Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord," is represented as laying hold of them with a firm grasp, to rescue them from death, and to raise them to perfect newness of life; and the apostle asks, in view of all possible evils which might seem to threaten the accomplishment of such purpose, assuming, of course, their own continued loyalty of heart, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" and, as he recapitulates all actual or imagined perils, the ready answer still breaks forth from his lips, "Nought, nought shall separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord I" We have, then, here for our consideration - love; love's hindrances; love's triumph.
I. LOVE. The great truth, great beyond all others, fundamental to all others; the truth to which all the revelations were designed to lead, and in which they culminate; the truth set forth so wondrously in the life and death of Christ, is this, that "God is love." This love was manifest in man's creation, and in the rich resources of man's world, furnished for man's sake with such liberal lavishment; it was manifest yet more in man's redemption, and in the rich resources of man's spiritual world, prepared and furnished for man with infinite tenderness. And how has it not been manifest to each of the called ones, laying hold of them, lifting them from the depths, setting them even now in heavenly places, and destining them, as joint-heirs with Christ, to all the blessedness of an immortal future!
II. LOVE'S HINDRANCES. But this love has its seeming hindrances; shall they obstruct the accomplishment of its designs?
1. Death and life.
(1) Death was no fancied evil then; for, as he tells us, it was only too true that "for God's sake they were killed all the day long, accounted as sheep for the slaughter." And in another place he speaks of being, as it were, "appointed to death" (1 Corinthians 4:9). And again (1 Corinthians 15:31) he says, "I die daily." Not mere talk, for we know how in reality this was the seal of their witness-bearing. The Roman Christians, in after-times - in what terrors was not death arrayed to them? As under Nero. And so whenever the beast - the brute power of ungodliness - has made war with the saints (Revelation 13:7). And even now in the forefront of the conflict there is death for Christ's sake; and to all there is the dread dying that sooner or later must end this mortal strife.
(2) But the life itself is filled with jeopardy. Perhaps really more trying test than any martyrdom: latter once for all, and glory round it; former protracted and commonplace.
(a) Positively: dangers and difficulties of circumstance and event; moral difficulties, as world's reproach, and opposing one's self to stream of custom; and difficulties relating to one's own patient continuance in well-doing.
(b) Negatively: the allurements of temptation; repetition of primal fall. Thus life perpetually tries us.
2. Angels and principalities. Ephesians 6. opens our eyes to the tremendous forces arrayed against us. So Bunyan's allegory no fiction. There is a real, objective opposition of "spiritual wickedness" against us, and of what strength and subtlety who shall say? And through the medium of the strength and authority of the "powers" of this world; as Roman emperors.
3. Height and depth. Great exaltation, of this life or of the spiritual life, has its besetting temptations: so Paul himself (2 Corinthians 12.) in danger of being "exalted above measure." Great depression or abasement has likewise its perils: rebellion, or despair.
4. Things present and things to come. Boding fears often worse than actual fightings. So we may "die a thousand deaths in fearing one."
5. Any other creation. The apostle has been hinting at a new creation, when the true Paradise shall be restored. But if the former Paradise was so perilous, and this creation now has so many perils, what may not the new creation bring? Shall that separate us from the love of Christ?
III. LOVE'S TRIUMPH. Shall these things separate us from God's love? Nay, God's love is too strong; and God's gifts, already given, are too great. And, indeed, those things all enter into the working of God's purpose, and therefore cannot break it. Nay, more: if they enter into the working of that purpose, they shall actually subserve it; and so we shall not only conquer, but more than conquer (ver. 28); for that which is against us shall become for us, evil shall be transformed to good, our enemies shall become unwitting friends. "More than conquerors!" Of our entry into life they swell the triumph (illustrate by triumph of Roman generals), and so an entrance is ministered to us abundantly into the everlasting kingdom. Let this be our persuasion, our faith; so shall we be strong, and at last we shall realize the victory which is even now assured. - T.F.L.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?etc. And for the love of Christ it may be taken either actively or passively; actively for our love of Him, or passively for His love of us, which latter acceptation of it seems to be that which is here chiefly intended. First of all, let us look upon it in the thing itself. Who or what shall take off the love of Christ from us? That is, indeed, nothing at all. First, no persons shall be able to do it, whether Satan or wicked men. These they do now and then attempt it: as they are out of God's love themselves, so they would fain make others so too. First, not by means of accusation: accusation is an expedient way to take off affection. It was the course which Ziba took with Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, in reference to David. And it is the course which the devil and his instruments take with those which are faithful in reference to God. Satan he is the accuser of the brethren. Secondly, as not by accusation, so neither by temptation. Again, as no enemy or person, so further no state or condition. That there is no condition, though never so forlorn, that can make God to forsake His people. Now there is a various account which may be given hereof unto us. Ye may take it in these following particulars: — First, from God's unchangeableness, and the immutability of His own nature considered in Himself (2 Timothy 2:13; James 1:17; John 13:1; Jeremiah 31:3; Isaiah 54:8). Secondly, there is nothing which can separate the love of God from His children, or which can separate His children from His love, because this love of His it is not founded in anything in themselves. If the Lord did therefore love His people because they were thus and thus accommodated with riches, or honours, or strength, or any such accomplishment, He would then also cease to love them when that these were taken away from them. Thirdly, God's love is immovable as to anything which may happen unto us, because it was pitched upon us before we were, or had any being. That love which is from eternity in its original. Fourthly and lastly, there is no removal or taking off of the love of God from His people, in regard of the conveyance of it to them and the person in whom it is laid; and that is in His Son Jesus Christ — "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" The love which God bears to a Christian it is a love of covenant; and this covenant made in Christ. The second is as to the discovery or manifestation of this His love — "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" — that is, what shall be a sufficient argument to persuade us that Christ does not love us? The afflictions of God's children are no arguments for the separation of God's love. First, because they are all dispensed out of the principles of love; that cannot be an argument to prove the want of love which is an argument rather to prove the truth of love, His love unto them. "As many as I love, I rebuke," etc. Secondly, it cannot be that affliction should be a withdrawing of God's affection, because He never shows more affection than He does in such a condition. Thirdly, these outward afflictions are no good argument for the separation of God's love, because the love of God reaches farther than these things here below. It is not limited or confined to this present life. Times of separation in other respects, yet they cannot be separating in this. They may separate a minister from his people; they may separate a husband from his wife; they may separate a father from his children; they may separate the soul from its body. Oh, but they cannot separate a Christian or true believer from Christ, nor from the love of God to him in Christ. And so now I have done with the first general part of the text which is this question or challenge, as it is considerable in the general proposition, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" The second is the particular specification of evils themselves, which are seven in number: "Shall tribulation or distress?" etc. The first which is here presented is tribulation. The word in the Greek signifies to press, or pinch, or vex; and the word in the Latin signifies a threshing instrument or flail, wherewith the corn uses to be broken or beaten out; both of them do serve to set forth to us the nature of this present evil. First, I say, this evil of tribulation, it is such as is incident even to the saints and servants of God; they are such as are liable to great pains and griefs of body. St. Paul he had his tribulation, his thorn in the flesh, etc. And so it is with many others, etc. The apostle here instances in this as a principal evil, as that which is more general and which few escape. As for some other particulars which we find here mentioned in the text, they are such as all do not taste of. But yet even this in the next place shall not separate them from the love of God in Christ; a child of God is most dear to Him, even under tribulation itself. The second particular evil is distress: shall distress? The Greek word signifies properly straitness of place, when a man is so hampered as that he knows not which way to move, as it is with those who are shut up in some close and strait prison, or are in some violent throng and crowd. Now, this is another evil which God's people are also liable unto, as to great and strong pressures of body, so to be in many sad distractions of spirit, to be in distress. It has been the lot sometimes of those who have been the dearest servants of God. This is an evil somewhat further and heavier than the former, which we spake of before; anguish of spirit is somewhat more than pressure of body, and which many times has a great influence upon it, A Christian is never brought into those exigencies and straits and extremities but he has still a God to go to, into whose bosom he may comfortably empty and unload himself, and find satisfaction in all his distresses. The third is persecution: shall persecution? which signifies properly a driving from place to place. When men are forced and constrained to leave their home and proper habitations, and to fly into other places and countries. It may separate us from our houses, these poor cottages of clay, but it cannot separate us from God, who is our abode and dwelling-place in all generations, nor deprive us of our everlasting habitation. The fourth thing here instanced in is famine. This is another great affliction which God's people are subject unto here in this life. It is a wonderful thing to consider what strange kind of ways and means God has been pleased to provide for His servants in this particular. The fifth particular evil is nakedness. This is another trial of the saints, and the evil of it consists in two particulars. The one is as it is matter of shame, and the other as it is matter of danger, and hazard of life itself. Well, but this nakedness or stripping of apparel cannot strip the children of God of His love and favour in Christ, which shall still compass them about as a garment. The sixth here instanced in is peril, whereby we are to understand any danger or hazard of life in any kind whatsoever. Danger and fear of evil is many times a greater evil than the evil itself; and we know what difficulties and adventures it has sometimes put men upon. There are seasons and times of peril which God's children are exposed unto; but God does not leave them at such times, nor withdraw His love from them; in the world sometimes it is otherwise. There are many that will own their friends in times of safety, which yet will not know them in times of danger. The seventh and last is sword, whereby we are to understand all kind of violent death whatsoever.
