The Assured Safety of the Saints *
By Franklin Howard Kerfoot, D. D., LL. D.
"We know that all things work together for good to them that love God." — Roman 8: 28.
IF I were asked to name the three greatest chapters in God's Word, I should, without hesitation, name the twenty-third Psalm, the fourteenth chapter of John and the eighth chapter of Romans. And of these three the eighth of Romans is the greatest. It seems to me that this chapter is like a great Alpine range among the mountains of Scripture. It is a series of sunlit summits, illumined by the smile of God. See how these peaks rise one above the other, higher and higher, and ever higher. The very first verse of the chapter declares: "There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." What a lofty peak is this, upon which a soul may stand! It is the peak of justification. And as we read on to the fourteenth verse, we climb to a still higher summit, which says: "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." What a lofty peak is this! It is the peak of adoption. And then, very close to this, we read: "And if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ." And yet again: "If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be
* This was one of Dr. Kerfoot's favorite sermons. The last time perhaps that it was preached was at the Baptist State Convention of Texas at Waco in 1900. A Texas correspondent of the Biblical Recorder of North Carolina says of that occasion: "After a great speech by Dr. B. H. Carroll on 'The Century,' Dr. Kerfoot preached a morning sermon on 'All Things Work Together for Good,' and no tongue can describe the scene that followed. The congregation rose and sang "How Firm a Foundation," while men shouted, wept, embraced, and struggled to express the inexpressible joy within them. Think of an audience of twenty-five hundred people rushing and surging to shake hands and embrace, climbing over chairs, waving hands and handkerchiefs. It was wonderful — wonderful!"
also glorified together." And so it is, peak after peak, higher and higher, until we reach our text, which is the very Mont Blanc summit of all this exalted range. It says: "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God." Or, as the same thought is expressed in the thirty-eighth and thirty-ninth verses: "For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any created thing shall separate us from the love which God has for us in Christ Jesus." This is the summit, brethren, to which I wish to lead you this morning:
THE ASSURED SAFETY OF THE SAINTS
Let me say, at the outset, that I do not propose to proceed by any path of my own making. Fortunately a path was blazed out long years ago by a far better guide than I am — the path which was trodden by the Apostle Paul as he climbed to this eminence, under the special guidance of the Holy Spirit. My desire to-day is only to put my feet in the very tracks which Paul made, to lead you by the very way that the Spirit of God led Paul, until we can say with him, if God will: "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God." If you will take your Bibles, when you go to your homes, and begin at this twenty-eighth verse of the chapter, and read to the end, you will find that all the rest of the chapter is simply Paul's proof that this thing is true, that "all things work together for good to them that love God." And hence, what I have to do is just to take up what Paul says, point by point, and simply give you his argument — not my argument — and try to open it up before you.
The whole argument may be summed up in this statement: We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, because God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, are all absolutely and irrevocably committed to the welfare of God's people. Just before the verse which I have for my text, he has brought out the absolute committal of the Holy Spirit. And now, in special connection with my text, he goes on to show the equally absolute and irrevocable committal of God the Father and of Christ the Son, to every one who has been called according to the
purpose of God, to every one who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ. Our special business to-day is to look at the urgument which shows this committal of the Father and of the Son to every child of God.
I. THE COMMITTAL OF GOD THE FATHER.
He first brings out and emphasizes the committal of God the Father.
1. Whom he foreknew. This means that God had his mind on us before we ever had our minds on him. He was concerned about us long before we were concerned about him. Elsewhere in the Bible this concern on God's part is said to be from the foundation of the world, and even from eternity. This is to us a stupendous and almost bewildering thought. But anyone who really thinks, must know that it is true. No architect ever built a house that the plan of that house was not in his mind before he ever struck spade to dirt or hammer to stone. Look at these buildings about us. I will warrant you that every one of them was not only in the mind of the architect before he began to build, but that every one of them was so clearly in his mind that he had drawn them all upon papers, had even laid down the specifications for each building, so that those who were to own them could see them for themselves and know what was to go into them before they were built. Is God less of an architect than a human being? Many of you have heard the story of Michael Angelo, who was passing through Italy on one occasion with some of his companions, and was seen to stop and kneel down on the ground and scrape away the dirt. One of his companions asked him what he was doing, and he said: "I see an angel in this stone." And he did. His artist eye had seen the angel which he would bring from that stone before he ever put chisel to stone, or hammer to chisel. And so, brethren, when we realize that this must be true of human architects — of human artists — we know that whether we can comprehend the infinite God or not, he must have foreknown every child of his who should be saved by the blood of Jesus Christ.
