONSHIP. The flesh is no part of our original nature.

II. NOT FROM GRATITUDE. Its effects upon us have been only evil.

III. NOT FROM DUTY. It is opposed to God, who commands us to crucify it.

IV. NOT FROM INTEREST. Only misery and death aver to be reaped from it (Galatians 6:8). We are debtors to the body, which is God's creature (Acts 27:34; Ephesians 5:29), but not debtors to the flesh, which is Satan's production (Matthew 13:38; 1 John 3:8). We are debtors to the body to satisfy its wants, but not to the flesh to gratify its lusts (Romans 13:14).

(T. Robinson, D.D.)

You take a wild briar from the hedge, and plant it in your garden; upon that briar you graft the choicest rose, and the result is — what? not two distinct identities, the briar flourishing as a briar, and the rose as a rose, nor the briar being completely absorbed into the rose, but two distinct natures forming one individuality, of which one represents the original individuality of the briar, while the other the imparted nature of the rose. This original individuality is only to be allowed to express itself through the imparted nature. All self-assertion on the part of the original briar stock, as distinct from the new nature engrafted upon it, is to be rigorously repressed. Neglect this process of repression, and the briar may make shoots below the graft; and as these shoots develop themselves the rose nature begins to lose ground, and suffers in foliage and flower, until, if the process be only allowed to go far enough, the rose is extinguished, the old briar is supreme. Yet observe: the briar itself is not repressed; it is allowed to develop itself in accordance with the laws of its own nature, but only through the rose. None of its personal rights or functions are to be interfered with; it is not to be robbed of the enjoyment of full vital vigour; but all this is to go to the production of a flower worthy of your garden, instead of the scanty and quickly-fading bloom of the hedge-rose. What is it that produces the standard rose? Not the rose without the briar; not the briar without the rose, but the rose and the briar united in one. In that standard rose, Christian, behold a picture of thyself if Christ is formed in thee! Thy individuality is not to be repressed; no healthy function of thy nature is to be laid aside. Yet is it necessary that you should be prepared to mortify the deeds of the body, or the old nature may assert itself apart from all reference to the new. "Mortify, therefore, your members which are upon the earth." Do you ask how? I reply that the same Spirit which has already introduced the new nature, and united Himself, provides the pruning-knife. "We are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live." We are debtors, not to the old briar-stock apart from the rose, for what did that ever bear that was worth gathering? what fruit had we but those things whereof we are now ashamed? the end of those things was death. But we are debtors, not only to that God whose sovereign love has made us what we are; not only to that Saviour who has redeemed us from the slavery of sin; not only to that Spirit who has condescended to make our body His temple; but we owe it to our new selves — that self into which the new Adam has been grafted, and wherein the new Adam claims to have His way; we owe it to that sense of harmony which pervades the once distracted elements of our nature; to that calm which has taken the place of our former disquietude; to that joy which has already furnished us with a foretaste of heaven; that we should be true to the instincts of our new life, and to the laws of our renovated nature! To forget this solemn debt is to turn our backs on all that makes life profitable, is to give ourselves over to spiritual bankruptcy; to recognise it and pay it with loyal and grateful devotion, is to secure boundless resources of infinite wealth. "If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die"; and he who dies is stripped of all: "If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live"; and he who thus lives, lives in the enjoyment of all.

(W. Hay Aitken, M.A.)

I. THE SOLEMN OBLIGATION OF THE CHILDREN OF GOD. We are debtors; but the flesh is not our creditor. Do we owe anything to sin, the parent of all woe? To Satan — who plotted our temptation and accomplished our downfall? To the world — ensnaring, deceitful, and ruinous? No; to these, the allies of the flesh, we owe nothing but hatred and opposition. And yet the saints of God are "debtors."

1. To the Father, for His electing love, His unspeakable gift, His spiritual blessings in Christ.

2. To the Son. He was the active agent in our redemption. He left no path untrodden, no portion of the curse unborne, no sin unatoned, no part of the law uncancelled, nothing for us in the matter of our salvation to do, but simply believe and be saved.

3. To the Holy Spirit, for leading us to Christ; for dwelling in our hearts; for His healing, sanctifying, comforting, and restoring grace; for His influence which no ingratitude has quenched; for His patience which no backsliding has exhausted; for His love which no sin has annihilated. We owe Him the intellect He has renewed, the heart He has sanctified, the body He inhabits, every breath of life He has inspired, and every pulse of love He has awakened.

II. THE DUTY TO WHICH THAT OBLIGATION BINDS THEM. Holiness, or the mortification of sin, the opposite of "living after the flesh," a subject strangely misunderstood to mean a mere maceration or mortification of the body, the mere excision of outward sins, or the destruction of sin altogether. True mortification is —

1. An annulling of the covenant with sin: "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness," no union, "but rather reprove them." "What have I to do any more with idols? "The resources of sin must be cut off: "Make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof." Whatever tends to, and terminates in, the sinful gratification of the flesh, is to be relinquished.

2. A crucifixion: "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh." Death by the cross is certain, yet lingering.


1. "If ye." The believer is not a cipher in this work. His usefulness, his happiness, his hope of heaven, are all included in it. The work of the Spirit is not, and never was designed to be, a substitute for the personal work of the believer. "Work out your own salvation." Let us, then, be cautious of merging human responsibility in Divine influence; of exalting the one at the expense of the other; of cloaking the spirit of slothfulness beneath an apparently jealous regard for the honour of the Holy Ghost. Is no self-effort to be made to dethrone an unlawful habit, to resist a powerful temptation, to dissolve the spell that binds us to a dangerous enchantment, to unwind the chain that makes us the slave of a wrong inclination? Oh, surely, God deals not with us as we deal with a piece of mechanism — but as reasonable, moral, and accountable beings. "I drew you with the hands of a man."

2. And it infinitely transcends the mightiest puttings forth of creative power. "If ye through the Spirit do mortify."

1. This He does by making us more sensible of the existence of indwelling sin, by deepening our aspirations after holiness, by shedding abroad the love of God in the heart. But above all, by leading us to the Cross, and showing us that, as Christ died for sin, so we must die to sin, and by the self-same instrument too.

2. The Spirit effects it, but through the instrumentality of the Atonement. There must be a personal contact with Jesus. This only is it that draws forth His grace.

(A. Winslow, D.D.)

For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.

1. To live "after the flesh" is to obey the orders of our corrupt nature; to gratify its sinful desires without regard to or in contradiction of the will of God. And this will appear if we consider —(1) The actions of a carnal man (Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:12; Hebrews 13:4; 1 Corinthians 6:10).(2) His words (Matthew 12:34; Ephesians 5:4; James 3:6).(3) His thoughts (Proverbs 23:7; Matthew 15:18; Psalm 10:4; Philippians 3:19; 1 John 2:15).

2. Now, mark the consequence of living after the flesh; "ye shall die I" (ver. 6; 1 Timothy 5:6; Ephesians 2:1; Romans 6:2). What else could be reasonably expected? There are but two eternal states, and every man is training up for one of these. The carnal man is unfit for heaven; for all the joys and employments of the blessed are spiritual.


1. To mortify sin is to put it to death, as the magistrates put a felon to death by due course of justice; he is suspected, apprehended, tried, and executed. Crucifixion is the manner of killing it which God has appointed (Galatians 5:24). This is —

(1)A violent and painful death.

(2)A scandalous death.

(3)A slow and lingering death.

2. By what means may we effectually mortify sin? "Through the Spirit." We must first have the Spirit, that we may experience His sanctifying power. The Spirit helps us to mortify sin —(1) By enabling us to discover it, and by showing us its abominable nature; filling our souls with a sincere dislike to it, and a holy determination to destroy it.(2) By giving us faith, and leading us to Christ for pardon, righteousness, and strength.

3. This promised help of the Spirit does not exclude the use of means on our part. The Spirit so works in us, as also to work by us. The duty is ours; the grace is His.

4. Thus doing, we "shall live." There is no condemnation to persons of this character. This is an evidence that they have "passed from death unto life" (John 5:24). They live indeed, for Christ liveth in them. They live to God; and in this, their gradual sanctification, consists their meetness for heaven, where sin shall be all done away. But, oh sinner, what will be the end of thy present pursuits? (Romans 6:21).

(G. Burder.)


1. "The body" or "the flesh" (Romans 7:25; Galatians 5:17) or "the earthly members" (Colossians 3:5; Romans 8:23).(1) Is regarded as the source of —

(a)Our animal appetites (Galatians 5:19, "fornication," etc.).

(b)Our selfish passions (Galatians 5:20, "hatred," etc.).

(c)Our mental perversities (Galatians 5:20, "idolatry," etc.) —all those false notions which are called (Ephesians 2:3) the working of the understanding that judges according to sense, as distinguished from the pure reason (Romans 1:21).(2) All these workings of "the flesh" are sinful, i.e. "abnormal, contrary to the end for which God has made us" (Romans 7:14, 18).

2. "The spirit," "the mind," "the inward man" (Romans 7:22, 23) is the source of our —

(1)Moral principles (Romans 7:22; Matthew 26:41).

(2)Social affections (Galatians 5:22).

3. These workings of "the Spirit" are in endless conflict with the workings of the flesh (Galatians 5:17; Romans 8:7-25), but with no sufficient power to overcome them (Romans 7:18, 19; Matthew 26:41); so that the result is only self-contradiction, self-condemnation, misery, and death (Romans 7:24).

II. WITH GOD, FINAL VICTORY (vers. 2-4). "The deeds of the body," or "works of the flesh" (Galatians 5:19), mean the products of our lower nature, whether of thought, or feeling, or act. To "mortify," "crucify" (Galatians 5:24), "deaden" them (Colossians 3:5), is to reduce them to impotence. Observe the antithesis: If ye put to death your animal nature, you yourself, who are spirit, shall live. And this death of sin is to be effected by the life of God in the soul.

1. Raise us above sin. God's Spirit in us raises us into the region of spirit. And in this atmosphere sin cannot reach us (1 John 5:18). The thought of sin is most alien when the thought of God is most vivid. In fellowship with holy men, how hateful sin appears! How much more, therefore, when in fellowship with the Holy One? Aaron down in the plain was soon seduced from God's commandments. Moses in the mount grasped them firmly with both hands. Whence the importance of prayer (Matthew 17:21).

2. Hearten us against sin (ver. 15). Knowing that we are on God's side, we know also that God is on our side (Genesis 6:24; Numbers 19:9; 2 Kings 6:16; Isaiah 41:10). And so the animation of Moses fills us: "Fear not I Stand still, and see the salvation God can work" (Exodus 14:13, 14). Jesus, full of the spirit of Sonship, put back easily all the suggestions of the tempter.

3. Make us triumphant over sin. The things impossible to man by himself are possible to him with God (1 John 4:4; Ephesians 6:10; Philippians 4:13).

(Preb. Griffith.)

In the text itself there are two general parts considerable. First, a conditional threatening or dreadful commination upon supposition of miscarriage: "If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die." When it is said of such persons that they shall die, we must take it in the full latitude and extent of death, that is — First, as to temporal death, or natural, which consists in the mere separation of soul and body. This it holds good, according to a twofold account. First, in the course of God's justice, who hath so ordained it and appointed it (Romans 1:32). Secondly, from a connection of the cause with the effect. Sin, and especially a living and conversing in the ways of it, brings death. Secondly, spiritual death, which consists in deprivation of grace, and holiness, and peace, and spiritual comfort. "If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die." Thirdly, there is another death, and that is death eternal. The separation of soul and body from God for ever in hell. And this is also consequent upon living after the flesh. The second is the conditional promise or comfortable intimation upon supposition of repentance and new obedience in these: "But if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the flesh," etc. Wherein again we have four particulars. First, to speak of the duty itself, which is mortification. "If ye," etc. This is a duty which lies upon every Christian, to exercise and inure himself to mortification, that is, to the killing and crucifying of sin in him. For the better opening of this present point unto us, there are two things especially which are here to be declared by us. First, wherein this mortifying of sin, whereof we now speak, does mainly and principally consist. And this we may take according to these following explications. First, it does imply an active and spontaneous opposition of sin of our own accord. Secondly, it does imply difficulty and trouble in the performance of it. Dying, it is usually with some pain: as being that which nature does struggle with and strive against, especially violent death and that which follows upon killing. This, it is painful, especially. Created nature does not more abhor natural death, the death of the body, than corrupted nature does abhor this mystical death. The killing of sin. Oh, it is that which a carnal person cannot endure to hear or think of. This arises from that strength and settlement which sin hath in the heart. As we see it is again in nature, that those who have the strongest constitutions, they have commonly the painfullest deaths. Even so is it likewise in grace: those who have the strongest corruption, they have the hardest mortification. Thirdly, this mortification, it does imply a weakening of the power and vigour of sin in us. That look as a body which is dead, it is thereby made unserviceable and unfit for the actions of life. So a man also, that is spiritually mortified, sin is in him made unactive and unfit for the former services and performances which proceeded from it. Fourthly, it implies universality, that is, a resisting of all kind of sin, without exception. Killing, it is a destroying of life in every part. There must not be only a restraining of some sins, but a fighting against all. Where any one reigns there is no true mortification. Fifthly and lastly, it implies continuance and the often renewing of this act time after time. The second is the grounds or reasons which do make for the performance of it, which may be reduced to these heads. First, the nature of sin and the thing itself, which is to be mortified, and that is our mortal and deadly enemy. "If a man find his enemy," says Saul, "will he let him go well away?" Enmity, it invites destruction as well as threatens it. Secondly, there is reason for it also from that power which is wrought in a Christian by Christ's Spirit tending thereto, and the special virtue which is contained in the death and sufferings of Christ to this purpose. Because ye are dead and risen with Christ, therefore "mortify your earthly members," etc. Thirdly, it is requisite also from that obedience which we owe to God in the whole course of our lives. No man can be alive to God, that is, perform lively service to Him, but he that is first dead to sin, that is, that hath sin and corruption first crucified and mortified in him. Fourthly, as an evidence of our justification and the forgiveness of our sins unto us. No man can be so comfortably assured that his sin is pardoned that does not find his sin mortified. Wherever sin remains in the power of it, it remains also in the guilt of it. To quicken and provoke us so much the more hereunto, let us take in these considerations with us. First, the command of God, who has laid this duty upon us. Secondly, our own interest and the great good which we reap from it, both in point of grace and comfort, and at last of salvation itself, as it follows afterwards in the text, where it is said, "Ye shall live." Thirdly, the evil of the contrary, and the great disparagement which lies upon sin unmortified. Sin it is an odious business in many respects, and hath sundry inconveniences with it. First, there is no true pleasure or contentment in it. Secondly, sin is also insatiable, and the more that men give way unto it the more it prevails still upon them. Thirdly, sin is deceitful and dangerous. It makes us slaves to Satan; it makes us enemies to God; it crucifies Christ; it fights against the soul. Now for the right performance of this duty, and that we may do it so as we should do, it is requisite for us to take notice of these three following rules, or directions, which conduce hereto. First, there must be a steadfast purpose of opposing and resisting of sin with might and main. Secondly, there must be a diligent heed for the avoiding of all occasions of sin and all inducements which lead thereunto. Thirdly, there must be a conscionable use of all such means as serve to the subduing of sin in us. What are they? First, a sober and moderate use of the creatures in those things which in their own nature are lawful and warrantable. Secondly, prayer and fasting; that is another help likewise. Thirdly, and principally, an act of faith in the death and sufferings of Christ. The second is the object of this duty, or the matter which it is conversant about. And that is here expressed to be the deeds of the body. What is the meaning of this? that is, indeed, the sins and miscarriages of the whole man. We are not here to take it in the limited sense only, but in the extended. This work of mortification, it begins first of all in the inward man, and so ends in the outward; only the outward is here mentioned and named. And it is said the deeds of the body expressly, because the body it is that wherein sin does especially show and discover itself; whereas the mind is not so easily discerned in the corruptions of it. So 2 Corinthians 5:10. The things which are done in the body, though comprehending the soul likewise, the actions of the whole person; and Colossians 3:9, the old man with his deeds. The third particular is the principle whence this duty doth proceed in us, or the means whereby we perform it. And that is here expressed to be the Spirit. "If ye by the Spirit," etc. By the Spirit we are here to understand the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit which is called so emphatically. Mortification of sin is the proper work of this Spirit in us, and is effected in no other way. The same Spirit that is active in quickening of us and in infusing of grace into us; the same Spirit is also active in mortifying of us and in killing of sin in us. This must needs be so upon these following considerations. First, from the strength and power of sin, and that rooting which it hath in the soul. None can overcome the strong man, but some one that is stronger than he indeed is. Secondly, from the proper means of the killing of sin in us, which, as we showed before, is the application of Christ's death unto us. Now, this is done only by the Spirit which is active in us to this purpose. Thirdly, from the covenant of grace which God hath made with all believers, which is to bestow His Spirit upon them to this purpose, as Ezekiel 36:27. The fourth, and last, is the benefit or reward consequent upon it. That is in these words, "Ye shall live." It holds good in all the notions and specifications of life whatsoever. First, of natural life, "Length of days is in her right hand " (Proverbs 3:16). Secondly, of spiritual life, "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith," etc. Thirdly, of eternal life (Romans 6:22), "Ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life." And Galatians 6:8, "He that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption."

(Thomas Horton, D.D.)

I. THE ACT — "Mortify."

1. Sin is active in the soul of an unregenerate man. Justification supposeth guilt, sanctification filth, mortification life, preceding those acts.

2. Nothing but the death of sin must content a renewed soul. No indulgence to be shown to it; not the loss of a member, but the loss of its life. As nothing but the death of Christ mould satisfy the justice of God, so nothing but the death of sin must satisfy the justice of the soul.

3. "Do mortify." The time present. As sin must have no pardon, so it must have no reprieve. Dangerous enemies must be handled with a quick severity.

4. "Do mortify." It notes a continued act. It must be a quick and an uninterrupted severity,

II. THE OBJECT — "The deeds of the body."

1. Mortification must be universal; not one deed, but deeds, little and great. Though the main battle be routed, yet the wings of an army may get the victory.

2. The body signifies corrupt nature, deeds are the products of it; all the sparks issue from the furnace within.

3. The greatest object of our revenge is within us. Our enemy has got possession of our souls, which makes the work more difficult. An enemy may better be kept out than cast out when he has got possession.

III. THE AGENTS — "ye," "the Spirit."

1. Man must be an agent in this work. We have brought this rebel into our souls, and God would have us make as it were some recompence by endeavouring to cast it out.

2. Through the Spirit.(1) Mortification is not the work of nature; it is a spiritual work. We must engage in the duel, but it is the strength of the Spirit only can render us victorious. The duty is ours, but the success is from God. We can sin of ourselves, but not overcome sin by ourselves.(2) The difficulty of this work is manifested by the necessity of the Spirit's efficacy. Not all the powers on earth, nor the strength of ordinances, can do it.

IV. THE PROMISE — "Ye shall live."

1. Heaven is a place for conquerors only (Revelation 3:21). He that will be sin's friend, cannot be God's favourite. There must be a combat before a victory, and a victory before a triumph.

2. The more perfect our mortification, the clearer our assurance of glory. The more sin dies, the more the soul lives.

3. Mortification is a sure sign of saving grace. It is a sign of the Spirit's indwelling and powerful acting, a sign of an approach to heaven.

(S. Charnock, B.D.)


1. A breaking of the league naturally held with sin (Ephesians 5:11; Hosea 14:8).

2. A declaration of open hostility. When leagues between princes are broken war ensues. This hostility begins in cutting off all the supplies of sin (Romans 13:14, etc.).

3. A powerful resistance, by using all the weapons of the Christian armoury (Ephesians 6:13, 14, etc.).

4. A killing of sin.


1. Negatively.(1) All cessation from some particular sin is not a mortification. It may only be —(a) An exchange. It may be a divorce from a sin odious to the world, and an embracing another that hath more specious pretences.(b) A cessation from some outward gross acts only, not from a want of will to sin. There may be pride, ambition, covetousness, uncleanness, when they are not externally acted; which is more dangerous, as infectious diseases are when they are hindered by cold from a kindly eruption, and strike inward to the heart, and so prove mortal.(c) A cessation merely because of the alteration of the constitution. Lust reigns in young men, but its empire decays in an old withered body; some plants which grow in hot countries will die in colder climates. Ambition decays in age when strength is wasted, but sprouts up in a young man. A present sickness may make an epicure nauseate the dainties which he would before rake even in the sea to procure.(d) A cessation may be forced by some forethoughts of death, some pang of conscience, or some judgment of God; which as a pain in one part of the body may take away a man's appetite, but when removed, his appetite returns.(e) A cessation from want of opportunity.(2) Restraints from sin are not mortification of it.(a) Mortification is always from an inward principle, restraints from an outward. A restraint is merely a pull back, by a stronger power, but mortification is from a strength given, a new mettle put into the soul (Ephesians 3:16).(b) Mortification proceeds from an anger with, and a hatred of, sin, whereas restraints are from a fear of the consequents of sin; as a man may love the wine, which is as yet too hot for his lips.(c) Mortification is a voluntary, rational work of the soul; restraints are not so.

2. Positively. The signs are —(1) When the beloved lust doth not stir upon a temptation that did usually excite, as it is a sign of the clearness of a fountain when after the stirring of the water the mud doth not appear; or as it is with a man that is sick — set the most savoury meat before him, if his appetite be not provoked, it is an argument of the strength of his distemper, and where it is lasting, of his approaching death. None will question the deadness of that tree at the root which doth not bud upon the return of the spring sun; nor need we question the weakness of that corruption which doth not stir upon the presenting a suitable temptation.(2) When we meet with few interruptions in duties of worship. Easy compliance with diversions is a sign of an unmortified frame; as it is the sign of much weakness in a person, and the strength of his distemper, when the least blow or jog makes him let go his hold of anything.(3) When we bring forth the fruits of the contrary graces. The more sweet and full fruit a tree bears, the more evidence there is of the weakness of those suckers which are about the root to hinder its generous productions.


1. Unsuitable to a state of glory (Colossians 1:12). Conformity to Christ is to fit us for heaven, He descended to the grave before He ascended; so our sins must die before our souls can mount. It is very unsuitable for sin's drudges to have a saint's portion. Every vessel must be emptied of its foul water before it can receive that which is clean. No man pours rich wine into old casks.

2. Such as God cannot delight in. To delight in such would be to have no delight in his own nature. To keep sin alive is to defend it against the will of God, and to challenge the combat with our Maker.

3. Against the whole design of the gospel. Rather than sin should not die, Christ would die Himself; it is therefore a high disesteem of Christ to preserve the life of sin, and if we defend what He died to conquer, how can we expect to enjoy what He died to purchase? For what the grace of the gospel doth more especially teach, read Titus 2:4; Psalm 5:4. It is an inseparable character of them that are Christ's, that "they have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts."Conclusion: Let us labour to mortify sin. If we will not be the death of sin, sin will be the death of our souls.

1. Implore the help of the Spirit.

2. Listen to His convictions.

3. Plead the death of Christ, the end of which was to triumph over sin.

4. Often think of Divine precepts.

5. Be jealous of our own hearts. Venture not to breathe in corrupt air, for fear of infection.

6. Bless God for whatsoever mortifying grace we have received.

(S. Charnock, B.D.)

I. WHAT IT IS TO MORTIFY. This word occurs but twice in the whole Scriptures — in the text, and in Colossians 3:5.

1. "To mortify" is now commonly used in a far less extreme sense than its original signification. Thus we speak of mortified pride, which has been simply disappointed of its passing object; whereas to mortify is to be in a process of death, though joined to something living — as a diseased limb may be mortified, while the other parts of the body are healthy; and it is only by the process of the healthy part of the body casting off from itself the mortified flesh, that the whole system can escape dissolution. In this sense we are to understand the mortification of the carnal and ungodly desires, which the power of Divine grace, the vital energy of the new creature, will enable it to cast from itself, and thereby save the soul alive, which the process of moral putrefaction had otherwise corrupted and slain. Hence the striking force of the injunctions — "Crucify the flesh"; "put away the old man"; "cast out the bondwoman"; "cut off the offending right hand," or "pluck out the right eye."

2. Then to mortify sin is not to deal equivocally with it, to fight against its practices and leave untouched the principle, as Saul slew the Amalekites, but spared Agag. To mortify sin is not merely to smite and oppose it, but to put it to death — to have "no confidence in the flesh" — to "yield no member to uncleanness" — to "deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts" — to "avoid the very appearance of evil" — to "let it not be so much as named among you as becometh saints." It means, that "if sinners entice, we are to consent not"; but in every sense to "be not overcome with evil," but to "resist the devil, and he will flee from us," clinging hard and fast by "the God of peace, who shall bruise Satan under our feet shortly."

II. WHAT IS TO BE MORTIFIED? "The deeds of the body" — that is, not one deed, but all, whether of the inward or of the outward man. This may be illustrated by the injunction — "If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out"; not that Jesus would have us literally maim the body which He created perfect. But as He had just been speaking of the adultery of the eye, as distinguished from, yet identified in guilt with the actual sin, and there called it "the adultery of the heart," His meaning is, that we should begin the cure of sin at the seat of the disease, the corrupt heart — that we should destroy the fruits of sin by plucking up the lust at its roots. What so delicate, so useful, or so expressive a feature as the right eye! But if rather than sin, and imperil the whole body, the right eye is to be plucked out, then we learn that the tenderest affections and the most necessary comforts that would impair the beauty of holiness are all to be sacrificed. Again, "If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off." The right hand is the emblem of dignity — Joseph sits at the right hand of Pharaoh; of power "Thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things"; of friendship — "To me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship"; of covenants — "Though Coniah were the signet on My right hand"; of industry and business — "Let my right hand forget her cunning."If, then, the "right hand" that casts a stumbling-block in our way is to be "cut off," then is the place of secular dignity to be resigned, if we find it lifting up our hearts above humility. And the post of power must be renounced if we discover that it has led us to forget our weakness apart from God. And the bond of friendship, if it has led us to soften down the points of distinction between the worldling and the believer, must be broken. And the covenant with ungodliness must be dissolved. Even industry in business may be in our way, and if so we must consent to mortification here. Better cut off the hand than lose the head; rather maim the body than mar the soul. If religion be worth anything, it is worth everything; therefore sacrifice anything but Christ.

III. BY WHOM THE DEEDS OF THE BODY ARE TO BE MORTIFIED? There are two agents — the one active, the Holy Spirit; the other passive, the believer himself. "If ye through the Spirit do mortify." We can do nothing without Him; He will do nothing without us.

IV. THE ANIMATING RESULT OF THE SUCCESSFUL CONFLICT WITH THE FLESH. "Ye shall live" a life of grace and holiness, of estrangement from the world and communion with God; of happiness, usefulness, and comfort on earth, and of glory and blessedness in heaven.

(J. B. Owen, M.A.)

1. We shall all agree, who have tried to do right and avoid wrong, that there goes on in us a strange struggle. We wish to do a right thing, and at the very same time long to do a wrong one, as if we were a better and a worse man struggling for the mastery. One may conquer, or the other. We may be like the drunkard who cannot help draining off his liquor, though he knows that it is going to kill him; or we may be like the man who conquers his love for drink, and puts the liquor away, because he knows that he ought not to take it. We know too well, many of us, how painful this inward struggle is. We all understand too well how Paul was ready at times to cry. "Oh wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" We can understand too the parable of Plato, who says, that the soul of man is like a chariot, guided by a man's will, but drawn by two horses — the one horse white, beautiful and noble, well-broken and winged, always trying to rise and fly upward with the chariot toward heaven; but the other black, evil, and unmanageable, always trying to rush downward, and drag the chariot and the driver into hell.

2. In the text St. Paul explains this struggle. First, there is a flesh in us — that is, an animal nature. We come into the world as animals do-eat, drink, sleep as they do — have the same passions as they have — and our carnal bodies die exactly as they die. But are we nothing more? God forbid. We know that to be a man we must be something more than a mere brute — for when we call any one a brute, what do we mean? That he has given himself up to his animal nature till the man in him is dead, and only the brute remains. Our giving way to the same selfish, shameless passions, which we see in the lower animals, is letting the "brute" in us conquer. The shameless and profligate person — the man who beats his wife — or ill-treats his children — or in any wise tyrannises over those who are weaker than himself, gives way to the "brute" within him. He who grudges, envies, tries to aggrandise himself at his neighbour's expense — he too gives way to the "brute" within him, and puts on the likeness of the dog which snatches and snarls over his bone. He who spends his life in cunning plots and mean tricks, gives way to the "brute" in him, just as much as the fox or ferret. And those, let me say, who, without giving way to those grosset vices, let their minds be swallowed up with vanity, always longing to be seen and looked at, and wondering what folks will say of them, they too give way to the flesh, and lower themselves to the likeness of animals. As vain as a peacock, says the old proverb. And what shall we say of them who like the swine live only for eating and drinking and enjoyment? Or what of those who like the butterflies spend all their time in frivolous amusement? Do not all these in some way or other live after the flesh? And do they not fulfil St. Paul's words, "If ye live after the flesh ye shall die"?

3. But some one will say — "Of course we shall all die — good and bad alike." Then why does our Lord say, "He that liveth and believeth in Me shall never die"? And why does St. Paul say, "If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body ye shall live"? Let us look at the text again. "If ye live after the flesh ye shall die." If you give way to those animal passions you shall die; not merely your bodies — they will die in any case — the animals do — for animals they are, and as animals die they must. But over and above that, you yourselves shall die — your character, your manhood or your womanhood, your immortal soul will die. There is a second death to which that first death of the body is a mere trivial and harmless accident, and that may begin in this life, and if it be not stopped and cured in time, may go on for ever.

4. This is the dark side of the matter. But there is also a bright side. "If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live." If you will be true to your better selves, if you will listen to and obey the Spirit of God, when He puts into your hearts good desires, and makes you long to be just and true, pure and sober, kind and useful. If you will cast away and trample under foot animal passions, low vices, you shall live. You shall live, your very soul and self for ever — all that is merciful, kind, pure, noble, useful — in one word, all in you that is like Christ, like God, that is spirit and not flesh, shall live for ever. So it must be, for "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." Those who let the Spirit of God lead them upward instead of letting their own animal nature drag them downward, are the sons of God. And how can a son of God perish? How can he perish, who like Christ is full of the fruits of the Spirit? — of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance? The world did not give them to him, and the world cannot take them from him. They were not bestowed on him at his bodily birth — neither shall they be taken from him at his bodily death.

5. Choose, especially you who are young and entering into life. Remember the parable of the old heathen. Choose in time whether the better horse shall win or the worse. And let no one tell you, "We shall do a great many wrong things before we die. Every one does that; but we hope we shall be able to make our peace with God before we die." That kind of religion has done more harm than most kinds of irreligion. It tells you to take your chance of beginning at the end. Common sense tells you that the only way to get to the end is by beginning at the beginning, which is now. Do not talk about making your peace with God some day — like a naughty child playing truant till the last moment, and hoping that the schoolmaster may forget to punish it.

(Charles Kingsley, M.A.)

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
We are led not as brute beasts, but as reasonable creatures; not as though we do nothing, but lest we should do no good thing. Neither are we led against our will, but in the leading made willing to be led; so willing, that when God hath once breathed His grace unto us, we cannot resist, but earnestly desire to be led. And yet is not the nature of the will Overthrown. But as orators by their eloquence do rule in the mind of their auditors, so God much more effectually draws us to desire Christ, and affect the gospel. If a covetous man were offered to take what he would of a heap of gold, no man doubts but he would gladly embrace such occasion, though simply and absolutely it were in his power to refuse it. So our Heavenly Father doth so commodiously show us the riches of His grace, so lovingly doth He invite us to receive it, and so aptly doth He exhort us, that He doth persuade us, without any impairing of our wills; so a beast with provender, children with nuts, and every one is led or drawn by his pleasure.

(Elnathan Parr, B.D.)


1. "Led." Not drawn by rope, not hauled, but led.

2. Yea, more — gladly led. It is not the leading of the sulky horse behind the dray, pulling and being pulled, but of one following along with dangling halter. It is not the picture of him who says, "my name is down on the church-book — that is enough," but of him who says, "Here am I, Lord; send me." This is the test of our discipleship — if we go gladly.

II. LEADERSHIP OF THE SPIRIT IS POSSIBLE. There are those who doubt this. They say, "How can God influence us this way or that?" Well, look at the things that do influence us. Sometimes we are all down with the blues. It is not that we are weaker than usual, but some influence from the outside world is moving upon us. The market has gone wrong, politicians are sending the country to ruin, etc. At other times other influences come to us. The silent trees swaying gently in the wind, or the smooth surface of some quiet lake soothes us; and if the things of nature can so affect us, cannot the Creator? Then surrender to Him. Open your heart, and He will come in and reign.

III. GOD WILL LEAD HIS CHILDREN. The other night you heard a faint knock at the door, and when it was opened there stood a timid little beggar girl with a pinched, wan face, and as you looked down at her she said something about bread. By and by the door burst open and in came a great big boy. He bounded across the room, jumped upon your knee, flung his arm around your neck and, plunging his hand into your pocket, helped himself. So we who are led by the Spirit do not go to God as beggars, but as His own sons, whom He receiveth as a father receiveth his children. Conclusion:

1. Led by the Spirit! So let us live, work, believe, enjoy and triumph by the Spirit.

2. He comes into our hearts as the old warriors used to go into a city. When they had broken through the wall they marched straight for the citadel. Merchants, when they entered, went about, this way and that, through the streets. But the conqueror went first to the citadel, and, when he had taken that, he sent one platoon down this street to clear out the enemy there, and another down that street to drive out that body, until all were driven out; then he had the city in his grasp, and he ruled over it. So when the Spirit comes into our hearts it goes straight to the conscience and lays hold on that, then it sends a truth down this way to drive out this passion, and another that way to subdue that jealousy, and another that other way to quell that rebellion. Then, when all is driven out, He makes His abode in that heart, and becomes its counsellor, guide and ruler for ever.

(C. H. Fowler, D.D.)


1. Distinctions premised.(1) It is either common or peculiar. There is a leading which extends to all creatures. For all of them, by His Divine power, are to the glory of the Creator and the good of the universe. This also may be said to extend to all men; as He, the first Cause and Sovereign (Acts 17:28), in a common and providential way, orders all their several actions. Now, most certainly, this is not that "leading" in the text, for many are thus "led by the Spirit" who yet are far from being "the sons of God"! The leading here intended is, therefore, peculiar to God's people.(2) The special leading of the Spirit is extraordinary or ordinary. Prophets and apostles were "led by the Spirit" as they were immediately inspired and guided by Him in their work (2 Peter 1:21). But this was extraordinary, and so limited and temporary. The latter leading appertains to all God's children, and at all times.(3) This act of the Spirit may be considered either as it is exerted at conversion or after. He leads at and in order to conversion; as He irradiates the mind, inclines the will, spiritualises the affections, and so leads the whole soul to God and Christ. Then He leads all along in the whole course of a Christian's life.(4) There is the having of the Spirit, and the leading of the Spirit (ver. 9). Now, although these be inseparable, yet they are distinct. To "have the Spirit" is to be made a possessor of Him in His indwelling in us; to be "led by the Spirit" is our partaking of His directive influence, after we are made possessors of Him.

2. The special acts included in the Spirit's leading.(1) Something on the Spirit's part.(a) His special guidance (Isaiah 30:21; Isaiah 48:17; Isaiah 58:11; Isaiah 61:8; Psalm 25:5; 37:23; 83:24; 143:10). What the cloud was to the Israelites, what the guide is to the traveller who knows not his way, that the Spirit of God is to believers.(b) His powerful inclination. He leads not only by a naked guidance or directive light (Colossians 1:9; Ephesians 5:10), but also by the efficacious inclining of the heart, the bowing and bending of the will, the overpowering of the affections, to close with and follow His guidance in the doing of what is good, and in the shunning of what is evil (Psalm 119:35, 36).(c) His co-operation and corroboration. When one leads another both have their proper action and motion, and both unite and concur therein (Isaiah 26:12; Philippians 2:12, 13). So His leading resembles the mother's or nurse's leading the child. They take it by the hand, hold it up, join their strength with its weakness; and so they enable it to go (ver. 26; Ephesians 3:16).(d) His Agency. Where He governs, there He leads. It is like a general leading an army: they are subject to his will, steered by him in their motions, as the ship is by the pilot, or the chariot by him that drives it.(2) Something on the creatures' part. And that is their yielding up of themselves to this guidance. Without this, it is not "leading"; for that imports motion after something that goes before. And that motion must be voluntary, or else it is being dragged, not "led" (Isaiah 2:3; Song of Solomon 1:4).

3. Four things opened about the Spirit's leading.(1) What the Spirit leads unto — truth and holiness (John 16:13; Ephesians 5:9; Psalm 23:3). This holiness includes holy affections, the exercise of the several graces (2 Thessalonians 3:5), and the avoiding and mortifying of sin (Romans 8:13).(2) The rule by which He leads — the written Word (Proverbs 6:22, 23; Psalm 119:105, 133; Micah 6:8), which is the Christian compass by which he must steer his course, the star that must direct him in all his motions (Isaiah 8:20). The Spirit gives light and life to the Word; and the Word gives evidence that the guidance is from the Spirit.(3) The manner of His leading.(a) With power and efficacy. The person led shall certainly follow Him (Ezekiel 26:27; Jeremiah 31:18).(b) With all sweetness and gentleness. The will is determined, but so as that not the least violence is done to it, to the infringing of its liberty (Psalm 110:3; Hosea 2:14).(4) The extent of His leading.(a) In regard of the subject or person led. It extends to the whole man; first to the soul, understanding, will, and affections, and then to the body, yea, to the whole conversation.(b) In regard of the object or matter that the Spirit leads unto. The whole duty of a Christian; to all that he is to know, believe, and do.(c) In regard of the degree and measure of it. All have the thing in the necessary and substantial part of it, yet some have more and some less.


1. What inducements are there to excite men to attain and live under this leading?(1) The excellency of the thing. The person leading, the great Spirit of God; the act, Divine and supernatural leading; the object, the loving of God, delighting in God, conformity to God.(2) The necessity of it. What becomes of the blind man that has none to guide him? of the weak child that has none to uphold it?(3) As the natural guide is defective and insufficient, so there are other guides which are destructive and damnable. Such as Satan, depraved nature, indwelling sin, the flesh, the world.(4) Weigh the way and manner of the Spirit's leading —

(a)With great exactness and wisdom (Isaiah 11:2; Psalm 32:8).

(b)With infinite truth and faithfulness (Proverbs 4:11; Genesis 24:27, 48; Psalm 107:7).

(c)Safely, in reference both to the way and to the end (Psalm 78:53).(5) The blessings that result from this leading.

(a)Inward peace and comfort.

(b)A readiness to all duties of holiness.

(c)Sonship to God.

(d)The glory and blessedness of heaven (Psalm 73:24).

2. How may this leading of the Spirit be attained?(1) There must be the having of the Spirit before there can be the leading of the Spirit. Therefore attend upon the gospel, by which He is conveyed.(2) The first leading of the Spirit must be had before the secondary leading. He must first lead you to God by conversion.(3) Be willing to follow the motions of the Spirit.(4) Let your dependence be upon God and His Spirit for guidance (Psalm 25:9; Proverbs 3:5, 6; Job 18:7; Proverbs 20:24).(5) Pray much for this grace of the Spirit (Psalm 143:10).

3. What duties are incumbent upon those who are led by the Spirit?(1) They should more and more follow the leadings of the Spirit.

(a)More exactly (Numbers 9:18, 21).

(b)More fully (Numbers 16:24).

(c)More uniformly and constantly.

(d)More readily and freely.

(e)So as to make further progress in the way.

(f)With stronger resolution and purpose of heart.(2) Let it be your great and constant care and endeavour to get the Spirit's leading continued to you.(3) Labour after the having of the leading of the Spirit in a higher degree and measure.(4) So live as that it may appear to others that you are led by this Spirit.(5) Be very thankful for this glorious mercy.

4. May such who are led by the Spirit fetch comfort from it? Undoubtedly —(1) It is a clear evidence, a deciding argument, of your being the sons of God.(2) As it is certain evidence of sonship here, so it is a certain pledge of heaven and salvation hereafter.

(J. Jacomb, D.D.)

(Isaiah 42:16, and text): — Both Isaiah and St. Paul affirm the reality of a very intimate and tender connection between good men and God. There is a leading and a being led — with a privilege mysteriously grand, growing out of that relation. So far the two writers agree. What is it, then, that distinguishes them?

I. ISAIAH REPRESENTS THAT MORE ADVANCED CULTURE, IN THE ELDER CHURCH, where the original meaning of the revelation at Sinai had begun to come out into a clearness approaching that of the gospel-day. More confiding impressions of the unseen Father were certainly stealing into the soul Hence comes the promise of Divine guidance, personal and gentle.

1. There is no one that has not found out by rough experience that there are crooked things in his life which need to be made straight, and dark places which need to be made light. This common need of heavenly leading puts us into one company with those Hebrews, and makes us prize the promise that was so comforting to them.

2. This instinct which desires and follows leadership is nearly universal, and religion employs it to train our best attachments and confidences up to heaven. With all his self-reliance and self-will man likes to trust and follow a leader. It appears among bands of youth, in exploring parties in political combinations and social reforms, and especially in the military spirit.

3. The next step shows us this guiding love of the Heavenly Father as independent of anything that we think, or do, or feel. It leads us in paths that we had not known. It deals with us as a mother handles her child just beginning to know only her face or her voice (see Isaiah 45:5). We were too infantile in the childhood of our spiritual life to know God when He took us up. Who of us cannot recall some trying time when the utter dismay came over him of not knowing what way to take — the sun gone down, human helpers away or feeble, human advisers indifferent or undecided? But God was there before us, and when we waited on Him we found He was waiting for us; and then, very often, the one path which, of all those that opened, was the least inviting was the one into which He led our unwilling feet.

4. God goes invisibly before His child, like the good shepherd of the Eastern pastures, to reassure the alarmed and doubting, to take. the briers and stones and to scare the beasts out of the way, to straighten what is crooked, to hold a lamp over the dark passages among the rocks, to lead those that have faith enough to be willing to be led in paths that they have not known.


1. We see at once that there is an advance into another plane of religious thought. Instead of Jehovah we are told of "the Spirit." Then, instead of being taught of a mere outward change wrought by this leading, there is a transformation of our whole interior nature and condition. They who were before merely creatures and servants, or children only as by creation, become children in a new and profounder way. Nothing is taken away that Isaiah had said, only much is added.

2. What is signified by being "led by the Spirit"? In the Greek there are two terms for "leading." The one signifies a violent and rather irregular act of propelling a body — a driving or pushing on as by winds or waves. This St. Peter uses when he speaks of the moving of the minds of the Old Testament saints by the mind of God. The other, employed in the text, refers to an even, constant, unbroken force, acting not less powerfully because it acts gently and steadily; the leading of a Spirit who abides, always at His gracious work on the heart, in His chamber within it, and does not come and go. You can illustrate this by any mother walking with a little child or shepherd with sheep. The hireling, who only follows after, and, when the charge wanders or falls into danger, hurries up and catches hold irregularly, pushing the body here and there over a hollow or through a thicket, does not lead as that blessed Comforter leads. "He shall abide with you for ever, even the Spirit of Truth," etc.