(Thomas Horton, D.D.)I. THE LOVE OF GOD AS THE GROUND OF THE CHRISTIAN'S SECURITY. This love in ver. 39 he terms "the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." This is consonant with the general testimony of Scripture. "In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead"; and if the fulness, then the love. So that it is useless to seek God's love out of Christ — there is none out of Christ. Now to make this love our confidence, we must bear in mind two things —
1. It has been the spring of all that has been done for our salvation.(1) We speak of God as acting in this with a view to His own glory. True, but this is what we might almost venture to call an incidental circumstance. The sun manifests his glory as he rises day by day, but it is not the brightness of the sun that causes him to arise; we must look elsewhere for the source of that. So, if we would find the spring and origin of our salvation, we must look for it, not in the glory of the Godhead, but in the love of the Divine mind. Wisdom, justice, faithfulness, power, all shine forth here and are glorified; but how? As love's instruments. But what set love in action? We can give no answer; there is none to give; we are come to the fountain-head; we can go no farther.(2) The same as to Christ. Various motives are assigned in Scripture for all He did and suffered for us; the hope of reward — "for the joy that was set before Him He endured the Cross"; obedience to His Father — "He became obedient unto death"; but without setting these things aside, we may still say, "He loved us and gave Himself for us." He looked upwards — there was His Father whom He delighted to obey; He looked forwards — there was the glory He was soon to inherit; but no matter where He looked, His heart was with us.
2. The same love that was the spring of all that has been done for our salvation, still exists in God unimpaired and unchanged. The apostle, you observe, does not speak of it as something passed and gone. Many of the great things it has already done, it is not necessary it should do again. If Christ has once died for my soul, His "one oblation of Himself once offered" fully atones for all my sins; if God has once justified me, no other justification do I need; if He has built for me one heaven, I cannot want another; but so much does He love me now, that if my Saviour had not died, if my guilty soul had not been justified, etc., my God would do for me just what He has already done. For six thousand years the sun has shone without suspension, but there will come a day when he will shine no more. But the love of God existed for a boundless period before that sun, and it will exist for as boundless a period after Him. It is not something God has created; it is a part of His own nature.
II. THE CONFIDENCE WE MAY FEEL, IF WE HAVE AN INTEREST IN THIS LOVE, THAT NOTHING CAN EVER SEPARATE US FROM IT.
1. There is a love of God in which we are all interested, for we are all partakers of it. It keeps us in being, it gives us innumerable comforts, it makes to us in the gospel the most gracious offers of salvation; but if we trample on these offers or neglect them, there comes a time when this love turns away from us. It would go farther with us, but it cannot. The question is, then, Are you the objects of God's peculiar, saving love? And the way to answer it is to ask, Have you ever sought to become the objects of it? Most men hold the love of God cheaper by far than they hold one another's love. Do you feel that it is dearer to your soul than all other love?
2. There are two ways in which we can conceive it possible for a separation to be made between us and God's love. One is, for Him to withdraw His love from us; the other, for us to withdraw ourselves from that. The uniting cord, we may say, may break at either end, either at its higher end with God, or at its lower end with us.(1) As to the former of these cases, we need scarcely say a word. The very supposition seems a dishonour to Jehovah. He abandon me after having once freely loved me, and brought me to love and trust Him? I can feel, with Paul, that the whole universe could not prevail on Him to do it, were the whole universe to try (ver. 38). Other love will often cool and wither away of itself; here is a love which nothing can wear away.(2) But let us turn to the other case — the drawing of us away from our love to Christ. This, the apostle expresses his firm conviction, is also impossible; and this conviction, he states, is the result of his own experience. There may now and then, he intimates, be struggling and conflict; we may have to put forth our strength, and a strength greater than ours, against these things, the force and pressure of them, but the struggle is sure to end in one way — we overcome. He has made to us new discoveries of His love in it, and these have made us more determined to love and adhere to Him.
(C. Bradley, M.A.)1. The apostle had passed through experiences varied and trying enough to entitle him to make this inquiry. He knew what he was talking about. It is not the unchastened enthusiasm of a recruit, but the sober declaration of a veteran that is before us — a No which has an unconquerable human soul in it! History has sufficiently answered this inquiry from one side of Christian experience. Set it down as a fact that terror has failed. The scaffold, the rack, the stake, the dungeon, have fairly been worsted in this great fight. Enemies have killed the body, but the principle of truth lives; they have slain Christians, but Christianity is conqueror.
2. But has the apostle covered the whole ground? Does he exhaust the whole possibility of Christian trial? I think not. It is instructive to mark the development of the antagonisms to Christianity. In the text we have nothing but the roughest and vulgarest of opposition, yet the most natural. The fist, the thumb-screw, the scourge, are what we think of at the beginning: first, that which is natural, afterwards that which is spiritual. The opposition does not end where the cruelty ends. We have thought that now the day of persecution has gone. I propose to substitute, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall flattery, or ease, or luxury? shall selfishness or gentility, or the praise of men?" The apostles were not tried upon these points. They were only out in the rough weather: they knew not the warmth of flattery or the power of the soft tongue. They fought their battle to the point of triumph; how are we going to fight ours? They conquered the stake: can we throw off the silken cords?