2. And whom he foreknew, them he predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son. Then the apostle goes right on in the very next sentence, and says: "And whom he foreknew, them
he also predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son." Not only had he set his mind upon us, not only did he have us in his foreknowledge, not only did he foresee all things, but he predestinated that every one who had been called according to his purpose, that is, every one who has believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, shall be conformed some day to the image of his Son. We run here upon that difficult doctrine of predestination. If I had been going to pick a text for this audience to-day, I should not have picked the doctrine of predestination on which to speak. But here is the doctrine, connected with the text, and laid down as one of the reasons why Paul says that "all things work together for good to them that love God," and I do not propose to dodge it. Let us look at it. It is one of those doctrines of the Word of God to which I suppose the Apostle Peter referred when he said: "Our brother Paul has written some things hard to be understood, which the ignorant and unlearned wrest to their destruction." That is exactly what some people do with this doctrine. I have heard men say: "If I was born to be hanged, I will never be shot." I have seen soldiers just before the charge in battle almost blasphemous before God in defying a bullet in the gun of some of the enemy to hit them. This was simply foolhardiness. It was recklessness. It was an absolute abuse of the doctrine of predestination. The Apostle Paul made no such use of the doctrine. There are other people who use the doctrine of predestination as a doctrine for metaphysical hair-splitting. They undertake to do with it what no sane, no mortal man, can do. They undertake to harmonize in all its details this strange doctrine with human freedom and human free agency. Friends, the Word of God does not mention the doctrine of predestination for any such purpose as that. It was not put there for philosophical speculation.
And yet again, I have found unconverted people who have hung on the doctrine of predestination, and would not unite with a church of the Lord Jesus Christ because they could not feel sure that they were predestined from eternity to be saved. Why, my dear friends, an unconverted man has no more to do with the doctrine of predestination than if it had never been put into the Bible. There are some things in the Bible for Christians,
and there are some things for sinners. The Word of God to an unconverted man is: "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." If you are laboring or heavy laden, God's Word says, "Come." If you desire to come, God's invitation stands, and you have nothing to do with the doctrine of predestination. Brethren, never allow an inquirer to drag you from the main point: "Will you receive Jesus?" by any talk on predestination. And yet again, I have found young Christians, who, somehow, want to jump right into the doctrine of predestination almost as soon as they are converted. But this doctrine was not put into God's Word for tyros. As Dr. Shedd says: "This is one of the higher ranges of doctrine." It is one of the great doctrines of Scripture. And you can be a Christian for some years yet before you can climb it. I heard of a man who had a very pious old slave in slave times. The young man had been very godless, and the old slave had prayed for him very earnestly. At last his young master was converted, and the very next day after he was converted, he was talking with his old negro about the doctrine of predestination. The old negro said: "Now, massa, it seems to me you is getting along mighty fast. You was jist born yisterday into the kingdom of God; and here you is to-day working at the deepest and hardest things of the Word of God. Hadn't you better learn some of the plain things first?"
No, friends, the doctrine of predestination was not put into the Word of God to make difficulties out of it. And let me say that putting it there has not made the matter one whit more difficult either. We should have had all the difficulties of predestination anyway — or what seems to be fatalism — if it had never been mentioned in the Bible. But the doctrine being a truth, is mentioned in the Bible, and strange enough, the apostle mentions it in this most practical chapter as an argument for saying: "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God." It was all practical with Paul. It was not metaphysical; it was
practical. To him it meant only, as Bickerstith puts it, that "These little lives of oura are interwoven with God's eternal purposes." This is all that Paul meant by this doctrine. "God has had his mind on us before we had our minds on him. And he has purposed that we shall be conformed to the image of his son. And earth and hell cannot keep us from it." The doctrine of predestination was to the apostle what a great harbor often is to a storm-tossed mariner. Sometimes the ships used to come across the Atlantic against adverse winds. They became all coated over and weighted down with ice. And, before the Gulf Stream was found, they had to put into the West Indies, into some great harbor, and there, upon the smooth waters, surrounded by the splendid hills, and bathed in the warm sunshine of heaven, the ice melted off, and the ship rose again for her voyage, and could put forth from her harbor with new buoyancy and strength. So to the great apostle this doctrine of predestination meant simply that somehow "these little lives of ours are interwoven with God's eternal purposes." This doctrine was the harbor into which, when his soul had been tossed by the tempest, when it had been driven almost, as it seemed, to destruction, his vessel could ride at anchor, in faith, surrounded by the eternal hills, sheltered from every stormy wind that blows, bathed in the sunshine of God's eternal love, and feel everlastingly safe from everything that could harm. This is what the doctrine is here for. It is practical. Why, sometimes I have had Methodists come up to me and say: "Well I believe in that kind of predestination just as much as you do." And I think they ought to. For this is what God's Word teaches, and a glorious doctrine it is.
I remember when I was pastor in Baltimore, I had a woman in my congregation who had been very anxious about her soul's salvation. She was a highly cultivated woman. She was a teacher in a young ladies' seminary, the principal of it, a school of very high grade. She had passed the age of childhood, and had almost passed the age of youth. She did not find it easy to become a little child, and accept the Lord Jesus Christ with childlike faith. The struggle with her was long and hard. But, at last, by the grace of God, she was enabled to trust herself absolutely to the Saviour for salvation.
And one morning after preaching, I gave an invitation for anyone who desired to do so to come and unite with the church. This woman came to the front seat, and I went down from the pulpit to receive her experience, and tell it to the congregation. Instead of having anything to say to me, she put into my hand just one sheet of paper, and on that paper there were written three stanzas, to me the best presentation of this great doctrine in its proper relations that I have ever seen, in the books or out of them. As I read the paper, I found written upon it these words:
"I sought the Lord, but afterwards I knew
He moved my soul to him who sought for me.
It was not that I found, O Saviour true;
No; I was found of thee.
Thou didst stretch forth thy hand and mine enfold;
I walked and sank not on the storm-vexed sea,
But not so much that I on thee had hold,
As by thy hold on me.
And now I walk, I love; but ah I the whole
Of love is but my answer, Lord, to thee;
Lord, thou wast long beforehand with my soul,
Always thou lovedst me."
And, brethren, is there a man or a woman here who does not realize in his or her experience that this expresses exactly the truth? You thought you came to Christ. You thought you sought the Saviour. You thought you walked. And you did exercise as absolute freedom of the human will as ever you did in any act in all your life. But as the years go by, you have come to feel: "I am what I am by the grace of God."
"I sought the Lord, but afterwards I knew
He moved my soul to him who sought for me."
This is predestination. This is God's agency. This is God's providence over us. But, oh! do not go to splitting hairs over the doctrine. Just fall back on it sometimes in the midst of life's struggles and conflicts as you would fall upon the bosom and into the arms of the infinite Jehovah, and realize that "these little lives of
ours" — Oh, blessed be God! — "these little lives of ours are interwoven with God's eternal purposes."
3. "And whom he predestinated, them he also called." But the apostle goes on. He has not by any means reached the end of his argument. He says, "And whom he predestinated, them he also called." God has taken a great deal of trouble to get us saved. He has been after us through all the years to bring us to salvation. He has sent us his gospel message, and has ordered it to go all the world around. "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature," at home and abroad. The gospel message has been sent to all mankind. But, more than that, he has given the inward and effectual call to every heart that has ever yet accepted Jesus. Not one in all the myriads of the redeemed has ever yet accepted Jesus without this effectual call of the Holy Spirit of God upon the heart. He predestinated us to be conformed to the image of his son, and then he has called us, called us with the outward call, called us with the inward, effectual call. "Whom he predestinated them he also called."
4. And whom he called them he also justified. Here is a still further committal to us on God's part. "Whom he called, them he also justified." There has been a high court held in heaven over the case of each of God's children. And no judge ever sat upon the bench and said to the officer of the court, "Let the prisoner go free" any more truly than God has sat upon the throne of the universe and said: "There is, therefore, now no condemnation," "Let the sinner go free." No condemnation! "Free from the law, oh happy condition." "Whom he hath called, them he hath also justified."
5. And whom he justified, them he also glorified. Why, he has forgotten to use the future tense! No, he did it on purpose. The thing is so absolutely sure that he speaks of it as if it had passed. Whom he called, whom he justified, them he also glorified.
Now, this is the first part of the argument. But only a part. Let us see what the conclusion is from this much. Listen! "What shall we then say to these things?" If these things be true, what shall we say? Why this: "If God be for us who can be against us?" That is his argument. Logic on fire, but logic none the less."If God be for us, who can be against us?"
But this is not all. He has another, and a crowning argument to prove the complete committal of God the Father to every child of his.
6. He spared not his own Son. What he has said before seems strong. But it is as nothing compared to this. So concerned is God for the salvation and welfare of his chosen ones that he actually did not spare his own Son, but delivered him up for us all. O, my soul! If I only knew to-day how to make you all feel, and how to feel myself what it meant to God to give his Son, Jesus Christ, for us, and to spare him not!
There is one passage in the Bible that comes nearer to bringing this to my mind than any other. And that is the passage that my brother read this morning about Abraham being called upon to offer up his only son, Isaac. Did you pay attention to the reading of that chapter? Now think of it: God had promised Abraham years before to give him that child. And Abraham waited until it would seem that faith was past faith and hope was past hope. And at last, when the darkness had become so dense that there was no light in it, then the dawn came, and the boy was given to him. And then God permitted this boy to grow up about his father's knee, from day to day and month to month, until years passed into years, before this test came. Ah, me! It seems to me it would not have been so hard, if God had called upon him to give up his boy when he was an infant. Those of us who have laid our children in the grave know the difference. I have stood over the open grave where three of my children, scarcely two months of age, were laid away. It tore the mother's heart. But those children somehow had not wrought themselves into the father's life. But in the providence of God, the time came when he permitted a sweet little girl to grow up in my home, and about my knee, and in the father's lap, and in the father's arms, year after year, until she was twelve years of age. I used to tell my wife sometimes that in all this wide, wide earth, I should never know a love like that child's love for her father. She was the only father's child in all the family. And yet, after all this, in the wisdom of God, and in his dark, inscrutable providence, he called upon me to give her up.