3. What, then, is the peculiar privilege of those who are so led? "They are the sons of God." How can it be? There is one only-begotten Son of God, becoming also the Son of man, born of Mary, our humanity being for ever taken up into His Divinity and glorified by it. It is only by our spiritual union with Him, that we, in a secondary sense, yet a most vital and precious one, are made also "sons of God." Hence the expressions "Spirit of God" and "Spirit of Christ" and "Holy Spirit" are often used as equivalent. Christ gives the Comforter. When He is received into the heart a new nature is born; a Son of God, in the image of Christ. Here "the Spirit" is not a mere influence exerted on character as by a foreign benefactor; it is an inwrought and essential principle of the believer's life. He is a new creature, a son. And as there are two New Testament terms in the original, to signify two kinds of leading, so there are two to signify children. One has reference to mere natural descent or begetting, irrespective of any tender, filial feeling, The other, used when sons of God in Christ are intended, includes an affectionate and sacred dependence, or lovingness of the child's and the parent's heart. The tree may take an influence from the sun, and that foreign influence tends to make the tree tall, vigorous, green, and fruitful. But the tree is not the child of the sun.

4. With this comes a special characteristic of our service to Christ. It is not a service of compulsion or restraint, rendered "grudgingly or of necessity." It is labour in a free and joyous spirit, such as befits the thankful receivers of an unspeakable gift in its true character. Wise employers always select workmen that love their work. This distinction between sonship and servantship runs through all that pertains to a Christian's obedience.

(Bp. Huntington.)


1. Our answer must depend on our idea of the nature of the Spirit of God and His relations to us. Men speak of the Spirit as a mere influence, an effect of the outgoing of Divine energy. But, according to the New Testament, the Spirit of God is God, regarded especially as within us and in communion with our spirits. His presence is not discerned by mystic signs: we do not see it in a burning bush or in cloven tongues of fire, we do not hear it in a mighty rushing wind, or in a still small voice; but as we do not sea the air above us, nor even hear it in the calm of summer, yet we perceive its existence by the gentle stirring of the trees, the strong flight of birds, the slow sailing of great clouds; so the unseen and silent Spirit reveals His presence by the life He brings, the influence He exerts.

2. The leadership of the Spirit must be regarded as the influence which is thus exerted over the souls of men, and freely yielded to by them. All who choose to follow are led. It depends upon our will and action (ver. 13). It implies following the Spirit —(1) As a guide for the intellect — seeking light in prayer, and humbly searching the inspired Scriptures.(2) As a leader for the will, and yielding self-will to the voice of God in the conscience and in revealed law.(3) As the loving presence of God, with the over-ruling of earthly passion by the love of God.

II. THE PRIVILEGES OF DIVINE SONSHIP TO WHICH THE LEADERSHIP OF THE SPIRIT INTRODUCES US. By nature we are all God's children, and cannot cease to be so. Yet we may be practically orphans when we wander far from our Father and live in rebellion against Him. To be reconciled to God is practically to be made sons again in a fuller sense than that in which unfallen man was a son in the ignorance and tutelage of childhood. St. Paul regards this as an adoption (ver. 15), St. John as a second birth (John 1:12). The effects of this are many and great.

1. Liberty in deliverance —

(1)From the bondage of sin,

(2)From the slave-like obedience of the subjects of mere law (2 Corinthians 3:17).

2. Security from fear, either —

(1)Of God as an avenging judge, or —

(2)of any evil in life, since now we are safe in our Father's care (ver. 15).

3. Restoration of the love of God in our hearts. We now cry, "Abba, Father." This restoration is the source of our deepest joy.

4. Heirship of glory (ver. 17). The son is not simply saved, he is honoured. The returned prodigal is not treated as a hired servant, but as a privileged child (Luke 15:22, 23).

(W. F. Adeney, M.A.)

Man is a traveller to the eternal world. Left to self-guidance he possesses vast and uncontrollable powers of self-destruction. What is he without a guide in the wilderness, a pilot on the ocean? Some recognise no other spirit, and are guided by no other spirit, than the spirit of the world — i.e., by the "god of this world."


1. He knows the path to heaven — all its intricacies and dangers: the sunken rock, the treacherous quicksand, the concealed pit, the subtle snare, the windings, and intricacy, and straitness of the way. It is utterly impossible, then, that He should mislead.

2. He knows His own work in the soul All its light and shade, its depressions and revivings, its assaults and victories, are vivid to His eye. Dwelling in that heart He knows where wisely to supply a cheek, or gently to administer a rebuke, or tenderly to whisper a promise, or sympathetically, to soothe a sorrow, or effectually to aid an incipient resolve, or strengthen a wavering purpose, or confirm a fluctuating hope.


1. It assumes —(1) The existence of spiritual life in those He leads. He does not undertake to lead a spiritual corpse, a soul dead in sins, The leading of the Spirit, then, is His acting upon His own life in the soul.(2) Entire inability to lead themselves. What can we see of truth, of providence, of God's mind and will, of ourselves?

2. It involves leading as —(1) From ourselves — from all reliance on our own righteousness, and strength. But this divorce from the principle of self is the work of a life. And who but this Divine Spirit could so lead us away from self, in all its forms, as to constrain us to trample all our own glory in the dust? But more: He leads us from an opposite extreme of self — from a despairing view of our personal sinfulness. How many walk in painful and humiliating bondage from not having thus been sufficiently led out of themselves! Thus from sinful self, as from righteous self, the Spirit leads us —(2) To Christ. Are we guilty? — the Spirit leads us to the blood of Jesus. Are we weary? — the Spirit leads us to abide in Jesus. Are we sorrowful? — the Spirit leads us to the sympathy of Jesus. Are we tempted? — the Spirit leads us to the protection of Jesus. Are we sad and desolate? — the Spirit leads us to the tender love of Jesus. Are we poor, empty, and helpless? — the Spirit leads us to the fulness of Jesus. The holy Spirit is our Comforter, but the holy Jesus is our comfort.(3) To truth — "He shall guide you into all truth." Though many claim Him as their Teacher, He disowns them as His disciples. Tossed from opinion to opinion, perplexed by conflicting creeds, are you anxiously inquiring, "What is truth?" commit yourself to the guidance of the Spirit. He can harmonise apparent contradictions, reconcile alleged discrepancies, clear away overshadowing mists, and place each doctrine, precept, and institution clear before your mind.(4) To all holiness. As the "Spirit of holiness," it is his aim to deepen the impress of the restored image of God in the soul, to increase our happiness by making us more holy, and to advance our holiness by making us more like God. All His unfoldings of Christ, views of God, rebukes, joys, have this for their object — the perfection of us in holiness.(5) To all comfort. If sorrows abound, consolation much more abounds, since "the Comforter" is the Holy Ghost. He comforts by applying the promises — by leading to Christ — by bending the will in deep submission to God — and by unveiling to faith's far-seeing eye the glories of a sorrowless, tearless, sinless world.(6) To glory. There He matures the kingdom, and perfects the building, and completes the temple He commenced and occupied on earth. In conclusion: Beware of being guided by any other than the Spirit of God. The temptation is strong of being biassed by the profound research, the distinguished talents, the exalted piety, and admired example of men. But this must not be. It is inconsistent with the honour that belongs, and with the love that we owe, to the Spirit. "Thou shalt guide me by Thy counsel, and afterwards receive me to glory."

(O. Winslow, D.D.)


1. Leads and instructs in the way of salvation (John 16:7-10). He is infinitely wise, powerful, good, etc., and therefore His guidance will be perfect.

2. To a perception of our lost and ruined condition. The methods are various — meditation, personal affliction, the prayers of Christians, some sermon, etc.

3. To contrition. Sin now appears in all its hateful qualities and effects; as that which has offended God, which condemns, curses, and defiles the soul. The Spirit leads to "godly sorrow, which worketh repentance unto salvation," etc.

4. To a discovery of Christ as the Saviour (John 16:13, 14). He removes "the veil on the heart," dispels prejudice, and affords that inward and Divine light by which alone Christ is perceived for saving purposes (Galatians 1:16).(1) Christ's greatness and dignity. Sinners have very mean thoughts of Christ.(2) The power of Christ to save, as the end of the law for righteousness, the great atonement, our "Wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption."

5. To the exercise of saving faith in Christ.

6. So He renovates the mind, deadens the soul to sin, and disposes it to holy obedience and love (Titus 3:4, 5).

II. THE PRIVILEGE OF GOD'S PEOPLE: "They are the sons of God." Consider —

1. The names by which they are distinguished — "sons and children of God," a "chosen generation," a "royal priesthood," "kings and priests unto God."

2. Their liberty. They were under the dominion of sin, the tyranny of Satan, the curse of the law, and consequently the sting of death.

3. "All things are theirs."

4. Christ is engaged to protect and defend them.

5. They have free and certain access to God as their Father (Romans 5:2; Ephesians 3:12).

6. They enjoy a title to an everlasting inheritance (Galatians 3:29: Romans 8:17; 1 John 3:1, 2).


1. They are sensible of their ignorance and weakness, and recognise the enlightening and strengthening energy of the Spirit.

2. They are careful not to "quench " or "grieve" the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19; Ephesians 4:30).

3. They pray for that influence.

4. In the discharge of all their duties they seek His aid.

5. They have the inward witness of the Spirit (ver. 16), and the "fruits of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22).

(J. J. S. Bird, B.A.)


1. To repentance.

2. He leads them, while they think little of themselves, to think much of Jesus. If the Holy Ghost has never made Christ precious to you, you know nothing about Him.

3. When the Spirit has glorified Jesus He leads us to know other truths. He leads the sons of God into all truth. On the other hand, truth is like a closed chamber to the unregenerate man.

4. The children of God are led not only into knowledge, but into love. The Spirit causes every true-born son of God to burn with love to the rest of the family. "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." And not only so, but He leads us into intense love for the souls of sinners. If any man shall say, "It is no business of mine whether men are lost or saved," the Spirit of God never led him into such inhumanity.

5. The Spirit leads the sons of God into holiness. If you are proud, covetous, lustful after worldly gain, false in your statements, and unjust in your actions, the Holy Ghost never led you there. If I find a child of God mixing with the ungodly, using their speech, and doing their actions, I am persuaded the Holy Ghost never led him there. But if I see a man devout before God, and full of integrity before men, I know that the Spirit of God is his leader. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace."

6. Into vital godliness — the mystic essence of spiritual life. For instance, the Holy Ghost leads the saints to prayer, which is the vital breath of their souls.

7. Into usefulness, some in one path, and some in another, while a few are conducted into very eminent service. II you are doing nothing for Jesus the Spirit of God has never led you into this idleness.


1. We cannot explain His mode of operation, but probably it is somewhat in the same way in which our spirits operate upon other men's spirits. We act upon matter by machinery, but upon mind by argument, by instruction, and so we endeavour to fashion men as we desire.(1) One great instrument which the Holy Ghost uses upon the mind is the Word of God. Quote chapter and verse for an action, and, unless you have wrested the passage, you may rest assured you have acted rightly.(2) The Spirit also speaks through His ministers. The Word preached is often blest, as well as the Word written, but this can only be the case when the Word preached is in conformity with the Word written.(3) He directly, apart from the Word, speaks in the hearts of the saints. There are inward monitions which are to be devoutly obeyed, guidances mysterious, which must be implicitly followed. There will come to you sometimes, you know not why, certain inward checks, such as Paul received when he essayed to go into Mysia, but the Spirit suffered him not. At another time a proper thing comes upon you strongly that it is to be done at once, and for some reason you cannot shake off the impression. Do no violence to that impulse.

2. Note that the Spirit "leads." The text does not say, "As many as are driven by the Spirit of God." No, the devil is a driver. Whenever you see a man fanatical and wild, whatever spirit is in him it is not the Spirit of Christ.


1. He would always lead them, but, alas, there are times when they will not be led. They are wilful and headstrong, and start aside.

2. The healthy condition of a child of God is to be always led by the Spirit of God. Not on Sundays only, nor alone at periods set apart for prayer, but during every minute of every hour of every day. We ought to be led by the Spirit in little things as well as in great. If only one action apart from the Spirit were suffered to run to its full results, it would ruin us. A pilot who only occasionally directs the ship is very little better than none. Child of God, the Spirit must lead you in everything.

3. "Well, but," say you, "will He?" Yes. When you are in difficulties, consult the Holy Spirit in the Word. If no light comes from thence kneel down and pray. Cast yourself upon the Divine guidance, and you shall make no mistake. The Lord will never let a vessel be dashed upon the rocks whose tiller has been given into His hands. Conclusion: Use the text —

1. As a test. Am I a child of God? If so, I am led by the Spirit.

2. As a consolation. If you are a child of God you will be led by the Spirit.

3. As an assurance. If you are led by the Spirit of God then you are most certainly a son of God.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

The Spirit is everywhere present. He controls all the operations of nature. He operates on the minds of men, endowing and controlling them. He specially operates on the children of God —

1. In renewing them.

2. In imbuing them continually with a new life.

3. In determining their inward and outward life.

I. WHAT IS MEANT BY BEING LED BY THE SPIRIT? It is not by blind suggestions or impulses. It is not by a miraculous or abnormal operation, directing what text the eye shall fall upon. The Spirit is the determining principle of the life, and His leading —

1. Is consistent with our rational nature, liberty, and responsibility.

2. Mingles with our consciousness, and determines it, but cannot be distinguished from it.

3. Is not always irresistible. Hence men are said to resist, grieve, quench the Holy Spirit.


1. The knowledge of the truth — not by inspiration or revelation, but illumination.

2. The love of truth, or the conformity of our hearts to the standard of God's will.

3. The conformity of our outward life to the will of God.(1) It leads to the government of the tongue, the control of the passions, the ordering of the conduct.(2) It gives right views and motives to determine us in all emergencies.(3) It enables us to choose that Christian work for which we are best qualified.


1. What is meant by the sons of God? Those who —(1) Partake of His nature by regeneration.(2) Are adopted into His family and made the objects of His parental care and heirs of His kingdom.(3) Governed by a filial as opposed to a slavish spirit.

2. Why are such led by the Spirit? Because(1) Submission to the spirit of our whole inward and outward life is the only evidence of our sonship.(2) The Holy Spirit is in His nature the Spirit of adoption. He is not a servile Spirit, but the Spirit of the Son, and therefore sent into sons. Those only who are actuated by this filial Spirit are the sons of God, i.e., are such in their inward character and temper.(3) In so far as sonship involves the idea of exaltation, power, blessing, etc., the indwelling of the Spirit is the immediate source of all these distinctions.


1. We must renounce our own guidance and that of others, whether of the world, Church, or individuals.

2. We must submit to, and have full faith in, the guidance of the Spirit.

(C. Hodge, D.D.)

I. A PRIVILEGE — to be the sons of God. The glory of children is their fathers (Proverbs 17:6); but the privilege is not only of honour but of profit (ver. 17). All God's children are heirs, as all are partakers of the Divine nature. They have —

1. A spiritual right to all the creatures — "All things are yours."

2. An interest in God Himself, and in His promises, mercies, etc.

3. Right to guardianship of angels (Psalm 91:11; Matthew 18:10; Hebrews 1:14). What a safeguard against the powers of darkness!

4. A claim to eternal glory (Colossians 1:12; Matthew 25:34). In comparison with this how poor the thoughts of men! "How may I get a good bargain, enjoy myself, be revenged on my enemy?" rather than, "How shall I become a child of God?"

II. THE QUALIFICATION. "So many as are led," etc. It is not enough to be the sons of God, unless we know ourselves to be so.

1. How shall we know ourselves to be the sons of God? There are many signs besides the one here mentioned, as —(1) Every child is like His Father, It is not so in carnal generation always. But you must try your spiritual sonship by this rule — your Heavenly Father is holy (1 Peter 1:15, 16), merciful, righteous, slow to anger, abhors all manner of evil; are we like that, or the reverse?(2) Bears a filial love to His Father. His love to us is infinite (Psalm 103:13); what return do we make? We can perhaps talk largely of our love, but if we loved Him could we estrange ourselves from His interest, hear His sacred name blasphemed, etc.(3) Reverence Him.

(a)As for his actions, he dares not do anything wilfully that would displease Him (Malachi 1:6).

(b)As for his sufferings, he receives them submissively as corrections.(4) Depends on His provision, expecting such patrimony as He shall bestow upon him, and waiting for it patiently.(5) Is led by His Spirit; which brings us to —

2. What it is to be led by the Spirit of God. In leading there must be a hand to guide and a foot to follow; good motions on God's part, and motions to good on ours. Every man is led by some spirit; one by a spirit of error (1 Timothy 4:1), another by the spirit of giddiness (Isaiah 19:14), another by the spirit of bondage, another by the spirit of the world (1 Corinthians 2:12), and all, besides, by the unclean spirit. Let us see, then, how a man may know that he is led by the Spirit of God. He leads —(1) In a right way, the way of God's commandments. All other ways are crooked, as deviating from the straight line of righteousness.(2) By a just rule — the Word of truth. Uncertain and variable traditions, private and ungrounded revelations which cross this recorded will of God, are the deceitful guides of the spirit of error.(3) Sweetly and gently. Those who are carried with furious impetuousness are not led by the spirit of meekness.(4) Progressively, from grace to grace and virtue to virtue, whereas passion goes by sudden flashes.(5) To life, whereas other spirits, the flesh included, lead to death.

III. THE CONNECTION OF THIS QUALIFICATION WITH THE PRIVILEGE. How far does the leading of God's Spirit evince our sonship. If we would have a comfortable assurance we must be led by the Spirit in —

1. Judgment (John 16:13), i.e., into all saving and necessary truths; so as to free us from gross ignorance and error.

2. Disposition. If the Spirit have wrought our hearts to be right with God in all our affections we may be assured that we are His sons.

3. Practice (Ezekiel 36:27).

(Bp. Hall.)

I. WHAT IS MEANT BY BEING LED BY THE SPIRIT? It is as if a blind man had asked the way to a certain city, and one had not only told him of it, but taken him by the hand to lead him therein. Or it is as if a little child in the dark had not only asked direction from his father, but had seized that father's hand, so to trust implicitly to his guidance (see also Psalm 23. 2-4; 143:10). This leading by the Spirit is —

1. A practical thing. If the Spirit leads us it is to govern and control our Words and actions (Titus 2:10-15; Isaiah 48:17, 18; Galatians 5:16-25; 1 John 3:1-10).

2. A work of inward influence and sweet secret suasion of all our moral being. True, there is a law, but it is a law of liberty — a commandment which love delights to obey, "Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty," not licentiousness; that liberty which consists not of freedom from moral obligation, but of disposition to comply with such obligation (Psalm 119:32).

3. Thorough. and perfect, steadily and continuously maintained. Do not confound with it transient emotions, occasional convictions, fitful resolutions, and short-lived periods of a reformation of life.

4. "According to the Scriptures," and is maintained through the habit and exercise of prayer. Here is nothing mystical, fanciful, fanatical. All is sober and rational, as it is sacred and solemn.

II. THE HIGH PRIVILEGE OF THOSE WHO ARE LED BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD. They are the sons of God (2 Corinthians 6:18). God is our Father —

1. Nominally. He calls us His children, and we may call Him our Father. A formal act and covenant of adoption is entered into, whereby our Maker assumes in our favour a parental position and name, and we are permitted to believe in His paternal relation to us, to talk about it, and to act upon it (John 1:12, 13; Galatians 4:4, 5; 1 John 3:1).

2. Really God does more than call us children. He makes us so. We are His by regeneration as well as adoption, by a new birth as well as by a new title. Just as children resemble their parents in physical form and feature, and so prove themselves partakers of their nature, so do the sons of God resemble Him in moral lineaments, in spirit and disposition, and thus prove themselves partakers of His nature.

3. Effectively. Our Father treats us as His sons. He feels a parent's sympathy for us, and He fulfils all a parent's duty. He provides for us, defends us, extricates us out of our difficulties, instructs us, corrects us, makes us privy to His plans, and will eventually take us home to Himself, that we may dwell for ever in our Father's house.Conclusion:

1. If led by God's Spirit, rejoice in the thought of your Divine sonship.

2. As God's children let us evermore seek to be led by His Spirit.

(T. G. Horton.)First, to take notice of the property itself here mentioned which is to be led by the Spirit of God, where we may observe that there is such a thing indeed in the world as this is, which some persons are partakers of. There is a twofold leading by the Spirit; the one is common and ordinary, the other is special and peculiar. Now this is considerable with a double reference, either first of all to our first conversion; or, secondly, to our following conversation. There is the leading and guiding of the Spirit, which is requisite and necessary for Christians in each of these conditions. First, to look upon it in order to our first and primitive conversion. The children of God they are led on by His spirit in this. And there are three things which do make up this unto us. First, information, or discovery of such and such truths in the proposition. Secondly, illumination, or enabling of the mind to conceive and apprehend those truths which are thus discovered. Thirdly, inclination, or bowing of the will and affections to close and comply with such truths and motions which are apprehended. The Spirit of God does all these three in the work of conversion. The second is the communication of this property to a diversity and plurality of persons — "As many as are led." From whence we may observe this much, that this being led and acted and guided by the Spirit of God, it is not only the property of one or two particular persons, who are singular and alone by themselves, but it is the condition of a whole society and generation of men. There are many of them that are thus led (John 1:12; Acts 9:42; Galatians 6:16; Philippians 3:15). There is a variety and diversity of such persons as are thus guided and carried. First, in a succession of times, in one age after another. There have been always men guided by God's Spirit, and still are, and always will be. There were so in the times of the prophets, and there were so in the times of the apostles, and there are so still in ours, and will be further to the end of the world. And secondly, for one and the same time. There are many that go the same way and are in the like manner inclined. That as some thrive in wickedness, so others should thrive in goodness; and as Satan enlarges his kingdom, so the Lord also should increase His. This may therefore take off the slander which is cast upon religion as a private and singular business, as the invention only of some few persons, which they take up to themselves. No, it is no such matter; there are multitudes and varieties of them. The third is the consent or correspondency of this conduct in this variety, where many and different persons are intimated to be guided by one and the selfsame Spirit. Grace is one and the same for substance in all sorts of Christians, and they are led by the same Spirit of God, which is the worker and preserver of it in them there where it is wrought. "We having the same Spirit of faith, according as it is written" (2 Corinthians 4:13). "By one Spirit we are all baptized into one body, and have been made all to drink into one Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:13). This appears to be so in regard of the same effects, which it works in several persons. Where we find the same operations we may conclude there are the same principles. Again, they are not neither after one and the same manner. Grace, though it be in all one for substance, yet it is not in all one for modification, for the ordering and disposing of it. And lastly, it should very much persuade and prevail with Christians to mutual love and charity to one another, forasmuch as they are all led by the same common Spirit. The second is the predicate, or consequent, in the privilege belonging to these persons. It may further be cleared to us upon these considerations. First, such as are led by the Spirit they are undoubtedly the children of God, because they have the seed of God remaining in them, as the apostle John declares it of them (1 John 3:9). Secondly, those that are led by the Spirit, they are made conformable and like unto God, and have His image stamped upon them. Thirdly, they are members of Christ. Whosoever belong to Christ, who is the natural Son of God, they are consequently themselves the adopted sons of God. And this are they which are led by His Spirit. Now for a further clearing of this point still unto us, we may moreover take notice of it in a twofold illustration; the one as holding indefinitely, and the other as holding exclusively. Indefinitely, if they be led by God's Spirit, they are His children, let them be who they will be. Exclusively, if they be not led by His Spirit, whatever they be else they are none of His children. First, take it indefinitely. If they are such as are led by God's Spirit they are His children, let them be who they will. And that again in a twofold explication. First, in the indefiniteness of nations; and secondly, in the indefiniteness of conditions. This word, as many, it carries each of these latitudes in it. This teaches us likewise to own religion wheresoever we find it, let the persons in other respects be what they will be. The second is as it may be taken, exclusively. If they be not led by His Spirit, whatever they be else, they are none of His children. This proposition here before us is to be understood convertibly and by way of reciprocation. As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the children of God. And again, as many as are God's children, they are such as are led by God's Spirit. Whosoever are none of the former they are none of the latter. There's nothing less than the conduct of God's Spirit which will entitle one to a state of adoption. And here again two more. First, who are led by a different spirit, and they are excluded as defective. Secondly, as are led by an opposite spirit, and they are excluded as destructive. Now this being led of the Spirit of God may be very much judged of by us from these observations. First, by our delight in the Word of God, and our conformity and agreeableness to that. Secondly, by the goodness of the ways themselves in which we converse, we find these two joined together (Ezekiel 36:27, 28). Thirdly, by our cheerfulness and activity in the ways of God. And then lastly, as a concomitant, and that which is annexed hereunto. If we be led by the Spirit we shall be tender of grieving the Spirit, and doing anything which may be offensive to Him. There is no wise man who would offend his guide whom he depends upon for safety and direction.

(Thomas Horton, D.D.)

I. WHAT IT IS TO BE LED BY THE SPIRIT; or what it is that the Holy Spirit does for the furthering our salvation. Our Lord, taking His leave of His disciples, consigned them, as it were, over to the care and guidance of the Holy Ghost (John 16:13), who would guide them into all truth, and abide with them and the Church for ever (John 14:16; Acts 1:5-8). This, however, is not to be so understood, as if the Holy Ghost were now our sole conducter, exclusive of the other two Divine Persons (John 14:23; Matthew 28:20). Such guidance (which often goes under the name of grace) is ascribed to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it is the common work of all. And yet the Holy Ghost is emphatically styled "the Spirit of Grace," as being more immediately concerned in the work of grace. He gives —

1. Illuminating or enlightening grace, inasmuch as He instils good thoughts and salutary instructions; opening the understanding to receive them (Psalm 19:18; Acts 16:14).

2. Sanctifying grace, when He rectifies the heart, inclines the will, and meliorates the affections (Philippians 3:13). This is distinguished into preventing, assisting, perfecting; being considered, first, as laying the early seeds of that spiritual life; next, as contributing to its growth; and lastly, as adding the finishing hand to it.

3. The grace of true devotion, attended with deep compunction of heart (ver. 26).


1. Ordinarily in a gentle, moral, insinuating way, and not by mechanical, irresistible impulses, such as would take away human liberty, or reduce men to intelligent clockwork, or reasoning machines. For upon that supposition every good work, word, or thought, would be so entirely God's, that no part of it would be ours. The operations of God's Holy Spirit, then, only prepare us for godliness, or incite us and enable us thereto; the rest must come from ourselves. Accordingly, men are capable of resisting, grieving, and even quenching the Holy Spirit.

2. To be a little more particular, the Holy Spirit works upon the mind by proper applications to the reason and conscience, the hopes and fears; suggesting what is right and good, and laying before men, in a strong light, the happiness to be obtained by obedience, and the misery consequent upon disobedience. And one very considerable article of Divine wisdom and goodness lies in the providential ordering affairs so as to serve the purposes of grace; not exempting good men altogether from temptations, but so restraining, limiting, and governing the temptations, that they shall not press harder, or continue longer, than may best answer the design of God's permitting them.


1. These appear chiefly either in checks of conscience dissuading us from evil, or in godly motions, inciting us to what is right and good. For though what passes within us of that kind is not distinguishable by the manner of it from the natural workings of our own minds, yet revelation, in conjunction with our enlightened reason, assures us that every good thought, counsel, and desire, cometh from above.

2. But before we draw such conclusion with respect to any particular thought, special care should be taken that we proceed upon sure grounds; otherwise we may be apt to ascribe the rovings of fancy, or mere dreams of our own, to the Holy Spirit of God. Some very good men have been observed to make it a rule in cases of perplexity to lean to that side wherein they find most ease to their own minds. But sometimes it happens that a person may be under the influence of unperceived prejudices, or passions, which warp him to a side. And therefore there is no safe and certain rule to go by in such cases, but a strict examination into the nature and quality of the action. And if, upon reflection, we find that what we are inwardly dissuaded from is really evil, or what we are inwardly prompted to is really good, then may we safely and justly ascribe such motions to the Holy Spirit of God. As to our judging of our whole conduct, and whether, or how far we are conducted by the Holy Spirit, we have a safe rule to go by — God's commandments (1 John 3:24; Galatians 5:22-25).


1. To be ever mindful of the world of spirits whereunto we belong; and particularly of that blessed Spirit who presides over us, and whose temple we are, while we behave as becomes us.

2. To pray that the Spirit of God may alway dwell with us, and to take care to avoid all such practices as may offend the Holy Spirit.

3. Since the benefit of all depends upon our own willing compliance and hearty endeavours, let us make it our constant resolution to attend the motions, and to obey the suggestions of God's Holy Spirit, and so to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.

(D. Waterland, D.D.)

By nature we are children of God, but we do not occupy the place of children. The prodigal was still the child of his father, but he was away from his father.


1. A renovated heart.

2. Leading by the Spirit of God.(1) To clear views of the truth.

(a)By understanding the Bible.

(b)By comprehending the meaning of Divine providences.(2) To safety. He who is led does not lead. Some Christians think themselves wise enough to instruct God as to the experiences through which they should pass.

3. Peculiar love. Say what we will about universal charity, we love our children with a special love.

4. Heirship with Christ; sharers of His glory.


1. Reverence.

2. Trust.

3. Obedience.

4. Maintenance of the family honour.

5. Resignation. A true son will let God have His way.

III. HOW ARE WE TO BECOME SONS OF GOD. By our natural birth? By hearing His Word? By admission into His Church? No; John gives us the answer (John 1:12). Conclusion:

1. To all those who come home the door is open.

2. God takes great delight in being loved.

3. We come to God through prayer, then find provision, then protection.

(T. L. Cuyler, D.D.)

I. THE DESCRIPTION. We might almost have called it a picture. We are all travellers, and every step of our journey is under the guidance of influences which never cease to operate upon our character. Some are guided by the spirit of the world, some by the spirit of self-dependence, some by the spirit of superstition; but the children of God are led by the Spirit of God.

1. Why does the Spirit lead them? Because(1) They need guidance. Neither in thought nor action are we competent to take a single step by ourselves; and yet every step we take brings us nearer to God or takes us farther from Him.(2) Other guides are ready to lead astray.

2. Where does the Spirit lead them? Not in the paths where the garments will be defiled; not into the scenes of worldly dissipation and amusement, but often through many obstacles —

(1)To the Cross, where they find rest to their souls.

(2)To the closet, where they may find communion with their heavenly Friend.

(3)To the house of God

(4)To the Lord's table.

(5)To duty.

(6)To conflict.

(7)To heaven.

3. How does He guide them? By an inward impulse and by an outward ministry, and by these conjointly.

II. THE PRIVILEGE. "The sons of God." This privilege —

1. Commences with adoption. Adoption is the taking and treating a stranger as one's own child. It is a mere act of grace.

2. Is effectuated by regeneration. For it is in nature as well as in name that believers become the children of God.

3. Is sustained by Divine nourishment. There is milk for babes, and meat for strong men.

4. Is confirmed by Divine instruction. The world is converted into a vast school for the benefit of the Church, as the wilderness was when God brought His people out of Egypt (Deuteronomy 4:36; Deuteronomy 32:10).

5. Is manifested by Divine resemblance.

6. Is witnessed by the Divine Spirit.

7. It is the pledge of the highest glory.

(P. Strutt.)


1. Not mere creatureship. The stars, the birds, the flowers, are God's creatures.

2. Not mere resemblance. Even fallen men are made in the image of God, and have a potential likeness to Him.

3. But filial disposition. Men are the special creation of God; may have a special resemblance to Him; may have affection, not fear; may cry "Abba, Father."


1. The witness of God's Spirit.

2. The testimony of the spirit of man.


1. We are heirs of God.

2. We are joint-heirs with Christ.

(U. R. Thomas.)


1. Obedient.

2. Confident.

3. Loving.


1. Divine.

2. Unquestionable.


1. Glorious.

2. Certain.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

I. HIS PRESENT CONDITION. He is "led by the Spirit of God."

1. There are two things which may render it necessary for a person to be led, defect of vision or circumstances of peril. A blind man is under the necessity of being led, in order that he may be preserved from the dangers into which he would be otherwise betrayed.

2. Or a man may be exposed to such perils that it is necessary that he should put himself under the guidance of some one who may enable him to detect and overcome the danger. Both these, in a moral point of view, coalesce in the case of every one by nature.(1) Our moral eyesight is blinded. The reason of man is perverted; it is clouded by prejudice; it attaches undue weight to things that are of no importance, and overlooks the things which are of first-rate importance. Spiritual truth we are utterly unable to perceive. The various sciences have distinct nomenclatures which they who are not initiated do not understand. Now, gospel truth is just as unintelligible to one who has not been renewed by the Spirit of God. Mr. Pitt was once taken by Wilberforce to hear William Cecil; that statesman listened attentively, and when he was retiring, upon being asked by his friend how he liked the statements he had heard, the honest answer was, that he could not understand one single sentence. Why? Not that the preacher had clothed the truth in unintelligible language, but in the language of Scripture, inspired by the Spirit of God, and therefore in a language which that statesman was unable to comprehend because it was to be spiritually discerned.(2) And our way is encompassed with peril.(a) We are treading, as it were, upon the margin of eternity, and in an instant we might be summoned to stand before the bar of judgment.(b) We are surrounded with a host of spiritual beings, who are continually operating against our safety.(c) The world around us is continually placing temptation in our way.(d) We have a traitor within. Now, if all this be the case we need a leader such as the Spirit of God.

2. How is it that the Spirit of God leads?(1) By unfolding the meaning of the written Word. That Word is our great sheet-anchor in the present day, and. we have an infallible interpreter thereof in the Spirit who indited it.(2) By the various providences of which Christians are the subjects in their passage through life. He who will watch for providences shall never want a providence to watch. It is true that we have not a visible pillar of cloud and of fire; yet if we will only attentively listen to the voice of God's providence often we shall find it true — "Thine ear shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand or to the left."

3. How is it to be known whether a person is led of the Spirit? The marks are —

(1)Separation from the world.

(2)Obedience to God's will.

(3)A single eye to God's glory.


1. As relating to the present life.(1) He may look up to God as his reconciled Father in Jesus.(2) Trials may befall him; but he knows that "all things work together for good to them that love God." God loves him too well not to try him. Thus he can look upon his trials with thankfulness, believing that they shall work out for him, "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."(3) He may come to God with the confidence of a child.(4) As his course draws nearer and nearer to eternity it grows brighter and brighter.

2. And as for his privileges in eternity, "Eye hath not seen" etc.,

(Bp. R. Bickersteth.)

1. They are led by His Spirit.

2. They bear the name of children (vers. 14, 16).

3. They speak the language of children (ver. 15).

4. They render the obedience of children.

5. They feel the confidence of children.

6. They participate in the inheritance of children.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

Clerical World.
I. THEIR CHARACTER. They are "led by the Spirit of God." This implies —

1. An active and progressive, not a passive and stationary life.

2. Something altogether different from abandonment to natural impulses.

3. A contrast with the leading of the spirit of the world, which conducts so many astray.

4. Guidance by means of the revealed Word of God, yet due to a Divine and supernatural influence.

5. Issues in progress in the way of holiness and obedience which leads to life eternal.

II. THEIR PRIVILEGES. They are regarded and treated by God as His sons. This involves —

1. Their regeneration and adoption by Divine grace.

2. Participation in the Divine character and likeness.

3. Favour and fellowship.

4. Heirship. They are joint heirs with Christ, and the time shall come when they shall enter upon a heavenly and immortal inheritance.

(Clerical World.)

1. How may I became a child of God?

2. How can I know that I am a child of God?

3. How must I prove that I am a child of God?

4. What advantage have I as a child of God?

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

For ye have not received the spirit of bondage... but... the Spirit of adoption.
I. THE SPIRIT OF BONDAGE. Much of the bondage of our fallen nature is not the work of the Spirit of God at all. Bondage under sin, the flesh, worldly customs, the fear of man — this is the work of the devil.

1. But there is a sense of bondage which is of the Spirit of God. The bondage of —

(1)Conviction of sin.

(2)Assurance of punishment for sin from which there is no escape.

(3)The feeling of the inutility of the works of the law. "By the deeds of the law there shaft no flesh be justified in His sight."

2. The result of this spirit of bondage in the soul is fear. There are five sorts of fears, and it is well to distinguish between them.(1) The natural fear which the creature has of its Creator, because of its own insignificance and its Maker's greatness. From that we shall never be altogether delivered.(2) Carnal fear: i.e., the fear of man. From this God's Spirit delivers believers.(3) Servile fear — the fear of a slave towards his master, lest he should be beaten when he has offended. That is a fear which should rightly dwell in every unregenerate heart.(4) If servile fear be not cast out it leads to a fourth fear, namely, a diabolical fear; that of devils who "believe and tremble."(5) Filial fear which is never cast out of the mind. This is "the fear of the Lord" which is "the beginning of wisdom." When the spirit of bondage is at work there is much of servile fear. The Spirit of truth brings this to us, because we are in a condition which demands it. Would you have the bondsman rejoice in a liberty which he does not possess? Is he not the more likely to be free if he loathes his slavery?

3. This bondage, which causes fear, breaks us off from self-righteousness, and puts an end to certain sins. Many a man, because he is afraid of the consequences, leaves off this and that which would have ruined him; and, so far, the fear is useful to him; and, in after life, will keep him nearer to his Lord.

4. In due time we outgrow this bondage, and never receive it again. Because we are made to be the children of God; and God forbid that God's children should tremble like slaves.


1. The apostle said, "Ye have not received the spirit of bondage." If he had kept strictly to language he would have added, "But ye have received the Spirit of liberty." That is the opposite of bondage. But our apostle is not to be hampered by the rigid rules of composition. He has inserted a far greater word — "Ye have received the Spirit of adoption." If the Son make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

2. The apostle said, "Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear." Should he not have added "but ye have received the Spirit of liberty by which ye have confidence"? He says a great deal more, "Whereby we cry, Abba, Father." This is the highest form of confidence.

3. The Spirit of adoption is a spirit of gratitude. Oh, that ever the Lord should put me among the children!

4. A spirit of child-likeness. It is pretty, though sometimes sad, to see how children imitate their parents.

III. THE SPIRIT OF PRAYER. Whenever the Spirit of adoption enters into a man it sets him praying. And this praying is —

1. Earnest, for it takes the form of "crying."

2. Natural. For a child to say, "Father," is according to the fitness of things.

3. Appealing. True prayer pleads the fatherhood of God.

4. Familiar. Slaves were never allowed to call their masters "abba." That was a word for freeborn children only: no man can speak with God as God's children may. Distance is the slave's place; only the child may draw near.

5. Delightful. "Abba, Father" — it is as much as to say — "My heart knows that thou art my Father."

IV. THE SPIRIT OF WITNESS. In the mouth of two witnesses this shall be established.

1. The man's own spirit. God's own Word declares,"To as many as received Christ to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name"; now, I have received Christ, and I do believe on His name: therefore I have the right to be one of the sons of God. That is the witness of my spirit: I believe, and therefore I am a child.

2. The witness of the Holy Spirit, which works —(1) Through the Word of which He is the Author.(2) By His work in us. He works in us that which proves us to be the children of God; and what is that?

(a)Great love to God. None love God but those that are born of Him.

(b)Veneration for God. We fear before Him with a childlike reverence.

(c)A holy confidence. By His grace we feel in days of trouble that we can rest in God.


(e)Besides which, there is a voice unheard of the outward ear, which drops in silence on the spirit of man, and lets him know that he has, indeed, passed from death unto life.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)


1. A distressing apprehension of danger, arising from the conviction of sin, which is one of the first effects of the law upon the conscience.

2. A sense of our lost and undone condition. A sense of sin is generally attended with a sight of wrath, and a conviction of the worth of the soul; and where the one is deeply felt, the other is greatly feared. Hence the anxious inquiries of the Philippian jailor, and of the multitudes under Peter's sermon.

3. Apprehensions respecting present judgments. Unpardoned guilt fills the mind with continual terrors (Job 15:20-24).

4. An habitual fear of death.

5. The expectation of future punishment.

6. The conviction of utter inability to extricate himself out of his present situation.

II. Inquire IN WHAT RESPECTS BELIEVERS ARE DELIVERED FROM THIS, SO AS NOT TO BE AGAIN IN FEAR. Though believers are not wholly exempt from a spirit of bondage —

1. They seldom feel it in the same degree, nor do they feel it for long.

2. It does not arise from the same source as before, and therefore is not of the same nature. The terror which a sinner feels is from God, but that which a believer often experiences is the work of Satan, taking advantage of a constitutional melancholy, or of some adverse dispensation.

3. They are relieved and sustained by the hopes and promises of the gospel.

4. This servile spirit —(1) Is by no means adapted to the present dispensation, and therefore believers cannot be said to have received it, as forming any part of their real or proper character (2 Timothy 1:7).(2) Is also highly injurious to the practical part of religion. The more we walk in the light of God's countenance, the more readily shall we run in the way of His commandments.


1. The Spirit of adoption is distinct from adoption itself, and is not essential to its existence.

2. Of those who enjoy the Spirit of adoption, some have more of it, and others less.

3. The same saints do not at all times enjoy the same measure of this Spirit, but differ as much from themselves as they do from one another.

4. Wherever this Spirit is received, it must be considered as the fruit of sovereign grace.

5. It more especially consists in the Holy Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. The Spirit is not only a witness to Christ without us, but to Christ within us; and therefore when our conscience bears us witness in the Holy Ghost, it is to be acquiesced in as a faithful and unerring report; for if conscience itself be as good as a thousand witnesses, how much more when its decisions are made under the influences of the Spirit of God.

6. The Holy Spirit in becoming a Spirit of adoption, imparts to the adopted a temper suited to that relation.

IV. THE BLESSED EFFECT ARISING FROM OUR HAVING RECEIVED THE SPIRIT OF ADOPTION: Hereby we cry, "Abba, Father." Prayer is the very breath of a child of God; the first effort of Divine grace in the heart. The cry of "Abba, Father," now proceeds from the fulness of his heart, and this includes in it the following particulars —

1. Familiarity and holy boldness at a throne of grace.

2. A comfortable persuasion of the love of God towards us.

3. Reverence and honour (Malachi 1:6).

4. Trust and confidence in God, as our Father and our Friend,

5. Great earnestness and importunity (2 Kings 2:12).

(B. Beddome, M.A.)


1. There are many of you who love money, pleasure, vanity, sin. And yet there are times when you tear yourselves away to say your prayers — to come to church; to read a chapter in the Bible; but whilst engaged in these exercises you long for them to be over. But why do them at all? "Because it is our duty. We know these things must be attended to; if we neglect them we shall go to hell." Then, I need not describe to you "the spirit of bondage" — you feel it.

2. But perhaps "the spirit of bondage" is still more strikingly displayed in those who are just awakened to a sense of their sins. And what does the poor trembling sinner do to mend his case? Labours with all his might to make himself acceptable to God; multiplies his prayers and duties; resolves to mortify his sins. And yet, alas! he goes about feeling that he has undertaken a work which is far beyond his strength. And why has the Lord so ordered it? Evidently to teach the humbling lesson of man's utter inability to save or sanctify himself (see Galatians 3:23, 24).


1. Adoption is an act whereby one person takes another into his family, calls him his son, and treats him as such. Thus Moses was the adopted son of Pharaoh's daughter, and Esther was the adopted daughter of Mordecai. Adoption, then, in a spiritual sense, is that act of grace whereby God chooses into the dear relation of His children every true believer in His Son. The very term implies that they were by nature not His children. No; they were strangers and enemies when He took them in.

2. But a man who adopts a stranger for his child cannot bestow on him a spirit suitable to that relationship. He may give him a son's portion, but he cannot give him a son's feelings. Now this is what the Lord does. He gives them "the Spirit of adoption." He puts into them, by His grace, a fitness for their glorious relationship. They not only are the Lord's children, but they feel as such (ver. 16). Their former terrors drop away, for they view God now as their reconciled Father in Christ, and the uneasiness they felt at their inability to satisfy His law is now changed into a delightful confidence in the satisfaction which His Son hath wrought for them. And in consequence of all His love to them they love Him. They are followers — imitators — of God as dear children. "His commandments are not grievous to them," for they have now both the power and the will to follow them.

