Yes, "Paean." The shout of victory, similar to what Israel raised of old amid the palms of the Arabian shore, when Miriam and her sisterhood of minstrels awoke timbrel and harp over the submerged hosts of Pharaoh, and they sang of Him who had triumphed gloriously, casting the horse and his rider into the depths of the sea. The believer, too, with the consciousness of every spiritual foe vanquished--the legion-hosts of Satan discomfited--death itself, the last enemy, left a discrowned and unsceptred king--can exclaim, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For Your sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us" (v. 35, 36, 37).

Moses, the ideal chief and legislator, was, after all, human--"compassed with infirmity." By reason of that infirmity neither he nor Aaron were permitted to conduct the pilgrim multitude into the land of promise. In both cases, in answer to the question, "Who shall separate?" Mount Nebo and Mount Hor were ready with a doleful reply. But Christ "is counted worthy of more glory than Moses." "This Man, because he continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood." Israel, in crossing the Jordan with their final burst of praise, had to mourn the withdrawal of both their venerated leaders. But the Christian, amid the manifold chequered scenes of his wilderness journey, yes, on the banks of the typical Jordan itself, can utter the challenge regarding his Lawgiver, Priest, and King--"Who shall separate from the love of Christ?"

With the special enumeration of trials and afflictions here given, in v. 36, we cannot doubt that the Apostle had again very specially his Roman converts in view. Too faithfully had coming events cast their shadows before. Already, if Nero's most ferocious edicts had not yet gone forth, there were abundant indications that the storm-cloud would before long burst. His unscrupulous tribunals and lying witnesses and flagrant miscarriage of justice were the tremors preceding the earthquake which was to wreck (if human daring or diabolical wilfulness could succeed in wrecking) the fortunes of the early church. But the imperial savage had to reckon with a stronger than he--"The Lion of the tribe of Judah." The terror inspired by the one had its triumphant counterpoise in the power and love of the other. In spite of of barbarous cruelties--hecatombs of dead and dying, there were those who, even in their dungeons of despair, could cheer themselves and their fellow victims with the words "Who shall separate?"

They knew full well that hidden to the human eye, yet cognizant to the eye of faith, there was a living Redeemer who would judge righteous judgment, and attune the lips of the doomed and incarcerated to "Songs in the night." A beautiful saying in the days of the Incarnation would carry its parable of comfort to not a few of these smitten hearts--"Behold Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not" (Luke 22;31). What a consolatory assurance for all ages, specially for the ages of martyrdom--Christ with His people in every season of affliction--the frail bark tempest-tossed in the angry sea, but an invisible chain of grace linking it within the veil; telling of an Omnipotent Savior "who makes the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still."

"Sword"--"Sheep for the slaughter;" the words seem to indicate a terrific forecast in the breast of this champion of the faith--himself one of the foredoomed. But how true also his prognostications of triumph--the victory of endurance--"more than conquerors." Scarcely another two centuries would pass before multitudes, unswerving in their loyalty to Christ and His truth, would be ready to confront persecution in its direst forms. No intensity of torture would be spared. Before long the sword would have done its cruel work on the Apostle's own aged frame. The forlorn hope, so nobly led, would see him fall mangled in the hour of victory. We may have read the testimony of Ignatius of Antioch, "That I may attain unto Jesus Christ--come fire, and iron, and grappling with wild beasts,…come cruel torture of the devil to assail me; only be it mine to attain unto Jesus Christ." Tens of thousands thus met unflinching the Lybian lions in the Roman amphitheater, and gave truth and inspiration to the familiar strain in the Church's best uninspired Song--"The noble army of martyrs praise You!"

It has been made a question, and there are not lacking names on either side--what the opening challenge of the verse imports. Is it "Who shall separate our love from Christ?" or "His love from us?"

