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The design of Romans 5:0, which has usually been considered as one of the most difficult portions of the New Testament, especially Romans 5:12-21, is evidently to show the results or benefits of the doctrine of justification by faith. That doctrine the apostle had now fully established. He had shown in the previous chapters,
- That people were under condemnation for sin;
- That this extended alike to the Jews and the Gentiles;
- That there was no way of escape now but by the doctrine of pardon, not by personal merit, but by grace;
- That this plan was fully made known by the gospel of Christ; and,
- That this was no new doctrine, but was in fact substantially the same by which Abraham and David had been accepted before God.
Having thus stated and vindicated the doctrine, it was natural to follow up the demonstration, by stating its bearing and its practical influence. This he does by showing that its immediate effect is to produce peace, Romans 5:1. It gives us the privilege of access to the favor of God, Romans 5:2. But not only this, we are in a world of affliction. Christians, like others, are surrounded with trials; and a very important question was, whether this doctrine would have an influence in supporting the soul in those trials. This question the apostle discusses in Romans 5:3-11. He shows that in fact Christians glory in tribulation, and that the reasons why they do so are,
- That the natural effect of tribulations under the gospel was to lead to hope, Romans 5:3-4.
(2)That the cause of this was, that the love of God was shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Spirit.
This doctrine he further confirms by showing the consolation which would be furnished by the fact that Christ had died for them. This involved a security that they would be sustained in their trials, and that a victory would be given them. For,
- It was the highest expression of love that he should die for enemies, Romans 5:6-8.
- It followed that if he was given for them when they were enemies, it was much more probable, it was certain, that all needful grace would be furnished to them now that they were reconciled, Romans 5:9-11.
But there was another very material inquiry. People were not only exposed to affliction, but they were in the midst of “a wreck of things - of a fallen world - of the proofs and memorials of sin everywhere.” The first man had sinned, and the race was subject to sin and death. The monuments of death and sin were everywhere. It was to be expected that a remedy from God would have reference to this universal state of sin and woe; and that it would tend to meet and repair these painful and wide spread ruins. The apostle then proceeds to discuss the question, how the plan of salvation which involved justification by faith was adapted to meet these universal and distressing evils, Romans 5:12-21. The design of this part of the chapter is to show that the blessings procured by the redemption through Christ, and the plan of justification through him, greatly exceed all the evils which had come upon the world in consequence of the apostasy of Adam. And if this was the case, the scheme of justification by faith was complete. It was adapted to the condition of fallen and ruined man; and was worthy of his affection and confidence. A particular examination of this argument of the apostle will occur in the notes at Romans 5:12-21.
Therefore - οὖν oun Since we are thus justified, or as a consequence of being justified, we have peace.
Being justified by faith - See the notes at Romans 1:17; Romans 3:24; Romans 4:5.
We - That is, all who are justified. The apostle is evidently speaking of true Christians.
Have peace with God - see the note at John 14:27. True religion is often represented as peace with God; see Acts 10:36; Romans 8:6; Romans 10:15; Romans 14:17; Galatians 5:22; see also Isaiah 32:17.
“And the work of righteousness shall be peace,
And the effect of righteousness.
Quietness and assurance forever:”
This is called peace, because,
- The sinner is represented as the enemy of God, Romans 8:7; Ephesians 2:16; James 4:4; John 15:18, John 15:24; John 17:14; Romans 1:30.
(2)The state of a sinner’s mind is far from peace. He is often agitated, alarmed, trembling. He feels that he is alienated from God. For,
“The wicked are like the troubled sea.
For it never can be at rest;
Whose waters cast up mire and dirt.”
The sinner in this state regards God as his enemy. He trembles when he thinks of his Law; fears his judgments; is alarmed when he thinks of hell. His bosom is a stranger to peace. This has been felt in all lands, alike under the thunders of the Law of Sinai among the Jews; in the pagan world; and in lands where the gospel is preached. It is the effect of an alarmed and troubled conscience.
(3) The plan of salvation by Christ reveals God as willing to be reconciled. He is ready to pardon, and to be at peace. If the sinner repents and believes, God can now consistently forgive him, and admit him to favor. It is therefore a plan by which the mind of God and of the sinner can become reconciled, or united in feeling and in purpose. The obstacles on the part of God to reconciliation, arising from his justice and Law, have been removed, and he is now willing to be at peace. The obstacles on the part of man, arising from his sin, his rebellion, and his conscious guilt, may be taken away, and he can now regard God as his friend.
(4) The effect of this plan, when the sinner embraces it, is to produce peace in his own mind. He experiences peace; a peace which the world gives not, and which the world cannot take away, Philippians 4:7; 1 Peter 1:8; John 16:22. Usually in the work of conversion to God, this peace is the first evidence that is felt of the change of heart. Before, the sinner was agitated and troubled. But often suddenly, a peace and calmness is felt, which is before unknown. The alarm subsides; the heart is calm; the fears die away, like the waves of the ocean after a storm. A sweet tranquillity visits the heart - a pure shining light, like the sunbeams that break through the opening clouds after a tempest. The views, the feelings, the desires are changed; and the bosom that was just before filled with agitation and alarm, that regarded God as its enemy, is now at peace with him, and with all the world.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ - By means of the atonement of the Lord Jesus. It is his mediation that has procured it.
We have access - See the note at John 14:6, “I am the way,” etc. Doddridge renders it, “by whom we have been introduced,” etc. It means, “by whom we have the privilege of obtaining the favor of God which we enjoy when we are justified.” The word rendered “access” occurs but in two other places in the New Testament, Ephesians 2:18; Ephesians 3:12. By Jesus Christ the way is opened for us to obtain the favor of God.
By faith - By means of faith, Romans 1:17.
Into this grace - Into this favor of reconciliation with God.
Wherein we stand - In which we now are in consequence of being justified.
And rejoice - Religion is often represented as producing joy, Isaiah 12:3; Isaiah 35:10; Isaiah 52:9; Isaiah 61:3, Isaiah 61:7; Isaiah 65:14, Isaiah 65:18; John 16:22, John 16:24; Acts 13:52; Romans 14:17; Galatians 5:22; 1 Peter 1:8. The sources or steps of this joy are these:
(1) We are justified, or regarded by God as righteous.
(2) We are admitted into his favor, and abide there.
(3) We have the prospect of still higher and richer blessings in the fulness of his glory when we are admitted to heaven.
In hope - In the earnest desire and expectation of obtaining that glory. Hope is a complex emotion made up of a desire for an object; and an expectation of obtaining it. Where either of these is lacking, there is not hope. Where they are mingled in improper proportions, there is not peace. But where the desire of obtaining an object is attended with an expectation of obtaining it, in proportion to that desire, there exists that peaceful, happy state of mind which we denominate hope And the apostle here implies that the Christian has an earnest desire for that glory; and that he has a confident expectation of obtaining it. The result of that he immediately states to be, that we are by it sustained in our afflictions.
The glory of God - The glory that God will bestow on us. The word “glory” usually means splendor, magnificence, honor; and the apostle here refers to that honor and dignity which will be conferred on the redeemed when they are raised up to the full honors of redemption; when they shall triumph in the completion of the work: and be freed from sin, and pain, and tears, and permitted to participate in the full splendors that shall encompass the throne of God in the heavens; see the note at Luke 2:9; compare Revelation 21:22-24; Revelation 22:5; Isaiah 60:19-20.
And not only so - We not only rejoice in times of prosperity, and of health. Paul proceeds to show that this plan is not less adapted to produce support in trials.
But we glory - The word used here is the same that is in Romans 5:2, translated, “we rejoice” καυχώμεθα kauchōmetha. It should have been so rendered here. The meaning is, that we rejoice not only in hope; not only in the direct results of justification, in the immediate effect which religion itself produces; but we carry our joy and triumph even into the midst of trials. In accordance with this, our Saviour directed his followers to rejoice in persecutions, Matthew 5:11-12. Compare James 1:2, James 1:12.
In tribulations - In afflictions. The word used here refers to all kinds of trials which people are called to endure; though it is possible that Paul referred particularly to the various persecutions and trials which they were called to endure as Christians.
Knowing - Being assured of this. Paul’s assurance might have arisen from reasoning on the nature of religion, and its tendency to produce comfort; or it is more probable that he was speaking here the language of his own experience. He had found it to be so. This was written near the close of his life, and it states the personal experience of a man who endured, perhaps, as much as anyone ever did, in attempting to spread the gospel; and far more than commonly falls to the lot of mankind. Yet he, like all other Christians, could leave his deliberate testimony to the fact that Christianity was sufficient to sustain the soul in its severest trials; see 2 Corinthians 1:3-6; 2Co 11:24-29; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.
Worketh - Produces; the effect of afflictions on the minds of Christians is to make them patient. Sinners are irritated and troubled by them; they complain, and become more and more obstinate and rebellious. They have no sources of consolation; they deem God a hard master; and they become fretful and rebellions just in proportion to the depth and continuance of their trials. But in the mind of a Christian, who regards his Father’s hand in it; who sees that he deserves no mercy; who has confidence in the wisdom and goodness of God; who feels that it is necessary for his own good to be afflicted; and who experiences its happy, subduing, and mild effect in restraining his sinful passions, and in weaning him from the world the effect is to produce patience. Accordingly, it will usually be found that those Christians who are longest and most severely afflicted are the most patient. Year after year of suffering produces increased peace and calmness of soul; and at the end of his course the Christian is more willing to be afflicted, and bears his afflictions more calmly, than at the beginning. He who on earth was most afflicted was the most patient of all sufferers; and not less patient when he was “led as a lamb to the slaughter,” than when he experienced the first trial in his great work.
Patience - “A calm temper, which suffers evils without murmuring or discontent” (Webster).
And patience, experience - Patient endurance of trial produces experience. The word rendered “experience” (δοκιμήν dokimēn) means trial, testing, or that thorough examination by which we ascertain the quality or nature of a thing, as when we test a metal by fire, or in any other way, to ascertain that it is genuine. It also means approbations, or the result of such a trial; the being approved, and accepted as the effect of a trying process. The meaning is, that long afflictions borne patiently show a Christian what he is; they test his religion, and prove that it is genuine. Afflictions are often sent for this purpose, and patience in the midst of them shows that the religion which can sustain them is from God.
And experience, hope - The result of such long trial is to produce hope. They show that religion is genuine; that it is from God; and not only so, but they direct the mind onward to another world; and sustain the soul by the prospect of a glorious immortality there. The various steps and stages of the benefits of afflictions are thus beautifully delineated by the apostle in a manner which accords with the experience of all the children of God.
And hope maketh not ashamed - That is, this hope will not disappoint, or deceive. When we hope for an object which we do not obtain, we are conscious of disappointment; perhaps sometimes of a feeling of shame. But the apostle says that the Christian hope is such that it will be fulfilled; it will not disappoint; what we hope for we shall certainly obtain; see Philippians 1:20. The expression used here is probably taken from Psalms 22:4-5;
Our fathers trusted in thee;
They trusted; and thou didst deliver them.
They cried unto thee,
And were delivered;
They trusted in thee,
And were not confounded (ashamed).
Because the love of God - Love toward God. There is produced an abundant, an overflowing love to God.
Is shed abroad - Is diffused; is poured out; is abundantly produced ἐκκέχυται ekkechutai. This word is properly applied to water, or to any other liquid that is poured out, or diffused. It is used also to denote imparting, or communicating freely or abundantly, and is thus expressive of the influence of the Holy Spirit poured down, or abundantly imparted to people; Acts 10:45. Here it means that love toward God is copiously or abundantly given to a Christian; his heart is conscious of high and abundant love to God, and by this he is sustained in his afflictions.
By the Holy Ghost - It is produced by the influence of the Holy Spirit. All Christian graces are traced to his influence; Galatians 5:22, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy,” etc.
Which is given unto us - Which Spirit is given or imparted to us. The Holy Spirit is thus represented as dwelling in the hearts of believers; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 1Co 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:16. In all these places it is meant that Christians are under his sanctifying influence; that he produces in their hearts the Christian graces; and fills their minds with peace, and love, and joy.
For when ... - This opens a new view of the subject, or it is a new argument to show that our hope will not make ashamed, or will not disappoint us. The first argument he had stated in the previous verse, that the Holy Spirit was given to us. The next, which he now states, is, that God had given the most ample proof that he would save us by giving his Son when we were sinners; and that he who had done so much for us when we were enemies, would not now fail us when we are his friends; Romans 5:6-10. He has performed the more difficult part of the work by reconciling us when we were enemies; and he will not now forsake us, but will carry forward and complete what he has begun.
We were yet without strength - The word used here ἀσθενῶν asthenōn is usually applied to those who are sick and feeble, deprived of strength by disease; Matthew 25:38; Luke 10:9; Acts 4:9; Acts 5:15. But it is also used in a moral sense, to denote inability or feebleness with regard to any undertaking or duty. Here it means that we were without strength “in regard to the case which the apostle was considering;” that is, we had no power to devise a scheme of justification, to make an atonement, or to put away the wrath of God, etc. While all hope of man’s being saved by any plan of his own was thus taken away; while he was thus lying exposed to divine justice, and dependent on the mere mercy of God; God provided a plan which met the case, and secured his salvation. The remark of the apostle here has reference only to the condition of the race before an atonement is made. It does not pertain to the question whether man has strength to repent and to believe after an atonement is made, which is a very different inquiry.