When she was between twelve and thirteen years of age, I saw her dying daily for four or five months, after the fatal shaft had struck her heart. And, O, ray God! no man and no woman who has not gone through it, knows the agony and the anguish of giving up a child after it has thus wrought itself into the life and into the heart; and when the tendrils have gathered all about us, until they have become a very part of us. That is exactly what God did with Abraham. He let that boy grow up in the home until he was about thirteen years of age, until he had become the joy and pride of the father's heart. And then God came to him one day, and said: "Abraham!" And Abraham said, "Here am I, Lord." And God said: "I want you to take your son, your only son, Isaac, and I want you to go to a place that I will show you, and make an offering of him." Brethren, it was an awful test. I will venture to say he did not tell Sarah that morning where he was going. If he had, there would have been a home scene, and he would hardly have gotten away with the child, unless he had done it with force. For, somehow, for once — so seldom in all the world's history — but for once the woman's faith was not equal to the faith of the man. Well, he got away from home. He took Isaac and went on a three day's journey. And, do you know, it seems to me that made it harder. If it had been a word and a blow and over, it would have been somewhat of a relief to his suffering. But, no: he must travel three whole days by the side of that boy, and hear his childish talk, and answer him, giving no intimation of the suffering that was in his soul, as if nothing of the kind were happening. And then, at the end of the three days, he said to the servants: "Do you stay here, and I and the lad will go yonder and sacrifice." And they start off. I have never read a more pathetic incident in any book, sacred or profane, than that conversation that took place between Abraham and Isaac as they were starting. Isaac looked up into his father's face, and said: "My fattter, behold the fire and the wood, but where is the sacrifice?" And I fancy Abraham must have gulped down a great sigh, and turned his head, as the tears rained down his cheeks, when he said, "My son, God will provide a sacrifice." Brethren, it was awful. But they go to that hill —
a hill which is supposed to be very close to the hill on which Jesus Christ was offered — and there he built an altar. And then Isaac got the first intimation of it, when the father seized him and laid him upon the altar, and bound him, and put forth his hand to take the knife to slay his son. But just as he did this, God called out of heaven and said, "Abraham! Abraham;" And Abraham stopped, and God said, "Harm not the child." And gave him, as a substitute, a ram caught in the bushes.
Now, I suppose that nine-tenths of the people who read that chapter would find something in it about atonement, about substitution. If you do, you won't find it in the sacrifice of Isaac. The doctrine of atonement and the doctrine of substitution are all through the Bible. But I do not believe that that incident of the call on Abraham to offer Isaac was meant to teach the doctrine of substitution or of sacrifice. What was it meant to teach? What did God say when he stopped him? "Now I know that I have exemplified the doctrine of atonement?" Not a word of it. But, "Now I know that thou hast regard for me, seeing that thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me." All of this was the testimony, the crowning testimony, that Abraham gave to God of faith in him and of love for him. This is, to my mind, the meaning of that strange transaction.
And all this is, I think, a type of this of which the apostle speaks of when he says: "He spared not his own Son, but gave him. up for us all."
I see God also moving upon a long journey, with his only begotten Son. He starts upon that journey from the very gates of Paradise, with the first promise of a Redeemer. And side by side he and the Eternal Son move all the way from Paradise to Calvary. They come at last to Gethsemane, and I hear the Saviour say to the disciples: "Do you abide here, and I will go yonder." And going there, he falls down upon his face. He is now also in company with the Father only, and he prays: "O, Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me." But the Father spares him not. And time and time again he prays. And so heavy is the awful load that great drops of bloody sweat oozed from the pores of his skin and dropped upon the ground. Brethren, did you ever think that it was
cold that night? And yet he was sweating drops of blood in his agony of soul. A little while after, on the same night, the strong, vigorous disciples and servants had to have a fire by which to warm themselves. But there was no need of a fire in Gethsemane for heat. For the Saviour's soul was on fire and his skin sweat blood. The Father spared him not. Then, going on from there, he went before Pilate's bar, and through Herod's hall; and a crown of thorns was put upon him and a purple robe. And then came the cross. And he bore it along the Via Dolorosa until he fell beneath it. At last, by the help of another, Calvary is reached, and there they nailed him to the cross — there was no ram caught in the bushes now — and the cross was lifted up and it was dropped into the opening made for it in the ground. And Jesus Christ, the Son of God, hung bleeding and dying upon it. "God spared not his own Son, but gave him up for us all." My brethren, there are some theologians who say that God cannot suffer. I do not know where they get this from. I have a feeling, a deep conviction, that God the Father must inevitably have experienced some feelings when he saw his only Son bleeding on the cross, which he had not had in the infinite beatitude and bliss of his eternal companionship with his Son. I notice our books on theology are very particular to discuss the intellectual faculties of God and his resemblance to men in all points of intellect. I notice they are very careful, also, to speak of the will of God. But have you ever noticed how seldom the books on theology make mention of the emotions of God? But isn't suffering an emotion, and isn't a part of our likeness to God our emotional nature as well as our intellect and our will power? Why, it seems to me as if, when Jesus died on Calvary, all heaven, for the time, must have been draped in mourning; and that the very angels must have swooned as they witnessed the spectacle; and that the great heart of the infinite Father must have been fairly convulsed as he witnessed that spectacle of his own Son dying on Calvary. I would take the shoes off of my feet while I speak on such a theme. I would not claim to know. But oh, my soul! It must have cost God something to give his own Son to die that we should be saved. And yet, says the apostle: "He spared not his
own Son, but gave him up for us all." And then he adds: "How shall he not with him, also, freely give us all things?" What can harm, what can harm for any length of time, when God has done all this for every one who believes in Jesus Christ? And he adds: "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth; who is he that condemneth?