The former is indeed a beautiful thought and in many cases as true as it is beautiful--the fidelity of the believer to his faithful Lord--that unswerving allegiance, never more conspicuous than in the case of Paul himself, who with self-renouncing lowliness, yet with fearless confidence and sincerity of heart could say, "Yes, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord." He, and not a few who have attained to the same lofty standard, never loved father, mother, brother, sister, friend, as they did the Christ of Nazareth. But the whole drift of the chapter, the whole scope of the previous argumentative discussion, (add to this, the wording of the last verse of all) negate this first suggested meaning.

Each preceding proposition sets forth the believer's security, not arising out of his personal relationship to God, but from the relationship of the Divine Trinity to him--the relation of the Father in election, heirship, final glorification--the relation of the Son in His dying, rising, and ascending to the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens--the relation of the Holy Spirit in making "intercession with groanings which cannot be uttered." The theme of the chapter may be briefly summarized as "the grounds of the Christian's confidence in a triune God." It would be a comparatively poor buttress to the Apostle's argument were he to interrupt its continuity by describing the believer's love (fluctuating at the best) to his Redeemer. But when we read, as described in our chapters, of all that has been achieved by Christ for His people, it seems the most suitable of topics, in drawing to a close, to speak of the utter unchangeableness of that love--the love He bears to us--the love which had its agony and triumph on Calvary, and which now, on the mediatorial throne, is immutably pledged for our salvation. While, therefore, it is a cheering assurance that we shall never forsake Christ, much more cheering, exalting, comforting, strengthening, is the confidence that He will never forsake us.

And note, after the enumeration of existing or possible evils and antagonisms, the Apostle makes the strong affirmation, "No in all these things we are MORE THAN conquerors." This is a remarkable expression. By the use of hyperbole he emphasizes his assurance. It recalls words of his, already quoted, nearly allied though not exactly parallel (2 Cor. 4;17), where he speaks of "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." The verse might be rendered "more exceeding," or, "still more surpassing conquerors." The dying utterance of an ever revered friend and Christian patriarch come appropriately to memory--"Sin abounded--grace super-abounded."

"More than conquerors."--It is a wonderful but faithful testimony to the influences and results of trial--not as some would naturally think to cool ardor, eclipse faith, and un-nerve heroism--like the children of Ephraim, who, carrying bows, turned faint in the day of battle. The whole history of the Church and its martyrology gives a distinctly different verdict. It represents faith, and love, and devotion, and soul-consecration, as being, on the contrary, inspired, developed, expanded, in the midst of adverse circumstances. We see this illustrated in the sufferings of the Roman Christians. Not only victims in the strength of manhood and in the feebleness and decrepitude of age, but the willing self-surrender even of tender youthful heroines, such as Blandina, Perpetua, and Felicitas. Their bravery had its counterpart in distant centuries, in the Vaudois Valleys of Lucerna, Perosa, and San Martino, the dungeons by the Rhone and Danube, the martyr roll-call of Spain and France, Holland and Britain. We see it conspicuously in modern times. To take one out of many examples, from the soldiers of the cross who "foremost fighting fell" in Central Africa. Be it Bishop or Evangelist, no sooner is one struck down by fever or sword or spear, than another is ready to fill the gap and bear in true apostolic succession the honored banner. The trumpet in that stern battle seems never to sound retreat, but onward!--"Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward." "Out of weakness they are made strong, wax valiant in fight, and turn to flight the armies of the aliens." They are divinely strengthened for superhuman endurance. The device on that banner tells the secret--"Made more than conquerors through Him who loved us."