In due time - Margin “According to the time” κατὰ καιρὸν kata kairon. In a timely manner; at the proper time; Galatians 4:4, “But when the fulness of time was come,” etc. This may mean,
(1) That it was a fit or proper time. All experiments had failed to save people. For four thousand years the trial had been made under the Law among the Jews: and by the aid of the most enlightened reason in Greece and Rome; and still it was in vain. No scheme had been devised to meet the maladies of the world, and to save people from death. It was then time that a better plan should be presented to people.
(2) It was the time fixed and appointed by God for the Messiah to come; the time which had been designated by the prophets; Genesis 49:10; Daniel 9:24-27; see John 13:1; John 17:1.
(3) It was a most favorable time for the spread of the gospel. The world was expecting such an event; was at peace; and was subjected mainly to the Roman power; and furnished facilities never before experienced for introducing the gospel rapidly into every land; see the notes at Matthew 2:1-2.
For the ungodly - Those who do not worship God. It here means sinners in general, and does not differ materially from what is meant by the word translated “without strength;” see the note at Romans 4:5.
For scarcely ... - The design of this verse and the following is, to illustrate the great love of God by comparing it with what man was willing to do. “It is an unusual occurrence, an event which is all that we can hope for from the highest human benevolence and the purest friendship, that one would be willing to die for a good man. There are none who would be willing to die for a man who was seeking to do us injury, to calumniate our character, to destroy our happiness or our property. But Christ was willing to die for bitter foes.”
Scarcely - With difficulty. It is an event which cannot be expected to occur often. There would scarcely be found an instance in which it would happen.
A righteous man - A just man; a man distinguished simply for integrity of conduct; one who has no remarkable claims for amiableness of character, for benevolence, or for personal friendship. Much as we may admire such a man, and applaud him, yet he has not the characteristics which would appeal to our hearts to induce us to lay down our lives for him. Accordingly, it is not known that any instance has occurred where for such a man one would be willing to die.
For a righteous man - That is, in his place, or in his stead. A man would scarcely lay down his own life to save that of a righteous man.
Will one die - Would one be will. ing to die.
Yet peradventure - Perhaps; implying that this was an event which might be expected to occur.
For a good man - That is, not merely a man who is coldly just; but a man whose characteristic is that of kindness, amiableness, tenderness. It is evident that the case of such a man would be much more likely to appeal to our feelings, than that of one who is merely a man of integrity. Such a man is susceptible of tender friendship; and probably the apostle intended to refer to such a case - a case where we would be willing to expose life for a kind, tender, faithful friend.
Some would even dare to die - Some would have courage to give his life. Instances of this kind, though not many, have occurred. The affecting case of Damon and Pythias is one. Damon had been condemned to death by the tyrant Dionysius of Sicily, and obtained leave to go and settle his domestic affairs on promise of returning at a stated hour to the place of execution. Pythias pledged himself to undergo the punishment if Damon should not return in time, and deliver himself into the hands of the tyrant. Damon returned at the appointed moment, just as the sentence was about to be executed on Pythias; and Dionysius was so struck with the fidelity of the two friends, that he remitted their punishment, and entreated them to permit him to share their friendship; (Val. Max. 4. 7.) This case stands almost alone. Our Saviour says that it is the highest expression of love among people. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends;” John 15:13. The friendship of David and Jonathan seems also to have been of this character, that one would have been willing to lay down his life for the other.
But God commendeth ... - God has exhibited or showed his love in this unusual and remarkable manner.
His love - His kind feeling; his beneficence; his willingness to submit to sacrifice to do good to others.
While we were yet sinners - And of course his enemies. In this, his love surpasses all that has ever been manifested among people.
Christ died for us - In our stead; to save us from death. He took our place; and by dying himself on the cross, saved us from dying eternally in hell.
Much more, then - It is much more reasonable to expect it. There are fewer obstacles in the way. If, when we were enemies, he overcame all that was in the way of our salvation; much more have we reason to expect that he will afford us protection now that we are his friends. This is one ground of the hope expressed in Romans 5:5.
Being now justified - Pardoned; accepted as his friends.
By his blood - By his death; Note, Romans 3:25. The fact that we are purchased by his blood, and sanctified by it, renders us sacred in the eye of God; bestows a value on us proportionate to the worth of the price of our redemption; and is a pledge that he will keep what has been so dearly bought.
Saved from wrath - From hell; from the punishment due to sin; Note, Romans 2:8.
For if - The idea in this verse is simply a repetition and enlargement of that in Romans 5:9. The apostle dwells on the thought, and places it in a new light, furnishing thus a strong confirmation of his position.
When we were enemies - The work was undertaken while we were enemies. From being enemies we were changed to friends by that work. Thus, it was commenced by God; its foundation was laid while we were still hostile to it; it evinced, therefore, a determined purpose on the part of God to perform it; and he has thus given a pledge that it shall be perfected.
We were reconciled - Note, Matthew 5:24. We are brought to an agreement; to a state of friendship and union. We became his friends, laid aside our opposition, and embraced him as our friend and portion. To effect this is the great design of the plan of salvation; 2 Corinthians 5:1-20; Colossians 1:21; Ephesians 2:16. It means that there were obstacles existing on both sides to a reconciliation; and that these have been removed by the death of Christ; and that a union has thus been effected. This has been done in removing the obstacles on the part of God - by maintaining the honor of his Law; showing his hatred of sin; upholding his justice, and maintaining his truth, at the same time that he pardons; Note, Romans 3:26. And on the part of man, by removing his unwillingness to be reconciled; by subduing, changing, and sanctifying his heart; by overcoming his hatred of God, and of his Law; and bringing him into submission to the government of God. So that the Christian is in fact reconciled to God; he is his friend; he is pleased with his Law, his character, and his plan of salvation. And all this has been accomplished by the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus as an offering in our place.
Much more - It is much more to be expected; there are still stronger and more striking considerations to show it.
By his life - We were reconciled by his death. Death may include possibly his low, humble, and suffering condition. Death has the appearance of great feebleness; the death of Christ had the appearance of the defeat of his plans. His enemies triumphed and rejoiced over him on the cross, and in the tomb. Yet the effect of this feeble, low, and humiliating state was to reconcile us to God. If in this state, when humble, despised, dying, dead, he had power to accomplish so great a work as to reconcile us to God, how much more may we expect that he will be able to keep us now that he is a living, exalted, and triumphant Redeemer. If his fainting powers in dying were such as to reconcile us, how much more shall his full, vigorous powers as an exalted Redeemer, be sufficient to keep and save us. This argument is but an expansion of what the Saviour himself said; John 14:19, “Because I live, ye shall live also.”
And not only so - The apostle states another effect of justification.
We also joy in God - In Romans 5:2, he had said that we rejoice in tribulations, and in hope of the glory of God. But he here adds that we rejoice in God himself; in his existence; his attributes; his justice, holiness, mercy, truth, love. The Christian rejoices that God is such a being as he is; and glories that the universe is under his administration. The sinner is opposed to him; he finds no pleasure in him; he fears or hates him; and deems him unqualified for universal empire. But it is one characteristic of true piety, one evidence that we are truly reconciled to God, that we rejoice in him as he is; and find pleasure in the contemplation of his perfections as they are revealed in the Scriptures.
Through our Lord ... - By the mediation of our Lord Jesus, who has revealed the true character of God, and by whom we have been reconciled to him.
The atonement - Margin, or reconciliation. This is the only instance in which our translators have used the word “atonement” in the New Testament. The word frequently occurs in the Old, Exodus 29:33, Exodus 29:36-37; Exodus 30:10, Exodus 30:15-16, etc. As it is now used by us, it commonly means the ransom, or the sacrifice by means of which reconciliation is effected between God and man. But in this place it has a different sense. It means the reconciliation itself between God and man; not the means by which reconciliation is effected. It denotes not that. we have received a ransom, or an offering by which reconciliation might be effected; but that in fact we have become reconciled through him. This was the ancient meaning of the English word atonement - at one ment - being at one, or reconciled.
- He seeks to make atonement.
Between the duke of Glo’ster and your brothers.
The Greek word which denotes the expiatory offering by which a reconciliation is effected, is different from the one here; see the note at Romans 3:25. The word used here καταλλαγὴ katallagē is never used to denote such an offering, but denotes the reconciliation itself.
Romans 5:12-21 has been usually regarded as the most difficult part of the New Testament. It is not the design of these notes to enter into a minute criticism of contested points like this. They who wish to see a full discussion of the passage, may find it in the professedly critical commentaries; and especially in the commentaries of Tholuck and of Professor Stuart on the Romans. The meaning of the passage in its general bearing is not difficult; and probably the whole passage would have been found far less difficult if it had not been attached to a philosophical theory on the subject of man’s sin, and if a strenuous and indefatigable effort had not been made to prove that it teaches what it was never designed to teach. The plain and obvious design of the passage is this, to show one of the benefits of the doctrine of justification by faith. The apostle had shown,
- That that doctrine produced peace, Romans 5:1.
- That it produces joy in the prospect of future glory, Romans 5:2.
- That it sustained the soul in afflictions;
(a)By the regular tendency of afflictions under the gospel, Romans 5:3-4; and,
(b)By the fact that the Holy Spirit was imparted to the believer.
- That this doctrine rendered it certain that we should be saved, because Christ had died for us, Romans 5:6; because this was the highest expression of love, Romans 5:7-8; and because if we had been reconciled when thus alienated, we should be saved now that we are the friends of God, Romans 5:9-10.
- That it led us to rejoice in God himself; produced joy in his presence, and in all his attributes.
He now proceeds to show the bearing on that great mass of evil which had been introduced into the world by sin, and to prove that the benefits of the atonement were far greater than the evils which had been introduced by the acknowledged effects of the sin of Adam. “The design is to exalt our views of the work of Christ, and of the plan of justification through him, by comparing them with the evil consequences of the sin of our first father, and by showing that the blessings in question not only extend to the removal of these evils, but far beyond this, so that the grace of the gospel has not only abounded, but superabounded.” (Prof. Stuart.) In doing this, the apostle admits, as an undoubted and well-understood fact:
1. That sin came into the world by one man, and death as the consequence. Romans 5:12.
2. That death had passed on all; even on those who had not the light of revelation, and the express commands of God, Romans 5:13-14.
3. That Adam was the figure, the type of him that was to come; that there was some sort of analogy or resemblance between the results of his act and the results of the work of Christ. That analogy consisted in the fact that the effects of his doings did not terminate on himself, but extended to numberless other persons, and that it was thus with the work of Christ, Romans 5:14. But he shows,
4. That there were very material and important differences in the two cases. There was not a perfect parallelism. The effects of the work of Christ were far more than simply to counteract the evil introduced by the sin of Adam. The differences between the effect of his act and the work of Christ are these.
- The sin of Adam led to condemnation. The work of Christ has an opposite tendency, Romans 5:15.
- The condemnation which came from the sin of Adam was the result of one offence. The work of Christ was to deliver from many offences,Romans 5:16; Romans 5:16.
- The work of Christ was far more abundant and overflowing in its influence. It extended deeper and further. It was more than a compensation for the evils of the fall, Romans 5:17.
5. As the act of Adam threw its influence over all people to secure their condemnation, so the work of Christ was suited to affect all people, Jews and Gentiles, in bringing them into a state by which they might be delivered from the fall, and restored to the favor of God. It was in itself adapted to produce far more and greater benefits than the crime of Adam had done evil; and was thus a glorious plan, just suited to meet the actual condition of a world of sin; and to repair the evils which apostasy had introduced. It had thus the evidence that it originated in the benevolence of God, and that it was adapted to the human condition, Romans 5:18-21.
(The learned author denies the doctrine of imputed sin, and labors to prove that it is not contained in Romans 5:12, Romans 5:19. The following introductory note is intended to exhibit the orthodox view of the subject, and meet the objections which the reader will find in the Commentary. The very first question that demands our attention is, What character did Adam sustain under the covenant of works, that of a single and independent individual. or that of the representative of the human kind?
This is one of the most important questions in Theology, and according to the answer we may be prepared to give, in the affirmative or negative, will be almost the entire complexion of our religious views. If the question be resolved in the affirmative, then what Adam did must be held as done by us, and the imputation of his guilt would seem to follow as a necessary consequence.
1. That Adam sustained the character of representative of the human race; in other words, that he was the federal as well as natural head of his descendants, is obvious from the circumstances of the history in the book of Genesis. It has been said indeed, that in the record of the threatening no mention is made of the posterity of Adam, and that on this account, all idea of federal headship or representation must be abandoned, as a mere theological figment, having no foundation in Scripture. But if God regarded Adam only in his individual capacity, when be said unto him “in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die,” then, the other addresses of God to Adam, which form part of the same history, must be construed in the same way. And was it to Adam only, and not to the human kind at large, viewed in him, that God said, “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth?” Was it to Adam in his individual capacity, that God gave the grant of the earth, with all its rich and varied productions? Or was it to mankind at large? Was it to Adam alone that God said, “in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground,” etc.? The universal infliction of the penalty shows, that the threatening was addressed to Adam as the federal head of the race. All toil, and sweat, and die. Indeed, the entire history favors the conclusion, that God was dealing with Adam, not in his individual, but representative capacity; nor can its consistency be preserved on any other principle.
