On All Things Being Given Us with Christ
by John Newton
"He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" Romans 8:32
Various have been the disputes and various the mistakes of men, concerning the things of God. Too often, amidst the heat of fierce contending parties, TRUTH is injured by both sides, befriended by neither. Religion, the pretended cause of our many controversies, is sometimes wholly unconcerned in them: I mean, that "pure and undefiled religion," that "wisdom which, coming from above," abounds with proof of its Divine original, being "pure, peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good works, without partiality, and without hypocrisy," James 3. True religion is a serious and a personal concern. It arises from a right knowledge of God and ourselves; a sense of the great things he has done for fallen man; a persuasion, or at least a well-grounded hope, of our own interest in his favor; and a principle of unbounded love to him who thus first loved us. It consists in an entire surrender of ourselves, and our all, to God; in setting him continually before us, as the object of our desires, the scope and inspector of our actions, and our only refuge and hope in every trouble: finally, in making the goodness of God to us the motive and model of our behavior to our fellow-creatures: to love, pity, relieve, instruct, forbear, and forgive them, as occasions offer, because we ourselves both need and experience these things at the hand of our heavenly Father.
The two great points to which true religion tends, and which it urges the soul, where it has taken place, incessantly to press after, are, communion with God, and conformity to him; and as neither of these can be fully attained in this life, it teaches us to pant after a better life; to withdraw our thoughts and affections from temporal things, and fix them on that eternal state, where our desires shall be abundantly satisfied; and the work begun by grace—shall be crowned with glory!
Such is the religion of the Gospel, which the life and doctrine of our Lord, and the writings of his Apostles, jointly recommend. An excellent abridgment of the whole we have in this eighth chapter to the Romans, describing the state, temper, practice, privileges, and immovable security, of a true Christian. Every verse is rich in comfort and instruction, and might, without violence, afford a theme for volumes. Particularly, that verse which I have read may be styled a complete and comprehensive epitome of whatever is truly worthy our knowledge and our hope. The limits of our time are too narrow to admit any previous remarks on the context, or indeed to consider the subject according to the order of an exact division. Therefore I shall not at present use any artificial method; but, taking the words as they lie, I shall offer a few practical observations, which seem naturally and immediately to arise from the perusal of them, making such improvement as may occur as I go along. And may the Father of mercies, who has put this treasure into our hands, favor us with his gracious presence and blessing.
I.From the words, "He spared not his own Son," we may observe, in one view, the wonderful goodness and inflexible severity of God. So great was his goodness, that, when man was by sin rendered incapable of any happiness, and obnoxious to all misery; incapable of restoring himself, or of receiving the least assistance from any power in heaven or in earth; God spared not his only begotten Son—but, in his unparalleled love to the world, gave him, who alone was able to repair the breach. Every gift of God is good: the bounties of his common providence are very valuable; that he should continue life, and supply that life with food, clothing, and a variety of comforts, to those who by rebellion had forfeited all, was astonishing! But what are all inferior blessings, compared to this unspeakable gift of the Son of his love?
Abraham had given many proofs of his love and obedience before he was commanded to offer up Isaac upon the altar; but God seems to pass by all that went before, as of small account in comparison of this last instance of duty: "Now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me," Genesis 22. Surely we likewise must say, "In this was manifested the love of God to us—that he gave his Son, his only Son, to be the life of the world." But all comparison fails: Abraham was bound in duty, bound by gratitude; neither was it a free-will offering—but by the express command of God; but to us the mercy was undesired, as well as undeserved. "Herein is love—not that we loved God;" on the contrary, we were enemies to him, and in rebellion against him, "but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins," the sins we had committed against himself. My friends, ought not this love to meet a return? Is it not most desirable to be able to say, with the Apostle, upon good grounds, "We love him—because he first loved us?" Should it not be our continual inquiry, "What shall we render to the Lord—for all his benefits?" especially for this, which is both the crown and the spring of all the rest! Are we cold and unaffected at this astonishing proof of Divine love? and are not our hearts grieved and humbled at our own ingratitude? Then are we ungrateful and insensible indeed!
