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196. Concerning the Forbearance of God
Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance. Romans 2:4
IT is an instance of divine condescension that the Lord reasons with men and asks this question and others like it (Isa. 1:5; 55:2; Jer. 3:4; Ezek. 33:11).
God not only acts kindly to sinners, but when they misuse his kindness, he labors to set them right (Isa. 1:18; Hosea 11:8).
It is a sad thing that any who have seen God's judgments on others and have escaped themselves should draw from this special mercy a reason for adding sin to sin (Jer. 3: 8).
From the Lord's earnest question, let us learn wisdom.
I. LET US HONOR THE LORD'S GOODNESS AND FORBEARANCE.
A reverent sense of it will be a sure safeguard against despising it.
1. It is manifested to us in a threefold form
2. It is manifested in great abundance: "riches of his goodness."
- Goodness which has borne with past sin (Ps. 78:38).
- Forbearance which bears with us in the present (Ps. 103:10).
- Long-suffering which, in the future as in the past and the present, is prepared to bear with the guilty (Luke 13:7-9).
3. It is manifested in its excellence by four considerations
- Riches of mercies bestowed, temporal and spiritual (Ps. 68:19).
- Riches of kindness seen in gracious deliverance, measured by evils averted which might have befallen us, such as sickness, poverty, insanity, death, and hell (Ps. 86:13).
- Riches of grace promised and provided for all needs.
4. It has been in a measure manifested to you. "Despisest thou?".
II. LET US CONSIDER HOW IT MAY BE DESPISED.
1. By allowing it to remain unnoticed, ungratefully passing it over.
- The person who shows it. It is "the goodness of God" who is omniscient to see sin, just to hate it, powerful to punish it, yet patient towards the sinner (Ps. 145:8).
- The being who receives it. It is dealt out to man, a guilty, insignificant, base, provoking, ungrateful being (Gen. 6:6).
- The conduct to which it is a reply. It is love's response to sin. Often God forbears, though sins are many, wanton, aggravated, daring, repeated (Mai. 3:6).
- The boons which it brings. Life, daily bread, health, gospel, Holy Spirit, new birth, hope of heaven (Ps. 68:19).
2. By claiming it as our due and talking as if God were bound to bear with us.
3. By opposing its design and refusing to repent (Prov. 1:24-25).
4. By perverting it into a reason for hardness of heart, presumption, infidelity, and further sin (Zeph. 1:12; Eccles. 8:11).
5. By urging it as an apology for procrastination (2 Pet. 3:3-4).
III. LET US FEEL THE FORCE OF ITS LEADINGS. The forbearance of God should lead us to repentance. For we should argue thus
1. He is not hard and unloving, or he would not have spared us.
2. His great patience deserves recognition at our hands. We are bound to respond to it in a generous spirit.
3. To go on to offend would be cruel to him and disgraceful to ourselves. Nothing can be baser than to make forbearance a reason for provocation.
4. It is evident from his forbearance that he will rejoice to accept us if we will turn to him. He spares that he may save.
5. He has dealt with each one personally, and by this means he is able to put it, as in the text, "God leadeth thee to repentance." He calls us individually to himself. Let each one personally remember his own experience of sparing mercies.
6. The means are so gentle; let us yield to them cheerfully. Those who might refuse to be driven should consent to be drawn.
O sinner, each gift of goodness draws thee to Jesus!
Forbearance would fain weep thee to Jesus!
Long-suffering waits and woos thee to Jesus!
Wilt thou not turn from sin and return unto thy God, or "despisest thou the riches of his goodness?"
Here is a select variety of admirable words, where the critics tell us that the first word signifies the infinite goodness and generosity of the divine nature, whereby he is inclined to do good to his creatures, to pity and relieve. The second expresses his offers of mercy upon repentance, and the notices and warnings sinners have to amend. The third is his bearing the manners of bold sinners, waiting long for their reformation, and from year to year deferring to give the final stroke of vengeance. In what an apt opposition do riches of Divine goodness, and treasures of wrath to come, stand to one another! Anthony Blackwall.