2. Moreover, there are certain facts connected with the moral history of mankind, which present insuperable difficulties, if we deny the doctrines of representation and imputed sin. “How shall we on any other principle account for the universality of death, or rather of penal evil?” It can be traced back beyond all personal guilt. Its origin is higher. Antecedent to all actual transgression, man is visited with penal evil. He comes into the world under a necessity of dying. His whole constitution is disordered. His body and his mind bear on them the marks of a blighting curse. It is impossible on any theory to deny this. And why is man thus visited? Can the righteous God punish where there is no guilt? We muss take one side or other of the alternative, that God inflicts punishment without guilt, or that Adam’s sin is imputed to his posterity. If we take the latter branch of the alternative, we are furnished with the ground of the divine procedure, and freed from many difficulties that press upon the opposite view.
It may be noticed in this place also, that the death of infants is a striking proof of the infliction of penal evil, prior to personal or actual sin. Their tender bodies are assailed in a multitude of instances by acute and violent diseases, that call for our sympathy the more that the sufferers cannot disclose or communicate the source of their agony. They labor with death and struggle hard in his hands, until they resign the gift of life they had retained for so short a while. It is said, indeed, that the case of infants is not introduced in Scripture in connection with this subject, and our author tells us, that they are not at all referred to in any part of this disputed passage, nor included in the clause, “death reigned, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression.” On this, some observations will be found in the proper place. Meanwhile, there is the fact itself, and with it we are concerned now. “Why do infants die?” Perhaps it will be said that though they have committed no actual sin, yet they have a depraved nature; but this cedes the whole question, for that depraved nature is just a part of the penal evil, formerly noticed. Why are innocent infants visited with what entails death on them? One answer only can be given, and no ingenuity can evade the conclusion, “in Adam all die.” The wonder is, that this doctrine should ever have been denied. On the human family at large, on man and woman, on infant child, and hoary sire, on earth and sky, are traced the dismal effects of the first sin.
3. The parallelism between Adam and Christ is another branch of evidence on this subject. That they bear a striking resemblance to each other is allowed on all hands. Hence, Christ is styled, in 1 Corinthians 15:0, “the last Adam,” and “the second man,” and in this very passage, Adam is expressly called a type, or “figure of him that was to come.” Now in what does this resemblance consist? Between these two persons there are very many points Of dissimilarity, or contrast. The first man is earthy, the second is the Lord from heaven. From the one come guilt, and condemnation, and death; and from the other. righteousness, justification, and life. Where then is the similarity? “They are alike,” says Beza, “in this, that each of them shares what he has with has.” Both are covenant or representative heads, and communicate their respective influences to those whom they represent. Here then, is one great leading point of similarity, nor is it possible in any other view to preserve the parallel.
For suppose we disturb the parallel as now adjusted, and argue that Adam was not a federal head, that we are therefore neither held guilty of Adam’s sin, nor condemned and punished on account of it; where shall we find the counterpart of this in Christ? Must we also maintain that he does not represent his people, that they are neither esteemed righteous on account of his work, nor justified and saved by it? Such is the legitimate consequence of the opposite views. If we hold that from Adam we receive only a corrupt nature, in consequence of which we sin personally, and then become guilty, and are in consequence condemned; we must also argue that we receive from Christ only a pure or renewed nature, in consequence of which we become personally righteous, and are then and therefore justified and saved. But such a scheme would undermine the whole gospel. Though the derivation of holiness from Christ be a true and valuable doctrine, we are not justified on account of that derived holiness. On the contrary, we are justified on account of something without us - something that has no dependence whatever on our personal holiness, namely, the righteousness of Christ. Nay, according to the doctrine of Paul, justification in order of nature, is before sanctification, and the cause of it.
It is but justice to state, that the commentator maintains that a resemblance between Adam and Christ lies not at all in the mode in which sin and righteousness, life and death have been respectively introduced by them; but is found in the simple fact that “the effect of their doings did not terminate on themselves, but extended to numberless other persons.” pp. 117, 118, 128. Indeed, he repeatedly affirms, that in regard to the introduction of sin by Adam, nothing whatever is said in this passage in regard to the mode of it. The fact alone is announced. If this were true, it is allowed that the arguments we have now employed would be much weakened. But the assertion cannot be substantiated. If the analogy do not lie in the mode, but in the simple fact, that the effects of their doings do not terminate on themselves; what greater resemblance is there between Adam and Christ, than between any two persons that might be named? David and Ahab might be compared in the same way; the good deeds of the one, and the evil deeds of the other, not terminating with themselves. Besides, Paul certainly does state in the previous chapter, the mode in which the righteousness of Christ becomes available for salvation. He states plainly that “God imputeth it without works.” When then in the 5th chapter he looks back upon this subject, and introduces his parallel with “Wherefore as by one man,” etc. are we to believe that he intends no similarity in the mode? Shall we make the apostle explain the manner in which the righteousness becomes available, and say nothing of the way in which its opposite is introduced, at the very time he is professedly comparing the two?
Such is a brief outline of the evidence on which the doctrine of imputed sin is based. The principal arguments are those derived from the universality of penal evil, and the parallel between Adam and Christ. And these are the very topics handled by the apostle in this much vexed passage. Our author, indeed, in his opening remarks maintains, that nothing is said by the apostle of original sin in this place. “The apostle here is not discussing the doctrine of original sin;” and “his design is to show one of the benefits of the doctrine of justification.” But the design of Paul is to illustrate the doctrine of justification, and not simply to show one of its benefits. For in the former part of this chapter Romans 5:1-11, the apostle had fully enlarged on these benefits, and there is no evidence that Romans 5:12, Romans 5:19, are a continuation of the same theme. On the contrary, there is obviously a break in the discourse at Romans 5:12, where the apostle, recalling the discussion, introduces a new illustration of his principal point, namely, justification through the righteousness of Christ. On this the apostle had discouraged largely in Romans 3:0; Romans 4:0.
And lest any should think it anomalous and irrational to justify people, on account of a work they themselves had no hand in accomplishing, he now appeals to the “great analogous fact in the history of the world. This seems the most natural construction. No wonder,” says President Edwards, “when the apostle is treating so fully and largely of our restoration, righteousness, and life by Christ, that he is led by it to consider our fall, sin, death, and ruin by Adam.” - Orig. Sin. p. 303. The following analysis will assist the reader in understanding the whole passage: “As the point to be illustrated is the justification of sinners, on the ground of the righteousness of Christ, and the source of illustration is the fall of all men in Adam; the passage begins with a statement of this latter truth. ‘As on account of one man death has passed upon all people; so on account of one,’ etc. Romans 5:12. Before, however, carrying out the comparison, the apostle stops to establish his position, that all people are regarded, and treated as sinners on account of Adam. His proof is this. The infliction of a penalty implies the transgression of a law, since sin is not imputed where there is no law, Romans 5:13. All mankind are subject to death or penal evils, therefore all people are regarded as transgressors of a law, Romans 5:13. The Law or covenant which brings death on all people, is not the Law of Moses, because multitudes died before that Law was given, Romans 5:14.
Nor is it the law of nature, since multitudes die who have never violated even that law, Romans 5:14. Therefore, we must conclude, that people are subject to death on account of Adam; that is, it is for the offence of one that many die, Romans 5:13-14. Adam is, therefore, a type of Christ. Yet the cases are not completely parallel. There are certain points of dissimilarity, Romans 5:15, Romans 5:17. Having thus limited and illustrated the analogy, the apostle resumes, and carries the comparison fully out in Romans 5:18-19. “Therefore as on account of one man.” etc. Prof. Hodge.)
Wherefore, - διὰ τοῦτο dia touto. On this account. This is not an inference from what has gone before, but I a continuance of the design of the apostle to show the advantages of the plan of justification by faith; as if he had said, “The advantages of that plan have been seen in our comfort and peace, and in its sustaining power in afflictions. Further, the advantages of the plan are seen in regard to this, that it is applicable to the condition of man in a world where the sin of one man has produced so much wo and death. “On this account” also it is a matter of joy. It meets the ills of a fallen race; and it is therefore a plan adapted to man.” Thus understood, the connection and design of the passage is easily explained. In respect to the state of things into which man is fallen, the benefits of this plan may be seen, as adapted to heal the maladies, and to be commensurate with the evils which the apostasy of one man brought upon the world. This explanation is not what is usually given to this place, but it is what seems to me to be demanded by the strain of the apostle’s reasoning. The passage is elliptical, and there is a necessity of supplying something to make out the sense.
As - ὥσπερ hōsper. This is the form of a comparison. But the other part of the comparison’s deferred to Romans 5:18. The connection evidently requires us to understand the other part of the comparison of the work of Christ. In the rapid train of ideas in the mind of the apostle, this was deferred to make room for explanations Romans 5:13-17. “As by one man sin entered into the world, etc., so by the work of Christ a remedy has been provided, commensurate with the evils. As the sin of one man had such an influence, so the work of the Redeemer has an influence to meet and to counteract those evils.” The passage in Romans 5:13-17 is therefore to be regarded as a parenthesis thrown in for the purpose of making explanations, and to show how the cases of Adam and of Christ differed from each other.
By one man ... - By means of one man; by the crime of one man. His act was the occasion of the introduction of all sin into all the world. The apostle here refers to the well known historical fact Genesis 3:6-7, without any explanation of the mode or cause, of this. He adduced it as a fact that was well known; and evidently meant to speak of it not for the purpose of explaining the mode, or even of making this the leading or prominent topic in the discussion. His main design is not to speak of the manner of the introduction of sin, but to show that the work of Christ meets and removes well-known and extensive evils. His explanations, therefore, are chiefly confined to the work of Christ. He speaks of the introduction, the spread, and the effects of sin, not as having any theory to defend on that subject, not as designing to enter into a minute description of the case, but as it was manifest on the face of things, as it stood on the historical record, and as it was understood and admitted by mankind.
Great perplexity has been introduced by forgetting the scope of the apostle’s argument here, and by supposing that he was defending a special theory on the subject of the introduction of sin; whereas, nothing is more foreign to his design. He is showing how the plan of justification “meets well understood and acknowledged universal evils.” Those evils he refers to just as they were seen, and admitted to exist. All people see them, and feel them, and practically understand them. The truth is, that the doctrine of the fall of man, and the prevalence of sin and death, do not belong especially to Christianity any more than the introduction and spread of disease does to the science of the healing art. Christianity did not introduce sin; nor is it responsible for it The existence of sin and we belongs to the race; appertains equally to all systems of religion, and is a part of the melancholy history of man, whether Christianity be true or false.
The existence and extent of sin and death are not affected if the infidel could show that Christianity was an imposition. They would still remain. The Christian religion is just “one mode of proposing a remedy for well-known and desolating evils;” just as the science of medicine proposes a remedy for diseases ‘which it did not introduce, and which could not be stayed in their desolations, or modified, if it could be shown that the whole science of healing was pretension and quackery. Keeping this design of the apostle in view, therefore, and remembering that he is not defending or stating a theory about the introduction of sin, but that he is explaining the way in which the work of Christ delivers from a deep-felt universal evil, we shall find the explanation of this passage disencumbered of many of the difficulties with which it has been thought usually to be invested.
By one man - By Adam; see Romans 5:14. It is true that sin was literally introduced by Eve, who was first in the transgression; Genesis 3:6; 1 Timothy 2:14. But the apostle evidently is not explaining the precise mode in which sin was introduced, or making this his leading point. He therefore speaks of the introduction of sin in a popular sense, as it was generally understood. The following reasons may be suggested why the man is mentioned rather than the woman as the cause of the introduction of sin:
(1) It was the natural and usual way of expressing such an event. We say that man sinned, that man is redeemed, man dies, etc. We do not pause to indicate the sex in such expressions. So in this, he undoubtedly meant to say that it was introduced by the parentage of the human race.
(2) The name Adam in Scripture was given to the created pair, the parents of the human family, a name designating their earthly origin; Genesis 5:1-2, “In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; male and female created he them, and blessed them, and called their name Adam.” The name Adam, therefore, used in this connection Romans 5:14, would suggest the united parentage of the human family.
(3) In transactions where man and woman are mutually concerned, it is usual to speak of the man first, on account of his being constituted superior in rank and authority.
(4) The comparison on the one side, in the apostle’s argument, is of the man Christ Jesus; and to secure the fitness, the congruity (Stuart) of the comparison, he speaks of the man only in the previous transaction.
(5) The sin of the woman was not complete in its effects without the concurrence of the man. It was their uniting in it which was the cause of the evil. Hence, the man is especially mentioned as having reordered the offence what it was; as having completed it, and entailed its curses on the race. From these remarks it is clear that the apostle does not refer to the man here from any idea that there was any particular covenant transaction with him, but that he means to speak of it in the usual, popular sense; referring to him as being the fountain of all the woes that sin has introduced into the world.
“In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die,” Genesis 2:17. This is an account of the first great covenant transaction between God and man. It carries us back to the origin of mankind, and discloses the source of evil, about which so much has been written and spoken in vain. That God entered into covenant with Adam in innocence, is a doctrine, with which the Shorter Catechism has made us familiar from our infant years. Nor is it without higher authority. It would be improper, indeed, to apply to this transaction everything that may be supposed essential to a human compact or bargain. Whenever divine things are represented by things analogous among men, care must be taken to exclude every idea that is inconsistent with the dignity of the subject. If the analogy be pressed beyond due bounds, the subject is not illustrated, but degraded. For example, in the present case, we must not suppose that because in human covenants, the consent of parties is essential, and both are at full liberty to receive or reject the proposed terms as they shall see fit; the same thing holds true in the case of Adam. He indeed freely gave his consent to the terms of the covenant, as a holy being could not fail to do, but he was not at liberty to withhold that consent. He was a creature entirely at the divine disposal, whose duty from the moment of his being was implicit obedience. He had no power either to dictate or reject terms, The relation of parties in this covenant, renders the idea of power to withhold consent, inadmissible.
