We find in nature a beautiful approximation to the truth declared in this verse, a sort of parable and symbol of the glory of redemption. It is this. Go into the woods and cut a wound in the side of a living tree, and then go back again a few years later and see how the tree has endeavored to heal its wound and restore the breach by a very beautiful reproductive force. The notch in the trunk is all grown up again. Not, however, with the old fibres, but with far stronger materials; and you will find the grain of the wood interlaced and twisted across the old fibres in a sort of tangle, which all your efforts would frequently be found unable to cleave asunder. In fact, the healed breach is much stronger than any other part of the tree, and nature has not only made good the loss, but far more abundantly brought good out of it.
So, it is said, a broken bone heals much more strongly than the natural bone, as though nature were determined to fortify herself against a second attack, and to turn to account, in double strength, the assault made upon her.
Very beautifully is this illustrated in the formation of the pearl. A little grain of sand or a piercing thorn in the sensitive side of the pearl oyster, irritating its nerves, provokes him, not to retaliate and thus inflict upon himself a greater wound, but to throw around the intruding element a crystalline liquid and to bury it out of sight in a smooth and beautiful gem; so that out of the thorn and the wound come beauty and victory, and the value of the little mollusk is enhanced a thousand-fold by the very incident that threatened his destruction.
This is what the apostle means in a sublimer measure when he sums up his
splendid antithesis between sin and salvation, Adam and Christ, the fall
and the redemption, with the magnificent declaration, "where sin abounded
grace did much more abound." Out of the terrible attack which the powers
of darkness hurled against the world, the wisdom and grace of heaven have
brought the victory which is to prove the triumph of the ages. Out of the
catastrophe which threatened man's eternal destruction, God has evolved a
new creation transcendently greater and more glorious than the old. Out of
the ocean depths of sin, Christ has brought the Pearl of Great Price, the
church, which shall shine amid the glories of eternity with a lustre reflecting
His own. Let us endeavor by the help of God to realize a little more fully
this elevating and transporting truth.
The benefits that come to men are still more manifest and deeply interesting. The redemption of our fallen race brings us to a far higher place than the first creation ever gave us. Unfallen man was only a creature made in the image of God, but a little lower than the angels. Redeemed man has been raised above the rank of angels to partake of the very nature of God, to be a joint-heir with the Son of God and to share eternally the throne of his Creator and the attributes of the eternal Son, our glorious Head. Redemption is therefore not the restoration of Adamic holiness, happiness or honor, but it is the uniting of man with the Son of God and the exalting of the redeemed sinner to kindred fellowship with a higher Being, so that, eternally like his Lord; the redeemed man shall be, not only a man, but a man united with God and possessing in the depths of his being the very spirit and nature of the eternal Jehovah.
This is so sublime that we would fear to boldly state it, had we not the unmistakable language of the Holy Scriptures. "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is," "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature." "Your life is hid with Christ in God, but when Christ, who is your life, shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory." Yes, the day is coming when Satan shall gaze upon the consummated work of the Great Restorer and see everything his hand has touched transformed into a monument of the grace and power of the Redeemer, and even he shall bow the knee and bitterly confess like one of his ancient disciples, "Oh, Nazarene! Thou hast conquered."
We may not be able to understand all sides of this great problem. Of course it would not be right to say that God intended or desired the sin and fall of His creatures and the sad train of still greater sin and misery that has followed. But we can surely believe that while He discountenanced the disobedience of Adam, as He does all disobedience, while He desires His children to walk in His will in holy obedience, and while He still is deeply grieved with every transgression and something is lost by it inevitably, yet the resources of His grace and power are such that, being committed, He has ample expedients to counteract its effects; and while all the consequences are not averted, yet enough good is brought out of it to result, in the end, in a higher aggregate of blessing, to turn the evil to the best possible account, and to show that God's all-sufficiency is more than a match for every emergency that can ever arise.
For ourselves, surely, the practical lessons are not hard to find. If there be a discouraged life within reach of this message, if there is a heart that has been held back by the iron fetters of the past and to whom Satan has been whispering, "There is no hope, but we will go on in the imagination of our hearts," oh, beloved, surely we have seen enough in this passage to answer the unworthy thought and ignoble fear, and to encourage us just because of the extremity of our situation, to claim more boldly the interposition of our Almighty Friend and the over-ruling power of His grace and love. The very hardest case is the one which He most loves to take. The most hopeless situation is the one through whose relief He is most glorified. If everything in your life seems against you, and if, worst of all, you feel that you alone are to blame for everything that is against you; if it has been, not only sorrow but sin, and every aggravation of sin-beloved, the grace of Jesus Christ was prepared for you and such as you. Only prove its all-sufficiency and you shall be among all that we have already specified, the crowning illustration of this most blessed truth, that "where sin abounded grace did much more abound."