II. THE COMMITTAL OF GOD THE SON.
And now we come to another point . We take up the committal of the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ — the absolute committal of the Son — to every one that believes on him. "It is Christ," he says, "that died." We have a Friend at court in heaven besides the infinite Father. And he loved us enough and he was concerned enough about us, to die for us. He did it of his own will, in the covenant with the Father. He died for you and me. And what one has died for, if he ever has a chance to live again, he will assuredly live for, after he has once died for it.
There are strange and mystic bands woven in the loom of suffering. No bands on this earth are woven so strong as the bands that are woven by suffering. I have sometimes thought that the real explanation of a mother's love, as compared with a father's love, lies largely in this fact. The mother suffers for the child as the father never can. I shall never forget, in my pastorate once, I went into an humble home in the city, and I found there a poor, stricken mother. She had just lost her child. It was a crippled child, possibly eight or ten years of age; and, in the depths of my soul, I could not but feel that it was a great mercy of God that the little child had been taken home. Its parents were as poor as they could be. They lived in what was little better than an alley of the great city. They had none of the comforts of life, and that little thing was a constant sufferer. I never had had any children of my own then. Hence I had never seen any of them suffering. I did not know what it meant to lose a child. I tried to comfort that good woman as well as I could. I said: "Now, my sister, I know it is a hard thing for you to give up your child." Human instinct told me that. "But you know that the little one was a cripple; you know it would always have been a sufferer; you know it
had no future before it in the world but pain and trial. And cannot you feel that the dear little child is safer and better off every way in the arms of Jesus than it could possibly be in your arms?" She said : "Oh ! Mr. Kerfoot, that is what John [her husband] says to me; and the other night, when I was weeping and sobbing in bed, away in the late hours of the night, John turned and said: 'Don't cry. The little child is better off than it could ever have been with us;' and I said: John, you don't know anything about it. You don't know what you are talking about. You never suffered for that child as I did. You never lay awake at night and heard its sobs and moans, and pressed it to your bosom, and felt that every one of them was like a knife in your own heart. Oh, John, don't tell me not to cry. It has torn my very life in two. It has broken my heart. I cannot help crying for my child."
And yet God says: "Shall a mother forget her sucking child, the child of her womb, that she bare? Yea, she may forget, yet will not I forget thee, O Jerusalem. Behold thy name is engraven upon the palms of my hands, and thy walls are ever before me." And of Jesus, the Apostle says he has died for us. "It is Christ that died." But blessed be Gorisen Saviour, and a risen Saviour who has his death to plead for us as he makes his intercession.
I recall now having read a pathetic story in Dr. Robert L. Dabney's Life of Stonewall Jackson, just after the war, which has clung to me through all the years. When that great general, a sort of war-god to his soldiers, and almost the idol of the Southern Confederacy, was shot upon the field at Chancellorsville, and died, he was laid out in state in the rotunda of the capitol at Richmond. All day long the citizens and soldiers passed by, taking their last look at the face of the dead general. At length the sun went down, and the command came to the sentinel that the door should be closed, and that no one else should be admitted. But presently there came along a poor, belated straggler. At his arm there hung a sleeve that was almost empty. He came up, clothed in his
tattered gray, grizzled, if not begrimed, and said to the sentinel: "I want to take a view of General Jackson." The sentinel told him that the orders had come that the doors should be closed, and that no one could enter. The soldier, soldier though he was, and knowing what orders meant to soldiers, pleaded with the sentinel to let him see the face of his chieftain. The sentinel, of course, had to be firm, until at last the poor man, in his desperation, lifting what remained of his arm, and shaking his empty sleeve, said: "By this arm, which I lost upon the field of battle, as I followed my general, I demand to see his face again before he is buried forever from my sight." Brethren, that was a mighty plea. The soldier had to obey his orders. But it was a tremendous plea; and if ever a sentinel would have been justified in yielding to a plea, it seems to me that man would. But we have the Lord Jesus Christ to intercede for us. He is at God's right hand, and a mighty and all prevailing plea he has.