3. "Father" is the first word the infant lisps; and how continually it is running to its parent with that word upon its tongue. In beautiful allusion to this the child of God is represented as crying to his heavenly Parent, "Abba! Father!"

(A. Roberts, M.A.)

I. THE GIFT WHICH GOD CONFERS ON HIS CHILDREN. "Ye have received the Spirit of adoption."

1. The Spirit of God seals the children of adoption. This serves to mark the particular property God has in believers; to distinguish them from others of the human family; and to preserve them for the end of their election and faith, even the salvation of their souls.

2. The Holy Spirit is to believers the witness of their adoption (vers. 16). It is reasonable that professors of religion should be anxious to ascertain their own state in God's sight.

3. The Holy Spirit communicates to believers the comfort arising from their adoption into God's family, i.e. He discovers to believers the path of light; qualifies them for their present rank; and supports them during their pilgrimage.

II. THE CHRISTIAN ENJOYS TRUE LIBERTY. Christian liberty is equally opposed to slavery and licentiousness. It is opposed to restraint and violence, but not to subordination and cheerful obedience.

1. They who are adopted into God's family are delivered from the dominion of sin. They now walk at liberty. They feel that they are free to serve God without the fear of wrath. They delight in the law of the Lord after the inward man.

2. Christians are delivered from the power of Satan.

3. Christian liberty implies deliverance from undue human influence (Psalm 119:45; Proverbs 29:25). Independence of mind, and courage in Christian behaviour, are desirable objects. He who attains to them, puts his trust in God, and does not fear what man can do unto him. In matters of right and wrong, the Christian claims to himself, and allows to others, the right of private judgment; but he neither claims to himself, nor guarantees to another, the liberty of contravening in a single instance, the commandment of his God.

III. CONSIDER THE EXPRESSIONS WHICH WE ABE ENABLED BY THE SPIRIT OF ADOPTION TO UTTER — "Whereby we cry, Abba, Father." The repetition, Father, Father, also evidences the earnestness with which a Christian, feeling his deliverance from bondage, recognises his present delightful relation to God as an adopted son.

1. The believer approves of his relation to God in Jesus Christ. "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus."

2. The religious man is soothed in all his afflictions when he contemplates the compassion of his Father who is in heaven.

3. God's children consider Him as their instructor (Psalm 71:17; Isaiah 54:13).

4. God's children submit to such chastisement as He thinks proper to administer (Proverbs 3:11).

5. The children of adoption place themselves under the protection of their heavenly Father (Psalm 31:5, 15).

6. By the Spirit of adoption, we are enabled to approach with boldness the throne of grace, in prayer to God (Ephesians 2:18).

(A. McLeod, D.D.)

I. The state of THE NATURAL MAN.

1. It is a state of sleep: the voice of God to him is, "Awake, thou that sleepest."

2. For this reason he is in some sense at rest: because blind he is secure, he cannot tremble at the danger he does not know. He has no dread of God, because he thinks Him merciful, and that he can at any time repent.

3. From the same ignorance there may arise joy either in congratulating himself on his own wisdom and goodness, or in indulgence of pleasure of various kinds, and so long as he doeth well unto himself men will doubtless speak good of him.

4. It is not surprising if thus dosed with the opiates of flattery and sin, one should imagine among his other waking dreams that he walks in great liberty, being free from all vulgar errors, prejudices, enthusiasm, etc. But all this time he is the servant of sin. He commits it every day. Yet he is not troubled. He contents himself with "Man is frail; every man has his infirmity."

II. The state of a MAN UNDER THE LAW.

1. By some awful providence, or by His Word applied by His Spirit God touches the heart of the slumbering stoner, who awakes into a consciousness of danger — perhaps in a moment, perhaps by degrees.

2. The inward spiritual meaning of the law now begins to glare upon him, and he sees himself stripped of all the fig leaves he had sewn together — of all his pretences to religion or excuses for sin. He now, too, feels that the wages of sin is death.

3. Here ends his pleasing dream, his delusive rest, his vain security, etc. The fumes of these opiates being dispelled, he feels the anguish of a wounded spirit — he fears, indeed — God's wrath, death, etc., almost to the verge of despair.

4. Now truly he desires to break loose from sin and begins to struggle with it. But though he strive with all his might, sin is mightier than he. The more he strives the more he feels his chains. He toils on, sinning and repenting, repenting and sinning, until he cries, "O wretched man that I am," etc. This whole state of bondage is described in chap. Romans 7.

III. The state of a MAN UNDER GRACE.

1. His cry is heard and heavenly healing light breaks in on his soul — the light of the glorious love of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Overpowered by the sight he cries out, "My Lord and my God," for he sees all his iniquities laid on Christ and borne away; God in Christ reconciling him unto Himself.

2. Here end the guilt and power of sin. He can now say, "I am crucified with Christ," etc. Here ends the bondage unto fear. He cannot fear the wrath of God, for it is turned away; the devil, because his power is ended; hell, for he is an heir of the kingdom; death, for that is now but the vestibule of heaven.

3. And "Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty," liberty not only from guilt and fear, but sin. Henceforth he does not serve sin; being made free from sin he is become the servant of righteousness.

4. Having peace with God, and rejoicing in hope, he has the Spirit of adoption who sheds abroad the love of God and man in the heart, and works in him to will and do of His good pleasure. Conclusion: The natural man neither fears nor loves God; one under the law fears: one under grace loves. The first has no light, the second painful light, the third joyous light, He that sleeps in death has a false peace; he that is awakened no peace; he that believes true peace. The heathen baptized or unbaptized has a fancied freedom, the Jew or legalist a grievous bondage, the Christian the glorious liberty of the children of God. An unawakened child of the devil sins willingly; one that is awakened sins unwillingly; a child of God "sinneth not" The natural man neither conquers nor fights; the man under the law fights but cannot conquer; the man under grace is "more than conqueror."

(John Wesley, M.A.)

1. In what sense are we to understand the word "spirit"? Our own spirit, inasmuch as it refers to that filial disposition which prompts us to cry, Abba, Father; yet also God's Spirit, because it is only by His power and inspiration that this temper of mind is produced or sustained (chap. Romans 5:5).

2. To what does "again" refer? No doubt to the former dispensation, Judaism (see the argument in Galatians 4, especially verses 4-7 and 22-31, and again, Hebrews 12:18-24).

3. This Spirit of adoption is a spirit of —

I. REVERENTIAL ADMIRATION AND LOVE. Who so good or wise in the eyes of a son as his beloved parent? Yet our filial partiality may be grossly mistaken. Not thus is it with our regard for God. If His children, we learn to discern in Him every excellence, and each in its highest perfection and purest form.

II. GRATITUDE AND PRAISE. The son acknowledges his obligation to his father, is ever grateful to him, and learns to speak of him with becoming expressions of thankfulness and filial pride. So it is with us and God.

III. DEPENDENCE AND TRUST. While we acknowledge His kindness in the past, we depend on Him at the present moment, and we commit to Him all our care for the future. How little anxiety for the morrow has the confiding child.

IV. MEEK SUBMISSION AND CHEERFUL OBEDIENCE. A father's will is law to a good son; and all that a father reposes or inflicts is submitted to without murmuring, from a persuasion of his wisdom and right to correct us when we do wrong, combined with a firm conviction that he seeks only our welfare and good. How much rather should we be in subjection to the Father of our spirits (Hebrews 12:5-10).

V. COMMUNION AND FELLOWSHIP. It cries, "Abba, Father." It is natural for a son to seek his father's society, and to tell him all his wishes, all his wants. So do the sons of God come to Him in supplication and prayer (Matthew 6:6.) Further, a good son is interested in his father's pursuits, knowing that he himself will be enriched by his father's successes and advanced by his father's promotion. So do we know, as God's children, that He conducts all the affairs of His empire for our honour and welfare, and we constantly pray, "Father, Thy kingdom come," etc.

VI. CONFIDENCE AND HOPE. A child who incidentally does wrong can come to his father in penitence and sorrow, assured of readily obtaining acceptance and forgiveness. So likewise we can come to God when we have sinned against Him, believing that He will quickly restore us to His favour, and not vindictively cast us off for ever. Therefore, we shall at length be brought home to our Father's house above. A wealthy parent may send his child away for a season, and place him under tutors and governors, but it is to receive him back eventually with increased honour and joy. Thus will Jehovah act with regard to us.

(T. G. Horton.)

See yonder little bird. It floats fearlessly in the spray that arises out of the thunders of Niagara. It cleanses its plumage in that ever-ascending and radiant mist. It flies through the rainbow which spans that awful presence. It is not afraid. The colours of its wings are kindred to the tints in that rainbow. It sings its gayest songs as it darts back and forth in front of that terrible glory. It has no controversy with Niagara. It gains its living along its banks. It builds its nest and rears its nestlings in the tree that overhangs the cataract. The believer in revelation has ended his controversy with God, and is, like that flying, floating, singing bird, without fear.

The question has been raised whether this means the Holy Ghost, or a consciousness of being a child of God. It is both, and we cannot distinguish between the two. But we must not confound "adoption" and the "Spirit of adoption," though they are never very far apart.

1. "Adoption" is that act whereby we are received into the family of God. And the way in which this is brought about is thus: Christ is the one Son of God. Into the Son, God elects and engrafts members. As soon as the union takes place, God sees the soul in the relationship in which He sees Christ. He gives it a partnership in the same privileges.

2. But this "adoption," if it stood alone, would be no blessing. A rich man, well educated, "adopts" a poor illiterate child. The child moves in the social circle of his adopted father, and shares his wealth. Now, if his benefactor be a wise man, he will endeavour to give him a filial spirit, and the qualifications which are necessary for his elevation. But if not, the "adoption" will only issue in disappointment and unhappiness to all parties. 3 We cannot, therefore, sufficiently thank God that wherever He gives "adoption," He follows by "the Spirit of adoption." But, as in nature, as soon as ever a branch is grafted into a tree the sap begins to flow into that branch; and however dissimilar the graft to the parent stock, the passing of the graft into that stock gradually makes them one: — so in Christ, the "Spirit of adoption" following the "adoption," seals the union by making the affinity close, happy, and eternal!

4. Of all words that which comprises most of wisdom, tenderness, and love, is "Father." What a repose lies in that, "My Father." And as soon as the Spirit begins to work in a sinner's heart, the very first thing He plants there is, "I will arise and go to my Father," etc. And if only we could take in the simple conception that God is a "Father," well-nigh the whole work of our religion would be done. Thousands acknowledge it is true; but few think of how much has passed in the deepest councils and sublimest operations of God, that we might use that paternal function. All heaven had to come down to earth that we might stand to God again in that lost relationship. The blood of Christ only could purchase it; and no man could ever frame his heart to conceive, or his lips to utter it, but by the power of the Holy Ghost.

5. Now let me examine what a "Spirit of adoption" is. It is not a spirit of doubt and anxiety, in which I say, "Does God really love me? Am I forgiven? How shall I overcome all my difficulties?" That is not what a little child ever feels, if he has got an affectionate father. The "Spirit of adoption" is all hope. Hence, prayer becomes a very bold thing where there is the "Spirit of adoption." A child does not ask a father as a stranger asks him. He goes as one who has a right. If he finds his father's door for a moment closed, see how he knocks. He does not want wages; but he receives rewards. All creation is his Father's house, and he can say, "Everything in it is mine, on to death itself." The "Spirit of adoption" longs to go home. For, if the love of an unseen Father has been so sweet, what will it be to look in His face?

(J. Vaughan, M.A.)

We are not merely criminals unwhipped of justice, but since Christ has met the demands of the law for us we are entirely acquitted; and then there is implanted in us, by the Holy Spirit, the sweet, glad consciousness of sonship.

I. Therefore THE COWERING FEARFULNESS OF SIN IS SUPPLANTED BY A LOVING FILIALNESS. Very beautiful is that word, "Abba" just here. It is a little up-thrusting of the Apostle's mother tongue. Though we be adepts in any other language, the speech we use to express overflowing feeling is always that which we learned at our mother's knee. And there is such a swell and throb of filialness in the apostle's heart toward the heavenly Father, that even though he must immediately translate it, there is no word to tell his consciousness of his close, free sonship but the word that used to be prattle on his lips when he was a child. So swept away is the bad fear which comes from sin, so dear and deep is his sense of a holy familiarity with God, that the only word that can in the least even shadow it forth is the nursery word back there in Tarsus, Abba.

1. How easy prayer is to a God, who thus reinstating us in sonship, will allow from us such address.

2. How "in everything" (Philippians 4:6) may we make request of Him.

II. THERE IS SUCH A THING AS AN ASSURANCE OF THIS SONSHIP. "The Spirit itself beareth witness."


1. I have title to illimitable Divine possession.

2. I may dismiss fear that I shall fail to enter upon my unimaginable wealth.

IV. SUCH ADOPTION DOES NOT PRECLUDE THE NECESSITY OF DISCIPLINE, It compels it rather. For so great a destiny and glory I must be prepared. But there is this infinite solace under chastisement — it is not punitive; it is educative. Its intention is to fit me for the splendid destiny God intends for me. It is thus quite possible to be glad and thankful for my pain.

(Wayland Hoyt, D.D.)

The spiritual connection of the true disciple with God is repeatedly represented to us in Paul's Epistles under the figure of sonship. The idea of simple sonship, indeed, is brought prominently forward by St. John; as 1 John 3:1; 1 John 4:6; 1 John 5:9, 10, etc. But whereas St. John always represents this idea in its simplest form, St. Paul, and St. Paul only, describes this sonship more artificially as adoptive. This illustration is not taken from any Jewish custom; the law of Moses contains no provision for such a practice. Adoption was essentially a Roman usage, and was closely connected with the Roman ideas of family. The son was declared to be the absolute property of his father from his birth to his father's decease. In order to being adopted out of his own family into that of another man it was necessary that he should undergo a fictitious sale. But if a son had been thus sold by his father and had again recovered his liberty, he fell again under the paternal dominion, and it was not till he had been thus sold, emancipatus, three times, that he became finally free from this paramount authority. Accordingly, the adopter required that the fiction of sale should be three times repeated, before the son could be received into his new family, and fall under the dominion of his new father. When, however, these formalities had been complied with, the adopted son became incorporated into the family of his adopter, identified, as it were, with his person, made one with him; so that on the adopter's decease he became not so much his representative as his second self, the perpetuator of his legal personality. He assumed, moreover, on adoption, the burdens or privileges incident to the performance of the rights of his new family. He relinquished his former rites, and attached himself to those of his new parent. All this appears to have been in the apostle's mind when he addressed the Roman disciples in this passage. The Spirit of God, he says, bears witness with our spirit, or confers upon us an inward persuasion, that we are now by adoption the children of God Himself, whereas we were before the children of some other father — namely, the world or the Evil One. But henceforth we are relieved from the bondage of corruption, from the state of legal subjection to this evil parent, and admitted to the glorious liberty of the happy children of a good and gracious father, even God. And how was this escape from bondage to be effected? God paid a price for it. As the Roman adopter paid, or made as though he paid down a certain weight of copper, so God gave His Son as a precious sacrifice, as a ransom to the world, or the Evil One, from whom He redeemed His adopted children. Henceforth we became the elect, the chosen of God. The same illustration is indicated in Galatians 4:3: "When we were children we were in bondage under the elements of the world," addicted to the rites of our original family; "but when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son," etc. But now, after ye have known God... how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements," such as the sacra of your original family, "whereunto ye desire to be again in bondage" (Ephesians 1:5).

(Dean Merivale.)

Betwixt civil and sacred adoption there is a two-fold agreement and disagreement. They agree in this, that both flow from the pleasure and good will of the adoptant; and in this, that both confer a right to privileges which we have not by nature; but in this they differ: one is an act imitating nature, the other transcends nature: the one was found out for the comfort of them that had no children, the other for the comfort of them that had no Father. Divine adoption is in Scripture either taken properly for that act or sentence of God by which we are made sons, or for the privileges with which the adopted are invested. We lost our inheritance by the fall of Adam: we receive it by the death of Christ, which restores it again to us by a new and better title.

(J. Flavel.)


1. Naturally fallen creatures have a "spirit of bondage" — the temper of a slave towards God.(1) All the systems of heathenism are marked by this spirit. The love of God never enters into them, but either their self-love is addressed by certain hopes which appeal to their natural feelings, or else they are under the constraining influence of a dread of those misfortunes which the gods are supposed to have the power and will to inflict.(2) Among Mohammedans we find the same spirit prevailing. They are sometimes told that, if they obey the admonitions of the Koran, they shall have a sensual paradise. They are more frequently told that, if they violate the same directions, they shall expose themselves to the anger of God.(3) In the Roman Catholic Church, although there may be sometimes a reference to the promises of the gospel, how much more frequently and powerfully the fear of its votaries is addressed. They dread the church censures, the indignation of their priest, and their fancied purgatory. Nay, they dare not approach the merciful Mediator unless there be some other mediator.(4) Nor is Protestantism by any means free from this unhappy spirit. For what is a fashionable religion but a compromise between men's passions and their fears? Anything of loving Him is often absolutely ridiculed.

2. Now, if we turn to this Book for the explanation of that universal feeling, we find that it is truly reasonable. The account which St. Paul gives of it in chap. Romans 7 is applicable to all the world. It is obvious that, in proportion as this is comprehended, men must "fear." A man may sometimes contrive, either by forgetfulness of God, or by forming to himself false notions respecting God, to escape from the influence of fear, but then his mind is sunk into a state of torpor and death-like slumber. When once the light is let in on the understanding, and the man sees anything of the attributes of God and what they demand, and finds that he has violated all, and that his own nature is opposed to that Holy God, he "dies." In the language of the apostle, it is the law which "shuts us up," allows us no hope,

3. But when a man finds the gospel, that spirit is changed. Then all the sources of dread are gone. How can he dread God any more? Do you think that the poor prodigal, when, all ragged and worn as he was, he came back to his father's house, and felt his father's arms around him, and his father's kiss upon his pale and withered cheek — think you that he dreaded that father then?

4. And now the whole of the sinner's future course is characterised by love; he is no longer a slave, but he is become a child. This is seen doubtless, and seen very mainly, in the character of the Christian's obedience, which is now wholly changed. The child of God has the law written on his heart — loves every one of its requisitions, because he loves the wise and just Parent that enacted them — and would obey them all. His obedience is now unfettered, unrestricted, unreserved, cheerful, grateful, and generous.

5. The filial spirit prevails in the whole of the experience of every one of the children of God. If he receives any temporal blessings, he receives them from the hand of his Father; if he looks at the promises of the gospel, they come to him as the promise of his heavenly Father; if he receives any of the painful events of life, it is a wise and gracious Father who has sent them, and it is his inclination and his pleasure to submit. So, likewise, this same filial spirit pervades all the exercises of religion; if others pray because conscience compels them to pray, the child of God rejoices that he may come to "his Father, who seeth in secret." If he looks forward to death, when no other being can go with him and sustain his faltering spirit, he feels his Father can; and when he looks to glory, it is with the same feelings; he is going to the house of his Father.

II. THE ORIGIN OF THIS SPIRIT. It is characterised in our text as a gift; it is not spoken of as an attainment. "Ye have received." It is a gift received from God; therefore His favour and His blessing must have preceded it. If, then, we are told that the sinner must first love God, must first serve God, and then he may hope for the favour of God — this is just a sentence of despair to any man who knows himself. How can he love God? The source of that "Spirit of adoption" is in adoption itself, and the source of that adoption is the sovereign, unmerited, bounty and mercy of God.

1. Its meritorious cause is the Cross of Christ. There is no ether reason why a sinner deserves to be a child of God but this, that Jesus Christ has deserved it. "When the fulness of the time was come," etc.

2. The instrumental cause is faith. "Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus."

3. The Agent is the Spirit of God. He only it is who implants faith, and He it is who alone communicates "the Spirit of adoption."

4. The means is that view of the love of God which none but an adopted child can have. "We love Him because He first loved us."

(Baptist Noel, M.A.)

Consider this —

I. BY WAY OF CONTRAST, as it is opposed to any form of obedience performed in a slavish and unready mind.

1. With the severe discipline of the law. On this point the apostle is the best exponent of his own views in that allegory of Agar and Sarah (Galatians 4:22-26). To the same purport there is another illustration of the two dispensations, addressed to the same Church (Galatians 4:3-7). These distinct tendencies of the two dispensations are discoverable in almost every circumstance. Contrast —(1) The method of their introduction, the thunderings of Sinai with the stillness of Bethlehem; the voice of the trumpet with the melody of angels; the blackness and darkness and tempest with the mild halo of glory which played around the wondering shepherds as they kept watch over their flocks by night.(2) The miracles of the two dispensations. Look at the earth opening her mouth to swallow up the rebellious, the fiery serpents, the pestilence, and compare with these the blind receiving their sight, the multitudes fed with bread, and the widow receiving from death her child.(3) In their outward ordinances — those of the one multitudinous, obscure, oppressive; those of the other easy, refreshing, simple. Of course we do not mean that this servile temper extended to every individual worshipper. The Spirit is not bound. Enoch's was no servant's walk, nor could fear have wrought Abraham's faith. Neither do we speak disparagingly of that dispensation itself. The law is a system of progressive teaching (Galatians 4:1, 2). We must be disciplined to habits of reverence and subjection, The law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.

2. With the service of the man who is trying to work out a righteousness for himself. This fault first discovered itself in the newly-converted Jews, who could but feel a rude shock to their ancient sympathies when they were required to pass from the pride-fostering works of the ancient ritual to the simple faith and self-abasing truths of the gospel. And many now feel the stirrings of an alarmed conscience, and are urged on by an unresting anxiety to feel that their souls are safe, and yet God is not satisfied with them, neither are they satisfied with themselves. Now what is the secret of such painful experience happening to men who are taking more pains to be miserable than it would cost them to be happy? They will be servants, and not sons; they will be labouring to obey, and not trying to believe. If, then, you are in earnest about your souls' salvation, take Heaven's simple answer, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ," etc. Then the works will follow. But all attempts to get peace before or without this will be mere labour in vain. This one thing done, the whole character of our obedience becomes changed. It is not the spirit of bondage again to fear; it is the filial obedience of those who, having received the Spirit of adoption, are enabled to cry, Abba, Father.

II. BY WAY OF COMPARISON. Four marks of Roman civil adoption you will find exactly paralleled in the spiritual adoption. Did the child among the Romans share in the privileges of the natural children? It is affirmed of the believer that "if children then heirs, heirs with God and joint heirs with Christ." Did the Roman bestow his own name on the child he adopted? "Thou, O Lord, art in the midst of us, and we are called by Thy name." Did the civil law exact from the adopted all honour and reverence to the parent? "If I be a Father, where is Mine honour?" "God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints," etc. Did the new father engage to treat the stranger with parental care and kindness? "I will receive you and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." From this view of the condition of the believer we may infer three characteristics of evangelical service.

1. Reverence.

2. Cheerfulness. No labour in the Lord can be in vain; no commandment of God can be grievous.

3. Confidence.

(D. Moore, M.A.)

Whereby we cry, Abba, Father
I. THE FACT. "We cry, Abba, Father."

1. In one aspect this seems little. It is only a cry, a name named, and that a child's lisp of the first two sounds of the alphabet. True, but I am not anxious to get from you more than what all Christians confess. "We" cry, Abba, Father. Visions and revelations are exceptional, but we all cry, "Abba, Father."

2. This is not a small thing. It means carrying the clear proof of our being God's children. True, we are infants, but no infant would ever cry "Abba" unless it were a child. Here are weakness and strength, but the one is linked to the other by a bond that cannot be broken. And what a distance between us in our helplessness and God in His glory, but "Father" reaches all the way. Only a cry! God hears nothing else. Observe the refrain of Psalm 107. Mark the reason why universal power is given to the Mediator (Psalm 72:11, 12).

3. This cry is the product of the Holy Spirit (see also Galatians 4:6). This is the Divine side of the matter, of which we have both the human and Divine sides in John 1:12-13).


1. You have the witness of the Spirit. The cry and the groaning (ver. 26) are His work; the natural man knows nothing of them.

2. You are heirs of God (ver. 19; Matthew 13:43).

3. You are joint heirs with Christ.

(1)An interest in all His glory.

(2)He has entered on the inheritance as our Forerunner (Hebrews 6:20).

III. BUT WHAT OF THE PRESENT? "If we suffer with Him." Suffer we must; but —

1. These pangs are hopeful; they are of birth, not death, and prove a heaven-sent longing after home and God.

2. The Saviour is with us in them. His Spirit causes them. Christ sympathises and succours (Hebrews 2:17, 18).

(A. M. Symington, D.D.)

The expression is used once by Christ, twice by Paul. Why should the Saviour in Gethsemane employ two languages, and Paul when speaking of the free Spirit which animates believers? Is it conformity to the custom of giving to persons a variety of names? Or is the one name an interpretation of the other? and Calvin think that it is to show that both Jews and Greeks each in their own respective language would call on God as a Father. Dr. Morison says that "the dual form is delightfully fitted to suggest that in His great work Christ personated in His single self not Jews only, but Gentiles." And not only fitted, but designed. And so Paul may have caught the spirit and aim of the Master's words. And thus we have a speaking testimony to the fusion of Jew and Greek which prepared the way for the preaching of the gospel to the heathen. The idea of Father clasps not only the languages, but the people. What other word so fitted as a basis for all the nations to meet on and be made one! Grandly prophetic of the time, to bring about which the Saviour died and the apostle laboured, is "Abba, Father." The term illustrates how the idea of Fatherhood —

I. EVOKES THE DEEPEST FILIAL FEELING. In the only instances in which we have the words there is every. thing to justify this. It is the child-cry coming not from the surface, but from the depths. How much larger and more tender the word than master, magistrate. king, etc.

II. Begets THE MOST CHILDLIKE FAMILIARITY. Only in the home circle can such feelings play. It is the child, not the subject or servant, that cries "Abba, Father." Refinement of feeling and manner is always beautiful in a child, but it is not natural that it should express itself in courtly language. The charm of the family is in the freedom which love imparts. The parental heart, shining like a warm sun in the centre of the home, draws young affection to it as the flowers turn to the heat and light.

III. Stirs THE INTENSEST EARNESTNESS. So it did in Christ and Paul. There are moments in Christian experience when the language of familiarity rises into the language of anguish. Though in the Divine family, men are still on earth — not the most congenial place, and even Jesus seems to have had quite enough of it when He said, "And now I come to Thee," The definition suggests emphasis or urgency. As a child's whisper will sometimes wake the family, even the gentlest ruffle on the heart will not pass the heavenly Father's notice. How much more shall a cry of anguish reach Him and bring Him to our relief.

(R. Mitchell.)

The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit.

1. "The Spirit itself beareth witness."(1) The subject of the testimony is not that we have been awakened, that we have repented, that a number of moral changes have taken place in us, so that we may conclude that we are the children of God. Its direct and simple object is to assure us "that we are the children of God."(2) Of this the Spirit is the only competent witness. To this fact of our reconciliation to God, considered as a fact, our own spirits neither do nor can bear testimony. That the act of pardon takes place upon our believing in Christ; but this act of mercy is one which takes place in the mind of God. "The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God." "For the Spirit searcheth all things, even the deep things of God." He, therefore, alone can be cognizant of the fact of forgiveness and adoption, to whom that fact is made known by the testimony of the Spirit.(3) How this testimony is borne may be difficult to describe, but it is that by which doubt is put away and the fact ascertained. For why else is a witness called in but to clear up some doubt? For what purpose do we bring forward witnesses but to come to the knowledge of some truth? Now, whatever be the method, the fact is communicated, and known, because communicated.

2. The witness of our own spirits. Why this? Certain it is that the Holy Spirit speaks with a voice by which the faithful soul cannot be deceived, yet there may be impressions not from Him, and which we may mistake for His sacred testimony. Against such delusion you must be carefully guarded. Nor are the means by which it may be detected difficult. Where the Spirit of God dwells He dwells as the author of regeneration. Of this change our own spirits must be conscious. If we love God and our neighbour, if we are spiritually minded, as having the fruits of the Spirit, then have we the witness of our own spirits to the fact that we have received the Spirit of God.


1. That there can be no certainty of our being now in a state of salvation. Well, if this blessing be not attainable, the state of good men under the New Testament dispensation is far inferior to the state of good men under the Old. "Enoch before his translation had this testimony, that he pleased God." Now, what was there peculiar in the case of Enoch? See the filial confidence that Abraham had in God from the time that his faith was counted to him for righteousness. When David prays, "Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation," did he not recollect that joy in the salvation of God which he had previously experienced? We may say, also, that this notion is contrary to all the words of Christ and His apostles. When our Lord says, "Come unto Me, and I will give you rest," can such words be reconciled with the idea of our being in a state of uncertainty? Remember that that uncertainty implies this, "I am uncertain whether God be my friend or my enemy." Now, if this be the only state into which religion brings us, with what truth can Christ be said to have given rest to the soul?

2. That there is a great danger of fanaticism in this, and that, therefore, it will be much more safe to proceed in the way of argument and inference. But upon this theory what are we to do with the text? There are certain fruits of the Spirit, it is said, by the existence of which in ourselves we are to infer that we are the children of God. What are these fruits? If you examine them you will find that several are such as must necessarily imply a previous persuasion of our being in the favour of God, communicated by God Himself (Galatians 5:22, 23). Love to God directly implies the knowledge of His love to us. So, too, as to peace. Can we have this before we know whether we are at peace with God? The fruits of the Spirit flow from the witness of the Spirit.

3. That this is the privilege only of some eminent Christians. But there is no authority for this in the Word of God. This blessing is as common a blessing as pardon; it is put on the same ground, and is offered in the same general manner.

4. That this is an assurance of final salvation. I find no authority for this in the book of God. We are called to live in the comfortable assurance of the Divine favour, and to rejoice in the hope of the glory of God; but this conveys to us no certain assurance of final salvation.Conclusion:

1. This doctrine may well lead those of you to consider your own condition who feel that you are under the Divine displeasure, that you are living carelessly, and neglecting the great salvation.

2. The subject applies itself to those whose conscience is burdened by the sense of guilt and sin. When once you get the faith that waits and pleads and prays it will not be long before God will hear your earnest prayer, and say unto you, "I am thy salvation."

3. Let those who have received the Spirit of adoption recollect both their privileges and their duties. Walk worthy of the vocation wherewith you are called, and of the blessings you profess to enjoy.

(R. Watson.)

In the text itself there are two general parts considerable. First, the witnesses mentioned. Secondly, the thing itself, which they bear witness unto. The witnesses mentioned they are two. First, our own spirit. We begin with the former of these parts, viz., the witnesses themselves here mentioned, which are here expressed to be of two sorts. Our own spirit, and the Spirit of God with it. Each of these do bear witness to the truth of adoption in those who are true believers. First, our own spirit; that is, the spirit of the children of God considered by itself. This is one witness to them of their condition in grace, and of their relation to God as their Father. Our own spirit is not to be taken in a corrupt sense for our carnal spirit. This is sometimes too much our own, and so denominated, but such as is no competent judge or witness of such a business as this we now speak of. Nor, secondly, is it to be taken in a common sense, for our mere natural spirit, our soul in its physical consideration, for there is a witness (as we acknowledge) even in that of civil and natural actions. But it is to be taken in a more refined and spiritual sense. Our spirit, so far forth as sanctified and renewed by grace, sprinkled with the blood of Jesus Christ, and having His image stamped upon it, making up the regenerate part in us. This is our spirit in the sense of this scripture. Look, as this is the difference betwixt a man and other creatures, that he is able to reflect upon his actions, which another cannot; so this is the difference betwixt a Christian and other men, that he can reflect upon his own grace, which others are not able to do. The spirit of a regenerate person is a witness to him of his adoption. This is suitable and agreeable to other places of Scripture besides (2 Corinthians 1:12; 1 John 3:21). "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself" (1 John 5:10). "My conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost," etc. (Romans 9:1). For the better opening of this point unto us we must know that a man's own spirit does witness to him his adoption, or state in grace, according to a threefold reflection. First, upon his primitive conversion, and the manner and carriage of that. Secondly, upon his habitual disposition, and the frame and temper of that. Thirdly, upon his general conversation, and the ordering and regulating of that. By reflecting upon each of these, in the right and due observation of them, does a man's own private spirit and conscience witness to him that he is a child of God. The second is the Spirit of God, and more expressly the Spirit of adoption, which we find to be mentioned in the close of the preceding verse of this chapter. The Spirit itself, or the self-same Spirit. This bears witness of our adoption and state in grace. And it may be conceived to do so two manner of ways. We begin in order with the first of these testimonies, which is that which is distinct and immediate, wherein the Spirit of God does without the intercurrence or mediation of any discourse on our part, or argument on His, signify His love and goodwill to such persons as are partakers of it. This is the testimony which we are now to speak of. First, to speak of the nature of it; what or what manner of thing it is. Now for this it is nothing else but a gracious hint or intimation given to the soul by God, assuring our hearts and consciences of His favour and love towards us, and of our atonement and reconciliation with Him through the blood of His Son. "Be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee," "I am thy salvation," "thou art Mine," and the like. It is not a violent ecstasy or rapture of soul beyond itself, as illuminatists and enthusiasts, and such kind of people as those are, are sometimes deluded withal, but a sober and judicious and composed frame of spirit, which lies not at all in the fancy, as the subject of it, but in the heart. To speak distinctly of it we may look upon it under a threefold property, or qualification. First, this manner of testimony of the Spirit is secret and inexpressible, a hidden mystery, and such as is easier felt than described; as a man that tastes honey sweet cannot make another to conceive the sweetness of it, therefore it is called the hidden manna (Revelation 2:17). It is called unspeakable joy (1 Peter 1:8; 2 Corinthians 12:4). Secondly, it is certain and infallible. This it is like the witness of a prince, which puts all presently out of controversy. Thirdly, this witness of the Spirit, it is moreover inconstant and various, Rara hora brevis mora ( Bernard.). And is not always or at all times alike vouchsafed to those that receive it, and are partakers of it. Now the second thing here considerable of us is the discovery of it, whereby it may be known. This inquiry is very necessary for us in regard of the manifold mistakes and deceits which are in this particular. First, from the antecedents. In Ephesians 1:13 it is said, "After that ye believed, ye were sealed." Sealing comes after believing, that so it may not be a seal to a blank. The Spirit's witness of our salvation is consequent to His work of our conversion. And there are two reasons for it. First, because this witness of the Spirit is an act of special favour, therefore it is such as belongs only to those who are friends, and in a state of actual reconcilement unto Him. Secondly, because the judgment, and so also the witness of God, is according to truth. Never is a Spirit of consolation where it is not first a spirit of renovation. Secondly, we may take notice of it in its concomitants, and those things which do usually attend it. At first a reverend esteem of the ordinances. And then it is also accompanied with humility and meekness of spirit, and a holy care and fear of offending. And again, there is a holy boldness and confidence at the throne of grace which does accompany this testimony of the Spirit. "Seeing we have such hope, we use great freedom of speech" (2 Corinthians 3:12). Thirdly, for its consequences and effects. They are also various. Joy in the Holy Ghost; contempt of the world; comfortable thoughts even of death itself. From these and the like discoveries may we discern the testimony of the Spirit to be such as it is. But moreover, to make all clear, we must further know this much, that the Spirit of God bears witness to itself in its witnessing to us. As it is infallible in regard of the matter of its testimony, so it is convincing in regard of the evidence and manner of its proceeding. And it shows itself to be far different from all delusions and mistakes whatsoever. And it is a sufficient witness to itself, though there were no other besides; as the sun which discovers other things is also seen by the same light itself whereby it discovers them. The second is the conjunctive, or concurrent testimony. As the Spirit witnesses to us, so it witnesseth with us. And with us, not only by the way of concomitancy, but by way of assistance. His testimony has an influence upon ours; that is, He helps us to witness to ourselves. We are not sufficient of ourselves to think anything to this purpose of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God (2 Corinthians 3:5). This is different from the former testimony of the Spirit of God in two regards. First, that in that He has no concurrence with us, neither are we, by way of activity, but merely passively any parties at all in it, but in this we are. Secondly, that in that He proceeds by way of simple assertion, but in this by way of argument and reason, clearing both the premises of the practical syllogism to us, and enabling us to infer the conclusion. Here we need His concurrence with us to help us out of those difficulties which are upon us. And this is that which through His grace and goodness we do receive from Him, as is here signified, while it is said that He bears witness with our spirits that we are the children of God. The second is the matter of this witness, or the thing itself witnessed unto. And that we have in those words, that we are the children of God. That there is such a thing as an assurance of our state in grace, and so of future salvation, here in this life. This it may be cleared upon these arguments which make for it, as first, from the description of faith itself in the highest notion and degree of it, which the Scripture does set forth to us, under terms of certainty and assurance, calling it the full assurance of faith (Hebrews 10:22); the full assurance of hope (Hebrews 6:11). Speaking of Abraham, it is said that he was fully persuaded (Romans 4:21). Secondly, from the exhortations which are given to Christians to this purpose. For trial and self-examination. "Examine yourselves, prove yourselves, know ye not your own selves," etc. (2 Corinthians 13:5; 2 Peter 1:10; Hebrews 6:11). Lastly, this may be confirmed unto us from the manifest absurdity and inconvenience which does follow from the contrary doctrine.

(Thomas Horton, D.D.)

I. THE HIGH PRIVILEGE OF GOD'S PEOPLE. There is a sense in which all are His children, for "we are all His offspring." But all are not related to God as His children in the sense of the text. Certain Jews pretended that they were "the children of God." Jesus said unto them, "If God were your Father, ye would love Me"; but they loved Him not. Consequently He spoke still more plainly to them, "Ye are of your father the devil," etc. The same applies exactly to men in the present day. But let us observe what this high privilege denotes.

1. Distinguished honour. The Lord puts His name upon them. If this be our privilege we need envy none. The name of the ungodly, whatever rank they hold, shall be "blotted out."

2. Peculiar affection. There is no feeling so congenial to the heart of a father as affection for his children,

3. Constant care.

4. The most liberal kindness, "If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts," etc.


1. The testimony of conscience — "our spirit." Have you, or have you not, a persuasion in your own breast that you are a child of God? "If our heart condemn us," that is, if the verdict of conscience be clearly against us, "God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. But if our heart condemn us not," if its verdict be impartially in our favour, "then have we confidence towards God."

2. But, secondly, here is the testimony of the Spirit of God, and this is more particularly to be regarded; but when both agree then the case is beyond all reasonable doubt. Many a man, sinfully partial to himself, hath the witness of his own spirit that he is a Christian, while the Spirit of God witnesses no such thing. Let us, therefore, consider this witness.This is given in two ways.

1. In the Scriptures. The Word of God describes the children of God, the mind compares itself with this, and so far as an agreement really exists an inference friendly to ourselves is fairly drawn.

2. But there is the Spirit's witness by supernatural influence, or direct impressions on the mind. If Satan, that evil spirit "which now worketh in the children of disobedience," has a pernicious and destructive influence, much more the Holy Spirit of God for saving purposes. The Spirit's witness may be distinguished —(1) By what precedes it. In vain does any one pretend to it unless he be first experimentally acquainted with —

(a)True repentance.

(b)Unfeigned faith.

(c)Sincere devotedness to God.(2) By what attends it. A high estimation of God's Word.

(3)By what follows it.

(a)Deep humility.

(b)Holy jealousy of self.

(c)Close walking with God.


(T. Kidd.)

I. THE TESTIMONY. There must be a fact before there can be evidence. To be a child of God is a privilege marked —

1. By its greatness. It is a great privilege that commences in adoption, that is effectuated by regeneration, sustained by Divine nourishment, confirmed by Divine instruction, manifested by Divine resemblance, and witnessed by the Divine Spirit. Now, God has said, "If any man provide not for those of his own household, he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel." We conclude that God, in proclaiming His own Fatherhood, will not be wanting towards the members of His own family.(1) He has a home for them (John 14:2). Wherefore He is not ashamed to be called their God, for He hath provided for them a city.(2) He will provide for their pilgrimage and journey home.(3) He will afford them the special tokens of His love. "I will not leave you orphans."

2. By its distinguishing privilege. To be the children of God by adoption and grace is not a common privilege.

3. By its operative power. "He that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure." The child of God longs to be like God.

4. By its evangelical influence. "Ye have received not the spirit of bondage."

II. THE WITNESSES. "In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word he established" (John 8:18).

1. Our own spirit. Not that it has always done so, nor that our actual safety is always in proportion to the assurance of safety. We may be safer than our fears will permit us to think. But there are times when our own spirit delivers no faint or hesitating testimony. "Should I thus love God if He were not more to me than He is to others? Should I thus run to Him in my sorrows, feel this delight in prayer, love His house, His day, His Word, His ministers — choose His people?"

2. But our hearts are deceitful. We need a second witness to confirm the testimony of our own. The Spirit is a fellow-witness. How does the Spirit bear witness?(1) By direct communication. But lest this should be thought to encourage a dreamy fanaticism —(2) By the doctrines and promises of the written Word. The voice of the Spirit within agrees with the voice without — to the law and the testimony.(3) By His effectual work as the Comforter and Sanctifier of the people of God, tempers, fruit.


1. To ourselves for comfort. We are hard to satisfy. He thoroughly pleads our cause and argues it to us.

2. To the Church for communion.

3. To the world for usefulness.

(P. Strutt.)

The sin of the world is a false confidence — that a man is a Christian when he is not. The fault of the Church is a false diffidence — whether a man be a Christian when he is. The two are perhaps more akin than they look. Their opposites, at all events — the true confidence, which is faith in Christ; and the true diffidence, which is distrust of self — are identical. But there often is the combination of a real confidence and a false diffidence. Now this text is one that has often tortured the mind of Christians. Instead of looking to other sources to ascertain whether they are Christians or not, and then thinking thus, That text asserts that all Christians have this witness, therefore certainly I have it in some shape or other; they say, I do not feel anything that corresponds with my idea of the witness of God's Spirit, and therefore I doubt whether I am a Christian at all. Note —

I. OUR CRY "FATHER" IS THE WITNESS THAT WE ARE SONS. "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit." It is not that my spirit bears witness that I am a child of God, and that the Spirit of God comes in with a separate evidence to say Amen; but that there is one testimony which has a conjoint origin; from the Spirit of God as true source, and from my own soul as recipient and co-operant in that testimony.

1. So far, then, as the form of the evidence goes, you are not to look for it in anything parted off from your own experience, but you are to try and find out whether there be a "still small voice," no whirlwind, etc., but the voice of God taking the voice and tones of your own heart and saying to you, Thou art My child, inasmuch as through Me there rises, tremblingly but truly, in thine own soul the cry, Abba, Father.

2. Then with regard to the substance of it, "The Spirit itself," by means of our cry, Abba, Father, "beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God." The substance of the conviction is not primarily directed to our relation or feelings to God, but to God's feelings and relation to us. The two things seem to be the same, but they are not. Instead of being left painfully to search amongst the dust and rubbish of our own hearts, we are taught to sweep away all that crumbled, rotten surface, and to go down to the living rock that lies beneath it. There is all the difference in the world between searching for evidence of my sonship and seeking to get the conviction of God's fatherhood. The one is an endless, profitless, self-tormenting task; the other is the light and glorious liberty of the children of God.