The forbearance and longsuffering of God towards sinners is truly astonishing. He was longer destroying Jericho than in creating the world. Benjamin Beddome
According to the proverb of the Jews, "Michael flies but with one wing, and Gabriel with two," God is quick in sending angels of peace, and they fly apace; but the messengers of wrath come slowly. God is more hasty to glorify his servants than to condemn the wicked. Jeremy Taylor
It is observable that the Roman magistrates, when they gave sentence upon any one to be scourged, a bundle of rods tied hard with many knots was laid before them. The reason was this: that whilst the beadle, or flagellifer, was untying the knots, which he was to do in a certain order and not in any other hasty or sudden way, the magistrate might see the deportment and carriage of the delinquent, whether he were sorry for his fault and showed any hope of amendment, that then he might recall his sentence or mitigate the punishment; otherwise he was to be corrected the more severely. Thus God in the punishment of sinners, how patient is he! how loath to strike! how slow to anger if there be but any hopes of recovery! How many knots doth he untie! How many rubs doth he make in his way to justice! He doth not try us by martial law, but pleads the case with us, "Why will ye die, O house of Israel?" And all this to see whether the poor sinner will throw himself down at his feet, whether he will come in and make his peace and be saved. Thomas Fuller
To sin against law is daring, but to sin against love is dastardly. To rebel against justice is inexcusable, but to fight against mercy is abominable. He who can sting the hand which nourishes him is nothing less than a viper. When a dog bites his own master and bites him when he is feeding him and fondling him, no one will wonder if his owner becomes his executioner.
Charles Hadden Spurgeon
197. Jesus Our Lord
Jesus our Lord. Romans 4:24
IT is the part of faith to accept great contrasts, if laid down in the word, and to make them a part of her daily speech.
This name, Lord, is a great contrast to incarnation and humiliation.
In the manger, in poverty, shame, and death, Jesus was still Lord.
These strange conditions for "our Lord" to be found in are no difficulties to that faith which is the fruit of the Spirit.
For she sees in the death of Jesus a choice reason for his being our Lord (Phil. 2:7-11). "Wherefore God hath highly exalted him."
She delights in that lordship as the fruit of resurrection; but there could have been no resurrection without death.(Acts 2: 32-36).
She hears the voice of Jehovah behind all the opposition endured by Jesus proclaiming him Lord of all (Ps. 2:110).
It never happens that our faith in Jesus for salvation makes us less reverently behold in him the Lord of all. He is "Jesus" and also "our Lord." "Born a child and yet a King." "My Beloved," and yet "my Lord and my God."
Our simple trust in him, our familiar love to him, our bold approaches to him in prayer, our near and dear communion with him, and most of all, our marriage union with him, still leave him "our Lord."
I. HIS TENDER CONDESCENSIONS ENDEAR THE TITLE. "Jesus our Lord" is a very sweet name to a believer's heart.
1. We claim to render it to him specially as man, "who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification" (verse 25). As Jesus of Nazareth, he is Lord.
2. We acknowledge him as Lord the more fully and unreservedly because he loved us and gave himself for us.
3. In all the privileges accorded to us in him, he is Lord
4. In our dearest fellowship at the table, he is "Jesus our Lord."
- In our salvation, we have "received Christ Jesus the Lord" (Col. 2: 6).
- In entering the church, we find him the Head of the body, to whom all are subject (Eph. 5: 23).
- In our lifework, he is Lord. "We live unto the Lord" (Rom. 14:8). We glorify God in his name (Eph. 5:20).
- In resurrection, he is the firstborn from the dead (Col. 1:18).
- At the Advent, his appearing will be the chief glory (Titus 2:13).
- In eternal glory, he is worshipped forever (Rev. 5:12-13).
It is the Lord's Table, the Lord's Supper, the cup of the Lord, the body and blood of the Lord; and our object is to show the Lord's death (1 Cor. 11:20, 26-27, 29).
II. OUR LOVING HEARTS READ THE TITLE WITH PECULIAR EMPHASIS.
1. We yield it to him only. Moses is a servant, but Jesus alone is Lord. "One is your Master" (Matt. 23:8, 10).
2. To him most willingly. Ours is delighted homage.
3. To him unreservedly. We wish our obedience to be perfect.
4. To him in all matters of lawmaking and truth-teaching. He is Master and Lord: his word decides practice and doctrine.
5. To him in all matters of administration in the church and in providence. "It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good" (1 Sam. 3:18).
6. To him trustfully, feeling that he will act a lord's part right well. No king can be so wise, good, great as he (Job 1:21).
7. To him forever. He reigns in the church without successor. Now, as in the first days, we call him Master and Lord (Heb. 7:3).
III. WE FIND MUCH SWEETNESS IN THE WORD "OUR."
1. It makes us remember our personal interest in the Lord.
Each believer uses this title in the singular and calls him from his heart, "My Lord."
- David wrote, "Jehovah said unto my Lord."
- Elizabeth spoke of "the mother of my Lord."
- Magdalene said, "They have taken away my Lord."
- Thomas said, "My Lord and my God."
- Paul wrote, "The knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord."
2. It brings a host of brethren before our minds, for it is in union with them that we say "our Lord." And so it makes us remember each other (Eph. 3:14-15).
3. It fosters unity and creates a holy clanship as we all rally around our "one Lord." Saints of all ages are one in this.
4. His example as Lord fosters practical love. Remember the footwashing and his words on that occasion (John 13:14).
5. Our zeal to make him Lord forbids all self-exaltation. "Be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ. Neither be ye called masters" (Matt. 23:8, 10).
6. His position as Lord reminds us of the confidence of the church in doing his work. "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach." etc. (Matt. 28:18-19). "The Lord working with them" (Mark 16:20).
7. Our common joy in Jesus as our Lord becomes an evidence of grace and, thus, of union with each other (1 Cor. 12:3).
Let us worship Jesus as our Lord and God.
Let us imitate him, copying our Lord's humility and love.
Let us serve him, obeying his every command.
It ought to be the great care of every one of us to follow the Lord fully. We must in a course of obedience to God's will and service to his honor follow him universally, without dividing; uprightly, without dissembling; cheerfully, without disputing; and constantly, without declining: and this is following him fully. Matthew Henry
A disciple of Christ is one that gives up himself to be wholly at Christ's disposing; to learn what he teaches, to believe what he reveals, to do what he commands, to avoid what he forbids, to suffer what is inflicted by him or for him, in expectation of that reward which he hath promised. Such a one is a disciple of Christ, and he, and none else, is a Christian. David Clarkson
It was thought a wondrous act of condescension when King George III visited the tent of the dying gypsy woman in Windsor forest and entered into religious conversation with her. What shall we think of him, who, though he was the King of glory, came down to us, and took our sins and sorrows upon himself, that he might bring us into fellowship with himself for ever?
A little child, hearing others speak of the Lord Jesus, asked, "Father, was it our Jesus?" In the same sweet simplicity of faith, let us speak of "Jesus our Lord."
Some years ago, an aged minister, who had long and lovingly known Christ, was on his deathbed. Memory had gone. In relation to those he loved best, it was a perfect blank. But someone whispered in his ear, "Brother, do you know Jesus Christ?" With a voice of rapture, he exclaimed,
"Jesus, my Lord! I know his name;
His name is all my trust;
Nor will he put my hope to shame,
Nor let my soul be lost."
Charles Hadden Spurgeon
198. Dead But Alive
Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Romans 6:11-12
How intimately the believer's duties are interwoven with his privileges! Because he is alive unto God, he is to renounce sin, since that corrupt thing belongs to his estate of death.
How intimately both his duties and his privileges are bound up with Christ Jesus his Lord!
How thoughtful ought we to be upon these matters, reckoning what is right and fit and carrying out that reckoning to its practical issues.
We have in our text
I. A GREAT FACT TO BE RECKONED UPON. "Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord?"
1. We are dead with Christ to sin by having borne the punishment in him. In Christ we have endured the death penalty and are regarded as dead by the law (verses 6 and 7).
This reckoning is based on truth, or we should not be exhorted to it.
2. We are risen with him into a justified condition and have reached a new life (verse 8).
3. We can no more come under sin again than he can (verse 9).
4. We are therefore forever dead to its guilt and reigning power: "Sin shall not have dominion over you" (verses. 12-14).
