Romans 2:5
In the previous verses we saw how the goodness of God is too often received; how there are many who despise the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long-suffering. It is especially to such persons that St. Paul addresses his account of God's righteous judgment from the fifth verse to the sixteenth. Those who despise God's goodness have a great fact to face. Those who live as if there was no God, who evade his commandments, who evade his offer of salvation, cannot evade his righteous judgment. As there is one event to all in the universal certainty of death, so we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ. It is good even for Christians to be reminded of the judgment to come. We live too little under its power. We realize too imperfectly that one day we shall have to give an account of our stewardship. We realize too imperfectly our responsibility toward those around us. How little we enter into Paul's views of the judgment, when he said, "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men" (2 Corinthians 5:11)! The subject of God's righteous judgment is an important one both for Christian and for sinner.

I. THE JUDGE. He is a righteous Judge. It is most important that, in thinking of the judgment, we should think of this aspect of God's character. "The righteous judgment of God" (ver. 5). We are not to think of the judgment as necessarily a terror in itself. It is, what the laws of human society ought to be, a terror to the evil-doer, but a praise to them that do well. If we think of the judgment with terror, the fault lies, not with God, but in ourselves. God is a righteous Judge. His judgment is a righteous judgment. There are some who cherish hard thoughts of God, who think of him as a stern and relentless Judge. For such hard thoughts there is no foundation anywhere in God's dealings with men. His character is what we should call a character of perfect fairness. His judgment will be perfectly fair. There may be some one who will say, "I did not know that such a course of action was wrong; I had not the Law of God to guide me." St. Paul meets just such a case: "As many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law" (ver. 12). The judgment will be entirely according to our opportunities and privileges. If God condemns us or inflicts punishment upon us, it will only be because we deserve it. Every man will get a fair hearing. "There no respect of persons with God (ver. 11). Every man will get a fair chance Those who have the Bible in their hands cannot say that they have not had a fair chance. We have all got the offer of salvation. We have all heard of the love of Jesus. We have all heard the invitations of the gospel What could God have done for us that he has not done? He has done all he could do for our salvation, when "he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." He has done all he could, so long as man remains a free agent, to warn us to flee from the wrath to come, to win our hearts to himself. He is slow to anger, plenteous in mercy, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; and yet he will by no means clear the guilty. He gives us every chance, that by his goodness he may lead us to repentance. It may be observed here that the idea of righteousness is so bound up in the idea of the judgment of God, that St. Paul uses one word in the original to express what we describe by two words - "righteous-judgment."

II. THE PERSONS JUDGED. That judgment no one can escape. "Who will render to every man according to his deeds" (ver. 6). Many escape here on earth the just reward of their deeds. Gross crimes are perpetrated, and the murderer escapes the just sentence of the law; the defrauder and the betrayer and the slanderer occupy positions of respectability in life. But they go down to the grave with their sins upon their soul, to pass on into the presence of that tribunal from which earthly rank and earthly wealth can purchase no escape. As the apostle tells us in the eleventh verse, "there is no respect of persons with God." God looks upon the heart; he looks upon the motives; he looks upon the character. Thus regarding men, thus judging them, he sees but two classes. What are these? The rich and the poor? No. The learned and the unlearned? No. The Christian and the heathen? No. The Protestant and the Roman Catholic? No. In God's sight it is character and conduct - not country, or class, or creed - that divide men. St. Paul speaks of the two classes thus: "Every soul of man that doeth evil" (ver. 9), and "Every man that worketh good" (ver. 10). Or, again, he describes them, "Those who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality" (ver. 7), and "Those that are contentious [or, 'self-seeking'], and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness" (ver. 8). To one or other of these classes every one of us belongs.