The justice and severity of God is no less conspicuous than his goodness, in these words: "as he spared not to give his Son for our sakes," so, when Christ appeared in our nature, undertook our cause, and was charged with our sins, though he was the Father's well-beloved Son, "he was not spared." He drank the bitter cup of the wrath of God to the very dregs: he bore all the shame, sorrow, and pain, all the distress of body and mind, that must otherwise have fallen upon our heads. His whole life, from the manger to the cross—was one series of humiliation and suffering. Consider him in the wilderness—given up to the power and assaulted by the temptations of the devil! Observe him in the world—despised, vilified, persecuted even to death, by unreasonable and wicked men; ridiculed, buffeted, spit upon; and at length nailed to the accursed tree! Behold him in the garden, and say, "Was ever sorrow like unto his sorrow, with which the Lord afflicted him in the day of his fierce anger?"
How inconceivable must that agony be, which caused his blood to forsake its usual channels, and drop from every pore of his body! Behold him, lastly, upon the cross, suffering the most painful and ignominious death; suspended between two thieves; surrounded by cruel enemies, who made sport of his pangs; derided by all who passed by! Attend to his dolorous cry, expressive of an inward distress beyond all we have yet spoken of, "My God, my God—why have you forsaken me!"
Paul reminds the Galatians, that, by his preaching among them, Jesus Christ had been "evidently set forth crucified before their eyes." The punishment due to the sins of all that shall stand at the last day on the right hand of God, met and centered in Christ, the Lamb of expiation; nor was the dreadful weight removed until he, triumphant in death, pronounced "It is finished!" Let us not think of this as a matter of speculation only; our lives, our precious souls, are concerned in it. Let us infer from hence, how "fearful a thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God!" The Apostle Peter admonishes those to whom he wrote from the fearful example of the angels who sinned, and of the old world; where the same word is used as in my text, "he spared them not;" that is, he punished them to the utmost; he did not afford them the least mitigation. It is a frequent figure of speech, by which much more is understood than is or can be expressed.
Much more then may we say, if God "spared not his Son—what shall be the end of those who obey not the Gospel?" If the holy Jesus was thus dealt with, when he was only accounted a sinner by imputation, where shall the impenitent and the ungodly appear? The punishment of sin in the soul in a future state is twofold: the wrath of God in all its dreadful effects, typified by fire unquenchable; and the stings of conscience, represented by a worm that never dies. Our Lord endured the former; but the other, perhaps, could have no place in him, who was absolutely perfect and sinless. But if the prospect of one made him astonished and sorrowful beyond measure, what consternation must the concurrence of both raise in the wicked, when they shall hear and feel their irrevocable doom! May we have grace so to reflect on these things, that we may flee for safety to the hope set before us, to Jesus Christ, the only and the sure refuge from that approaching storm, which "shall sweep away all the workers of iniquity as a flood."
II.Here, as in a looking-glass, we may see the evil of sin. The bitter fruits of sin are indeed visible everywhere. Sin is the cause of all the labor, sickness, pain, and grief under which the whole creation groans. Sin often makes man a terror and a burden, both to himself and those about him. Sin occasions discord and confusion in families, cities, and kingdoms. Sin has always directed the march, and ensured the success, of those instruments of Divine vengeance, whom we style mighty conquerors. Those ravages of mankind, which spread devastation and horror far and wide, and ruin more in a few days than ages can repair, have only afforded so many melancholy proofs of the malignity of sin. For sin, a shower of flaming brimstone fell upon a whole country. For sin, an overwhelming deluge destroyed a whole world. For sin, principalities and powers were cast down from heaven, and are reserved under chains of darkness, to a more dreadful doom. But none of these things, nor all of them together, afford such a conviction of the heinous nature and destructive effects of sin, as we may gather from these words, "He spared not his own Son!"
III.Here we may likewise see the value of the human soul. We ordinarily judge of the worth of a thing—by the price which a wise man, who is acquainted with its intrinsic value, is willing to give for it. Now, the soul of man was of such estimation in the sight of God, who made it, that, when it was sinking into endless ruin, "he spared not his own Son—but freely delivered him for our ransom." Two things especially render the soul thus important in the view of Infinite Wisdom:
First, the capacity he had given it; for "he formed it for himself," capable of knowing, serving, and enjoying God; and, by consequence, incapable of happiness in anything beneath him; for nothing can satisfy any being but the attainment of its proper end.
Secondly, the duration he had assigned it, beyond the limits of time, and the existence of the material world. The most excellent and exalted being, if only the creature of a day, would be worthy of little regard. On the other hand, immortality itself would be of small value to a creature that could rise no higher than the pursuits of animal life. But in the soul of man the capability of complete happiness or complete misery, and that forever, make it a prize worthy the contention of worlds!
At length the Word of God appeared "in the likeness of sinful flesh," that, in our nature, he might encounter and subdue sin, the sworn enemy of our species. All that has been transacted in the kingdoms of providence and grace, from the beginning of the world, has been in subservience to this grand point—the redemption of the deathless soul.
And is it so—and shall there be found among us numbers utterly insensible of their natural dignity; who dare disparage the plan of Infinite Wisdom, and stake those souls for trifles—souls which nothing less than the blood of Christ could redeem? There is need to use great plainness of speech; the matter is of the utmost weight; be not therefore offended that I would warn you against "the deceitfulness of sin." Do not allow your hearts to be entangled in the vanities of the world; either they will fail, and disappoint you in life—or at least you must leave them behind you when you die. You must enter an invisible unknown state, where you cannot expect to meet any of those amusements or engagements which you now find so necessary to trifle away the tedious load of time that hangs upon your hands. You, to whom a few hours of leisure time are so burdensome, have you considered how you shall be able to support an eternity of time in hell? You stand upon a brink, and all about you is uncertainty. You see, of your acquaintances, some one or another daily called away—some who are as likely to live as yourselves. You know not but you may be the very next. You cannot be certain—but "You fool—this very night your soul may be required of you!" Perhaps a few hours may introduce you into the presence of that God whom you have been so little desirous to please. And can you, in such a situation, sport and play, with as little concern as the lamb already marked out for the slaughter tomorrow? Oh! That is astonishing! How fatally has the god of this world has blinded your eyes! and how dreadful must your situation be in death—if death alone can undeceive you!
IV.Lastly, We may gather from these words the certainty of the Gospel salvation. God himself delivered up his Son for us all. He declared himself well pleased with him, as our Surety, upon his first entrance on his work; and testified his acceptance of his undertaking, in that he raised him from the dead, and received him into heaven as our Advocate. Now, "if God himself is thus for us—who can be against us?" If he who only has right to judge us—is pleased to justify us, "who can lay anything to our charge? If Christ who has died for our sins, and has risen on our behalf—has engaged to "intercede for us, who shall condemn?" "There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus."
Nor is this all; but everything we stand in need of is fully provided; and we may well argue, as the Apostle has taught us elsewhere, "If when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life," or, as in the passage before us, "He who spared not his own Son—but delivered him up for us all," when we were alienated from him, "how shall he not with him freely give us all things," now he has taught us to pray, and given us his own promises to plead for all we ask?
This brings me to the second clause of the text; only it may be proper, before I enter upon it, to add two cautions, to prevent mistakes from what has been already said.
1st, Let us remember that all is free gift. He gave his Son—he gives all things with him. The Gospel allows no place for merit of our own in any respect. There was no moving cause in us, unless our misery may is deemed such. Our deliverance, in its rise, progress, and accomplishment, must be ascribed to grace alone; and he who would glory, must "glory in the Lord."
2d, Let us observe the Apostle's phrase. He says, not absolutely for all—but for us all; that is, those who are described in the former part of the chapter, "who are led by the Spirit of God, who walk not after the flesh, who are delivered from the bondage of corruption," who have liberty to call God, "Abba, Father," and prove their relation by following him as "dear children." Christ is "the author of eternal salvation, only to those only who obey him," Hebrews 5:14. It cannot be otherwise, since a branch of that salvation is to deliver us "from our sins," and "from the present evil world," to "purify us from dead works, to serve the living God." "Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows—he will also reap. He who sows to the flesh, shall," notwithstanding all that Christ has done or suffered, yes so much the rather, "from the flesh reap corruption."