1. Our own convictions are ours because they are God's. Our own spirits possess them, but our own spirits did not originate them. This passage with Galatians 4:6 puts this truth very forcibly. In the one text the cry is regarded as the voice of the believing heart; and in the other the same cry is regarded as the voice of God's Spirit. And these two things are both true; the one would want its foundation if it were not for the other; the cry of the Spirit is nothing for me unless it be appropriated by me. And the whole doctrine of my text is built on this one thought — without the Spirit of God in your heart you never can recognise God as your Father. There is no ascent of the human desires above their source.

2. But if this principle be true it does not apply only to this one single attitude of the believing soul, it comprehends the whole of a Christian's life. "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit" in every perception of God's Word, in every revelation of His counsel, in every aspiration after Him, in every holy resolution, in every thrill and throb of love and desire. Each of these is mine, inasmuch as in my heart it is experienced" and transacted; but it is God's, and therefore only has it come to be mine! And if it be objected that this opens a wide door to delusion, here is an outward guarantee. "As many as are led by the Spirit of God they are the sons of God." The test of the inward conviction is the outward life, and they that have the witness of the Spirit within them have the light of their life lit by the Spirit of God, whereby they may read the handwriting on the heart, and be sure that it is God's and not their own!


1. The notion often prevails that this Divine witness must needs be perfect, never flickering, never darkening. The passage before us gives us the opposite notion. The Divine Spirit, when it enters into the narrow room of the human spirit, condescends to submit itself to the ordinary laws and conditions which befall our own human nature. Christ came into the world Divine, but the humanity He wore modified the manifestation of the Divinity that dwelt in it. And not otherwise is the operation of God's Holy Spirit when it comes to dwell in a human heart. There, too, working through man, it "is found in fashion as a man." The witness of the Spirit, if it were yonder in heaven, would shine like a perpetual star; here in the heart on earth it burns like a flame, not always bright, wanting to be trimmed, and needing to be guarded from rude blasts. Else what does an apostle mean when he says, "Quench not the Spirit," "Grieve not the Spirit"?

2. And the practical conclusion that comes from all this is just the simple advice, Do not wonder if that evidence vary in its clearness and force. Do not think that it cannot be genuine because it is changeful. There are heavenly lights too that wax and wane; they are lights, they are in the heavens though they change. You have no reason to be discouraged because you find that the witness of the Spirit changes. Watch it, and guard it, lest it do. Live in the contemplation of the person and the fact that it calls forth, that it may not, You will never "brighten your evidences" by polishing at them. To polish the mirror ever so assiduously does not secure the image of the sun on its surface. The only way to do that is to carry the poor bit of glass out into the sunshine. It will shine then, never fear.

(A. Maclaren, D.D.)

It is the high and distinguishing privilege of true Christians that they are the children of God; but there is a wide difference between possessing a privilege and knowing that we possess it. A man may have in law a clear title to an estate without feeling sure in his own mind that he has such a title. He may possess a real interest in some very beneficial concern, and yet may be ignorant of his claim, or perhaps have considerable doubts as to the justice of his pretensions. The text discloses the way by which the true Christian may attain to a strong and lively hope of his adoption — namely, through the testimony of the Spirit. What, then, is this witness of the Spirit?

I. IT IS A PRIVILEGE WHICH THE SPIRIT OF GOD FREELY BESTOWS; which He confers or withholds as He sees fit. Some may wait many years before they are favoured with it, and may afterwards lose it. Nor is the Spirit less free as to the degree of the testimony. To one He bears a weaker, to another a stronger witness.

II. IT IS A SECRET INWARD OPERATION of the Holy Ghost "with our spirit." Consequently it can be known only to the person to whom it is given. By his fruits others know him.

III. IT PERFECTLY AGREES WITH THE WRITTEN WORD OF GOD; for the Spirit cannot contradict Himself — e.g., should a person pretend to have it whose life exhibited none of those marks with which Scripture distinguishes the children of God, it would be plain that he was mistaken in his pretensions. For could the Spirit witness to him a falsehood?

IV. IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH SUDDEN AND VIOLENT IMPULSES, new revelations, sensible impressions, etc. Let us not deny or overlook the real operations of the Spirit of God; but let us not blaspheme Him, nor bring them into contempt, by ascribing to His agency effects which are proofs of nothing but of error, weakness, or imposture.


(E. Cooper.)

Christ taught the doctrine of regeneration by the Holy Spirit, and St. Paul taught the complemental doctrine of a direct personal witness of the same Spirit to the soul that had become renewed. The act of regeneration is succeeded by the act of confirmation; which is the Divine method in nature. Not only did God create the heavens and the earth, but He followed each act of creation with the assurance that it was "very good." It is quite true that the works of nature are continually vindicating their own goodness, and it is not less true that spiritual sonship is its own witness in the presence of all men; yet the soul which has passed through the agonies of penitence and reconstruction needs just that word of tender assurance and comfort which is expressed in the doctrine of the witness of the Spirit.

I. THIS WITNESS BRINGS WITH IT COMFORT. In all the great experiences of life we need a voice other than our own to complete the degree of satisfaction which begins in our own consciousness. In common affairs we may be strong enough without external encouragement; but when life is sharpened into a crisis we need something more than is possible to our unaided powers. There are times when we need to hear our own convictions pronounced by the voice of another. Let that second witness be greater than ourselves, and his testimony will bring with it proportionate comfort; let him be the wisest of men, and still the consolation is increased: let that witness be not a man, but God Himself, and at once we are filled with peace and joy unspeakable.

II. Still, the very Divineness of this comfort clothes the witness with the severity of INEXORABLE DISCIPLINE. Sonship has responsibilities as well as enjoyments. "Know ye not that ye are the temples of the Holy Ghost?" Will any man make the temple of the Lord a temple of idols? We are to walk in the Spirit; to mind the things of the Spirit; and to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit. Otherwise there can be no comfort! If there is sweetness in the mouth, it is the taste of stolen honey. The comfort is not a spiritual luxury. The apostolic doctrine is that the promises of God should move the heart towards more and more purity (2 Corinthians 7:1). God's purpose as to character is growth. Let the sacred germ lie dormant in the heart, and the witness of the Spirit will decline in vividness and emphasis, and the germ itself will perish (Hebrews 6:4-6). Once interrupt the communion of the soul with the Father, and the soul may never be able to resume the fellowship: then (the apostle would say) "Pray without ceasing," if you would enjoy the permanent witness of the Spirit. Thus the argument arising out of Divine comfort in the human soul points stead-lastly towards discipline (vers, 5, 13).

III. YET WITH ALL THE COMFORT IS THERE NOT AN ASPIRATION HARDLY DISTINGUISHABLE FROM DISCONTENT, AND WITH ALL THE DISCIPLINE IS THERE NOT A HOPE WHICH MAKES IT EASY? The explanation is found in the fact that the present enjoyment of the Spirit is but an earnest of the coming fulness (ver. 23). The Church by mistaking the "earnest" for the "fulness," runs the risk of stating incomplete truths as final revelations. The "earnest" of the Spirit constitutes a lien upon the future service of the receiver; if the service be unperformed, the "earnest" will be withdrawn; whereas, if the service be lovingly rendered with the whole might of the heart, the measure of the gift will be filled up even to the sanctification of the "whole body, soul, and spirit." What is delaying the outpouring of the fulness of the Spirit? There is, indeed, a still sterner inquiry, Is not the presence of the Holy Ghost in the Church less distinct to-day than in the apostolic age? Can modern piety enrich its history with such a passage as Acts 2:1-4; Acts 4:31? Is the Church baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire? Is it honourable to suggest that such manifestations were confined to the early Church? It was after those manifestations that the Apostle Paul described the measure of the Spirit already given as an "earnest," and if only an earnest where is the fulness which there is not room enough to receive? We may be said to receive more and more of the sun as noontide approaches, and to receive a "double portion" of the spirit of every author whose writings we study with admiring affection. Now, why has not a Church eighteen hundred years old a fuller realisation of the witness of the Holy Ghost than had the Church of the first century? Has the Church accomplished all the purpose of God, and passed for ever the zenith of her light and beauty? How, then, are men to know that they enjoy the witness of the Spirit? Partly by the anxiety with which they put the question, and partly, too, by the occasional comforts which suffuse the soul with inexplicable gladness, but mainly by the daily sacrifice of loving service, and by enrapturing expectation.

(J. Parker, D.D.)

How much there is in this chapter as to the work of the Holy Spirit. He helps against sin (ver. 2). He leads and guides (ver. 14), He aids in prayer (ver. 26). And (text) gives believers a happy sense of their acceptance. Not, indeed, by voice from heaven, nor by angelic messenger (Daniel 9:23), rather by revealing the Saviour's love and glory (John 15:26), and by bringing peace-giving words to remembrance (John 14:26, 27). Let us now consider the great happiness of possessing this witness.

I. IT COMFORTS IN TRIAL. How comforting to remember that these are a Father's dealings! (Hebrews 12:7; John 18:11).

II. IT ENCOURAGES TO PRAYER. Let it fill the mind, and then we know we are welcome. What a difference does this make!

III. IT RESTRAINS IN TEMPTATION. If we have a happy consciousness of our adoption, we shall fear to offend. We shall fear to bring a cloud over our joy.

IV. IT STIRS UP TO ACTIVE SERVICE. Joy makes one active.

V. IT SUPPORTS IN THE PROSPECT OF DEATH. Under such circumstances the valley becomes illuminated. Death is then going to a Father — going to a proper home.

(J. Lancaster, M.A.)

I. THE WITNESSES. The text suggests that we are entering upon a calm judicial process, in which the verdict can be obtained only by the testimony of two witnesses of tried competency and proved faithfulness.

1. The importance of having the Holy Spirit as the chief witness will appear from the nature of the facts to be witnessed to — namely, that we are the children of God, etc. For on the authority of no mere man could I receive this testimony. Wise he might be, and holy; but the subject is beyond his province. Neither could I take the testimony of an angel. Note the requirements essential to the competency of our witness. The counsels of God's will, the goings forth of His love and peace, must be naked and open to the witness with whom we have to do. He must know when the act of grace went forth, when the wandering spirit turned, and when the heart surrendered. These are things which must be known to the Holy Spirit, because of Him and through Him are all these effects wrought. Are the eyes opened? It is His to enlighten. is conscience awakened? It is His to reprove. Does the will yield? It is His to subdue. Is the heart at peace? It is His to seal.

2. The second witness is the spirit of the man himself — the responsive testimony of our own hearts echoing the silent utterances of the Holy Ghost, and giving us confidence toward God. This view of course supposes the witness of our own spirits to be of a derived and reflected kind. It is a witness to a witness — the interpreter of that testimony which is borne by the Spirit of God. Of themselves our own spirits can testify nothing.

II. IN WHAT LANGUAGE DOES THE SPIRIT SPEAK, AND IN WHAT SIGNS DOES THE HEART MAKE ANSWER? The joint witness is to be looked for in the inward peace arising from the discovery of certain tendencies and dispositions answerable to the state of sonship. And it is properly called a joint witness, because the same Spirit who forms these tendencies in us, also manifests their existence to us. We can only know that we are children when the Spirit reveals the existence of those moral dispositions which prompt us to act and feel as children, and these we find only in the written Word. But this still makes the Spirit of God the chief witness, because until He shines upon the Word it is a sealed book to us. But when He opens our understanding we find that the entrance of God's Word giveth light. And it is just the agreement between these two — the Scripture calling and the heart answering; the Spirit insisting on certain feelings, and our own spirits testifying that we have such feelings — that constitutes our double witness. "To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to My Word, it is because there is no life in them." But to what purpose does our text come in at the close of several of the most distinguishing marks of true grace which Scripture contains, if it be not to set the heart upon the inquiry whether, by the Secret illumination of the Spirit, these marks be discoverable in ourselves? Now it is manifest that if these marks be found in us we have the witness of the Word to our adoption; and what is the witness of the Word but the witness of the Spirit, who both indited the Word and gave us understanding to comprehend the truth? Conclusion: The text describes a real blessing, It is no visionary good. Do not let any difficulties connected either with its manifestation or its source affect your possession of it as a great spiritual reality. It is a witness, and a witness to a great fact. The heart's peace, the soul's comfort, life's prospects, death's fears, all hinge and turn upon the clearness of this twofold testimony. It brings with it heaven's credentials; it is stamped with heaven's seal; it leaves behind it heaven's peace; it is the witness of the Spirit of God.

(D. Moore, M.A.)

I. THE GENERAL ATTAINABLENESS OF THE SPIRIT. The sense of adoption, so far from being heaven's far-off prize held out to the highest saints, is a near, present good which babes in Christ may grasp, which is offered to the prodigal first returning from his wanderings and to the publican first humbled for his sins. This fact will appear in the exhortations to this assurance (Hebrews 6:11; Hebrews 10:22; 2 Peter 1:10). To these add the passages holding out to the believer the promise of peace (Isaiah 26:3; Isaiah 32:17; Romans 5:1). Such a peace, it is manifest, could never be ours while doubt and misgiving hung over the great business and design of our existence. Peace in duty, in suffering, in our spiritual approaches, in the contemplation of the great future, not only is set forth in Scripture as attainable, but is commonly made to give forth an utterance as plain as a testimony addressed to the ear.

II. MUST IT BE ATTAINED? Let us ask, What is necessary to salvation? Faith, of course. But faith in what? In something done for us, or in something done in us? In the sufficiency of Christ's work, or in the sufficiency of our conscious interest in that work? The faith which justifies is an act of trust, exerted objectively upon the mediation of Christ, and justification is the instantaneous effect ensuing upon this act. But it may be long before we are made conscious of our new condition, or its resulting peace, e.g., a ship is labouring, and ill-piloted, on a dangerous coast. A spectator knows that if she once make a certain point, her danger is over. She does make this point, and is safe; but the crew do not know she is safe, and therefore they continue to be afraid where no fear is. Her deliverance takes place before the comfort of deliverance. And just so it will often be in our spiritual deliverance. It is not that a man has not faith, but he has not the comfort of faith. Faith, justification, peace, is the declared order of the Divine procedure. Between faith and justification there is no appreciable interval; but between justification and peace there may be a long and trying interval. And, further, to make our salvation depend upon any form of inward testimony, is to make the trust of the believer turn in part upon something within, rather than turning absolutely upon the finished work of Christ. And the difference to our spiritual safety, whether we exercise faith in Christ immediately, or mediately on some inward feeling which unites us to Christ, is as great as would be the difference to a drowning man whether he laid hold on a rock, or merely on a loose weed which was growing to the rock. We may have the faith of reliance when we cannot get the faith of assurance; and when through the weakness of the flesh we cannot lay hold on the witness that is within us, we may yet be saved by laying firm hold on the hope that is set before us.


1. This witness is an impression of inward peace, the fruit of a certain comparison which the mind has been enabled by the Spirit to make between the statements of revelation and its own moral experience. But this done, the chief practical directions for gaining an inward assurance are that we cultivate a believing contemplation of gospel truth, and institute a frequent and close examination into the state of our own hearts.

2. And then there must be much of self-examination followed up by the repairing of all conscious deficiencies, and the renouncing of all discovered faults.

(D. Moore, M.A.)


1. True religion is not a set of creeds, defined and believed just as a man may believe in the North Pole or the law of gravitation. The sphere of religion is not in the man's head, but in the heart. Nor is it a matter of forms of worship — singing hymns or saying prayers or hearing sermons. These things may be gone through, and all the time the real man may be unmoved and asleep. It is precisely here that a great many people make a mistake. They are not satisfied with their religious life. That which they have is unreal, outside. So they either set to work to examine their creed, or else they change it. Or else they think the form of worship is at fault. And at last they are ready to give up all in despair.

2. The only religion that can satisfy is the work of the Spirit of God in our spirits. By all means see that your creed stands square with the Word of God, and seek the forms of worship that help you to get nearest to God. But be sure of this, that creeds however true, and forms of worship however solemn and impressive, can never give you the religious life. We must be born of the Spirit. The manner of this new creation may differ in a thousand ways. With some it may be gentle and gradual as the dawn of day; with others it may be as a day when the noise of battle rolled.

3. Although this life is begotten of the Spirit of God, yet is He to be willingly received and submitted to (ver. 14). Now to such there is given the witness of the Spirit.


1. There is much significance in the emphatic assurance with which St. Paul speaks. He bids us take it for granted that if we are the children of God this witness of the Spirit is ours. Children do not know what the estate is worth, but they do know that it is theirs, and whatever there is in it belongs to them. Think of a child saying, "I am going to see what I am heir to," and spending all its time in prying into everything with a microscope to make sure that it is there. Since the realm of the religious life is in the spirit, do not let us be always analysing and defining and perplexing ourselves about all sorts of mysteries. There are some people who always begin to tell me their symptoms, and ask me what I think of them and what they ought to do. Well, forget that you have any constitution. Give up the luxury of a liver. Work hard at some outdoor work so that you have not time to think about yourself; and then when you get very hungry, eat; and when you have got very tired, sleep. There are spiritual dyspeptics, too, who are always talking about their symptoms, and who think they have not got any religion at all unless they are finding something to worry themselves and other people about. Come, let us be bold to say, "Well, whatever the witness of the Spirit is, if Jesus Christ is mine, this too is mine." And yet, on the other hand, let us honour the Giver of the estate by seeking to make the most of it; finding out how rich and blest we are. Now there are some who think of the witness of the Spirit as a kind of revelation from heaven, or a thrill of rapture — something which lifts us up above other people and singles us out as the favourites of God. If anything could make a man a Pharisee it is surely that. It is the very root of that Pharisaism which the Lord denounced. The witness of the Spirit is not to our spirits that we are the children. It is with our spirits that God is our Father. He is to take of the things of Christ and manifest them unto us. There is in Jesus Christ a sight of our sin that humbles and shames us, yet there is a sight of love that overwhelms us. The Spirit puts us in possession of that love as our own; and in loving tenderness the Father bends over us so pitiful, so careful for us that all the heart cries, "Abba, Father." A blessed consciousness is thus wrought within us, which has no room for pride, but only for self-forgetfulness, wonder, gratitude, and glad obedience.

III. THIS WITNESS IS NO LESS DIVINE BECAUSE IT MOVES ON THE ORDINARY AND NATURAL LINES OF SPIRITUAL INFLUENCE. There are men and women who help to create within us a new experience. Their influence is at once distinct yet indistinguishable. We cannot mark exactly the influence, how it came and how it wrought. Now it is in this quiet and natural way for the most part that the witness of the Spirit is given. The idea is of a blending of spiritual influence. The Gulf Stream may be taken as a parable of this. For some eight months of the year our seas ought to be frozen over so that no ship could approach our shores. Our islands should be a rough rude tract of country where only the hardiest forms of life could survive — a land of forest where wild furry beasts should roam, and where the deep snows should make agriculture almost impossible. What mystery is this which delivers us? Away in the distant southern world, in the fierce heat of the tropics starts the Gulf Stream. It gathers the warmth of the sun and sends it for thousands of miles across the seas to lave our shores. And thus the arctic winter is driven from us; and our ports are open all the year round; over us stretch the kindlier skies; about us blow the gentler winds; our fields are covered with grass, the valleys are thick with corn, But where is this Gulf Stream which does such wonders? Can you see it? No, we cannot see it, but it is there. The parable is a many-sided illustration of the truth. Of nature, of ourselves, we do dwell in a land of winter — frozen and well-nigh dead; without the energy to put forth any life of God. But lo, we know not how, but by the Holy Spirit of God there is breathed about us and within us the love of God, softening, transforming, bringing to us a new heaven and a new earth. And now do grow and flourish blessed things which before we knew not. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace," etc.

(Mark Guy Pearse.)

I. THERE ARE MANY TERMS WHICH DESCRIBE OUR NATURE AND CONDITION WHEN WE ARE NOT THE CHILDREN OF GOD. "The children of the world," "children of the night," "children of iniquity," "children of the devil," "children of wrath."

II. CONTRASTED WITH ALL THIS THERE IS THE TEXT "CHILDREN OF GOD," they whose nature is derived from the parentage of heaven, whose character is formed by that nature, whose actions and prospects spring from that nature.

1. And this state is clearly set before us not as a thing that comes by nature, or by accident, or unawares. It is not that we are all the creatures of God; the pebbles are that. Nor is it that we are merely objects of the Divine benevolence; God is good to the worst man living. Nor merely that we are the offspring of God — those whose origin was from Him and who will always bear in them some characteristics of that origin, such as immortality, conscience, etc. The fallen angels have all that. "I know," said the Lord in speaking of the Jews, "that ye are the seed of Abraham," but then in the same breath He denied it. They were the offspring of Abraham, but they ceased to be his children, or they would have shown forth his nature. But God was "able of those stones to raise up children unto Abraham"; God was able to take those fallen Jews and restore them to the place that they had lost in the family of faith. And so with any unconverted man, any teacher who is teaching a pardon and a peace that he has never experienced; God is able out of the very stones to raise up children to God.

2. And this was the glory of our Saviour's mission among men that to them that received Him He gave power to become the sons of God: and to be constituted the children of God always implies the double idea of adoption and regeneration, the restoration of the soul to the favour of God, the restoration of the name to its place in the family roll.


1. "Eye hath not seen," etc. Then should they remain unknown? It is very certain that the eye cannot see when God forgives the soul. You may hearken as you will, but you will never hear it. And as to the heart imagining it, it passes in another world. Am I to say, then, if I cannot see it or hear it, etc., I cannot believe it? The apostle meets you at once. He says, "The things of a man knoweth no man, save the spirit of man that is in him." A son was wandering disinherited in America. The father says to an uncle, "Will you be my executor?" "Yes, on condition that you restore the name of your eldest son." "He is dead," says the father. "He is not dead," says the uncle. "Put in his name and I will be your executor." The father puts in his name, and actually the boy is restored to his rights and titles of inheritance. He knows nothing about it. That mind of his father's is as much an invisible world to him as is God's to us. The only question is, Had his father any power of putting what was in his mind into the mind of his boy? No; because he did not know where his boy was, and the boy never got his inheritance, for the father again altered his will, thinking the boy was dead, and dead he was not. There is the simple ease supposed in 1 Corinthians 2:11. Just as the spirit of the father knew the acts of the father, although the Son did not, so doth the Spirit of God know the acts of God. But then the difference was this, that man's spirit did not search all things; it could not tell where his son was. But the Spirit searcheth all things, not only the deep things of God, but the deep things of your heart and your ways. "Eye hath not seen," etc., but God doth reveal them unto us by His Spirit.

2. A witness is simply one who has witnessed a transaction, and who bears witness of that transaction to another who did not witness it. How doth the Spirit bear witness? I do not know, any more than I know how the father held up his hand to write the name of his son. I do not know how that is done. I know that you and I can do it. I do not know how it was that one day when in my house they were anxiously inquiring whether a certain ship from America was nearing the shore, a telegram came, and we knew the ship was there a couple of hours before the telegram came from the ship itself. Those that were on the ship had no means of communicating it; but the people on shore had seen, and they could send the news of what they had seen right into the minds of people here in London, and produced within those minds all the change and all the impression that was wanted to be produced by that piece of intelligence. So it is the mission and office of the Holy Ghost, as the revealer of Christ and of the Father, to uncover the pardoning countenance of God, and to make that countenance shine upon His forgiven child. Conclusion: If you need the Holy Spirit to bear witness with you that you are the children of God, the world needs a witness, and that witness you can give only in your actions, in your conduct. The world will not believe your word, and it ought not to believe your word if that word is not supported by your conduct and your character. But if your conduct and character bear upon them the Divine stamp, then your word will not be an empty sound. When you have made that impression upon the hearts of men, you have gone far towards testifying that there is such a thing as being a child of God. To the Church you can testify your sonship in Christ by the one proof of your love to the brethren. No other proof will avail. And if the Spirit is really bearing witness with your spirit that you are the child of God you will love Him, and loving Him you will take delight in pleasing Him; and you will love all that are begotten of Him; you will love His cause, His kingdom, His glory, and the witness of the Spirit filling your soul with light from above will illuminate your whole conduct, and that conduct shall be that of a child of the light.

(W. Arthur, M.A.)

I. THE THING TESTIFIED To — that we are the children of God. There is the same difference between τέκνον, and ὑιὸς as there is between child and son; the former applies to either sex, and is more tender, We are born of God, i.e., we are produced by Him. This does not refer to us as creatures, nor as rational creatures, but as regenerated; so that we are partakers of the Divine nature.

1. It expresses the relation in which we stand to God as the objects of His love and as loving Him. This filial spirit on our part includes —

(1)Confidence in His love to us.


(3)Zeal for His glory.

(4)Devotion to His service.

2. It indicates the privileges arising from this relation. We are heirs of God, partakers of all the blessings which He has provided for His children.

II. THE NATURE OF THE TESTIMONY. It is not involved in our filial feelings, but is —

1. Direct or immediate. The Spirit assures us just as He produces the assurance of the truth.

2. Mysterious, but not more so than the operations of the Spirit, nor indeed than the action of mind on matter or of one created spirit on other created spirits.

3. Self-evidencing, i.e., it reveals itself as the testimony of God. Just as the voice of God in the heavens, in conscience, in the law, in the gospel, reveals itself in His Word; so when the Spirit speaks to the soul it is known to be the Spirit.

4. Infallible, and produces assurance. This is not inconsistent with doubt and anxiety, because —

(1)This witnessing is intermittent, more or less.

(2)This voice of God may vary from the slightest, almost inaudible whisper, to the most clear and articulate enunciation.

5. Sanctifying. That is its nature. It produces that effect, just as fire burns, or light dispels darkness. It is never given where it is not true. And where it is true, where the soul is regenerated, then to banish doubt and fear and anxiety is to infuse new life and vigour. It is to give peace and call out graces.

(C. Hodge, D.D.)

How many, not understanding what they spoke, have wrested this scripture to their great loss! How many have mistaken the voice of their own imagination for this witness, and presumed that they were the children of God while they were doing the works of the devil! These are the enthusiasts. Who, then, can be surprised if many reasonable men seeing the dreadful effects of this delusion should regard this witness as exclusively an extraordinary gift of the apostolic age? But we may steer a middle course, and keep a safe distance from enthusiasm without denying the privilege of God's children.


1. The witness of our spirit.(1) The foundation of this is laid in those scriptures which describe the marks of the children of God. Every man applying these marks to himself may know whether he is a child of God. If he know —(a) "As many as are led by the Spirit of God" into all holy tempers and actions, "they are the sons of God."(b) I am thus "led by the Spirit of God"; he will easily conclude "therefore I am a son of God," Agreeable to this are all those plain declarations of St, John in his First Epistle (1 John 2:3, 5, 29; 1 John 3:14, 19; 1 John 4:13; 1 John 3:24).(3) But how does it appear that we have these marks? I would reply, How does it appear to you that you are alive, and in ease, not in pain? Are you not immediately conscious of it? By the same consciousness you will know if your soul is alive to God; if you are saved from the pain of proud wrath and have the ease of a meek and quiet spirit.

2. The testimony of God's Spirit is an inward impression on the soul whereby the Spirit of God directly witnesses with my spirit that I am a child of God; "that Jesus Christ hath loved me and given Himself for me; and that all my sins are blotted out, and I, even I, am reconciled to God."(1) That this testimony must needs be antecedent to the other appears from the fact that we must be holy of heart and life before we are conscious that we are so. But we must love God before we can be holy, and we cannot love Him till we know He loves us, which we cannot know till God's love is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost.(2) Not that the operation of the Holy Spirit is to be excluded even from the testimony of our own. He not only works in us every manner of good, but also shines upon His own work and clearly shows what He has wrought. Accordingly one great end of our receiving the Spirit is "that we may know the things which are freely given us of God.(3) If it be inquired how the Spirit bears witness, such knowledge is too wonderful for us. "The wind bloweth where it listeth!" But the fact we know, viz., that the Spirit of God does give the believer such a testimony of His adoption, that while it is present to the soul, he can no more doubt the reality of his sonship than he can doubt of the shining of the sun while he stands in the full blaze of his beams.


1. The presumption of the natural mind. The Scriptures abound with marks whereby we may distinguish the one from the other; and whoever carefully attends to them will not put darkness for light.(1) Repentance precedes this witness (Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19), but the natural mind is a stranger to this. The being born again — that mighty change from darkness to light, death to life, etc. (Ephesians 2:1, 5, 6), must also precede; but what knoweth he of this? It is a language he does not understand. He has always been a Christian, and knows no time when he had need of such a change.(2) Humble joy in God accompanies it, and meekness, patience, gentleness, etc. But do these fruits attend the supposed testimony in the presumptuous man? The more confident he is of the favour of God the more does he exalt himself. It is also accompanied with the love which rejoices to obey (1 John 5:3; John 14:21). But this is not the character of the presumptuous pretender to the love of God. But how may one who has the real witness distinguish it from presumption? How do you distinguish day from night? or the light of a glimmering taper from that of the noonday sun? In like manner there is an essential difference between spiritual light and darkness, and between the light wherewith the Sun of Righteousness shines upon our heart, and the glimmering light which arises from "sparks of our own kindling." To require a more minute and philosophical account is to make a demand which can never be answered, or else the natural man would be able to discern the things of the Spirit of God.

2. The delusions of the devil. By the same fruits. That proud spirit cannot humble thee before God, or melt thy heart into filial love, or enable thee to put on meekness, etc. As surely, then, as holiness is of God and sin of the devil, so surely the witness thou hast in thyself is not of Satan but of God.

(John Wesley, M.A.)

There are here —


1. The Spirit.(1) He is God, and if so, equal to the Father and the Son. This is proved inasmuch as —(a) The essential name of God is given Him (Isaiah 6:9; cf. Acts 28:25).(b) The Divine attributes — eternity (Genesis 1:2); omnipresence (Psalm 139:7); omniscience (1 Corinthians 2:10).(c) The works of God — creation (Job 33:4); miracles (Isaiah 63:14); the calling and sending of the prophets (Isaiah 48:16) and of Christ Himself (Luke 4:18); prophecy (Acts 1:16); illumination (John 16:14); justification (1 Corinthians 6:11); conviction of sin (John 16:8); comfort (Acts 9:31); resurrection (Romans 8:11); the earnest and seal of our evidence (Ephesians 1:13); spiritual refreshment (John 4:14); zeal (Matthew 3:11); prayer (Zechariah 12:10; Romans 8:26); gladness (Hebrews 1:9); spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4). He is God, because the essential name of God is His; therefore let us call upon His name, because the attributes of God are His; therefore let us attribute to Him all might, majesty, dominion, etc., because the works of God are His; therefore let us co-operate with Him: then shall we be of the same spirit with Him.(2) He is a distinct person in the Godhead. He is not the highest and powerfullest working of God in man not the breathing of God into the soul of man; these are only His gifts and not Himself. It is not the power of the King that signs His pardon, but His person.(3) He proceeds from the Father and the Son (ver. 9; Galatians 4:6). As to the manner of this, when we are able to tell how the Spirit proceeds which beats in our pulse, we shall be able to explain that.

2. Our spirit. The word is applied either to the soul itself, or to its superior faculties in the regenerate. In Hebrews 4:12 the soul is that which animates the body, and enables the senses to see and hear; the spirit is that which enables the soul to see God and hear His gospel (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:25). The soul is the seat of affections, the spirit is rectified reason or the conscience (Romans 9:1).

II. THEIR OFFICE — to testify.

1. The testification of the Holy Ghost Himself. A witness ever testifies of some matter of fact. The Spirit here witnesses that we are the children of God. Now, if a witness prove that I am a tenant to such land or lord of it, I do not become so by this witness, but his testimony proves I was so before. I have, therefore, a former right to be the child of God — i.e., the election of God in Christ Jesus. The Holy Ghost produces the decree of this election. And upon such evidence shall I give sentence against myself? I should not doubt the testimony of an angel, and when God testifies to me it is a rebellious sin to doubt. But though there be a former evidence for my being a child of God, a decree in heaven, yet it is not enough that there is such a record; it must be produced; and by that, though it do not become my election then, it makes my election appear.

2. But even that Spirit will not be heard alone. He will fulfil His own law "in the mouth of two witnesses." Sometimes our spirit bears testimony without the Spirit. The natural conscience has much to say about sin, and God and our relation to Him (Acts 17:28). And the Holy Spirit testifies when ours does not. How often He presents to us the power of God in the mouth of the preacher, and we bear witness to one another of the preacher's wit and eloquence, and no more! How often He bears witness that such an action is odious to God, and our spirit bears witness that it is acceptable to men! How often He bears witness for God's judgments, and our spirit deposes for mercy by presumption, or He testifies for mercy and ours for judgment in desperation! But when the Spirit and our spirit agree; when He speaks comfortably to my soul and my soul hath apprehended comfort; when He deposes for the decree of my election, and I depose for the seals and marks of that decree, these two witnesses —

3. Induce a third witness — the world itself to testify what is the testimony of the text.

III. THE TESTIMONY — "that we are the children of God."

1. The Holy Ghost could not express more danger to a man than when He calls him "the child of this world" (Luke 16:18); nor a worse disposition than when He calls him "the child of diffidence and distrust in God" (Ephesians 5:6); nor a worse pursuer of that ill disposition than when He calls him "the child of the devil" (Acts 13:10); nor a worse possessing of the devil than when He calls him "the child of perdition" (John 17.); nor a worse execution of all this than when He calls him "a child of hell" (Matthew 23. 15).

2. So it is also a high exaltation when the Spirit draws our pedigree from any good thing, as when He calls us "the children of light" (John 12:36); "the children of the bridechamber" (Matthew 9:15); but the highest of all is "the children of God." This is an universal primogeniture, and makes every true believer heir of the joys, the glory, the eternity of heaven.

(J. Donne, D.D.)

Sometimes the soul, because it hath somewhat remaining in it of the principle that it had in its old condition, is put to question whether it be a child of God or not; and thereupon, as in a thing of greatest importance, puts in its claim, with all the evidence it hath to make good its title. The Spirit comes and bears witness in this case. It is an allusion to judicial proceedings in point of titles. The judge being set, the person concerned lays his claim, produces his evidences and pleads them, his adversaries endeavouring all that in them lies to disannul his plea. In the midst of the trial a person of known and proved integrity comes into the court, and gives testimony fully and directly on behalf of the claimer, which stops the mouth of all his adversaries, and fills the man with joy and satisfaction. So is it in this case. The soul, by the power of its own conscience, is brought before the law of God; there a man puts in his plea that he is a child of God, and for this end produceth all his evidences, everything whereby faith gives him an interest in God. Satan, in the meantime, opposeth with all his might; many flaws are found in the evidences; the truth of them all is questioned, and the soul hangs in suspense as to the issue. In the midst of the contest the Comforter comes, and overpowers the heart with a comfortable persuasion, and bears down all objections, that his plea is good, and that he is a child of God. When our spirits are pleading their right and title, He comes in and bears witness on our side, at the same time enabling us to put forth acts of filial obedience, crying, "Abba Father."

(J. Owen, D.D.)

Believers have a double testimony, one without, and one within; and this witness within us will go with us, which way soever we go: it will accompany us through all straits and difficulties. The external testimony may be taken from us, our Bibles, our teachers, our friends; or they may imprison us where we cannot enjoy them: but they cannot take from us the Spirit of Christ. This witness within is a permanent, settled, habituate, standing witness.

( Ambrose.)

— The witness of the Spirit, from its nature as a witness, must be instantaneous. A witness deposes to a particular fact; and there must be a particular instant of time when his testimony is given. The mathematician slowly, by the use of single cyphers and symbols, works out his problems in order to find a result concerning which he is altogether in doubt; the chemist slowly and cautiously conducts experiments to find out the nature of substances concerning which he is totally ignorant; but a witness enters a court to depose to a fact of which he has already a full knowledge, and whose testimony the court is now waiting to hear. He who believes in Jesus Christ is in a scriptural condition to receive the witness of the Spirit that he is a child of God; and the case neither requires nor admits that the witness should be gradually imparted. When a parent has forgiven his child he does not gradually reveal that fact to him, but gives immediate proof in his countenance and actions, if not in words, that he again loves him.

(S. Hulme.)


1. Direct.

2. Divine.

3. Manner unknown.

4. Distinct from and anterior to the witness of our own spirit.

5. Attested by Scripture.

6. Confirmed by reason.

7. If no such witness, no assurance, all induction.


1. Inward consciousness.

2. Holy tempers.

3. Obedience.

4. Peace and confidence.

5. Flowing from repentance and faith.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

The witness of the Holy Ghost is the work of faith, the witness of our spirits the sense of faith wrought. This is better felt by experience than expressed by words, known altogether and only to them which have it. For me to speak of this to them which have it not, were as if I should speak a strange language. The witness is that "we are the children of God." Not that we shall be, or may be, but are. And what though my very name be not written in the Scripture, thou Thomas, thou John? It is not convenient. What a huge volume should the Bible be if every saint's name were there written! It is not necessary, because all particulars are included in their generals; as he that saith, "All my children are here," means every one in particular, though he name them not; so God, that saith all believers shall be saved, means every one as though they were named. And yet the Scripture doth speak in particular (Romans 10:9). When the law saith, Thou shall not kill, steal, etc., every one is to take it as spoken to himself, as if he were named. Why should not such particulars in the gospel be also so taken? True, say the Papists, if you believe you shall be saved; but where does the Scripture say that you do believe? Ridiculous! The act of faith is not set down in the Scriptures, but the object. The faith which I believe is in the Bible. The faith whereby I believe is in my heart, and is not believed (for that were absurd), but known by feeling. We do not believe that we believe, but we feel it (2 Timothy 1:12). If man should witness, or an angel, there might be doubt; but when there is such a witness as is the Spirit we ought not to doubt. If a man of a weak brain were on the top of some high tower, and should look down, it would make him wonderfully afraid; but when he considers the battlements that keep him from falling his fear abates. So fares it with the regenerate when we look on our sins, and so down and down to hell. Alas! whose heart quails not? But when we consider the brazen wall of the love, truth, and promise of God in Christ, we may be assured without fear. Look upon thy defects, but forget not the truth and power of God. Pretend not the testimony of the Holy Ghost without thine own spirit: nor contrarily, for they go together. Faith, repentance, etc., are the testimony of God's Spirit; if from these thy spirit witnesseth, then it is current. But if thou beest a drunkard, a Sabbath-breaker, unclean, etc., and sayest the Spirit witnesseth thy salvation, it is not God's Spirit, but a lying spirit, for such works are of the devil. God's Spirit indeed witnesseth; but the witness is that they which do such things shall be damned.

(Elnathan Parr, B.D.)

Having affirmed the Divine relationship of the believer, the apostle now proceeds to adduce the Divine evidence of a truth so great.

I. IT IS NOT STRANGE THAT THE FACT OF HIS ADOPTION SHOULD MEET WITH MUCH MISGIVING IN THE CHRISTIAN'S MIND. The very stupendousness of the relationship staggers our belief. To be fully assured of our Divine adoption demands other than the testimony either of our own feelings or the opinion of men. Our feelings may mislead, the opinion of others may deceive. There exists a strong combination of evil tending to shake the Christian's confidence in the belief of his sonship.

1. Satan is ever on the watch to insinuate the doubt. He tried the experiment with our Lord (Matthew 4:6).

2. The world, too, presumes to call it in question (1 John

3. I). Ignorant of the Divine original, how can it recognise the Divine lineaments in the faint and imperfect copy?

3. But the strongest doubts are those gendered in the believer's own mind. There crowd upon it thoughts of his own sinfulness, and unworthiness of so distinguished a blessing. And when to this are added the varied dispensations of his heavenly Father, often wearing a rough garb, it is no marvel that, staggered by a discipline so severe, the fact of God's love should sometimes be a matter of painful doubt.


1. The perfect competence of the Spirit is assumed. Who can reasonably question it?(1) Is verity essential to a witness? He is the "Spirit of truth."(2) Is it essential that he should know the fact whereof he affirms? Who so competent to authenticate the work of the Spirit in the heart as the Spirit Himself?

2. As to the truth thus witnessed, we are not to suppose that the testimony is intended to make the fact itself more sure; nor for the benefit of our fellowcreatures, still less for the satisfaction of God Himself, but for the assurance and comfort of our own hearts.

3. But the question arises, What is the mode of His testimony? Not by visions and voices; not by heats and fancies; nor by any direct inspiration, or new revelation of truth. By —

(1)Begetting in us the Divine nature.

(2)Producing in us spiritual fruits.

(3)Breathing in our souls a desire for holiness, the Spirit conducts us to the rational conclusion that we are born of God.

(O. Winslow, D.D.)

The value of any testimony is determined by the character of the person who gives it. To be spoken of for our knowledge by a fool is of idle account; whilst a word from the wise, how good is it! To be spoken of for our valour by a coward is a vain matter; whilst the commendation of the hero is of great moment. Now in this way the greatest and best of all testimonies are those to the soul of the believer by the Spirit of God.

I. THE AUTHOR OF THE BELIEVER'S TESTIMONY — the Spirit! The Spirit beareth witness with our spirit.

1. Secretly in the sense which He conveys of our personal interest in the great scheme of Christ's atonement, by the gift of faith.

2. Openly before the eyes of the world, that the world may take knowledge of His work.

II. THE SUBSTANCE OF THE TESTIMONY — "that we are the children of God." In what way does this testimony discover itself? There will be a filial —

1. Love to God's person through Christ.

2. A trust and dependence upon His supplies.

3. Lowliness.

4. Fear.

5. Confidence in His wisdom.

6. Resignation to His will.

7. Obedience.

8. Likeness.

9. Delight in His presence.

III. THE DEDUCTION FROM THIS TESTIMONY — "if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ."

1. Not one in a family, but all heirs — not heirs who may lose their inheritance by premature death, or be defrauded of it, or have it wasted away by the delays and chicaneries of law, but an heirdom where the possession is certain as universal, and full as certain.

2. The heir of God! To the heir of a king what glorious expectancies are there! — of a throne, a crown, a treasury, a nation! But how poor are these to the objects before the heir of God! The heir of God! — of all things temporal, spiritual, and eternal, of all which God can devise and bestow for our good.

IV. THE CONDITION OF THOSE WHO RECEIVE THE TESTIMONY. It is a suffering condition — "if so be that we suffer with Him." The disciple is not above his Lord, nor the servant his master.

V. THE EXALTATION OF THOSE WHO ARE AFFECTED BY THE TESTIMONY — "that we may also be glorified together."

(T. J. Judkin.)


1. Paul draws a distinction between God's Spirit and our spirit; it is not our spiritual life that bears this testimony, but the Spirit of God. There are those who conceive that a feeling suddenly rises in the Christian, which is a conviction of his election, and that this is the witness of the Holy Spirit. Hence men have waited for it with anxiety. Of course a sudden emotion may come, but to rely on any emotion is to rely upon our own spirit bearing witness with itself. Man is not saved by feeling that he is saved. Nor has he the witness of sonship by feeling that he is a son of God; but by the Spirit of God apprehending and quickening his soul.

2. The apostle is speaking of continued evidence. If men imagine that certain ecstatic spiritual emotions are proofs of the witness of sonship, the witness is fitful and transient; for the inner life is as full of changes as an April day, and if a man founds his assurance on this, he will to-day believe in his sonship, and to-morrow utterly doubt it. Paul, in the former part of this chapter, has spoken of being freed from condemnation; of being spiritually minded; of being led by the Spirit; all these are continued facts of Christian life, therefore the witness of the Spirit is equally continued.