III. THE EVIDENCE. Here again we see how righteous will be the judgment of God. There will be no circumstantial evidence needed, however strong its chain of many links may often be. There will be no need to depend on the testimony of others. There will be no danger of the Judge being led astray by the impassioned pleading or the fallible logic of a human advocate. Our own deeds will be there to speak for themselves. "Who will render to every man according to his deeds. Ah, how solemn is the thought that we are now writing the evidence by which we shall be judged on the judgment-day! In the red sandstone there are found, in some places, marks which are clearly the impressions of showers of rain, and these so perfect that it can even be determined in what direction the shower inclined, and from what quarter it proceeded - and this ages ago! So also scientific men have been able to trace out from the fossil remains, buried for ages in the earth, the shape and characteristics of animals whose species are long since extinct. So our deeds leave their record behind them, and that record in the judgment-day will testify to what our character was when we were here on earth. The judgment-day will be a day of revelation (ver. 5). It will reveal the righteous judgment of God. It will unveil many mysteries in God's dealings which we did not understand before. It will reveal the true character of men. Then God shall judge the secrets of men" (ver. 16). Then shall all hidden things be brought to light, all deceits discovered, all hypocrisies unmasked. Then, too, shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Their character, often here hidden under a cloud, often misunderstood, often misrepresented, shall then be vindicated for all eternity and before all the world. "The fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is." This also makes God's judgment a righteous judgment, that the evidence shall be the evidence of men's own deeds.

IV. THE RESULT OF THE JUDGMENT. To some will be given eternal life (ver. 7). That will be to those who have lived according to the light they had. No mere profession will save us. Neither will our own good works save us. But our works are the evidence whether or not we are believers on the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb; those whom God's goodness has led to repentance; those who have kept his commandments; those who have not been weary in well-doing, but "by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality;" those who have denied themselves, and taken up their cross and followed Christ; they "shall have right to the tree of life, and shall enter through the gates into the city" (Revelation 22:14). To others - oh, what a dark future! "Indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish" (vers. 8, 9). God's judgment is a righteous judgment. "He that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption." The apostle speaks of "treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath" (ver. 5). That is what every one is doing who goes on in the path of unbelief, impenitence, disobedience, godlessness. What folly to lay up a treasure like that! - C.H.I.







But after thy hardness.
I. WHAT IT IS.

1. Not mere callousness or insensibility of feeling.

2. But entire obduracy of soul — not of one faculty, but of all. The same word is sometimes translated blindness and sometimes hardness. There are two words, πῶρος a stone, and πώρωσις, blindness or hardness (Mark 3:5; Romans 11:25). This hardness, therefore —

(1)Is blindness of the mind.

(2)Is fixedness of the will in opposition to God and His truth.

(3)Admits of degrees.

(a)Disobedience and secret opposition to truth.

(b)Zealous opposition and hatred of it, manifesting itself at length in blasphemy and persecution.

II. THIS HARDNESS IS A SINFUL STATE.

1. From its very nature.

2. In its higher form it is the state or character of the lost and of Satan.

3. It is self induced.

(1)As it is the natural effect of our depravity.

(2)As it is the natural consequence of the indulgence of sin.As the natural consequence of the cultivation of virtue is virtue; of kindness is kindness, and so the natural consequence of the indulgence of sin is sin — a sinful hardening of the heart.

III. IT IS NONE THE LESS A DIVINE JUDGMENT AND A PREMONITION OF REPROBATION. Any degree of it is reason to fear such reprobation. The higher forms of it are direct evidence of it.

1. God exerts no efficiency in hardening the heart of sinners, as He does in working grace.

2. But it is the punitive withdrawing of the Spirit; the inevitable result of which is obduracy. God let Pharaoh alone and the result was what it was.

3. In its last stage it is beyond the reach of argument, motive, discipline, or culture; and beyond our own power to cure or remove.Conclusion:

1. Dread it.

2. Withstand it.

3. Pray against it.

4. Avoid it by not grieving and quenching the Holy Spirit.

(C. Hodge, D. D.)

