The Chequered Life of A Christian – Preface
Having for about a week, at different times, found a desire to write upon a passage of Scripture, and seeing the leadings of providence without confusion in the attempt, I therefore proceed, begging the Lord to guide me into all truth; for He has made me know that without Him I can do nothing. May He be pleased to make it a blessing to His children that may read it; and may the glory be ascribed to Him from first to last, to whom alone it is due.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” – Romans 8:28.
It has been remarked by some, that this chapter begins with no condemnation, and finishes with no separation; but all this is confined to them that are in Christ Jesus, not but what God’s elect feel at times much condemnation; but the real meaning of the word is this, that there is no condemnation from God finally to them that are interested in the Lord Jesus, neither is there any condemnation felt, every time they are manifestly in Him: these things every experienced Christian of any establishment will know; and as there is nothing that finally can condemn, so there is nothing that can finally separate: hence the Saviour declares that none shall pluck them out of His hand, nor out of His Father’s hand; and that He and His Father are one in essential divinity.
Paul goes on like a workman: he shows the source from whence all fruit will flow. He well knew that the tree must be made good before the fruit could be good, and therefore he tells us that those which are in Christ Jesus by election, and manifestly in Him by vital union, such walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, and really it is so; for though such are in the body, and have the old man in them complete, yes, and are conscious of their many slips, falls, and backslidings from God, yet, through grace these things are not their element: hence arises close examination, and then honest confession, when their eyes are opened; nor can they be satisfied till they are again manifestly in Christ Jesus.
Now such walk after the Spirit, for it is He that testifies of Jesus; but I believe that Paul in a particular manner here by flesh means the moral Law, which every Pharisee that is in the flesh walks after. This Paul well knew by experience, as you may see in Philippians 3, and therefore the Apostle opposes the Spirit to the Law, and declares “that the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, had made him free from the Law of sin and death.” Now the reason he calls the Law flesh, is not that he really believed it so, for he declares in the seventh chapter that “the Law is spiritual”; but it is in allusion to the characters that walk after it, and the legal influence that such are under; all which is flesh, and nothing else. Hence boasting is not excluded by the Law; “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh”; and none more so than all Pharisees, Arminians, and meritmongers; for poor illiterate creatures they chiefly attend to fleshly lusts: but here is the wisdom of the flesh, etc. These therefore mind the things of the flesh, but “they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit”: which Paul in another Epistle calls fruits, “love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, faith,” etc. (Galatians 5:22).
He then tells us “that they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” But you and I must not confine this to open profane characters, as many do, or else we bring every pretender to religion in as a pleaser of God; no, this will not do; and therefore God declares “that without faith it is impossible to please Him”: and the Law is not of faith. Such then are in the flesh, and they walk after the flesh; and so far are they from pleasing Him, that He declares they “are a smoke in His nose, and a fire that burneth all day”;
“For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die.” Now Paul was living after the flesh when he was so zealous in persecuting the saints; and he at that time lived after the flesh, but being a chosen vessel, God opened his eyes, and then what was gain to him, he counted loss for Christ: then being blessed with God’s Spirit he was led to mortify the deeds of the body; for all human obedience, and walking in a legal spirit, working and striving to keep God’s Law, is the deeds of the body, and it all arises from blindness of mind, and the pride of the heart: such are ignorant of God’s strict righteousness in the Law, and they go about to establish their own righteousness; for the pride of their hearts will never let them submit to the righteousness of faith. This is the real truth. When he says, “If ye live after the flesh ye shall die,” it will stand good two ways, either cleaving to the Law, as the Galatians did through false teachers, under a legal influence, or by indulging any secret sin. Now these things will bring a death on the soul; but if led to deny self, and take up our cross, mortifying the deeds of the body, we shall live to God, which he after this speaks of, as being led by the Spirit, and the Spirit bearing witness, crying, Abba, Father, in a manifest way, so that we feel we are “heirs of God, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ”; and this is living indeed. He then speaks of the sufferings that are sure to come upon all such, and says, “It is not to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed,” when the creature (the body) shall be purified by death, and raised to an immortal state, capable of bearing an eternal weight of glory. Hence it is not only raised with, but in power. After this he speaks of the Spirit helping our infirmities, which certainly is helping us against them, in that he emboldens us to cry to the Lord, as the Prophet Hezekiah did, and Jacob, even in the face of all opposition, and “He that searcheth the hearts, knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God”; and then comes in the words of our text, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”
I shall invert the order of the text, and
I. Begin with God’s purpose.
II. Treat of effectual calling.
III. Of our loving God.
IV. Treat largely upon these “all things.”
And lastly, the knowledge which we have of it – “We know that all things,” etc.