3. The ground on which Paul bases the evidence of sonship is that of a Divine Spirit, greater than the emotions of our souls, consciously acting upon us. But how do we know this? When we feel conscious not so much of possessing a life, as of a life possessing us.(1) This distinction holds through all the higher forms of human life. The man who proclaims the truth he holds is never the highest kind of preacher; he who speaks because the truth possesses him leaves an impress on the ages. The true artist is not the man who depicts his own ideas, but he who is tilled by a mighty inspiration which compels him to paint the forms of beauty which he sees glowing around him.(2) Passing to the moral life, we find the same distinction. He who does right because he may give pleasure, and fears to do wrong because it is painful, is never, in the highest sense, a moral man at all; but he only is such who does right because filled with a life grander than his own.(3) So in spiritual life. When we are led by a Spirit of life greater than our own, we know that the Divine Spirit is acting upon us. That is a witness of sonship founded on the rock of God's eternal truthfulness.

4. The manner in which this evidence rises in the soul. Observe how the text is woven into the chapter. Paul speaks of the action of God's Spirit as —(1) Deliverance from the carnal (ver. 13). Here, then, is the witness — when the old affections are being uprooted and a deep desire is created after perfect purity.(2) The spirit of prayer (ver. 26).(3) The spirit of aspiration (ver. 23). The feeling that here there is no rest — the whole life becoming one prayer for more light, greater power, deeper love; not, mark, the cry for happiness, but the cry — "Nearer, my God, to Thee."


1. To enable us to enter into perfect communion with God. Till we can feel His power possessing us — till we can see His smile behind every sorrow, we shall fear Him.

2. To realise our spiritual inheritance. You know the feeling of sadness which comes when gazing at night into immensity — the thought that this short life will soon be over, and we shall be swept away and forgotten. Then how grandly comes the witness to our sonship, saying, "Thou cast down? Look up into immensity, it is all thine, fear not, thou art a child of the Infinite."

3. In order to comprehend the glory of suffering. Mark the connection in Paul's words between the sufferings of this life and the glory to be revealed hereafter, as if he had said, "As the suffering is great, so also shall be the glory." None but the man who has the "witness of the Spirit" is able to look through the sorrow to the blessedness hereafter.

III. ITS ATTAINMENT. In order to acquire this witness, carry into action every spiritual power you possess — translate every emotion into life. Remember you have to "work together with God." Take care that you "grieve not the Holy Spirit." Feel that every point gained in spiritual life is a point to be maintained. Take care that when you are brought nearer to God by suffering, you do not allow yourself to fall back; if you do, the light of the Spirit will fade. "If then ye live in the Spirit, walk in the Spirit."

(E. L. Hull, B.A.)

I. A SPECIAL PRIVILEGE. "We are the children of God."

1. This is an act of pure grace. No man has any right to be a son of God. If we are born into His family it is a miracle of mercy.

2. This is a great dignity. The archangels are the most favoured of God's servants, but not His children. Speak of pedigrees, thou, poor Christian, hast more than heraldry could ever give thee, or all the pomp of ancestry could ever bestow.

II. A SPECIAL PROOF — "The Spirit itself beareth witness," etc. Notice that there are two witnesses. It is as if a poor man were called into court to prove his right to some piece of land which was disputed. He standeth up and beareth his own faithful testimony; but some great one of the land confirms his witness.

1. Our spirit bears witness —(1) When it feels a filial love to God; when we can boldly say, "Abba, Father." If I were not a child, God would never have given to me that affection which dares to call Him "Father."(2) By trust. In the darkest hour we have been able to say, "The time is in my Father's hands; I cannot murmur; I feel it is but right that I should suffer, otherwise my Father would never have made me suffer." "Though Thou slay me, yet will I trust in Thee."(3)And are there not times when your hearts feel that they would be emptied and void unless God were in them? You feel you must have your Father, or else the gifts of His providence are nothing to you. That is, your spirit beareth witness that you are the child of God.

2. The Holy Ghost graciously condescendeth to say "Amen" to the testimony of our conscience. And whereas our experience sometimes leads our spirit to conclude that we are born of God, there are times when the eternal Spirit descends and fills our heart, and then we have the two witnesses bearing witness with each other that we are the children of God. Perhaps you ask me how is this.(1) The Holy Spirit has written this Book, which contains an account of what a Christian should be, and of the feelings he must have. I have certain experiences and feelings; turning to the Word, I find similar experiences and feelings recorded; and so I prove that I am right, and the Spirit bears witness with my spirit that I am born of God.(2) But, again, everything that is good in a Christian is the work of the Holy Ghost. When at any time, then, the Holy Spirit comforts you, instructs you, opens to you a mystery, inspires you with an unwonted affection, an unusual faith in Christ, these are the works of the Spirit. Now, inasmuch as the Spirit works in you, He doth by that very working give His own infallible testimony to the fact that you are a child of God. If you had not been a child, He would have left you in your natural state.(3) But I must go further. There is a supernatural way in which, apart from means, the Spirit of God communicates with the spirit of man. He assures and consoles directly, by coming into immediate contact with the heart.


1. "Heirs of God" with Christ.(1) It does not always follow in human reasoning "if children, then heirs," because in our families but one is the heir. All God's children are heirs, however numerous the family, and he that shall be born of God last shall be as much His heir as he who was born first.(2) And see what it is that we are heirs of; not of God's gifts and God's works, but of God Himself. It was said of Cyrus that when he sat down at meat, if there were aught that pleased his appetite, he would order it to be given to his friends with this message, "King Cyrus found that this food pleased his palate, and he thought his friend should feed upon that which he enjoyed himself." This was thought to be a singular instance of his kindness to his courtiers. But our God doth not send merely bread from His table; He gives Himself — Himself to us. Talk we of His omnipotence? — His Almightiness is ours. Speak we of His omniscience? — all His wisdom is engaged in our behalf. Do we say that He is love? — that love belongs to us.

2. "Joint heirs with Christ." That is, whatever Christ possesses, as Heir of all things, belongs to us. He gives us His raiment, and His righteousness becomes our beauty. He gave to us His Person; we eat His flesh and drink His blood. He gives us His inmost heart, His crown, His throne. "All things are yours," etc. We must never quarrel with this Divine arrangement. "Oh," say you, "we never shall." Stay; for when all that is Christ's belongs to you, do ye forget that Christ once had a cross, and that belongs to you? "If so be that we suffer with Him that we also may be glorified together."

IV. THE SPECIAL CONDUCT naturally expected from the children of God. In the golden age of Rome, if a man were tempted to dishonesty, he would stand upright, look the tempter in the face, and say to him, "I am a Roman." It ought to be a ten times more than sufficient answer to every temptation for a man to be able to say, "I am a son of God; shall such a man as I yield to sin?" I have been astonished, in looking through old Roman history, at the wonderful prodigies of integrity and valour which were produced by patriotism or love of fame. And it is a shameful thing that ever idolatry should be able to breed better men than some who profess Christianity.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

This witness of the Spirit varies —


1. "There have been moments," says some weary soul, "when I have had that witness — in some time of great spiritual struggle, when through my very weakness there came a strength which made me conquer even myself, and also in moments of great spiritual exaltation; but there has come a reaction after the victory, a depression after the joy, and the evidence which seemed so strong has worn gradually away. If that had been the witness of God's strong unchanging Spirit, surely it could not have been so?"

2. Yes, it could be, and is so; for God's Spirit bears witness with our spirit. It is just as, in natural things, the sun in heaven bears witness with our human sight to the existence of physical objects; and its shining is constant and unchanging, but the evidence of it varies with the conditions of our vision. It cannot but be so when there is so intimate a connection between our body and spirit, and the one acts on, and is reacted on, by the other. We know how a depressed or nervous physical condition will tinge our feelings, will make us take a widely different view of things from that which we had taken before. Who is there who has not experienced the difference of a bright spring morning and a dull November day? Our spiritual nature has its noontide, when we work in the light and rejoice in the brightness of God's love; and it will have its night, when we can only see the light, as it were, coming from some passionless moon, or from the cold steel stars in some far-off heaven.

3. Those moments of dulness and of coldness in our religious life are times of peril. There is a danger of despair, and the remedy is a more perfect trust in God. There is danger of turning to spiritual stimulants. Never try by physical means, or so-called religious exercises, to galvanise yourself into feeling what you know you do not feel. The true remedy is to strengthen and improve generally your spiritual nature, instead of nervously looking for artificial tests of its vitality. More earnest communing with God; more thoughts of Him and His great love, and less of ourselves and of our feelings; more study of the deep meaning of His Word; more seeking to do His will; more use of the means of grace will be helps to us in such moments. The keen appetite and the clear vision will return with the increasing health of the spiritual man in us, and again and again those glad moments will be ours, when we feel the Spirit bearing "witness with our spirit that we are the sons of God."


1. The witness of the Spirit must vary, as do our individual natures. The boat in the harbour is none less safe because it has not come across the storm-swept sea, but only down some inland river with no grand convulsions, but still with strange, commonplace, yet fascinating dangers of its own. It is a perilous and a very wrong thing to set up some one, sole, exclusive, monotonous standard of spiritual evidence and of spiritual life. There is no rigid rule of uniformity in God's treatment of souls.

2. The risen Lord came under great variety of circumstances, and with every differing kind of evidence of His presence, to each and all of His disciples. First, He came to the loving hearts of women, whose words seemed only "idle tales" to the apostles themselves; and then with logical demonstration to the cold reasoning intellect of St. Thomas; now to individual disciples walking on the common highway, and who only saw Him when He broke and blessed the bread, and it revealed to them why their hearts had so burned within them on the way; and then to the assembled Church with words of benediction and of peace. And thus still He and His Holy Spirit's witness come — now to some tender soul who cannot reason, but can only love, with simply an angel's message, which not only the world, but the Church, may for a moment think but an "idle tale"; and again to some consummate, lordly intellect, which is at last convinced by touching the nail-print and the riven side. Now He comes to solitary individuals on the dusty highway of life, who know not whence sprang every earnest pulsation of their burning hearts, till some day, perhaps in the breaking of the Eucharistic bread, they see at last that it must have been He that was with them; and, again, He is present to the assembled Church when in some hour of danger it has shut the door, and then found that He is with them in the midst.

3. Do not think that you are not near to Christ, that He does not love you, because you have not had some one else's experience, because you are not like some saint whose biography you admire. There has been a terrible tendency to magnify, in every age, some one sole idea of Christian usefulness and beauty. At one time it has been solely the ascetic, and again solely the active life. At one time it has been the purely contemplative, and again the exclusively intellectual. This has done much to rob many a sweet life of its hopefulness; to create in others an almost unconscious hypocrisy. Surely the Master's life is a protest against it: "Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus" — all utterly different and unlike natures. We are too ready to unduly exalt Mary at the expense of her sister and her brother. Many a Lazarus and many a Martha are full of sorrow and even despair because they are not like Mary.

(T. T. Shore, M.A.)

Homiletic Quarterly.
is —


1. By it we have the first testimony of our filial relation to God.

2. It notifies to us all the benefits of the New Testament.

3. By it all that is involved in Christianity is made living and real to us.


1. As the inward spiritual testimony is our encouragement against defection.

2. As it is an effective solace in the hour of trial.

3. As it is the communion of that Spirit who is the strength of righteousness.

4. As it renders us non-susceptible in the hour of temptation.


1. The fact of such a relation subsisting between God and the soul gives the highest warrant of eternal life. "If children, then heirs," etc.

2. The character of this assurance as the work of the Divine Spirit is a testimony to its possible perpetuity.

3. In this assurance is involved the idea of a pledge — "the earnest of the Spirit" (ver. 11).Learn:

1. To cherish this assurance, especially by cultivating an obedient sensibility to the Holy Spirit's suggestions.

2. To guard against anything that would grieve or quench the Holy Spirit.

(Homiletic Quarterly.)

And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.
It is not easy to imagine a more cautious, lawyer-like record than that of Lord Eldon's, "I was born, I believe, on the 4th of June, 1751." We may suppose that this hesitating statement refers to the date, and not to the fact of his birth. Many, however, are just as uncertain about their spiritual birth. It is a grand thing to be able to say, "We have passed from death unto life," even though we may not be able to post a date to it.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

God Himself is His greatest gift. The loftiest blessing which we can receive is that we should be heirs, possessors of God. The text tells us —


1. The lower creatures are shut out from the gifts which belong to the higher forms of life, because these cannot find entrance into their nature. Man has higher gifts because he has higher capacities. In man there are more windows and doors knocked out. He can think, and feel, and desire, and will, and resolve; and so he stands on a higher level.

2. And so Spiritual blessings require a spiritual capacity for the reception of them; you cannot have the inheritance unless you are sons. Salvation is not chiefly a deliverance from outward consequences, but a renewal of the nature that makes these consequences certain.

3. But the inheritance is also future, and the same principle applies there. There is no heaven without sonship; because all its blessings are spiritual. It is not the golden harps, etc. that makes the heaven of heaven; but the possession of God. To dwell in His love, and to be filled with His light, and to walk for ever in the glory of His sunlit face, to do His will, and to bear His character stamped upon our foreheads — that is the glory and the perfectness to which we are aspiring. Do not then rest in the symbols that show us, darkly and far-off, what that future glory is.

4. Well then, if all that be true, what a flood of light does it cast upon the text! For who can possess God but they who love Him? who can love but they who know His love? How can there be fellowship betwixt Him and any one except the man who is a son because he hath received of the Divine nature, and in whom that Divine nature is growing up into a Divine likeness?


1. The Apostle John, in that most wonderful preface to his Gospel, teaches that sonship is not a relation into which we are born by natural birth, that we become sons after we are men, and that we become sons by a Divine act, the communication of a spiritual life, whereby we are born of God. The same apostle, in his Epistles, contrasts the sons of God who are known for such because they do righteousness, and the world which knew not Christ, and says, "In this the children of God are manifested and the children of the devil" — echoing thus Christ's words, "If God were your Father, ye would love Me: ye are of your father, the devil."

2. Nothing in all this contradicts the belief that all men are the children of God inasmuch as they are shaped by His Divine hand, and He has breathed into their nostrils the breath of life, But, notwithstanding, it still remains true that there are men created by God, loved and cared for by Him, for whom Christ died, who might be, but are not, sons of God.

3. Fatherhood! what does that word itself teach us? It involves that the Father and the child shall have kindred life, and that between the Father's heart and the child's heart there shall pass answering love, flashing backwards and forwards, like the lightning that touches the earth and rises from it again. A simple appeal to your own consciousness will decide if that be the condition of all men. No sonship except by spiritual birth; and if not such sonship, then the spirit of bondage. You are sons because born again, or slaves and "enemies by wicked works."

III. NO SPIRITUAL BIRTH WITHOUT CHRIST. If for sonship there must be a birth, the very symbol shows that such a process does not lie within our own power. The centre point of the gospel is this regeneration. If we understand that the gospel simply comes to make men live better, to work out a moral reformation — why, there is no need for a gospel at all. If the change were a simple change of habit and action on the part of men, we could do without a Christ. But if redemption be the giving of life from God, and the change of position in reference to God's love and God's law, neither of these two changes can a man effect for himself. No new birth without Christ; no escape from the old standing-place, "enemies to God by wicked works," by anything that we can do. But Christ has effected an actual change in the aspect of the Divine government to us; and He has carried in the golden urn of His humanity a new spirit and a new life which He has set down in the midst of the race; and the urn was broken on the Cross of Calvary, and the water flowed out, and whithersoever that water comes there is life, and whithersoever it comes not there is death!

IV. NO CHRIST WITHOUT FAITH. Unless we are wedded to Jesus Christ by the simple act of trust in His mercy and His power, Christ is nothing to us. We may talk about Christ for ever. He may be to us much that is very precious; but the question of questions, on which everything else depends, is, Am I trusting to Him as my Divine Redeemer? am I resting in Him as the Son of God? Ceremonies, notions, beliefs, formal participation in worship is nothing. Christ is everything to him that trusts Him. Christ is nothing but a judge and a condemnation to him that trusts Him not.

(A. Maclaren, D.D.)

We begin in order with the privilege itself, which belongs to God's children by virtue of their adoption: "And if children, then heirs." That all God's children are heirs. Whosoever do partake of the relation, they do partake of the inheritance. This is suitable and agreeable to some other places of Scripture (Galatians 3:28, 29; Galatians 4:7; Titus 3:7). Now there is a various account which may be given hereof unto us, which we may take in these following particulars. First, their Father's affection and special love which He bears unto them. Affection has a very great influence oftentimes upon an inheritance. There is affection and there is the constancy and immutability of it. Secondly, as there is their Father's affection, so there is likewise their Father's promise; as we know how Bathsheba urged it to David in the case of Solomon, against Adonijah (1 Kings 1:17). Thirdly, their very relation and condition wherein they are it gives them right and title hereto. Fourthly, the largeness and vastness of the estate, that is another advancement hereunto. All God's children are heirs, because there is means enough for them all. But here it may be seasonably demanded, What is it that God's children do inherit, and are heirs unto? First, for the things of this life. They are heirs of them, and have a special right and title to them. "All things are yours," says the apostle, and amongst the rest he reckons the world (1 Corinthians 3:21, 22). It is true that these things are not their portion. But yet they are oftentimes their possession. God's children they have an interest and a propriety even in temporal blessings; and such as none other else have besides themselves, for they have a sanctified right in them. No good thing will God withhold from them that walk uprightly. Secondly, they are heirs more especially of the things of a better; and they are reducible to two heads, as the Scripture itself reduces them. Grace and glory (Psalm 84:11) — the one considered as the means, and the other considered as the end. God's children they are heirs of them both. First, for grace and holiness. This is not a small kind of portion which God's children have an interest in. "Heirs of the grace of life" (1 Peter 3:7). All the graces of the Spirit, they belong to the children of God, and they are heirs, as it were, of them. Secondly, which is here principally to be understood: they are heirs of glory, and so frequently denominated. "Heirs of salvation" (Hebrews 1:14); "heirs of the kingdom" (James 2:5); "heirs of eternal life" (Titus 3:7; Colossians 1:12). This we have assured unto us by the firstfruits of the Spirit within us. We may see what we are likely to have hereafter by what already we partake of here, in the beginnings of heaven to us. In what proportion this inheritance of the saints is dispensed and distributed unto them. Because it is said here that they all have a share in this business. That though all God's children are heirs of eternal happiness and glory, yet they are not all of them in the same degree partakers of it. As a father may give portions to all his children, but one may have a greater portion than the rest. It is said of Elkanah, in his carriage to Hannah, that he gave her a worthy portion, or, as some read it, a double portion. And Benjamin's lot from Joseph it was five times as much as of the rest of his brethren. Thus is it likewise in God's dispensations. He gives a portion to all His children, but He gives not the same portion to them all. Though the same for kind and specification, yet not the same for degrees and intention. All the saints shall come to heaven, but some may go further in than the rest. Therefore this should stir us all up to an endeavour after the greatest measure that may be. And now for the life and application of the whole doctrine itself to our selves. We may draw it forth in a threefold improvement especially. First: Here is that which may satisfy God's children which are in a mean and low condition here in the world, as it is possible for them to be, and as sometimes they are. Though they may be destitute of many things here, yet they are heirs of heaven. Secondly, it further teaches God's children to live answerably to this noble condition, and the inheritance which they are appointed unto. First, in a holy magnanimity and nobleness of spirit. Secondly, in making good their titles, and clearing their evidences for heaven. Those who are great heirs they are careful to make good their inheritances, and to prove their right and interest in them, Thirdly, in more cheerful service and obedience to God's commands. We should henceforth serve Him not as bare hirelings, but as those who are sons and heirs. Fourthly, take heed of losing it and parting with it upon any terms whatsoever. Take heed of Esau, that parted with his birthright. Lastly, seeing God's children are heirs, and are heirs of glory, we see then from hence the vanity of those persons who would make salvation to be a matter of merit. The second is the explication or amplification of this privilege to them, and that consists of two branches. The first is taken from the person that they are heirs of: "heirs of God." And the second is taken from the person that they are heirs with: "joint heirs with Christ." We begin with the first of these branches, viz., the person that they are: "Heirs of God." This is added here by the Apostle Paul both by way of explication and of enlargement. When we hear that God's children are heirs we might be ready, it may be, presently to dream of some earthly inheritance. They are heirs of God, as the giver of the inheritance; and they are heirs of God, as the inheritance itself which is given unto them. First, they are so relative. Heirs of God, as related to Him for such a purpose as this is. It is He that does entitle them to all the things. They are heirs of God, they have a worthy and an honourable inheritance. There is some credit in being heir unto Him. Secondly, in point of profit, heirs of God. Heirs of God; therefore not only honourable, but rich. They must needs be great heirs, because He is great Himself and has great revenues (1 Corinthians 10:26). Thirdly, in point of conveniency and accommodation. There is a great matter in point of inheritance. The manner of ordering and disposing of it to the best advantage of him that shall heir it, and as to the circumstances wherewith he does enjoy it. Secondly, heirs of God. They are such as do inherit God Himself. He that is their Father is also their portion. And He which gives them the inheritance is the inheritance itself which He gives them. Sometimes the Lord is pleased to account His people to be His inheritance. "The Lord's portion is His people; Jacob is the lot of His inheritance" (Deuteronomy 32:9). And sometimes again He is pleased to declare Himself to be theirs (Psalm 73:25, 26; Lamentations 3:24; Psalm 16:5; Genesis 16:1; Genesis 17:1). Now for the opening of this point unto us, that we may know what this business is of inheriting God Himself. The meaning of it is this — to have full interest in all His attributes. His wisdom is theirs, to direct them. His power is theirs, to preserve them. His goodness is theirs, to relieve them. His justice is theirs, to avenge them. His faithfulness is theirs, to support them. Every good is so much the more excellent, and the rather to be prized by us, as it is anything more large and comprehensive, and is containing of other things in it. Why thus it is now to be an heir of God. We have in Him everything else. All the beams of comfort in the creature they are derived from this Sun. And so again, in the want of other things, he may very much comfort himself in this. Alas, what are the stars to the sun? And what are the streams to the fountain? The second is taken from the person whom they are heirs with — "Joint heirs with Christ." Believers, they do partake of the same inheritance with the Son of God Himself. First, here is this implied, that Christ Himself is an heir, and an heir of God. Thus Hebrews 1:2 He is called "the heir of all things." Again, besides, as He is an heir by nature, so He is also an heir by donation. Therefore He is said in the place before alleged to be appointed heir. The Father hath given all things to Christ (Matthew 11:27). Thus is Christ an heir by gift. Therefore we see what great cause we have to please Him, and to endeavour to be in favour with Him. We see how it is amongst men. How careful they are to give contentment to an heir if it be but of some ordinary inheritance. The second is that which is expressed, that as Christ Himself is an heir, so God's children are heirs also with Him (Galatians 4:7; Matthew 19:28). This must needs be so. First, in regard of that union which is knit betwixt Christ and His Church. God's children, they are members of Christ, therefore they must be heirs with Him (1 Corinthians 3, 22). Secondly, this is grounded in His promise which He hath made to us. Thirdly, His prayer for us (John 17:20-24). Fourthly, His office towards us as He is the Mediator of the Church. Therefore all things which come to us they must come to us through His hands. Now the life of all to ourselves comes to this. First, we see here how nearly it concerns us to find ourselves to be ingrafted into Christ and to become members of Him. Secondly, we may from hence see the certainty and infallibility of a Christian's salvation. We are joint-heirs with Christ. Therefore He being glorified, we shall be glorified also. Thirdly, we should hence learn to love Christ, and to give Him the glory of all. Considering that all we have it is from Him, and by Him. If we are elected, we are elected in Christ. If we are justified, we are justified for Christ. If we are sanctified we are sanctified through Christ. If we are glorified we are glorified with Christ. Christ is all in all unto us.

(Thomas Horton, D.D.)


1. Heirs of God.

2. Joint heirs with Christ.

3. Glorified together.


1. None but children.

2. All children participate.


1. If so be we suffer.

2. With Christ.

3. For Him.

4. Like Him.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)


1. It does not follow from ordinary creation. It is not "if creatures, then heirs."

2. Neither is it found in natural descent. It is not "if children of Abraham then heirs" (Romans 9:7-13).

3. Nor can it come by meritorious service. It is not "if servants, then heirs" (Galatians 4:30).

4. Nor by ceremonial observances. It is not "if circumcised or baptized, then heirs" (Romans 4:9-12).

5. Our being born again of God by His Spirit is the one ground of heirship. Let us inquire —

(1)Have we been born again (John 3:3)?

(2)Have we the spirit of adoption (Galatians 4:6)?

(3)Are we fashioned in the likeness of God (Colossians 3:10)?

(4)Have we believed on Jesus (John 1:12)?


1. The principle of priority as to time cannot enter into this question. The elder and the younger in the Divine family are equally heirs.

2. The love of God is the same to them all.

3. They are all blessed under the same promise (Hebrews 6:17).

4. They are all equally related to that great First-born Son through whom their heirship comes to them. He is the first-born among many brethren.

5. The inheritance is large enough for them all. They are not all prophets, preachers, apostles, or even well-instructed and eminent saints; they are not all rich and influential; they are not all strong and useful; but they are all heirs. Let us, then, all live as such, and rejoice in our portion.


1. Our inheritance is Divinely great. We are — Heirs of —

(1)All things (Revelation 21:7; 2 Corinthians 3:21).

(2)Salvation (Hebrews 1:14).

(3)Eternal life (Titus 3:7).

(4)Promise (Hebrews 6:17).

(5)The grace of life (1 Peter 3:7).

(6)Righteousness (Hebrews 11:7).

(7)The kingdom (James 2:5).

2. Whereas we are said to be "heirs of God," it must mean that we are heirs of —

(1)All that God possesses.

(2)All that God is. Of His love; for God is love. Hence heirs of all possible good; for God is good.

(3)God Himself. What an infinite portion!

(4)All that Jesus has and is, as God and man.


1. This is the test of our heirship. We are not heirs except with Christ, through Christ, and in Christ.

2. This sweetens it all. Fellowship with Jesus is our best portion.

3. This shows the greatness of the inheritance. Worthy of Jesus. Such an inheritance as the Father gives to the well-beloved.

4. This ensures it to us; for Jesus will not lose it, and His title-deed and ours are one and indivisible.

5. This reveals and endears His love. That He should become a partner with us in all things is love unbounded.

(1)His taking us into union with Himself secures our inheritance.

(2)His prayer for us attains it.

(3)His going into heaven before us prepares it.

(4)His coming again will bring us the full enjoyment of it.

6. This joint heirship binds us faster to Jesus, since we are nothing, and have nothing apart from Him.Conclusion —

1. Let us joyfully accept the present suffering with Christ, for it is part of the heritage.

2. Let us believe in the ultimate glorification and anticipate it with joy.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. THEN THE CHRISTIAN IS GOING TO A RICH HOME AND A GLORIOUS FUTURE. Therefore, he ought not to be too much elated or depressed by the pleasures or privations of the journey. An eye to the rest and glory at the end should keep him from getting weary of the way.

II. THEN THE CHRISTIAN SHOULD NOT DEBASE HIMSELF BY AN UNDUE ATTACHMENT TO THE THINGS OF TIME. How unreasonable to see an "heir of God" so swallowed up in the world that he has neither taste nor time to pray, or make suitable efforts to get ready for His Heavenly inheritance.


IV. THEN AN HEIR OF GOD SHOULD BE MADE "MEET FOR HIS INHERITANCE." Without a meetness for it, the inheritance would be a burden rather than a blessing.


(T. Kelly).


1. As the law of nature and the institutions of society authorise children to expect the possession of property which once belonged to their parents, so God has pledged Himself that He will act the part of a Father.

2. Looked at with the eye of sense, the inheritance of God's children on this world is not much to be envied; but, in reality, whatever be their outward lot, they are all the while richer than the richest, and greater than the greatest.

3. They may be said to be heirs of God even at present, inasmuch as they are entitled, by virtue of His covenant, to as much of what God is, and has, as shall be requisite for their welfare.

4. Of the future inheritance we have various accounts. It is —(1) "An inheritance among them that are sanctified." Heaven will confer on those who are admitted into it, a much higher degree of holiness than they before attained.(2) "An inheritance of the saints in light." In heaven we shall receive a great addition to our knowledge.(3) "An inheritance, incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away." The circumstances of earthly parents may be suddenly reversed, and their children therefore deprived of the inheritance. But the children of God have nothing to apprehend from reverses. All those ideas are epitomised in the text. God shall be, in heaven, fully and perfectly His people's portion. More than this God cannot promise or give.

5. Further particulars are included in the phrase, "joint-heirs with Christ," and "glorified together," viz: —(1) That we are altogether indebted to God's mercy in Christ, for our title to the inheritance. Heaven is a purchased possession; not by penitence or faith, holiness or usefulness, suffering or dying, but by the precious blood of Christ.(2) That the title of true believers is in the highest degree valid and satisfactory. Christ's title is unquestionable; what He hath amply merited He hath a right to bestow; and He wills to bestow it upon all believers. There are, indeed, differences between Christ's title and ours. His is original, earned by Himself; ours is borrowed. His is one actually recognised. He is in possession of the inheritance; whereas we are but on our way to it. But He has gone as our forerunner to take possession for us.(3) That there shall be a blessed similarity in point of nature — though, of course, not in degree — between the enjoyment of Christ in heaven and the enjoyment of His glorified people there. "The glory which Thou givest Me I have given them."


1. That none but children will be recognised as heirs, or be allowed to inherit.

2. That all children are heirs. In the arrangements of human society, and it often happens that the estates descend exclusively to the male children, or to the eldest. But this is not the rule which God will adept. "If children" — it matters not whether sons or daughters — "then heirs." Nor will this inheritance lose any value from being distributed among so many. Every man in heaven will feel himself much the happier, because he will know there are so many millions of ransomed spirits who share the same bliss.

III. THE WAY IN WHICH WE ARE TO WALK SO AS TO SECURE THE ACTUAL BESTOWMENT OF THIS PRIVILEGE. First of all, to become children, we must apply to God in the way of penitence and faith that our sentence of alienation may be reversed. But if children, we are not to conclude that there is no further need of watchfulness or prayer. We are to remember the other clause: — "If so be," etc. Not that the sufferings of the saints are — like those of Christ — meritorious. Yet they may be fitly termed "suffering with Christ" —

1. Because a large portion of the suffering of good people comes upon them in consequence of their devotedness to the truth, and cause, and service of Christ. If we would forsake Christ we should then escape much of —

(1)The world's reproach.

(2)Temptation from Satan.


(4)Providential sufferings. "Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth."

2. If it be endured in the temper and spirit of Christ, who said, "Not My will, but Thine be done." The servant is not above his lord. Ought the private soldier to complain of privations or perils to which his general submits? It is not hard or unreasonable that we suffer with Christ before we are glorified, because the subsequent glory will far more than compensate the previous suffering (ver. 18). Conclusion: We learn from this subject the extreme desirableness and importance of being found among the regenerated people of God. Many of you have realised these privileges. Then —

1. Be thankful.

2. Be submissive to your worldly lot.

3. Be consistent, be heavenly minded.

4. Remember what God requires of you in order to your being glorified — that you should suffer with Him.

(J. Bunting, D.D.)

I. THE SUPPOSITION. "If children, then heirs."

1. Unquestionably, in a general sense, God is the Father of all mankind. But the New Testament continually speaks of a higher form of paternity and childhood. This men may or may not sustain. If all men, without exception, were the children of God there would be no "if" about it, just as any hypothetical expression is unknown in heaven; or if all men were so placed that it was impossible for them ever to sustain any relation to God, but the general one of creatures, then, also, there would be no room for question, just as there is none in respect to the brutes that perish, or to the devils and the damned in hell. The possibility of using conditional language, in relation to men, involves the idea that while they may be, in the language of Scripture, "children of the wicked one," they may also be sons of God in the highest and most emphatic acceptation. In relation to this subject, we may employ the language, "Howbeit, that is not first that is spiritual, but that which is natural, and afterwards that which is spiritual." In neither case, however, does it necessarily follow that the spiritual must succeed the natural. Men may live and never be changed in the spirit of their minds; and they may die, and not rise after the likeness of the Lord's glorious body. But if any man is a child of God, then the Scripture teaches that this is his second state, not his first; that he has undergone, or been the subject of, a process by which he has passed from the one to the other.

2. This process is described as being "born of the Spirit," "created anew," "quickened," "raised from the dead," etc., and we cannot suppose that this is accomplished by the mechanical agency of any outward rite. It is represented as connected with repentance and faith in Christ.

3. In addition to an actual spiritual birth, we have the frequent use of the word "adoption," to illustrate the process by which man passes from his first to his second condition. This word is used in allusion to the reception into a family of a slave or a stranger. In like manner men, who, contemplated as sinners, are strangers, foreigners, and in bondage to the devil, are taken out of this state of distance and degradation, and, by an act of God's grace adopted into His family and constituted His sons.

4. And however humbling it may be to think of the necessity in which we stand of adoption and renewal, yet that nature is not to be disparaged, respecting which such things are possible. A brute animal could not be adopted and made a child by man; nor if it were could it be made the subject of human sympathies and affections. And so, unless man, in spite of all his corruption, had within him a nature distinguished by moral and religious capacity, it would be impossible for him to be either adopted by or born of God; and that nature of which this can be said, however ruined now, must have been originally great and God-like.


1. An heir is one who, by legal or natural right, possesses a title to an inheritance. A stranger may be constituted such, in virtue of the will and deed of another; a child may be such from natural relationship. Both these ideas are employed in Scripture to illustrate the subject. Men, considered as guilty, need pardon or justification, which is a legal as well as merciful act on the part of God, by which the relation of men to law is altered. It is in connection with this act that adoption is more especially to be regarded, and the heirship of the adopted as flowing from that act. Thus Paul speaks in the Epistle to Titus — "being justified, we are made heirs, according to the hope of eternal life." As possessing a corrupt nature men need to be regenerated, in virtue of which they become God's children, not merely by a legal or declaratory act, but by the positive sanctification of their nature, and then heirship results by way of natural consequence. "Thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir."

2. "Heirs of God." It would seem to be impossible to have too high ideas of what may be anticipated by those who are the children and heirs of a Divine Parent; of Him who created and who possesses all things; whose paternal affection is measureless, and who even speaks of Himself as the portion of His people.

3. "Joint heirs with Christ." There is something in this expression more than the idea of filial relationship to God. That to which the Christian is heir is not merely the inheritance of a son, but of such a son as Christ is represented to be: "the only begotten and well-beloved of the Father, in whom He is ever well pleased." The Church is His body, and whatever glory invests the head, the members participate.Conclusion: From all this we learn —

1. The love and power of God.

2. The ultimate security of the Church.

3. Obligations and motives to obedience.

4. Encouragement to all anxious and earnest men, who are seriously inquiring for and seeking after God.

(T. Binney).

This little word "if" intimates to us that all men are not children of God. No doubt there is a sense in which His intelligent creatures generally may be regarded as His offspring. But the title "sons of God" is confined exclusively to those who have been re-created in His image.


1. By the consciousness we have that we have complied with those conditions of repentance and faith, on the fulfilment of which the privilege is suspended.

2. By believing the testimony of the Word, which declares that all those who thus repent and believe are acknowledged to be the children of God.

3. By considering the fruits of grace in our lives, and then comparing these with the characteristics of sonship which are delineated in the Word of God.

4. By the fact that we have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

5. By the direct witnessing of the Spirit itself, with and to our spirits, that we are the children of God.

II. " IF CHILDREN, THEN HEIRS." The children of the wealthy and noble are the heirs of nobility and wealth. Now, it is not strange that God's children should also be heirs; for who is so rich and noble as their Heavenly Father?

1. They come into possession of their inheritance, not on the death of their Father (for He can never die), but when they reach their majority. This occurs at different periods of spiritual life, and under varying circumstances of purification and trial; for some are no sooner born of God than they are ready for translation, while others have, like the Captain of their salvation, to "be made perfect through suffering."

2. That inheritance is —(1) A reality. It may not, indeed, consist of tangible tenements, land, silver and gold; but it does consist of all that can gratify the cravings of an immortal spirit. Whether you call heaven a place or a state, it is a possession and an enjoyment —(2) Vast and grand, surpassing all that earthly potentates have ever coveted or earthly conquerors won.(3) Pure and undefiled, neither acquired by injustice nor retained by wrong.(4) Ensured. Every child of the new birth is born to it; nor is there any man who can rob him of it.(4) Enduring. It fadeth not away.(5) There is this difference, that whereas on earth the portion of each diminishes as the number of heirs is increased, in heaven it is quite the reverse. Have we not, then, a direct interest in seeking to take others with us to glory?


1. Our heavenly happiness is to be of the same nature as His. If His consists of transcendent holiness, and dignity, authority, and power, then ours will comprehend the same elements of felicity.

2. Our happiness will be realised in the same state, or place, or sphere as His. Where He is, we shall be also.

3. Our inheritance has been purchased, or procured by the same means as His. By His sufferings, for after these came the glory; and all those sufferings were endured for us. Jesus has conquered for us our inheritance by the conquest of His own.In conclusion:

1. Be humble. The heirs of earthly kingdoms are apt to be elated with pride in proportion to the magnitude of their prospective possessions. But with the sons of God, the clearer their views of future glory, the more astounded are they with the greatness of the gift of God; and this proportionally makes them feel their own unworthiness.

2. Be hearty. How much owest thou to thy Lord? How, then, shouldst thou love, praise, own, obey, and serve Him!

3. Be holy. Thou art an heir of glory. How, then, shouldest thou prepare for it?

(T. G. Horton.)

I was in a provincial town some time ago, when I was told of a nobleman who for many years worked as a porter in the railway station, because he did not know his true position in the world, till one day a gentleman entered the station, and after saluting him said, "Sir, may I ask your name?" "John — ," was the answer. "I have come to tell you that you are the Earl of — , and entitled to a large estate," replied the visitor. Do you think that man stood about the station touching his cap for tips any longer? Not he. He took possession of his inheritance at once. That is just what we Christians should do.

Let us —


1. Our right to the Divine heritage stands or falls with Christ's right to the same.(1) If He be not truly an heir, neither are we.(a) If there be any flaw in the will, then it is no more valid for Christ than it is for us.(b) Perhaps there may be a suit in law made against the will. But then it is Christ's interest that is at stake as well as mine. If Satan bring an accusation against us, that accusation is made against Christ, for we are one with Him. You must enter your suit against the Head if you would attack the members.(c) Yet suppose, after the will has been proved, it shall be found that nothing is left to distribute, or a debt against the estate? Why, if we get nothing, Christ gets nothing; if there should be no heaven for us, there is no heaven for Christ.(d) And then suppose that, though there be something left, yet it be a mere trifle; that heaven should be but inferior joy, such as might be found even in this world. Then saints with little glory means Christ with little.(2) 1 have been dwelling upon the black side in order to bring the bright one out by contrast. Let us revel in that contrast.(a) There is no flaw in God's will with regard to Christ, and He has said, " I will that they whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am."(b) No suit in law can stand against Christ. He has satisfied God's law. Who shall accuse the Redeemer? Nor can any creature accuse His saints, nor infringe upon our title so long as His title stands.(c) And there is no fear that the Son of God, the infinitely rich, will have a trifling portion. And "all things are yours, for ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's."

2. If we are joint heirs with Christ, we legally have no inheritance apart from Him. The signature of the one will not avail to alienate the estate, nor can he sell it by his own right, nor have it all at his own separate disposal. You have no right to heaven in yourself; your right lieth in Christ. The promises are yea and amen, but only in Christ Jesus, in whom also we have obtained an inheritance.

3. Christ, as co-heir, has so identified Himself with us, that His rights are not to be viewed apart from ours. Before we leave this point, note what an honour is conferred upon us. To have anything to do with a great man is thought to be a distinguished privilege; but what honour is conferred on the believer to be joint heir with the King of kings I Lift up thine head; think no man's princeship worth thy coveting; thou art greater than the greatest, for thou art joint heir with Christ.


1. The inheritance of suffering.(1) Just on the edge of your Father's great inheritance lies the swamp of affliction. Now this is yours. If this be not yours, neither are the rest, for they are bequeathed to you in the same will. The same legacy that left peace also left tribulation. No cross, no crown. But, remember, Christ is co-heir with you in this. "In all their afflictions He was afflicted."(2) You must also be the heir of persecution. Christ had to be persecuted, and so must you.(3) Another black portion is temptation. In this, too, Christ is your co-heir. "He was tempted in all points like as we are."

2. Now let us march joyfully to the other part of the inheritance. As in matters of wills everything should be proven and sworn to, let us have the evidence of God, that cannot lie.(1) As co-heirs with Christ, we are heirs of God (Psalm 16:5; 63:26).(2) In Romans 4:13 the promise made to the Seed was that He should be heir of the world. "Ask of Me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance," etc. "The world is ours," because it is Christ's by right of inheritance. There is nothing here below which does not belong to a believer. If he hath wealth, let him use it in his Master's service, for it is his. If he hath poverty, poverty is his to help him to be sanctified, and to long for heaven. Whatever happens to him — sickness or health — everything is his here below. "The meek shall inherit the earth."(3) In Hebrews 1:2, we are told that God has appointed Christ heir of all things. Then we are heirs of all things conceivable and inconceivable, finite and infinite, human and Divine. Christ's property extends to all, and we are co-heirs.(4) Then in James 2:5, we are spoken of as being heirs of the kingdom. Doth Christ call Himself a King? He hath made us kings. Does He sit upon a throne? We shall overcome and sit down with Him upon His throne. Will He judge the nations? The saints shall judge the world. Will He be received with triumph by His Father? So shall we when His Father shall say, "Well done, good and faithful servant." Hath He joy? We shall have His joy. Is He everlasting? So shall we be, for because He lives, we shall live also.


1. There is one part of the property which we may enjoy at once. Take your cross up and bear it with joy. Resignation takes the weight out of the cross, but a proud spirit that will not bow to God's will changes a wooden cross into an iron one. Say, "I count it to be my joy to be permitted to be a partaker of the sufferings of Christ." All the sheep of the Great Shepherd are marked with the cross, and this not only in the fleece, but in the flesh. "If ye be without chastisement whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards and not sons."

2. Why cannot we administer also to the blessed part of the testament?(1) If you have faith enough, you may this morning be raised up to sit together in heavenly places with Christ Jesus,(2) God has given Christ the heathen for His inheritance, and the uttermost ends of the earth for His possession, and we are co-heirs with Him. Let us advance to take the property. Some of you can do so by preaching in the streets. Others, by teaching your children in the class. You can say, "God has given these souls to Christ; I am going to take them in Christ's name." Others, who can do little themselves, can assist by sending forth men to preach the gospel. All that the Church wants to-day is courage and devotion. Let her, then, as Christ's queen, claim the earth as hers, and send her heralds forth from sea to sea to bid all men bow before Him, and confess Him to be their King.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

They are in a distinguishing sense —


1. A special resemblance to Him.

2. A special affection for Him.

3. A special attention from Him.


(D. Thomas, D.D.)

If so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.
Believers suffer with Christ —

I.IN THE SAME CAUSE — that of truth and righteousness.

II.FOR THE SAME END — the glory of God and the good of His Church.

III.FROM THE SAME HAND — Satan, their common enemy, and the world.

IV.IN THE SAME MANNER, and with the same spirit of patience and resignation.

(T. Robinson, D.D.)


1. We misapprehend the force of this passage if we suppose it to refer merely to outward calamities, and see in it only that the sorrows of daily life may have in them a sign of our being children of God, and some power to prepare us for the glory that is to come. The text does not merely contain a law for a certain part of life, but for the whole of life. The foundation of it is not that Christ shares in our sufferings; but that we, as Christians, participate in Christ's.