3. Paul himself gave an answer to the inquiry at a later date: "Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world." When he wrote this epistle no answer came back upon him. But when he became an older man he saw further into the subtle play of the devil, and lived to see that love of the present world had done what tribulation, distress, etc., had failed to do! See the beginning of the mischief! Demas was separated from his nominal love of Christ, not by the sword, but by a bribe. "If any man love the world the love of the Father is not in him." "No man can serve two masters." "Ye cannot serve God and Mammon!" Yet men are still tempted to believe that somehow, having two hands, they can carry two worlds, and having two feet, they can walk upon two paths. Go to a Christian man and say, "If you do not surrender your religious convictions you shall be burnt in the public market-place as a common felon," and if there is one spark of real manhood in his nature he will say, "So be it! in the sufficiency of Divine grace I am ready." Go to that self-same man in a neighbourly way and show him how a certain thing in trade can be done so as to put him into the possession of considerable resources — with which he can afterwards do good. Possibly you may succeed! When you threatened him with the stake, he spat upon your fire; when you tempted him with a bribe, he said, "I will think about it." Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Not Nero; but "a friend in the trade!" Men are separated from the love of Christ in the name of wife and children. If thou wast a single man, and thy universe bounded by a carpet-bag, how virtuous and honourable thou wouldst be! You say to God in effect, "The woman that Thou gavest to be with me, and the children of whom I am the father — these are my tempters." Has it come to this, that a man may not slay himself alone, but that he must do it in the name which should be dearest to him, and make his very children a weight about his neck that shall drag him to the depths of perdition? If you go to a Christian preacher and say to him, "If you don't cease to preach you shall be thrown to the lions," if he has one spark of manhood left in him, he will declare his readiness to suffer in the name of Christ. The best memories will crowd upon him; he will think of that wondrous climax — "Who through faith... stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire," etc. When is the apostle going to finish that, and say, "Refused the bribe; and as utterly defied the subtlety as the violence of the enemy"? The apostle exclaimed to Timothy, "Endure afflictions!" What have we to say to young preachers now? Endure prosperity! It never occurred to Paul to say to Timothy, "Now be on thy guard against flattery and merely outward success." When he charged those who were following him in the good cause, he said, "Fight the good fight, endure hardness." All his talk ran along the line of his own experience, as if it never occurred to him that in the ages to come all the violent attacks would be laid aside and the enemy would betake himself to a more subtle course of assault upon the citadel of faith!
4. Turning this matter over carefully, I have seen how possible it might be for certain constitutions and temperaments really to be terrified from the open and distinct avowal of faith; yet right down in their hearts really to be loving Jesus all the time. But a man led away from the truth by a bribe, a soul to whom prosperity was shown as a lure — that is the meanest, basest cowardice! If the man who shrank from martyrdom may escape, what escape can there be for the man who took forbidden fruit, did things in secret which he was ashamed of in public, and who was separated from the love of Christ, not nominally and professionally, but who had his heart eaten out of him by some invisible and voracious foe? Separated from the love of Christ! What by? By the stroke of a feather! by a whispered temptation! by a mouthful of poisoned honey! The apostles gave the right answers to violence — what reply shall we make to subtlety?
(J. Parker, D.D.)
I. ANNIHILATE THE LOVED ONES. The being who could blot out of existence those whom Christ loved might effect the object, but who could do this? No creature in the heavens or on the earth. No one but the Absolute.
II. BLOT THE LOVED ONES FROM THE MEMORY OF THE LOVER. The being who could cause Christ to forget His disciples would succeed. For those whom we cease to remember we cease to love. But who can do this? He is omniscient, the past, present, and the future are all alike to Him. Duration is all a now to Him. He is "the same yesterday."
III. GIVE NEW INFORMATION OF THE LOVED ONES TO THE LOVER. Were it possible for a being to inform Christ of some bad qualities and some enormous crimes connected with the loved ones of which He was ignorant, His love might be extinguished. But who could do this? No one in heaven or on earth. He knew from eternity all concerning the objects of His love.
(D. Thomas, D.D.)
As it is written, For Thy sake we are killed all the day longJohn 8:44). Therefore, in the second place, their dispositions carry them hereunto, and that in a twofold respect. First, it proceeds from their malice; they hate them and cannot abide them, therefore they kill them. Hatred, when it comes to the height of it, very easily proceeds to murder. The second is their jealousy and fear. As they kill them because they hate them, so they kill them because they fear them. Herod feared John, and therefore beheaded him. The second is how it comes about in regard of the saints themselves, whence they come to suffer it, and for what reason God Himself permits it. Why does He so? First, for the honour of religion and for the evidence of their faith itself, that the world from hence may be convinced of their sincerity and universal obedience to the will of God. Secondly, which is pertinent hereunto, for the multiplying and increasing of their number and the drawing on of more unto them. Thirdly, as the signification and evidence of future judgment and the dispensations of another world, the slaying and killing of the saints, it tells us what shall be done to the enemies, and how it is likely hereafter to go with the servants of God. Therefore it teaches us both to expect and prepare for the like, to provide for killing, and to be content to profess Christianity, even at so dear a rate as this. It will be worth it when all is done. "For Thy sake we are killed." But if they were indeed killed, how could they say they were killed, and tell us so in so many terms? Killing, it takes away complaining, and makes the parties which are so dealt with incapable of saying what they are. First, as an expression of impatience, and making the worst of their evil and affliction that possibly they could. This we shall find sometimes to be the disposition of sorrow, to aggravate itself and make it seem greater than it is. But secondly, in the reality of the thing, the desperateness of their condition. They call it killing because it tended thereunto, and was in a manner death itself. Thirdly, from the preparation of their minds, and disposition which was in them hereunto, as occasion might require. The people of God in this Scripture count themselves killed, because they were ready to be so if God should please to call them unto it. Killing, it is not to be interpreted in this place according to the event, but according to the intention and purpose. They that go out in a wrong cause, they kill where they do not hit, because they go out upon killing and murdering principles. Lastly, the people of God might here say they were killed while they lived, by way of sympathy and participation. They were killed forasmuch as others were killed which they were interested in. And thus much now also of the first thing which I propounded to be considered in this complaint: the affliction itself, "We are killed, or put to death." The second is the occasion or ground of it, "We are killed for Thy sake," which may admit of divers constructions. First, as the pretence of the enemies. "They kill us for Thy sake," that is, they deal thus cruelly with us, and make the world in the meantime believe as if herein they had respect unto Thee. Secondly, "For Thy sake," that is, for our reference to. Thee, because we are Thy people, and worship Thy name, and profess Thy truth, and have Thy ordinances amongst us. Thirdly, it appears that God's cause is the thing which the enemies aim at in their killing of God's people, from a consideration of the means and ways whereby they labour to effect it, and that is by such as are most effectual to the extirpation of religion itself. Thirdly, "For Thy sake." We may carry it a little further than so, not only as a complaint, but a confession. Not so much for a complaint of their enemies, as indeed a complaint of themselves. "We are killed for Thy sake," that is, in satisfaction to Thy justice, "Who art a just and righteous God, and wilt not suffer sin to be unpunished." Our enemies have nothing against us themselves, but they kill us for Thy sake, that is, to accomplish Thy holy decrees, to bring about Thy wise providence, to fulfil Thy righteous judgments, to visit and avenge the quarrel of Thy covenant. And so much of these words, as they may be taken under the emphasis of complaint. The second is under the emphasis of triumph, in the words of the apostle, and so we have this from it, that the main ground of rejoicing in suffering is the cause we suffer for. Then we have cause of quiet and comfort, when we can say, "'Tis for Thy sake." There are two things which are principally to be looked at in suffering — the one is a good conscience, and the other is a good cause. This it serves as a distinction between martyrs and malefactors.