But, because the analogy cannot be pressed beyond certain limits, must we therefore entirely abandon it? Proceeding on this principle, we should speedily find it impossible to retain any term or figure, that had ever been employed about religious subjects. The leading essentials of a covenant are found in this great transaction, and no more is necessary to justify the appellation which orthodox divines have applied to it. “A covenant is a contract, or agreement, between two or more parties, on certain terms.” It is commonly supposed to imply the existence of parties, a promise, and a condition. All these constituent parts of a covenant meet in the case under review. The parties are God and man, God and the first parent of the human race; the promise is life, which though not expressly stated, is yet distinctly implied in the penalty; and the condition is obedience to the supreme will of God. In human covenants no greater penalty is incurred than the forfeiture of the promised blessing, and therefore the idea of penalty is not supposed essential to a covenant. In every case of forfeited promise, however, there is the infliction of penalty, to the exact amount of the value of the blessing lost. We cannot think of Adam losing life without the corresponding idea of suffering death. So that, in fact, the loss of the promise, and the infliction of the penalty, are nearly the same thing.
It is no valid objection to this view, that the word “covenant,” as our author tells us, (p. 137,) “is not applied in the transaction in the Bible,” for there are many terms, the accuracy of which is never disputed, that are no more to be found in the Scriptures than this. Where do we find such terms as “the fall,” and “the Trinity,” and many others that might be mentioned? The mere name, in, deed, is not a matter of very great importance, and if we allow that in the transaction itself, there were parties, and a promise, and a condition, (which cannot easily he denied,) it is of less moment whether we call it a covenant, or with our author and others, “a divine constitution.” It is obvious to remark, however, that this latter title is just as little to be found “applied in the transaction in the Bible,” as the former, and besides is more “liable to be misunderstood;” being vague and indefinite, intimating only, that Adam was under a divine law, or constitution; whereas the word “covenant” distinctly expresses the kind or form of law, and gives definite character to the whole transaction.
But although the doctrine of the covenant of works is independent of the occurrence of the name in the Scriptures, even this narrow ground of objection is not so easily maintained as some imagine. In Hosea 6:7, it is said (according to the marginal reading, which is in strict accordance with the original Hebrew,) they like Adam: כאדם k'-’Aadam have transgressed the covenant. And in that celebrated passage in the Epistle to the Galatians, Galatians 4:24, when Paul speaks of “the two covenants,” he alludes, in the opinion of some of the highest authorities, to the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. This opinion is espoused, and defended with great ability by the late Mr. Bell of Glasgow, one of the most distinguished theologians of his times, in a learned dissertation on the subject: Bell on the Covenants p. 85. Scripture authority, then, would seem not to be entirely lacking, even for the name.
This doctrine of the covenant is intimately connected with that of imputed sin, for if there were no covenant, there could be no covenant or representative head; and if there were no covenant head, there could be no imputation of sin. Hence, the dislike to the name.)
Sin entered into the world - He was the first sinner of the race. The word “sin” here evidently means the violation of the Law of God He was the first sinner among people, and in consequence all others became sinners. The apostle does not here refer to Satan, the tempter, though he was the suggester of evil; for his design was to discuss the effect of the plan of salvation in meeting the sins and calamities of our race. This design, therefore, did not require him to introduce the sin of another order of beings. He says, therefore, that Adam was the first sinner of the race, and that death was the consequence.
Into the world - Among mankind; John 1:10; John 3:16-17. The term “world” is often thus used to denote human beings, the race, the human family. The apostle here evidently is not discussing the doctrine of original sin, but he is stating a simple fact, intelligible to all: “The first man violated the Law of God, and, in this way, sin was introduced among human beings.” In this fact - this general, simple declaration - there is no mystery.
And death by sin - Death was the consequence of sin; or was introduced because man sinned. This is a simple statement of an obvious and well-known fact. It is repeating simply what is said in Genesis 3:19, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return into the ground; for out of it wast thou taken; for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” The threatening was Genesis 2:17, “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” If an inquiry be made here, how Adam would understand this; I reply, that we have no reason to think he would understand it as referring to anything more than the loss of life as an expression of the displeasure of God. Moses does not intimate that he was learned in the nature of laws and penalties; and his narrative would lead us to suppose that this was all that would occur to Adam. And indeed, there is the highest evidence that the case admits of, that this was his understanding of it.
For in the account of the infliction of the penalty after the Law was violated; in God’s own interpretation of it, in Genesis 3:19, there is still no reference to anything further. “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” Now it is incredible that Adam should have understood this as referring to what has been called “spiritual death,” and to” eternal death,” when neither in the threatening, nor in the account of the infliction of the sentence, is there the slightest recorded reference to it. People have done great injury in the cause of correct interpretation by carrying their notions of doctrinal subjects to the explanation of words and phrases in the Old Testament. They have usually described Adam as endowed with all the refinement, and possessed of all the knowledge, and adorned with all the metaphysical acumen and subtility of a modern theologian. They have deemed him qualified in the very infancy of the world, to understand and discuss questions, which, under all the light of the Christian revelation, still perplex and embarrass the human mind. After these accounts of the endowments of Adam, which occupy so large a space in books of theology, one is surprised, on opening the Bible, to find how unlike all this, is the simple statement in Genesis. And the wonder cannot be suppressed that people should describe the obvious infancy of the race as superior to its highest advancement; or that the first man, just looking upon a world of wonders, imperfectly acquainted with law, and moral relations, and the effects of transgression, should be represented as endowed with knowledge which four thousand years afterward it required the advent of the Son of God to communicate!
The account in Moses is simple. Created man was told not to violate a simple law, on pain of death. He did it; and God announced to him that the sentence would be inflicted, and that he should return to the dust whence he was taken. What else this might involve, what other consequences sin might introduce, might be the subject of future developments and revelations. It is absurd to suppose that all the consequences of the violation of a law can be foreseen, or must necessarily be foreseen, in order to make the law and the penalty just. It is sufficient that the law be known; that its violation be forbidden; and what the consequences of that violation will be, must be left in great part to future developments. Even we, yet know not half the results of violating the Law of God. The murderer knows not the results fully of taking a man’s life. He breaks a just law, and exposes himself to the numberless unseen woes which may flow from it.
We may ask, therefore, what light subsequent revelations have east on the character and result of the first sin? and whether the apostle here meant to state that the consequences of sin were in fact as limited as they must have appeared to the mind of Adam? or had subsequent developments and revelations, through four thousand years, greatly extended the right understanding of the penalty of the law? This can be answered only by inquiring in what sense the apostle Paul here uses the word “death.” The passage before us shows in what sense he intended here to use the word. In his argument it stands opposed to “the grace of God, and the gift by grace,” Romans 5:15; to “justification,” by the forgiveness of “many offences,” Romans 5:16; to the reign of the redeemed in eternal life, Romans 5:17; and to” justification of life,” Romans 5:18. To all these, the words “death’ Romans 5:12, Romans 5:17 and “judgment” Romans 5:16, Romans 5:18 stand opposed.
These are the benefits which result from the work of Christ; and these benefits stand opposed to the evils which sin has introduced; and as it cannot be supposed that these benefits relate to temporal life, or solely to the resurrection of the body, so it cannot be that the evils involved in the words “death,” “judgment,” etc., relate simply to temporal death. The evident meaning is, that the word “death,” as used here by the apostle, refers to the train of evils which have been introduced by sin. It does not mean simply temporal death; but that group and collection of woes, including temporal death, condemnation, and exposure to eternal death, which is the consequence of transgression. The apostle often uses the word “death,” and “to die,” in this wide sense, Romans 1:32; Romans 6:16, Romans 6:23; Romans 7:5, Romans 7:10, Romans 7:13, Romans 7:24; Romans 8:2, Romans 8:6,Romans 8:13; 2 Corinthians 2:16; 2 Corinthians 7:10; Hebrews 2:14. In the same sense the word is often used elsewhere, John 8:51; John 11:26; 1 John 5:16-17; Revelation 2:11; Revelation 20:6, etc. etc.
In contrasting with this the results of the work of Christ, he describes not the resurrection merely, nor deliverance from temporal death, but eternal life in heaven; and it therefore follows that he here intends by death that gloomy and sad train of woes which sin has introduced into the world. The consequences of sin are, besides, elsewhere specified to be far more than temporal death, Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 2:8-9, Romans 2:12. Though therefore Adam might not have foreseen all the evils which were to come upon the race as the consequence of his sin, yet these evils might nevertheless follow. And the apostle, four thousand years after the reign of sin had commenced, and under the guidance of inspiration, had full opportunity to see and describe that train of woes which he comprehends under the name of death. That train included evidently temporal death, condemnation for sin, remorse of conscience, and exposure to eternal death, as the penalty of transgression.
And so - Thus. In this way it is to be accounted for that death has passed upon all people, to wit, because all people have sinned. As death followed sin in the first transgression, so it has in all; for all have sinned. There is a connection between death and sin which existed in the case of Adam, and which subsists in regard to all who sin. And as all have sinned, so death has passed upon all people.
Death passed upon - διῆλθεν diēlthen. Passed through; pervaded; spread over the whole race, as pestilence passes through, or pervades a nation. Thus, death, with its train of woes, with its withering and blighting influence, has passed through the world, laying prostrate all before it.
Upon all men - Upon the race; all die.
For that - ἐφ ̓ ᾧ eph' hō. This expression has been greatly controverted; and has been very variously translated. Elsner renders it, “on account of whom.” Doddridge, “unto which all have sinned.” The Latin Vulgate renders it, “in whom (Adam) all have sinned.” The same rendering has been given by Augustine, Beza, etc. But it has never yet been shown that our translators have rendered the expression improperly. The old Syriac and the Arabic agree with the English translation in this interpretation. With this agree Calvin, Vatablus, Erasmus, etc. And this rendering is sustained also by many other considerations.
(1) If ῳ ō be a relative pronoun here, it would refer naturally to death, as its antecedent, and not to man. But this would not make sense.
(2) If this had been its meaning, the preposition ἐν en would have been used; see the note of Erasmus on the place.
(3) It comports with the apostle’s argument to state a cause why all died, and not to state that people sinned in Adam. He was inquiring into the cause why death was in the world; and it would not account or that to say that all sinned in Adam. It would require an additional statement to see how that could be a cause.
(4) As his posterity had not then an existence, they could not commit actual transgression. Sin is the transgression of the Law by a moral agent; and as the interpretation “because all have sinned” meets the argument of the apostle, and as the Greek favors that certainly as much as it does the other, it is to be preferred.
All have sinned - To sin is to transgress the Law of God; to do wrong. The apostle in this expression does not say that all have sinned in Adam, or that their nature has become corrupt, which is true, but which is not affirmed here; nor that the sin of Adam is imputed to them; but simply affirms that all people have sinned. He speaks evidently of the great universal fact that all people are sinners, He is not settling a metaphysical difficulty; nor does he speak of the condition of man as he comes into the world. He speaks as other men would; he addresses himself to the common sense of the world; and is discoursing of universal, well-known facts. Here is the fact - that all people experience calamity, condemnation, death. How is this to be accounted for? The answer is, “All have sinned.” This is a sufficient answer; it meets the case. And as his design cannot be shown to be to discuss a metaphysical question about the nature of man, or about the character of infants, the passage should be interpreted according to his design, and should not be pressed to bear on that of which he says nothing, and to which the passage evidently has no reference. I understand it, therefore, as referring to the fact that people sin in their own persons, sin themselves - as, indeed, how can they sin in an other way? - and that therefore they die. If people maintain that it refers to any metaphysical properties of the nature of man, or to infants, they should not infer or suppose this, but should show distinctly that it is in the text. Where is there evidence of any such reference?
(The following note on Romans 5:12, is intended to exhibit its just connection and force. It is the first member of a comparison between Adam and Christ, which is completed in Romans 5:18-19. “As by one man,” etc. The first point which demands our attention, is the meaning of the words, “By one man sin entered into the world.” Our author has rendered them, “He was the first sinner;” and in this he follows Prof. Stewart and Dr. Taylor; the former of whom gives this explanation of the clause; that Adam “began transgression,” and the latter interprrets it by the word “commence.” It is, however, no great discovery, that sin commenced with one man, or that Adam was the first sinner. If sin commenced at all, it must have commenced with some one. And If Adam sinned at all, while yet he stood alone in the world, he must have been the first sinner of the race! President Edwards, in his reply to Dr. Taylor of Norwich, has the following animadversions on this view: “That the world was full of sin, and full of death, were too great and notorious, deeply affecting the interests of mankind; and they seemed very wonderful facts, drawing the attention of the more thinking part of mankind everywhere, who often asked this question, ‘whence comes this evil,’ moral and natural evil? (the latter chiefly visible in death.) It is manifest the apostle here means to tell us how these came into the world, and prevail in it as they do. But all that is meant, according to Dr Tay or’s interpretation, is ‘he began transgression,’ as if all the apostle meant, was to tell us who happened to sin first, not how such a malady came upon the world, or how anyone in the world, besides Adam himself, came by such a distemper.” - Orig. Sin, p. 270.