2. Do not suppose that I am forgetting the awful sense in which Christ's suffering stands as a thing by itself, incapable of, and needing no, repetition. But do not let us forget that the very writers that emphasise this, say to us, "'Be planted together in the likeness of His death': you are 'crucified to the world' by the Cross of Christ; you are to 'fill up that which is behind of the sufferings of Christ.'" He Himself speaks of our drinking of the cup that He drank of, etc. The fact is, that the life of Christ remains to be lived by every Christian, who in like manner has to fight with the world, to stand, by God's help, pure in the midst of a world that is full of evil.(1) The sufferings of the Lord were not only those that were wrought upon Calvary. Conceive of that perfect life in the midst of a system full of sin, and ask yourselves whether part of His sufferings did not spring from the contact with it. "Oh that I had wings like a dove," etc., must often be the language of those who are like Him in spirit and in consequent sufferings.(2) Another branch of the "sufferings of Christ" is to be found in that deep and mysterious fact that Christ wrought out His perfect obedience as a man, through temptation and by suffering. There was no sin within Him. "The Prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me." But yet, when that dark Power stood by His side, and said, "If Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down," it was a real temptation, and not a sham one. And though the doing of His Father's will was His delight; yet obedience, sustained in the face of temptation and the "contradiction of sinners," may well be called suffering.(3) But not only is the life of Christ as a life of suffering a model for us, but His death, besides being an atonement, is a type of the Christian's life, which is to be one long and daily dying to sin, to self, to the world. There is the "old man," "the flesh," "the old Adam," your own godless, independent, selfish, proud being. And crucifying, plucking out the right eye, maiming self of the right hand, mortifying the deeds of the body, teach us that there is no growth without sore sorrow. And not until you can say, "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me," have you accomplished that to which you are consecrated and vowed by your sonship — "being conformed unto the likeness of His death," and "knowing the fellowship of His sufferings." On this high level, and not upon the lower one — viz., that Christ will help us to bear afflictions — do we find the true meaning of all that Scripture teaching; which says to us, If you want the power for holy living, have fellowship in that atoning death; and if you want the pattern of holy living, look at that Cross and feel, "I am crucified to the world by it, and the life that I live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God."

3. Such considerations, however, do not necessarily exclude the comforting thought, "In all our affliction He is afflicted." In some trackless lands, when one friend passes through the pathless forests, he breaks a twig ever and anon as he goes, that those who come after may see the traces of his having been there, and know that they are not out of the road. So when we are journeying through the murky night, and the dark woods of affliction, it is something to find here and there a spray broken, or a leafy stem bent down with the tread of His foot and the brush of His hand as He passed; and to remember that the path He trod He has hallowed, and thus to find lingering fragrances and hidden strengths in the remembrance of Him as "in all points tempted like as we are," bearing grief for us, with us, like us.

4. Do not keep these sacred thoughts of Christ's companionship in sorrow for the larger trials of life. If the mote in the eye be large enough to annoy you, it is large enough to bring out His sympathy; and if the grief be too small for Him to compassionate and share, it is too small for you to be troubled by it. If you are ashamed to apply that Divine thought, "Christ bears this grief with me," to those petty molehills that you magnify into mountains sometimes, think it a shame to stumble over them. But never fear to be too familiar in the thought that Christ is willing to bear, and help me to bear, the most insignificant of daily annoyances. Whether it be a poison from one serpent sting, or from a million of tiny mosquitoes, if there be a smart, go to Him, and He will bear it with you; for if so be that we suffer with Him, He suffers with us.


1. I name this principally for the sake of putting in a caution. The apostle does not mean that if a son of God have no occasion, by brevity of life or other causes, for passing through the discipline of sorrow, his inheritance would be forfeited. We must always take such passages as this in conjunction with the truth which completes them, that when a man has the love of God in His heart, there and then he is fit for the inheritance. Christian people make vast mistakes sometimes in talking about "being made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light," about being "ripe for glory," and the like. It is not the discipline that fits, it only develops the fitness. "God hath made us meet." That is a past act. The preparedness for heaven comes at the moment — if it be a momentary act — when a man turns to Christ. The one may be dispensed with, the other cannot. A Christian at any period of his Christian experience, if it please God to take him, is fit for the kingdom; yet in His mercy He is leaving you here, training you, disciplining you; and that all the glowing furnaces of fiery trial, and all the cold waters of affliction, are but the preparation through which the rough iron is to be passed before it becomes tempered steel, a shaft in the Master's hand. And so learn to look upon all trial as being at once the seal of your sonship, and the means by which God puts it within your power to win a loftier throne, a nobler crown, a closer fellowship with Him "who hath suffered, being tempted," and who will receive into His own blessedness and rest them that are tempted.

III. THAT INHERITANCE IS THE NECESSARY RESULT OF THE SUFFERING THAT HAS GONE BEFORE. The ground of mere compensation is a low one on which to rest the certainty of future bliss. But the inheritance is sure, because the one cause — union with the Lord — produces both the present result of fellowship in His sorrows, and the future result of joy in His joy, of possession in His possessions. The inheritance is sure, because earth's sorrows not merely require to be repaid by its peace, but because they fit us for it, and it would be destructive to all faith in God's wisdom not to believe that what He has wrought for us will be given to us. Trials have no meaning, unless they are means to an end. The end is the inheritance; and sorrows here, as well as the Spirit's work here, are the earnest of the inheritance. Measure the greatness of the glory by what has preceded it. If a fair measure of the greatness of any result be the length of time taken for getting it ready, we can dimly conceive what that joy must be for which seventy years of strife and sorrow are but a momentary preparation; and what must be the weight of that glory which is the counterpoise and consequence to the afflictions of this lower world. The further the pendulum swings on the one side, the further it goes up on the other. The deeper God plunges the comet into the darkness, the closer does it come to the sun at its nearest distance, and the longer does it stand glowing in the full blaze of the glory from the central orb. So in our revolution, the measure of the distance from the farthest point of our darkest earthly sorrow to the throne may help us to the measure of the closeness of the glory above when we are on the throne: for if so be that we are sons, we must suffer with Him; if so be that we suffer, we must be glorified together!

(A. Maclaren, D.D.)

I. WHAT BECOMES OF GOOD MEN IN THE FUTURE? They are "glorified with Christ." We have here —

1. A positive conception of the blessedness of heaven. Elsewhere we are told what heaven is not, rather than what it is. We seem more frequently to have promised to us relief from sufferings — no more sickness, night, curse, nor death — all of which we shrink from as if their absence was enough to make our bliss. But here heaven is presented as "glorification with Christ."

2. A striking contrast to those carnal views which unspiritual men hold upon this subject.

3. A heaven already realised — in the person of our Lord. He is already glorified. In the glorifying of Christ, our glorifying is involved.

4. A most consolatory and satisfactory prospect therefore. It is the fellowship, not the place, that makes up our happiness. With Christ fully revealed to us we could be happy anywhere.

II. WHAT PRECEDES THIS BLESSEDNESS? "Suffering with Him." "To suffer with" is to sympathise (1 Corinthians 12.).

1. Christ's sufferings were —


(2)Caused by sin.

(3)The result of the contrariety of His pure nature to the depravity of men amongst whom He came to live.

2. We partake of them —(1) Beneficially. There is a sense in which this is the only way whereby we can be partakers of His suffering — in which, therefore, lie is alone in suffering (Isaiah 63:3).(2) In consequence of our contact with the world. "As He was, so are we in this world." They who are like Christ must expect to have His sorrows and His treatment repeated.(3) Non-meritorious. Suffering for Christ as martyrs do is really suffering with Him, and finds its joy in the suffering itself. Only such minds could suffer with Him, and the having such a mind is itself the blessed thing.

(P. Strutt.)

The apostle does not affirm the absolute necessity of much suffering in order to our reaching heaven; for there are souls whose course on earth is short and happy; still less that there is any merit in our suffering; for nothing is plainer than that such a doctrine would be flatly opposed to the whole argument of this Epistle.

I. SUFFERING IS A COMMON CONDITION OF SONSHIP. Christ never promised His followers in this world anything else but tribulation, save only that in the midst of it all they should enjoy His peace and His Father's protection; and all the apostles speak of suffering as the common lot of the saints (1 Peter 4:12, 13, 16; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 2:14; 1 Thessalonians 3:4; Hebrews 12.). In all these passages the same principle is involved which is contained in the text. The cause of our sufferings as Christians is found in the simple fact that we are Christians.


1. In the way of its infliction. If the world persecute us for Christ's sake, if it deem us worthy of such distinction, it must be because it is convinced that we are Christians, and therefore we may be comforted by the very malice of our enemies. "The villain's censure is the good man's praise."

2. In the manner in which we endure it. It is only the true saint who can bear reproach with meekness, take joyfully the spoiling of his goods, refuse to avenge himself, love his enemies, and yield the peaceable fruits of righteousness.


1. There are many which are not associated with Christ, and which do not result from sympathy with Him. The ungodly are not without their sufferings — the results of sinful folly and excess, or visitations of Divine indignation, and issue in the aggravated impiety of those who endure them. Beside which, how many of our trials and annoyances do we bring on ourselves by our pride and self-will, or by our compliance with evil temptation!

2. Sufferings with Christ are divisible into those which come from men and those which come from God. The former are persecutions; the latter, salutary chastisements.(1) Christ was persecuted, even unto death, and He has warned His disciples to expect the same treatment (Matthew 5:12). We in happy England are exempt from the fiery trial. But let us suppose the case to be otherwise. Could we, if called to it, bear imprisonment and torture, and final execution, for the Lord's sake? If so, how is it that we are so soon offended when the least troubles arise in connection with our Christian profession? And yet there are some who are not persecuted for Christ's sake. There are tradesmen who lose custom because they will be faithful to conscience. There are artisans who are injured and insulted unceasingly by their fellow-workmen for the same reason. There are wives whose piety brings on them rudest treatment from brutal husbands. But, after all, how light and little does this kind of trial appear in comparison with what our predecessors in the faith have endured. But, such as it is, it is a suffering with Christ, and should be met with calmness and borne with patience, fortitude, and hope.(2) The other class are those which resemble the pangs of Jesus, when it pleased the Father to put Him to grief. "It became Him," etc. But there are important points of difference. Both have relation to sin; but while ours are connected with our own sins, His were endured for the sins of others. His sufferings only exert an expiating efficacy. Yet Christ also learned obedience by the things which He suffered, in this respect our sufferings may resemble His. God may try us, as He tried Him, for the simple purpose of teaching us to renounce our own wish and will, and to say, with Christ, "Father, not my will, but Thine be done."

IV. IF WE SUFFER WITH CHRIST, WE SHALL ALSO BE GLORIFIED TOGETHER. Our afflictions are not for naught. They are like the early processes of the garden, when the soil is broken up and weeded, in order that fair flowers may at length adorn it. They are the quarrying and the chiselling of the marble before the living statue can stand out in symmetrical proportions. They are the tuning of the instruments, without which no harmony can be secured in the ultimate concert. They are the medicine of our convalescence, the drudgery of our education, the spring-pruning of our vine trees, without which we can never be healthy or happy, fit for heaven, or qualified to bring forth fruit whereby our Father may be glorified. Wherefore murmur not and faint not. Thou canst tread no path of hardship which Jesus hath not hallowed by His footsteps.

(T. G. Horton.)

In the text itself there are two general parts considerable — the supposition and the inference. The supposition that is in these words, "If so be we suffer with Christ." First, here is the condition of God's children considered absolutely. And that is, that it is a state of suffering, "If so be that we suffer." Many are the troubles of the righteous. Not to stand upon the proof of that by testimony, which experience does so frequently evidence, we may take some account of it in these particulars. First, there is somewhat for it in their nature, which they have in common with other men (Job 5:7). But, secondly, not only so, but more particularly which is founded in grace, and that holy profession which they bear upon them. First, I say, the malice and hatred of the world. Those whom men hate, they will afflict and disturb, if it lies in their power. Secondly, there is also the goodness of God, and His wise providence towards His servants, which has an influence hereupon likewise. God will have His people here in this world to suffer for divers reasons. As, first, for the trial and exercise of their graces. Secondly, God orders afflictions to His children, thereby to wear off that rust which is in them, and to take away their defilements from them, as it is in Isaiah 27:9. Thirdly, to wean them from the world and an inordinate love of these things here below, and to make them more willing to be gone when He calls for them. Lastly, in Fatherly discipline, to keep His children regular and in good order, and to prevent them from worse things to come (1 Corinthians 11:32). The consideration of this point may be thus far useful to us. First, as it serves to teach us patience under those trials which God at any time in His providence exercises us withal. Secondly, we learn hence also to expect it and to prepare for it. Thirdly, we learn from hence also to take heed of passing rash censure either upon ourselves or other men, occasionally from these conditions. Now the second is, as it is considerable relatively; and that is, that it is a suffering with Christ. "If we suffer with Him." This they are called, first, from that mystical union which is betwixt Him and us. As by virtue of this union, that which is His, is ours; so, by virtue of the same union, that which is ours is also His. Secondly, by way of sympathy and compassion, we suffer with Him, and He suffers with us, in a suitableness and correspondency of affection. Thirdly, the sufferings of God's children are called the sufferings of Christ, forasmuch as it is He that strengthens them and enables them for to suffer them, and as we suffer by Him. With Him; that is, with His assistance and through His enablement, and by power communicated from Him. The godly have a supply from Christ for the enduring of that which they endure. And their sufferings are in that respect His. Fourthly and lastly, and principally, they are the sufferings of Christ, forasmuch as they are in Christ's cause, and for the particular things which He suffered; that is, indeed, for righteousness sake, and the doing of that which is good (thus Psalm 38:20; 1 Peter 3:17, 18; Matthew 5:11, 12). This teaches also Christians not to rest themselves contented in this, that they suffer, but to observe both how and what they suffer for. What they suffer for as to the cause of their suffering; and how they suffer, as to the manner and carriage of their suffering — each of which have a necessary influence upon this business of suffering with Christ, and are most requisite ingredients to the making and constituting of it. The second is the inference in these words, "That we may be also glorified together." First, to look upon this passage according to the exclusive emphasis; and so I say there is this in it: that there is no coming to glory but by suffering. Suffering it is the beaten path to glory, and that common road which all take that come to that end. Now there is a various account which may be given hereof unto us. First, that herein we may be conformable to Christ our Head. Secondly, suffering goes before glory, thereby to set a greater price upon glory itself, and to make it so much the more glorious. Thirdly, that so by this means He may in some manner fit us for glory, and prepare us and dispose us thereunto (Colossians 1:12). But against this may be haply objected that there are divers of the children of God, and such as we have cause to hope well of, who yet have a very quiet and comfortable life, wherein they meet with little sorrow or trouble at all. And how, then, is this so generally true whereof we now speak? To this I answer, that the providence of God is very mysterious in this particular in His different carriage to different of His servants here in this life. And that with some it fareth better than others in this respect. But yet there are none but in some kind or other, at some time or other, in some sense or other, have the experiment of this truth upon them. Sometimes the servants of God are more troubled with inward conflicts than with outward afflictions. Sometimes, again, God afflicts them in others, though not immediately in their own persons, which yet, notwithstanding, according as they improve it, proves an affliction unto them. As Esther mourning for her people and kindred while she was herself in great prosperity; and Nehemiah, for his brethren's captivity, when himself was in great favour. But then, further, this is that which all God's children do in a manner prepare for, and so dispose themselves as to make account of it. And it is their wisdom so to do. As a man that takes a journey by sea, he may chance to sail, it may be, without storms, in regard of the event; but yet he expects them, and makes account of them, as incident unto him. And so must Christians in this sea of the world. Now the second is that emphasis which is inclusive. "If we suffer with Him, we shall be also glorified together"; that is, the one it shall certainly follow upon the other. Wherein, again, there are two things further considerable. The one is the conjunction of conditions, and the other is the conjunction of persons, in reference to those conditions. First, here is the conjunction of conditions: glory joined with suffering. Christians that suffer in this life, they shall be glorified in the life to come. So after that He hath called them to suffering, He does at last bring them to glory. This He does in His infinite wisdom and goodness, and as carrying a special comeliness and congruity with it (as 2 Thessalonians 1:6-8). As there is a beauty in all the works and ways of God besides, so amongst the rest also in this. Look at those who have had the greatest pleasure and delight in sin, they shall hereafter have the greatest punishment and vexation. There are three considerations especially which are matters of great supportment and satisfaction to God's children in suffering. First, the comfort which they have in it. As the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. God's children have never more embracings and cherishings from Him than at such time as they are under greatest afflictions. As the mother tends the sick child especially, and is most fond of that. Secondly, the benefit which they have by it or from it; that is another thing here considerable. Thirdly, another encouragement is the glory which comes after it (Matthew 19:28; 2 Timothy 2:11, 12; 2 Corinthians 1:7). Where still we must observe and remember this: that it is said, "If we suffer with Him." It is not suffering considered indefinitely that does entitle to glory. First, not mere suffering in a way of common providence, which even a natural man may do. Secondly, not suffering in a way of public, justice, which an evil man may do. Thirdly, not suffering neither with murmuring and repining. There may want glory as to either of these things. The second is the conjunction of the persons in reference to these conditions. Believers are joined with Christ, and in particular joined with Him in glory. This phrase of "together with Him" does imply divers things in it. First, conformity. "We shall be glorified with Him"; that is, we shall be like to Him in glory (thus John 17:22). Secondly, concomitancy. "We shall be glorified with Him"; that is, we shall be joined to Him and present with Him in glory (John 17:24; 1 Thessalonians 4:17). A concomitancy both of fate and of time, there and then. Thirdly, conveyance or derivation. "We shall be glorified with Him"; that is, we shall be glorified from. Him. His glory shall reflect upon us and be transmitted to us. We shall shine in His beams. Affliction, it is such a condition as is irksome to flesh and blood, and we all by nature are ready to shrink at it and at the thoughts of it; but grace is much satisfied about it. God will at last make all His children amends for any troubles which here He lays upon them. Heaven, it will swallow up all.

(Thomas Horton, D.D.)

Samuel Rutherford used to say, "I wonder many times that ever a child of God should have a sad heart, considering what the Lord is preparing for him." "When we shall come home, and enter into the possession of our Brother's fair kingdom, and when our heads shall find the weight of the eternal crown of glory, and when we shall look back to pains and suffering, then shall we see life and sorrow to be less than one step or stride from a prison to glory, and that our little inch of time-suffering is not worthy of our first night's welcome home to heaven."

For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory.
Clerical World.
Men exaggerate the importance of what is close at hand, and diminish the value of what lies in the far future. Prudence teaches men to free themselves from this tendency. And religion summons men to take into their calculation the distant but not uncertain prospect.

I. THE SUFFERINGS OF THE PRESENT MAY BE SEVERE. Every human being has many pains, troubles, anxieties, to bear. And every Christian has his own especial sufferings. Nothing is gained by concealing these facts. Let every reasonable being "count the cost" of following Christ.

II. THE GLORY OF THE FUTURE IS REVEALED. We need no revelation to make us sensible of the pressure of present pains. But experience and reason fail to make us know the glory which is to be. This is declared to us by inspiration, viz., that when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, we shall appear with Him in glory. That glory consists in the knowledge, favour, and fellowship of the Redeemer.


1. This was the personal conviction of the apostle himself. He was a reasonable man, and he reckoned, etc. He acted upon his persuasion, and throughout his life accepted hardships, braved dangers, endured persecution, animated by the blessed hope of victory and of glory.

2. This has been the principle which has underlain the endurances which have always characterised the Christian life. Who would willingly endure the self-denial and the oppression, the insult, the privation and the martyrdom, except for the sake of the approval of the Divine Master, whose victory and whose throne it is promised that all His faithful followers shall share?

(Clerical World.)


1. Of this world. A scene of —




2. Of the world to come.





1. Hope.

2. Patience.

3. Earnest desire.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

I. GOD'S SUFFERING SONS. Sonship does not exempt from sufferings — sometimes it even causes them — as when we are called to suffer on account of religion, especially in times of persecution. But we need not look for "some great thing" to bring the text into conformity with daily experience. No sufferings are small that have power to affect the mind. The strife of tongues, the petty persecutions of home, the long continuance of some chronic disease, the anxiety connected with our occupation, may be doing for us what greater trials did for the martyrs. We may be sufferers in the intensity of emotion, even when the instruments of suffering may not be the prison and the stake. The gospel, then, does not imply immunity from suffering. And this fact teaches that suffering to the believer is —

1. Good and not evil — like medicine, which may be nauseous to the taste but healing in its effects.

2. Best when least deserved. "I could have borne it had I merited it," is the world's word. God's Word says, "If the will of God be so, it is better to suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing." To do wrong is a greater evil than to suffer wrong.

3. Confined to "this present time."

II. THE COMPARISON WITH FUTURE GLORY. "I reckon" — as if it were a calm and deliberate mental process. If we allow our feelings to predominate we shall allow our experience of pain to prevail over the revelations of faith. The glory is yet future — it is not yet felt — whilst the suffering is felt. We need to bring into the comparison, in order to feel alleviation, those vast objects in the presence of which all temporal sorrow dwindles.We might compare, e.g., our own sufferings —

1. With the far severer sufferings of many of our fellow-Christians who are as dear to God as we are.

2. With our deserts and our deep sense of the evil of sin.

3. With our mercies and alleviations, and be ashamed to think of our ingratitude in permitting one sorrow to blind us to a thousand joys.

4. With the bitter sufferings which our Lord endured, and think of the double honour which is given us on behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him but to suffer for His sake.

5. But the apostle brings before us the glory that shall be revealed in us, as if he would compare the poor accommodation of the roadside inn where the traveller passes the night, with the enduring blessedness of the home. One day in heaven will repay all the sufferings of earth.

(P. Strutt.)

I. COUNTERBALANCING TEMPORAL THINGS WITH ETERNAL, IS THE WAY TO CLEAR OUR MISTAKES, OR PREVENT THE DELUSIONS OF THE FLESH. The apostle observeth this method here and elsewhere (2 Corinthians 4:17, 18). This may be done in four ways. Comparing —

1. Temporal good things with eternal good things, that we may draw off our hearts from the one to the other, and so check the delights of sense (Hebrews 10:34; Psalm 16:11; John 5:44).

2. Temporal bad things with eternal bad things; so to defeat the terrors of sense. All the sufferings of the world are but the scratch of a pin to that tribulation that abideth for every soul that doth evil (Luke 12:4, 5).

3. Temporal good for eternal evil (Hebrews 11:25).

4. Temporal bad things, with eternal good things (2 Corinthians 4:17).(1) Our sufferings come from men, but our glory from God; now as the agent is, so is the effect; man afflicts as a finite creature, but God rewards as an infinite being; man showeth himself in his wrath, and God in His love (Isaiah 51:12).(2) Our sufferings are earthly, but our glory is heavenly, As the place, is, so is the estate; here both the good and evil is partial, but there both are complete. Here we have the earnest, there the whole bargain; here a taste, there a full feast.(3) Our sufferings are but short, but our glory eternal (1 Peter 1:6; 1 Peter 5:10).(4) As they are short, so they are light (2 Corinthians 4:17).(5) The sufferings are in our mortal bodies, but the glory is both in soul and body.(6) Sufferings do mostly deprive us of those things which are without a man; but this is a glory which shall be revealed in us.(7) Our sufferings dishonour us in the sight of the world, but this glory maketh us amiable in the sight of God.(8) The order is to be considered. As to the wicked, God will turn their glory into shame; so as to the godly, He will turn their shame into glory (John 16:20).

II. THE COMPARISON, THOUGH IT BE RIGHTLY WEIGHED, WILT HAVE NO EFFICACY UNLESS WE HAVE FAITH, or a deep sense of the world to come. It is easy to show how much eternal things exceed temporal; but this taketh no hold of the heart, till there be a firm belief of the glory reserved for God's people (Hebrews 11:1; 2 Peter 1:9).

III. THIS FAITH MUST BE OFTEN EXERCISED BY SERIOUS MEDITATIONS. For the greatest truths work not, if we do not think of them. Faith showeth us a truth, but consideration is the means to improve it (Luke 14:28-30).

IV. There is, besides, NEED OF THE ASSISTANCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. Sense is too strong for reason without faith; and faith cannot do its office without the Spirit.

(T. Manton, D.D.)

First, of the subject or antecedent: "The sufferings of this present time." By sufferings here we are to understand the sufferings of the servants of God more especially. First, to look upon it in the first reference, of the time in order to suffering; and so, I say, there is this in it, that the present time it is a time of affliction. Where we must first of all explain what is here meant by this present time. First, the state of this world it is expressed by the time or season, ὁ χωρίς. And so, indeed, it is. It is a time of great opportunity, which God does afford unto us. Those that will be saved hereafter, they must be sanctified now. And therefore accordingly does it concern us to mind this time, and to be sure to be good husbands of it; not to strive or squander it away we care not how, but to have a special regard hereunto. That is the first term of emphasis, the time, or season. The second is, that it is called the present time, which is to be taken in an exclusive sense, as that which shall not be hereafter. It is present, and it is present but for a while. It has a disparagement of transitoriness upon it. The second is of suffering in order to the time. And so there is this in it, that affliction it is only for a season. The suffering of this present time, that is, as much as this moment any suffering; this suffering, which is but of short continuance. Thus we shall find the Scripture to express it (2 Corinthians 4:17; Hebrews 10:37; 1 Peter 1:6; 1 Peter 5:10). These and the like are the expressions whereby the shortness of affliction is set forth unto us. This it serves, first, to put a difference betwixt the children of God and other men. As for wicked and ungodly persons, their sufferings are not only for time present, but as well for time to come, and for that especially. Therefore, secondly, it should keep up their hearts from fainting and sinking under them. The second is the predicate, or consequent, in these words, "Are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us." Wherein we have the state of God's people in the world to come set forth under a threefold notion or description. First, from the nature of it; and secondly, from the order of it; and thirdly, from the degree of it. First, here is a description of the future state of the children of God, from the nature of it; and that is of glory to be revealed in them. First, for the matter of it, it is glory. He does not only say it is rest, as He does in another place (2 Thessalonians 1:7). Heaven it does not only consist in the removal of former evils, but in the addition of further comforts. And mark here what this comfort is, for the condition and quality of it, while it is expressed by glory; wherein the Spirit of God seems to labour to satisfy us and to uphold us against the scorn and reproach of affliction. If here now it shall be further demanded what this glory we now speak of is, and wherein it consists. First, in the glorious qualifications which both soul and body together shall be endued withal. The body raised up to the excellencies and perfections of a spirit — a spiritual body — and the soul endued with a great measure of knowledge in all particulars. Secondly, in the glorious company and society which we shall there partake of. Thirdly, in the glorious actions and performances which we shall then be employed in: in sitting upon thrones, judging the world, even angels themselves. And finally, in an universal freedom from whatsoever might cause any annoyance. Secondly, we may here take notice of the dispensation, as it is said to be such as shall be revealed in us. While it is said that it shall be revealed, there are two things implied in this expression. First, its present secrecy. It shall be revealed; therefore as yet it is hid, and so it is. That glory which a Christian shall one day partake of in heaven it is for the present concealed (1 John 3:2). The second is the future discovery, or manifestation, which is here expressed. It is the discovery of it only which is future and has yet to come. It is already in being, so far forth as it is prepared for us, as the Scripture assures us. This glory, which for the present is hid, it shall hereafter be revealed both to the children of God and other men. First, it shall be revealed to God's children for their comfort and greater reward. God will now at last make them amends for all their long expectations and dependencies upon Him. Secondly, to wicked men it shall be revealed also for their shame and confusion. There is one word more which is here considerable of us, and that is the subject of this glory — ourselves. It is not only to us, but in us. Glory may be revealed to a man, which himself has no interest in. But the glory of heaven it is such as shall be revealed in us, that is, we shall partake of this glory. This it holds a proportion to our capacity and reception of grace. Look as the children of God. The second is taken from the order of it, or method in which it is dispensed, and that is, in succession to affliction. God's children, in regard of that state which happens unto them, have their best still at last. And this it goes before that, Look as it was with Christ Himself, even so it is also with the members of Christ. For Christ Himself — we know how it was with Him — He suffered before He reigned. The harvest is after the seed-time. This is matter of great encouragement and consolation to all true believers in the saddest condition that befalls them. It may be that for the present they may lie under very grievous afflictions. Well, but here is that which may satisfy them: that there is the greater comfort behind, that waits upon them. The third is the measure or degree of it; and that is, glory transcendent to affliction. Present suffering is incomparable to future happiness. First, to show you that it is so. There must needs be an infinite excellency and transcendency of glory above suffering upon this account. First, the reason and argument which God uses and takes from glory to persuade His children to suffering. That can by no means be an argument which is not itself a truth; at least such an argument as the God of truth shall vouchsafe to use. Indeed Satan he many times offers those things for encouragements which have no substance or reality in them. But the Lord He does not do so. He will make good every argument which He presses for the doing of any duty. Secondly, as this may be cleared from God's own arguments and reasonings, so also from the saints' apprehensions and improvements of those arguments. Thirdly, this may be also evinced unto us, even from the principles of superstition itself. We may see what future glory is, in regard of present sufferings, from the voluntary sufferings which many people lay upon themselves. Fourthly, the first-fruits of the Spirit, and the beginnings of glory here in this present life, these are an evidence hereof unto us. Now, further, secondly, we are to consider wherein this disparity and eminency and transcendency does mainly consist, which we may take notice of according to these following explications of it. First, in weight; secondly, in number; and thirdly, in duration. Now the second is the apostle's judgment, or determination about it, in this word, I reckon, or make account. The word in the Greek signifies properly to reason, or cast up accounts. And so it is a metaphor either taken from logic or from arithmetic. If we take it from logic, so it is a drawing of the conclusion from the premises; if we take it from arithmetic, so it is by casting up the account to find out the true total sum. First, take it from logic; I reckon, that is, I conclude; so we find the word used in other places, as in Romans 3:28: "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith," etc. It is the same word which is here in the text. And so there is this in it, that a good Christian has the best and perfectest reason. And therefore let all proud wits stoop and veil to this. But, secondly, it may be a metaphor taken from arithmetic; I reckon, that is, I make account. That the receipts do exceed the expenses; the present suffering it comes short of the future glory by infinite degrees. That a Christian is the best accountant. Especially he is so in this point of religion, as to the preferring of glory to suffering. St. Paul had a very great advantage of many others in this particular. First, he had skill; he had a wit and understanding for this purpose. Every one has not the art of arithmetic, especially of this spiritual arithmetic. Secondly, he had experience. He had the trial of both estates, and so was best able to judge of both (2 Corinthians 11:23; 2 Corinthians 12:4). Thirdly, he had the advantage also of practice. The expedite casting up of accounts it is a matter of use, and the facility is contracted by custom. Now St. Paul he had this also, he was used hereunto, and he had done it often again and again. As a man that will be sure of an account, he goes over it the second time, and the third, and if it still proves the same, then he determines it and sets it down for certain.

(Thomas Horton, D.D.)

In Hebrews 11:25, 26, there is a similar course of reasoning. See how he loads the scales. On the world's side, "pleasures" and "treasures"; on Christ's side, "reproaches " and "afflictions." But with the former he throws in "for a season"; with the latter he casts in "with the people of God"; and in a moment the world kicks the beam.

I. THE PRINCIPLE WHICH GUIDED THE APOSTLE TO HIS CONCLUSION IS TO BRING ETERNITY INTO EVERY CALCULATION, and to judge of everything as it affects our eternity. Everything has in it an eternity of consequence. There is not a pain, nor a pleasure, a word, nor a thought, which, either directly or indirectly, does not reach out for ever and ever. Now, to an immortal being, the rule and standard of measurement must be eternity. Ask the man on the eve to "depart, and be with Christ," what he thinks of the affairs of this present life? and he will answer in the spirit of my text.

II. THE EXACT POINT OF THE COMPARISON AS IT STOOD IN THE APOSTLE'S MIND. It would have been quite natural to have spoken of "the glory that should be shown to us," as of the object which we are all reaching to in heaven; but it was a far higher range of thought when it dwelt on "the glory that should be shown in heaven in us." For what is that "glory" which is to make heaven? Unquestionably the same to which David looked (Psalm 17:15). Perfect reflection of the brightness of God in our person — of the judgment of God in our intellect — of the love of God in our affections — of the will of God in our motives — of the unity of God in the harmony of our whole being. Everything is "glorious" as it respects or admits Deity. Now every "suffering" here, of body or of mind, has reference to, and affects that reflection of "glory." We Christians are passing through the processes which are essential to our final condition; the school-time, which is preparatory to maturity, or, the furnace, melting the material, making it capable of receiving the impression of its influence. And, if we once admit that, then we hold a chain of reasoning which justifies, nay, reproves, nay, rejoices in every sorrow; and establishes a proportion between the degree of "the sufferings," and the degree of "the glory." The height of the glory depends upon the attainment of the grace; and the attainment of the grace is according to the elevation of the faith; and the degree of the faith is in proportion to its exercise; and the exercise lays among afflictions. And surely the thought of consummation ought to be sufficient to swallow up all the pain of this present world. What, if the body "groans, being burdened," when it is all "but for a moment," and eternity will be spent in rapturous ministrations.

(J. Vaughan, M.A.)

I. There can be no comparison between the sufferings of the present time, and the consummated glory of the heavenly world, IN RESPECT OF NATURE. Without some resemblance of nature, comparison cannot be instituted at all. We may compare the sun with the moon, or with a star, or even with the flame of a candle; because, however much smaller, these are all luminous objects. But we cannot very well compare the sun to a tree or to a reptile, because of the dissimilarity of nature. So, also, we may institute a comparison, however remote, between the ocean and a lake, or river, or fountain, because water is essential in all; but there cannot well be a comparison between the ocean and a quadruped or a flower. So, as there is no sameness of nature in sufferings and glory, they cannot be compared, unless to point out their dissimilarity be comparison.

II. There can be no comparison between present sufferings and future glory, IN RESPECT OF ATTENDANT CIRCUMSTANCES.

1. One of the circumstances frequently attendant on the sufferings of this life is solitude.

2. It is another circumstance attendant on suffering, that we cannot always see the good which is designed.

3. It may be mentioned as a further circumstance attendant on suffering, that the causes of grief are seldom single. It has grown into a proverb — Misfortunes come in troops!

4. Let us now reflect, that in the time of that "glory which shall be revealed in us," this array of sorrow will be for ever passed away! Instead of neglect and solitude, will be the banquet with "Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven"; "the innumerable company of angels — the general assembly and church of the first-born — the spirits of just men made perfect"; and more than all, the beatific vision of the immortal God! Instead of the doubt and obscurity of this mortal state, will be the bright result of things; the visible demonstration how these light and momentary afflictions work out "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." Instead of the thousand forms of human woe which crowd the span of life with diversified sorrow, there will be consummated happiness; every form of pleasure which holy and exalted souls can take in.

III. It is an unworthy comparison between the sufferings of the present life and the glory of the life to come, IN REFERENCE TO DEGREE. It is a fact in the constitution of man's present being, that he cannot endure suffering of any kind beyond a given limit. If pushed beyond that limit, suffering relieves itself. Swooning, and even death itself comes in, to the relief of those whose burden of woe is too great to be borne! Nor should it be forgotten, that in our present being we can no more bear the excess of joy than that of grief. But in the glory which shall be revealed in us, the powers of man shall be, beyond all our present conception, exalted and enlarged.

IV. There can be no comparison between the sufferings of the present life and the consummated glory of the heavenly world, IN RESPECT OF DURATION. Time may be compared with time, and one finite thing with another thing which is finite; but time cannot be compared with eternity, a thing which is finite with one that is infinite. The sufferings of this present time will have an end. Were every hour of every day crowded with agony, we know the last hour will soon arrive, and the sorrows of earth be no more! But the glory to be revealed in us has no end! The crown of life never fades: the fountains of pure delight never cease to flow. After this illustration of the apostle's doctrine, we are justified in using it to the following purposes —

1. As a most urgent reason, why we should take care that in all our sorrows we suffer as Christians.

2. The apostle's doctrine is certainly a lesson of patience and submission, under those afflictions it may please Almighty God to permit to come upon us.

3. It will not be possible to give full credit to the apostle's doctrine, and to lay it seriously to heart, without feeling it a call to live in a constant reference to other and brighter worlds.

(J. Bromley.)

1. It is a saying as ancient as the oldest book in the Bible that "man is born to trouble." And Christians, while they are exposed to various afflictions "common to man," have trials, often pungent and severe, peculiar to themselves. But Christians have, also, consolations peculiar to themselves, and proportioned to their sorrows.

2. In the text the apostle represents himself as having instituted a comparison between "the sufferings of this present time," and "the glory that shall be revealed," with his eye on their respective magnitudes; with the result that "the sufferings are not worthy to be regarded, in comparison with the glory."

3. There are two circumstances which confirm and commend the apostle's authority on this subject —(1) The large experience he had received of present afflictions (2 Corinthians 11.). We are accustomed to attach weight to the opinions of those who have had much experience in the things of which they speak. Yet, with his enlarged experience, Paul declares that the present sufferings of Christians are "not worthy to be compared with" their future glory. What are our sufferings in comparison with his? If, then, those greater afflictions, much more our smaller trials, vanish in such a contrast.(2) The apostle has been distinguished, perhaps above all other men, by an anticipated experience of the glory of the future state (2 Corinthians 12:1-4). And, looking at both worlds with this connected and enlarged experience, he pronounces the judgment stated in the text.

4. Observe, also, the force of "the glory that shall be revealed." The same emphatic expression is used by Peter, in apparent allusion to the words before us (1 Peter 4:1). A small and dim reflection of that glory is all that is at present conveyed by Divine revelation; like the glimmering of those distant suns that irradiate infinite space; an infantine perception proportioned to our infantine faculties. It is a glory that must be revealed; that can be discerned only by its own splendour. In looking at the comparison, therefore, we must take into consideration the disadvantages arising from the one side being matter of experience and clearly discernible, while the other side is matter of faith, and placed beyond the power of human conception. The things that are temporal are seen; the sufferings are present: but the things that are eternal are not seen; the glory is to be revealed.

5. There are, however, certain alleviating circumstances connected with our present sufferings, which render them unworthy to sustain a comparison with that contrasted glory which is free from all deductions.

I. THEY SELDOM PROCEED FROM THE HIGHEST SOURCE OF SUFFERING, and hence they are never sufferings of the severest nature. The sufferings of a good man cannot arise from the horrors of a guilty conscience that sees nothing in futurity but an angry God and eternal woe! We can measure our strength in the contemplation of temporal calamities, but not in the prospect of eternal ruin. The Christian, whatever his sufferings, may have peace in his conscience, and their edge is effectually taken off in his experience. They are thus rendered very imperfect. But the future glory is of a nature to fill the soul, to satisfy its highest conceptions, its largest capacities of good.

II. THEY ARE SUBJECT TO INTERRUPTIONS AND INTERVALS OF REPOSE. The storms of adversity do not prevail through the whole period of the most afflicted life; they are relieved by intervals of calm and sunshine (Psalm 125.). It is because our sufferings are thus interrupted that they become the more conspicuous. Health, for example, is the ordinary state of our being; sickness is an interruption of that state; hence we dwell on a few days or even hours of pain, while we let years of ease and vigour pass unnoticed. But in the heavenly world there is no suspension of good, no intrusion of distress. There will prevail an unbroken continuity of bliss. Who, then, would compare the occasional sufferings of this present time with the enjoyment of undisturbed felicity?

III. THEY ARE ATTENDED BY MANY ALLEVIATING CIRCUMSTANCES. None touch us at once in all points and put an end to every enjoyment. God attempers His chastisements to our weakness; and, in general, so mingles goodness with severity, as even, amidst our sorrows, to call forth our thanksgivings. If our health and ease is impaired we are often attended by kind friends, and we have all the assistance which the physician's art can afford, and, for the support of our hearts, the rich promises of Scripture, and the influences of the Divine Comforter. But in the future state of glory there is no admixture of suffering; it is a state of pure fruition; a scene of unimpaired beatitude. With the perfect nature of that glory, the very imperfect nature of our present sufferings, as modified by many alleviating circumstances, renders them not worthy to be compared.

IV. EVEN WHEN WE MAY BE REDUCED TO THE GREATEST POSSIBLE DISTRESS, STILL WE RETAIN HOPE, which operates with a resisting force against the assaults of adversity. And what a source of joy does this principle open to the Christian! (ver. 24; Hebrews 11:1). But in the happiness of heaven there exists no disturbing fear to correspond with the hope that allays the sufferings of time. Once admitted to that bright world, we shall look back on "the sufferings of this present time," as on the faint recollection of a vision of the night: they will only serve to enhance our beatitude, to swell our song of praise!

V. Present sufferings ARE PROPORTIONED TO OUR PRESENT POWERS OF ENDURING; but the glories of the future world, to another state of faculties, a very different order of capacities. At the resurrection there will take place a great, an inconceivable enlargement of our energies in mind and body, our capacities of action and enjoyment (1 Corinthians 15.). The body will be "raised in power," like that of angels who "excel in strength." The eye will be strengthened to behold those beams of Divine effulgence which, were they to be manifested to us now, would blind us with their blaze. The ear will be fitted to receive, the voice to respond, those eternal hallelujah! Every cloud will be dispelled from the mind, every imperfection of its powers removed. What are our limited sufferings, proportioned as they are to our present limited powers, placed in comparison with that ineffable glory, to which powers of a different order are adapted?

VI. And note THE IMMEASURABLE DISPARITY BETWEEN THE DURATION OF TEMPORAL AFFLICTIONS AND THE DURATION OF CELESTIAL GLORY. If they extended through the whole period of life, and that period were protracted to antediluvian longevity, still they would be lost in less than a moment, in comparison with eternal glories: weighed against that "exceeding weight," these light afflictions would appear as the almost invisible motes of the sunbeam. Conclusion:

1. Let Christians derive support and encouragement under their various afflictions. When we are ready to be cast down by some pressing burden, let us balance it against an "eternal weight of glory."

2. Let others, who may not as yet have turned their attention to eternal realities, be prevailed upon no longer to neglect the great salvation. Who would hesitate between a few years of doubtful enjoyment, invaded by sufferings "common to man," and inconceivable happiness prolonged and progressive through infinite duration?

(Robert Hall, M.A.)

1. "Present time" may mean the sufferings of any one at any time, or of any one during his whole life, or of all persons during their life; or, still again, of all persons consolidated in their experience of one person.

2. "Glory" is splendour, magnificence. Then, as according to the text, suffering is not to be compared with the glory. They must be placed in contrast, as to their —

I. ORIGIN — the one from sin, the other from God.

II. NATURE. All suffering is mixed; glory is unmixed.

III. REALISATION. Suffering comprehensible; glory incomprehensible.

IV. DURATION. Suffering ends; glory never — it is everlasting. To be like Christ; to be with Christ; to be equal heirs with Christ — this is glory. And yet we cannot travel to the end of such infinite glory. Is there not enough in this view of our text to inspire the Christian with zeal and devotion, and to send the sinner weeping to the Cross?

(D. Thomas, D.D.)


1. Those of "this present time" in the present disordered and fallen state of things. While man was a stranger to sin, he was also a stranger to suffering. But when sin found an entrance it made an opening for suffering. How various are the kinds and degrees of suffering, and how many are the quarters from whence it arises! What faculty of mind, what sense or member of body, what possession, connection, or enjoyment in life, may not become a source of sorrow? We may suffer through fires, inundations, earthquakes, famines, pestilences, inclement seasons. And what is more dreadful than any of them, we may see fields of battle covered with the dead, and resounding with the groans of the dying. Behold the widow, orphan, prisoner, slave. We may "return and consider all the oppressions done under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 4:1, 2), all introduced by sin, that pregnant womb.

2. Now, even in these general sufferings the people of God have more or less their share. But, besides these, they have sufferings peculiar to themselves. They mourn in Zion, sorrow for sins, their own or those of others: they "deny themselves," and "take up their cross," "crucify the flesh," are "reproached for the name of Christ," and, in various ways, are made partakers of Christ's sufferings.