(Thomas Horton, D.D.)Matthew 5:11, 12). And thus it is true emphatically. That suffering for God's sake is a matter of joy and rejoicing, we are killed: therefore glory in this our tribulation. Secondly, we may take it exclusively. "For Thy sake we are killed," and that is for Thy cause and nothing else. From whence we have this observable, that there is not anything in suffering which can comfort the heart for itself except it be for God's cause. It is not the punishment, but the cause, which makes the martyr. Again, further, as out of this there is no comfort in suffering, so indeed there is a great deal of discontent when a man shall reflect and enter into his conscience, and find that he does not suffer for God's cause; he will have a very sad reckoning to make of it when he shall give up his accounts to God. There are three particular considerations which do make our sufferings and persecutions to be said to be for God's sake. First, the intent of the enemies which we suffer from. We then suffer in this sense for God's sake when they shall impose such evils and sufferings upon us in reference to God, because we are professors of religion and maintain the cause of God. It is thus far a suffering for God's sake because the enemy he looks at God in it. But, secondly, we may be said to suffer for God's sake from the nature of the thing itself which we suffer for. This now, it comes a little nearer, a man suffers for God's sake when he suffers for well-doing, not only in the apprehension of the enemy, but likewise in the thing itself. First, when it is sinful in itself. He that suffers thus does not suffer for God's sake, let an enemy be never so violent. Again, secondly, as when it is sinful in the thing. So likewise, when it is mingled and involved with any sinful circumstances, we do not properly suffer for God except we suffer every way for God. Thirdly, we are said to suffer for God's sake according to the disposition of the spirit we suffer with, that is, when we have a pure respect to God's glory in our suffering. And this is the second particular, the ground or occasion of these sufferings, "For Thy sake." The third particular in these words is the extent and continuance of the persecution, "All the day long." First, I say, but for a day. It pleases the Spirit of God to set forth to us the Church's persecution under an expression of short continuance; it is not a week, or a month, or a year, but only a day; it is but one day and we have done. When evils are at any time upon us, as we see they are now at this present, we think they will never be gone, through our impatient disposition; but we should learn in this case to submit to the providence of God in the humbling of ourselves for our sins. The second is the extent of its continuance. As it is but a day, so it is a whole day, all the day long. We must take notice of that. And under this expression we have three things intimated unto us. First, the continuance of the affliction, "An whole day." This it does denote unto us thus much, how that the afflictions of the people of God they do stay and abide upon them their appointed time. The second is the unweariedness of the enemy, "All the day long." It is a sign that they are not spent nor tired out in this execution. They kill, and take no respite between. First, because it is natural to them. It is a business which they are carried unto by their proper inclinations. Actions which are natural are unwearied. The eye it is not weary of seeing, nor the ear is not weary of hearing, nor the pulse is not weary of beating, because all these are natural to them. Secondly, it is delightful to them. That is another account of it. Those things which are pleasing are unwearied. Thirdly, they are unwearied in this business, because they have very good help and assistance to further them in it. Many hands they use to make light work. Where the burden lies all upon one, or some few, it is easy to be weary. Well, this teaches us what to do in this condition. If they kill all the day long, we should pray all the day long. The third is the patience of the saints, "Killed all the day long." Who could ever endure that? Yes, there where God gives help and strength to bear it men may be able to do it. And so was the Church here; she did not faint under continual tribulations. Here is now the great faith and constancy and patience of the saints.
(Thomas Horton, D.D.)etc, that is, they make sure of our destruction. Thirdly and lastly, which I conceive is principally intended in a way of scorn and contempt, "They count us as sheep for the slaughter," that is, they make no reckoning of our destruction. They make no more of killing us than a butcher would do of killing a sheep. First, I say, their readiness to procure it. That which men have any esteem or account of they are very chary how they set themselves about it. These enemies they do it readily; they are not long ere they set themselves about it. That is one thing whereby they discover how cheap such men's deaths are with them. Secondly, their unmercifulness in the doing of it. These and the like considerations do manifest this truth unto us, how cheap the death of God's people is in the esteem and account of God's enemies. Well, let it be as cheap as it will be with such graceless persons as these are, yet we know there is One which sets a price and valuation upon it. "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." The second is the form of allegation, "As it is written." Therefore let us be persuaded to the exercising of ourselves in this book with all kind of diligence, to be acquainted with the Word of God and the principal passages of it, so as it may be no strange or unheard-of thing to us. Ye see hero how the apostle alleges it here in this place, "As it is written"; no more, but so. He does not tell them where, nor in what place, as taking it for granted that they know it. We should be so cunning and skilled in the Scripture that we should be able to know when it is Scripture which is alleged to us and when it is not from our acquaintance and conversation in it. Now, secondly, for that which is intimated and signified from it. And that is this, as the consent of Scripture with Scripture, so the consent of times with times, and the conditions of the people of God in all ages of the Church. We see here that it is no new business for God's people to be under affliction; we have it here upon writing and record as that which has been long ago. First, there are the same grounds of persecution in God's people themselves. Secondly, there is the same disposition in their enemies as has been in times past. Thirdly, there is the same wisdom and power in God Himself: wisdom to know how to impose them, and power how to moderate that they exceed not and go beyond bounds and their due proper limits.
(Thomas Horton, D.D.)
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerorsI. THE CHRISTIAN IS "CONQUEROR." The battle consists of a moral conflict, with inward and outward enemies all leagued in terrible force against the soul. To this is added — what, indeed, was most peculiar to the early Church — a war of external suffering, of penury, persecution, and martyrdom. Now the way Christ provides for the holy warrior's passage through this fiery contest is not by shunning, but by facing the foe. The Captain of their salvation might have withdrawn His people from the field and conducted them to heaven without the hazard of a conflict. But not so. He will lead them to glory, but it shall be by the path of glory. They shall carve their way to the crown by the achievements of the sword. But in what sense are we conquerors? Just in that sense in which the Holy Ghost obtains the victory. It is not the believer himself who conquers; it is the Divine Spirit within. No movement is seen, no tactics are observed, no war-cry is heard, and yet there is passing within the soul a more important battle, and there is secured a more brilliant victory, than ever the pen of the historian recorded. There is the conquest of —
1. Faith (Hebrews 11:1; John 5:4). Faith in the truth of God's word, in the veracity of God's character, in the might, and skill, and wisdom of our Commander; faith, eyeing the prize, gives the victory to the Christian combatant, and secures the glory to the Captain of his salvation.
2. Patience (Hebrews 6:12, 15). Is it no real victory when beneath the pressure of great affliction the Christian is enabled to say, "Though He slay me yet will I trust in Him"?
3. Joy (1 Thessalonians 1:6; James 1:2; John 16:20). And who but Jesus can turn our sorrow into joy? — not only assuaging our griefs and tempering the flame, but actually making our sorrows the occasion of thanksgiving. Confide your grief to Jesus, and He will cause it sweetly to sing (Psalm 30:11, 12; 2 Corinthians 7:4).
II. HE IS MORE THAN A CONQUEROR. The same word as "a far more and exceeding and eternal weight of glory." So we are "far more exceeding conquerors." It is more than a mere victory which the believer gains. A battle may be won at a great loss to the conqueror. A great leader may fall at the head of his troops. The flower of an army may be destroyed, and the best blood of a nation's pride may be shed. But the Christian conquers with no such loss. Nothing whatever essential to his well-being is perilled. His armour, riveted upon his soul by the Holy Spirit, he cannot lose. His life, hid with Christ in God, cannot be endangered. There is not a grace in his soul but shall come out purer and brighter for the conflict. Losing nothing, he gains everything! All his resources are augmented by the result. His armour is brighter, his sword is keener, his courage is more dauntless, for the conflict. Faith is strengthened — love is expanded — experience is deepened — knowledge is increased.
III. "THROUGH HIM THAT LOVED US." Here is the great secret of our victory, the source of our triumph. "Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." Through the conquest which He Himself obtained, through the grace which He imparts, through the strength which Be inspires, through the intercession which He presents, in all our "tribulation, distress, persecution," etc., we are "more than conquerors." Fear not, then, the darkest cloud, nor the proudest waves, nor the deepest wants — in these very things you shall, through Christ, prove triumphant. Nor shrink from the battle with the "last enemy." He stands at your side a crownless king, and waving a broken sceptre.
(O. Winslow, D.D.)I. THE VICTORIES ALREADY WON by those who have been possessed by the love of Jesus.
1. "Tribulation," in the Latin, signifies threshing, and God's people are often beaten with the heavy flail of trouble; but they are more than conquerors, since they lose nothing but their straw and chaff. The Greek, however, suggests pressure from without. It is used in the case of persons who are bearing heavy burdens, and are heavily pressed upon. Now, there are very few who do not meet with outward pressure, either from sickness, poverty, or bereavement; but under all believers have been sustained. It is said of the palm-tree that the more weights they hang upon it the more straight and lofty it is; and it is so with the Christian.
2. "Distress." The Greek refers to mental grief. "Straitness of place" is something like the word. We sometimes get into a position in which we feel as if we could not move; the way is shut up; and our mind is distracted; we cannot calm and steady ourselves. Well, now, if you are a genuine Christian, you will be more than a conqueror over mental distress. Jesus shall say, as He walks the tempest of your soul, "It is I, be not afraid."
3. "Persecution." This in all its forms has fallen upon the Church, and up to this moment it has never achieved a triumph, but it has cleared it of hypocrisy; when cast into the fire the pure gold lost nothing but its dross, which it might well be glad to lose.
4. "Famine." We are not so exposed to this as they were in Paul's time, who suffered the loss of all their goods, and consequently did not know where to find food for their bodies. No doubt there are some now who by their conscientious convictions are reduced to famine. But Christians bear even this sooner than sell their conscience and stain their love to Christ.
5. "Nakedness." Another terrible form of poverty.
6. "Peril" — i.e., constant exposure to sudden death. 7, "The sword" — one cruel form of death as a picture of the whole. The noble army of martyrs have given their necks to the sword as cheerfully as the bride upon the marriage day gives her baud to the bridegroom. At this day you are not, the most of you, called to all this, but if ye were, my Lord would give you grace to bear the test. Your danger is lest you grow rich, become proud, and conform to the world, and lose your faith. If you cannot be torn in pieces by the roaring lion, you may be hugged to death by the bear. I fear that the Church is far more likely to lose her integrity in these soft and silken days than she was in those rough times. Are there not professors whose methods of trade are just as vicious as those of the most tricky?
II. THE LAURELS OF THE FIGHT. The words "more than conquerors" might be rendered "more exceeding conquerors." The Vulgate has a word which means "over over-comers," over and above conquering. For a Christian to be a conqueror is a great thing: how can he he more than a conqueror? Because —
1. The power by which he overcomes is nobler far. Here is a champion just come from the Greek games, Why! the man's muscles are like steel, and you say to him, "I do not wonder that you beat and bruised your foe; if I had set up a machine made of steel it could have done the same." Where is the glory? One big brute has beaten another big brute, that is all. Dogs and bulls and game-cocks have endured as much, and perhaps more. Now, see the Christian champion. He is a simple, unlettered person, who just knows that Christ came into the world to save sinners; yet he has won the victory over philosophers. He has been tempted and tried; he was very weak, yet somehow he has conquered. This is victory indeed when the base things of this world overthrow the mighty.
2. The conqueror fights with some selfish motive, even when the motive is patriotism. But the Christian fights neither for any set of men nor for himself: in contending for truth he contends for all men, but especially for God; and in suffering for the right he suffers with no prospect of earthly gain.
3. The Christian loses nothing even by the fight itself. In most wars the gain seldom makes any recompense for the effusion of blood; but the Christian's faith, when tried, grows stronger; his patience, when tempted, becomes more patient.
4. Most conquerors have to struggle and agonise to win the conquest, but Christians, when their love to Christ is strong, have found it even easy to overcome suffering for the Lord. Look at Blandina, enveloped in a net, tossed upon the horns of bulls, and then made to sit in a red hot iron chair to die, and yet unconquered to the close. Indeed, the tormentors were tormented to think they could not conquer timid women and children. I saw upon the lake of Orta, in northern Italy, on some Roman holy day, a number of boats coming from all quarters of the lake towards the church upon the central islet of the lake, and it was beautiful to hear the plash of the oars and the sound of song; and the rowers never missed a stroke because they sang, neither was the song marred because of the plash of the oars, but on they came, singing and rowing: and so has it been with the Church of God. That oar of obedience, and that other oar of suffering — the Church has learned to ply both of these, and to sing as she rows, "Thanks be unto God, who always maketh us to triumph in every place!"
5. They have conquered their enemies by doing them good. "The Church has been the anvil, but she has broken many hammers." All true believers are far more glorious than the Roman conqueror. What flowers are they which angels strew in the path of the blessed? What songs are those which rise from yonder halls of Zion, conjubilant with song as the saints pass along to their everlasting habitations?
III. THE PERSONS THAT HAVE CONQUERED. Men who believed in Christ's love to them, and who were possessed with love to Christ. This is their sole distinction. The poorest have been as brave as the wealthy; the learned have died gloriously, but the unlearned have almost stolen the palm. There is room for all who love the Lord in this fight, and there are crowns for each.
IV. THE POWER WHICH SUSTAINED THESE MORE THAN CONQUERORS. It was "through Him that loved us." Much depends upon the leader. Christ showed them how to conquer by enduring and conquering as their example. They triumphed through Christ as their Teacher, for His doctrines strengthened their minds, but, above all, because Christ was with them. The name by which the apostle called our Lord is the key to the text, "Through Him that loved us." They knew that He loved them, and that if they suffered for His sake, it was His love which let them suffer for their ultimate gain, and for His permanent honour.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(T. G. Horton.)I. THE SPIRITUAL LIFE OF MAN ON EARTH IS A BATTLE. This is true of all men, whether godly or ungodly. There are two powers in every man's soul eternally antagonistic — the spiritual and the carnal; the former struggling ever for the absolute right, and the other for the personally gratifying. In the case of the ungodly, of course the spiritual is the weaker. Selfishness and passions struggle to keep the conscience down; whereas, in the case of the godly, the spiritual is the stronger, and the struggle of the higher nature is, to bring the dictates of self and the flesh into absolute subjection. The preceding chapter is a moral history of this conflict.
II. A CONQUEROR IN THIS BATTLE IS A GLORIOUS CHARACTER He who conquers his passions, and subdues all the evil tendencies of his nature, is a hero in the highest sense.
1. He has developed some of the noblest attributes — as courage, self-sacrifice, perseverance. It requires a far higher courage to battle on the unobserved arena of the soul, against the favourite lusts and gods of the depraved nature, than to face an army in the open field.
2. He has pursued a course absolutely right. The course of a warrior admits of many solemn questions as to its rectitude; but he who battles against the wrong in his own heart is engaged in a struggle of undoubted righteousness.
3. He has achieved a result entirely benevolent. Even the most useful of the mere material wars have been mixed with immense evils; but in the case of this moral victory, nothing is destroyed but the destroyer, etc.
III. THE CHRISTIAN IS MORE THAN A CONQUEROR. A man is a conqueror when he overcomes his enemy; he is more than this when he is a gainer by the conquest.
1. He has lost nothing in the conquest. He might have been a conqueror and yet have lost much by his battles. Indeed, most material conquerors have suffered great losses; if not a loss of property, a loss of friends; a loss, perhaps, of health; a loss of peace of mind. But a Christian conqueror has lost nothing.
2. He has gained much by his conquest.(1) Power. There is a tribe of savages whose warriors have the idea that the strength of the men they have killed flows into them by the fatal stroke. This has a reality in the moral conflict. Every moral enemy slain gives the slayer strength.(2) Dominion. In material warfare a man may conquer, often does, and not become a king. Not so in this conflict; the Christian conqueror becomes the monarch of his own soul.(3) Invincibility. In physical campaigns, conquerors have been conquered over again. Not so in this spiritual victory; the man who once conquers sin, becomes unconquerable for ever — he is kept by the power of God, etc.
IV. THE CHRISTIAN IS MORE THAN CONQUEROR THROUGH CHRIST.
1. Christ revealed the terribleness of the enemy. The soul would not have known how terrible her spiritual enemies were, had it not been for the revelation of Christ. He has shown what sin is.
2. Christ furnished the armour for the battle (Ephesians 6:14-18).
3. Christ gave the inspiration for the engagement. His love kindled the martial spirit in the sinner's soul, and roused him to the conflict.
4. Christ gave them the conquering power. He made His strength perfect in their weakness. Thus their victory is through Christ, and the songs of eternity ascribe all spiritual conquests to His love (Revelation 5:9, 12, 13).
(D. Thomas, D.D.)
I. THE IMPOTENT ENEMIES OF LOVE. There is contempt in the careless massing together of the foes which the apostle enumerates. He begins with the widest word that covers everything — affliction. Then he specifies various forms of it. "Distress," straitening, as the word might be rendered. Then he comes to evils inflicted for Christ's sake by hostile men, "persecution." Then he passes purely physical evils, "hunger" and "nakedness." Then he harks back again to man's antagonism, "peril," and "sword." And thus carelessly, and without an effort at logical order, he lumps together, as specimens of their class, these salient points, as it were, and crests of the great sea, whose billows threaten to roll over us; and he laughs at them all, as impotent and naught, when compared with the love of Christ, which shields us from them all. There is no need, in order to rise to the full height of the Christian contempt for calamity, to deny any of its terrible power. These things can separate us from much. They can separate us from joy, from hope, from almost all that makes life desirable. They can strip us to the very quick, but the quick they cannot touch. The frost comes and kills the flowers, burns the leaves, cuts off the stems, binds the sweet music of the flowing rivers in silent chains, casts mists and darkness over the face of the solitary grey world, but it does not touch the life that is in the root. You need not be very much afraid of anything being taken from you as long as Christ is left you. You will not be altogether hopeless so long as you feel the sweet and all-pervading consciousness of the changeless love of Christ.
II. THE ABUNDANT VICTORY OF LOVE. Mark how the apostle, in his enthusiastic way, is not content here with simply saying that he and his fellows conquer. There must be something more than that to correspond to the power of the victorious Christ that is in us. Note, then, further, that not only is this victory more than bare victory, being the conversion of the enemy into allies, but that it is a victory, which is won even whilst we are in the midst of the strife. No ultimate victory, in some far-off and blessed heaven, will be ours unless moment by moment, here, to-day, "we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us." So, then, about this abundant victory there are these things to say — You conquer the world only then when you make it contribute to your conscious possession of the love of Christ. Has the world helped me to lay hold on Christ? Then I have conquered it. Has the world loosened my grasp upon Him? Then it has conquered me. Note, then, further, that this abundant victory depends on how we deal with the changes of our outward lives, our sorrows or our joys. The set of your sails, and the firmness of your grasp upon the tiller, determine whether the wind shall carry you to the haven or shall blow you out, a wandering waif, upon a shoreless and melancholy sea. The worst of all afflictions is a wasted affliction, and they are all wasted unless they teach us more of the reality and the blessedness of the love of Jesus Christ.
III. THE LOVE WHICH MAKES US CONQUERORS. The apostle, with a wonderful instinctive sense of fitness, names Christ here by a name congruous to the thoughts which occupy his mind, when he speaks of Him that loved us. His question has been, Can anything separate us from the love of Christ? And his answer is, So far from that being the case, that very love, by occasion of sorrows and afflictions, tightens its grasp upon us, and, by the communication of itself to us, makes us more than conquerors. This great love of Jesus Christ, from which nothing can separate us, will use the very things that seem to threaten our separation as a means of coming nearer to us in its depth and in its preciousness. The apostle says, "Him who loved us," and the words in the original distinctly point to some one fact as being the great instance of love. That is to say they point to His death. And so we may say Christ's love helps to conquer because in His death He interprets for us all possible sorrows. The Cross is the key to all tribulation, and declares it to be a token and an instrument of an unchanging love. Further, that great love of Christ helps us to conquer, because in His sufferings and death He becomes the companion of all the weary. The rough, dark, lonely road changes its look when we see His footprints there, not without specks of blood in them, where the thorns tore His feet. And, lastly, this dying lover of our souls communicates to us all, if we will, the strength whereby we may coerce all outward things into being helps to the fuller participation of His perfect love.
(A. Maclaren, D.D.)
I. THE THINGS IN WHICH WE ARE VICTORIOUS. "In all these things," says the apostle. We may classify these —
1. The condemning power of the law and sin. "Who is He that condemneth?" The Christian never loses sight of the fact that he has been, and still is, a guilty sinner. The power of sin to visit judgment through the law is a fearful thing to an unforgiven sinner; but before it all, the believer can stand in serene triumph and feel himself safe. Looking up, around, and beneath, he can see none that can enforce condemnation against him. The law cannot — for its honour and claims have been satisfied in atoning blood.