The next thing that calls for remark in this verse, is the force of the connecting words “and so” καὶ οὕτως kai houtōs. They are justly rendered “in this way,.”” in this manner,” “in consequence of which.” And therefore, the meaning of the first three clauses of the first verse is, that by one man sin entered into the world. and death by sin, in consequence of which sin of this one man, death passed upon all people.
It will not do to render “and so” by “in like manner,” as Prof. Stewart does, and then explain with our author, “there is a connection between death and sin. which existed in the case of Adam, and which subsists in regard to all who sin.” This is quite contrary to the acknowledged force of καὶ οὕτως kai houtōs, and besides, entirely destroys the connection which the apostle wishes to establish between the sin of the one man, and the penal evil, or death, that is in the world. It, in effect, says there is no connection whatever between those things although the language may seem to imply it and so large a portion of Christian readers in every age have understood it in this way. Adam sinned and he died, other people have sinned and they died! And yet this verse is allowed to be the first member of a comparison between Adam and Christ! Shall we supply then the other branch of the comparison, thus: Christ was righteous and lived, other people are righteous and they live? If we destroy the connection in the one case, how do we maintain it in the other? See the supplementary note.
The last clause “for that all have sinned,” is to be regarded as explanatory of the sentiment, that death passed on all, in consequence of the sin of the one man. Some have translated ἐφ ̓ ᾧ eph' hō, in whom; and this, indeed, would assign the only just reason, why all are visited with penal evil on account of Adam’s sin. All die through him, because in him all have sinned. But the translation is objectionable, on account of the distance of the antecedent. However, the common rendering gives precisely the same sense, “for that,” or “because that” all have sinned, that is, according to an explanation in Bloomfield’s Greek Testament, “are considered guilty in the sight of God on account of Adam’s fall. Thus, the expression may be considered equivalent to ἁμαρτωλοὶ κατεστάθησαν hamartōloi katestathēsan at Romans 5:19.” There can be no doubt that ἡμαρτον hēmarton does bear this sense, Genesis 44:32; Genesis 43:9. Moreover, the other rendering “because all have sinned personally,” is inconsistent with fact. Infants have not sinned in this way, therefore, according to this view, their death is left unaccounted for, and so is all that evil comprehended in the term “death,” that comes upon us antecedent to actual sin. See the supplementary note.
Lastly, this interpretation would render the reasoning of the apostle inconclusive. “If,” observes Witsius, “we must understand this of some personal sin of each, the reasoning would not have been just, or worthy of the apostle. For his argument would be thus: that by the one sin of one, all were become guilty of death, because each in particular had besides this one and first sin, his own personal sin, which is inconsequential.” That people are punished for personal or actual transgression is true. But it is not the particular truth Paul seeks here to establish, any more than he seeks to prove in the previous part of his epistle, that people are justified on account of personal holiness, which is clearly no part of his design.)
For until the law ... - This verse, with the following verses to the 17th, is usually regarded as a parenthesis. The Law here evidently means the Law given by Moses. “Until the commencement of that administration, or state of things under the law.” To see the reason why he referred to this period between Adam and the Law, we should recall the design of the apostle, which is, to show the exceeding grace of God in the gospel, abounding, and superabounding, as a complete remedy for all the evils introduced by sin. For this purpose he introduces three leading conditions, or states, where people sinned, and where the effects of sin were seen; in regard to each and all of which the grace of the gospel superabounded. The first was that of Adam, with its attendant train of ills Romans 5:12, which ills were all met by the death of Christ, Romans 5:15-18. The second period or condition was that long interval in which men had only the light of nature, that period occurring between Adam and Moses. This was a fair representation of the condition of the world without revelation, and without law, Romans 5:13-14. Sin then reigned - reigned everywhere where there was no law. But the grace of the gospel abounded over the evils of this state of man. The third was under the Law, Romans 5:20. The Law entered, and sin was increased, and its evils abounded. But the gospel of Christ abounded even over this, and grace triumphantly reigned. So that the plan of justification met all the evils of sin, and was adapted to remove them; sin and its consequences as flowing from Adam; sin and its consequences when there was no written revelation; and sin and its consequences under the light and terrors of the Law.
Sin was in the world - People sinned. They did what was evil.
But sin is not imputed - Is not charged against people, or they are not held guilty of it where there is no law. This is a self-evident proposition, for sin is a violation of law; and if there is no law, there can be no wrong. Assuming this as a self-evident proposition, the connection is, that there must have been a law of some kind; a “law written on their hearts,” since sin was in the world, and people could not be charged with sin, or treated as sinners, unless there was some law. The passage here states a great and important principle, that people will not be held to be guilty unless there is a law which binds them of which they are apprized, and which they voluntarily transgress; see the note at Romans 4:15. This verse, therefore, meets an objection that might be started from what had been said in Romans 4:15. The apostle had affirmed that “where no law is there is no transgression.” He here stated that all were sinners. It might be objected, that as during this long period of time they had no law, they could not be stoners. To meet this, he says that people were then in fact sinners, and were treated as such, which showed that there must have been a law.
Nevertheless - Notwithstanding that sin is not imputed where there is no law, yet death reigned.
Death reigned - People died; they were under the dominion of death in its various melancholy influences. The expression “death reigned” is one that is very striking. It is a representation of death as a monarch; having dominion over all that period, and overall those generations. Under his dark and withering reign people sank down to the grave. We have a similar expression when we represent death as “the king of terrors.” It is a striking and affecting personification, for.
(1) His reign is absolute. He strikes down whom he pleases, and when he pleases.
(2) There is no escape. All must bow to his sceptre, and be humbled beneath his hand,
(3) It is universal. Old and young alike are the subjects of his gloomy empire.
(4) It would be an eternal reign if itwere not for the gospel.
It would shed unmitigated woes upon the earth; and the silent tread of this terrific king would produce only desolation and tears forever.
From Adam to Moses - From the time when God gave one revealed law to Adam, to the time when another revealed Law was given to Moses. This was a period of 2500 years; no inconsiderable portion of the history of the world. Whether people were regarded and treated as sinners then, was a very material inquiry in the argument of the apostle. The fact that they died is alleged by him as full proof that they were sinners; and that sin had therefore scattered extensive and appalling woes among people.
Even over them - Over all those generations. The point or emphasis of the remark here is, that it reigned over those that had sinned under a different economy from that of Adam. This was what rendered it so remarkable; and which showed that the withering curse of sin had been felt in all dispensations, and in all times.
After the similitude ... - In the same way; in like manner. The expression “after the similitude” is an Hebraism, denoting in like manner, or as. The difference between their case and that of Adam was plainly that Adam had a revealed and positive law. They had not. They had only the law of nature, or of tradition. The giving of a law to Adam, and again to the world by Moses, were two great epochs between which no such event had occurred. The race wandered without revelation. The difference contemplated is not that Adam was an actual sinner, and that they had sinned only by imputation. For,
- The expression “to sin by imputation” is unintelligible, and conveys no idea.
- The apostle makes no such distinction, and conveys no such idea.
- His very object is different. It is to show that they were actual sinners; that they transgressed law; and the proof of this is that they died.
- It is utterly absurd to suppose that people from the time of Adam to Moses were sinners only by imputation. All history is against it; nor is there the slightest ground of plausibility in such a supposition.
Of Adam’s transgression - When he broke a plain, positive revealed law. This transgression was the open violation of a positive precept; theirs the violation of the laws communicated in a different way; by tradition, reason, conscience, etc. Many commentators have supposed that infants are particularly referred to here. Augustine first suggested this, and he has been followed by many others. But probably in the whole compass of the expositions of the Bible, there is not to be found a more unnatural and forced construction than this. For,
(1) The apostle makes no mention of infants. He does not in the remotest form allude to them by name, or give any intimation that he had reference to them.
(2) The scope of his argument is against it. Did infants only die? Were they the only persons that lived in this long period? His argument is complete without supposing that he referred to them. The question in regard to this long interval was, whether people were sinners? Yes, says the apostle. They died. Death reigned; and this proves that they were sinners. If it should be said that the death of infants would prove that they were sinners also, I answer,
- That this was an inference which the apostle does not draw, and for which he is not responsible. It is not affirmed by him.
- If it did refer to infants, what would it prove? Not that the sin of Adam was imputed, but that they were personally guilty, and transgressors. For this is the only point to which the argument tends.
The apostle here says not one word about imputation. He does not even refer to infants by name; nor does he here introduce at all the doctrine of imputation. All this is mere philosophy introduced to explain difficulties; but whether true or false, whether the theory explains or embarrasses the subject, it is not needful here to inquire.
(3) The very expression here is against the supposition that infants are intended. One form of the doctrine of imputation as held by Edwards, Starter, etc. has been that there was a constituted oneness or personal identity between Adam and his posterity; and that his sin was regarded as truly and properly theirs; and they as personally blameworthy or ill-deserving for it, in the same manner as a man at 40 is answerable for his crime committed at 20. If this doctrine be true, then it is certain that they not only had “sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression,” but had committed the very identical sin, and that they were answerable for it as their own. But this doctrine is now abandoned by all or nearly all who profess to be Calvinists; and as the apostle expressly says that they had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, it cannot be intended here.
(4) The same explanation of the passage is given by interpreters who nevertheless held to the doctrine of imputation. Thus, Calvin says on this passage, “Although this passage is understood commonly of infants, who, being guilty of no actual sin, perish by original depravity, yet I prefer that it should be interpreted generally of those who have not the Law. For this sentiment is connected with the preceding words, where it is said that sin is not imputed where there is no law. For they had not sinned according to the similitude of Adam’s transgression, because they had not as he had the will of God revealed. For the Lord forbid Adam to touch the fruit (of the tree) of the knowledge of good and evil; but to them he gave no command but the testimony of conscience.” Calvin, however, supposes that infants are included in the “universal catalogue” here referred to. Turretine also remarks that the discussion here pertains to all the adults between Adam and Moses. Indeed, it is perfectly manifest that the apostle here has no particular reference to infants; nor would it have ever been supposed, but for the purpose of giving support to the mere philosophy of a theological system.
(According to our author, the disputed clause in Romans 5:14, “even over them,” etc., is to be understood of those who had not sinned against “a revealed or positive law.” Many eminent critics have explained the phrase in the same way, and yet arrived at a very different conclusion from that stated in the commentary, namely, that people die simply on account of actual or personal sin. - Bloomfield Crit. Dig. vol. v. p. 520. There are, however, very strong objections against this interpretation.
1. It is not consistent with the scope of the passage. The apostle had asserted in Romans 5:12, that all die in consequence of the sin of the one man (see the supplementary note). And in Romans 5:13-14 proceeds to prove his position thus: People universally die; they must, therefore, have transgressed some law; not the Law of Moses, for people died before that was in being. Death absolutely reigned between Adam and Moses, even over them who had not broken a revealed law. therefore, people have died, in consequence of the sin of the one man. But in this chain of reasoning there is a link awanting. The conclusion does not follow; for though the persons in question had not broken a positive law, they had yet broken the law of nature, written on the heart, and might, therefore, have been condemned on account of a breach of it, Romans 2:12. But if we explain the clause under discussion, of infants who have not personally sinned like Adam against any law whatever, we ascend at once to the conclusion, that all die on account of Adam’s sin.
2. The particle “even,” καί kai seems to intimate, that a new class different from that before mentioned, or at all events a subdivision of it, is now to be introduced. None of all the multitudes that lived between Adam and Moses, had sinned against a positive or revealed law. To avoid an unmeaningful tautology therefore, some other sense must be attached to the clause. It is vain to affirm that the particle “even” simply lays “emphasis” on the fact, that they die who had not sinned against a positive law, since were we to admit this forced construction, we should still ask, to what purpose is the emphasis? The fact to which it is supposed to draw attention, as has been noticed already, falls short of proving the apostle’s point.
3. Moreover, since “the similitude,” etc. is quite a general expression containing no particular intimation in itself, as to that, in which the likeness consists, we are just as much at liberty to find the resemblance in personal transgression, as others, in transgression against revealed laws. To sin personally is to sin like Adam. Nay, the resemblance in this case is complete; in the other view it is imperfect, scarcely deserving to be called a resemblance at all. For they who have no revealed law, may yet be said to sin like Adam in some very important respects. They sin wilfully and presumptuously against the law written in their hearts, in spite of the remonstrances of conscience, etc. The only difference in fact, lies in the mode or manner of revelation. But if we suppose the likeness to lie in personal sin, we can find a class who have not sinned like Adam in any way whatever. And why this class should be supposed omitted, in an argument to prove that all people die in consequence of Adam’s sin, it is difficult to conceive.
What though infants are not “alluded to by name?” No one has ever asserted it. Had this been the case, there could have been no dispute on the point. To say, however, that the apostle “does not give any intimation that he had reference to infants,” is just a begging of the question, a taking for granted what requires to be proved. Perhaps, as Edwards suggests, “such might be the state of language among Jews and Christians at that day, that the apostle might have no phrase more aptly to express this meaning. The manner in which the epithets personal and actual, are used and applied now in this case, is probably of later date, and more modern use,” p. 312, Orig. Sin.
The learned author of this commentary objects further, to the opinion that infants who have not sinned personally are embraced in the clause under discussion; that “to sin by imputation is unintelligible, and conveys no idea.” It is his own language, and he alone is responsible for it. He tells us also, that “it is utterly absurd, to suppose that people, from the time of Adam to Moses, were sinners only by imputation.” No one ever supposed so, nor does the view, to which he objects, at all involve any such consequence. Again he affirms, “that the scope of the apostle’s argument is against the application of the clause to infants;” and asks, for what purpose we cannot divine: “Did infants only die?” The answer is obvious. No! Death reigned over all who lived from Adam to Moses, even over that class who had not sinned personally. As to the true scope of the passage, and the view that is most consonant to it, enough has been said already.)
Who is the figure - τύπος tupos. “Type.” This word occurs sixteen times in the New Testament, John 20:25 (twice); Acts 7:43-44; Acts 23:25; Romans 5:14; Romans 6:17; 1 Corinthians 10:6, 1 Corinthians 10:11; Philippians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:7; 2 Thessalonians 3:9; 1 Timothy 4:12; Titus 2:7; Hebrews 8:5; 1 Peter 5:3. It properly means,
- Any impression, note, or mark, which is made by percussion, or in any way, John 20:25, “the print (type) of the nails.”
(2)An effigy or image which is made or formed by any rule; a model, pattern. Acts 7:43, “ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch and the star of your god Remphan, figures (types) which ye had made.” Acts 7:44, “that he should make it (the tabernacle) according to the fashion (type) which he had seen,” Hebrews 8:5.
(3)A brief argument, or summary, Acts 23:25.
(4)A rule of doctrine, or a law or form of doctrine, Romans 6:17.
(5)An example or model to be imitated; an example of what we ought to be, Philippians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:7; 2Th 3:9; 1 Timothy 4:12; Titus 2:7; 1 Peter 5:3; or an example which is to be avoided, an example to warn us, 1Co 10:6, 1 Corinthians 10:11.
In this place it is evidently applied to the Messiah. The expression “he who was to come” is often used to denote the Messiah. As applied to him, it means that there was in some respects a similarity between the results of the conduct of Adam and the effects of the work of Christ. It does not mean that Adam was constituted or appointed a type of Christ, which would convey no intelligible idea; but that a resemblance may be traced between the effects of Adam’s conduct and the work of Christ. It does not mean that the person of Adam was typical of Christ; but that between the results of his conduct and the work of Christ, there may be instituted a comparison, there may be traced some resemblance. What that is, is stated in the following verses. It is mainly by way of contrast that the comparison is instituted, and may be stated as consisting in the following points of resemblance or contrast.
- By the crime of one, many are dead; by the work of the other, grace will much more abound, Romans 5:15.
- In regard to the acts of the two. In the case of Adam, one offence led on the train of woes; in the case of Christ, his work led to the remission of many offences, Romans 5:16.
- In regard to the effects. Death reigned by the one; but life much more over the other.
(2) Resemblance. By the disobedience of one, many were made sinners; by the obedience of the other, many shall be made righteous, Romans 5:18-19. It is clear, therefore, that the comparison which is instituted is rather by way of antithesis or contrast, than by direct resemblance. “The main design is to show that greater benefits have resulted from the work of Christ, than evils from the fall of Adam.” A comparison is also instituted between Adam and Christ in 1 Corinthians 15:22, 1 Corinthians 15:45. The reason is, that Adam was the first of the race; he was the fountain, the head, the father; and the consequences of that first act could be seen everywhere. By a divine constitution the race was so connected with him, that it was made certain that, if he fell, all would come into the world with a nature depraved, and subject to calamity and death, and would be treated as if fallen, and his sin would thus spread crime, and woe, and death everywhere. The evil effects of the apostasy were everywhere seen; and the object of the apostle was to show that the plan of salvation was adapted to meet and more than counterveil the evil effects of the fall. He argued on great and acknowledged facts - that Adam was the first sinner, and that from him, as a fountain, sin and death had flowed through the world. Since the consequences of that sin had been so disastrous and widespread, his design is to show that from the Messiah effects had flowed more beneficent than the former were ruinous.
“In him the tribes of Adam boast.
More blessings than their father lost.”
But not as the offence - This is the first point of contrast between the effect of the sin of Adam and of the work of Christ. The word “offence” means properly a fall, where we stumble over anything lying in our way It then means sin in general, or crime Matthew 6:14-15; Matthew 18:35. Here it means the fall, or first sin of Adam. We use the word “fall” as applied to Adam, to denote his first offence, as being that act by which he fell from an elevated state of obedience and happiness into one of sin and condemnation.
So also - The gift is not in its nature and effects like the offence.
The free gift - The favor, benefit, or good bestowed gratuitously on us. It refers to the favors bestowed in the gospel by Christ. These are free, that is, without merit on our part, and bestowed on the undeserving.
For if ... - The apostle does not labor to prove that this is so. This is not the point of his argument, He assumes that as what was seen and known everywhere. His main point is to show that greater benefits have resulted from the work of the Messiah than evils from the fall of Adam.
Through the offence of one - By the fall of one. This simply concedes the fact that it is so. The apostle does not attempt an explanation of the mode or manner in which it happened. He neither says that it is by imputation, nor by inherent depravity, nor by imitation. Whichever of these modes may be the proper one of accounting for the fact, it is certain that the apostle states neither. His object was, not to explain the manner in which it was done, but to argue from the acknowledged existence of the fact. All that is certainly established from this passage is, that as a certain fact resulting from the transgression of Adam, “many” were “dead.” This simple fact is all that can be proved from this passage. Whether it is to be explained by the doctrine of imputation, is to be a subject of inquiry independent of this passage. Nor have we a right to assume that this teaches the doctrine of the imputation of the sin of Adam to his posterity. For,
- The apostle says nothing of it.
(2)That doctrine is nothing but an effort to explain the manner of an event which the apostle Paul did not think it proper to attempt to explain.
(3)That doctrine is in fact no explanation.
It is introducing all additional difficulty. For to say that I am blameworthy, or ill-deserving for a sin in which I had no agency, is no explanation, but is involving me in an additional difficulty still more perplexing, to ascertain how such a doctrine can possibly be just. The way of wisdom would be, doubtless, to rest satisfied with the simple statement of a fact which the apostle has assumed, without attempting to explain it by a philosophical theory. Calvin accords with the above interpretation. “For we do not so perish by his (Adam’s) crime, as if we were ourselves innocent; but Paul ascribes our ruin to him because his sin is the cause of our sin.”
(This is not a fair quotation from Calvin. It leaves us to infer, that the Reformer affirmed, that Adam’s sin is the cause of actual sin in us, on account of which last only we are condemned. Now under the twelfth verse Calvin says, “The inference is plain, that the apostle does not treat of actual sin, for if every person was the cause of his own guilt, why should Paul compare Adam with Christ?” If our author had not stopt short in his quotation, he would have found immediately subjoined, as an explanation: “I call that our sin, which is inbred, and with which we are born.” Our being born with this sin is a proof of our guilt in Adam. But whatever opinion may he formed of Calvin’s general views on this subject, nothing is more certain, than that he did not suppose the apostle treated of actual sin in these passages.
Notwithstanding of the efforts that are made to exclude the doctrine of imputation from this chapter, the full and varied manner in which the apostle expresses it, cannot be evaded. “Through the offence of one many be dead” - “the judgment was by one to condemnation” - “By one man’s offence death reigned by one” - “By the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation” - “By one man’s disobedience, many were made sinners,” etc.
It is vain to tell us, as our author does” under each of these clauses respectively, that the apostle simply states the fact, that the sin of Adam has involved the race in condemnation, without adverting to the manner; for Paul does more than state the fact. He intimates that we are involved in condemnation in a way that bears a certain analogy to the manner in which we become righteous. And on this last, he is, without doubt, sufficiently explicited See a former supplementary note.
In Romans 5:18-19 the apostle seems plainly to affirm the manner of the fact “as by the offence of one,” etc., “Even so,” etc. “As by one man’s disobedience,” etc., “so,” etc. There is a resemblance in the manner of the two things compared. It we wish to know how guilt and condemnation come by Adam, we have only to inquire, how righteousness and justification come by Christ. “So,” that is, in this way, not in like manner. It is not in a manner that has merely some likeness, but it is in the very same manner, for although there is a contrast in the things, the one being disobedience and the other obedience, yet there is a perfect identity in the manner. - Haldane.
It is somewhat remarkable, that while our author so frequently affirms, that the apostle states the fact only, he himself should throughout assume the manner. He will not allow the apostle to explain the manner, nor any one who has a different view of it from himself. Yet he tells us, it is not by imputation that we become involved in Adam’s guilt; that people “sin in their own persons, and that therefore they die.” This he affirms to be the apostle’s meaning. And is this not an explanation of the manner. Are we not left to conclude, that from Adam we simply derive a corrupt nature, in consequence of which we sin personally, and therefore die?)
Many - Greek, “The many.” Evidently meaning all; the whole race; Jews and Gentiles. That it means all here is proved in Romans 5:18. If the inquiry be, why the apostle used the word “many” rather than all, we may reply, that the design was to express an antithesis, or contrast to the cause - one offence. One stands opposed to many, rather than to all.
Be dead - See the note on the word “death,” Romans 5:12. The race is under the dark and gloomy reign of death. This is a simple fact which the apostle assumes, and which no man can deny.
Much more - The reason of this “much more” is to be found in the abounding mercy and goodness of God. If a wise, merciful, and good Being has suffered such a train of woes to be introduced by the offence of one, have we not much more reason to expect that his grace will superabound?
The grace of God - The favor or kindness of God We have reason to expect under the administration of God more extensive benefits, than we have ills, flowing from a constitution of things which is the result of his appointment.
And the gift by grace - The gracious gift; the benefits flowing from that grace. This refers to the blessings of salvation.
Which is by one man - Standing in contrast with Adam. His appointment was the result of grace; and as he was constituted to bestow favors, we have reason to expect that they will superabound.
Hath abounded - Has been abundant, or ample; will be more than a counterbalance for the ills which have been introduced by the sin of Adam.
Unto many - Greek, Unto the many. The obvious interpretation of this is, that it is as unlimited as “the many” who are dead. Some have supposed that Adam represented the whole of the human race, and Christ a part, and that “the many” in the two members of the verse refer to the whole of those who were thus represented. But this is to do violence to the passage; and to introduce a theological doctrine to meet a supposed difficulty in the text. The obvious meaning is - one from which we cannot depart without doing violence to the proper laws of interpretation - that “the many” in the two cases are co-extensive; and that as the sin of Adam has involved the race - the many - in death; so the grace of Christ has abounded in reference to the many, to the race. If asked how this can be possible, since all have not been, and will not be savingly benefitted by the work of Christ, we may reply,
(1) That it cannot mean That the benefits of the work of Christ should be literally co-extensive with the results of Adam’s sin, since it is a fact that people have suffered, and do suffer, from the effects of that fall. In order that the Universalist may draw an argument from this, he must show that it was the design of Christ to destroy all the effects of the sin of Adam. But this has not been in fact. Though the favors of that work have abounded, yet people have suffered and died. And though it may still abound to the many, yet some may suffer here, and suffer on the same principle forever.
(2) Though people are indubitably affected by the sin of Adam, as e. g., by being born with a corrupt disposition; with loss of righteousness, with subjection to pain and woe; and with exposure to eternal death; yet there is reason to believe that all those who die in infancy are, through the merits of the Lord Jesus, and by an influence which we cannot explain, changed and prepared for heaven. As nearly half the race die in infancy, therefore there is reason to think that, in regard to this large portion of the human family, the work of Christ has more than repaired the evils of the fall, and introduced them into heaven, and that his grace has thus abounded unto many. In regard to those who live to the period of moral agency, a scheme has been introduced by which the offers of salvation may be made to them, and by which they may be renewed, and pardoned, and saved. The work of Christ, therefore, may have introduced advantages adapted to meet the evils of the fall as man comes into the world; and the original applicability of the one be as extensive as the other. In this way the work of Christ was in its nature suited to abound unto the many.
(3) The intervention of the plan of atonement by the Messiah, prevented the immediate execution of the penalty of the Law, and produced all the benefits to all the race, resulting from the sparing mercy of God. In this respect it was co-extensive with the fall.
(4) He died for all the race, Hebrews 2:9; 2Co 5:14-15; 1 John 2:2. Thus, his death, in its adaptation to a great and glorious result, was as extensive as the ruins of the fall.
(5) The offer of salvation is made to all, Revelation 22:17; John 7:37; Matthew 11:28-29; Mark 16:15. Thus, his grace has extended unto the many - to all the race. Provision has been made to meet the evils of the fall; a provision as extensive in its applicability as was the ruin.
(6) More will probably be actually saved by the work of Christ, than will be finally ruined by the fall of Adam. The number of those who shall be saved from all the human race, it is to be believed, will yet be many more than those who shall be lost. The gospel is to spread throughout the world. It is to be evangelized. The millennial glory is to rise upon the earth; and the Saviour is to reign with undivided empire. Taking the race as a whole, there is no reason to think that the number of those who shall be lost, compared with the immense multitudes that shall be saved by the work of Christ, will be more than are the prisoners in a community now, compared with the number of peaceful and virtuous citizens. A medicine may be discovered that shall be said to triumph over disease, though it may have been the fact that thousands have died since its discovery, and thousands yet will not avail themselves of it; yet the medicine shall have the properties of universal triumph; it is adapted to the many; it might be applied by the many; where it is applied, it completely answers the end. Vaccination is adapted to meet the evils of the small-pox everywhere; and when applied, saves people from the ravages of this terrible disease, though thousands may die to whom it is not applied. It is a triumphant remedy. So of the plan of salvation. Thus, though all shall not be saved, yet the sin of Adam shall be counteracted; and grace abounds unto the many. All this fulness of grace the apostle says we have reason to expect from the abounding mercy of God.
(The “many” in the latter clause of this verse, cannot be regarded as co-extensive with the “many” that are said to be dead through the offence of Adam. Very much is affirmed of the “many to whom grace abounds,” that cannot, “without doing violence to the whole passage,” be applied to all mankind. They are said to “receive the gift of righteousness,” and to “reign in life.” They are actually “constituted righteous,” Romans 5:19 and these things cannot be said of all people in any sense whatever. The only way of explaining the passage, therefore, is to adopt that view which our author has introduced only to condemn, namely, “that Adam represented the whole of the human race, and Christ a part, and that ‘the many in the two members of the verse, refers to the whole of those who were thus represented.”
The same principle of interpretation must be adopted in the parallel passage, “As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive.” It would be preposterous to affirm, that “the all” in the latter clause is co-extensive with “the all” in the former. The sense plainly is, that all whom Christ represented should be made alive in him. even as all mankind, or all represented by Adam, had died in him.
It is true indeed that all mankind are in some sense benefitted on account of the atonement of Christ: and our author has enlarged on several things of this nature, which yet fall short of “saving benefit.” But will it be maintained, that the apostle in reality affirms no more than that the many to, whom grace abounds, participate in certain benefits, short of salvation? If so, what becomes of the comparison between Adam and Christ? If “the many” in the one branch of the comparison are only benefitted by Christ in a way that falls short of saving benefit, then “the many” in the other branch must be affected by the fall of Adam only in the same limited way, whereas the apostle affirms that in consequence of it they are really “dead.”
“The principal thing,” says Mr. Scott, “which renders the expositions generally given of these verses perplexed and unsatisfactory, arises from an evident misconception of the apostle’s reasoning, in supposing that Adam and Christ represented exactly the same company; whereas Adam was the surety of the whole human species, as his posterity; Christ, only of that chosen remnant, which has been, or shall be one with him by faith, who alone ‘are counted to him for a generation.’ If we exclusively consider the benefits which believers derive from Christ as compared with the loss sustained in Adam by the human race, we shall then see the passage open most perspicuously and gloriously to our view.” - Commentary, Romans 5:15, Romans 5:19.
But our author does not interpret this passage upon any consistent principle. For “the many” in Romans 5:15, to whom “grace abounded” are obviously the same with those in Romans 5:17, who are said to receive abundance of grace, etc., and yet he interprets the one of all mankind, and the other of believers only. What is asserted in Romans 5:17, he says, “is particularly true of the redeemed, of whom the apostle in this verse is speaking.”)
And not ... - This is the second point in which the effects of the work of Christ differ from the sin of Adam The first part Romans 5:15 was, that the evil consequences flowed from the sin of one man, Adam; and that the benefits flowed from the work of one man, Jesus Christ. The point in this verse is, that the evil consequences flowed from one crime, one act of guilt; but that the favors had respect to many acts of guilt. The effects of Adam’s sin, whatever they were, pertained to the one sin; the effects of the work of Christ, to many sins.
By one that sinned - δι ̓ ἑνὸς ἁμαρτήσαντος di' henos hēmartēsantos. By means of one (man) sinning; evidently meaning by one offence, or by one act of sin. So the Vulgate, and many manuscripts. And the connection shows that this is the sense.
The gift - The benefits resulting from the work of Christ.
The judgment - The sentence; the declared penalty. The word expresses properly the sentence which is passed by a judge. Here it means the sentence which God passed, as a judge, on Adam for the one offence, involving himself and his posterity in ruin, Genesis 2:17; Genesis 3:17-19.
Was by one - By one offence; or one act of sin.
Unto condemnation - Producing condemnation; or involving in condemnation. It is proved by this, that the effect of the sin of Adam was to involve the race in condemnation, or to secure this as a result that all mankind would be under the condemning sentence of the Law, and be transgressors. But in what way it would have this effect, the apostle does not state. He does not intimate that his sin would be imputed to them; or that they would be held to be personally guilty for it. He speaks of a broad, everywhere perceptible fact, that the effect of that sin had been somehow to overwhelm the race in condemnation. In what mode this was done is a fair subject of inquiry; but the apostle does not attempt to explain it.
The free gift - The unmerited favor, by the work of Christ.
Is of many offences - In relation to many sins. It differs thus from the condemnation. That had respect to one offence; this has respect to many crimes. Grace therefore abounds.
Unto justification - Note, Romans 3:24. The work of Christ is designed to have reference to many offences, so as to produce pardon or justification in regard to them all. But the apostle here does not intimate how this is done. He simply states the fact, without attempting in this place to explain it; and as we know that that work does not produce its effect to justify without some act on the part of the individual, are we not hence, led to conclude the same respecting the condemnation for the sin of Adam? As the work of Christ does not benefit the race unless it is embraced, so does not the reasoning of the apostle imply, that the deed of Adam does not involve in criminality and ill-desert unless there be some voluntary act on the part of each individual? However this may be, it is certain that the apostle has in neither case here explained the mode in which it is done. He has simply stated the fact, a fact which he did not seem to consider himself called on to explain. Neither has he affirmed that in the two cases the mode is the same. On the contrary, it is strongly implied that it is not the same, for the leading object here is to present, not an entire resemblance, but a strong contrast between the effects of the sin of Adam and the work of Christ.
For if - This verse contains the same idea as before presented, but in a varied form. It is condensing the whole subject, and presenting it in a single view.
By one man’s offence - Or, by one offence. Margin. The reading of the text is the more correct. “If, under the administration of a just and merciful Being, it has occurred, that by the offence of one, death hath exerted so wide a dominion; we have reason much more to expect under that administration, that they who are brought under his plan of saving mercy shall be brought under a dispensation of life.”
Death reigned - Note, Romans 5:14.
By one - By means of one man.
Much more - We have much more reason to expect it. It evidently accords much more with the administration of a Being of infinite goodness.
They which receive abundance of grace - The abundant favor; the mercy that shall counterbalance and surpass the evils introduced by the sin of Adam. That favor shall be more than sufficient to counterbalance all those evils. This is particularly true of the redeemed, of whom the apostle in this verse is speaking. The evils which they suffer in consequence of the sin of Adam bear no comparison with the mercies of eternal life that shall flow to them from the work of the Saviour.
The gift of righteousness - This stands opposed to the evils introduced by Adam. As the effect of his sin was to produce condemnation, so here the gift of righteousness refers to the opposite, to pardon, to justification, to acceptance with God. To show that people were thus justified by the gospel, was the leading design of the apostle; and the argument here is, that if by one man’s sin, death reigned over those who were under condemnation in consequence of it, we have much more reason to suppose that they who are delivered from sin by the death of Christ, and accepted of God, shall reign with him in life.
Shall reign - The word “reign” is often applied to the condition of saints in heaven, 2 Timothy 2:12, “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him;” Revelation 5:10; Revelation 20:6; Revelation 22:5. It means that they shall be exalted to a glorious state of happiness in heaven; that they shall be triumphant over all their enemies; shall gain an ultimate victory; and shall partake with the Captain of their salvation in the splendors of his dominion above, Revelation 3:21; Luke 22:30.
In life - This stands opposed to the death that reigned as the consequence of the sin of Adam. It denotes complete freedom from condemnation; from temporal death; from sickness, pain, and sin. It is the usual expression to denote the complete bliss of the saints in glory; Note, John 3:36.
By one, Jesus Christ - As the consequence of his work. The apostle here does not state the mode or manner in which this was done; nor does he say that it was perfectly parallel in the mode with the effects of the sin of Adam. He is comparing the results or consequences of the sin of the one and of the work of the other. There is a similarity in the consequences. The way in which the work of Christ had contributed to this he had stated in Romans 3:24, Romans 3:28.
Therefore - Wherefore (Ἄρα οὖν ara oun). This is properly a summing up, a recapitulation of what had been stated in the previous verses. The apostle resumes the statement or proposition made in Romans 5:12, and after the intermediate explanation in the parenthesis Romans 5:13-17, in this verse and the following, sums up the whole subject. The explanation, therefore, of the previous verses is designed to convey the real meaning of Romans 5:18-19.
As by the offence of one - Admitting this as an undisputed and everywhere apparent fact, a fact which no one can call in question.
Judgment came - This is not in the Greek, but it is evidently implied, and is stated in Romans 5:16. The meaning is, that all have been brought under the reign of death by one man.
Upon all men - The whole race. This explains what is meant by “the many” in Romans 5:15.
To condemnation - Romans 5:16.
Even so - In the manner explained in the previous verses. With the same certainty, and to the same extent. The apostle does not explain the mode in which it was done, but simply scares the fact.
By the righteousness of one - This stands opposed to the one offence of Adam, and must mean, therefore, the holiness, obedience, purity of the Redeemer. The sin of one man involved people in ruin; the obedience unto death of the other Philippians 2:8 restored them to the favor of God.
Came upon all men - (εἰς παντας ἀνθρώπους eis pantas anthrōpous. Was with reference to all people; had a bearing upon all people; was originally adapted to the race. As the sin of Adam was of such a nature in the relation in which he stood as to affect all the race, so the work of Christ in the relation in which he stood was adapted also to all the race. As the tendency of the one was to involve the race in condemnation, so the tendency of the other was to restore them to acceptance with God. There was an original applicability in the work of Christ to all people - a richness, a fulness of the atonement suited to meet the sins of the entire world, and restore the race to favor.
Unto justification of life - With reference to that justification which is connected with eternal life. That is, his work is adapted to produce acceptance with God, to the same extent as the crime of Adam has affected the race by involving them in sin and misery The apostle does not affirm that in fact as many will be affected by the one as by the other; but that it is suited to meet all the consequences of the fall; to be as wide-spread in its effects; and go be as salutary as that had been ruinous. This is all that the argument requires. Perhaps there could not be found a more striking declaration any where, that the work of Christ had an original applicability to all people; or that it is in its own nature suited to save all. The course of argument here leads inevitably to this; nor is it possible to avoid it without doing violence to the obvious and fair course of the discussion.
It does not prove that all will in fact be saved, but that the plan is suited to meet all the evils of the fall. A certain kind of medicine may have an original applicability to heal all persons under the same disease; and may be abundant and certain, and yet in fact be applied to few. The sun is suited to give light to all, yet many may be blind, or may voluntarily close their eyes. Water is adapted to the needs of all people, and the supply may be ample for the human family, yet in fact, from various causes, many may be deprived of it. So of the provisions of the plan of redemption. They are adapted to all; they are ample, and yet in fact, from causes which this is not the place to explain, the benefits, like those of medicine, water, science, etc. may never be enjoyed by all the race. Calvin concurs in this interpretation, and thus shows, that it is one which commends itself even to the most strenuous advocates of the system which is called by his name. He says, “He (the apostle) makes the grace common to all, because it is offered to all, not because it is in fact applied to all. For although Christ suffered for the sins or the whole world (nam etsi passus est Christus pro peccatis totius mundi), and it is offered to all without distinction (indifferenter), yet all do not embrace it.” See Cal. Commentary on this place.
For ... - This verse is not a mere repetition of the former, but it is an explanation. By the former statements it might perhaps be inferred that people were condemned without any guilt or blame of theirs. The apostle in this verse guards against this, and affirms that they are in fact sinners. He affirms that those who are sinners are condemned, and that the sufferings brought in on account of the sin of Adam, are introduced because many were made sinners. Calvin says,” Lest anyone should arrogate to himself innocence, (the apostle) adds, that each one is condemned because he is a sinner.”
(The same objection which was stated against a previous quotation from Calvin applies here. The reformer does not mean that each is condemned because he is actually a sinner. He affirms that the ground of condemnation lies in something with which we are born, which belongs to us antecedent to actual transgression.)
By one man’s disobedience - By means of the sin of Adam. This affirms simply the fact thai such a result followed from the sin of Adam. The word by διά dia is used in the Scriptures as it is in all books and in all languages. It may denote the efficient cause; the instrumental cause; the principal cause; the meritorious cause; or the chief occasion by which a thing occurred. (See Schleusner.) It does not express one mode, and one only, in which a thing is done; but that one thing is the result of another. When we say that a young man is ruined in his character by another, we do not express the mode, but the fact. When we say that thousands have been made infidels by the writings of Paine and Voltaire, we make no affirmation about the mode, but about the fact. In each of these, and in all other cases, we should deem it most inconclusive reasoning to attempt to determine the mode by the preposition by; and still more absurd if it were argued from the use of that preposition that the sins of the seducer were imputed to the young man; or the opinions of Paine and Voltaire imputed to infidels.
(What is here said of the various significations of διά dia is true. Yet it will not be denied, that in a multitude of instances it points to the real cause or ground of a thing. The sense is to be determined by the connection. “We have in this single passage no less than three cases, Romans 5:12, Romans 5:18-19, in which this preposition with the genitive indicates the ground or reason on account of which something is given or performed. All this is surely sufficient to prove that it may, in the case before us, express the ground why the sentence of condemnation has passed upon all men.” To draw an illustration from the injury inflicted by Voltaire and Paine, will not serve the author’s purpose, until he can prove, that they stand in a relation, to those whom they have injured, similar to what Adam bears to the human family. When we say that thousands have been ruined by Voltaire, it is true we can have no idea of imputation: yet we may fairly entertain such an idea when it is said, “all man. kind have been ruined by Adam.”)
Many - Greek, The many, Romans 5:15. “Were made” (κατεσταθησαν katestathēsan). The verb used here, occurs in the New Testament in the following places: Matthew 24:45, Matthew 24:47; Matthew 25:21, Matthew 25:23; Luke 12:14, Luke 12:42, Luke 12:44; Acts 6:3; Acts 7:10, Acts 7:27, Acts 7:35; Acts 17:15; Romans 5:19; Titus 1:5; Hebrews 2:7; Hebrews 5:1; Hebrews 7:28; Hebrews 8:3; James 3:6; Jam 4:4; 2 Peter 1:8. It usually means to constitute, set, or appoint. In the New Testament it has two leading significations.
(1) To appoint to an office, to set over others (Matthew 24:45, Matthew 24:47; Luke 12:42, etc.); and,
(2) It means to become, to be in fact, etc.; James 3:6, “so is the tongue among our members,” etc.
That is, it becomes such; James 4:4, “The friendship of the world is enmity with God; it becomes such; it is in fact thus, and is thus to be regarded. The word is, in no instance, used to express the idea of imputing that to one which belongs to another. It here either means that this was by a constitution of divine appointment that they in fact became sinners, or simply declares that they were so in fact. There is not the slightest intimation that it was by imputation. The whole scope of the argument is, moreover, against this; for the object of the apostle is not to show that they were charged with the sin of another, but that they were in fact sinners themselves. If it means that they were condemned for his act, without any concurrence of their own will, then the correspondent part will be true, that all are constituted righteous in the same way; and thus the doctrine of universal salvation will be inevitable. But as none are constituted righteous who do not voluntarily avail themselves of the provisions of mercy, so it follows that those who are condemned, are not condemned for the sin of another without their own concurrence; nor unless they personally deserve it.
Sinners - Transgressors; those who deserve to be punished. It does not mean those who are condemned for the sin of another; but those who are violators of the Law of God. All who are condemned are sinners. They are not innocent persons condemned for the crime of another. People may be involved in the consequences of the sins of others without being to blame. The consequences of the crimes of a murderer, a drunkard, a pirate may pass over from them, and affect thousands, and overwhelm them in ruin. But this does not prove that they are blameworthy. In the divine administration none are regarded as guilty who are not guilty; none are condemned who do not deserve to be condemned. All who sink to hell are sinners.
By the obedience of one - Of Christ. This stands opposed to the disobedience of Adam, and evidently includes the entire work of the Redeemer which has a bearing on the salvation of people; Philippians 2:8, “He ...became obedient unto death.”
Shall many - Greek, The many; corresponding to the term in the former part of the verse, and evidently commensurate with it; for there is no reason for limiting it to a part in this member, any more than there is in the former.
Be made - The same Greek word as before be appointed, or become. The apostle has explained the mode in which this is done; Romans 1:17; Romans 3:24-26; Romans 4:1-5. That explanation is to limit the meaning here. No more are considered righteous than become so in that way. And as all do not become righteous thus, the passage cannot be adduced to prove the doctrine of universal salvation.
The following remarks may express the doctrines which are established by this much-contested and difficult passage.
(1) Adam was created holy; capable of obeying law; yet free to fall.
(2) A law was given him, adapted to his condition - simple, plain, easy to be obeyed, and suited to give human nature a trial in circumstances as favorable as possible.
(3) Its violation exposed him to the threatened penalty as he had understood it, and to all the collateral woes which it might carry in its train - involving, as subsequent developments showed, the loss of God’s favor; his displeasure evinced in man’s toil, and sweat, and sickness, and death; in hereditary depravity, and the curse, and the pains of hell forever.
(4) Adam was the head of the race; he was the fountain of being; and human nature was so far tried in him, that it may be said he was on trial not for himself alone, but for his posterity, inasmuch as his fall would involve them in ruin. Many have chosen to call this a covenant, and to speak of him as a federal head; and if the above account is the idea involved in these terms, the explanation is not exceptionable. As the word “covenant,” however, is not applied in the transaction in the Bible, and as it is liable to be misunderstood, others prefer to speak of it as a law given to Adam, and as a divine constitution, under which he was placed.
(5) “his posterity are, in consequence of his sin, subjected to the same train of ills as if they had been personally the transgressors.” Not that they are regarded as personally ill-deserving, or criminal for his sin, God reckons things as they are, and not falsely, (see the note at Romans 4:3), and his imputations are all according to truth. He regarded Adam as standing at the head of the race; and regards and treats all his posterity as coming into the world subject to pain, and death, and depravity, as a consequence of his sin; see the note. This is the Scripture idea of imputation; and this is what has been commonly meant when it has been said that “the guilt of his first sin” - not the sin itself - “is imputed to his posterity.”
(6) There is something antecedent to the moral action of his posterity, and growing out of the relation which they sustain to him, which makes it certain that they will sin as soon as they begin to act as moral agents. What this is, we may not be able to say; but we may be certain that it is not physical depravity, or any created essence of the soul, or anything which prevents the first act of sin from being voluntary. This hereditary tendency to sin has been usually called “original sin;” and this the apostle evidently teaches.
(7) As an infant comes into the world with a certainty that he will sin as soon as he becomes a moral agent here, there is the same certainty that, if he were removed to eternity, he would sin there also, unless he were changed. There is, therefore, need of the blood of the atonement and of the agency of the Holy Spirit, that an infant may be saved.
(8) The facts here stated accord with all the analogy in the moral government of God. The drunkard secures as a result commonly, that his family will be reduced to beggary, want, and woe. A pirate, or a traitor, will overwhelm not himself only, but his family in ruin. Such is the great law or constitution on which society is now organized; and we are not to be surprised that the same principle occurred in the primary organization of human affairs.
(9) As this is the fact everywhere, the analogy disarms all objections which have been made against the scriptural statements of the effects of the sin of Adam. If just now, it was just then. If it exists now, it existed then.
(10) the doctrine should be left, therefore, simply as it is in the Scriptures. It is there the simple statement of a fact, without any attempt at explanation. That fact accords with all that we see and feel. It is a great principle in the constitution of things, that the conduct of one man may pass over in its effects on others, and have an influence on their happiness. The simple fact in regard to Adam is, that he sinned; and that such is the organization of the great society of which he was the head and father, that his sin has secured as a certain result that all the race will be sinners also. How this is, the Bible has not explained. It is a part of a great system of things. That it is unjust no man can prove, for none can show that any sinner suffers more than he deserves. That it is wise is apparent, for it is attended with numberless blessings. It is connected with all the advantages that grow out of the social organization.
The race might have been composed of independent individuals, where the conduct of an individual, good or evil, might have affected no one but himself. But then society would have been impossible. All the benefits of organization into families, and communities, and nations would have been unknown. Man would have lived alone; wept alone; rejoiced alone; died alone. There would have been no sympathy; no compassion; no mutual aid. God has therefore grouped the race into separate communities. He has organized society. He has constituted families, tribes, clans, nations; and though on the general principle the conduct of one may overwhelm another in misery, yet the union, the grouping, the constitution, is the source of most of the blessings which man enjoys in this life, and may be of numberless mercies in regard to what is to come. If it was the organization on which the race might be plunged into sin, it is also the organization on which it may be raised to life eternal. If, on the one hand, it may be abused to produce misery, it may, on the other, be improved to the advancement of peace, sympathy, friendship, prosperity, salvation. At all events, such is the organization in common life and in religion, and it becomes man not to complain, but to act on it, and to endeavor, by the tender mercy of God, to turn it to his welfare here and hereafter. As by this organization, through Adam, he has been plunged into sin, so by the same organization, he shall, through “the second Adam,” rise to life, and ascend to the skies.
Moreover - But. What is said in this verse and the following, seems designed to meet the Jew, who might pretend that the Law of Moses was intended to meet the evils of sin introduced by Adam, and therefore that the scheme defended by the apostle was unnecessary. He therefore shows them that the effect of the Law of Moses was to increase rather than to diminish the sins which had been introduced into the world. And if such was the fact, it could not be pled that it was adapted to overcome the acknowledged evils of the apostasy.
The law - The Mosaic laws and institutions. The word seems to be used here to denote all the laws which were given in the Old Testament.
Entered - This word usually means to enter secretly or surreptitiously. But it appears to be used here simply in the sense that the Law came in, or was given. It came in addition to, or it supervened the state before Moses, when people were living without a revelation.
That sin ... - The word “that” ἵνα hina in this place does not mean that it was the design of giving the Law that sin might abound or be increased, but that such was in fact the effect. It had this tendency, not to restrain or subdue sin, but to excite and increase it. That the word has this sense may be seen in the lexicons. The way in which the Law produces this effect is stated more fully by the apostle in Romans 7:7-11. The Law expresses the duty of man; it is spiritual and holy; it is opposed to the guilty passions and pleasures of the world; and it thus excites opposition, provokes to anger, and is the occasion by which sin is called into exercise, and shows itself in the heart. All law, where there is a disposition to do wrong, has this tendency. A command given to a child that is disposed to indulge his passions, only tends to excite anger and opposition. If the heart was holy, and there was a disposition to do right, law would have no such tendency. See this subject further illustrated in the notes at Romans 7:7-11.
The offence - The offence which had been introduced by Adam, that is, sin. Compare Romans 5:15.
Might abound - Might increase; that is, would be more apparent, more violent, more extensive. The introduction of the Mosaic Law, instead of diminishing the sins of people, only increases them.
But where sin abounded - Alike in all dispensations - before the Law, and under the Law. In all conditions of the human family before the gospel, it was the characteristic that sin was prevalent.
Grace - Favor; mercy.
Did much more abound - Superabounded. The word is used no where else in the New Testament, except in 2 Corinthians 7:4. It means that the pardoning mercy of the gospel greatly triumphed over sin, even over the sins of the Jews, though those sins were greatly aggravated by the light which they enjoyed under the advantages of divine revelation.
That as sin hath reigned - Note, Romans 5:14.
Unto death - Producing or causing death.
Even so - In like manner, also. The provisions of redemption are in themselves ample to meet all the ruins of the fall.
Might grace reign - Might mercy be triumphant; see John 1:17, “Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”
Through righteousness - Through, or by means of, God’s plan of justification; Note, Romans 1:17.
Unto eternal life - This stands opposed to “death” in the former part of the verse, and shows that there the apostle had reference to eternal death. The result of God’s plan of justification shall be to produce eternal life. The triumphs of the gospel here celebrated cannot refer to the number of the subjects, for it has not actually freed all people from the dominion of sin. But the apostle refers to the fact that the gospel is able to overcome sin of the most malignant form, of the most aggravated character, of the longest duration. Sin in all dispensations and states of things can be thus overcome; and the gospel is more than sufficient to meet all the evils of the apostasy, and to raise up the race to heaven.
This chapter is a most precious portion of divine revelation. It brings into view the amazing evils which have resulted from the apostasy. The apostle does not attempt to deny or palliate those evils; he admits them fully; admits them in their deepest, widest, most melancholy extent; just as the physician admits the extent and ravages of the disease which he hopes to cure. At the same time, Christianity is not responsible for those evils. It did not introduce them. It finds them in existence, as a matter of sober and melancholy fact, pertaining to all the race. Christianity is no more answerable for the introduction and extent of sin, than the science of medicine is responsible for the introduction and extent of disease. Like that science, it finds a state of wide-spread evils in existence; and like that science, it is strictly a remedial system. And whether true or false, still the evils of sin exist, just as the evils of disease exist, whether the science of medicine be wellfounded or not.
Nor does it make any difference in the existence of these evils, whether Christianity be true or false. If the Bible could be proved to be an imposition, it would not prove that people are not sinners. If the whole work of Christ could be shown to be imposture, still it would annihilate no sin, nor would it prove that man has not fallen. The fact would still remain - a fact certainly quite as universal, and quite as melancholy, as it is under the admitted truth of the Christian revelation - and a fact which the infidel is just as much concerned to account for as is the Christian. Christianity proposes a remedy; and it is permitted to the Christian to rejoice that that remedy is ample to meet all the evils; that it is just suited to recover our alienated world; and that it is destined yet to raise the race up to life, and peace, and heaven. In the provisions of that scheme we may and should triumph; and on the same principle as we may rejoice in the triumph of medicine over disease, so may we triumph in the ascendancy of the Christian plan over all the evils of the fall And while Christians thus rejoice, the infidel, the deist, the pagan, and the scoffer shall contend with these evils which their systems cannot alleviate or remove, and sink under the chilly reign of sin and death; just as people pant, and struggle, and expire under the visitations of disease, because they will not apply the proper remedies of medicine, but choose rather to leave themselves to its unchecked ravages, or to use all the nostrums of quackery in a vain attempt to arrest evils which are coming upon them.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Romans 5". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12