This is the state of a person insensible alike to entreaties, expostulations, warnings, admonitions, and chastisements (Jeremiah 5:3). Men become obdurate —

1. By separating themselves from God, the Source of all life, just as a branch dries up when detached from the tree, or as a limb withers when the connection between it and the heart ceases.

2. By a life of pleasure and sin, the effects of which may be compared to those of the river north of Quite, petrifying, according to Kirwin's account, the wood and leaves cast into its waters; or to those of the busy feet of passers-by causing the crowded thoroughfare to grow hard.

(C. Neil, M. A.)

On a winter evening, when the frost is setting in with growing intensity, and when the sun is now far past the meridian, and gradually sinking in the western sky, there is a double reason why the ground grows every moment harder and more impenetrable to the plough. On the one hand, the frost of evening, with ever increasing intensity, is indurating the stiffening clods: on the other hand, the genial rays which alone can soften them are every moment withdrawing and losing their enlivening power. Take heed that it be not so with you. As long as you are unconverted, you are under a double process of hardening. The frosts of an eternal night are settling down upon your souls; and the Sun of Righteousness, with westering wheel, is hastening to set upon you for evermore. If, then, the plough of grace cannot force its way into your ice-bound heart today, what likelihood is there that it will enter tomorrow?

(R. M. McCheyne, M. A.)

As the old historian says about the Roman armies that marched through a country burning and destroying every living thing, "they make a solitude, and call it peace," so men do with their consciences. They stifle them, forcibly silence them, somehow or other; and then when there is a dead stillness in the heart, unbroken by no voice of either approbation or blame, but doleful like the unnatural quiet of a deserted city, then they say it is peace.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

And impenitent heart
1. Has not repented.

2. Is not easily brought to repentance.

3. Is disinclined and unwilling to repent.

4. Is unable to repent.

(T. Robinson, D. D.)

I. ITS NATURE.

1. We shall better understand this if we consider what is the nature of penitence, which is a clear view of our nature and conduct as tried by the pure and perfect law of God. Connected with this there is —(1) A consciousness that we are deservedly under the wrath of God, and the curse of that law which our sins have violated.(2) Alarm at sin and its consequences.(3) An ingenuous disposition to confess sin to God, without extenuation or self-defence.(4) Grief for sin.(5) A disposition to forsake it.(6) And there will be no true repentance where there is not faith in Christ, as the only way by which sin can be forgiven.

2. Now, impenitence means, of course, the opposite to this. The man who is not convinced of sin, etc., is impenitent, hard-hearted towards God and religion.

3. Mark the guilt of this. It really contains in itself every aggravation that sin admits of. It is —(1) Rebellion against the authority of God, who commands men everywhere to repent.(2) Great insult to God: for in proportion to the excellence of any being whom we may offend should be the promptness of our mind to confess the offence and mourn over it.(3) Great contempt of the law of God, that, after we have trampled it under foot, we should have no grief for the injury we have done it.(4) Total rejection of the whole scheme of mercy in the gospel.

II. ITS CONSEQUENCES.

1. The time when the punishment will be inflicted. It is very true that the moment we die we enter into heaven or hell. But neither the happiness of the righteous nor the punishment of the wicked will be complete till the judgment. This is called —(1) "The day of wrath," and it wilt be to the wicked nothing but that.(2) A day of revelation. There will be a revelation —(a) Of God, in the wisdom of His plans, in His mercy to His people, in His justice of the punishment of the wicked.(b) Of Jesus Christ. No more shall it be doubted that He is the great God and our Saviour.(c) Of man. Millions of saints shall come out from their obscurity, and shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Millions of flaming but hypocritical professors shall stand at that day unmasked.(d) Of secrets — all the secrets of men's history.(3) But the text speaks of it as the revelation of righteous judgment that shall come on the wicked. There will be a revelation —(a) Of judgment itself. The punishment of the wrath of God is now revealed only partially; never, impenitent sinner, till the day of judgment will the greatness of thy iniquity be revealed.(b) Of righteous judgment; a complete manifestation of the justice of God in the punishment of the wicked. There shall be no infidels in hell: there shall none go from the judgment seat impeaching the justice of God.(c) Before the world. So that, while the righteous shall be honoured, the wicked will be punished before the universe.