3. But the apostle spoke more particularly of the Church in that age, when the sufferings of its members were peculiarly aggravated (2 Corinthians 4:8; 1 Corinthians 4:9-13; 2 Corinthians 6:4, 5; Romans 8:35; Hebrews 10:32-34; Hebrews 11:36-38).

II. WHAT IS THE GLORY TO BE REVEALED. This cannot be at present fully comprehended (1 John 3:2). It implies, however —

1. A perfect state of soul, gloriously enlightened (1 Corinthians 13:12), glorious in holiness (1 John 3:2; Revelation 22:4), in happiness (Revelation 21:3-6; Revelation 22:1-5), in authority, power, and dominion (Luke 22:28-30; James 1:12; Revelation 1:6; Revelation 3:21).

2. A perfect and glorious state of body (Philippians 3:21; 1 Corinthians 15:20, 43, 49, 51; Ephesians 1:19, 20; Colossians 3:4; 1 John 3:2). This is justly termed "the manifestation of the sons of God"(ver. 19), and "the adoption" (vers. 23, 29).

3. The being placed in a world of glory, which will far exceed this world.

4. The being admitted into glorious society, even that of patriarchs and prophets, evangelists and apostles, saints and angels.

5. The having free, constant, uninterrupted communion with the Father of glory through the Lord of glory, and by the glorious Spirit.


1. The subjects of the suffering and of the glory. Our powers of body and mind are limited. Any great weight of affliction soon crushes the frail body, and causes it to seek repose in death. The narrow capacity of the mind, likewise, cannot admit at once a very large measure of trouble of any kind; one sorrow is wont to displace another.

2. But the glory to be revealed in us will be the glory of an angel. Our vessels will then be wonderfully enlarged, and rendered capable of containing a large measure of felicity and glory.

3. Their nature and design.(1) The sufferings are not designed to be a proper punishment of sin. God only corrects that He may reform and amend.(2) The glory, however, will be a reward proper for an infinite Being to bestow on those whom He acknowledges to be His children (chap. Romans 9:23; Hebrews 11:16).

4. The degree of the one and the other. The sufferings of the present time, however great, are not without any mixture of consolation. But the glory to be revealed will be pure glory and felicity, unmixed with the least alloy of sorrow.

5. The constancy of the one and the other. The sufferings of the present life are seldom, if ever, incessant, but the glory will be incessant, without change, unless for the better.

6. Their duration. The sufferings of the present time are the sufferings of a creature of a day (1 Corinthians 7:29-31). But the glory is that of an immortal being; a being that can die no more either in soul or body.


1. Not in mankind in general, though all be redeemed with the blood of Christ. For a man may "frustrate the grace of God" (Galatians 2:21).

2. Not in all that profess Christianity. For a man may "profess to know God, and by works deny Him."

3. Not in all that are outwardly unblameable. For a man may "have a name to live and be dead."

4. But in all that so believe the gospel as to find it "the power of God unto salvation."

(J. Benson.)

There was an ancient sect who held that the highest virtue was to triumph over pain. The Stoics aimed high; but the road they took was paved with crushed desires, with petrified affections, and strewn with the ashes of distinguished loves. But Christianity does not save us by rendering us incapable of sorrow, but through sorrow, it leads us into the joy of God. Note —


1. It is a reckoning, not a full realisation. The apostle does not say, "I know," for he had not drained the cup of earthly sorrow, and had but tasted the cup of heavenly joy. But neither does he say, "I think or conjecture," for although he knew not the whole, he knew a good deal of both. What he does say lies between the two. "I reckon" is the language of faith, which accepts its present as the sure ground of a larger experience.

2. It is a reckoning about "present" suffering. It was then a time of persecution; but the truth of our text is not to be confined to such a time. Are we not apt to exaggerate the sufferings of a time of open persecution, as compared with calmer times? Do we not pass people every day who are suffering more for the sake of principle than ever martyr did? Their death is no less a martyrdom because it is a slow death. The Christian suffers both as a man and a Christian. He does not escape through faith the common lot. And besides, the spiritual nature has sufferings peculiar to itself. It begins in suffering. We have to pass Sinai, and see the terrors of the Lord. There is the struggle of conscience, with sin and unbelief, and the pangs of the new birth. Sanctification is but the deepening and broadening of our conversion, and it is carried on through suffering. The higher a nature rises, it increases in tenderness and sympathy, and while it has to maintain a conflict with evil, the heart must be the home of many great griefs.

3. It is a reckoning about present suffering in connection with future glory. The mere mention of the two cannot but suggest that the former is unworthy of comparison with the latter. The magnanimity of Paul prevents him from dragging his afflictions into comparison with the glory of God. The memory of past hardships is all but swallowed up in the enthusiasm of hope; and in this he follows his Master, "who, for the joy set before Him, endured the Cross, despising the shame."


1. The grace of God in the heart, since it so reveals God to the soul, so brings down heaven to earth, that the possessor of it can say that his sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in him.

2. This grace is the root both of the sufferings and the glory. If the two things were really opposed, then some comparison might be made; but this is not the case. Suffering is the first-fruit of grace, glory the last. The one is the fruit of grace in time, the other its fruit in eternity. To have the grace of God in the heart is to have a principle of life there that must come into bitterest conflict with evil. Jesus Christ must needs suffer to enter into His glory. As He was, so are we in this world. We have to "fill up that which is behind of the sufferings of Christ." Dwelling in the believer Christ has still to meet the temptations of the devil and the contradictions of sinners.

3. The suffering leads to the glory. Suffering is in no sense the purchase of the glory. The sufferings of Christ have both paid the penalty of all sin, and purchased all blessing; and it would not accord with justice that we should have to pay the same penalty over again in our suffering. Certainly, if present suffering could purchase future glory, it would be a great bargain. Willingly might we undertake a pilgrimage to any shrine — gladly might we give our bosom to the knife, if the gates of Paradise would thereby open to us. But, although our suffering is in no sense the foundation or price of the glory, the one, nevertheless, leads to the other — is a condition of, or contribution to the other, as is stated in the preceding verse. The suffering, then, is not to be compared with the glory, as if the one were a deduction from the other; for the one enhances the other. As the light of the precious stone is brought out by cutting; as the veins of the marble are revealed by polishing; as the storms that fight with the young tree rock it into sturdier strength; so the Christian life is strengthened and beautified by suffering. Conclusion: Should any one standing on the threshold of the Christian life hesitate in view of its sufferings; or having put his hand to the plough, be disposed to look back; let him know that he is not fit for the kingdom of heaven. Those difficulties before which he pauses as great obstacles to his setting out on the way to glory are the very way itself. Who can show us a way to glory of any kind that is not paved with suffering? Is the glory the soldier seeks to be had with ease? Is the prize of fortune the merchant seeks to be had with folded arms? Are the ends on which the student is bent achieved by laying his head on a soft pillow and dreaming of them? One is apt to say there is no royal road to the glory of God; but that would be a great mistake. Suffering is the royal road, for by it the King passed into His glory.

(F. Ferguson.)

When the sailor encounters heavy weather, one thought cheers him — the ship may roll and pitch in the angry sea, the cold spray may drench him, his work may be hard and perilous, but he can look towards the shore; far away over the vessel's bow, far away across the tumbling waves is the shore, the haven where he would be, and for the sake of this, by remembering this, he can bear his present troubles, though the waves of the sea rage horribly It was this feeling of hope which carried the great heroes and discoverers of old through all their trials. When Columbus set forth to discover the new world he could bear the hardships and dangers in his way because he looked towards the shore; and at last, when he beheld the broken sea-weed floating past his ship, and the birds wheeling round him, he knew that his purpose was gained, and that the land which he sought to win lay before him. So I bid you to do; when the waves of affliction swell and roll towards you, when strong under-currents of temptation catch you and sweep you along, when you are weary and faint with buffeting the tide of sin, and sorrow, and frailty, look to the shore, look past the sins and the sorrow, past the noise of the whirlpool of life, past the high tide of accumulated trial, and the low water-mark of despondency and despair — look to the shore, there is peace there, there are flowers there, there is rest there remaining for the people of God.

(H. J. W. Buxton, M.A.)

e: —

1. Little souls, superficial minds, reckon it as wisdom to argue away the mass of sufferings, or at least to belittle them, to conceal the dark shadows with rosy veils, and to place opposite a longer account of pleasures. But the truth is found in the plaints which are known by all, and which Job expressed (Job 7:1-3). Our apostle likewise gives full expression to the truth. In the phrases, "earnest expectation " (ver. 19), and "from the bondage of corruption" (ver. 21), he expresses the magnitude of the afflictions, and in the oft-repeated "creature," "whole creation" (ver. 22), is expressed its extent, its generality, which knows of no exception.

2. Neither does he treat the origin superficially. It was not so from the beginning, neither was there necessity that it should be so, "not willingly" (ver. 20). The creature was made subject to vanity. It is not a blind, puzzling game of chance concerning which it would be best not to investigate; but the apostle knows and speaks boldly that this woe has a reasonable, just, and Divine cause, "by reason of Him who hath subjected the same in hope," i.e., on account of human sin, because the holy God desired to mark sin with the unmistakable mark of misery and enmity to God.

3. But the apostle likewise knows that from the beginning — i.e., in the will of God — this is no unchangeable and eternal relation or condition ("in hope," ver. 20). Glory, which excludes every woe, is the certain destiny of the Christian, so that the sorrowful condition of the present world appears to him as a prophecy of this destiny. (Compare the "for" in ver. 19). Adoption (ver. 23), has undoubtedly and completely taken place (ver. 19, "manifestation of the sons of God"). Enjoyment of that which is promised in the testament, afterward the revealed and distributed inheritance (ver. 17). Separation from every temporal fetter, also of the mortal body; hence glorious freedom (ver. 21, and "redemption of the body," ver. 23), is the destiny of those who belong to Christ ("in us," ver. 18, is explained by ver. 14); in which destiny all creation shall share (ver. 22). This clear aim in view, guaranteed by the " possession of the first fruits of the Spirit" (ver. 23), causes the present sufferings to be only of momentary consequence (ver. 18); the Christian longs for heaven (ver. 23), and this homesickness is termed the blessedness of hope (ver. 24).

(Prof. Cosack.)

1. This was the reckoning of one who could not mistake — for the text is not merely the opinion of the apostle, but as the declaration of God Himself, for the eternal comfort of His Church.

2. And this leads us to remember how very little is said in Scripture of the glories of the world to come. It seems solemnly determined by our Master that His Church shall walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 12:4). Those who die come not back again. Doubtless they sometimes wish it (Luke 16:27-30), but it is a vain wish. He tells us, instead, much about the sufferings and trials which await us in this life. There is a great deal said about a cross: much tribulation, the need of purity of heart, and self-denial. These are not the things by which the world induces us to love and serve it. The world keeps pain in the background, and talks of pleasure. Christ keeps pleasure in the background, and talks of pain. And it is not hard to guess why. It is because the world has so little pleasure to offer as a bribe, that it had need to talk much about it; whereas the Lord of glory has so huge an amount of blessedness in store for those who love Him that if He were to reveal the greatness thereof faith would be swallowed up in present certainty and hope in present enjoyment.

3. And yet the solemn silence of Scripture concerning heaven is now and then all but broken. The lips are sometimes opened, as it were, to speak; and, though closed again immediately, enough has escaped to fill the soul with wonder and to make the spirit attentive. The apostle in the text does not describe heaven; but he tells us that something wonderful might be told. Something of the same kind is found in 2 Corinthians 4:17, 18, and 1 Corinthians 2:9. We may think as we will, and what we will; and we shall still be far, far behind! To see patriarchs, prophets, apostles, the early Churches, will be much, to be sure; yet will it be as nothing compared to what shall be! So again (and oh, the unspeakably higher privilege!) — so again, the beholding of the face of the Son of Man. Or again, to be shown the providences which watched over our lives; to recognise the hand of Love in every blow which overtook us, every disappointment which afflicted us; yea, to be restored, and that eternally, to everything we had ever loved and lost — these things and more, told over ten thousand times, convey but a feeble picture, a faint image of the blessedness of Heaven! To conclude. The use of these declarations is clearly this — to reconcile good men to present sorrow. There is a bright prospect beyond.

(Dean Burgon.)

I know the obstacles, but I know as well the power behind! I do not see success as yet, but I know that it is coming. So I do not see the cathedral as yet, when I go into the confused quarry-yard and see there the half-wrought stones, the clumsy blocks that are by and by to be decorated capitals. But when at last they are finished in form and brought together, the mighty building rises in the air, an ever-during psalm in rock. I do not see the picture yet, when I look upon the palette with its blotches and stains and lumps of colour. By and by, when the skilful brush of the painter has distributed those colours, I see the radiant beauty of the Madonna, the pathos of the Magdalene; I see the beauty of the landscape spread out upon the canvas, with meadow and hill and winding stream, and the splendours of the sunset crowning the whole. I do not see yet the perfect kingdom of God upon earth, but I see the colours which are to blend in it. I see the already half-chiselled rock out of which it shall be wrought; and I am not going to despond now, when so much already has been accomplished.

(R. S. Storrs.)

For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
The Greek for "expectation" is one of those admirable words which that language easily forms. It is composed of three elements: κάρα, the head; δοκέω δοκόω δοκέω to wait for, espy; and ἀπό, from, from afar; so "to wait with the head raised and the eye fixed on that point of the horizon from which the expected object is to come." What a plastic representation! An artist might make a statue of hope out of this term. The verb "longeth for" is not less remarkable; it is composed of the simple verb δέχομαι, to receive, and ἐκ, out of the hands of, απο, from, from afar; so "to receive something from the hands of One who extends it to you from afar." The substantive and the verb together vividly describe the attitude of the suffering creation, which in its entirety turns, as it were, an impatient look to the expected future.

(Prof. Godet.)

There is a sort of vague, undefinable impression, we think, upon all spirits, of some great evolution of the present system under which we live — some looking towards, as well as longing after immortality — some mysterious but yet powerful sense within every heart of the present as a state of confinement and thraldom; and that yet a day of light and largeness and liberty is coming. We cannot imagine of unbelievers that they have any very precise or perhaps confident anticipation on the subject any more than the world at large had of the advent of our Messiah — though a very general expectation was abroad of the approaching arrival of some great personage upon earth. And, in like manner, there is abroad even now the dim and the distant vision of another advent, of a brighter period that is now obscurely seen or guessed at through the gloom by which humanity is encompassed — a kind of floating anticipation, suggested perhaps by the experimental feeling that there is now the straitness of an oppressed and limited condition; and that we are still among the toils, and the difficulties, and the struggles of an embryo state of existence. It is altogether worthy of remark, and illustrative of our text, that, in like manner as through the various countries of the world, there is a very wide impression of a primeval condition of virtue and blessedness from which we have fallen, so there seems a very wide expectation of the species being at length restored to the same health and harmony and loveliness as before. The vision of a golden age at some remote period of antiquity is not unaccompanied with the vision of a yet splendid and general revival of all things. Even apart from revelation, there floats before the world's eye the brilliant perspective of this earth being at length covered with a righteous and regenerated family. This is a topic on which even philosophy has its fascinating dreams; and there are philanthropists in our day who disown Christianity, yet are urged forward to enterprise by the power and the pleasure of an anticipation so beautiful. They do not think of death. They only think of the moral and political glories of a renovated world, and of these glories as unfading. It is an immortality after all that they are picturing. While they look on that gospel which brought life and immortality to light as a fable, still they find that the whole capacity of their spirits is not filled unless they can regale them with the prospect of an immortality of their own. Nothing short of this will satisfy them; and whether you look to those who speculate on the perfectibility of mankind, or those who think in economic theories that they are laying the basis on which might be reared the permanent happiness of nations — you see but the creature spurning at the narrowness of its present condition, and waiting in earnest expectancy for the manifestation of the sons of God.

(T. Chalmers, D.D.)

First, the creature. This is to be taken not in a limited sense, as sometimes it is taken in other places, for the human reasonable creature — that is, for mankind (Mark 16:16) — but in an extended sense. For all these outward and visible things which are in the world besides ourselves — the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and all that is in them. The whole frame and body of the creation, as the original word carries it here in the text, the creation itself. And so the Syriac and Arabic interpreters translate it "every creature," or the "whole creation." The second thing is, the earnest expectation of the creature waiting. The word which is here translated "earnest expectation," is in the Greek very emphatic, and signifies properly the stretching or putting out of the head with vehement intention, as one that looks out for some special friend, whom he expects and desires should come unto him. According to that which is expressed of the mother of Sisera, waiting for the return of her son (Judges 5:28): she looked out at the window for him, and cried through the lattice. Now in the third place, by the manifestation of the sons of God, we are to understand the day of Christ's second coming as the proper time and season wherein the sons of God shall be made manifest. We begin. The party expecting: the creature. It is usual with the Spirit of God in Scripture to fasten upon the unreasonable creatures those expressions which do properly belong to reasonable men. As for example Psalm 96:11; Psalm 98:7, 8; Habakkuk 2:11; Genesis 4:10; James 5:4. And so here now the creature is to expect and to wait earnestly. That the whole course and frame of the creation is so ordered and disposed of by God, as that it carries in it a vehement desire and longing for the future estate of God's children. There are three things in this passage which are ascribed to the creature, which are accordingly observable of us. There is expectation, desire, and patience. First, I say, it expects or looks for it. This is spoken metaphorically. First, it is in a state of defectiveness, and so looks to be supplied. The creature hath lost very much of that beauty and vigour and strength which it had in its first beginning, and which God at first did bestow upon it. The present imperfection of the creature shows that it waits for such a time as this is, because every defect calls for some kind of supply and making of it up. Secondly, it is in a state of motion, and so looks to be fixed. When we see a man going up and down, and running from one place to another, now in this corner and then in that, and afterwards again in another, and never at rest, we conclude that certainly there is somewhat which he looks after that he has not yet obtained. Even so is it also here with the creatures. Thus we see how the creature is expressed under a great deal of inconstancy; which shows that it hath not yet attained to its consistent condition which it expects to come unto. As the needle in the mariner's compass, which is touched with the loadstone, it is never quiet, but hovers up and down till it be fastened upon the north, which is the place of its proper rest. The second is the creature's longing for the time of this manifestation also, as that which it desires may be. This is also signified in the text, in this earnest expectation, which does not only denote a mere wishing, but an express desire and vehement seeking. When we see the earth sometimes to be dried, we say it thirsts and longs for rain; not that it hath such desires in it, which we ourselves are capable of, but because it is in such a condition as does occasion such desires in us. It earnestly longs for the manifestation of the sons of God in another world. But why or whence does it come to do so? What has the creature to do with that? The dumb and unreasonable creature, with the glorious perfection of the saints? Yes, it is very much concerned in it; and that upon a threefold account. First, by way of sympathy and suitableness of affection to us, as in some sort delighting and rejoicing in the good of God's people; for as the creatures were made for us, so they do in some manner take part with us, and have impressions upon themselves answerable to those things which happen unto us. That the creature hath some sympathy with us in such things as befall us. And amongst the rest, especially in this — for the perfection and consummation of our happiness, Secondly, and further. Out of respect to itself, for its own consummation likewise. For God in His wisdom and Providence hath so ordered things that the good of His own children shall be the good of everything else. Thirdly, out of respect to the honour and glory of God Himself, which is concerned in it. The third is the creature's tarrying or staying; as that which it is content with till it be. The creature, although for the present under manifold evils, yet notwithstanding is patient under this condition. Though it groans, yet it does not complain; but keeps within its own bounds and limits for all that. All the creatures, they still keep their course; they are not sullen, but do that work which is proper to them. And thus have we seen this passage made good in this particular — in looking, in longing, in staying. Now the use of all to ourselves comes to this: First, as a shame and reproach to all carnal and worldly persons. We see here how far they are inferior and below the very creatures themselves. Those which are below them in regard of creation, yet they are above them in regard of affection. These look and long for the second coming and appearance of Christ, which the others do not. Secondly, this serves to strengthen and confirm the faith of Christians themselves. If the creature doth thus wait for the time of the second coming of Christ, why then certainly such a thing as this there is to be expected and looked for by us, forasmuch as this is put into them by God Himself. And the earth is not only to feed us, but also to teach us; and a gracious and spiritual heart will be careful accordingly to improve it. Thirdly, here is an argument also for patience under present sufferings, in hope of future deliverance. While the creatures are patient in their condition, as making account to be one day freed from it, how much more should we be so in ours, and do that from the principles of piety, which they do only from the instincts of nature? The sum of all comes to this: All the creatures wait for their perfection; and why should not we? No creature does as yet attain its end; why should we seek for happiness here below? The second is the thing expected in these. The manifestation of the sons of God, that is, by taking it passively; the time when as the sons of God shall be manifested. For the better opening of this present point, we must know that the manifestation of God's children is considerable in a threefold distribution. First, as to their persons. They shall be revealed and manifested here; who are so, and who are not. Here in this present world there is a mixture of one with another; of tares and wheat together; but then there shall be a plain separation and distinction of either. God will put a difference betwixt His jewels and other stones. There is a threefold manifestation Of God's children again in reference to their persons. First, a manifestation of them to themselves. Secondly, a manifestation of them to one another. Thirdly, to wicked men. Thus shall there be a manifestation of the children of God in their persons, which is the first explication. Secondly, in their actions. They shall be manifested in these likewise. "Every man's work shall be made manifest" (1 Corinthians 3:13). As the Lord knows their works Himself, so He will cause others to know them also. And secondly, it is also an encouragement to us in secret goodness and the present concealment of worth, or questioning of it. And so as for the actions which men do, so also the cause and interest which they own; they shall be manifested here also. There is a double party and side in the world — God's and Satan's. Now it shall one day be manifested who has taken the better part, and owned the juster cause, and been on the strongest side, as Christ will then be sure to manifest and discover all his enemies, and those that would not that He should reign over them. Thirdly and lastly, in their condition. They shall be manifested so also. And that especially as a condition of glory. The consideration of all these things laid together — that there is such a time to come wherein the children of God shall be made manifest, and withal that the creature itself does earnestly hope and wait for this time, when it shall be so indeed; it should have this practical influence upon us, even to raise our hearts and affections to it. It was the commendation given to old Simeon, that he waited for the consolation of Israel. And to Joseph of Arimathea, that he waited for the kingdom of God. Let us take in these directions with us. First, be well settled in our judgments, that there is such a state indeed as this is. For that which we do not believe we cannot desire. Secondly, let us be much in the thoughts and meditations of it. Contemplation, it raises affection. We see how it does so in other things, and how much more then in this? Thirdly, let us get our hearts weaned and taken off from the world and the things of it; so long as we do anything more than ordinary admire earth, we cannot very much desire heaven. The worse in such a case as this will make us to neglect the better. Fourthly, let us labour to be purged and freed from sin, both as to the guilt of it and also to the power of it. And, lastly, to all the rest and fruitfulness and activity in goodness. Those who are much in arrear, they do not care to come to an account.

(Thomas Horton, D.D.)

As we read these words there rises before us a vast, majestic vision, the imagery of a whole universe — fields, trees, rivers, clouds and slurs, endless crowds of immortal beings, numberless hosts of creatures without souls — all standing with the head thrust forward, and silently, eagerly, gazing far away for something hoped and longed for, something that is slow, indeed, in coming, but that is sure to come at last. The teaching of the entire passage is —


1. Of course only intelligent and responsible man is capable of falling in the sense which involves guilt; and whatever other creatures may suffer, cannot be regarded as the punishment of their sin. But who does not know what suffering man's sin, cruelty, and thoughtlessness, inflict day by day upon dumb animals? And even that conduct which we call vice is always the result of some wrong conduct upon man's part. There would be no such thing as a vicious horse if there had not previously been a cruel or injudicious man.

2. But to go into the general question —(1) Think what millions of innocent lives were cut short by the waters of the Deluge, and what hosts of guiltless creatures have yielded up their lives as sacrifices of sin! Now, we know God cares for oxen. Rely upon it, it was a thought to God when almost all the brute creation perished at the Flood. Rely upon it, He did not overlook the suffering of the beasts with whose blood under the law "almost all things were purged."(2) As for the inanimate creation, of course, it cannot suffer consciously. Man can both sin and suffer. The inferior animals can suffer but not sin. And as for the inanimate universe, it can neither sin nor suffer. But it is a mistake to fancy that a thing is perverted from the end contemplated by the Creator only when it knows the fact and suffers from it. The inanimate creation is involved in man's fall, according to its nature. You would almost think that Nature is obliged, by man's sin, unwillingly to do many things which she would not do if she could help it. The atmosphere is constrained to carry words which are false, impure, profane. Surely that beautiful liquid ether was never made for that! Food is constrained to strengthen for sinful deeds. Is it not hard, so to speak, upon the innocent grain, upon the generous grape, that they should be compelled to yield their energy to the arm of the murderer as readily as to the hand that does the deed of mercy? And since the days of the friar, who stumbled upon that combination of materials, separately innocuous, which hides the battlefield with its sulphureous clouds; think how great a share of human ingenuity has been directly given to wresting from Nature that which shall quench or torture human life. Look at a ship of war! What a grand and imposing spectacle it is! But is it not one great proof that man is fallen? Think of the costly material, skill and industry, that have gone to make that — a grand weapon of destruction: and say if the consequences of man's fall do not reach to the oak in the forest, the iron in the mine, the flax in the field, the very air and water! And, not lingering on instances of noble material agencies perverted to evil by man — such, for instance, as the printing-press; think how the whole landscape is often darkened by the brooding cloud of sin.

II. NATURE IS WAITING FOR BETTER DAYS. All things are unconsciously looking forward. There is a vague, dumb sense, that surely better things are coming. All conscious things live in an undefined hope. And wherefore? Simply from some vague, general belief that surely evil will one day die, and the reign of good begin! Why does the man who has got more money than he can ever spend, and no one to leave it to, still save as before: why, but from some shadowy looking-forward, which he does not care to define. Why do most men, when they begin any task, feel eager to get through with it, but for that onward bent that is in all "the creature"? And we can discern traces of the same feeling in inferior natures. Why does the poor hack lean to his collar so eagerly, and toil up the steep street overburdened, but from some vague, dull, confused hope that surely all this will end. Goethe has recorded that he could never look on a beautiful summer landscape without feeling as if it were waiting for something, asking for something, which was not there.

III. WHAT IS THE END FOR WHICH ALL CREATION IS SO EARNESLY WAITING? You who feel a constant craving, believe it, it is no earthly end that will satisfy the longing of your nature! Whenever you have attained one end you see another, and cannot be content till you have reached that: and, that reached, you will see before you another still. The poor man wishes to be rich; the rich man longs for a recognised position in society; the man who has got that thinks how pleased he would be could he obtain a title, fame, nobility. Ah, there is no end of it! Yes, there is more in this than the mere morbid feeling of restless discontent: it is "the earnest expectation of the creature waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God! "That is the only end in the universe that shall absolutely satisfy the great craving which is in the centre of man's nature — that is the only summit on reaching which you will see no farther summit stretching away beyond. What a blessing it is to be told what it is we really need! But the Christian only knows what shall fully satisfy that longing; we know that "man's chief end is to glorify God, and enjoy Him for ever." "Thou madest us for Thyself," said , "and our souls are restless till they find rest in Thee!"

(A. K. H. Boyd, D.D.)


1. Its own "manifestation" in its true character. It is now "the creature" subject to vanity, laden with sorrow and corruption. This creature is to be developed. It does not now appear what it is in reality. Some marks of his destination are upon the Christian: he enjoys some foretastes of his inheritance, but nothing in comparison with the glory that shall be revealed in us.

2. A glorious liberty — in opposition to vanity, corruption, and affliction.

3. Bodily resurrection.


1. It is subject to vanity. "When a thing neither fills that which contains it, nor supports that which leans upon it, nor yields fruit to him that labours in it, it is a vanity."

2. In the bondage of corruption. The phrase chiefly refers to the corruption which must actually take possession of the body in the grave; but it may not inaptly describe the state of Christians themselves in the present world. Though the commanding power of sin is destroyed in conversion, yet its relics exist, and impede the child of God, so that he cannot do the things that he would.

3. This is an unwilling subjection. The desires, affections, and purposes of the renewed nature, all rebel against the yoke of sin, and contend for their perfect freedom.


1. Earnest expectation. Let the ungodly tremble at the thought of Christ's approach; but to the saints it will be a day of glory, as well as to their Master: to them the consummation of their brightest hopes, to Him the public display of His victories. The proper state of mind, therefore, in which it should be contemplated is that of expectation and desire. We ought so to live that when we shall be summoned to meet Him we may be able to lift up our heads and say, "Even so come, Lord Jesus!"

2. This earnest expectation is associated with patient waiting for the event; the principal ground of which is that God Himself has subjected us to the same in hope. A willing acquiescence in His wise arrangements is one of the best proofs of our filial spirit. No doubt it would be far better to wear the crown than to carry the cross; but so long as there is a work for us to perform on earth, and scope is given to glorify God by resignation under toil and suffering, we must be satisfied to endure temptation; knowing that patient continuance in well-doing leads to glory, honour, and immortality.

3. It is impossible that these strong affections of the new creature should be unproductive of practical results. Do you hope to be acknowledged as sons of God then? Show us the evidences of your adoption now. What traces of your heavenly birth and destination should be visible in your dispositions and lives! Christian patience is not a sluggish grace. It has a work to do, a stewardship to occupy, while it is waiting for the Master's coming.

(D. Katterns.)

St. Paul is primarily thinking only of the little Church at Rome, and giving them rules for their duty. And yet, with the mind of a great philosopher — or, rather, with the vision of a great prophet — he is swept beyond the special case before him into the general principle which it involves, and in giving rules to Rome he is led to survey the method of the universe.


1. This whole creation is not a dead, but a living thing. Its movement is not the movement of machinery, but of life. Instead of a blind, mechanical process, this man sees a universe with a desire of its own, bringing forth at last, through the pains which we now call the struggle for existence, the state of things we see. Instead of a world-factory grinding out with indifference its tides and storms, its plants and animals, and the emotions and ideals of men, he sees a universe working out with expectancy a divinely appointed end. Thus he simply anticipates the philosophers and poets who have seen in Nature a living and purposeful process, manifesting at each step the presence of one comprehensive will.

2. Having reached its present point, for what does creation now wait? The "revealing of the sons of God." Without them the universal evolution pauses. The movement of the universe goes its way from the beginning to a certain point under mechanical laws, fit for material things. But at a certain point the elements of evolution become changed. The problem of the universe is no longer to mould and harden a world — it is to unfold and quicken the higher faculties of man; and for this new work of God a new necessity appears — the help of man. God's ends are reached, not by such laws as could create or maintain the world, but through His sons. Up to a certain point, things go toward making man what he is; but at that point man takes these things which have moulded him and shapes them to their higher uses. For this reaction of character on circumstance the whole creation waits. Until this occurs, the process that God would fulfil toward the world is retarded. Here is a vessel eager to reach her port, and God's winds invite her to move on. But not the fairest wind can bring her on her way unless man does his part. The earnest expectation of the vessel waits until the captain spreads her sails; and then, man working with God, the creation which lay dead and lonely on the sea becomes a thing of life and motion. So it is with all the higher movements of God's creation. God may create the best of circumstances, but the whole creation simply groans and labours, like a vessel labouring in a sea, until man spreads her sails to catch God's favouring breeze. The patient expectation of the vessel waits for the manifestation of the captain's will.


1. Take the forces of Nature. Here, e.g., is electricity. It is a creation of God. The force was always there, eager to serve the wants of man; but God's purposes through it could only be worked out by the sons of God. Finally, after ages of a patient creation, the inventor thinks God's thoughts after Him, the sons of God are revealed in their relation to Nature, and then the creation moves on into its higher uses, and lights, moves, warms us. And it is awful to consider how many other powers we dwell among without any discernment of their significance and end, while the creation waits for the revealing in its midst of the sons of God.

2. Now turn to the nearer creations — the institutions and affairs of men. Look, e.g., at —(1) The simplest form of human institutions — the life of the family and the home. Here, in this smallest group of human beings, has been the beginning of all social evolution. In the family, civilisation begins. And its beginnings were natural, inevitable, mechanical. The family group became permanent because it was the group fittest to survive. But is this the end of the evolution of the home? No! A new possibility opens before this primitive institution. It becomes the best symbol of the relation of God to us, and of ourselves to Him. Now, what brings the home into these higher stages of its evolution? Nothing but the revealing in it of the sons of God. Walk along any street to-day, with its row of houses. How far has the evolution of each home proceeded? Within one door the sons of God have revealed themselves, and domestic life is moving straight on to be the complete image of the heavenly world. Here, at the very next door, the evolution has been arrested, and the whole creation groans and travails with the pains of a disordered home. The two houses are alike in outward form, but the one is a home and the other a shelter; the one is a school for immortal souls and the other a pen for domestic animals. Turn to your own home with this thought of its higher intention, and you see with a new clearness your place in it, and its place in the world. You have not been thrown into this place by accident. You are the heir through it of the whole history of man. And now the question lies before you whether that history shall proceed or wait.(2) The larger world of human society. There never was a time when so many minds were so busy with thoughts of a healthier and happier social state. Dreamers and agitators, working men and scholars, poor women and prosperous women — all are looking for some golden age, when there shall be a more even distribution of the good things of life. But suppose the fortunes of the rich laid low, and the poverty of the poor turned to competency; suppose all the mechanical difficulties of such a revolution overcome. Would the evolution of society be complete? Would its new relations work without friction or check? No! We should be at precisely the point where this whole industrial creation would show itself a waiting creation for the revealing of the sons of God. We should be like people who had created the most delicate of engines, and then had only unskilled mechanics to set it at work. People seem to think that if they can only reconstruct the machinery of society, it will run itself. They see that in the lower stages of social evolution machinery does a great deal. They see the State preserving itself by legislation; they see some evils checked and some gain made by law. But the fact is, that at a certain point the movement of society becomes not mechanical, but moral. It is not a question of controlling men, but of calling forth the best in men; and at that point the movement waits, not for new economic laws or social schemes, but for better souls, for higher impulses, for the revealing of the sons of God. You devise the most ingenious system for making all work for the good of all, but you can perpetuate such a system only by making men love one another. Given a competing race of men, and no device of legislation can abolish competition. Given a regenerated race of men, and a new social state of common life and ownership might be maintained; but one must also say, given a regenerated race and a new social state would seem to be superfluous.

III. ITS PERSONAL LESSON AND LAW. Why should any one of us try so hard to make the most of himself? Why not abandon himself to passion or indolence?

1. There are various answers to this question.(1) "Because the higher path is the path of happiness." True. But with the happiness come the conflict and pain; with the new ideals the disappointments; and always there is the pull of animal pleasures dragging one down to other ways of happiness. The search for happiness will not reveal the sons of God.(2) "Because you are here to save your soul." True again. For what is a saved soul? It is a healthy, a developed soul — a soul grown up into the stature of Christ, revealed to itself as a son of God. But, after all, this, as a supreme motive of life, is mere self-interest, mere self-culture.

2. Contrast these personal considerations with the reason which St. Paul lays down, and see the tremendous chasm which lies between it and the desire for happiness, or even for salvation itself. What the apostle says is, "Here is God working out through the long ages His purpose toward the world. He comes to a certain point, and there, by the very necessity of things, His work passes out of the region of natural law and self-acting methods, and has to be done through human beings. Now, suppose any soul fails of its higher capacities and remains stunted and unrevealed: is that merely a personal loss of happiness or of salvation? On the contrary, it is a loss so vast as to make every personal motive shrink into insignificance. It is simply so far the retarding of the perfect and universal work of God." To be sinning, not against one's self, but against the universe; to be a hinderer of God's great ends in the world — that is what gives awfulness to every thought of sin. It is, again, some great factory where the looms go weaving with their leaping shuttles the millions of yards of cloth, and then of a sudden one thread breaks, and the loom stops short in its progress, lest the whole intricate work be marred. And then to turn the matter round, think how this thought affects every desire for good. A man looks at his life, and it is a poor, feeble, insignificant thing. He says to himself, "Of what earthly importance is it that I should struggle thus against the stream of my tendency and taste?" That is the unconscious defence of many a ruined life. For one man who errs by thinking too much of himself, ten fail by not thinking enough of themselves. But now comes the apostle into the midst of this spurious modesty, and says, "Yes, taken by itself your life is certainly a very insignificant affair; but placed in the universe which God has made, your life becomes of infinite importance. For God has chosen to work out His designs, not in spite of you, but through you; and where you fail, He halts. God needs you." It is as though you were a lighthouse-keeper. Can any life be more unpraised or insignificant? Why sit through weary nights to keep your flame alive? Because it is not your light — that is the point. You are not its owner; you are its keeper. The great design of the Power you serve takes you thus out of your insignificance, and while you sit there in the shadow of your lonely tower, ship after ship is looking to you across the sea, and many a man thanks God that, while lights which burn for themselves go out, your light will be surely burning. The earnest expectation of many a storm-tossed sailor waits for the revealing of your friendly gleam. The safety of many a life that passes by you in the dark is trusted from night to night to you.

(Prof. F. G. Peabody.)

I. TRUE MEN ARE THE "SONS OF GOD." What constitutes men such?

1. Negatively.(1) Not that they are mere productions of God. All creatures are His productions.(2) Not that they resemble the Divine nature. Man is spiritual, reflective, free, but so are devils.

2. Positively.(1) Moral resemblance; similarity of governing disposition. Love is the ruling element in God. All thus ruled resemble Him, whether men or archangels.(2) Filial devotion. A man may have six male offspring, and not one true son. The grand purpose of the gospel is to give men the disposition of true children.

II. These sons of God ARE TO HAVE A GLORIOUS MANIFESTATION ON THIS EARTH, "Waiting for the manifestation." Glorious —

1. In the perfection of their character. The best of God's "sons" on the earth to-day are not perfect.

2. In the vastness of their numbers. These imperfect "sons of God" are comparatively few. But the manifestation will be one of countless multitudes, each perfect. They are the coming men.

III. This glorious "manifestation of the sons of God" IS THE SUPREME WANT OF A SUFFERING WORLD. They are the objects of the "earnest expectation" of suffering humanity. What is the great want of the teeming millions to-day?

1. More churches? Some think so, and ecclesiastical edifices are being multiplied. But the people do not want them, and they are half empty almost everywhere.

2. More converts to conventional Christianity? This does not make true men, but formalists and hypocrites.

3. More official preachers? Preaching there should be, but it should be the preaching of the living man, not of the professional pulpiteer.

4. More religious organisations? No; they with their committees and vested interests are drag-chains on the wheels of spiritual independency and true progress.

5. More Bibles? No, there are millions lying unread and uncared for. What the suffering world profoundly longs for is the advent of true men, "sons of God." Such men will be living Bibles, editions of Him who went about doing good.

(David Thomas, D.D.)


1. How?(1) As to their persons (1 John 3:1). It is not exactly known in the winter, when the roots lie in the earth, what will appear in the spring.(2) As to their life (Colossians 3:3). They are hidden not only in point of security, as maintained by an invisible power; but in point of obscurity. Because the spiritual life is hidden under —(a) The veil of the natural life; it is a life within a life (Galatians 2:20).(b) The veil of afflictions, outward meanness, and abasement (Hebrews 11:37, 38).(c) The veil of reproaches and calumnies (1 Peter 4:6). They are presented in the world as a company of hypocrites (2 Corinthians 6:8).(d) The veil of infirmities, by which they often obscure the glory of that life which they have.(3) As to their privileges, and the glory of their estate. There must be a distinction between earth and heaven. For the present, our glory is —(a) Spiritual, and maketh no fair show in the flesh, as the image of God is an internal thing (Psalm 45:13).(b) Future. The time of our perfection and blessedness is not yet come, and we cannot for the present judge of it, nor the world imagine what it shall be.

2. From whom? Not from God (2 Timothy 2:19); not from Christ (John 10:14); not from angels (Hebrews 1:14); but —(1) From the world, as colours from a blind man (1 Corinthians 2:14).(2) In a great measure from ourselves. What with corruptions within, and temptations without, we have much ado to be persuaded that God is our Father, and we His children; our condition being so unsuitable, and our conversations so much beneath our rights and privileges; so that it needeth to be cleared by the Spirit of adoption (ver. 16). When that is done, yet the glory intended to be revealed in us is not sufficiently known (1 Corinthians 2:9).

3. Why?(1) Because now is the time of trial, hereafter of recompense. Therefore now is the hiding-time; hereafter is the day of manifestation. If the glory were too sensible, there were no trial, neither of the world, nor of the people of God.(2) God hath chosen this way to advance His glory, that He may perfect His power in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).(3) To wean us from things present to things to come (2 Corinthians 4:18).


1. Their persons shall be known and owned (Revelation 3:5). No more doubt when owned, not by character, but by name.

2. They shall be manifested to themselves, and their glory also revealed to the world by the visible marks of favour Christ will put upon them, when others are rejected (Isaiah 66:5; 2 Thessalonians 1:10).


1. To this end the apostle mentions the earnest expectation of the creature, and the day principally concerns us (Song of Solomon 8:14; Revelation 22:20). The saints look for Christ's coming (Titus 2:13) by faith and hope; and long for His coming (2 Timothy 4:8) in a way of love.

2. Now His coming must be desired by us with —

(1)Earnestness (2 Corinthians 5:2).


(3)Patience (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

(T. Manton, D.D.)

We are told that in these countries where the night lasts for many months the inhabitants, when they conclude that the dayspring is at hand, climb the loftiest mountains, and there wait and watch the first streak of returning day. That streak is the signal for gladness and melody. Such was the attitude of those who "waited for the consolation of Israel" before the Son of God came, and such ought to be our attitude who look for Christ's second coming. Note —


1. It is in the "bondage of corruption" through the iniquity of its inhabitant man, The mansion has been spotted and stained by the leprosy of him that dwells in it. Before man fell the whole creation, as it came from God, was "very good"; but when man became corrupt and turned the good creatures of God into occasions of sin and idolatry, the whole creation, in a sense, became partaker of the defilement of its rational inhabitants. Drunkenness and debauchery have been made to find their fuel and their food in the good things that God had made for man's good and for His own glory.

2. And, being thus enthralled by corruption, it is made "subject to vanity." It is a peculiarity in the Divine government that things should partake in each other's weal or woe. "A fruitful land maketh He barren, because of the wickedness of them that dwell therein." Think of Sodom and Palestine. And what God has thus, in a smaller measure, done in individual instances, He has, in the grand scale, in creation. God brought vanity on His beautiful works, and marred, though He did not wholly deface, the lovely structure He had built and furnished.

3. To complete the dark picture, "the whole creation travaileth and groaneth in pain together until now." What a grandeur there is in this personification of the whole visible universe! The Psalmist thus made all nature, animate and vocal, to praise her Creator, and await her Deliverer's coming, and it is by a similar bold flight of imagination that the apostle personifies all creation as wearied with the bondage of corruption, mourning through the continual vanity, waiting for the wondrous transformation that is in store for her, and striving after it as a woman drawing near to her delivery longeth for the hour when it shall be said, "a man is born into the world." And it is not mere fancy that we may seem at times to hear, in the moaning of the tempest, the roar of the storm, the dashing of the billows, the sounds and the sighings that we may often hearken to from troubled, tempest-tossed nature, to construe these into the "groaning and travailing of creation," after that great redemption and deliverance that the Redeemer hath in store for her.

4. Must we not be arrested with the lesson thus taught us? What a fearful thing is sin, that it casts its dark shadow over the whole universe of God! When we make light of sin, let us look around us, as well as look within us, that we may be humbled, and cry, "God be mericiful to me a sinner!"