2. Further, a whole group of trials is found in the hindering powers of the world and Satan. Look at the array of troubles of which the apostle speaks — "Tribulations, distress, persecution," etc. In our day, the form and manner of opposition, temptation and danger are somewhat different, but they are just as real and almost as numerous. Till Satan and the world cease to be what they are, our Christian life must lie through temptations, opposing powers, influences that imperil and destroy. The forces of sin sometimes charge on men in violent assault — a fierce assailment in an open crisis battle, for supremacy in the soul. We all have our moral Sedans, where we are put to the alternative of winning or losing the crown of Christian character. Such times of mighty peril are more frequent than most persons suspect, for the battles are not always open in their meaning. Men are on trial for life or death, often, when they know it not. It is often a decisive battle between the powers of darkness and light for the soul of the young, when they are to decide their calling in life, between a business safe and pure, and one full of temptation. Sometimes the temptation is insidious and gradual in its approaches and power. Fabius' mode of warfare was that of ever hanging about his enemy and weakening him little by little, inflicting small but continual injuries. This is the commonest way of the warfare of the world and sin on the Christian. A continual pricking of a polished surface with needle-points will ultimately tarnish it. A continual dropping will wear away the solid rock; and the most perilous trials of Christians may be suffered from quiet but continuous touches of evil from the world and sin. It may be an incipient development of a worldly spirit, filling your heart with the love of money and moving you nearer and nearer to the edge of some moral precipice. It may be the growth of a temper of neglect for known duty, till the spirit of duty is eaten all out of your heart, or the plants of grace are all smothered to feebleness or death. So it is, too, as to afflictions, more generally so-called — the things that form distresses to be borne rather than temptations to sin. In the trials of the apostle, there was "a great fight of afflictions." And it is while burdened with trouble and struggling against sorrows that every believer has his victory to reach. But here again, in view of it all, God throws down on you the light and cheer of this experience of the apostle: "In all these things we are more than conquerors."
II. HOW WE ARE MADE CONQUERORS. This is a point of grand importance to us. As the Israelites, imperilled by Pharaoh's pursuing army, were concerned to see how to go forward in safety, we are concerned to know the way to overcome the oppositions and trials in our onward Christian way. How conquerors? "Through Him that hath loved us."
1. Not, therefore, in and of ourselves. Dependence on self alone is a broken reed that here plunges into defeat. However much extolled, and really grand a thing self-reliance is, in some relations in this spiritual work it is inadequate. The fetters of depravity and condemning sin are too strong for human strength alone to wrest off. The power of temptation is too mighty to be withstood without aid.
2. But "through Christ that loved us," we are conquerors. It is surely only by Him that we triumph against the threatening curse of sin, in the matter of justification. And in the matter of temptation and trials, our victory is in Him. With Christ on our side, "they are more that are for us than they that are against us." It is often surprising how Christ and Christ's love give strength to the feeble. "There were giants in those days." In a better sense, there are giants in all days — Christians made mightier than all the powers of evil. They have locks of triumphant strength against all the Philistines of temptation, sin, and harassment that may be upon them.
3. But though through Christ, it is not without our own effort. Christ keeps us by enabling us to keep ourselves. We are strong, not effortless, but by and in effort. Every iota of the might by which the victory is given us must run along spiritual nerves within us — must come into our hearts, go into the will, and flow out into the hands and feet of personal activity and steadfastness. Divine strength is always ready for the needy Christian, but he must use it. How do you overcome the perilous temptation of love of the world? It is by so receiving the grace of Christ as to crucify your affection for its follies and sins. How do Christians in general prove safe against the incessant temptations to evil about them? It is by storing their own minds and hearts with the light, truth, counsel, and quickening force of God's Word. All evils will be powerless against you, if, like the tree that grows strong against storms by receiving the strength that comes up from every root, pours through every vein into every branch, and hardens into firmness and might by the air and sunbeams, you take up into the fibre and nerve of your own Christian life the invigorating influence of all God's grace furnished you, and you grow strong and compact as a tree of righteousness, Christ living and acting in you.
4. But observe — the assurance goes further, With beautiful force it says: "We are more than conquerors." Our victories, in which we remain safe, are a means of increasing our faith, our love, our power. Trials are turned into occasions of development and power. The mind brightens by its use. The heart is enriched by the exercise of its virtues. Idleness and ease enfeeble. The Church is often too indolent and peaceful for its proper development and high glory. There is nothing like war to make soldiers. It is by wrestling with the angels of trial, affliction, and labour, that you become a "prince with God." How blessed is the Christian — the victory given him here, the crown hereafter. It is for us to know whether we are conquering, daily — defeating Satan, subduing sin, proving successful in doing good, in the face of everything that opposes.
(M. Valentine, D.D.)Ignatius, who was martyred in the year , said, "Let fire and the cross, let wild beasts, let all the malice of the devil come upon me; only may I enjoy Jesus Christ. It is better for me to die for Christ, than to reign over the ends of the earth. Stand firm," he added, "as an anvil when it is beaten upon. It is part of a brave combatant to be wounded, and yet to overcome." In losing life he found it.
(J. Hamilton, D.D.)I. CHRISTIANS ARE CONQUERORS.
1. At their first conversion, when through grace they obtain deliverance from the power of darkness and unbelief.
2. When grace gains the ascendancy, and particular corruptions are weakened and subdued. Growing Christians are going on conquering and to conquer. Partial advantages give assurance of a final conquest.
3. At a throne of grace. God fulfils their requests, and often exceeds them, as He did those of Solomon.
4. Over the afflictions and trials of the present life, and such as they are called especially to endure for Christ's sake.
5. In a dying hour. The victory then obtained is great and glorious, complete and everlasting (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).
II. CHRISTIANS ARE MORE THAN CONQUERORS.
1. They conquer those enemies which none besides can conquer, and which to all others would be invincible. They overcome those powers of darkness which have overcome the world. Those who have obtained the greatest victories are often the slaves of the basest lusts. But the Christian triumphs over himself; and while he is waging war with the corruptions that are in the world, he is no less successful in his opposition to that depravity which reigns within. They conquer that by which all are conquered, even death; thus they lead captivity captive.
2. The means by which they overcome are such as enhance the glory of their conquests. When kings go forth to battle, they muster the host, calculate their numbers, and oppose force to force. But in the Christian warfare, "it is not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts." "I can do all things," said Paul, " through Christ who strengtheneth me" (Psalm 18:29; Isaiah 30:1; 1 Corinthians 12:9, 10; Revelation 12:11).
3. The manner in which they overcome makes them more than conquerors. They are sure of success beforehand, which no other combatants are. They also conquer in a little time. The sound of an alarm is quickly followed by the sound of triumph. The conflict may continue as long as life; but what is our life? It is but a vapour. Besides, continued resistance will weaken the hands of our enemies and strengthen ours, so that the conquest shall be easy, and obtained with little loss. A victory is often dearly purchased; but the Christian loses nothing that is worth retaining; he gains by every battle.
4. The victory obtained is over and above measure, as the word signifies. The victory is exceedingly great and glorious, far beyond what is accomplished in any other warfare. It is not like a drawn battle, in which both sides may claim the advantage; the defeat is total, and the enemy is "swallowed up in victory." We must remember, however, that all our successes are owing to Him that hath loved us (Psalm 41:4; 2 Timothy 4:7; 1 John 4:4).Improvement.
1. Let not believers be dismayed at any opposition they may meet with (Psalm 27:1-3).
2. The most successful Christian should take heed of pride and self-sufficiency. Let him say with the apostle, "Not I, but Christ who dwelleth in me."