Though we have just quoted the writer of our verse as a notable illustrative example, we may well linger on the singular corroborative testimony he bore to these twin-clauses; "more than conqueror"-- "through Him that loved us." He had everything, humanly speaking, to quench his zeal, impair his ardor, undermine his constancy--nothing perhaps more so, than the loneliness of a life that so often showed its yearning need of human sympathy and genial companionship. There is much comprehended in the terse, bitter wail, "all men forsook me"! But the lessening of human friendships, the removal of human props, the discovery of the treachery and desertion of "summer friends" only seemed to strengthen his faith and deepen his love for One "who sticks closer than a brother." Man may fail me--man has failed me; but, "Who shall separate me from the love of Christ?" And the conscious love for him of that Brother-man on the throne, quickened his sensibilities. Love begat love. His own weakness was perfected in Almighty strength. He gloried in his infirmities, for the power of Christ thereby rested more abundantly upon him. He felt its reality, its stability. "Such a one as Paul the aged" was "made more than conqueror," through the exalted sympathy of the once Prince of sufferers. Aye, and when he saw the gleam of the "sword"--the weapon with which he ends his enumeration in the passage we are considering, he could raise the Victor's Song--"I know whom" (not in whom, but WHOM--the living Person of his loving Lord)--"I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day."

We shall close with two thoughts.

(1) Let us advert, once more, to the designation here given to Christ--it is "Him that loved us." We cannot fail to recall the parallel--indeed the identical words in the opening verses of the book of Revelation. John (himself the Apostle of love) appears to deem it needless to name which Person in the Holy Trinity it is to whom he refers in his dedication. "Unto Him that loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood" (Rev. 1;5). Let us think of that name and title in its sacred relation to ourselves. "Him that loved us" would often be poorly descriptive of human friends and friendships. That may be a fitful affection, the memory of which is all that remains. In His case, loving once He loves forever. It is love incapable of diminishing or decay. The opening challenge will be prolonged and deepened through eternity--"Who shall separate?"

(2) Take it in another aspect? The noblest of earthly heroes may fail in their exploits; heroic efforts may be confronted and covered with defeat. Khartoum will always have its mournful associations and memories in British annals, where a noble soul--an ideal warrior, man, Christian, dared all and lost all. Like the mother of Sisera, it is at times vain and delusive counting up spoils and trophies never to be ours. Arbitrary and capricious often are the so-called "fortunes of war." So it may be under the noblest and ablest of human champions. But with Christ failure is impossible, triumph is assured. "Who is this that comes from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in His apparel, traveling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save" (Isa. 63;1).

Let that name and the assurance it conveys stimulate us. Christ--He who thus loved us, might have made our wilderness journey one of triumphant and unchequered progress, without Red Sea, or Marah-pool, or fiery serpent--the way without a thorn--the sky without a cloud--no enemy to be seen or encountered. He has well and wisely ordered it otherwise. We are happily ignorant of, and exempt from, the stern and dreadful trials which belonged to the primitive Roman Church; though in other forms and modified shapes, distress, peril, tribulation still cast their shadows. The apostolic words are unrescinded and unrevoked--"We are in heaviness through manifold temptations." The "tribulation"--the "tribulum" so well known in the Roman threshing-floor--the root-word, as Trench has pointed out, of the tribulation of our verse, has still, and ever will have, its reality, in connection with the divine dealings. Stroke after stroke is needed. But, as in the hands of the Roman husbandman, the "flail" was used to sift and separate the husk from the grain; so, that tribulum of God in His threshing-floor is designed for the same purpose in a higher sense, to remove moral husks and incrustations, to fit the grain of wheat for its place in the garner, or it may be to aid its germinating power in the earth for the better bringing forth of fruit to His glory. "We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom." If such be our present experience, let us meet all sufferings and trials as Paul met them, "more than conquerors." Tribulation, Distress, Persecution, Famine, Nakedness, Peril, Sword--that music of winds and waves, the deep bass of the Song, should only make us exult more in "the impregnable Rock."

Changing the figure, let us listen to the prolonged trumpet-peal in another place, summoning not to tent or camp, but to arms and battle--"Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Therefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand" (Eph. 6;10-13).

And if he and they of whom he here speaks, counted not their lives dear unto them--if they have fought the good fight, finished the course and kept the faith, let us hear their voices gliding down from heaven in beautiful cadence--"Be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises." While we respond, in the paean of eternal victory, "thanks be to God who always causes us to triumph in Christ."

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