2. Its nature. "Thou treasurest up wrath." Whose wrath? If it were the wrath of an angel there would be something tremendous in it. But —(1) It is the wrath of God — something more terrible than the imagination can compass! Solomon tells us that "the wrath of a king is as the roaring of a lion." But what is the wrath of a king to the wrath of God? But, perhaps, it may be said that it is only a taste of His wrath. The Scripture says wrath will come on the wicked to the uttermost; it will be unmixed wrath. Now God blends mercy with judgment: then mercy will retire.(2) It will be wrath felt, not merely threatened. Now it is threatened, and the wicked sport with the threat; but then it will be felt.(3) It will be everlasting wrath. What must it be to endure the unmitigated wrath of God for a moment, for an hour, for a week, for a year, for a century, for a thousand years, for a million of ages! But if, at that distance, there should be one gleam of hope appearing through the vista of darkness, hell would cease to be hell; hope would spring up; and the very idea of the termination of torment would sustain the soul under it. But oh, eternal wrath! To be obliged to cry out, How long? and to receive no answer but "Forever!" And after millions of ages have passed, and the question is again asked, How long? still to receive no answer but "Forever!"(4) This wrath is said to be wrath to come, and because it is to come, sinners will not believe it; because it is to come, they think it never will come. But it is perpetually drawing near. It is nearer this day than it was last Sabbath day.

3. The proportion of the punishment. In the Hebrew Scriptures anything that is accumulative is accounted treasure. Hence, we read of the treasures of wickedness. The expression "treasurest up wrath" seems to be put in opposition to "the riches of His goodness." What an idea! Treasures of love! Heaps of wrath! And you will observe the sinner is represented as the author of his own punishment. The idea conveyed is this, that there is an accumulation continually going on as long as he sins. And then, as this proportion will be according to the sin committed, so it will be according to the mercies abused and neglected. The sins of the poor heathen are light compared with ours, and the punishment will be light too.

(J. Angell James.)

Treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath
He who perseveres in sin is not only continuing in a dangerous state, but treasuring up unto himself wrath. As a man amasses a fortune by saving up certain sums from year to year, and more and more as he goes on, so this man goes on making the wrath that will come upon him at last heavier and heavier, by adding fresh sins day after day. God does not forget; He is ready to forgive, so entirely and freely to forgive that He calls it forgetting, but He does not let things pass by forgetfulness, and therefore our deeds are "treasured up" against the day of judgment, and He will then render to us according to them. Prudence would always lead us to think what we are treasuring up for ourselves, for whatever we do, we may be sure we are treasuring up something. Our daily life is adding by little and little to some kind of stock that is laid up for us. In this world, if we are regular and temperate in our living, we lay up for ourselves, ordinarily, health and length of life. If, on the contrary, we are irregular, self-indulgent, or intemperate, we lay up for ourselves an accumulating stock of weakness and disease, and a debt to our nature which we may have to pay by the cutting off of many days from our time here. If we are honest and industrious, we lay up for ourselves a treasure of good character, which will serve us more and more as we grow older; if we are dishonest and idle, we lay up for ourselves a bad character, which will tell more and more against us. If we are kind and good-tempered, we lay up a treasure of the goodwill of our fellows; if we are proud and quarrelsome, we lay up enmities and dislikes, which may grow even to our ruin, and which may any day show themselves, all gathered into a mass, when we should most wish to be clear of them. And we know very well how it is sometimes when any person goes on behaving ill towards ourselves, disregarding our advice, disobeying our orders, reckoning upon our not choosing to punish; we go on a long time, it may be, to give him a chance of doing better, but at last he heaps up such an abundance and weight of misconduct, that we can bear it no longer, and we dismiss him from his employment with disgrace. So it is with a man who deals thus lightly with God, and presumes on His forbearance. God warns him again and again, but yet for a while does not execute judgment upon him. But at last comes the day of reckoning, and it is found that he has been all along heaping up for himself an evil treasure, a treasure of wrath against the day of wrath. The pleasures that are gone have left a sting behind them, the unjust gains, that seemed for a while to abide, are a witness against the covetous (James 5:2-4).

(C. Marriott, B. D.)

This proves that sins will be punished according to their accumulation. A man is rich according to his treasures. The wicked will be punished according to the number and aggravation of their sins. There are two treasures, which Paul opposes to each other — that of goodness, of forbearance, and long suffering — and that of wrath; and the one may be compared to the other. The one provides and amasses blessings for the creature, the other punishments; the one invites to heaven, the other precipitates to hell; the one looks on sin to pardon it on repentance, the other regards obstinate continuance to punish it, and avenge favours that are despised, God alone prepares the first, but man himself the second.

(R. Haldane.)

It is related that some years ago, in a mountainous region on the continent of Europe, an avalanche of snow — i.e., an enormous mass of snow — came down from one of the overhanging rocks in such a vast body as entirely to dam up a river into which it fell. What was the effect produced? As the river could no longer flow, it went on forming itself into an extensive lake — threatening, whenever it should burst through its snowy barrier, to carry desolation and ruin upon men and villages in the country beneath. The larger the quantity of water suspended, the greater would be its violence when it obtained its liberty: and so it proved. The devastation caused was said to be terrible in the extreme. It is thus with every unconverted sinner. The longer he lives, the greater is the amount of wrath he is accumulating, or treasuring up, against his day of destruction.

(C. Clayton, M. A.)

And revelation of the righteous Judgment of God.
1. Further on in this epistle the contrast between darkness and light is employed to depict the difference between the present time and that which will succeed the second coming of Christ (Romans 13:12). We may have been compelled to tread a dangerous path under the guidance of an imperfect light, and we can recall the difficulty of distinguishing between substance and shadow, the bewildering sense of insecurity, and our thankfulness when the day enabled us to see things as they really were.

2. The imagery then, of the apostle is exceedingly appropriate to our present condition. We are not in absolute darkness, for we have the Word of God, which is a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path. The road of safety is indeed sufficiently plain. But if we look beyond and around us, there are painful problems which we cannot solve, and huge difficulties which we cannot surmount. We cannot discern as yet the true proportions and nature of things; but when the day of eternity breaks, then the blinding, perplexing shadows will disappear.

3. These remarks will serve to introduce our topic. God is greatly misunderstood even by His own people. Witness the cases of Job, of Jeremiah, and of some of the Psalmists (Psalm 73). And if it be so with religious people, much more must it be true of the ungodly. But a day is coming when it shall be seen that He is holy in all His ways, and righteous in all His works.

I. CONSIDER SOME OF THE DIFFICULTIES WHICH PERPLEX US.

1. Those which concern God's dealings with ourselves. Not unfrequently it happens that trials befall a Christian which he cannot interpret, and he is almost tempted to think that God is not the wise and loving Father he has been led to suppose. It may be, too, that the explanation will never come in this world. God would have His children trust Him without explanation. And then the only refuge is in the words "What I do, thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter."

2. Those connected with God's sovereignty and man's responsibility.(1) If there be one thing in Scripture more plain than another, it is that the offer of salvation is made to every man. And the blame of rejection is distinctly thrown upon the sinner: "Ye will not come unto Me that ye might have life." Now all this points to the responsibility of man. He might come, but he refuses to come. Here, then, is one side of the truth. On the other side we are just as plainly taught that no man cometh unto Christ unless the Father draw him; that repentance and faith are both the gift of God; and that Christians can take no credit to themselves for the position in which they are placed, but that they are "elect according to the foreknowledge of God," etc. In the matter of salvation He acts according to the good pleasure of His will. "Many are called, but few are chosen." "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy." Here, then, we have another side of the truth — the sovereignty of God.(2) Now you ask me to make these two statements consistent. I cannot comply with your demand. What I know is this, that I am bound to hold both truths without anxiety about consequences; and that there is a witness for both facts in the hearts of men. Never yet was a Christian found who would not admit that his salvation originated with God; and the man without faith in Christ, though he will say nothing, his conscience bears witness that he has been resisting by an act of his own will the gracious influences of God's Holy Spirit; and that if he should perish in his sins, he will have no one to blame for his ruin but himself. With these testimonies we may be satisfied, and look for the solution of the difficulty hereafter. The revelation that is coming will be a revelation of the "righteous" judgment of God.(3) With respect to this particular subject we may represent the two doctrines as two massive pillars standing face to face as if they were rivals. There they stand; and we look up at them, trying to trace out a point of contact. But they rise beyond our vision, and their majestic shafts are soon lost in dark mysterious clouds, and the eye can follow them no longer. But somewhere beyond the clouds — somewhere in the world of light above — we believe that they unite in some grand arch, and that there all appearance of antagonism disappears; and we believe also that that meeting point will be seen at the manifestation of Jesus Christ.

3. Those connected with the broad subject of the Divine dealings with the human race.(1) There is one in the fact that so many centuries have elapsed since the sacrifice of Calvary, and yet so small a portion of the human race have heard the gospel.(2) There is another in the fact that those who die in their sins will be punished eternally. This topic is one so inexpressibly painful and puzzling that we do not much wonder at the theories which evade the force of the Scriptural statements.

II. WITH RESPECT TO THESE DIFFICULTIES CONSIDER —

1. That they are altogether inseparable from our present condition. Much as we should like to have everything made plain to us, it cannot be so; and it is well, too, that it should be so. We are in the night, not in the day; we have a glimmer, but not the full light: the full light comes in with the appearing of Christ. Moreover, this is the season of training. If everything were intelligible, where would be the exercise of faith?

2. That we are led to look forward to a day of explanation, a day of revelation is coming, which will be a day of revelation of the righteousness of the decisions and of the appointments of God. Wait for that day patiently. Its bright light will solve all problems, and scatter the darkness of those mysteries which now perplex and distress the Christian mind.

III. WHAT CONCLUSIONS SHALL WE DRAW FROM OUR SUBJECT?

1. That the belief of the coming of a day of explanation will operate to check all hasty theorising, all "judging before the time." Men yield to this temptation and invent systems of doctrine in the vain hope of escaping from the grand inconsistency of Holy Scripture. Like men in old times, occupied with squaring the circle, perpetual motion, or the method of turning everything into gold, they busy themselves with an unprofitable, because impossible, task. Yet again, men in their impatience to solve the problem of the Divine dealings with man have rejected the statements of Holy Writ. These theorists are bidden wait for the day of explanation that is coming. Thus there is in this view of the text a remedy for our natural impatience.

2. But more than this: there is much comfort in looking forward to such a time. A loving child may have most perfect confidence in his father. He is sure that what that father does is right and wise; yet he may be puzzled with the captious remarks of his father's enemies. So he looks forward to the day of explanation. He knows that then the character and acts of his parent will receive a most triumphant vindication, and that the mouths of all detractors will be silenced, and silenced forever. Even so the Christian looks forward with delight to the second appearing of the Lord — the day of the revelation of the righteousness and holiness of God.

3. Yet in all perplexities we have an unfailing remedy available now. We can look to the Cross of Jesus Christ. Every murmur ought to be stilled, every doubt ought to be suppressed, every misgiving silenced — when we stand on the slope of Calvary.

(G. Calthrop, M. A.)

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