by Charles Simeon
Rom. 5:18, 19. Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
THE more we investigate the Gospel of Christ, the more mysterious it appears in all its parts. To a superficial observer it seems that the way of salvation through a crucified Redeemer is plain and simple: but it is surely an astonishing mystery, that those who have destroyed themselves should be redeemed by the blood of God’s only dear Son, and be saved by a righteousness that was wrought out by him. Yet that is but a small part of the mystery revealed to us in the Gospel. There we learn, that at the instant of our birth we are under a sentence of condemnation for the sin of our first parent; and that, as we are lost in him, so we are to be recovered by the Lord Jesus Christ, inheriting righteousness and life from him, the second Adam, as we inherit sin and death from the first Adam. This is the subject of which the Apostle treats in the passage before us. He had throughout the preceding part of this epistle declared the way of salvation through Christ: but now he traces up sin and death to Adam as our federal head or representative, and righteousness and life to Christ as our federal head or representative under the new covenant. This opens to us a new view of the Gospel, and leads us farther into the great mystery of redemption than the preceding statements had enabled us to penetrate.
That we may avail ourselves of the light which is thus afforded us, we shall,
I. Consider the comparison here instituted—
It is here assumed as an acknowledged truth, that by the sin of Adam we all were brought under guilt and condemnation—
[Adam was not a mere private individual, but the head and representative of all mankind. Hence what he did in eating the forbidden fruit, is imputed unto us, as though it had been done by us: and we are subjected to the punishment that was denounced against transgression, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” This in the preceding context is repeatedly affirmed: “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Again, “Through the offence of one many be deadb:” Again, “The judgment was by one to condemnation:” And again, “By one man’s offence death reigned by oned.” So also it is twice mentioned in our text. Nor is it merely asserted: it is proved also, and that too by an argument which all can easily understand. The death of infants demonstrates the truth in question: for, nothing is plainer than that God will not inflict punishment, where no guilt attaches: but he does inflict punishment, even death itself, on infants, who cannot possibly have committed sin in their own persons. For whose sin then is this punishment inflicted? Surely for the sin of Adam, our first parent; who was the head and representative of all mankind. The law which denounced death as the penalty of transgression, comprehended, not him only, but us also: and therefore, having transgressed it in him, we are considered as sinners, and are subjected to all the penalties of transgression. To account for the agonies and death of new-born infants on any other supposition than this, is impossible.]
With this is compared our justification to life by the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ—
[Christ is that person “by whose obedience many are made righteous.” He is given to us as a second Covenant-Head. There is however this difference between him and Adam: Adam was the head of all his natural seed; and Christ is the head of all his spiritual seed. They are included in him; and all that he did or suffered is put to their account, as though they had done or suffered it themselves: and his entire righteousness is imputed to them for justification, precisely as Adam’s disobedience is imputed to us for condemnation. The parallel indeed holds yet farther still: for as Adam’s guilt is imputed to us before we commit personal sin, so is Christ’s righteousness imputed to us before we perform any personal obedience. Nevertheless, our obedience is not therefore rendered either useless or uncertain; for, as from Adam we receive a corrupt nature, so from Christ we receive a holy and divine nature: and as all our personal disobedience aggravates the guilt and condemnation which we derived from Adam; so our personal obedience, after we have been justified in Christ Jesus, enhances the degrees of glory to which we are entitled at the instant of our justification. Now all this is plainly affirmed in our text: (Read the text:) nay, it is, in the verses preceding our text, affirmed, that we receive more from Christ than ever we lost in Adam: (Read ver. 15–17.) And this is a striking, and very important, truth. For,
First, we are placed in a safer state than that which we lost in Adam. Adam was placed in a state of probation, to stand or fall by his own obedience; and, notwithstanding all his advantages, he fell, and ruined both himself and all his posterity. But we, when justified in Christ’s righteousness, are given to him, that we may be kept by his power unto everlasting salvation: and he has expressly declared, that “none shall ever pluck us out of his hands.”
Next, we are made to possess a better righteousness than any which we could ever have inherited from Adam: for if he had stood, and we had stood in him, and partaken of his righteousness for ever, we should still have had only the righteousness of a creature: but now we have, and shall have to all eternity, the righteousness of the Creator: yes, “Jehovah himself is our righteousness:” and whereas, with a creature’s righteousness, we could have claimed nothing, being only unprofitable servants, with the Creator’s righteousness we may claim on the footing of justice as well as of mercy, all the glory of heaven.
Once more: Our happiness is infinitely enhanced beyond any thing it could ever have been, if we had stood in Adam. The felicity of heaven would doubtless have been inconceivably great under any circumstances: but who can conceive what an addition it will receive from the consideration of its being the purchase of the Redeemer’s blood, and the fruit of those eternal counsels by which the whole work of redemption was both planned and executed?
Thus then is the comparison between the first and second Adam shewn to be strictly just; except indeed that the scale preponderates beyond all expression or conception in favour of the Lord Jesus, who has done “MUCH MORE” for us than ever we lost in Adam; or than Adam, though he had continued sinless, ever could have done, either for himself or us.]
