on Romans 8 :39
Nor height - of honor, nor depth - of ignominy, nor any other creature, ουτε τις κτισις ετερα, (nor any other thing whatever), shall be able to separate us, who love God, from the love of God, which he has vouchsafed to us in Christ Jesus. See Whitby. And for farther observations on the subject of the 29th and 30th verses, see at the end of the chapter, (the following notes).
1. The confidence expressed by the apostle at the end of this chapter, is as rational as it is bold. On the premises laid down by him, in reference to which he has most logically conducted his whole argument, the conclusion to which he arrives is as natural and forcible as it is legitimate. The permanency of the Christian Church, in all the tribulations it has endured from pagans and papists, is a full proof of the correctness of the apostle's reasoning. The true followers of Christ can never be forsaken by him. And his Church, which is founded on the rock, can never be shaken down by the tempests of persecution. And what God does for his Church in general, (the collective body of those who believe in the Lord Jesus, love, and obey him), he does for every individual in that body: no man that trusts in him can be confounded. While the love of God is in his heart, and the work of God in his hand, he may be as fully persuaded as he is of his own being, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other thing whatsoever, shall be able to separate him from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. The reader who has any knowledge of what is great, commanding, and sublime in composition, will not hesitate to add here, with Dr. Taylor: "The conclusion of this chapter is the most elegant and sublime piece of writing I remember ever to have read. It is founded on the grand and solid principles of the Gospel; it breathes the true spirit of Christian magnanimity; raises our minds far above all things created; and shows, in a bright and heavenly view, the greatness of soul and the strong consolation which the Gospel inspires. God grant that it may stand clear before our understandings, and be transcribed into all our hearts! They who despise the Gospel despise all that is great, and happy, and glorious!"
2. The doctrine of the necessity of personal holiness, so clearly and strongly laid down in the former part of this chapter, should be deeply considered by every person professing godliness; and while from the seventh chapter they learn that they have an infected and morally diseased nature, they should learn from the eighth that to destroy the work of the devil was Jesus Christ manifested; and that no soul can be said to be saved by Jesus Christ who is not saved from its sins. What a full proof is it of the fallen state of man, that there should be found persons professing Christianity more fervent in their pleadings for the necessary continuance of indwelling sin, than they are for the mind that was in Christ. The seventh chapter, because there are some expressions which, being misunderstood, seem to favor this doctrine, is read and incessantly quoted: the eighth chapter, though given by the same inspiration, yet because it so strongly shows the necessity of being saved from all sin, is seldom read and scarcely ever quoted!
3. The restoration of the brute creation to a state of happiness has been thought by several to be the doctrine of Romans 8:19-25. In the notes on those verses I have given reasons against this opinion, and have proved that the Gentiles, and not the irrational part of the creation, are the persons of whom the apostle speaks; nor can any consistent interpretation be given of the place, if it be applied to the brute creation. But, although this doctrine is not contained in the above verses, it does not follow that the doctrine itself is not true. Indeed, there are several reasons which render the supposition very probable.
1. The brute creation never sinned against God, nor are they capable of it, and consequently cannot be justly liable to punishment.
2. But the whole brute creation is in a state of suffering, and partake of the common infirmities and privations of life, as well as mankind: they suffer, but who can say that they suffer justly?
3. As they appear to be necessarily involved in the sufferings of sinful man, and yet neither through their fault nor their folly, it is natural to suppose that the Judge of all the earth, who ever does right, will find some means by which these innocent creatures shall be compensated for their sufferings.
4. That they have no compensation here, their afflictions, labors, and death prove; and if they are to have any compensation, they must have it in another state.
5. God, the fountain of all goodness, must have originally designed them for that measure of happiness which is suited to the powers with which he had endowed them; but, since the fall of man, they never had that happiness; and, in their present circumstances, never can.
6. In reference to intelligent beings, God has formed his purposes in reference to their happiness on the ground of their rational natures. He has decreed that they shall be happy if they will, all the means of it being placed within their power; and, if they be ultimately miserable, it is the effect of their own unconstrained choice. Therefore his purpose is fulfilled, either in their happiness or misery; because he has purposed that they shall be happy if they please, and that misery shall be the result of their refusal.
7. But it does not appear that the brute creation are capable of this choice; and it is evident that they are not placed in their present misery through either their choice or their sin; and if no purpose of God can be ultimately frustrated, these creatures must be restored to that state of happiness for which they have been made, and of which they have been deprived through the transgression of man.
8. To say that the enjoyments which they have in this life are a sufficient compensation, is most evidently false; for, had not sin entered into the world, they would have had much greater enjoyments, without pain, excessive labor and toil, and without death, and all those sufferings which arise from its predisposing causes. Nor does it appear that they have much happiness from eating, drinking, and rest, as they have these only in the proportion in which they are necessary to their existence as the slaves of men. Therefore, allowing that they have even gratification and enjoyment in life, they have much less than they would have had had not sin entered into the world; and consequently they have been deprived of the greater portion of the happiness designed for them by their bountiful Creator.
9. It is therefore obvious that the gracious purpose of God has not been fulfilled in them; and that, as they have not lost their happiness through their own fault, both the beneficence and justice of God are bound to make them a reparation.
10. Hence it is reasonable to conclude that, as from the present constitution of things they cannot have the happiness designed for them in this state, they must have it in another.
on Romans 8 :39
Nor height - This has been variously understood. Some have regarded it as referring to evil spirits in the air; others, to high and lofty speculation in doctrine; others, to heaven - to all that is in heaven. I regard it here as a synonymous with prosperity, honor, elevation in this life. The meaning is, that "no possible circumstances" in which Christians could be placed, though surrounded with wealth, honor, splendor, and though elevated to rank and function, could alienate them from the love of Christ. The tendency of these things to alienate the mind, to engross the affections, and to occupy the time, all know; but the apostle says that even these would not be sufficient to withdraw their strong love from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Nor depth - Nor the lowest circumstances of depression, poverty, contempt, and want; the very lowest rank of life.
Nor any other creature - Nor any other created thing; any other thing in the universe; anything that can occur. This expresses the most unwavering confidence that all who were Christians would certainly continue to love the Lord Jesus, and be saved.
Shall be able - Shall have power to do it. The love to Christ is stronger than any influence which they can exert on the mind.
The love of God - The love which we have to God.
Which is in Christ Jesus - Which is produced and secured by his work. Of which he is the bond, the connecting link. It was caused by his mediation; it is secured by his influence; it is in and through him, and him alone, that people love God. There is no true love of God which is not produced by the work of Christ. There is no man who truly loves the Father, who does not do it in, and by the Son.
Perhaps there is no chapter in the Bible on the whole so interesting and consoling to the Christian as this; and there certainly is not to be found any where a specimen of more elevated, animated, and lofty eloquence and argumentation. We may remark in view of it,
(1) That it is the highest honor that can be conferred on mortal man to be a Christian.
(2) our trials in this life are scarcely worth regarding in comparison with our future glory.
(3) calamities should be borne without a complaint; nay, without a sigh.
(4) the Christian has every possible security for his safety. The purposes of God, the work of Christ, the aid of the Holy Spirit, and the tendency of all events under the direction of his Father and Friend, conspire to secure his welfare and salvation.
(5) with what thankfulness, then, should we approach the God of mercy.
In the gospel, we have a blessed and cheering hope which nothing else can produce, and which nothing can destroy. Safe in the hands of God our Redeemer, we may commit our way to him, whether it lead through persecutions, or trials, or sickness, or a martyr's grave: and triumphantly we may wait until the day of our complete adoption, the entire redemption of soul and body, shall fully come.
on Romans 8 :39