II. THE HOPE THAT ANIMATES CREATION in her mournful and fallen state (ver. 19).

1. That is the great epoch to which creation turns her anxious eye, anticipating her glorious deliverance. For we are hid; "our life is now hid with Christ in God." The world knoweth us not, and we sometimes know not one another. But a day of manifestation cometh — a day of public adoption in the presence of the whole intelligent universe, a day of adoption in the day of "the redemption of the body," when, invested with the similitude of their glorious Head, they shall stand forth, confessed of all to be the sons of God. Then creation shall find her glorious deliverance. This is that bright epoch foretold by the prophets, the time of the restitution of all things, when the Creator shall say, "Behold, I make all things new."

2. Behold the hope of the creature. It shall be "delivered out of the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the sons of God!" This cannot be annihilation. Would it be deliverance to creation, any compensation for its involuntary suffering, to be blotted out? The very fact that creation has suffered with man is in itself strong presumption that it shall triumph and be exalted with man. And so we look for "new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." The whole visible creation is anticipating this blessed hope, when, with in its renewed inhabitants, it shall undergo renovation, and shall receive perfection.Conclusion:

1. The subject is fitted to alarm every one who is making earth his portion. They that corrupt the creature and defile themselves therewith shall never know the creature's promised bliss.

2. For those that profess to be waiting for Christ's coming, this contemplation is fitted to impart exalted hope. "Eye hath not seen," etc.

(Canon Stowell.)

I. THE PERIOD WHEN THIS STATE OF DEGRADATION AND SUFFERING SHALL GIVE PLACE TO THE FULL HOPE WHICH THE GOSPEL NOW SETS BEFORE THEM. The day of the second advent of Christ. This, indeed, will be, in some most important respects, a day of "manifestation" — the manifestation of Him whom the heavens have received, of judgment, of the long-delayed punishment of sinners. But it shall be also the day of "the manifestation of the sons of God."

1. Of their number, which now we possess no mean of calculating.

2. Of persons whom, perhaps, we never anticipated — for many that are last shall be first, and the first last.

3. Of their virtues, which the world slandered.

4. Of that glory with which they shall be eternally invested.


1. Deliverance from the bondage of corruption." See this bondage —

(1)In the weakness of the body. It has lost its strength and perfection.

(2)In the diseases of the body.

(3)In that moral corruption to which the natural corruption ministers.

(4)In the manner in which this law sports with every feeling, care, interest.

2. The contrast to this is "the glorious liberty of the children of God" —

(1)From the bondage itself, as resulting from the lapse of Adam.

(2)From the grave, for Christ opens, and no man shuts.

(3)From the grossness of the body, for that which is sown a natural is raised a spiritual body.

(4)From irregular appetites, implying perfect liberty from sin.

(5)From affliction and suffering, for there shall be no more pain, no more chastening.

(6)From death.


1. To the groans and expectations of the creature, i.e.,, the whole race of fallen and unrecovered men. The apostle sees before him the multitudes of mankind. He marks their miseries, groans, struggles against their lot, their aspirations after a something unattained. As a powerful intellect at its first dawn aspires after a knowledge of which as yet it has no conception; as an ambitious spirit tends upwards to a height beyond its gaze; as a heathen in his ignorance feels after a God unknown — so will the soul of fallen man wrestle with its bondage and strive for deliverance. It is a mighty power, though bound, and it sighs, and heaves, and tends, though blindly, to the good which it has forfeited. How elevated, then, the Christian's hope! It is the hope of mankind. But let us attend to some instances by which this truth may be illustrated.(1) Man feels his miseries more sensibly than any other creature — not only because he reflects, which is itself a heightening of his distress, but because he has a consciousness that he possesses a capacity of perfect bliss. The very poignancy of his misery is in proof of his aspirations after unmingled felicity.(2) Man carries his desires beyond the limits of any present enjoyment. Winged with desire, he hastens to an object; he obtains it; he stops; he finds it not sufficient, and hastens on to another. Onward, and onward still, beyond all that earth can supply. What, then, is the true philosophy of this? A distant, though unapprehended, good attracts us.(3) Man is displacent at the very vices which he indulges. And how are we to account for this? Why, but because the soul aspires for liberty from its moral corruption.(4) Man struggles against disease and death. Life is the object of most passionate desire, and death of equally strong aversion. What is this but a tendency to a state like that which shall be enjoyed at "the manifestation of the sons of God."

2. To the revealed hope of the believer, to which all his longings are directed (ver. 23). "They have the first-fruits of the Spirit." Even this exempts not from the miseries of life, nor is there in them, however glorious they are, anything which can satisfy the vast desire of glory.(1) True, the soul is reconciled to God, but the bondage of corruption still places them in circumstances of temptation. They may sin against God, and they long for the deliverance which shall make sin no longer possible.(2) True, the manifested presence of God is the delight of the soul; but even this, in its full extent, is veiled and hidden.(3) True, there is the glorious attainment of a regenerate nature, but how many imperfections yet remain!(4) True, there is the presence of heavenly graces, but these are like exotic plants, and an unfit soil prevents their full expansion, their flagrancy, and fruitfulness.(5) True, there is heavenly knowledge and sacred converse with God, but the wants of the body demand supply, and hence numberless cares and anxieties.(6) True, there is the communion of saints, but to what interruptions is not this exposed by human mortality!(7) True, religion strengthens your social affections and heightens domestic enjoyment, but from those whom you love you have been, or you must be, severed.(8) True, you are saved from the fear of death, but still there is death, the last enemy, and the struggle with him. Thus do we "groan within ourselves," even though we have the hope which alone prevents our sinking in despair. But, while groaning under the pressure of life's burdens, we are "waiting for the adoption," the glorification of the body, and its establishment in the perfect and everlasting joys of heaven.

(R. Watson.)

For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of Him who hath subjected the same in hope
I. THE GOSPEL GIVES US ASSURANCE OF A MOST EXCELLENT AND HAPPY STATE RESERVED FOR GOOD MEN IN ANOTHER LIFE, described in the text by these two characters; of its being the manifestation of the sons of God, and a state of the most glorious liberty.

1. Let us consider this future happy state which the gospel describes as the manifestation of the sons of God. Good men are the sons of God upon a double account, viz., of their nature, and of their state; each of which is becoming that high title of the children of God. In respect of that new nature of which they are partakers, they are justly styled the children of God; He being both the Author and the Pattern of it. Are they regenerate or born again? it is of God (1 John 5:1; 1 Peter 1:23; John 3:5).

2. It is farther represented as a state of glorious liberty. This most desirable freedom is indeed begun in the present life; for where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty: but then, as long as men continue in this world it is only begun.(1) Since the future state of good men will be so glorious, what reason have they to bear all the sufferings of the present time with a contented mind.(2) Since such is the glory of that future state, in which there shall be a manifestation of the sons of God, it should be a powerful motive with them to hasten more towards it in their desires and preparations.(3) Since such is the honour and privilege of all good men who are now the sons of God, and since such will be their happiness when the time is come for their fuller manifestation, would not one think that all should be desirous of this character, and resolve to do everything which may entitle them to it? Would not one think that the kingdom of heaven should suffer violence, and that all who hear of such a state should be hastening into it in crowds?


1. In the present life, mankind are subject to many fruitless desires and expectations.

2. The present is a state of suffering. "Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards." Who can pretend to reckon up the several sorts of pains and diseases to which the body of man is liable? or the many disagreeable accidents and mournful events to which we are continually exposed, and which so often befall us in the course of life?

3. The present is a state of great moral weakness and disorder. The fall has introduced a sort of anarchy into the human frame: the passions are broke loose, and the mind has not that command over the appetites and inclinations of the animal part which it were to be wished, and which we believe the mind enjoyed in the state of innocence.

4. This is a state which quickly passes away, or, which is the same, out of which we quickly pass by death into another, in every respect almost exceedingly different from the present.

III. TO THIS VAIN AND CORRUPTIBLE STATE, MANKIND WERE ORIGINALLY BROUGHT INTO SUBJECTION, NOT BY THEMSELVES, BUT BY ANOTHER. By him who subjected the creature to vanity, may be meant either the first man by his transgression, or God for the sin of man; I rather incline to the latter, though the difference is not very material. Such honour had man in his creation, that God subjected to him, or put under his feet, all other things. Such was the unhappy consequence of man's offending God, that from henceforth man himself becomes subject to vanity. But how shall we vindicate this dispensation of Divine providence?

1. As to the justice of God, the case to any one who rightly considers it is attended with no difficulty at all. This dominion of God, or right to take away what He has given, or to withhold from some of His creatures what He gives to others, is as unquestionable as in the exercise it is uncontrollable. And as the dominion of God or His right to put mankind into what state or circumstances He pleases is indisputable, so He never exercises this supreme dominion of His without good reason.

2. To vindicate the wisdom and goodness of God in this dispensation.(1) In respect of the chief consequences of the fall, God does little more than leave things to produce their natural effects.(2) Supposing God had interposed in a supernatural way, directing and overruling the course of things, so that the posterity of Adam should suffer no inconvenience by his fall; yet in that case it cannot be imagined their condition would have been fixed without their having first gone through a state of probation, which must have been suited to the nature and advantages they would then have enjoyed. There might have been no room for repentance after they had sinned, and the reward of their obedience, if they had persevered to the end, might not have been so great, as the reward of the virtuous now will be. Which being considered, it may be justly questioned whether, on this supposition, the circumstances of mankind upon the whole would have very much exceeded those in which they now are, if at all.(3) If it has pleased God to subject the race of mankind to a state of vanity and corruption, it does, in many respects, better answer the ends of a state of trial. Every virtue, both active and passive, such as self-denial, fortitude, benevolence, charity, compassion, and the like, have now room for exercise, which they would not in a state of perfect ease and tranquillity.(4) God suits His government of man and dealings with him to the state he is now in. If he has given less to the posterity of fallen man than he did to their first parents, He requires less of them. Are we weak? He knows it, and expects no more from us than He hath given us, or, upon our humble application to Him, will give us strength to perform.(5) There is this advantage in the present state as a state of vanity, and corruption, that it carries in it a continual admonition to turn our thoughts and affections towards a better state, and to be more diligent in our preparations for it.(6) We may reasonably conceive God has the rather chosen the present scheme of things, because hereby He has an opportunity of dispensing His justice and bounty in two most remarkable acts of providence which occur in His dealings with mankind: His justice in punishing the sin of the first Adam and all his descendants; His bounty in rewarding the obedience unto death of the second Adam.


1. All creatures naturally tend to their perfection, so does the race of mankind in particular; and the future state of the saints in the text, styled the "manifestation of the sons of God," importing the highest perfection to which the nature of man can be advanced; with the greatest propriety, men who are reasonable creatures and breathe after immortality may be said to wait for such a state, though they are far from having a distinct idea of it.

2. In proportion as any of the sons of men have improved their rational faculties, and lived up to the light they have enjoyed, this desire of perfection and happiness has been more ardent and more explicit.


1. Mankind have always been possessed with the hope of a better state of things than the present. They have not only desired it, but hoped for it. Now hope implies some degree of belief that the thing desired will come to pass. And such a belief has obtained in all ages.

2. God has given men some ground for this hope, though He was pleased to permit sin, suffering, imperfection. To this effect was the very first promise after the fall. But besides this first promise, God, as the God of nature, the Author of reason, and the Governor of the world by His universal providence, has encouraged men to hope they shall, some time or other, be freed from that vanity and corruption to which, in this mortal state, they are subjected. By the large capacities and faculties of the human soul, to which the things of this world bear no manner of proportion, and which, in our present circumstance, have not an opportunity to unfold and show themselves, God plainly points us to another life, where all who behave well in the state of trial shall attain to much higher degrees of perfection and happiness.

III. This hope is raised into assurance by the Christian revelation. APPLICATION:

1. Let this lead us into proper reflections on the nature of man, and of his present condition, and excite in us affections and purposes suitable to such reflections.

2. Let what we have heard raise our value for the gospel of Christ. We are to be thankful for our natural hopes, but especially for those which we derive from the gospel revelation, which are at once the strongest, the most extensive, and the most satisfying.

(H. Grove, M.A.)

See how all things testify to the Christian's hope.

I. See THE CREATION itself restless with an otherwise inexplicable longing. It is not often that we have indications in Paul's writings either of a painter's eye or a poet's fancy. We rather conceive of him as one to whom scenery and history, time and space were something less than indifferent. Here, however, we see that he has observed nature — yes, as only poets read her. Paul has seen nature's imploring look, and heard her complaining voice, and felt her yearning thought, and sympathised with her confession — of waste, as she brings one seed and one blossom to perfection out of ten thousand — of discord, as she is made to launch her thunderbolts, and to lift her waves, and to let loose her hurricanes — of cruelty, in her ruthless laws of consequence, and which take no account of innocence or penitence. St. Paul is not satisfied with lovely landscapes. He is no tourist of pleasure or fancy. He looks within and beneath, and feels that beauty might be more beautiful, and life more vital, and strength yet more robust, and that in all actual being there is a possible being more satisfactory; so that he must write nature an expectant, not an inheritor — he must claim her testimony as on the side of that gospel which makes hope, not contentment, the attribute of God's creature.

1. See the very face of nature scarred with tokens of conflict. How unmelodious and often barbarous are the agencies of nature as she heaves in elemental agonies. Is this quite the scene which God pronounced to be very good? Hear the cry of the brute world, itself the prey of man, and, in turn, its own tyrant and murderer.

2. Mark the unrest of a humanity which prides itself upon its position at the top of God's handiwork, as it pours the waters of an inexhaustible ambition into the sieve of a perpetual disappointment. Listen to that sigh of thankless satiety which echoes from the pampered child of fashion to that other sigh from the heart of the sorrow-laden. See that fever-stricken village, that battlefield. Is not the creation making confession, in all these manifold utterances, of a condition neither original nor final? Is not the creation travailing as in birth-pangs with a mysterious and compensating future? Can it be that God, the good and the great One, can suffer these blots and stains upon His own work to continue thus for ever? If God be, and be God, every symptom of ruin is a prophecy of reconstruction. Very mysterious, this subjection of the creature to vanity, to the dominion of disappointment, of dissolution, of decay! The word and the thought fills one book of the Old Testament, as it is here summarised in one chapter of the New. And you will see, if you study that Book of Ecclesiastes, how comprehensive is the word here before us. It is the perpetual filling of that which is never full, the ceaseless round of a monotony which has no harmony and no melody. St. Paul instructs us how to deduce a positive from all these negatives. He claims this vanity as an evidence for hope — as a witness to the necessity of the reconstruction which Christ promises to us in His gospel.

II. He who thus read "vanity" as the legend of nature; he who saw even here the record of a fall mysteriously interwoven with the condition of creation incapable of sinning, now calls as his involuntary witness to the Christian expectation THE LIFE OF MAN AS LIVED OUTSIDE CHRISTIANITY.

1. It was with a pitying and compassionate eye that St. Paul looked upon humanity. Could he gaze unmoved upon this great, swarming population "looking for so much, bringing in so little," earning its wages only "to put them into a bag with holes"? St. Paul saw this great busy earth subjected to vanity by reason of sin; he saw how each generation, each life, sets out, as though it were the only one, full of confidence, full of conceit, on its little race of ambition, passion, interest, only to say at evening, "Vanity of vanities." "Not willingly," he says. It would not have it so. Not of its free will does it find every effort defeated, or the successful effort turned into bitterness.

2. St. Paul calls this vanity as a witness to the hope. He says, Could these things be if there were no hereafter? Is not this nothingness, this bondage of corruption, proof enough of the true character of this present as a mere birth-pang of the true, the satisfying, the everlasting? Is there not, indeed, in all men, an inward witness to this hope? Who does not wish to leave something, some one behind him? Who has not some vision of a perfection, if not for himself, then for the race? Who that is engaged in business, or philanthropy, who that has framed for himself any idea of a religion, of a God, has not done so in an expectation? These experiences of vanity are the birth-pangs of glory. God has written vanity upon the present that every eye may be directed towards a dawn, of which the only visible streak is the instinct of the longing. Cherish that longing, for it is your hope. Base and dastardly is that contentment which would call darkness light and shadow substance. This is the great lie, against which God in nature, in providence, in conscience is waging perpetual warfare. Say to yourself till you feel it, "I am here, subject to vanity; if I pitch my tent here, if I choose the thing that is seen, then I am a part of the vanity." Let me be true at all risks — true to the inward voice which says, "Be thou a stranger and a sojourner here, and then thou hast a home, and a city, and an immortality beyond." How magnificent the thought — "The creature itself also shall be emancipated." "I saw new heavens and a new earth." "Times of refreshing shall come." The Spirit of God shall move again upon the face of a second chaos, and shape a new universe out of the confusion of this subjugation. Let us not refuse a hope for which every voice within, around, and above us cries aloud.

III. There is A PART, EVEN OF THE CHRISTIAN, which St. Paul places side by side with nature and humanity as a witness. "We groan within ourselves, waiting." There is a redeemed part within us, and there is an unredeemed. "The Spirit of life in Jesus Christ hath made me free from the law of sin and death." But what then? That very emancipation makes the remaining fetter gall and fret and wound more than before. The body, which is the outlet and the inlet of all temptation, is still unrenewed, over-ruled, consecrated, but not yet transformed. Therefore I, as a Christian man, am a witness to the great hope. I could not live thus for ever. I could not go to heaven thus. Nay, the more I know of the spiritual life, and the more sensitive I become to the thing which God hates, and the more I acquire the mastery over sin and corruption, so much the more do I become aware of the burden which I carry everywhere in this body. So much the more am I a witness to the necessity of a death and a resurrection. So much the more do I, in this body, groan being burdened, having a desire for the heaven of God's saints.

(Dean Vaughan.)

I. ITS EVIDENCES. Creation. —

1. Has lost its original charm, beauty, durability, harmony, perfection.

2. Is corrupted by much that is pernicious or useless.

3. Has been subjected to abuse.


1. Man's sin.

2. God's purpose.

3. The hope of restoration and development.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)


1. In the frailty of his body and its subjection to death, and in the precariousness of his life (Genesis 2:17).

2. In the unsatisfactoriness and uncertainty of his pursuits.

II. MAN UNDERGOES THIS SUBJECTION UNWILLINGLY. It was not a pleasant change from a body preserved in independent vigour and immortality by the efficacy of the Tree of Life to a mortal body; from gardening in Paradise to ploughing a stubborn and comparatively barren soil. So reluctant was Adam to the change that compulsion was necessary — "So He drove out the man."

III. THIS SUBJECTION WAS A CONSEQUENCE OF THE DIVINE PERFECTION. It was rendered necessary by Divine justice and wisdom, and executed by Divine power.

IV. THIS SUBJECTION IS ALLEVIATED BY HOPE. Redemption by Christ was the hope of the fathers, founded on God's promise — "The seed of the woman," etc. It is our hope now.

1. It is a hope of deliverance from vanity to a state answerable to the rank of "the sons of God." This deliverance is "the redemption of the body" and "the manifestation of the sons of God."

2. It is strengthened by the spiritual renovation which is the pledge of its fulfilment.Learn —

1. The folly and wickedness of a worldly mind.

2. The reasonableness of patience.

3. The duty of yielding to that Spirit who is working out our deliverance.

(C. Wills, M.A.)

Two wrong ways of regarding the visible creation around us —

1. Making an idol of it.

2. Professing to despise it. Scripture teaches that nature is not our master, but our fellow-servant. The passage before us teaches its connection with us, past and present, its actual condition, and its future destiny.

I. NATURE IS IN SYMPATHY WITH FALLEN MAN. — "Whole creation groaneth," etc.

1. Subjected by, and for, some one: "By reason of Him." Whom? God, not Adam, as some think.

(1)He subjected it.

(2)And "in hope."

(3)See Genesis 3:17.

2. As to the manner of subjection, two views —(1) A part reserved, Paradise; and the outside world then what it is now.(2) A mighty shock passed upon the world, previously paradisaical. Either admissible. Perhaps, in a measure, both.

3. As to the nature of the subjection.(1) To vanity (see Ephesians 4:17; 1 Peter 1:18; Ecclesiastes 1:2, 14; Psalm 62:9; Psalm 39:5). Expressive of inefficacy, aimlessness.(2) To bondage of corruption. Deeper: outcome and result of vanity. Sickness, pain, death, restraint, bondage.


1. Groaneth and travaileth — not willingly subjected. Evidences of this in nature. Decay, discord, pain.

2. This longing verified by Scripture. Subjected in hope. "Earnest expectation" in creature.

3. In sympathy with regenerate man: "We ourselves groan," etc.

III. THIS HOPE WILL BE REALISED. "The creature also shall be delivered," etc.

1. General truth of this asserted in Scripture (Isaiah 11:6; Isaiah 65:17; Acts 3:21; 2 Peter 3:13, etc.).

2. More particularly in this passage. From bondage of corruption to liberty of glory. Just as Christ was raised to the glory of the Father, and the sons of God to the glory of Christ, so will be the redeemed creation to the glory of the sons of God.

3. At or after the second advent. "Behold, I make all things new." Different opinions as to time and manner. As regards the thing itself, a truth of revelation. A subject of deep interest to all Christians.

(Preb. Clark.)

It seems to me that many reasons justify us in regarding our time upon this earth as a season full of prophesyings of better things to come. First: Our own being is prophetic. We are organised for something more and better than as yet appears. We are inspired with the thought of the unseen and eternal. Each man of us has a prophecy of future rewards and punishments written in his own conscience. And does not human love have always hidden it in heart a prophetic hope of the future and its completions? Listen to your own soul. Make silence within, and listen to your own better self. You are that prophet whom you seek. You are chosen from your birth and called of God to be a witness to the higher order of spirit, and to live as an heir of the kingdom of God. Secondly, our human relations are prophetic. Accept your family relations and your human friendships as gifts of God — nay, as revelations to you of what God in His Fatherhood, and the Son of God in His brotherhood is — and then all these human relations through which God Himself comes near to bless you, will grow doubly sacred to you. There is a presence of God also in them. They are of holy worth. Any sin against them, any violation of these sacred human relations, touches something Divine. Observe further in this connection how broken, partial, and tragic, often, these human relations and friendships seem in this world to be. They all of them suggest something which should be complete, holy, perfect; and then they break off, and in the poor actuality of the present remain but suggestions of what should be. There is evidently eternal worth in such relations of life, but just as we begin to find it, we lose it. Those who made each other's lives so complete are no longer dwellers in the same world together. Love here has too often only the beginning of its good — the precious, yet too quickly broken fragment of its own blessing. Put then together in your thoughts these two facts — the self-evident worth of these human relations and friendships, and their present incompleteness — and do you not see how through their partial good the prophecy of the Lord of life begins to come into our lives? The earthly fragment which love has received was given as a promise of the Lord; it was never meant as a completed thing. The present, broken good is a Divine suggestion to us of the perfect life in which all that is now fragmentary shall be made complete. I have not yet in these statements led you to lay hold, as one may, of the strong principle of reason underlying this prophetic interpretation of our present human relations. These statements rest upon the prophetic principle which we find in nature pervading all growth, and pointing ever on from partial good, and lower types, towards the better things to come. The only difference is that when the geologist or the biologist reads the record of progress and ascent of life upon this earth, he can now read the Scripture of nature backwards, and having before him in man's present form and brain a fulfilled prophecy of nature, he can easily interpret, reading backwards, the lower prophetic forms and types. What from the beginning upwards was one constant prophecy of man's coming is now our history. But the Christian, when he now looks forward and thinks of the coming of the second man, even the Lord from heaven, has still to read the present prophetic signs and tendencies of things forwards by faith. Nevertheless, we proceed upon the same principle of reason whether we read the creation backward or forward; that which is good, but which is in part, is always a sign and herald of that which is perfect, which is to come. All partial good is prophetic. That is a first principle of nature. This is also a great principle of faith. It is a profound principle, reaching, I must believe, to the bottom of all natural evolution, and yet simple as the hope which will not die in the heart of human sorrow. It is a principle of life so true, and so strong to bear our faith, that you will allow me once more to endeavour to render this present deeply prophetic significance of human nature intelligible. There is a third prophetic element in this present life to which I should now allude. We have thus far considered the fact that man himself in his own being is essentially a prophet of the Lord upon this earth, and also the truth that our human relations in their eternal worth, but present incompleteness, all bear witness of something diviner to come in which they shall be made perfect. A further prophetic aspect of our life here we may find in the present relation of our spirits to outward things. Our present embodiment in nature is a good, but it is not a complete and permanent good. It is the best thing on this earth; there is nothing among all material things more wonderful than the brain of man. The stars in their courses, the infinite network of attractions which constitute the order of the heavens, excite our wonder and awe; but are they so marvellous manifestations of creative wisdom and power as the living centres and constellations of nerve-cells, and the balanced forces and ethereal fineness and complexity of the processes which the spirit that is in man finds given him in the organism and harmonies of his brain, for the purposes of recording and comparing his thoughts, and executing his free volitions? Man himself in his present embodiment is the consummation of nature, and the last wonder of the creation. But, nevertheless, this body is not enough for the spirit of man. Our present embodiment, in other words, is prophetic — wonderfully and profoundly prophetic of what shall be. Yes, in these bodies so wonderfully made, yet so incomplete, we have nature's prophecy of the resurrection, and the earthly preparation for the perfect, spiritual body which shall be. In these mortal bodies, in which we begin to live and to be formed for immortality, the earnest expectation of the creation waiteth for the revealing of the sons of God. I hold that the earnest expectation of the whole creation from the first organic cell up to the brain of man waits for the revealing of the sons of God; I would claim that the Christian doctrine of the resurrection and the consummation of nature, as laid down in St. Paul's chapter of inspired interpretation of God's thought, is in accordance with the present prophetic nature of things, and that we can and should believe in the Word of God, which confirms the whole up-look and on-look of the creation; and we may wait, therefore, in the patience of hope for the glory which the heart of man indeed cannot conceive, but which shall be known in us who are risen in Christ, when that which is perfect shall come.

(N. Smyth, D. D.)

I. St. Paul says that "THE CREATION IS SUBJECT TO VANITY," AND IS UNDER "THE BONDAGE OF CORRUPTION." He sees in the creation a good deal of effort that comes to nothing, a waste of power, general imperfection, universal decay.

1. The apostle's description is confirmed by facts. There is an ideal form of beauty for the leaf and blossom of every plant; but no leaf or blossom is quite true to its ideal. The human eye is a very wonderful organ; but it is said that there are most curious faults in it. Man is not the only creature whose growth is often stunted, powers repressed, and glory obscured. Birds and beasts die of famine and in cruel conflict with each other. They are sometimes blind, deaf and lame. Epidemics sweep them away, They are tormented by diseases precisely analogous to our own. Flowers, plants, and trees, spring up in soil which gives them no food, and they die of starvation. They perish from want of rain. They are burnt up by heat. Their fruit fails to ripen for want of sun. They, too, are liable to diseases, which are curiously similar to ours. What makes all these facts the more appalling is that this apparent waste and suffering have been going on for millions of years. St. Paul might have read one of Mr. Darwin's books, for this is what Mr. Darwin has made certain: "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth together in pain until now."

2. But is not the creation God's own workmanship? Do not the heavens declare His glory, and all His works praise Him? Did not St. Paul say that "the invisible things of God," etc.? Yes; and it may be true that there has been more of happiness than of pain. There is "vanity" and "the bondage of corruption" everywhere; and yet Nature is fairer than the poets have ever sung; there are intricacies of skill which transcend all that genius has ever yet discovered; and there is an infinite wealth of goodness, in the presence of which our most fervent gratitude is cold.

3. You have listened to the work of a great master when it has been imperfectly rendered. The chorus just missed a sudden leap of exulting triumph, or they did not sink to the soft hush of harmony, or their voices were too coarse, or the instruments were not quite in tune, or the band and the voices parted company. And yet the genius of the composer shone through it all. Sometimes, too, you have seen on the walls of a church the work of a great artist. The frescoes are falling away from the wall; the canvas is rotting. And yet there are lines and colours which reveal the skill of the immortal painter. These illustrations fail to touch the mystery of the imperfection and pain of the universe; and yet they may suggest the blended dissatisfaction and rapture with which St. Paul thought of the works of God. The things that God has made reveal His eternal power and Godhead; but the creation is subject to vanity by the will of the Creator, and the bondage of corruption is upon all things.


1. As those that are in Christ are to inherit eternal glory, so all created things are to pass into new and higher forms of existence. Speculation, indeed, on this subject has no materials to work upon. "We know not what we shall be"; still less do we know what the glorified creation will be. We may dream of sweeter music, fairer flowers, and nobler fruits, etc., in the new creation than in the old. But all these are dreams. All that we can say is, that we have not seen the last and consummate manifestations of the power and wisdom of the Creator. The great "hope" of the creation has yet to be fulfilled. "Now is the winter of its discontent"; its spring has not yet come; the splendour of its summer is still far off.

2. The birth-throes of which the apostle speaks are an effort of imagination which closely touches some of the theories which we are asked to receive on the authority of scientific proof. We are told that the fierce struggle for existence is the condition of the development of higher and yet higher forms of life. By a law which could not be resisted, the feebler and the less perfect forms of life have been crushed whenever they have come in collision with the nobler and the more vigorous. The birth-throes of nature have extended through all time, and they are not yet over. Through how many more ages the suffering will last, whether it will ever cease, are questions upon which there is no general consent of scientific opinion.(1) M. Renan dreams that through the operation of this law of development there will at last arise an intellectual aristocracy which will have absolute command of all the resources of the world; that in every country there may be a dozen or a score of men as superior in their intellectual force to the rest of the nation as men are now to brutes; and that, perhaps, eventually the whole force of the weed, all its knowledge, and therefore all its power, may even be concentrated in the hands of a solitary individual, who will have absolute control over the life and fortunes of the race — a god that the human race had developed for itself.(2) There are others who tell us that the great movement must be at last arrested. The play of the mighty forces which sustain it will cease. There will be equilibrium. The anguish will be over, and with the anguish life, in all its forms, will be no more.(3) Paul believed that the creation has a glorious future. Christ, "the brightness of the Father's glory," has become man, and has brought all the regenerate members of the race into immortal unity with Himself, so that His glory is certain to become theirs. Man, however, belongs to the visible creation. From the earth we sprang; and we are the children of the earth, though we have been made the children of God. As we are to share the glory of Christ because of our union with Him, the earth is to share our glory because of its union with us.

3. You see, therefore, at what points St. Paul is in agreement with the results of scientific observation, and where he is hostile to philosophical theories which have been hastily erected on a scientific basis.(1) If the man of science maintains that he discovers signs of imperfection in every living organisation; that the organs of sense are imperfect; that in the lower types of life there are the mere rudiments of limbs which are found in a useful and complete form only in the higher; that in the higher there are survivals of elementary forms of structure which were useful only in the lower; that there is a universal waste of life; that there is an appalling amount of suffering — St. Paul is ready to accept all these facts. The creation is subject to "vanity" and is under "the bondage of corruption." But if the man of science goes on to argue from the imperfections, and failures, and waste in creation, that the universe had no intelligent Creator, St. Paul vehemently persists that with all the imperfection, failure, and waste, there are transcendent manifestations of the Creator's "eternal power and Godhead."(2) If the man of science maintains that all created things have gradually been developed by conflict and pain from lower forms of life, and that the history of the development has been a history of protracted anguish, St. Paul will find in the facts which illustrate this doctrine the most startling confirmation of his own statement that "the creation groaneth and travaileth together till now."(3) If the man of science maintains that the physical nature of man is the result of the same development, so that man on the side of his inferior life belongs to the inferior universe, St. Paul will listen with an open mind, remembering that his own sacred books had taught him that the physical nature of man came from the dust, though nothing had been said of the gradations by which the dust ascended to the dignity and power of the human form. But if the man of science further maintains that the history of man's physical development is a complete account of human nature, St. Paul will again protest vehemently. He will affirm — and the consciousness of the human race supports him — that there is a mysterious power in man which cannot be explained by this process of development. The ascending movement of physical life — if science can establish the reality of the movement — was met by the descent of the power of God, and the living creatures whose organisation had become capable of receiving inspiration from God received it.(4) If, again, the man of science argues that the groaning and travailing of creation are to end in stagnation and despair, St. Paul protests again and exults in the certainty of the hope that the creation will be delivered at last from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

(R. W. Dale, D.D.)

1. The word translated "creation" has a variety of significations in the New Testament. It sometimes means the act of creation (Romans 1:20); sometimes finite existence generally (Matthew 10:6; 1 Peter 5:4; Romans 1:25; Romans 8:39); sometimes the human race exclusively (Mark 16:15; Colossians 1:23; 1 Peter 2:13); and sometimes the class of regenerated men (Colossians 1:15; Romans 3:14; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; Ephesians 2:10).

2. That the meaning we attach to it here should agree with the scope of the context and the aim of the writer. The aim of the apostle is evidently to exhibit the sublime privileges of the Christian amidst all the trials of this life.

3. That whatever meaning we attach to the word, it should be the meaning that the word will carry through the whole passage. Attending to these three things we have been compelled to regard the word "creation" as intended to designate regenerated humanity. Substitute the word, regenerated humanity, for "creation" throughout the whole passage, and you will give it a consistency both with itself and the aim of the writer. Our subject is "The Groaning Creation; or, the Apostolic estimate of the life of Regenerated Men." This estimate —

I. HAS RESPECT TO TWO WORLDS — the present and the future. As the average conduct of a man should be taken into account in order to estimate his character, so the entire life of a man, future as well as past and present, must be taken into account in order to estimate the balance of his joys or sorrows as a whole. Let us look at Paul's viewer —

1. The present life of the good. He describes it —(1) As a scene of vanity.(2) As a scene of slavery. "Bondage of corruption."(3) As a scene of suffering. All good men from the beginning have been "groaning." It is our happiness, however, to know that all our sufferings are parturitional; they are all travailing together; they will give birth to a higher order of things that will be more than a compensation for the throes.

2. The future life of the good.(1) It is a scene of spiritual glory. "Glory that shall be revealed in us." The glory of wordly men is outside; the glory of the good is within.(2) It is a scene of triumphant freedom. "The glorious liberty of the children of God."(3) It is a scene devoutly anticipated. "They are waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God." "When He who is our life shall appear," etc.

II. IS MOST SALUTARY IN ITS EFFECT. "We are saved by hope." Such a hope saves us —

1. From scepticism. Did we not take into account the life of future blessedness that awaits us, our present trials and afflictions would shake our faith in the wisdom and love of God's government of the world.

2. From murmurings. Did we not keep the future blessedness in view, we should be likely to complain and repine under our present afflictions; but looking at the glorious things awaiting us, we say with Paul, "Our light afflictions, which are but for a moment," etc.

3. From indolence. How the blessed prospect stimulates to activity! How the racer kindles with fresh fire as he glances at the goal!

(D. Thomas, D.D.)

We begin with the creature's condition, in these words, "The creature was made subject to vanity." That all the creatures which are in the world, or ever have been since the fall of man, they are for the present in a vain condition: they are vain and subject to vanity. First, take it in its insufficiency, and consider it there. A thing is, then, said to be vain when it does not reach its proper end, nor does that for which it was intended. The creature, in its original ordination and the first appointment of it, was ordained for two ends. The one was the glory of God, and the other was the good of man. Now both of these ends does it in a sort very much come short of; yea, is opposite unto them. Secondly, the good of man. It also fails of this, and is perverted in this particular likewise; and that, again, in a double respect, whether temporal or spiritual. His temporal good, for the preservation of his body, and his spiritual good, for the edification of his soul. The creature has a vanity upon it, so far as it is opposite to either, in the improvement of it. The use which we may make of this observation to ourselves comes to this, namely, to teach us to labour to have the creature sanctified to us; and so in a sort reduced to that estate which at first it was set in. First, the creature is sanctified on God's past by His word; and there is a threefold word of His, which is considerable to this purpose. First, the word of donation. Secondly, the word of benediction. And thirdly, the word of promise. The word of donation, whereby He bestows the creature upon us; the word of benediction, whereby He blesses the creature to us; the word of promise, whereby He makes a tender of this blessing. But prayer helps us to use them conscionably, that those things which in themselves are lawful may not become through our improvement sinful. Secondly. To enjoy them comfortably; for without God's special favour and blessing, though we partake of the things themselves, yet we can relish no sweetness in them at all. Now prayer, it fetches this from Him. And so much may suffice to have spoken of the first piece of vanity of the creature, consisting in its insufficiency and failing of that first end whereunto it was ordained. The second is in regard of its uncertainty, its transitoriness and shortness of continuance. The creature is subject to vanity in this regard also. And so the Scripture does everywhere represent it to us. "The fashion of this world passeth away" (1 Corinthians 7:31; 1 John 2:17). This is the nature of these worldly matters, but as a show and pageant, and there is an end. This it hath a twofold ground for it. First, the sin of man that hath deserved it The heavens and earth are harmless, yet, because they were made for man's sake, they bear the tokens of God's wrath against man for his sin (Isaiah 24:5). Secondly, God's counsel that hath so ordained it. God has cursed the earth for man's sake, and thereby brought destruction upon it. The consideration of this point is thus far useful to us. First, it teaches us from hence to put no stress or confidence in the creature. "When riches increase, set not your heart upon them" (Psalm 62:10). Secondly, is the creature thus subject to vanity in regard to the transitoriness of it, then let us hold ourselves so much more to the Creator, in whom is no vanity, or variableness, or shadow of turning. And so now I have done with the first general part of the text, which is the creature's condition in these words: "For the creature was made subject unto vanity." The second is the cause or occasion of this condition, which is laid down two manner of ways. First, negatively: "Not willingly." Secondly, affirmatively: "But by reason of Him who hath subjected the same in hope." First, take it in the negative, "not willingly" — that is, not of its own proper instinct and inclination; for what the will is in things rational, that the inclination is in things natural, and the one is by a borrowed speech transferred to the other here in this place. The creature of its own accord is not subject to vanity, forasmuch as every thing naturally desires the preservation of itself. So that this is that which is here observable of us, that the vanity of the creature, it is accidental and preternatural to it; and therefore is afterwards in this chapter called "bondage," which is an unwilling subjection. First, in the failing of its first end, for which it was made. This is preternatural to it. The creature in its first institution was made in reference and subordination to man, and so naturally does delight to be useful and serviceable to him for his good, and especially, and above all things, for the good and welfare of his soul. But now for to be a slave to his lust and instrumental to his execution of wickedness, as sometimes it proves to be through man's corruption, this is a thing which is directly contrary to its nature and disposition. It is so likewise in regard of the uncertainty and transitoriness of it. It is subject to vanity thus, not willingly, or of its own accord neither. There was an enmity and kind of reluctancy in their entirest being, and by the law of their first creation they were subject to change and alteration, so that this transitoriness of them is thus far as it were natural to them; but in this sense it is said to be preternatural, so far forth as they do naturally desire the preservation of themselves. If the creature be not willingly subject to vanity in reference to naturals, what a shame is it for men and women to be so in reference to morals! Never were people more vain and willingly subject to vanity than now they are. Vanity in all kinds, and in all expressions of vanity — vanity in our speeches and discourse, vanity in our pastimes and recreations, vanity m our garments and attire, vanity in our houses, and especially vanity in our hearts; we cannot look aside but we behold vanity, and love to do so. The creatures groan under their vanity, but we laugh and sing under ours, which is the highest degree of madness and distemper that can possibly be thought of. And so much may be spoken of that particular: the account of this condition in the negative, "not willingly." The second is in the affirmative: "But by reason of Him who hath subjected the same in hope" — that is, by reason of God the Creator, who for the sin of man cursing the creature hath subjected it to vanity and to corruption. In hope, that is, not irrecoverably, but reserving to it a possibility of returning to its former estate. There are two particulars which are here observable of us. First, for the dispensation itself, that is, the subjecting of the creature to vanity, which is here intimated and implied to be done by God Himself. The creature, it is subjected to vanity for man's sin. And as this holds good in general, so to some persons more especially in particular who do more fully and directly partake of the vanity of the creature in this particular which God threatens to them for their sin. There's a curse which belongs to everything which they deal withal, or have interest in, a curse upon their estates. The ground of this dispensation does proceed from that near relation which is betwixt man and the creature. It may seem a very strange matter that the creature which has done no hurt at all should be thus punished for the sin of man. We know how it is sometimes in the affairs and businesses of men; that some kind of malefactors they are punished not only in their persons, but in their relations, to put the greater terror upon their miscarriages, and to make them more odious. The proper use and improvement of this point to be made by ourselves comes to this: First, to inform and convince us of the great misery which is in sin. Secondly, we see here whom to blame and to find fault withal in the miscarriages of the creatures, and in our own disappointments from them. When they do not prove so serviceable to us in some cases and at some times as we expect and desire they should. And that is even our own selves, who are indeed the proper causes of it. Thirdly, here's matter of just abasement and mourning and humiliation when we shall consider the great mischief which we contract by our sins, not only to ourselves, but to others. Fourthly, we should from hence take heed that we do not willingly wrong the poor creatures or do injury to them. Lastly, as the creatures serve men in their sins, contrary to their natural inclination, even so should men serve God in welldoing against the bent of their natural corruption. The second is the additional qualification of this dispensation in these words, "in hope," where the apostle still speaks of the creature as of a rational person, as he did in the words before. When we speak of hope, it is considerable two manner of ways: either in the subject of it, or in the ground of it; either in the person, or in the condition. Then any are said to be in hope when they are in a hopeful way, or estate; or then any are said to be in hope when they do hopefully conceive of themselves in that estate. Now it is not so much the latter as the former which seems to be here intended. First, because this vanity, which is now upon it, is only accidental and occasional. It is not from any demerit in itself, but only from the sin of man, as we have formerly shown. Now that vanity, which was only accidental, is not likely to be perpetual. Secondly, the sins of men, for whose sake this vanity is inflicted, and from whom it is decreed, they shall some of them be delivered from that vanity which is upon them, therefore there is great cause to believe that the creatures shall also some of them partake of the like proportionable deliverance. And, therefore, thirdly, as another ground of it, we have the promise and Word of God Himself making for it. This may discover to us the different nature of that curse which is inflicted upon the creature, and that judgment which does belong to incorrigible and reprobate persons. We see here the different condition of fallen men and of fallen angels and devils. The one is a condition irrecoverable, while the other is a condition of hope. This should accordingly teach us to lay hold upon this hope which is set before us. Let us take heed of sinning wilfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth. If any time we miscarry, let it be unawares, and against our minds.

(Thomas Horton, D.D.)

Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God
Nature is prevented from putting forth its powers, from manifesting its real grandeur, and from attaining its original destiny. It is therefore bound. And its bondage is caused by the necessary decay of its products. All that nature brings forth is doomed to die. And nature is compelled to slay its own offspring. The lightning flash destroys the stately oak. The winter's cold kills the songsters of the summer. Animals devour other animals to maintain life. And this universal destruction limits the achievements of nature. Instead of constant growth, nature's beauty and strength fade away. The powers of the material creation are bound by fetters of decay.

(Prof. Beet.)

Nothing is more prized than liberty: indeed he deserves not the name of a man who can ever be reconciled to slavery. But while civil liberty is so desirable, the liberty in our text is of a still more important character. This liberty we may consider as gracious, and so enjoyed by believers even now; or as glorious, and so enjoyed in the life to come. It is of the latter the apostle speaks. Let us examine —

I. THE EXCELLENCY OF THIS LIBERTY YOU will not expect a full development of it. "Eye hath not seen," etc. "It doth not yet appear what we shall be." The believer's experience is "a glory to be revealed." It may well be called glorious if we consider —

1. Its price. Ma