But that this subject may produce a suitable impression on our minds, we will,
II. Suggest one or two reflections upon it—
It is much to be regretted, that the great mysteries of religion are but too often made the subjects of mere speculation. But every doctrine of Christianity should be practically improved, and especially a doctrine of such vital importance as that before us.
From the doctrine of our fall in Adam and our recovery in Christ, we cannot but OBSERVE,
1. How deep and unsearchable are the ways of God!
[That ever our first parent should be constituted a federal head to his posterity, so that they should stand or fall in him, is in itself a stupendous mystery. And it may appear to have been an arbitrary appointment, injurious to the whole race of mankind. But we do not hesitate to say, that if the whole race of mankind had been created at once in precisely the same state and circumstances as Adam was, they would have been as willing to stand or fall in Adam, as to have their lot depend upon themselves; because they would have felt, that, whilst he possessed every advantage that they did, he had a strong inducement to steadfastness which they could not have felt, namely, the dependence of all his posterity upon his fidelity to God: and consequently, that their happiness would be more secure in his hands than in their own. But if it could now be put to every human being to determine for himself this point; if the question were asked of every individual, Whether do you think it better that your happiness should depend on Adam, formed as he was in the full possession of all his faculties; subjected to one only temptation, and that in fact so small a temptation as scarcely to deserve the name; perfect in himself, and his only companion being perfect also, and no such thing as sin existing in the whole creation; whether would you prefer, I say, to depend on him, or on yourself, born into a world that lieth in wickedness, surrounded with temptations innumerable, and having all your faculties only in a state of infantine weakness, so as to be scarcely capable of exercising with propriety either judgment or volition: Would any one doubt a moment? Would not every person to whom such an option was given, account it an unspeakable mercy to have such a representative as Adam was, and to have his happiness depend on him, rather than on his own feeble capacity and power? There can be no doubt on this subject: for if Adam, in his more favourable circumstances, fell, much more should we in circumstances where it was scarcely possible to stand. Still however, though we acknowledge it to be a gracious and merciful appointment, we must nevertheless regard it as a stupendous mystery.
But what shall we say of the appointment of the Lord Jesus Christ to be a second Covenant-Head, to deliver us by his obedience from the fatal effects of Adam’s disobedience? Here we are perfectly lost in wonder and amazement. For consider, Who Jesus was? He was the co-equal, co-eternal Son of God — — — Consider, What he undertook to do? He undertook to suffer in our place and stead all that was due to us, and to confer on us his righteousness with all the glory that was due to him — — — Consider farther, On what terms he confers this blessing upon us? He requires only, that we believe in him: “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth” — — — Consider yet farther, What provision he has made for the final happiness of those who thus believe in him? He does not restore them to the state of trial in which Adam was originally placed, but to a state of comparative security, inasmuch as he himself undertakes to “perfect that which concerned! them,” and to be “the Finisher of faith” to those in whom he has been “the Author of it.” What an inscrutable mystery is here! that such a person should be given; and such a righteousness be wrought out by him! that an interest in this righteousness should be conferred on such easy terms! and lastly, that such security should be provided for all his believing people! Well might the Apostle say, “Great is the mystery of godliness:” and well may all the angels in heaven occupy themselves, as they do continually, in searching into it with the profoundest adoration. Let us then contemplate these wonders with holy awe. Let us not make them a theme for disputation, but a subject of incessant admiration, gratitude, and praiseg.]
2. How obvious and urgent is the duty of man!
[Here we are in the situation of fellow-creatures, wholly incapable of saving ourselves, and shut up to the way of salvation provided for us in the Gospel. God does not consult us, or ask our approbation of his plans. He calls us, not to give our opinion, but to accept his proffered mercy. To dispute, or sit in judgment on his dispensations, is vain. We are like shipwrecked persons, ready to perish in the great deep. When the ship is just on the point of sinking, it is no time to complain, that our lives, by the laws of navigation, were made to depend on the skill of the captain; or that the management of the vessel had not been committed to ourselves; or that God, when he formed the world, placed a rock in that particular situation, notwithstanding he foresaw, from all eternity, that our ship would be wrecked upon it: all such thoughts at that time would be vain: our only consideration under such circumstances should be, how shall I be saved from perishing? And if we saw a ship hastening towards us for our preservation, we should be wholly occupied in contriving how we might secure the proffered aid. This, I say, is precisely our case: we are lost in Adam: but that God, who foresaw that we should be wrecked in him, provided his only dear Son to be a Saviour to us; and has sent him to save all who feel their need of mercy, and are willing to enter into this ark of God. Behold then, brethren, what your duty is: it is to “flee for refuge to the hope that is set before you.” If you feel a rebellious thought arise, why did God make me thus? let it be answered in the way prescribed by the Apostle, “Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God?” If you were not consulted about your dependence on Adam, were you consulted about the appointment of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the way of recovery by him? No: this was the unsolicited gift of God, who determined thus to glorify himself in blessing and exalting you. Embrace then, with all thankfulness, the salvation offered you in the Gospel. Lay hold on Christ: rely upon him: place all your hope in his obedience unto death; seek for justification solely through his blood and righteousness: and expect to receive from him all, yea “exceeding abundantly above all that ye can either ask or think.”]
Charles Simeon, Horae Homileticae Vol. 15: Romans (London, 1832-63), 132-37.