(B. Beddome, M.A.)etc., was a power to nerve those Roman men to stand fast in the evil day, until death found them steadfast still. But although the peculiar energy of the troubles of that day must have clothed these words with marvellous force, they still present a truth which every Christian needs to learn. For every man has his own temptation to overcome, and his own battle to fight, which no other can fight for him. But, if we conquer, it is better for us to have fought a hard fight, than to have been without one; our struggles become our possessions, crowning us with glory. Our subject becomes — the gain of the Christian conqueror.
I. ITS NATURE. "More than conqueror's." But at the outset we must guard against a perversion of the truth. It is not true to say that by every struggle a man becomes better than if he had had no struggle, for if he allow himself consciously to slide into sin and then afterwards resist it, he is not nobler for that resistance than if he had not sinned at all. It has been said that a man's sins are aids to progress, because by falling under temptation and then overcoming it he is stronger than if he had never fallen. We are told that "young men must be young men"; that by a few outbursts of wild immoral life at first, they give vent to the fierce impulses of evil — which must come forth — and then settle down into a calmer and stronger manhood. Now, every form of that doctrine which makes sin a culture is false, and utterly different from Paul's assertion. Every temptation that conquers us blinds that fine spiritual preception by which we distinguish the right from the wrong. Every sin leaves a ghastly scar on the immortal soul that impedes it from soaring upwards to God. Paul is speaking of temptations resisted; and he affirms that he who conquers thus is greater than if he had never been tried. Let us proceed now to see how this is so — "Through Him that loved us."
1. Every conquered temptation deepens our love to Christ, and thus we are more than conquerors. We come here on the track of that great law, that the trial of principle is its true strengthening. Just as the virtue that stands temptation becomes stronger than the frail thing that has never been tested, so the love of Christ ripens to its manhood through temptations, and therefore our temptations become our possessions, and we are more than conquerors .... But to show this clearly, note that all great emotions render impediments aids to their own growth. Passion catches fire by antagonisms. Men speak of the power of circumstances to hinder a Christian life; of course they have a power, but it is none the less true that a strong love makes the most adverse circumstances the grandest aid to its own progress. Thus, the man of passionate temperament wrestles down the fiery impulse of a great passion, and when the battle-storm is over, he finds in his heart a deep, calm love, which renders the next conquest easier — therefore he is "more than conqueror." The lonely student in his chamber fights through the midnight hours with a subtle doubt which is driving him to unbelief, but when the victory is won, his faith is all the deeper for the struggle, and that struggle is henceforth a possession, rendering him "more than conqueror."
2. The love of Christ to us is a pledge that our conquests will become our gains. Paul evidently had this thought when he said, "Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died," etc. The living Christ is watching the temptation, and He will take care that its issue is a greater glory than that which could have come from a life of perpetual repose. We may see, in fact, how this is so. Temptations enlarge our capacity of sympathy with the Saviour. In conflict, under slander, in sorrow, we get nearer to the Christ of the wilderness, the judgment-hall, and the garden; and that deeper sympathy is its own great reward God will open hereafter the marvellous book of the human soul, and show how each struggle left its eternal inscription of glory there.
II. ITS ATTAINMENT. How shall we know that we are becoming "more than conquerors"? When the love of Christ is —
1. The strongest power in life.
2. A progressive power.
(E. L. Hull, B.A.)Philippians 4:13, a place much like to this at present, there he says, "He can do all things." He can want and abound, and everything; well, but how? "Through Christ that strengthens me." Still he is careful of this, not to give way to a spirit of presumption. First, it is a thing which is easy, if men do not the better look to themselves. But then secondly, it is again very dangerous, and it is that which the children of God smart for, where they are guilty of it. Pride and presumption in assurance is the next way to lose assurance. Now in the next place we may take notice of his expression, in the substance of the words themselves, "Through Him that loved us." "Through Him that loved us"! Who is that? namely, Jesus Christ. And there are two things again which are here considerable of us. First, for the description of Christ. It is by this periphrasis, of "Him that loved us," as that indeed whereby He is best of all known unto us; and as if there were none that loved us but He alone. "Who loved me, and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). "Who loved us and washed us in His blood" (Revelation 1:5). "Christ loved His Church and gave Himself for it," etc. (Ephesians 5:25). This love of Christ unto us, it was manifested in sundry particulars; that wherein it first showed and discovered itself unto us, was in the business of His incarnation, and taking of our nature upon Him. Especially if we shall further consider upon what terms, and in what circumstances He took it. And so the acts of His mediatorship, which were consequent and dependent hereupon; they were the expressions of the same love. There are two reasons especially why he makes use of this expression in the text, rather than of any other besides. First, it was most comprehensive; when he said, "He that loved us," he said in effect everything else. He that was born for us, that died for us, that redeemed us, that saved us; all is comprehended in Him that loved us, because that all these things were the effects of His love. Secondly, as it was the most comprehensive expression, it was also the most proper expression, and pertinent to the business in hand; for he had made mention before of afflictions and persecutions, and such things as those as unable to separate believers from the love of Christ. The second is the account, or cause, of victory to a Christian, and that is through the help of this Person thus described. Now there are three ways especially whereby Christ does accomplish this victory for us, and help us to be partakers of it. First, I say, in that the Spirit of Christ works the graces and abilities themselves. There are divers graces of this nature; as to instance in one or two of them. First, the grace of faith, that is a conquering grace (1 John 5:4). Secondly, another grace is self-denial; that is another victorious accomplishment. The best way for any man to get victory over his afflictions, is by a restrained affection to his comforts. Thirdly, the grace of humility. As there is nothing which is nearer ruin than pride, so there is nothing which is nearer victory than humility. God Himself resists the proud, pitches battle against them; but He gives grace to the humble, and success with it. Lastly, the grace of patience. This grapples with the greatest evils. Now further, He does also upon occasion actuate those graces in us; and thus He helps us to conquer by His power. Secondly, as by His Spirit, so by His example (1 Peter 2:21). Thirdly, by His Word. In this Christ goes forth conquering and to conquer. It is His chariot of triumph (2 Corinthians 2:14). "Ye are strong, and the Word of God abides in you" (1 John 2:14). One thing more, and so I have done: "Through Him that loved us." These words may be taken not only simply, but reflexively, and by way of reduplication; as intimating unto us whence it is that Christ does enable us to be such conquerors, and that is from His unspeakable love. It is from Him that loved us; and from Him so far forth as He loved us. When it is said here from His love; this does not exclude His power, but supposes, and it takes it in; therefore as in this place it is said, "Through Christ that loves us." So again in another place it is said, "Through Christ that strengthens us"; because indeed they are both concomitant. There is nothing whatsoever we enjoy, if we be true believers, but we enjoy it as a fruit of Christ's love. It is from the love of Christ that He afflicts us, and it is from the love of Christ also that He strengthens us and enables us to endure affliction. It is not from common providence, but from special favour; it is not from the power of nature, but from the privileges and prerogatives of grace.
(Thomas Horton, D.D.)Through trials to victory: — When Garibaldi was thrown into prison he said, "Let fifty Garibaldis be thrown into prison, but let Rome be free." This spirit set Italy on fire. When he went before a crowd of young men to appeal for recruits, they asked what he had to offer as inducements. The old man replied, "Poverty, hardship, battles, wounds, and — victory." They caught his enthusiasm, threw their hats into the air, and enlisted on the spot.
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