The text, having declared that God spared not his Son for
our sakes, proceeds to infer, that "with him he will assuredly give us
all things." Here we may take notice, first, that the words all
things must be limited to such as are needful and good for us. It may be
said of many of our desires, "You know not what you ask for," in such cases,
the best answer we can receive, is a denial. For those blessings
which God has promised absolutely to give, such as pardon, grace, and
eternal life, we cannot be too earnest or explicit in our prayers; but in
temporal things we should be careful to ask nothing but with submission
to the Divine will. The promises, it is true, appertain to "the life that
now is, as well as that which is to come." "Whether things present, or
things to come; all are ours, if we are Christ's." But the particular giving
of these things, God has reserved in his own hands, to bestow them as best
shall suit our various tempers, abilities, and occasions. And well for us
that it is so—for we would soon ruin ourselves if left to our own choice.
Like children who are fond to meddle with what would hurt them—but refuse
the most beneficial medicines, if unpalatable; so we often pursue, with
earnestness and anxiety, those things which, if we could obtain them, would
greatly harm, if not destroy, us! Often, too, with a rash and blind
impatience, we struggle to avoid or escape those difficulties which
God sees fit to appoint for the most gracious and merciful purposes:
to correct our pride and vanity,
to exercise and strengthen our faith,
to wean us from the world,
to teach us a closer dependence upon himself, and
to awaken our desires after our glorious inheritance.
Again; as God, by his promise freely to give us all things, has not engaged to comply with the measure of our unreasonable short-sighted wishes; so neither has he confined himself as to the time or manner of bestowing his gifts. The blessing we seek, though perhaps not wholly improper, may be at present unseasonable. In this case, the Lord will suspend it until he sees it will afford us the comfort and satisfaction he intends us by it—and then we shall be sure to have it. Sometimes it is withheld to stir us up to fervency and importunity in our prayers, sometimes to make it doubly welcome and valuable when it comes.
So likewise as to the manner. We ask for a certain thing—and he gives us an equivalent in something else; and when we come to weigh all things, we see cause to say that his choice was best! Thus David acknowledges: "In the day that I called, you answered me, and strengthened me with strength in my soul," Psalm 138:1-8. David asked for deliverance from trouble; the Lord gave him strength to bear it; and he says that his prayer was fully answered.
A parallel case the Apostle records: he besought the Lord three times for the removal of that trial which he calls "a thorn in the flesh." The answer he received was, "My grace is sufficient for you." Such an assurance of God's grace, was more valuable than the deliverance he sought could be.
Sometimes we seek a thing in a way of our own, by means and instruments of our own devising. God crosses our feeble purposes, that he may give us the pleasure of receiving it immediately from himself. It would be easy to enlarge on this head. Let it suffice us to know, that our concerns are in his hands who "does all things well;" and who will, and does, appoint "all things to work together for our good."
From the latter clause, thus limited and explained, many useful directions might be drawn. I shall only mention two or three, and conclude.
1st, Since we are told, that God freely gives us all things—let us learn to see and acknowledge his hand in all we have, and in all we meet with."Not even a sparrow, worth only half a penny, can fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father! And the very hairs on your head are all numbered!" Matthew 10:29-30. Such a deep and abiding persuasion of the Most High God, ordering, and over-ruling all our concerns, would—like the light—diffuse a luster and a beauty upon everything around us. To consider every comfort of life, as an effect and proof of God's favor towards us, would, like the fabled magic stone—turn all our possessions to gold, and stamp a value upon things which a common eye might judge insignificant.
The eye of Divine Providence is upon every sparrow of the field. Nor can we properly term any circumstance of our lives as small, since such things as seem most trifling in themselves, do often give birth to those which become most important. On the other hand—to be able to discover the wisdom and goodness of our heavenly Father, through the darkest cloud of troubles and afflictions; to see all our trials appointed to us, in number, weight, and measure; nothing befalling us by chance, nothing without need, nothing without a support, nothing without a designed advantage—what a support must these truths be to the soul!
Take away these, and man is the most forlorn, helpless, miserable object in the world; pining for everything he has not, trembling for everything he has; equally suffering under the pressure of what does happen, and the fear of what may happen; liable to thousands of unsuspected dangers, yet unable to guard against those which are most obvious!