"Five bleeding wounds he bears,
Received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers —
They strongly plead for me."
This is our assurance, Oh, blessed be God! God the Father is committed. Jesus Christ tho Son is committed. The Holy Spirit is committed.
And now hear the apostle as he draws a conclusion at this point: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" Did you ever read this chapter in its connection? Listen! "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" This is his conclusion from that argument. What is there under the sun that God is going to let permanently harm his people? What shall separate us? Nothing! Absolutely nothing! It cannot be that God the Father and God the Son, thus committed to us, are going to let anything harm us. All things must work together for good to them that love God.
But just here comes an apparent flaw in the argument. And before the final inference is drawn, the apostle must pause to notice it. What about all of these tribulations that are allowed to come upon
God's people. They oftentimes have tribulation on tribulation. He knew that this thought would force itself upon some who read; and so, when he asks them plainly the question, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" He also asks, "Shall tribulation, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" "Ah!" he says, "it does look that way sometimes. Why, people have written about it, and one has said: 'We are led like sheep to the slaughter. We are killed all the day long.' And they have asked, 'Why this tribulation? Why do God's people have to suffer so? Why these afflictions? Why all this trouble that comes?'" Paul was willing, in his argument, to face all these. Thank God, he was no dodger, he was willing to meet the issue.
There are some ministers who are tempted sometimes to get young people into their churches on the idea that they are going to have a better time after becoming Christians than they ever had before — even in this world. They talk as if one might be borne to heaven "on flowery beds of ease." I would rather let my arm fall from its socket, and my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth than try to get anyone to come into a church of Jesus Christ on the idea that he is going to be free from tribulation, and have a better time with respect to this world than he could have outside of the church. I know that "godliness is profitable in all things, having the promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come." But, brethren, in the promise of "the life that now is," it does not mean exemption from suffering. It does not mean exemption from pain. No! no! For I read in the book of Revelation that when that great day shall come and the mighty hosts shall be gathered, and all the redeemed shall be clothed in white, and the question is asked: "Who are these arrayed in white?" the answer shall be: "These are they that have come up out of great tribulation" — great tribulation — "having their robes washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb."
Many a time has a Christian, like old Jacob, been compelled to say, "All these things are against me." Many a time have God's people been compelled to say: "Who is sufficient for these things?" Sometimes burdens are so heavy that it does seem as if death were
a thousand times sweeter than life. Tribulation, and persecution, and famine, and nakedness, and peril, and sword; sufferings by land, and sufferings by sea, and sufferings from false brethren, and sufferings from enemies, and sufferings everywhere. O, God! what a world of suffering is this! Suffering for God's people as well as for others. And sometimes for these children of God the furnaces are heated seven times hotter.