To reckon yourself to be dead to sin so that you boast that you do not sin at all would be a reckoning based on falsehood and would be exceedingly mischievous. "There is no man that sinneth not" (1 Kings 8:46; 1 John 1:8). None are so provoking to God as sinners who boast their own fancied perfection.
The reckoning that we do not sin must either go upon the Antinomian theory that sin in the believer is no sin, which is a shocking notion.
Or else our conscience must tell us that we do sin in many ways: in omission or commission, in transgression or shortcoming, in temper or in spirit (James 3:2; Eccles. 7:20; Rom. 3:23).
To reckon yourself dead to sin in the scriptural sense is full of benefit both to heart and life. Be a ready reckoner in this fashion.
II. A GREAT LESSON TO BE PUT IN PRACTICE. "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof?"
Sin has great power. It is in you and will strive to reign.
2. Its field of battle is the body.
- It remains as an outlaw, hiding away in your nature.
- It remains as a plotter, planning your overthrow.
- It remains as an enemy, warring against the law of your mind.
- It remains as a tyrant, worrying and oppressing the true life.
- Its wants hunger, thirst, cold, etc. may become occasions of sin by leading to murmuring, envy, covetousness, robbery.
- Its appetites may crave excessive indulgence and, unless continually curbed, will easily lead to evil.
- Its pains and infirmities, through engendering impatience and other faults, may produce sin.
- Its pleasures, also, can readily become incitements to sin.
- Its influence upon the mind and spirit may drag our noble nature down to the groveling materialism of earth.
3. The body is mortal, and we shall be completely delivered from sin when set free from our present material frame, if indeed grace reigns within. Till then, we shall find sin lurking in one member or another of "this vile body"
4. Meanwhile, we must not let it reign.
Sin is within us, aiming at dominion. This knowledge, together with the fact that we are nevertheless alive unto God, should
- If it reigned over us, it would be our god. It would prove us to be under death and not alive unto God.
- It would cause us unbounded pain and injury if it ruled only for a moment.
Let us come to the Table of Communion, and to all other ordinances, as alive unto God. In that manner, let us feed on Christ.
- Help our peace, for we perceive that men may be truly the Lord's, even though sin struggles within them.
- Aid our caution, for our divine life is well worth preserving and needs to be guarded with constant care.
- Draw us to use the means of grace, since in these the Lord meets with us and refreshes our new life.
In the fourth century, when the Christian faith was preached in its power in
Egypt, a young brother sought out the great Macarius. "Father," said he, "what is the meaning of being dead and buried with Christ?"
"My son," answered Macarius, "you remember our dear brother who died and was buried a short time since? Go now to his grave, and tell him all the unkind things that you ever heard of him and that we are glad he is dead and thankful to be rid of him, for he was such a worry to us and caused so much discomfort in the church. Go, my son, and say that, and hear what he will answer."
The young man was surprised and doubted whether he really understood; but Macarius only said, "Do as I bid you, my son, and come and tell me what our departed brother says."
The young man did as he was commanded and returned.
"Well, and what did our brother say?" asked Macarius.
"Say, father!" he exclaimed. "How could he say anything? He is dead."
"Go now again, my son, and repeat every kind and flattering thing you have ever heard of him. Tell him how much we miss him, how great a saint he was, what noble work he did, how the whole church depended upon him, and come again and tell me what he says."
The young man began to see the lesson Macarius would teach him. He went again to the grave and addressed many flattering things to the dead man, and then returned to Macarius.
"He answers nothing, father. He is dead and buried."
"You know now, my son," said the old father, "what it is to be dead with Christ. Praise and blame equally are nothing to him who is really dead and buried with Christ." Anon
Though the lowest believer be above the power of sin, yet the highest believer is not above the presence of sin. Sin never ruins but where it reigns. It is not destroying where it is disturbing. The more evil it receives from us, the less evil it does to us. William Secker
Sin may rebel, but it shall never reign in a saint. It fareth with sin in the regenerate as with those beasts that Daniel speaks of "that had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time." Thomas Brooks
Men must not suffer a single sin to survive. If Saul had destroyed all the Amalekites, no Amalekite would have lived to destroy him. David Roland
Charles Hadden Spurgeon