Were there no future life, it would be our interest to be truly and uniformly religious, in order to make the most of this life. How unhappy must they be to whom the thoughts of an ever present God is a burden they strive, in vain, to shake off! But let us learn "to acknowledge him in all our ways," and then "he will direct and bless our paths."
2nd, Since all we have is the gift of God, let us learn the secret of being content in any and every situation.Our heavenly Father knows what we have need of, before we ask him." "The earth is his, and the fullness thereof;" and his goodness is equal to his power; a proof of which we have in the text. He has already given us more than ten thousand worlds.
Are you poor? Be satisfied with the Lord's appointment. It were as easy to him to give you large estates, as to supply you with the bread you eat, or to continue your breath in your nostrils; but he sees that poverty is best for you—he sees that prosperity might prove your ruin! Therefore he has appointed you the honor of being in this respect, conformable to your Lord, who, when on earth, "had nowhere to lay his head!"
Have any of you lost a dear friend or relative, in whose life you thought your own lives bound up? "Be still, and know that he is God!" It was God who gave you that friend; his blessing made your friend a comfort to you; and though the stream is now cut off—the fountain is still full. Do not be like a wild bull in a net! The Lord has many ways to turn your mourning into joy.
Are any of you sick? Think how the compassionate Jesus healed diseases with a word, in the days of his flesh. Has he not the same power now—as then? Has he not the same love? Has he, in his exalted state, forgotten his poor languishing people here below? No! He still retains his sympathy: "he is touched with a feeling of our infirmities; he knows our frame; he remembers we are but dust!" It is because sickness is better for you than health, that he thus visits you. He dealt in the same manner with Lazarus, whom he loved. Resign yourselves, therefore, to his wisdom, and repose in his love. There is a land where the blessed inhabitant shall no more say, "I am sick," and there "all who love the Lord Jesus" shall shortly be.
Are any of you tempted? "Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love him!" Sure you need no other argument to be content, or, shall I say? to rejoice, and be exceeding glad. "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son." Be it in poverty or losses, in body or mind, in your own person or another's, it is all appointed by God, and shall issue in your great benefit, if you are of the number of those that love him.
3rd, Since it is said that all things are freely given us in and together with Christ, let us "give all diligence to make our calling and election sure."Let us give diligence to know that we have an interest in him and his mediation; and then (if I may borrow a common expression) we are made forever! The Lord Jesus Christ, sent from God on a merciful errand to a lost world, did not come empty—no, he is fraught with all blessings, suitable to all people, extending to all times, enduring to all eternity! O make it your great care to know him and to please him; study his Word, call upon his name, frequent his ordinances, observe his sayings, seek to know him as the only way to God—the way to pardon, peace, and Divine communion here, and to complete happiness hereafter. When once you can say, "My beloved is mine!" —I account all his interest my own. "And I am his," —I have given myself up to him without reserve; then you will, you must be happy. You will be a partaker in all the blessings of all his attributes and perfections. His wisdom will be your high tower, his providence your constant shield, his love your continual solace. "He will give his angels charge over you to keep you in all your ways."
In times of difficulty—he will direct your counsels; in times of danger—he will fill you with comfort, and "keep" you "in perfect peace," when others quake for fear. He will bless your basket and your store, your substance and your families. Your days shall happily pass in doing your Father's will, and receiving renewed tokens of his favor; and at night you shall lie down, and your sleep shall be sweet. When afflictions befall you (for these likewise are the fruits of God's love), you shall see your God near at hand, "a very present help in trouble;" you shall find your strength increased in proportion to your trial; you shall in due time be restored, as gold from the furnace, purified sevenfold, to praise your great Deliverer.
Everything you meet in life shall yield you profit; and death, which puts a fatal end to the hope of the wicked—death, at whose name thousands turn pale—shall to you be an entrance into a new and endless life! He who tasted death for you, and sanctified it to you, shall lead and support you through that dark valley! You shall shut your eyes upon the things of time—to open them the next moment in the blissful presence of your reconciled God! You, who a minute before were surrounded by weeping, helpless friends—shall in an instant be transported and inspired to join in that glorious song, "To Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and has made us kings and priests to God and his Father! To him be glory and strength, forever and ever. Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing!" Thus, "blessed shall the man be—who fears the Lord!" "Thus shall it be done—to him whom the King delights to honor!" Amen.!