But did that break Paul's logic? No! no! He piles it up and then mounts upon it and rises to higher things. What does he say? Listen! "In all these things we shall be more than conquerors through him that loved us." This is the way in which he meets the objection. As one has said: Paul seems to have been familiar with a scene that often occurred in the city of Rome. The great armies of Rome were sent out on a long campaign. There were terrible enemies they had to meet. They met these enemies in the marshes and the swamps and in the dense forests and thickets, and crossing the rivers, and everywhere; and many a brave Roman soldier went down before these terrible foes. And many a battle seemed lost. And oftentimes the men found themselves hundreds of miles from home, appalled by the dangers and difficulties of the campaign, and some of the bravest lost heart. They were ready to give up. But they followed their general; they obeyed their orders; they were willing to die in their tracks, if their country demanded it. At last victory perched upon their banners; their conquests were magnificent. And then, when the campaign was over, they turned their faces homeward, with their tattered banners, to be welcomed by their country. And now again they have crossed the plains and the sea, they have come into Italy; they are outside of the Imperial City; the word has been passed along, days before, that the army is returning; everything is ready to receive them. The flags are flying from every house, and from every place where a flag could be displayed. The triumphal arch has been built just inside the gate; in the morning the victorious hosts will enter. And when, at last, the morning comes, the troops march through under the triumphal arch and into the streets of the city, amid the acclaim of ten thousand and thousands of people, who line the streets, and
from as many more who watch from the windows and the housetops. But as these old battle-scarred veterans marched down the streets of Rome towards the Capitol, and the people are shouting themselves hoarse, there is witnessed a strange spectacle. Look yonder! What does it mean? See those ragged, dirty-looking men, a great column of them, marching, with chains upon their wrists. What does it mean? Why those men are prisoners who have been captured on the battlefield; and they have been brought to Rome; and now, as the triumphant army moves into the city, these prisoners are displayed between the ranks, to swell the grandeur of their entry. These are the men who once threatened to destroy. But now they are chained, captives in the Eternal City, and all power to hurt is gone.
And so, brethren, these things that press upon us, these dangers, these difficulties, this tribulation and persecution — ah, some of God's people over in China know even now what persecution and famine and nakedness and peril and sword mean; and we, too, all have our burdens; we have all bent beneath them, and said: "Who is sufficient for these things?" and "All these things are against us," but brethren, brethren, the apostle says these things shall not separate us from the love of Christ, they shall only help to swell the triumph at the end of it all. They shall make the victory more complete and glorious. "In all these things we are more than conquerers through him that loved us."
And now he comes to the great climax. He has reached the highest point. In anticipation of the triumphal entry of God's redeemed hosts, into the city which is indeed eternal, in sight, as it were, of the glories of the New Jerusalem, almost in hearing of the acclaim of God's heavenly hosts, standing upon this Mont Blanc Summit of all the Bible, he exclaims: "For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any created thing, shall separate us from the love which God has for us in Christ Jesus." Here he pauses. Here he rests his argument. Has he not made good his point? Has he not proved that all things work together for good to them that love God?" If he
has not, then there is nothing in logic to convince, nor anything in speech to persuade.
And what shall I say more? Do we need to say more? Can we not plant ourselves beside the apostle on this mountain peak? Can we not say: We, too, are persuaded that neither life, nor death, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any created thing shall separate us from the love which God has for us in Christ Jesus? Thank God for this old eighth chapter of Romans. Let us plant ourselves upon it anew. Let us try to live by it as we have never done before. Let us believe in God's eternal, unchangeable love. Let us believe that nothing can separate us from that love; but that all thingc. shall somehow work for our good. And one thing more, brethren, this old eighth chapter of Romans will do to die by as well as to live by. God will not forsake us in death any more than in life. Nothing shall separate us from his love then. I commend to you the example of the old Scotch Christian as he faced the last great enemy. He lay upon his couch dying. His children were gathered about him. The supreme moment had come. He said to one of his children, "Bring me the Book." They say, "Which book, father?" And he said, "The Bible, the Bible; there is but one Book now." And they brought him the Bible. And then he said: "Turn to the eighth chapter of Romans." And they turned to this chapter. Then he said: "Put my fingers on the thirty-eighth and thirty-ninth verses." And they took his long, wasted fingers, and laid them gently on the thirty-eighth and thirty-ninth verses; and then he added: "My children, I took breakfast with you this morning; to-night I shall take supper with the Lord on high, 'For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any created thing, shall be able to separate me from the love which God has for me in Christ Jesus.'"
[From Henry T. Lothan, editor, The American Baptist Pulpit at the Beginning of the Twentieth Century, 1903, pp. 733-751. Document from Google Books. — jrd]
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