God's great ultimate purpose for His redeemed people is the key to all the "exceeding great and precious promises." This, and this alone, explains the strong language in which He speaks to us of the provisions of His grace for our needs. These promises are out of all proportion to our importance or worth, and it is not strange that naturally we should hesitate to accept such boundless and stupendous assurances of love and care, and that our faith should be as narrow and paltry as it often is. It is not strange that the beggar child should be content with rags and crumbs, and almost think it is mocked when you talk to it about palaces and offer it the costly robes and the princely treasures of royalty. The truth is, we are the children naturally of low and shameful birth and spiritual destitution, but we have been adopted into a higher rank, nay, we have been born into a heavenly life and a divine sonship, and we are destined, as the very children of God, to share the exceeding riches of His glory through all the ages to come; and, therefore, we are recognized by Him now and treated in the manner befitting our future glory. We are like the children of wealthy parents who are at school in a foreign land, not having yet come into their inheritance, but being supplied by their father, even in their minority, with boundless wealth for every need. And so, although we have not entered upon our eternal inheritance, yet God has given us a cheque book on the bank of heaven, and on the back of every cheque He has Himself endorsed the vast and illimitable guarantee, "My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Jesus Christ."
And so this word "abound" has come to be a sort of a keynote to the New Testament promises. Even of His promises He says, "God willing MORE ABUNDANTLY to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel confirmed it by an oath" (Heb. vi: 17). His word is abundant, His promises boundless, His loving, faithful heart struggles to express in ever ampler language and larger utterance, the immeasurable and unspeakable fullness of His love, so that His great promises are like mountains piled upon mountains until His faithfulness truly reacheth unto the clouds.
So, again, His mercy and grace to the sinful are as abundant. "The grace of our Lord," says the Apostle, "was EXCEEDING ABUNDANT with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus." And again in Rom. v: 17, he speaks of those who "receive ABUNDANCE OF GRACE and the gift of righteousness, who shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ." The life that Jesus brings to us is not only life, but "life MORE ABUNDANTLY" (Jno. x: 10). Redemption and forgiveness are declared in Eph. 1: 7, 8, to be "according to the riches of His grace wherein HE HATH ABOUNDED toward us in all wisdom and prudence," that is, in all the variety of the love and care that adapts and adjusts His mercy and His grace to every shade of guilt and need, and which anticipates every future emergency; for this is the meaning of "prudence," literally, foresight and providence.
His purpose in our salvation is that "in the ages to come He might show the EXCEEDING RICHES OF HIS GRACE in His kindness toward us by Christ Jesus" (Eph. ii: 7). All the dispensations of His providence are destined to give occasion for still larger manifestations of His grace, "For all things are for your sakes that the ABUNDANT GRACE might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God" (2 Cor. iv: 15). Even in our deepest sorrows He has made provision for such overflowing abundance of comfort and joy that the sorrow shall be lost in the joy, for, "As the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our CONSOLATION ALSO ABOUNDETH by Christ" (2 Cor. i: 5). The provisions of grace for our Christian life and work are equally boundless, for "God is able to make ALL GRACE ABOUND toward you that ye always having all-sufficiency in all things, MAY ABOUND to every good work" (2 Cor. ix: 8). And like a mountain-top, high above all the rest and lost in the clouds, it is all summed up in the sublime hyperbole, "Now unto Him that is ABLE TO DO EXCEEDING ABUNDANTLY above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus, throughout all ages, world without end. Amen" (Eph. iii: 20, 21.)
This is the divine measure of redeeming grace, and, so on our side we are called upon to meet God's high measure with corresponding fullness. We are to abound in faith. "Rooted and built up in Him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, ABOUNDING therein with thanksgiving" (Col. ii: 7). We are to abound in love. "And this I pray, that your LOVE MAY ABOUND yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment" (Phil. i: 9). "And the Lord make you to increase and ABOUND IN LOVE one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you" (1 Thess. iii: 12). We are to abound in holiness. "Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye WOULD ABOUND MORE AND MORE " (1 Thess. iv: 1). We are to abound in joy. "That your rejoicing may be more ABUNDANT in Christ Jesus" (Phil. i: 29); and in hope, "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may ABOUND IN HOPE, through the power of the Holy Ghost" (Rom. xv: 13). We are to abound in liberality, even in the depths of poverty. "The abundance of their joy and their deep poverty ABOUNDED unto the riches of their liberality." "Therefore as ye abound in everything, in faith and utterance, in knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye ABOUND IN THIS GRACE ALSO" (2 Cor. viii: 2, 7).
And our spiritual experience is to be not a strained but an ample one, ever growing in breadth, depth, height and symmetry, through the abundant grace of the divine nature in our heart. "And besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity. For if these things be in you, AND ABOUND, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. i: 5-8). And finally if we thus enter into His abundant grace we shall have His glorious recompense in like proportion, and "So an entrance shall be ministered unto you ABUNDANTLY into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
Beloved, shall we so receive "His fullness, even grace for grace," and so enter in at last, not like a battered ship, with masts and sails all gone and banner torn to shreds, and slowly drawn by some old tug boat across the bar into the harbor or the dry-dock; but shall we rather, with flags all flying, and sails swelling in the gales of heaven, and myriads on the shore waiting to welcome us, shall we have an entrance ministered unto us abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, while wondering angels, looking back to the past and gazing in amazement on our present glory, shall turn to each other and say, "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound."